Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Case for Green Medicine

I was at the Green Festival this past weekend in San Francisco with my friend. As we passed the booth of a new “green” magazine, I stopped to offer my services as a writer. The editor was there, and I listened while she described in great detail the list of what she must have rehearsed 50 times on what she was looking for in her cadre of writers. She didn’t ask much about me. I told her I was a Naturopathic Doctor, believing that this said it all. What else could she need to know? And as I left I wondered why she wasn’t jumping over herself at having found someone like me…interesting, articulate, a writer AND a naturopathic doctor. What could be a more perfect fit?

Then I realized, that this editor, like so many people, doesn’t really understand naturopathic medicine, or why it is THE green medicine. Sustainable, less toxic, environmentally aware, and . But perhaps it is better seen in an example. Perhaps she needs to see an instance in which it worked better than conventional medicine, while still being safer and more cost effective.

Take Cindy (name has been changed), my 13 year-old patient who has gradually been gaining weight inpite of regular activity and good eating habits, as well as getting very sick and missing one week of school every month. Our treatment plan consisted of adding some safe supplments and doing some testing that will find and treat the cause. When her labs came back, she had myriad food allergens and possibly gluten intolerance. When she eliminated the offending foods, she lost weight easily without dieting and her good health returned. In the conventional medical system, she would have been passed around and disbelieved, and prescribed tons of antibiotics until her gut was just trashed.

Another good example is Elizabeth (name has been changed), who just turned 68 this fall. She wanted to feel increased energy, improve her sleep that was disrupted by  her restless leg syndrome, and get off her cholesterol medication. As it turned out she had headaches and digestive problems too – facts that pointed me to the possibility of food allergies; other testing showed adrenal fatigue as well. She has been doing very well for months, reducing her need for medication and feeling great. She sleeps on her own without sedatives or medicine for her restless legs. She reports that she has not had that for several months now. Headaches are gone too – unless she slacks on taking care of herself.

The point is this… both of these cases illustrate how naturopathic medicine can help reduce, reuse and recycle. It gets people on the right path. Natural treatments are not just sweet and gentle. They are powerful and empower people in their health. And when I am consulting with people about what they are eating, I am also passing along environmental information like alerting them to the dangers of microwave popcorn (the plastic liner gets very hot and releases dangerous chemicals into the popcorn).

I don’t mean to sound like I don’t think there is a place for conventional medicine. I feel grateful about the many advances that have helped so many people live longer and more comfortably.

I feel that it is impossible to do this type of medicine, which requires caring deeply about what people are putting into their bodies, without caring about the environment. There are toxins in our makeup, our food supply, and our cleaning solutions. Our digestive tracts are not functioning like they should – leaving us nutrient deprived and held captive by all of our diseases of inflammation.

There is no better time than now for people to be aware of naturopathic medicine. Our culture is suddenly on a wave of caring about how what we do to our planet will ultimately affect us. Naturopathic Medicine is a perfect marriage of effective primary care medicine that focuses on prevention and finding the cause, rather than expensive “band-aids.”

Regenerative Design Institute – easy on the planet

Imagine solid outdoor furniture not made with petro-chemicals or non-renewable resources.

Imagine solid outdoor furniture not made with petro-chemicals or non-renewable resources.

I had the most wonderful opportunity of touring the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas, California a couple of weeks ago. James Stark, one of the co-founders gave us the tour around the place. The RDI is like a dream come true for me. The concepts that they have working on their land are what I want for my practice and whole healing center. But that is down the road for me. For now, enjoy the offerings at RDI.

Green is the new black, they say. It’s cool and good marketing and all that. RDI is like the root of the green. It’s why and how and seeing it all come together. Not just buying recycled $120 handbags. RDI helps us to think about how we can truly affect change in our planet. And in ourselves.

One of the classes that they offer helps students to track wild animals and learn about their habits and habitats. And in that process, they nearly always learn about their own natural habitat. What in their world needs to be back to basics…back to the earth.

Most interesting is how the space is laid out with great care and planning. It is designed, not just plopped together, hodge podge. Why put the chicken coup under the orchard? Keeps the weeds and grasses down around the trees and fertilizes them at the same time. Not to mention keeping little rodents out.

As we walked along viewing the organic gardens (herbs close to the house – you need them regularly for cooking; squash and apples further away up the hill – you will only harvest them a couple of times) James quizzed us on why they would want both goats and lemon trees. We were all trying to name some clever biodynamic rational. “Lemon cheesecake,” he grins. That is all you need. The juice of the lemon will curdle the goat milk and it is sweet enough that you just put those things together and you have a fabulous desert. It’s not like they are roughing it!

