Nature Treatment: A Prescription For Vitamin N(ature)
By Lisa Green
It’s easy to revel in the arts, food culture, real estate and all the other treasures the Rural Intelligence region offers us. But if there’s one element that trips us up, it’s the fact that when it comes to healthcare, we’re recipients of “rural” medicine. To those who have moved here from cities with some of the best medical facilities in the world, that can be a hard pill to swallow.
On the other hand, could there be any more perfect place in the entire country (okay, so we’re prejudiced, but hear us out) to embrace the Park RX movement? It’s a national organization of health practitioners advancing the use of parks and public lands to improve health and wellness. Think walks, hikes, campfires and “bathing” in the forest.
A local practitioner is pulling from that concept to bring a similar program here. Eric Krawczyk’s Nature Treatment is a program in collaboration with healthcare providers, land managers and community partners that offers a natural alternative to medicine.
“In my line of work over the decades, I’ve seen the benefits of time outside playing, hiking, enjoying nature — something our county has a lot of,” says Krawczyk, a licensed mental health counselor and certified Forest Therapy Guide in Great Barrington, Mass. Having moved here from Colorado three years ago, he found the area a challenging environment for our healthcare system.
“We get the least resources from the state, and our primary care doctors really struggle to meet the needs of the community,” he says. Nature Treatment is an initiative to collaborate with healthcare providers to prescribe nature as a healing modality.
“It’s not a replacement for our healthcare system, but it can be a preventive option,” says Krawczyk, who specializes in “nature-based therapy” and often meets with his clients at outdoor offices around South Berkshire County.
Krawczyk started pulling Nature Treatment together last summer, and has assembled a team of like-minded physicians and other health practitioners as “park prescribers.” In October, he began scheduling “Hikes with Healers” on the third Saturday of the month to introduce the concept. Each outing features a different provider in the community who supports spending time in nature. There are also forest therapy walks, longer sessions that “allows nature to be the therapist,” he says. “We meet with the participants afterwards to talk through the experience.” For the forest therapy walks, Krawczyk hopes to partner with employers and employee wellness programs.
And yes, he says, some insurance programs do cover the cost of a park prescription. There is hard science behind the benefits of “Vitamin N.” (The Nature Treatment website provides a list of 100 reasons to hike, with links to studies and articles for each item.) In Japan, shinrin-yoku is the practice of “forest bathing” — immersing oneself in the atmosphere of the forest for relaxation and health care. The Washington Post declared forest bathing the latest stress-reducing trend in the U.S.
“You’re getting vitamin D, clean air, more oxygen. It’s experiential and movement based, and a way to ease the symptoms of nature deficit disorder.”
Each Nature Treatment program is an evolution of the Park RX idea. “I see my role as being a local health ranger,” Krawczyk says. “We don’t administer medication; instead, we introduce a client or group to a particular park. My goal is to train providers and practitioners to refer clients to this network of options.”
Getting the buy-in from both other practitioners and land managers may be the most challenging part. Fortunately, Krawzcyk has Mark Pettus, MD on his side. Director of medical education, wellness and population health at Berkshire Health Systems, the internist and nephrologist has been a champion of Nature Treatment from the get-go. Krawczyk calls him the top guy for wellness and prevention in the area. Krawczyk has also been meeting with land managers to build a relationship and get some informal support for Nature Treatment’s programs.
Interested in seeing if Nature Treatment would work for you? Join the walk on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon at Beartown State Forest, where nutritionist Deb Phillips will offer a guided tour around the Benedict Pond Loop.
Like the poster says, taking care of your health can start with a walk in the park. And the Rural Intelligence region is just the place for that.
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
A Smooth Transition: Power In A Glass
By Nichole Dupont
Before you head down the smoothie hole, you need to set an intention. You can’t just toss a bunch of greens, ice cream, and a banana in a Breville and hit “smoothie.” Actually, you could do this, but what’s your motivation?
Smoothies can have seriously amazing benefits. In fact, they are a nearly $9 billion industry according to Bill Schmick, investment advisor and “Smoothie King” at Berkshire Money Management. Depending on the ingredients, a smoothie can be a breakfast boost, it can boost your immune system, it can provide you with really essential vitamins and nutrients that your diet might be lacking.
And you get be part of the smoothie club.
