Part I: Ellen Kamhi
Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, The Natural Nurse® has been involved in Natural Medicine since 1973, when she directed a program in Ethnobotany at Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona. Dr. Kamhi attended Rutgers and Cornell Universities, sat on the Panel of Traditional Medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical School, and is a Medical School Instructor, teaching Botanical Pharmacology. She was nominated for the March of Dimes, Woman of Distinction 2004 and received the J.G Gallimore award for research in science. Dr. Kamhi is a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild (AHG), and is nationally board certified as an Advanced Holistic Nurse (AHN-BC). Ellen Kamhi is the author of many books, including Cycles of Life, Herbs for Women, The Natural Guide to Great Sex, WEIGHT LOSS-the Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide, The Natural Medicine Chest and Arthritis, The Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide. She hosts radio shows daily, including on Gary Nulls Progressive Radio Network, and is regularly quoted in numerous mainstream media including Marie Clare, Latina, Self, Woman’s World, Prevention, Cosmopolitan and Glamour. Dr. Kamhi provides group and individual online certification educational modules in Herbal Medicine, Essential Oil Therapy, Energy Medicine, Radionics and all aspects of holistic medicine, and provides personal health consultations. She is on the Peer Review Editorial Board of several journals/organizations, including: Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Natural Medicine Journal, Natural Standard Database. Ellen Kamhi is actively involved as the Professional Herbalist/Nutritionist and Educator for Nature’s Answer®, Hauppauge, NY.
Dr. Kamhi can be heard on Progressive Radio Network Tuesdays at 10am (ET)/ 7am (PT).
Caryn: Hello everybody! I am Caryn Hartglass and you are listening to It’s All About Food. And here we are it’s the 18th of November 2012 and I hope this finds you well. I am actually on the road, well, not at ths moment but I’ve been traveling and I’m in California and after what seemed like a day of driving, we rolled into Palm Springs, where it is raining. I was so happy to find Native Foods. It’s a vegan restaurant, it’s been around since 1994 and I was able to get a wonderful kale salad. This is something I hope for everyone for the future where you can drive anywhere and know that you can find healthy food. It’s a start.
Great show today, I want to bring on my first guest. One of the things we are doing here at Progressive Radio Network is we are inviting guests from other programs on the network and I’m starting to do that today.
I am really looking forward to this first half-hour with Ellen Kamhi. She’s the Natural Nurse. Perhaps you’ve heard her on the Progressive Radio Network. She has been involved in Natural Medicine since 1973, when she directed a program in Ethnobotany at Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona. Dr. Kamhi attended Rutgers and Cornell Universities, sat on the Panel of Traditional Medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical School, and is a Medical School Instructor, teaching Botanical Pharmacology. She was nominated for the March of Dimes, Woman of Distinction 2004 and received the J.G Gallimore award for research in science. Dr. Kamhi is a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild (AHG), and is nationally board certified as an Advanced Holistic Nurse (AHN-BC). Ellen Kamhi is the author of many books, including Cycles of Life, Herbs for Women, which we will be talking about today. You can hear her on this network on Tuesdays, at 10 am Eastern Time.
Welcome to all about the food, Ellen.
Ellen: As a guest, instead of as a host.
Caryn: How does that feel?
Ellen: It’s great to be on the other side.
Caryn: You are amazing. Is there anything that you don’t do? You’re on the radio every day, and you seem to be all over the place, helping so many people.
Ellen: Well, I have been very intimately involved in natural medicine actually since 1964. It certainly has been a very long time.
Caryn: You’ve probably seen a lot of changes, some good and some not so good.
Ellen: I can’t think of anything that is not good actually in terms of the progression of natural medicine since that time. It’s definitely a massive amount of growth. I certainly never thought when I was beginning to be an herbalist, I studied with Shamanic healers in indigenous cultures around the world and I continue to do so, except now for instance in this coming March we’ll actually be taking a group along with any listeners who wanted join us to the island of Jamaica to live with indigenous Shamanic healers there in St. Mary Parish and that’s exciting. We’ve been doing that for 29 years. That’s not new. What’s new is that it is actually listed as a three credit course with Stonybrook University. It is called an Ancient Global Studies course.
