Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Memory of Water

Water is pretty interesting stuff.  It’s made up of two gas molecules that, when combined, become a liquid. When “condensed” into a crystalline solid, it takes up more space than it does as a liquid. Our bodies are made up of something like 70% water. And some folks reckon water is able to encode a sort of “memory”.

I’m currently reading Lynne McTaggert’s book The Field—a landmark book, by the way—and have just finished Chapter 4 in which she talks about how water seems to have the unexpected and remarkable property of “remembering.”  She tells the extraordinary story of Frenchman Jacques Benveniste and his team and their discovery that even when allergy antibodies were diluted down in water to solutions ranging from 1 x 102 up to 1 x 1036, so dilute that no molecules of the antibodies were likely to be in the water at all, the subsequent product still produced positive reactions.  The conclusion that Benveniste and his team came to is that the water must somehow retain a sort of “memory” of the active substance.

His research was published in the science journal Nature in 1988[i] and—no surprises here, given it wildly defies conventional belief—was rubbished within days, putting the good name of the journal under question. Nature sent in a team to their laboratory to—in Benveniste’s words—prove the work fraudulent. On the 3-man team: fraud-buster Walter Stuart, magician and paranormal skeptic James Randi, and the then-editor of Nature John Maddox.  Not, it is interesting to note, any other researchers. It’s an extraordinary story, worthy of Hollywood.

Here’s a 10-minute clip of Benveniste talking about his experiments and the subsesquent Nature investigation.

Although they continue to be debunked by orthodox science and medicine, homeopathic treatments—which use curing agents diluted down to these sorts of nothing-left-of-the-active-agent doses—have been used for about two centuries as an alternative to orthodox medicine and continue to be popular with many people. 

A few years after the Nature debacle, inspired by magician James Randi’s offer of a million dollars to anyone who could prove that homeopathy works, the BBC program Horizon took on the challenge of replicating Benveniste’s results and establishing scientific credibility for the concept of memory in water.  Here’s the excellent documentary they made, which explains pretty clearly what homeopathy is and how it works, documents their experiment, and reveals their results.

SPOILER AHEAD:  Although their scientific team was unable to score the million dollars, the puzzle of why water titrated down to the point it likely has no molecules of the active substance left  yet still seems to have an active effect on the recipient remains. Some scientists put it down to the placebo effect, but that doesn’t account for its popularity and apparent success with veterinarians, farmers, and pet owners. Cows, after all, can’t logically be affected by placebos.

In spite of two trial “failures”, I think the jury is still out on homeopathy. Perhaps the double blind trials where the technicians’ lack of awareness of which water samples had come from the homeopathic origins and which were of just distilled water made a difference. If consciousness affects results—the idea that the observer cannot help but affect the results is a well-accepted principle of quantum physics—then perhaps simply “knowing” that an active substance has been in contact with the water does the trick. Or perhaps, as McTaggart hints at in her book and based on Benveniste’s later studies, there was someone associated with the research that “scrambled” the memory signals through personal electromagnetic radiation. Randi, for example, was associated with both of the double blind studies that failed to produce significant results.

Leaving that story aside, you may have heard of Masaru Emoto, the Japanese researcher who photographed water crystals and observed that water from different places crystallized into different forms.  Further experiments showed that crystals formed in the presence of music varied with the music, and that even words could alter the form the crystals would take: words of peace and affirmation produced “beautiful” crystals, while words of anger and hatred produced deformed crystals. He believes that “damaged” water can be “healed” with prayer and meditation. For a quick summary of Emoto’s work and a selection of his water crystal photos, click here. It follows on from his work that if music, words, thoughts, and intentions can influence water’s coherence, then the implications for us as humans—with our random mishmash of uncontrolled emotions—is that we have not only may have the power to heal, but are capable of inadvertent harm. Remember, something like 70% of each of us is water.

I’d like to end this blog entry with another youtube find regarding water and memory. This one is just a couple of minutes long, and provides more food for thought on water, whether water has “memory”, and how our quantum universe might be working.

And a last thought, on a purely biological level:  If water is so sensitive to substances, and if the stuff that goes into water “imprints” itself, what sort of messy water are we creating with our effluent?


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Are We at the Tipping Point with Health Care?

Not so very long ago, it was simply assumed that your doctor knew even better than you did what is best for your health, that pills and surgery were the best option to fix your medical problems, and that anything approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was government approved and therefore obviously safe for people to consume. Now these old assumptions are coming under closer scrutiny, and more often than not, they come up wanting. What’s going on?