Whatever your motive, it’s good to have a go-to smoothie. Every morning after I slam back a necessary cup of coffee (my herbalist is reading this and probably raging right now “you don’t need the coffee, Nichole”), I make my liquid breakfast, which I sip with a straw or scoop with a spoon depending on its thickness. It is a means to an end. I am a very active woman. I lift, I train, I box, I grapple, I don’t eat meat, I am lactose intolerant — you get the point. Needless to say, my smoothie, or ‘first breakfast’ as us weirdo gym people call it, is absolutely critical to my life. My recipe is pretty simple:
Nichole’s First Breakfast
Half bag of organic frozen berries (I love strawberries, but a mix is cool, just know that if blackberries or raspberries are present, you’re going to be pounding seeds.)
One tablespoon of coconut oil (It can be hard in the winter, so the tiny chunks will be in the smoothie, don’t fight it.)
About ¼ cup of water (breaks up the frozen fruit)
One banana, cut into 1” slices
One scoop of Green Vibrance powder
1 tablespoon of peanut butter (optional, but I get desperate protein pangs)
Put everything in your blender and hit “smoothie” setting until smooth. It will be very dark green and a little bit textured.
Now that I’ve given you my secret recipe, you’re probably wondering what Green Vibrance is. It is a concentrated super food — in powder form — that is packed with plant-based nutrients, probiotics, and antioxidants. Vibrant Health, the CT-based company that produces Green Vibrance, contains a whole line of powders and supplements. They also have great smoothie recipes for gut health, post-workout, and detoxing.
Edwin Castro, my high-octane MMA/Muay Thai instructor for Eduardo Ferrugem BJJ and Self Defense, is a die-fan of Green Vibrance. Edwin has annoying amounts of energy, so that’s how I know the stuff is working for him. He starts his day with a Green Vibrance concoction that he qualifies by saying, “FYI, it doesn’t taste good.” For him, it is a means to an end.
Edwin’s Green Concoction
One cup of brewed green tea
One tablespoon collagen powder
A tablespoon of Green Vibrance
Juice from half a lemon
Two fruits of your choice (optional, but apples, pears, bananas, you get the point)
If you’re using the fruit you will have to put the ingredients in a blender. If you prefer a warm tea “beverage” then just steep the tea and add the powders and lemon to the tea. And stir vigorously. And drink it with some…speed. It is not the kind of tea you languish over.
Maybe you are more of a traditionalist, and want a good ol’ fashioned breakfast smoothie with no unfamiliar ingredients. There are plenty of reliable recipes to choose from. The Winter Warming Smoothie, courtesy of the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, is a basic bevvy with everything you have probably come to expect from a smoothie, including bananas, frozen blueberries, and a handful of greens. What makes this one a favorite for me is that it includes coconut milk and cinnamon. As a side note, you cannot go wrong adding cinnamon to most smoothie recipes.
A more daring, but equally tasty combo comes from the Kripalu Center for Yoga Health (they have great recipes online and also, I have their cookbook and pretty much live by it). Their signature breakfast smoothie is high in fiber and Omega-3 and is a great start to the day. It includes apples, hemp protein, and almond butter.
I am almost as attracted to the color of a smoothie as I am to its benefits, especially if it isn’t some ungodly blackish green (which seems almost inevitable). Guido’s Fresh Marketplace has a great Black as Night smoothie that includes my favorite fruit; cherries. In addition to those (frozen and pitted, of course), the BaN also provides a conduit for probiotics by way of vanilla yogurt, and Omega-3 fatty acid-packed flaxseeds.
If you’re feeling incredibly brave, and really, really like eggs, there is a raw “nog” recipe that my insanely fit and witty trainer suggests. Teddy Pryjma is a raw diet fellow (that includes meat and nearly everything else) and often our early morning TRX sessions begin with me apologizing for my coffee breath and the smoothie seeds in my teeth and him apologizing for smelling like raw fish.
Teddy’s Raw Nog Recipe
Six raw eggs
A tablespoon of raw honey
One cup of raw milk
Pinch of salt
Dash of cinnamon, dash of nutmeg (optional)
Put all of the ingredients in the blender and pretend it’s Christmas.