Caryn: Well there’s so much knowledge out there that’s beneficial and a lot of it we’ve lost, and how important it is for us to learn about it from things going on all over the world and have been going on for thousands of years so that we can keep some of that really essential stuff going.
Ellen: It is and you don’t have to go far you don’t have to go to the island of Jamaica. We do our block right here on Long Island. We do ethno-botanical eco-cures in Chinatown. We have one coming up in August. So no matter you are, there is edible and medicinal plants as well as kitchen remedies that most people have at home.
Caryn: My first question is what does “natural” mean to you?
Ellen: Well, that’s a great question because that word is being used in a distorted fashion. For instance on Perdue chicken, it says right on the chicken, it says natural chicken. The word actually had no particular meaning. I saw a very interesting show just the other day with an attorney who is suing both Nestle an employee who owns Larabar, which is a supposedly a health food bar and another major company, Kashi and they are being sued for using the word “natural” on their label because by using that word “natural” it seems to infer certain things that consumers might think, which isn’t really true because they may be using in fact unnatural ingredients as well as GMO-sourced ingredients. That is a good question and right now that’s a question that’s up in the air because there is no definition of the term.
Caryn: I know what it means to me and I know what it means to a lot of people but because there isn’t an official or legal definition, people use it and for the public misinterprets it and gets misled.
Ellen: It’s true. If I think about what it means to me I was have to say something like I do in life which is really eat things that are just in their whole form. Get medicine by walking outside the door and collecting plants, and making it into medicine. As well as, of course the higher level, at the top of pharmacology where we really measure what the active constituents. So I like every aspect of natural medicine.
Caryn: Now one of the things that has been a bit problematic in conventional allopathic medicine today is this reductionist mentality where we don’t consider the body as a whole, we don’t consider how different nutrients, different chemicals, work together in order to achieve a certain goal, and as a result people are focusing on specific nutrients, taking specific supplements and not getting the best results.
Ellen: Well, that’s true too. When you are talking about supplements, the supplements will never bring you health. Supplement, the word supplement means you use it as a supplement, “in addition to,” exactly. To fill in the blanks and one thing that people might want to look at in their supplements, are what kind of additives are there. If you look at some of the commercial brands, we don’t want to mention them, but one starts with a “C” that I’m thinking of, if you look at the other ingredients on there, you will see things like benzoates. Benzoates disassociate benzene…
Caryn: That’s a bad word!
Ellen: Yeah. … when they come in contact with vitamin C and other antioxidants. You want a look and see especially in liquids as well as capsules, do they have potassium or sodium benzoate as a preservative. Then many regular vitamins have all kinds of FD&C yellow die, blue, green, red, all kinds of toxic chemicals within something that’s called a vitamin supplement.
Caryn: There are so many things, and it’s very overwhelming. But let’s get to the subject we wanted to talk about today which is a book that you wrote called Cycles of Life, Herbs For Women. I have to say, I have not read this book but I would like to. It’s only been the last few decades where the medical profession, in their clinical studies, have started to look at women’s health in addition to men’s health. There is so much that is specific to women that we just don’t know, for a long time have not felt comfortable talking about, and it’s finally coming out there, but I’m imagining, I imagine there’s a lot of great information regarding women and herbs, I’m thinking about menopause but all through life.
Ellen: Right and that’s why I called the book Cycles Of Life because in this book I start out talking about menarche and what menarche are is the start of the menstrual cycle and very often that is completely ignored in our country as being a big deal but it is actually a big deal because it’s the start of fertility and in all ancient cultures they had a lot of traditional rituals that they would do for girls as they entered that phase of life. And for boys also in terms of turning into warriors and being considered men. And a lot of that has just been dropped which is really a shame because it denigrated into more of just a commercial venture instead of something really sacred. So in my book, Cycles of Life, I do talk about some of the ancient techniques and I know many mothers who have integrated that into their daughters’, when we call it, the mystery time, the moon time visions and how to do Earth bonding to open the dreamtime doors. Now you can actually use very specific herbs at that time. For instance one is red clover and red clover is useful both at menarchy and well as at menopause and even during the middle years for things like PMS. Very interesting when we look at something called the doctrine of signatures, because the doctrine of signatures tells us and all herbalists throughout history, the plant will mimic in its form shape or color what it might be useful for you. When we look at, say something like raspberry or even rosebuds for instance, we see something called pubescent hairs and then we are linking it to the use during that period of life. We see this again and again in the herbal kingdom.