For a really good summary of many facets of this issue, take a look at the excellent documentary film Doctored, written and directed by Bobby Sheehan and released this year. The trailer:

At the moment, Dr Mercola is offering a free link to the entire film here. Although ostensibly about the conflict between chiropractic and orthodox (i.e., go see your properly-trained medical doctor, not some quack) health care, the film really profiles the battle between the medical behemoth that has become the leading industry in the world (if you include as part of that package pharmaceuticals, primary care, medical insurance, etc.) and “alternative” health care practitioners in general. It’s a modern David and Goliath story.

Our modern world is driven by economics, and most orthodox medicine today is underlined by monetary motives. Basic marketing means identifying/finding/creating your markets and customers, creating products, and selling as much of your product as you possibly can to as many people as possible for the highest possible price and for as long as possible. It’s easy to see how this model is used, for example, in the pharmaceutical industry. Drug companies create a condition and a market, offer a potion to “treat” that condition, charge as much as they can for the drugs (and by running that through a third party, your insurer, they know you won’t be counting your pennies to see if you can afford it or looking elsewhere for a better deal). Then they encourage doctors to have their patients stay on the treatment for as long as possible, ideally indefinitely (think hypertension drugs, statins, anti-depressants). In short, there’s little in the way of “cure” offered by drug companies for chronic conditions, just ongoing maintenance at an ongoing cost, which is really good for business. Sweet as.

One of the hottest cash cows at the moment is the vaccine industry. In spite of numerous studies suggesting that flu vaccines, for example, are of little real value and come with some [small] risk of complications[i], if manufacturers can convince large segments of the population (and their governments and insurance companies) that they really need to get a yearly jab, it keeps the money flowing in. The HPV vaccine (Gardisil) is another one, being pushed hard onto the rapidly-expanding youth market—mostly aimed at girls, but now boys as well—in spite of growing concerns about its safety[ii].

Crossing my desk this morning is an article that typifies the pharmaceutical company money-gouging case in point: When physicians at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York stood up and said “no” to paying over US$11,000/month for the new cancer drug Zaltrap, pharmaceutical company Sanofi offered to cut the price by half. See the story here.

It’s easy to become cynical.  It’s not that orthodox medicine doesn’t have a place. For emergency treatment and acute conditions, it usually offers the most effective treatment option by far. But for long-term, chronic conditions where the best orthodox medicine can offer is “I don’t know, try this” or “let’s increase your meds and see if that helps,” then alternative medicine offers other avenues of treatment that are often not only significantly more effective and less harmful than vague druggery, but sometimes offer surprisingly outright cures.

Most alternative health modalities are “natural” approaches to health that don’t involve the ingestion of unnatural chemicals or invasive cutting of tissues, so they are less likely to have a downside than orthodox medical care. They are based on the concept that good health is natural, provided we take proper care of our bodies, and that illness is a sign that something (physically, energetically, emotionally, sometimes spiritually) is out of balance. Approaches to achieving that balance vary, of course, with the practitioner. A chiropractor, for example, is likely to focus on spinal alignment, alleviating everything from chronic back pain to frozen shoulder, and sometimes conditions such as chronic fatigue and MS, without the use of drugs (see the aforementioned film Doctored). Other alternative health practitioners may specialise in body energy work, or assist with lifestyle changes, or facilitate the resolution of troubling emotional or spiritual issues. All things are connected. See my reviews of The Living Matrix and The Cure Is..., two other recent documentary films that examine a variety of alternative approaches to health and the new science that backs them up. (Doctored also looks at a great deal more than just chiropractic, including an excellent segment on the extraordinary alternative cancer treatment offered by Stanislaw Burzynski[iii].)

Ultimately, it falls on each of us individually to take responsibility for our own healthcare. If you seek treatment for a chronic condition from anyone, orthodox or not, I believe it is worthwhile to keep an open mind and do your own research so you can make intelligent decisions about your own health rather than delegating that responsibility to others and letting them make those decisions for you.

Times, they are a’changin. More and more people are beginning to recognize that much of orthodox health care is based more on an underlying fiscal foundation than it is on a genuine desire to improve our health and well-being; that the FDA  don’t always have our best interests at heart (not only re: pharmaceuticals but also GMOs); and that throwing more money at the problem or taking more pills isn’t the ideal route to better health care. At one point in Doctored, the observation is made that starting with a non-invasive natural therapy to relieve dis-ease rather than relegating it to a "last resort" option when all else has failed seems reasonable. 

Whether we have reached a tipping point yet remains to be seen, but I think we are on the edge—to use another cliché—of a healthcare watershed.

