Monday, March 28, 2011

Making Sense of Tragedy

 
 Buddha statue among the rubble in Kesennuma, Japan

"Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn’t care to, or he doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely.

The only sense to make of tragedies like this is that terrible things can happen to perfectly innocent people. This understanding inspires compassion.

Religious faith, on the other hand, erodes compassion. Thoughts like, “this might be all part of God’s plan,” or “there are no accidents in life,” or “everyone on some level gets what he or she deserves” - these ideas are not only stupid, they are extraordinarily callous. They are nothing more than a childish refusal to connect with the suffering of other human beings. It is time to grow up and let our hearts break at moments like this." - Sam Harris

"Proud of their secular society, most Japanese aren't religious in the way Americans are: They tend not to identify with a single tradition nor study religious texts. The average Japanese person doesn’t consciously turn to Buddhism until there’s a funeral.

In the days and weeks ahead, huge numbers of Japanese will be turning to their country’s religious traditions as they mourn the thousands of dead and try to muster the strength and resources to rebuild amid the massive destruction wrought by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunami." - Dan Gilgoff

Image source unknown but greatly appreciated
 

         

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Healing Properties of Aquamarine

 
Aquamarine crystals cluster with light green fluorite

Aquamarine is a variety of beryl. It is a relatively common mineral that mostly occurs in pegmatite rocks and is often found together with the ordinary beryl. The biggest deposits were found in Brazil, Colombia, United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Russia, India and Pakistan.

Aquamarine forms pyramidal crystals that can be quite large. Its color ranges from pale blue and transparent turquoise to bluish-green and depends on the concentration of the iron particles within the hexagonal crystalline structure of beryl. The bluish-greenish hue is responsible for the stone's name which comes from the Latin "aqua marina" or sea water.

The stone was well known and valued in Antiquity. It was regarded as a symbol of peace and tranquility. Aquamarine jewelry was highly prized not only for its beauty, but also for its protective value especially for sailors and those who had to undertake a sea journey as this stone would ensure a safe passage to those who wore it. Aquamarine amulets would protect them from sea sickness and from drowning in raging seas.

Aquamarine is associated with the throat chakra and has the ability to activate this energy center. It stimulates, balances, and cleanses the throat chakra. It gives the courage to articulate one's deepest convictions. It also helps improve communication skills and takes away the fear of public speaking. The stone helps clear doubt and uncertainty and enhances creative verbal expression. It encourages tolerance and honesty and enables the expression of truth.

Aquamarine is a stone of beauty, honesty, courage, and loyalty. It has the ability to clarify the thought process and perception and to speed up response in difficult situations. It helps deal with difficult emotions and grief. The stone emanates calming energy that helps reduce stress and pacify the mind. It also sharpens intuition and brings inner peace and serenity. These qualities make it a perfect stone for deep meditation. One gains the ability to access higher levels of awareness.

Aquamarine is sometimes used in thanatology as it is believed to ease the pain of the dying person and to facilitate transition. The stone helps release the karmic bonds. 

In Antiquity aquamarine was used to cure eye diseases. To achieve an healing effect the eyes were washed with aquamarine gem water. Aquamarine was also used traditionally to cure conditions of the throat and the thyroid gland. The stone is considered to be useful for curing toothache, cough, and pain in the jaw. It helps balance the hormones and calms an overactive immune system. It is believed that aquamarine strengthens the kidneys and helps reduce water retention. For best results, aquamarine should be worn next to the skin.

Aquamarine is a very beautiful gemstone that balances energy flow and creates harmony in the house. Those who contemplate its beauty report enhanced awareness and tranquility. The calming energy of aquamarine gives any home the quality of a sanctuary.

By Dominique Allmon

         


*This information is for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

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healing properties of aquamarine by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mourning the Loss of Elisabeth Taylor


 Elizabeth Taylor February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011

Dame Elizabeth Taylor, actress and legend of the silver screen, passed away the morning of March 23, 2011 at age 79. She suffered from chronic health problems and died at Cedars Sinai Hospital from congestive heart failure, a condition she was initially diagnosed with in 2004.