Caryn: If we would only pay attention and connect the dots.
Ellen: Well absolutely. And we do, as herbalists always pay attention to that as well.
Caryn: I know that there are a lot of things that are missed during that time in a young woman’s life, it can be frightening, it can be confusing, it can be embarrassing. I personally went through a difficult time and I just accepted it as normal most of my life until it took a turn for the worse. That’s another story. But the thing is when I would explain my symptoms to doctors they practically ignored me. They didn’t know what to do about it and didn’t take anything serious. There is more focused to that now but I certainly wish I had had access to the Internet and your book.
Ellen: Well, the thing is that now herbal medicine, which is traditional medicine. I very am livid about the incorrect use of the word traditional. Traditional means medicine that has been used with great effectiveness and safety for thousands of years.
Caryn: Yeah, this isn’t a trend.
Ellen: Correct and it is also not correct to use the word traditional when we talk about conventional medicine. You used the right term.
Caryn: Thank you.
Ellen: We can call it conventional, we can call it allopathic, we can call it mainstream and we certainly need it. As a PhD RN, an advanced practice nurse, I certainly do not want to throw out anything about conventional medicine. It is often the appropriate therapy and the one that will save your life. Nonetheless it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the traditional therapies. If you look at something like menopause like you brought up. There is such a wide array of well documented evidence-based use of herbs such as dong quai, vitex, wild yam, wild nettles, sea vegtables, and motherwort, just to name a few that can help with menopausal symptoms and have little or no adverse effects.
Caryn: Now what about women no one about the way men like myself who have had total hysterectomies and have symptoms like hot flashes, can these things help?
Ellen: You know in that case, possibly because very often even if the woman has had a hysterectomy, the adrenal glands will take over the production of hormones. Both estrogens and of course there are many hormones if you want to be in balance such as DHEA, DHEA sulfate, progesterone, pregnenolone, testosterone and good holistic physicians will test all of those hormones. Not just the estrogens. The adrenal glands can take over the production of many of these things. These herbs can help in that case as well and a physical therapy such as acupuncture on the adrenal glands and caster oil packs on the adrenal glands. But if that isn’t enough I would then discuss, and I do discuss in detail in my book, Cycles Of Life, bio identical hormone therapy. Bio identical hormone therapy is the use of hormones but they’re not the same as what’s used in conventional hormone replacement therapy. They actually have a very different molecular structure.
Caryn: I’ve heard different things about bio identical hormones and I know some people, after a bit of work, have gotten a great deal of relief. But it took some time to figure out the right balance that with appropriate for them because it’s a very individual thing.
Ellen: Well all of health care is a very individual thing. But it really can give some marked relief. Now when people ask about the safety of bio identical hormone therapy, this is the answer that they need to be given. It has been used for many, many years in Europe. In this country I work in a clinic where we used it for over 26 years with no report of anyone developing cancer. However it has not had the same, really in depth safety testing that conventional hormone therapy had. And of course conventional hormone therapy failed. They actually stopped the study because of the large amount of side effects people got including cancer, heart disease etc. While it appears that the bio identical has a much better safety profile it does not have the same rigorous safety trials.
Caryn: I want to go back to of to young teenage women as they get into, they get into puberty and they their menstrual cycles. There are some drugs out today that will play with a woman’s menstrual cycle so that you only get it certain times, once, I don’t know, I don’t pay attention to all the commercials with some of them seem pretty horrifying to me. Do you have an opinion on some of these drugs?
Ellen: Absolutely, they are extremely dangerous. And many of them that stop menstrual flow altogether, are actually being recalled right now. I’m not even sure you can get them as a prescription at this time because they have caused many cancers as well as deaths. It’s a terrible idea.
Caryn: I haven’t seen those commercials recently, they were so creepy.
Ellen: Yes, and that particular drug I think is call Yasmin or something. It really has been linked to at a very high number and very severe adverse effects.
Caryn: And how does something like that get approved then get recalled? How does it get approved?