[ii] I haven’t done a bog entry on Gardisil, but here’s a starter if you’re interested in that theme: medical professionals in Spain are calling for a moratorium on the vaccine, and several deaths have been linked to the drug, caused by fatal auto-immune responses.  Read more here.
[iii] And if you are interested in the extraordinary Burzynski story, see the documentary film on him and the battle to have his antineoplastin treatment "officially" accepted here.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Cure Is... Documentary (A Review)

Last month I posted a review of the film The Living Matrix. This month a similar documentary film, The Cure Is..., created by first-time filmmaker David Scharps, is being released. Here’s the trailer: 

In this post I summarize some of the key concepts presented in the film and share my thoughts.

Much of modern medical treatment is based on “majority use.” That is, what works for the majority of people becomes the standard, accepted treatment for the dis-ease[i]. People who experience seemingly miraculous recoveries are often overlooked as models for what could be because their recoveries defy rational, medical explanation. In this film, several individuals who experienced miraculous recoveries far beyond anything modern medicine could even posit as a possibility share what worked for them.

Interspersed with these personal stories, several prominent authors, doctors, and scientists—most notably Bruce Lipton, Gregg Braden, Bernie Siegel, Maryanne Williamson, and Joel Fuhrman--explore a variety of ways dis-ease can manifest and how health can be restored. The role of the subconscious (think “habit mind, belief mind, auto-response mind”) is important because a person’s thoughts, beliefs and habits affect the neuro-chemicals that flood the body’s cells and impact upon the health of that individual. The power of love and forgiveness and their roles in creating health (and how anger and resentment damage health) are also explored. And last—but certainly not least—we are reminded that a healthy diet (emphasis on chemical-free vegetables and fruit), regular exercise, and meditation are important for your body’s health.

Waiting to get seriously ill before implementing these helpful changes in your life is like waiting for the horses to bolt before shutting the gate. It’s not that serious illness cannot be helped by changing the things in your life that are hurting you, but if those changes are made before disease sets in, you may not need to battle with disease at all.

Thomas A. Edison once said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” It has taken a long time for Edison’s prediction to come true, and that time is not yet here, but slowly, slowly, we are coming to realise that we are personally responsible for the care of our minds and bodies, and that there is much we can do ourselves to enhance and even restore our health and well-being.

Dis-ease rarely comes totally out of the blue. It’s usually a product created by one’s life choices, beliefs, habits, awareness, and environment. Sometimes genetics has a role. Many are yet to accept that one’s thoughts and perceptions can cause illness but the idea is catching on, and that idea is explored convincingly here. This documentary is less profound than the trailer might lead one to believe, but it seems to me the advice is very sound, and the film presents a coherent explanation of an emerging—and I think empoweringly important—paradigm in health.

If you'd like to watch The Cure Is.., here's the website

If you found this article of interest, check out

Also, at my mindwork website you’ll find several articles on how emotional blocks that may have hampered you for years, impacting your health, can be resolved.

[i]  I’ve taken to writing the word “disease” broken down into its two components because I think this better explains what dis-ease is—a lack of ease. I think it’s too easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that a “disease” is a thing, rather than a state of being.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Genetically Modified Animal Feeds Used in New Zealand

Although New Zealand presents itself to the world as basically GM-Free (see my earlier post Genetic Modification (GM) in NewZealand), and progressive enough to label the GM content of foods, unidentified genetically modified foods continue to subversively infiltrate into our food chain. 

Sandra Finnie’s recent article in Straight Furrow highlights the use of imported GM feed in supplements used by dairy farmers to encourage peak milk production. Although Federated Farmers chairman Willy Leferink refused to comment on how much stock feed is actually imported, citing that information as “commercially sensitive”, recent large shipments of GM cottonseed meal and soybean meal—at least 100,000 tonnes of the latter annually, according to the article—suggest this is a common and significant practice.

In a response to that article, genetics professor Jack Heinemann of Canterbury University points out that when it came to the public attention that GM feeds were used for chicken production by New Zealand’s Ingham foods in 2009, the Commerce Commission ruled that animals feed on a GM diet are different from those raise on non-GM feed. In the UK and much of Europe, only non-GM feed can be used for animals (meat, fish) and animal products (milk, cheese, eggs) destined and identified  for retail sale as non-GM. New Zealand, it seems to me, risks alienating key overseas markets if our animal and animal product foods cannot be truly claimed as GM-free.

Regarding the Ingham chicken story, it seems the Commerce Commission wasn’t concerned about the use of GM-soy and corn in the chicken feed, just about the labelling of these chickens in the marketplace as GM-free. If you buy your chicken at a local NZ supermarket today, you’re likely to see labels claiming it is “hormone free” and “no artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives” and sometimes  “no antibiotics” and even “free range,” but you have to go to “organic” chicken to find chicken that you can be pretty sure has not been fed ANY GM-corn or soy.