Born in London, Taylor began acting at the age of 12 scoring her breakthrough role of Velvet Brown in the 1944 film National Velvet, where she played an aspiring equestrian who illicitly competes in the Grand National Steeplechase. She became a major child star at MGM; and was one of a few of young actors who were able to make that difficult transition to adult roles. Maturing into a dazzling beauty with raven hair and violet eyes, Taylor was at her zenith during the 1950s and 60s, appearing in films such as Father of the BrideCat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer and Cleopatra, where she met her future husband Richard Burton. She took home Oscar gold for her performance as a call girl in Butterfield 8 and for playing the disillusioned and acidic Martha in a cinematic treatment of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 

In 1956, she appeared opposite James Dean in a screen adaptation of the Edna Ferber novel Giant. During filming, photographer Sid Avery captured a behind-the-scenes shot of the actress, currently on view at the National Portrait Gallery. “It is in the unscripted, candid moment captured in this image that Taylor’s extraordinary beauty is most striking,” says Ann Shumard, the Portrait Gallery’s curator of photographs. “Blissfully unaware of the camera, the 23-year-old actress raises her face to the Texas sun as she enjoys a break in the filming of Giant. Even in an unguarded moment, she is every bit the star whose beauty made her such a mesmerizing presence on the screen.” 

Taylor also had a longstanding love affair with jewelry and wrote a book about her collection and the stories behind her pieces. Currently on display at the Cooper Hewitt Museum’s exhibition Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef and Arpels is a lamartine bracelet that dates from 1970.

“Elizabeth Taylor had extraordinary taste in jewelry and a very fine collection,” says Sarah Coffee, a curator at Cooper-Hewitt. “The bracelet and earrings that go with them were both a present from Richard Burton that he bought her in Geneva in 1971.  He liked them because the cabochon amethysts went with her violet eyes.”

Her film career waned in the 1970s and in the 1980 she was a recurring figure on the daytime soap operas “General Hospital” and “All My Children.” It was also during this period that she poured her time and resources into AIDS charities at an era when it was still a taboo subject. She created the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991 to assist people living with the disease. And though she was absent from acting and made few public appearances in her later years, she kept in touch with her legions of devoted fans via Twitter, sending out messages until just days before she was admitted to Cedars Sinai Hospital on February 11, 2011. 

Article source here

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Bodhisattvas of Fukushima






The Fukushima Fifty are the brave individuals who have stayed behind at Japan's troubled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, where, working in shifts of fifty, they are desperately trying to contain the situation in an attempt to avert a national disaster. By continuously exposing themselves to high levels of radiation, they are knowingly jeopardizing their health and lives. The Fukushima Fifty may feel they are just doing their jobs, but to everyone else they are already heroes.

Japan has eighteen nuclear power plants, which together house a total of fifty four reactors. These plants generate about 29% of the country's electricity. The Fukushima Daiichi plant is situated on Japan’s east coast, near the town of Okuma. It is one of the twenty five biggest nuclear power stations worldwide and contains six reactors.

REACTOR UNIT 1

There was an explosion in Unit 1 on Saturday, March 12. The blast tore off the wall and roof of the outer containment vessel, but reportedly left the reactor intact. Four people were injured in the blast and locals were subsequently ordered to leave the area. The reactor has since been filled with seawater to cool it down.

REACTOR UNIT 2

Late Monday night, workers noted that the unit was unstable. They injected seawater to avoid further damage to the reactor, but it didn’t work: an explosion occurred the following morning at 6 a.m. The blast damaged the inner steel containment vessel and the cores of both reactors may have partially melted. It was then that Japanese officials acknowledged that radiation levels were becoming dangerous. The bulk of the plant’s staff were asked to leave, though a crew, now called the Fukushima Fifty, stayed back. Those workers were then asked to evacuate because of a spike in radiation levels. According to some sources, they have now returned.

REACTOR UNIT 3

Right after the explosion at Unit 1, a hydrogen explosion occurred at the third reactor, tearing away the outer frame of the building. Currently, the third unit is under inspection and not operational.

REACTOR UNIT 4

Reported to be offline at the time of the tsunami, Unit 4 caught fire on Tuesday morning. That occurred shortly after the explosion at Unit 2. The reactor erupted as a result of pressure build-up within the structure again on Wednesday, setting the outer walls ablaze. Fire and smoke can no longer be seen, but Japanese nuclear agency officials were unable to confirm if the fire has been put out. In order to contain the incident, they are spraying seawater and boric acid over the structure.

REACTOR UNITS 5 & 6

Nothing has occurred at the fifth and sixth reactors. Both units were not operating when the earthquake hit.

 ***

They are an anonymous band of lower and mid-level managers who are risking their lives at the very heart of Japan’s nuclear crisis.