Ellen: Okay, well that’s was not a really great in-depth show in and of itself, and of course Gary Null, this is the Gary Null station, Progressive Radio Network, has a very recent shows on how corrupt studies are in terms of the release of medical studies and the people who are paid to do them. And the fact that when the outcome is not what is desired by the drug company, they just don’t publish it. That’s going on all the time. You know even as far back as 1998 the Journal of the American Medical Association printed a very in-depth study which has been done over with even worse numbers showing that pharmaceutical drugs, used as indicated, is actually the third to fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
Caryn: I heard that.
Ellen: There is really no link to the verification of safety just because of intense regulation.
Caryn: That expression “can’t live with them, can’t live without them” really means something when it comes to drugs.
Ellen: That’s true. On the other hand, herbs are not 100% safe. People can have negative effects due to herbs. But you know over the last 10 years there’s been no death — not one single death that has been significantly linked to the use of an herb. The only one that has come up in the literature was ephedra a few years ago and that was with the over use of ephedra along with recreational drugs.
Caryn: I want to get back to your working with indigenous peoples around the world and their ancient knowledge of herbs and medicinal treatments and celebrating some of the cycles of life. What are some of the things that happen in some of these celebrations with the young woman who enters puberty, who starts her menstral cycle?
Ellen: Well it will very often be the lineage, the connection to your grandmothers. And there is an herb called black cohosh, it’s very interesting to note that every time there is Shamanic or ancient folklore tradition to an herb like black cohosh and we then study it later on with what we have now available in terms of high class pharmaceutical type investigations of active constituents, we find out the active constituents that make this thing work. But we talk about something like black cohosh, there is a spiritual component to its use, in terms of bringing young women into womanhood. And this is how it goes. I collect black cohosh myself. It does not grow in the New York area but it does grow in the Smokey Mountains, so you have to get it at the end of the season in the fall. And that’s when the seeds that come up from the plant dry inside of pods and if you break that stalk off and shake it, it becomes a rattle. And that’s how the black cohosh was used. The roots were made into a tea, and at the same time the seed pods were broken off on the stalk and used as a rattle, and the young women and older women in fact, also drank tea while they did rattling and singing and bringing in what they called the “Grandmother Spirits” to bless the young woman as she walked through the gates of womanhood.
Caryn: We need more of that. We really need to celebrate all cycles of life and we don’t. And there is so much negativity surrounded with women going through this “dreaded period,” that we have for so many years and how inconvenient it is and then ending it and that’s even “worse” going through menopause.
Ellen: I can’t agree with you though that I loved menopause.
Caryn: No, I’m not saying that’s how I feel. That’s the image that we are given.
Ellen: I guess so, but I guess I never bought into that because I found every single cycle, like one to be more exciting than the next. And certainly in terms of menopause I would have to say that’s been my favorite so far but I always say that’s been my favorite. But there is so much about it that I love, like going through hot flashes for me was fabulous because I was always cold. So this was, wow, this is great, I am finally really hot, and I actually took that energy field and instead of making it annoying or anything like that I bought it inside and used it mentally by putting it into my adrenal glands as a strengthening heat. And that was actually something that I learned from Mantak Chia who is a teacher who talks about the microcosmic orbit. So you know it can be, I guess, and you could say that we don’t do rituals but of course in my classes we have been teaching those rituals and thousands of women have participated. If you look at somebody like Susun Weed you may have heard of, she’s a very famous herbalist, and she has a center where she is constantly teaching the coordinated use of herbs and rituals. You are right, in our mainstream society, those are some of attitudes that we are seeing, but we take steps on a personal level to re-involve ourselves in the natural world.
Caryn: I don’t know where this tradition came from but when I first started as a teenager my mother hit me, and she doesn’t know where she did.
Ellen: Oh you mean slapped, like slapped you. Actually, I heard of that. I’m sure my mother did that too, maybe it’s a Jewish thing.
Caryn: It scared me, like whoa, what did I do? What did you hit me for?
Ellen: Oh, they never told you ahead of time to expect that.
Caryn: No! It was just a really crazy thing. Oh dear. Okay, so what else do we find in this, what about for older women past menopause, aging, we certainly don’t have enough respect for people as they get older and we have a wealth of aging people today.