Given that GM-feeds are used in New Zealand’s dairy industry and poultry industry, I got to wondering about New Zealand salmon industry. On the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries aquaculture website, we are told that NZ farmed salmon are fed “an artificial diet, high in protein and fat...with vitamins and minerals added”. They go on to say that NZ salmon are not given “antibiotics, vaccines steroids, or other growth enhancers.” They do not say exactly what they DO feed salmon (animal, vegetable, or mineral?) or anything about GM feeds, and I’d consider that omission ominously significant.

I recently posted an article on the GM/Roundup study done in France which found aggressive and abnormal tumour growth in rats fed even a small portion of GM corn, GM corn that had been sprayed with Roundup (which is why it is genetically modified in the first place, so they can spray the crop and kill the weeds without killing the food plant), or were given low to moderate levels of Roundup in their drinking water. Most chickens and dairy cows aren’t allowed to live out a normal lifespan, so disease caused by a partial GM diet might not be so evident, but that doesn’t mean the animals aren’t sick. 

We know that milk reflects not only the food consumed by the person or animal producing it (see my article on toxic breast milk) but also its environment. I don’t know if anyone has done a study on the GM-safety of milk produced by cows that consume GM feed, and I doubt any agri-chemical or agricultural company wants to fund one any time soon, but I’d be surprised if GM-fed dairy cows produce a truly “safe” product. And I don’t really fancy eating chicken or fish that’s been fed GM foods either.

New Zealand certainly isn’t GM-free, it’s just that we don’t produce GM field crops. On a final note on a GM and farming-in-New Zealand theme, I surely must mention Daisy the calf, born earlier this year in New Zealand. She has raised a bit of a storm because she is genetically modified (and cloned) to produce milk without the BLG protein that causes allergic reactions in some people. She also—inexplicably—doesn’t have a tail.

[Added October, 2014: Please see my latest post Cows, Swedes and Dodgy Seeds.) 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Smart Meters may not be so Smart

Last week my local electric company, Contact, came and installed a smart meter to replace the old traditional electricity meter that hung on the outside of my house. At a glance, it doesn’t look all that different, just an electronic digital readout instead of the old turning wheel and mechanical digital numbers.

About that same time, I started to experience the same fizzy, fuzzy discomfort and stuffy-ear feeling that I experienced when I [briefly!] installed a wireless modem. (For that story, see here—my wireless-internet-at-home experience didn’t last but a day because I couldn’t stand it!) At first I wondered if there was something playing up with my wired internet connection. And then this morning I realised that my discomfort began about the same time we got the smart meter. And I wondered what was going on. So I hit the net.

A smart meter allows your electric company to monitor your electric usage without visiting your house, which saves them money and ensures your readings are always accurate. To do this, a wifi message is broadcast to the company about your electricity usage from your meter at regular intervals during the day. The way I understand it, your smart meter is basically acting like a wifi transmitter that is on all the time.

While industry may be excited about this new technology and trying hard to put a positive spin on it for consumers, home owners should be worried. Yes, we live in an increasingly wireless world. No, you are not holding your smart meter to your ear like you do your cell phone, and you’re probably not sitting next to it either, but it is yet another device in our homes that is broadcasting electromagnetic energy into our bodies.

A Swedish study mentioned in the following you tube lecture by engineer Bob States found that some 3% of the population is severely affected by electromagnetic radiation (electro-hyper-sensitive) and another estimated 30% shows some sensitivity. In this video, States gives a presentation to the Tesla Foundation in San Francisco, and although the video makes for fairly “dry” viewing, even if you don’t watch it all, States’ explanation and discussion of the slide that he puts up at 13:35 (minutes) and continuing on into the next slide in the video is sobering and worth watching.

The roll out of smart meters seems to be a fait accompli in many parts of the world, including here in Lower Hutt. Supporting the industry in New Zealand, Canterbury University have declared smart meters “safe”, with spokesperson Bill Heffernan saying “It is much more likely that we would spend an hour a day talking on the mobile phone or working within one meter of our wireless router,”[i] suggesting, I guess, either that those are also “safe” but controversial activities, or that doing more of the same won’t have a cumulative effect.  On the other hand, California radiation expert Daniel Hirsch informs us that “one smart meter can provide up to the full body radiation exposure of 160 cell phones”. Read his report here and check out his chart of comparative devices below.