But as the stricken reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant appears to stabilize, plant owners are still remaining tight-lipped about the so-called 'Fukushima Fifty' - the heroes fighting to save Japan from nuclear catastrophe.

Fifty essential workers stayed behind to stop a catastrophic meltdown at the plant, as 750 of their colleagues were evacuated earlier this week when the over-heating seemed to be getting out of control.

Five are now believed to have died, fifteen are injured and others have said they know the radiation will kill them as they battle to cool overheating reactors and spent fuel rods.

Article source here & here
Image "Narita Shinshoji Temple in Japan" by Beata Bernina

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Quote of the Day



Nuclear power plants are really dangerous facilities put
in practical use on stipulation that they can “completely seal
in radiation,” while radioactive weapons commit an impermissible
crime scattering radioactive materials in the environment.

Professor Katsuma Yagasaki

Image by David Wasserman
Image source here

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Natural Treatments for Radiation Exposure


Nascent iodine
Even relatively modest doses of radiation can increase the risk that a person will develop thyroid cancer at some point in life. There's a delay between exposure and cancer that can run 10 to 20 years. - Dr. Rigual
Nuclear power plant disasters like the Chernobyl reactor explosion in 1986 or the most recent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant make us aware about the dangers of radioactive exposure.

Radiation is colorless, odorless, tasteless and chemically inert and can only be detected with a Geiger counter. Any amount of radiation is potentially dangerous because of its effect on the living cells. Radiation can disrupt normal chemical processes within the cells and cause abnormal growth or cell death. Cells that are affected by the radiation divide and produce more abnormal cells. This pathological division may eventually lead to cancer.

Our bodies have the amazing capability to heal themselves. When we are exposed to low doses of radiation, healthy cells are able to repair the damage rapidly. Cells that died due to exposure are replaced by the body. If we, however, are exposed to very high doses of radiation, the body may not be able to replace the damaged cells fast enough and tissues or organs may fail to function properly. This is when the radiation sickness sets in.

More than sixty radioactive elements are found in nature, but most people are unaware that they are exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Radiation is present everywhere and there is no way to escape it. There are three different types of radiation:
  • terrestrial radiation - emitted by the rocks, soil, oceans, and plants. Radioactive elements enter our bodies when we drink water, breath air, or eat foods which contain them. The naturally occurring radioisotopes such as carbon-14, potassium-40, thorium-223, polonium-218, uranium-238 and its decay product radon-222, are the elements that cause exposure to radiation from within our bodies.
  • cosmic radiation - is the results from the interaction of cosmic rays with the upper atmosphere of our planet. Cosmic rays permeate the entire Space and are composed of highly energized, positively charged particles and high energy photons. They approach the earth at the speed that almost equals the speed of light. Most of these particles are blocked by the earth's atmosphere and the magnetic field, but many are able to penetrate and form radioactive isotopes that affect us daily. The exposure grows with the altitude. High mountain peaks and high altitude intercontinental flights receive the highest dose of cosmic radiation.
  • man-made radiation - is the radiation caused by human activities and is found in many areas of our daily lives, often where we do not even expect it: our building materials such as bricks and cement may contain uranium ores and are sources of the deadly radon gas; tobacco products contain radioactive polonium-210 which naturally occurs in tobacco plants; commercial food irradiation; radiation from computers and television screens, cell phones, medical diagnostic technology such as X-rays and CAT scans, and the full body scanners at the airports, contributes to the daily cumulative exposure; fission products from weapons testing; nuclear waste from fission reactors; nuclear power plants disasters that add another dimension to our daily lives as fallout is highly radioactive and has immediate cell damaging potential. 

The dangers of radiation are well understood by the medical and the scientific communities. In order to determine the damage caused by radiation, a total dose resulting from repeated exposures to ionizing radiation over a period of time has to be established. 

Radiation has a cumulative effect which means that even if we were never exposed to a radioactive fallout from a nuclear power plant, the damage results from our exposure to different forms of radiation over longer periods of time. This is the reason why people who, for instance, work at nuclear facilities or who operate x-ray machines have to be constantly monitored.

Since we are naturally exposed to radiation, additional exposure should be limited to an absolutely necessary minimum. 

Nuclear fallout, however, comes unannounced and carries far more deadlier radiation than any other source, with the exception of an atomic bomb, of course. Cesium-137 and iodine-131 are the radioactive particles that contaminate the environment after a nuclear fallout. As these particles are carried by the winds, they can contaminate vast areas thus affecting people who do not live in the immediate vicinity of a nuclear disaster.