Ellen: Right and that’s what I love about this book that was written called Saging While Aging and that’s actually written by Shirley MacClaine. I very much love the title, that’s why I was drawn towards it, and I read it because of that concept, of that older people actually have an enhanced amount of wisdom. Now one thing that they need in terms of herbs are things that are nourishing. For my older women as well as men I would use nourishing herbs such as nettle which you can pick right outside your door, anywhere, most places in the country other than the desert in Arizona. Or of course you can purchase a product that is already-made. Natures Answer is one company that I work with and I know they are really strong and powerful herbs. You can use nettle, you can use Siberian ginseng. By the way that’s no longer called Siberian ginseng it’s called Eleutherococcus. They changed the name so if anybody wants Siberian ginseng you call it Eleutherococcus. Another fabulous herb for overall inner stability and strength is rhodiola. Rhodiola is actually grown in Siberia and that’s a good, what we call, tonic, to maintain the inner yang energy, in the inner energy essence as we age. So there is a lot that we can do to feel really well.
Caryn: Well that’s good. The only thing we need to change into how society looks at our aging population. But it has to start, I think, with the individual.
Ellen: I’ve never been one to wait around and wait for society to change. I just always do what works for me and teach literally thousands of other people to do the same for themselves and before you know it, voila, like I said, now we are teaching these things within medical schools which I never would have thought possible.
Caryn: Yes, this is amazing. I have been hearing interesting things lately where American Medical Association has been removing some of the comments that they’ve made about certain areas of natural, different for natural medicine, which they originally considered a hoax or quackery and now they are accepting it.
Ellen: Well even acupuncture. Acupuncture has become quite well-established within mainstream medicine. You are right there is certainly a long way to go. There is certainly a lot about attitudes that would be wonderful to move in what I believe is a more progressive venue but, there is no reason to wait till that happens. You can do it for yourself, right now, as of today. You can feel better, you can have more strength, you can have a more natural lifestyle and a nutritious life, like you said when you began your show, about finding healthy food on the road. You are so right it’s great to have natural foods available but they’re usually not and since I travel somewhere almost every single week I always bring my food with me at all times.
Caryn: Yeah I certainly keep stuff with me too. It’s just such a pleasure when you find something that you haven’t brought, it’s like a treat. I’m thinking, I got a kale salad and I think it’s a treat! But it was a treat. Just one last thing, we’ve talked about some important cycles but what about pregnant women and babies. I’m imagining that that’s an important time too.
Ellen: It certainly is, of course, and I do have many chapters in my book, Cycles Of Life on how to prepare yourself with herbs and natural remedies both in terms of increasing fertility, in terms of during pregnancy, for birth and during nursing. I was a midwife for many years and delivered several hundred babies at home, because in those years, in the early 70s, you only had two choices. There were no natural birthing centers, which we do have more available today, that’s another focus of progression. So you only have two choices: being strapped down which is the worst way on your back to have a baby, the worst way, or having babies at home. That was women’s choices. Many of them did opt for a homebirth that they could have a natural experience and there are a lot of herbs that you can use to help that. A lot of exercises that you can do ahead of time, to ease the birth process as well as increased milk supply. Some of the best herbs for that includes something like marshmallow root, that’s a nice one, and all kinds of nutritive herbs again like nettle, now as well as very specific herbs like fenugreek. People know the taste of fenugreek if you eat those little fenugreek seeds. There is so much that you can do. Actually having a good organic beer is a good idea when you’re trying to nurse. There is just so much information there. I wanted you thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food, and you have your program every Tuesday at 10 AM on the Progressive Radio Network. Your website is naturalnurse.com, it’s a place, definitely to find a lot of great information and your books, amazing.
Ellen: Well thank you so much and I look forward to having you on as our guest on The Natural Nurse and Dr. Z.
Caryn: Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.
Ellen: You too, be well.
Caryn: You too, bye bye. I am Caryn Hartglass, you are listening to It’s All About Food, ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com, that’s my website and there’s wonderful information up there. I wanted to remind you, all of my shows are archived up there, if you go to ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com, go to the REAL Radio tab and you can scroll down to It’s All About Food recent archive and the complete archive. You can be listening for a long time. Okay we are going to take a quick break and then we will be back to talk about peanut butter. Yum.