James Stark explains how the natural filtration system works to purify water.

James Stark explains how the natural filtration system works to purify water.

Inspiring. That is what I came away with. One story James told was about when there were going to have 150 guests for a week. The water system only produces about 450 gallons of drinkable water/day. He knew it was impossible. He had extra water brought in. But at the beginning of the week he asked all of the guests to act as though the water is gold. The most precious resource. By the end of the week they had not touched the extra water that had been delivered. We can change our habits and our consciousness. It has lead me to remember what it is like to live during a drought. How long is long enough for a shower? Why is the water running in the sink when we are preparing vegetables? Do we really have to flush after every pee?? I have paid more attention. Adjusted. And haven’t suffered in the slightest. I can’t wait to see my water bill.

It isn’t really about just saving money – although right now isn’t that nice?? But James mentioned and I have heard it before, that the next world battles will not be over oil, but water.

For me, it just feels better not to waste. Even “waste-water.” RDI has a grey water catchment pond

Grey-water is purified and oxygenated by plants and fish to be re-used for irrigation.

Grey-water is purified and oxygenated by plants and fish to be re-used for irrigation.

that takes most of the water that comes through the drains (kitchen sink, shower, etc.) and utilizes natural methods to purify the water. There are particular local plants in the pond, as well as fish, that are miraculous in their ability to clean toxins out of water.  It can then be used for irrigation for the gardens. They are certainly not using harmful chemicals in their sinks or showers, but who needs to be doing that anyway? It’s not good for you either! If it would kill a fish, you might want to consider not putting it on your skin.

What a concept – beautiful, functional and ecological. I think they may be onto something.

Sculpted roof brings cutting-edge style to natural building.

Sculpted roof brings cutting-edge style to natural building.

Up the hill a bit are some of the newer natural buildings. They are testing various methods for creating structures. And some are better for certain environments than others. What they might need in New Hampshire to get through the winter might be somewhat different from here. But what James and his colleagues are working on, are creating a variety of structures and seeing what works and helping people who come there to learn figure out what is going to work for them.

Being at the Regenerative Design Center is amazing and inspiring. As we stood by these beautiful, natural creations, many of us were a bit awestruck by what they have accomplished. Sensing this, James continued to impress me by quoting Mother Theresa: “You need not do great things, but small things with great heart.” We can all go forth and do what makes us feel good for ourselves, our brothers and sisters and our planet. Not necessarily to be oh-so amazing, but to

Recycled bottles add light and interest to this clay structure.

Recycled bottles add light and interest to this clay structure.

tranform lives with love and compassion. And yes, with eyes open to what we are doing to our stressed-out little planet.

You can tour the Regenerative Design Institute – they offer tours to the public every couple of months. Check out their website for more information about classes and other offerings. If you can make it, it is truly worth your time. See

President’ Message: Partnering towards Wellness By Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO

(This post is from the newsletter for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians – reprinted with permission.)
We live in tumultuous times, facing economic uncertainty, living with an ailing environment and struggling with increasing numbers of health challenges both personal and professional. I am acutely aware these days of just how critical it is that we naturopathic physicians focus on the patient, and more importantly, on the patient’s inherent health. I assert that it is our commitment to wellness, so much more powerful that the mere elimination of disease, that stands at the root of our promise to be healers.
As our patients navigate their way through the medical establishment, many experience a disembodying sense of hanging out with their bodies while they receive procedures. It is as if there is a checkpoint upon entry into the medical establishment with a sign reading: “Check your inherent sense of well-being and wholeness here – diseased bodies only allowed beyond this point”. In go the diseased bodies to receive sophisticated care from earnest and highly competent providers aided by advanced technologies. However, maintaining an awareness of being a whole person becomes increasingly challenging. If the diseased body is fixed within the system, recollecting a sense of being a whole self and experiencing whole health constitutes yet another journey, one that some people may never embark upon.
I recognize, more than any other time in my life, the absolute importance of treating each and every person that seeks our care as a whole person with inherent health – regardless of their disease state. Only through recollecting a sense of ‘whole self’ can one experience a different journey to ‘whole health.’ With our absolute faith in the intrinsic wellness and wholeness of each person that we see, we support the integration of their being. This integrated self of body-mind-spirit births and sustains wellness. After all, it is wellness, not merely removing disease that we, as naturopathic physicians, have consecrated ourselves to. As naturopathic physicians I invite you link your arm into the arm of your patient and walk the journey towards wellness with them. Within this partnership, created from shared intent and nurtured by willingness to embrace health, we doctors become healers.