Fortunately, the atomic incidents are rather rare, but since they occurred in the past, we have gathered enough experience in the field of treatment and prevention. Traditionally few very effective supplements and herbs were used to prevent the body from the possible effects of radiation or to "detox" the body after exposure. They offer simple and natural solution and are quite effective and rather inexpensive.

Natural treatments for radiation exposure:
  • iodine - is one of the most important natural antidotes to radiation. Our bodies need iodine for the optimally functioning thyroid gland which utilizes it to produce metabolism regulating hormones. Unfortunately, the thyroid cannot tell the difference between the radioactive iodine-131 and the beneficial form of iodine that is normally found in natural sea salt and in sea vegetables. This is most unfortunate as the radioactive iodine attaches itself to iodine receptors in the thyroid causing mutation and cell death and, eventually, cancer. Supplemental iodine, which usually comes in a strongly bound form of potassium iodide, is usually administered to prevent the damage from exposure to the radioactive iodine. The bound forms of iodine, however, are biologically inefficient as the body is able to absorb only about 20 percent of this nutrient. For a better protection nascent iodine is the preferred choice. Nascent iodine supplements deliver iodine in its atomic form which is easily absorbed and utilized by the thyroid gland. It is important to understand that supplemental iodine can only protect against radioactive iodine, but does not protect against other radioactive particles such as cesium and strontium.
  • sodium bicarbonate - a substance also known as baking soda, is the best means to minimize the kidney damage caused by the uranium exposure. Oral doses or infusions of sodium bicarbonate help alkalize the urine and render uranium ions less toxic to the kidneys. Sodium bicarbonate binds with uranium and promotes its excretion from the body thus reducing the severity of the damage caused by radiation. Sodium bicarbonate can also be added to bath water for a full body detoxifying effect. The suggested amount is one pound for a low grade exposure and up to five  pounds for an acute radiation exposure. Sodium bicarbonate is also very effective in removing uranium from contaminated surfaces and from the soil.
  • sweet water algae - micro-algae such as spirulina and chlorella have been used with great success by the Russian doctors to treat patients after the nuclear reactor explosion in Chernobyl. Micro-algae are very rich in nutrients and have the capability to bind to toxins and sweep them out of the body. They alkalize and purify the blood and restore its chemistry. The algae also enhance the immune system that is normally compromised by radiation.
  • seaweeds - especially kelp, are rich in sodium alginate - a polysaccharide which binds to radioactive strontium and removes it from the body. Sea vegetable are also rich in iodine and help prevent uptake of the radioactive iodine. Other nutrients such as vitamin B 12, iron, sulfur, and zinc, inhibit the absorption of radioactive cobalt, plutonium, sulfur and zinc particles. 
  • medicinal mushrooms - mushrooms such as reishi and maitake enhance the immune system after the exposure to radiation and prevent tumors from forming in the body. They also protect the DNA from the damage caused by ionizing radiation. Mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans that are known to protect and restore the skin from the damage caused exposure to radiation. 
  • Korean ginseng - is an herb that increases mental and physical endurance. It has the capability to inhibit tumor growth and prevent hemorrhage after exposure to radiation. It prevents the degeneration of bone marrow and stimulates formation of new white blood cells.
  • organic sulfur - inhibits the uptake of radioactive sulfur. It also enables transport of oxygen across the cell membranes thus contributing to a fast regeneration of the damaged cells. The mineral has the ability to detoxify heavy metals and neutralize free radicals. It is a building block of many amino-acids that are necessary to restore the damaged body tissues.  
  • liquid zeolite - especially the clinoptilolite which can absorb all kinds of toxins and help remove radiation not only from the human or animal bodies, but also from the affected environment. Clinoptilolite was successfully used to clean up the radioactive damage after the Three Mile Island incident and in Chernobyl. Because of their molecular structure and the negative charge, zeolites are able to absorb positively charged mercury, aluminum, cadmium, lead, arsenic, and radioactive ions of uranium and plutonium. Zeolites trap these and other substances like a sponge and carry them out of the body without causing any additional damage to the body.

As I mentioned above, our bodies can heal themselves. A healthy body with a strong immune system is capable of correcting any damage. We can support our bodies with balanced nutrition, regular detoxification, and proper relaxation and stress management. Daily diet should be supplemented with vitamins and antioxidants to protect the body from free radicals that are generated by the radiation.