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
A Disruptive Tour Rolls Into The Berkshires
By Shawn Hartley Hancock
What if everything you know about aging is wrong?
It’s a provocative question that’s been asked loudly and publicly for the last few decades by Dr. Bill Thomas, a gerontologist and longevity expert. Thomas is on a mission to change the way we age and the way we think about age, and he’s making lots of noise in the process.
Thomas will bring his multi-media Age of Disruption Tour to Pittsfield, Mass. on May 17, to explain his philosophy and bring people together to address some of the questions many of us would rather ignore, or disavow. Part rock-and-roll-style bus tour, part old-fashioned barnstorming lecture series (in the vein of a Chautauqua program), Thomas and his crew — musicians, bartenders, drummers for the drum circle, and a host of community leaders — will take over the Colonial Theatre for a day-long, four-part event intended to focus attention on aging as well as give voice to people living with forgetfulness and cognitive change.
No one wants to think about getting older. Or, heaven forbid, getting old. If you listen to Bill Thomas, however, aging is not only inevitable, it’s a noble process that we need to honor. “Our aging and mortality are cornerstones of our humanity,” he says. “We are all elders in the making.”
The Berkshires, in particular, have a fast-growing population of older adults – already, 21 percent of the population here is over 65. Thomas is committed to making positive change where it relates to aging. In addition to new attitudes and norms, he wants American society to change its entire approach, which includes taking a cold look at our structure and practices around aging, how we can create new opportunities and engage in more research, review community policies and support and enable care-givers in new and transformative ways.
“Our life cycle has changed over the last 60 years,” says Celeste Roeller Harp, program manager for Age-Friendly Berkshires, a county-wide nonprofit responsible for bringing Thomas to our region. The Age-Friendly movement was created by the World Health Organization and AARP and is funded in Massachusetts by Tufts Health Plan Foundation. Harp is in the Berkshires on a two-year grant-funded mission to study how every community in the Berkshires can improve its approach to aging.
Laura Kittross of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and Celeste Roeller Harp accepting a statewide award for Age Friendly Berkshires.
“Baby boomers in particular are outliving their parents by decades and decades,” she says. “Why should the later stages of life be lonely and isolating? Life doesn’t end with your first gray hair. We’re taking a hard look at how to improve our communities for the very young and the very old. That starts with getting people civically engaged. More affluent people tend to stay engaged as they age, but people down the social ladder often tend to get isolated later in life. My hope is that people with mobility issues, the sort of older person who hasn’t left the house in years, will come to the program at the Colonial.”
The tour isn’t a sit-and-listen kind of event, either. In fact, Dr. Thomas and his crew arrive in a rock ‘n’ roll bus. The Age of Disruption Tour begins with an engaging workshop on dementia at 2:30 p.m. intended for caregivers. At 5 p.m., The Lobby Experience, a free event dedicated to community building, features food, a live band and a host of community resources. (There’s also a lunch event and continuing education workshops for CNA workers and nurses.)
The curtain for the main event, Life’s Most Dangerous Game, open at 7 p.m., with Thomas orchestrating. This mixed-media show starts with a light-hearted look at our culture’s perspective on normal aging — Thomas says it’s crazy — and then asks “what if?” Thomas covers all the bases, from life-extension quackery to caregiver stress, always returning to a call to action: what if we all lived in a world that saw aging not as a process of decline but rather as the entrée to life’s most dangerous game? “Aging can be re-imagined as a vivid and enlivening process that presents us with extraordinary risks and rewards,” he says.
Thomas says we deny the reality of our own aging (hair dye, anyone?), and coins a new term — elderhood — for those decades past normal adulthood, when our career and economic power start to diminish. Thomas wants to be its ambassador. “If you’re willing to outgrow adulthood, your life can still be real, rich, deep and meaningful. We need to deflate adulthood and use our hearts, minds and considerable skills to re-design our last decades.”
Some portions of the event are free and open to the public; others require tickets.
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
A Long, But Eminently Readable Report On The Bacon Debacle
Since the recent announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO), many have found themselves, once again, reconsidering their relationship to meat — specifically, reconsidering the suddenly precarious potential of that crackly slice of bacon. The news seemed dire indeed: after conducting an exhaustive review of published findings over the last several decades, the WHO has found that “processed meats” belong to the motley crew of confirmed carcinogens (Group 1), and that ‘“red meat” belongs to the more ambiguous team of probable carcinogens (Group 2A). As the news media put it: eating meat gives you cancer.