The impact on those of us who are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation is distressing. I can choose to not have a wifi modem in my house, and I can choose to only use my mobile phone occasionally and briefly (the old-fashioned phone on my desk has a cord and attaches to the wall), but I suspect I cannot choose to not have a smart meter, even if it bothers me. I have just emailed Contact and will report their response in the comments box when it comes.

As Joseph Heller once said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” Food for thought.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Why Genetically Modified (GM) Foods are Big News Right Now

Genetically modified (GM) foods stories keep popping up in the news, raising public awareness of significant GM issues. This post examines two of the big GM stories currently in the press.

Results of a French study published in September[i] revealed a disturbing increase in the development of tumours and damage to the livers and kidneys of rats fed a diet containing GM-corn (with and without the herbicide Roundup sprayed on the crop[ii]), rats fed non-GM corn but administered Roundup in their drinking water at levels equal to the [“acceptable” level of] contamination in some drinking water, and rats given water with Roundup levels comparable to that found in sprayed-on GM food crops but not fed GM food. In the study, the health of all these rats was compared to rats fed a non-GM, non-Roundup diet. 50-80% of the female rats in all treatment groups developed tumours within two years (mostly mammary), compared to 30% of the control group rats, and those tumours were on average two or three times larger than tumours that  developed in the control group rats. Treated male rats developed massive kidney, liver and skin tumours and had unusually high mortality rates. Previous GM food trials with rats only lasted 90 days and did not show significant health risks associated with consumption of GM corn. The study is considered controversial (Monsanto, the makers of Roundup, are “dismissive”)[iii] but alarm bells are ringing.

Although anti-GM activists have been quick to talk about the study as if it is just about GM foods, the real story here, I think, is that it didn’t matter very much which of the “treated” groups the rats were in: GM food, GM food treated with Roundup, or just Roundup, nor did it seem to matter very much if they just got a little or a lot, all of the treated groups showed abnormal numbers and aggressive growth of tumours and high mortality. Since GM corn is specifically modified by Monsanto to be Roundup-resistant, this suggests that even if the rats weren’t exposed to Roundup directly, if they were fed GM corn then they were fed a product that is genetically linked to the herbicide Roundup. Furthermore, it suggests that even limited (i.e. “acceptable”) exposure to Roundup or GM foods has a deleterious effect.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, an estimated 88% of the US corn crop is genetically modified, and over 90% of the soybean crop[iv], and one must presuppose that those crops are being sprayed with Roundup. Most of this production is used in animal feeds, cooking oils, margarine, and corn syrup (a common sweetener). Many other food crops are genetically modified as well, and one source estimates some 30,000 products on American supermarket shelves contain GM ingredients[v]. Its estimated that the average American eats some 193 pounds (87.5 kg) of GM foods per year, broken down roughly as 68 pounds of beet sugar, 58 pounds of corn syrup, 38 pounds of soybean oil, and 29 pounds of corn-based products[vi]—more than his/her bodyweight!

The other big GM story at the moment is Proposition 37, a proposed statue (law) in the State of California that reads, in its short form:

Requires labelling of food sold to consumers made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. Prohibits marketing such food, or other processed food, as “natural”. Provides exemptions.

The statue is up for a vote on November 6. At the moment, GM foods and food ingredients need not be identified as such in the U.S.[vii], so California is breaking new ground with this proposal. It’s not surprising that “the right to know what is in our food” campaign is being fought against vigorously by a hoard of agri-science chemical companies with Monsanto leading the way (over $7 million spent to campaign against the bill), followed by Dupont (almost $5 million), Dow ($2 million), and Beyer ($2 million). Other big-time contributors to the “vote no” campaign include Pepsico, Coca-Cola, Nestles, General Mills, and Kelloggs[viii]. They claim the new law would add government bureaucracy to food production, increase food prices, and invite law suits.

There are no major industrial supporters for the “vote yes” side of the campaign, only a handful of committed individuals coughing what they can. It seems a highly lop-sided fight. One of the most ardent “vote yes” supporters is Dr Joseph Mercola, who has fronted over $1 million to support the bill; he sums it up: “Your health care, your food supply, everything you need to live a healthy life is now being taken away and controlled by a massive industrial complex and corrupt government.”[ix]

There is a growing awareness among ordinary consumers that GM is not the saviour for modern farming and food production that agri-chemical companies like Monsanto have tried to make us believe, and there is a growing distrust of the “it’s all perfectly safe and good for you” message that big food and chemical corporations keep feeding us about GM foods. I suspect that even if Proposition 37 fails this time around, it will be back in another form somewhere else, very soon.  And I’ll be expecting more rat studies...

For more on the GM/Monsanto story, see my earlier post The Inextricable Links Between GeneticallyModified Foods and Agri-chemical Companies.