We cannot escape radiation, but we can protect our genetic substance from the damage caused by it. People working in nuclear power plants, miners, submarine personnel, flight crews, and those who are in daily contact with medical diagnostic technology should take extra care and undergo regular detoxification.

By Dominique Allmon 

P.S.

Some foods are naturally radioactive. Bananas, for instance, contain natural potassium, which includes the naturally radioactive isotope potassium-40. The same is true of the human body. What physicists miss, but no biologist would, is that potassium in the human body is homeostatically regulated, so regardless of how many bananas you eat, the amount of potassium-40 in your body is constant. Therefore, your radiation dose is constant regardless of your banana intake. Things change when we are exposed to a radioactivity from a nuclear plant fallout. No dose can be considered harmless.

'This information is for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

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Natural Treatments for Radiations Exposure by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Requiem for Japan



Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going -
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.

death poem by Kozan Ichikyo, 1360

"The current situation of the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear plants is in a way the most severe crisis in the past 65 years since World War II,” said the Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Japanese television showed cars, ships and buildings being swept away by a vast wall of water after a 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck the region last weekend. The destruction is beyond comprehension. Thousands of people perished in this unimaginable disaster, thousands more are now homeless and in need of blankets, food and clean drinking water.

Millions remain without electricity and authorities are stepping up relief efforts as the scale of the tragedy becomes clearer. US Marines, the US Navy's Seventh Fleet and diverse humanitarian aid organizations came to the rescue. But the worse is still to come as the authorities are struggling to contain the damaged reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The effects of radioactive contamination have yet to be assessed.

Meanwhile, more than 210,000 people have already been evacuated from areas around the Fukushima plant, and 160 were reported to have suffered radiation exposure. Seventeen US Marines were also exposed to radiation during their rescue mission.

We are living in difficult times, but if you want to do some good for the people of Japan, please join me and donate to a relief agency.

Dominique Allmon

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dangerous Designs?


Image from the movie "Olympia" by Leni Riefenstahl
 Image from the movie "Olympia" by Leni Riefenstahl

"In the 1920s and 1930s, scientists from both the political left and right would not have found the idea of designer babies particularly dangerous - though of course they would not have used that phrase. Today, I suspect that the idea is too dangerous for comfortable discussion, and my conjecture is that Adolf Hitler is responsible for the change.

Nobody wants to be caught agreeing with that monster, even in a single particular. The specter of Hitler has led some scientists to stray from "ought" to "is" and deny that breeding for human qualities is even possible. But if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability? Objections such as "these are not one-dimensional abilities" apply equally to cows, horses and dogs and never stopped anybody in practice.

I wonder whether, some sixty years after Hitler's death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons. Or why it is acceptable to train fast runners and high jumpers but not to breed them. I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me. But hasn't the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?"

Richard Dawkins

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ocean of Suffering



The ocean of suffering is immense, but if you turn around, you can see the land. The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don't wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy... When you have suffered, you know how to appreciate the elements of paradise that are present. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama offered prayers for those who lost their lives in the tsunami unleashed by the massive earthquake in Japan and offered his sympathies and condolences to their families.

In a condolence message to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the Nobel laureate has expressed his shock and sadness.

In a message to the Japanese people, he said: 'It would be very good if Japanese Buddhists are to recite 'Heart Sutra' on this occasion. Such recitation may not only be helpful for those who have lost their precious lives, but may also help prevent further disasters in the future.'

The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who is currently touring Sarnath near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh for his annual spring teaching, also participated in special prayers for the victims. 

'The Karmapa led a special puja on behalf of the earthquake victims at the Vajra Vidya Institute in Sarnath Friday evening,' spokesperson for the Karmapa's office Deki Chungyalpa told IANS.

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake Friday afternoon set off huge tsunami waves, some as high as 10 meters, that rushed ashore for several kilometers along the northeastern coast, sweeping everything in their path - buildings, cars, ships and people. Thousands were missing and the bodies of over 400 people have been recovered so far.

