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The Practical Herbalist


Longevity of life is a common goal around the world. There are many herbal products that are now on the market that claim to help people live longer, healthier lives. Herbs are foods and many do nourish the body in specific ways. We as a people are all different and have different needs. The concept that one particular type of food is going to drastically change everything in your life and make you healthier needs to have some caveats.

Yes, there is a benefit to many of these exotic herbs in the way of antioxidants, vitamins and other chemical constituents. Before buying one of these herbs you should ask one question. Could you have done better just eating a healthier diet of foods that are readily available and probably more appropriate? It is easy to get caught up in all of the fancy scientific terminology. We forget that there are antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins in the inexpensive foods found in our local store.

The common marketing pitch goes something like this; A researcher (not a trained herbalist) has found that a remote people in an exotic land have a longer average life than Americans, or don't get cancer (or some other disease). These people usually live in remote villages, where they work hard, and have few modern stresses and pressures in life. They eat simple fresh foods that are grown locally. They get lots of exercise and fresh air. They also spend a lot of time outdoors and have a close knit social structure that helps people feel supported and loved. The researcher has concluded through painstaking chemical analysis that the reason these people are healthier is because they eat a particular food that we don't have. Therefore the logic goes, If we just start eating this food, available only through this company in a convenient enhanced form (like a pill or juice), we to can be just as healthy.

This search is nothing new. Pounce De Leon the famous explorer traveled across Florida looking for the fountain of youth. He saw natives who were healthier than the sailors who had been stuck on a dingy ships eating salted rations for years on end. He was convinced that there was one key thing (a spring of water) that made the difference. Rarely in life is there just one thing that makes the difference. Life is always a long series of choices. Each choice has a little impact, but taken together they can add up to a great effect.

Since we often can't run off to live the life of a remote villager, the best thing is to look to healthy elderly people you admire. Ask them how they lived their lives and compare that to elderly people who are having health issues.

A while back I had a patient who had a shoulder ache from windsurfing. He was 70 years old. He looked a healthy 40. When asked about his life, it turns out he has a loving family, a job he loves, and he finds time to swim, windsurf, hike, and play pickup sports with friends. He avoids junk food, doesn't follow a specific diet, but just always looks for good food. Compare that to many of my patients who are overweight, stressed and rarely leave the front of their computers or TV except to pick up some fast food. Often these people look 10-15 years older than they are. They have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, acid reflux and bowel issues, aches and pains and have no energy to really change. There is no single herb in the world that is going to reverse all of that. The dream that a simple herbal pill will change all of that, has made a lot of people very wealthy.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066