[ii] GM-corn was developed to be resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, enabling farmers to spray and kill weeds in their crops with Roundup without killing the desired plants. See my earlier post The Inextricable Links Between GeneticallyModified Foods and Agri-chemical Companies.
[vii] Labelling is required in New Zealand, but I’m personally sceptical that all of those products on our supermarket shelves that say “made with local and imported ingredients” are always 100% GM free, or that food items imported from the US that contains corn- or soy-based ingredients would have special NZ labels put on them, given American producers are not required to indicate any GMO ingredients.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Living Matrix: A Review

The other night I watched the 2009 documentary The Living Matrix borrowed from a dvd rental place in Wainuiomata, New Zealand. Having talked about books by energy healer Eric Pearl and biologist Bruce Lipton in previous posts (click on their names for the links), and being familiar with the work of biologist Rupert Sheldrake, I suspected I was already on the same page as these folks, and if you’re reading this, you might be too. (I’d also heard of scientist/journalist Lynne McTaggart and have since ordered her book The Field from the book depository in the UK[i].)

Here’s the doco trailer:

The premise of the film is that a lot of disease (and wellness) comes from the play of energy fields and thought patterns rather than genetic and/or biological and/or chemical malfunctions, and that we are often capable of self-healing without standard medical/biological interventions such as surgery or drugs. This idea, of course, flies in the face of modern allopathic medicine and what most of us have grown up believing. And because such ideas seem rather airy-fairy, it’s easy to dismiss them. The scientific, rational minds of our modern world want proof and reliable, repeatable results, not isolated cases of miraculous, inexplicable healings and the unwelcome news that we might simply be responding to a placebo effect. That’s when we think the drugs/surgery will work and so it does, even with no active intervention. I mean, who’s happy about getting well when it becomes clear the wellness (and thus the illness) may have been simply a product of one’s thoughts or belief system?

Yet I suspect the likes of McTaggart, Lipton, Sheldrake and Pearl are the forefront brigade for an emerging paradigm in our understanding of health, much of it coming from quantum physics. The ideas that biology is controlled by the flow of information in fields, some of which exist outside of the physical, visible body; that genes can be switched on and off by these information fields—they are “potentials” not “determiners”; that thoughts affect well-being; that energy can heal—these ideas challenge conventional medicine. They create uncomfortable territory for individuals, and shaky ground for those who make a living from conventional treatments (e.g., pharmaceutical companies, who have a vested interest in discrediting these emerging ideas).

Human beings are complex creatures. Illness—even the same illness—varies from one person to another in how it manifests itself, and each individual responds to a disruption of the physical body in different ways. So it’s not surprising that where one person may experience a miraculous healing, another may not. Although, that said, we’ve all experienced miraculous healings: cut your finger, and it heals, and we take that one for granted. Science can’t really explain why that happens.

I’ve always found it interesting to look at what happens at the extremes of human experience rather than concentrate on the “predictable normal” because I think we can learn a lot that way. At the beginning of this documentary, we meet young Demitrios, saddled with such severe cerebral palsy that he cannot walk, cannot unclench his fist, cannot hug his parents. After a short while with energy healer Dr Eric Pearl, he’s able to walk and run and hug and play. We don’t see this happen on screen, but are told by his mother that it has happened. Demitrios still limps a bit, and his hand is still not fully functional, but his quality of life has improved immeasurably, we are told, in spite of conventional medicine having thrown Demitrios’ condition into the “incurable” basket. If this is true, then I reckon researchers need to be trying to figure out what’s going on here and how to make these results more accessible to all, rather than shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Can’t explain it,” and then moving on to the next patient with a problem they can treat conventionally.

I think it’s exciting that a few brave souls are challenging conventional medical paradigms, and that these challenges are being documented in books and documentaries like this one. The fact that a doco like this shows up for hire in a video shop in little ol’ Wainui is a testament to the power of modern information transition and spread, and—I suspect—a general raising of human consciousness.

Last thoughts: On a star rating, I’d give this one 3 out of 5. I’m interested in this stuff, and enjoyed hearing/seeing some of the “big names” in what I’d call applied “alternative health” and “alternative biology”. It prompted me to order a book. But I suspect that many viewers would find the documentary jumps around a lot, doesn’t seem to have a core/cohesive theme, doesn’t build to a conclusion, and challenges too many conventional beliefs of rational science with one-off examples and unproven theories. That doesn’t mean these folks aren’t right, but they are breaking new ground and the soil is still hard and might not be very fertile. Yet.