I hope the living are safe
I hope the missing are found
I hope the dead are at peace

Image source here
Article source here

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Soft Tyranny


Alexis de Tocqueville by Théodore Chassériau (1819–1856)
 Alexis de Tocqueville by Théodore Chassériau (1819–1856)

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the government then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence: it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. - Alexis De Tocqueville 


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Health Benefits of Ginger



Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a tropical perennial plant native to Southeast Asia that is also cultivated in West Africa and the Caribbean. The Latin name is derived from the Sanskrit word shringavera which means "horn shaped" and pertains to the horn-like protrusions on the rhizome.

History

For centuries rhizome of the ginger plant has been used as a spice in Asian cooking. Its healing properties did not go unnoticed in China and in India where ginger is used to this day to cure various ailments and health disorders. Ginger was described in the Classic of Herbs, a compilation by the Chinese around 3000 BC. Confucius (551 - 479 BC) praised its many benefits. The Greek physician and botanist Dioscorides (circa 40 - 90 AD) wrote about ginger's ability to soothe the stomach. Ginger was also valued by the Arabs and in the Ancient Roman Empire which imported it from Asia. The Romans introduced ginger to various parts of continental Europe and to Britain. The Vikings used it to prevent sea sickness.

Health benefits

Traditionally, ginger has been used to alleviate such health problems as nausea, infections of the upper respiratory tract, digestive disorders, and migraines and was even considered to be an effective aphrodisiac. Applied topically, ginger was used to cure rheumatism, arthritis, minor sprains, and burns.

Ginger contains powerful compounds such as shogaols, zingerone, and gingerols, that are potent antioxidants responsible for the remarkable healing properties of this spice. The rhizome is rich in protein, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, vitamin A, and vitamin B6. The ginger rhizome has a firm, but striated texture and a characteristic pungent and hot taste. Its flesh is either white or yellow in color and is quite aromatic.

Modern scientific research confirmed the ancient knowledge making ginger one of the most versatile medicinal plants. Healing benefits include the ability to alleviate or cure following health issues:
  • Gastrointestinal disorders such as stomach ache, indigestion, diarrhea, and dyspepsia - active compounds in ginger increase the production of bile, reduce inflammation, and help detoxify the digestive tract.
  • Motion sickness and vertigo - various studies demonstrated that ginger is as effective as many over-the-counter drugs. The exact mechanism in not yet well understood, but it is believed that ginger increases stomach acidity balancing at the same time the pressure in the inner ear canal.
  • Morning sickness during pregnancy - for thousands of years ginger has been safely used for morning sickness that accompanies pregnancy. Ginger has no side effects and does not cause any birth defects. Practitioners of the Traditional Chinese Medicine, however, advise to use ginger rather sparingly during pregnancy and only to treat the morning sickness.
  • Chemotherapy-induced nausea - studies conducted on cancer patients demonstrated that those who drank high protein shakes infused with ginger reported fewer episodes of nausea after their chemotherapy treatments.
  • Cancer of the colon - in a study conducted at the University of Minnesota, gingerol exhibited a strong anti-tumor activity. It inhibits the action of a protein involved in the genesis of the cancer cells in the colon, thus preventing the growth of tumors.
  • Ovarian cancer - gingerol has the remarkable ability to kill ovarian cancer cells. It induces apoptosis or a programmed cell death of these cells, as well as their self-digestion or autophagocythosis. The studies conducted at the University of Michigan also demonstrated that the ovarian cancer cells do not become resistant to ginger.
  • The latest research shows that ginger also kills prostate cancer cells. Just like in the ovarian cancer ginger induces prostate cancer cells apoptosis. It even causes autophagy or a situation in which cancer cells attack other cancer cells.
  • Inflammation - the active compound in ginger called gingerol is characterized by a very strong anti-inflammatory activity. Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies demonstrated that patients suffering from arthritis who took ginger over a longer period of time experienced less pain than those who did not. These patients also reported improved mobility.
  • Weak immune system - ginger stimulates thymus gland and increases body's own ability to fight infections. It also has anti-microbial, anti-candida, and anti-parasitic properties.
  • Common cold and flu - ginger reduces inflammation, eases congestion, and induces sweating, which helps speed up recovery from infections.
  • Pathological blood clotting - studies conducted in Denmark and at the Cornell University demonstrated that ginger is a very potent anticoagulant and is, therefore, valuable in preventing cardiovascular disease. The active compound gingerol has a chemical structure that resembles that of aspirin. 
  • Elevated cholesterol - taken therapeutically over a longer periods of time, ginger has the capacity to lower the "bad" cholesterol and reverse the damage caused by diet high in fat, thus reducing the chance of stroke.