[i] A great place to buy books with reasonable prices, free shipping worldwide, and surprisingly prompt delivery—just a couple of weeks to New Zealand. I don’t know how they can afford to do this and still make a profit...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

1080 Drop Near Wellington August Update

Back in April I wrote a post about the upcoming aerial 1080[i] poison drop in Rimutaka Forest Park[ii] bordering Lower Hutt and Wainuiomata, Upper Hutt, and Featherston, and including over one of Wellington’s primary watersheds. That has been a popular post, and I thought it might be useful to do an update.

As of three days ago (13 August) the Gum Loops Walk near Wainuiomata and the watershed area profiled in my previous post had still not been poisoned, but signs indicated they had been aerial dropping non-poison bait pellets, presumably to accustom wildlife to being safely fed in this way. When I walked the track on Monday I found it cold and wet—we’ve had quite a bit of rain lately—and I encountered two other walkers, both with dogs. I also watched two chaffinches pecking at a bit of something they’d found to eat on the tarmac road leading up to the watershed area, and I wondered if they’d enjoyed the winter windfall feed from the recent drop of non-poisoned pellets.

Since my previous post on this topic, publication of articles in the DomPost and Hutt News in which I was quoted (and misquoted, and had statements attributed to me that I didn't say at all, but that's the press for you) as been concerned about the upcoming 1080 drop, there have been numerous DomPost letters to the editor on 1080, both for and against its use, and several large ads extolling the virtues of using 1080 sponsored by the Animal Health Board, the Department of Conservation, and Wellington Regional Council. This is clearly a polarizing issue.

The Graf Boys, keen hunters and lovers of the wilderness, have recently put this video on you tube showing deer after deer found dead, poisoned and bleeding and twisted in agony, following an aerial 1080 poison drop near Taihape earlier this month. They found more dead deer than possums in this forest block, although possums were ostensibly the target.

Also from the Graf Boys blogsite, you'll find much to ponder in a report (testimony) on the use and implications of 1080 in New Zealand by Quinn E Whiting-Okeefe, and a beautiful and impassioned plea in poetry  from Redwood Reider to Dr Jan Wright, our Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to stop dropping the stuff in our forests, filmed on the stage at Te Papa (our national museum here in Wellington). (Note--Blogger and/or YouTube aren't allowing me to upload it directly, so you'll have to click on this link to watch. Reider is a bit hesitant to get going, but once she hits her stride, this is performance poetry at its best.)

[i] For a brief description of what 1080 is, see my previous post. For more detailed information on this poison and its effects, I recommend The Department of Conservation defend their use of 1080 on their website
[ii] For some lovely photos and information about Rimutaka Forest Park see:

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Complimentary Therapies in Hospitals: Witchcraft or Wonderful?

There was an article in the local paper the other day (Dominion Post 20/7/12, find it here), criticising the Whanganui District Health Board for deciding to trial a number of “natural therapies” at the local hospital as optional compliments to patients’ usual health care. These therapies include prayer, meditation, massage, and Reiki, and are being offered by local alternative health therapists to patients for free. 

I personally think all of these are useful as complimentary health therapies and applaud their introduction, so I find it surprising that this enrichment of hospital health care would be contentious.  Yet Victoria University professor Shaun Holt is critical, particularly of Reiki and prayer, stating there is no evidence-based research on their effectiveness. Whanganui District Health Board Member Michael Laws goes a step further calling the decision to trial these therapies in hospital “seriously stupid” and suggesting they are—and like Holt he singles out Reiki in particular—akin to witchcraft.

Contrary to the views expressed by Holt and Laws, Whanganui Hospital is simply keeping up with modern medical practice by introducing a repertoire of complimentary therapies for their patients. According to the American Medical Association, around 42% of U.S. hospitals offer a range of complimentary therapies including massage, meditation, acupuncture, and Reiki, and two thirds offer at least massage[i]. In one Cleveland study, half of their patients (over 1700) opted to receive counselling, spiritual care, touch therapy and/or music or art therapy during their hospital stay, and 93% of the patients who chose to do so reported their therapy “useful”[ii].

Regarding Reiki (what Holt and Laws imply is “akin to witchcraft”), many prestigious institutions including the University College of London hospitals and Southampton University hospitals in the UK; the Cleveland Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Cancer Centre (the largest cancer research centre in the world) and John Hopkins Hospital in the U.S.; and the CGG Clinic in Germany offer Reiki as a complimentary therapy[iii], especially for cancer patients. In parts of the U.S., learning Reiki is part of standard nurse training. Some countries include Reiki treatments in health insurance coverage. I’ve used this article as a starter for an article on Reiki on my mindwork website, so if you are interested in finding out what Reiki is, where it comes from, and how it is used, click here.[iv]

Prayer and attendance to patients’ spiritual needs is also common elsewhere. In the US, about 85% of hospitals employ chaplains.[v]  Their role in palliative care—and I can speak from personal experience here—is valuable not only for patients but also for their families, if only in offering comfort and support at a difficult time. Studies have shown that hospital based “spiritual intervention” for the chronically ill significantly increases patient well-being and is valuable for patients during the recovery process[vi].

Meditation is a real wellness powerhouse which can lower stress levels, ease pain, lower blood pressure, increase the body’s immune response, and increase a person’s ability to focus and concentrate. Many US hospitals and clinics now teach patients to meditate[vii]. If you want to know more about meditation, check out my mindwork website page on it here.

Massage, the most common alternative therapy to be found in hospitals, is useful for pain control, stress relief, reducing muscle tension, increasing blood flow, and increasing the range of motion after injury or during convalescence. Besides, it just feels good!

It seems to me that if these therapies are being offered for free, and patients are free to take advantage of them or not as they wish, and they do not impact on whatever “official” medical treatment the patient is receiving, then Whanganui should be rejoicing at the enrichment of their hospital treatment for patients. No one expects these treatments to replace modern allopathic medicine, yet as Andrew Schafer, chief physician at the Cornell Medical Centre in New York observes, “Today’s complimentary and alternative therapies could be tomorrow’s medical breakthroughs.”[viii]

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Can You Trust Your Drugs?

It’s not uncommon to hear of a food item recall—a bit of glass or metal is found in your jar of instant coffee and supermarket shelves are cleared of that “batch”[i]. Everything from eggs[ii] to pet food[iii] is “recalled” when salmonella contamination is detected. Chinese parents are still reluctant to buy Chinese-made baby formula after the 2008 melamine-in-dairy foods scandal[iv]. Yet when it comes to the drugs we take, self-monitoring by producers and overseeing bodies such as the US FDA seems to be disturbingly lax.

Although 60 Minutes apparently ran this story a year ago in the U.S., I just came across it the other day on the net. Drug manufacturer Glaxo-Smith Kline had serious breaches of protocol in a major manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico. Without insider Cheryl Ekhart’s brave whistleblowing, the plant could still be putting out adulterated and mislabelled drugs, including medications like diabetes drug Avandia, antidepressant Paxil (paroxetine), and non-prescription antacid medication Tagament being put in each other’s bottles, with each other’s labels, and with dosages mislabelled. In one case, an 8-year-old boy prescribed 10mg of Paxil was actually getting 25mg Paxil CR. Watch the story here.

Glaxo pleaded guilty to fraud charges and settled out of court with a $750 million dollar fine. Sadly, this sort of practice is “business as usual” for pharmaceutical companies, and Glaxo is one of the worst. This year (2012) they agreed to pay a record-breaking US$3 billion in fraud settlements[v] for promoting off-label use[vi] of their drugs (such as Paxil for children!) and failing to report detrimental safety data on their drugs. Abbott Laboratories settled for $1.6 billion (misleading marketing of anti-seizure med Depakote), and Johnson & Johnson may be fined up to $2 billion over off-label marketing of their antipsychotic Risperdalv.

The fines keep going up, but drug sale profits more than compensate for the fines. In a 2009 article by David Evans[vii], he reported that the total of US$2.75 billion paid by drug giant Pfizer in fines up to that point accounted for just a little over 1% of the company’s $245 billion revenue generated between 2004 and 2008.

Pharmaceutical companies are big businesses. Although improving your health is their stated goal, keep in mind that if you are healthy, you are no longer their customer. Ultimately, a pharmaceutical company's primary loyalty is not to you the consumer, but to shareholders who want the company to generate good returns for their investment.  To make top profits, drug companies have to sell as much product as they can for the highest possible price to as many people as possible. In the business world, that's good business.

Can you trust your drugs? I dunno. It seems to me that if a company wants to be a trusted name, they have to produce a pure and reliable product. But if the 60 Minutes story is any indication, it sounds like Glaxo, at least, is more interested in keeping problems quiet than alerting the public and fixing problems when they occur. So just as important as whether you can trust your drug, can you trust your drug company?

[vi] “Off label” means it hasn’t been approved for us for that particular condition or age group. Doctors can prescribe drugs off-label, and it is presumed that they will tell their patients they are doing so. However, many doctors often rely on information from pharmaceutical manufacturers regarding the suitability of particular drugs for their patients, and if marketing promotion does not indicate that a particular use has not been approved, doctors may  not realize it’s an “off label” treatment.