Dosage

There is no established daily dose of ginger. The suggested dose is 150 mg of full spectrum ginger extract taken three times a day.

Ginger can also be taken in the form of tea or added to freshly made fruit and vegetable juices and, of course, added to many Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern dishes.

A powdered, dried ginger can be used to make a detoxifying, hot bath. Essential oil of ginger may be used topically as analgesic.

When buying ginger, fresh rhizome should be chosen over the dried one. Fresh ginger not only has a better aroma and taste, but it also contains higher levels of the active compound gingerol.

Caution

Like any other plant, ginger may cause allergic reactions. A caution is also advised for those who suffer from gall bladder disease as ginger increases the production of bile. As mentioned before, ginger has blood thinning properties. A caution is advised for those who take blood thinning medication.

By Dominique Allmon

*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Blind Men and the Elephant Parable

 
 Image by Gregory Colbert

One day the Buddha received his disciples who came to see him with a nagging problem. "Sir, in Savatthi there are many wandering hermits and scholars who indulge in constant dispute and we are confused by what we hear. Some of them say that the world is infinite and eternal, others that it is finite and not eternal. Some say that the soul dies with the body, others that it lives on forever. They all sound very convincing so who is right?"

To answer their questions the Buddha told them an old story: "Once upon a time there was a raja who called to his servant and said, 'Come, good fellow, go and gather together in one place all the men of Savatthi who were born blind and show them an elephant. I want to describe the elephant to me the best way they can.' 'Very good, sire,' replied the servant, and he did as he was told. He said to the blind men assembled in a courtyard, 'Here before you is an elephant. The mighty raja wants you to describe it to him.' The blind men gathered around the beast and each touched a different part of the animal's body. One man touched its head, another its ears. One got to touch animal's long tusk, another touched the trunk. One man touched the foot, another the back. One man touched the tail, another the tusk.

"After the blind men touched the elephant, the raja went to each of them and asked, 'Well, blind man, have you seen the elephant? Tell me, what is it?'

Each man described what the felt with their hands and each said that that was the elephant. To one men it was like tree, to another like a snake. One thought it was like a lotus leaf in the pond, other thought it was sharp like a spear, yet another said it was like a rope... As each of them described the elephant to the raja in their own way, the blind men began to quarrel as each insisted that he had the right answer. Each knew better what an elephant was, but neither would agree that others got it right. To a delight of the rich man, a violent fight broke out. He then said, "Stop the quarrel at once! Elephant is neither a tree, nor a spear or all the other things you imagine it to be. Elephant is a large animal and each of you only touched a part of it.'

"Brethren," said the Buddha, "I want you to understand that these mendicants and scholars who hold various views and confuse your minds, are blind and unseeing just like the blind men in the raja's courtyard. In their ignorance they are by nature quarrelsome and each maintains that reality is such and such."

Then the Buddha said to his disciples:
    "O how they cling and wrangle, 
    some who claim for preacher and monk the honored name!

    For, quarreling, each to his view they cling.
    Such folk see only one side of a thing." 
Buddha used this parable to illustrate the sectarian disputes that took place in India at that time, but its wisdom goes much deeper than that.

This old Indian story explains the fallacy of our beliefs and the incompleteness of our perceptions of reality. It provides an insight into the relativity, opaqueness, and the strangely inaccessible nature of truth. Our knowledge is at best fragmentary and yet we insist on knowing the absolute truth. We are like the blind men in Buddha's parable. But  just as neither of the blind men was completely right, neither was also completely wrong. This teaches us that we can only approach the truth, but we can never "see" the whole picture. To understand what things really are, we may have to consider looking at what others have to say and acknowledge that their views contribute to the whole picture. 

Some approximations of truth may seem "better" than others. To many of us the scientific method is what brings us closer to the full understanding of reality, while others insist on intuitive experience and faith. 

As our technology improves with time, we are able to see and understand things previously unknown to man. With each scientific discovery our picture fills out. Today we know more than we ever thought possible and yet, we may never be able to find all the answers. This epistemological dilemma motivates scientists, philosophers, and theologians to look deeper.

Some answers are found in deep space, others in the mitochondria. Some answers may lie deep in our psyche, while others are found right in front of our very eyes. It takes more than one approach to find the truth and yet those who only had a glimpse of, unwisely insist on knowing it all.

By Dominique Allmon


         

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The Blind Men and the Elephant by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Quote of the Day

 

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. - Rachel Carson