That’s a serious charge, to us as consumers and to our local meat purveyors. Following the WHO’s pronouncement, The Meat Market in Great Barrington issued its own “argument for fair and accurate reporting.” We’re posting much of it here, because it spells out the findings in an articulate and particularly graspable way (and with a sense of humor you won’t find in the WHO’s report). Yes, the Meat Market has an admitted bias, so here’s the link to the WHO’s statement.
We thank Jeremy Stanton at The Meat Market and the report’s author, Roland Obedin-Schwartz, for permission to run this and use their photos.
Since we are a serious and loving creator and purveyor of fresh and processed meats, we are naturally biased on this subject, but we take the WHO’s findings seriously, and we are invested in the health and the happiness of our customers. We here are all eaters of responsibly raised meat, and we believe it is both nutritious and delicious. We discuss the health benefits and costs of meat consumption in our shop regularly, and consider your health, and the health of our community in all of our decisions in regards to the supply and development of our products
Should we really be worried? Let’s delve into this and find out what’s really going on.
We’ll start with what the WHO says, and what these statements mean. To belong to Group 1, you have to prove yourself as a carcinogen, which means that there must be enough evidence showing an increased risk of a person developing cancer at some point to be considered inarguable. Group 1 does not imply the severity of risk, but the collection of sufficient evidence suggesting that risk exists at all. Group 2A is more vague: things in this list probably cause cancer — again, this is not an assessment of risk, but collection of evidence: there is enough evidence to imply a correlation, but not enough to prove one.
Processing the science
Because the red meat argument is an addendum to the processed meats findings, and because the evidence is admittedly limited and the conclusions unclear, we will focus on the Group 1 offenders: processed meats. We have some questions, but we’ll bite: they definitely cause cancer. How much? How likely is it that I will get cancer if I eat processed meats?
According to one of the main studies in the WHO’s report, there is a 17 percent relative increase in the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer among people that eat the most processed meat compared to people that eat the least. The report puts the base likelihood among an average person in a western culture at 5 percent, regardless of meat consumption; if you eat a significant amount of “processed meats,” your likelihood increases to 5.85 percent.
This is not a significant increase, particularly in comparison to other lifestyle decisions, but the evidence is there. If you are predisposed to colorectal cancer, if you lead an unhealthy lifestyle that would generally make you more likely to develop colorectal cancer, and if you eat a significant amount of processed meat, you are at a greater likelihood of developing colorectal cancer than otherwise. In fact, meat consumption is significantly less detrimental to your health, and to the health of your colon, than lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking, being overweight, and leading a sedentary lifestyle. Meat consumption does contribute to an increased relative likelihood, but is not the major player. Okay, that’s it. That’s the rub.
Which meats are the “bad” guys?
Does this apply to all meats? Good question, unclear answer. The study focuses on two meat groups: “processed meats,” and “red meats” The latter, which fall into Group 2A, include beef, pork, and lamb (no chicken or fish). It seems as though there is no distinction between industrially raised meat and pasture-raised, grass fed and finished meat in this category, so it seems not to matter for the cancer discussion, though we will note that, outside of the colorectal cancer issue, numerous studies show the huge health benefits of grass-fed meat in the diet, and dangers of industrially-raised meat in the diet.
For the sake of this conversation, however, we will table this. “Processed meats” is more vague, since that would theoretically cover all meats that are in some way prepared for preservation, whether through salt, nitrates, heavy uses of artificial preservatives, smoking, even dehydration.
Meat processing, separate from this study, can be extremely harmful: the preservatives used to prepare meat products you find in supermarkets can be nasty. Some are cancerous, others cause allergies and asthma, blood sugar spikes, and potentially heart attacks and stroke. The type of processing does not seem to matter to this report, so we will be generous and assume that any form of processing lumps said meat into the “processed meats” category. We would like to note that the type of processing we use in our shop includes salt preservation, nitrates, smoking, and dehydration. We do not use modern preservatives that prevent food from behaving like food. Our sausages, which are apparently lumped under the “processed meats” category, are mostly served fresh, which would make them chemically identical to “red meats”’ but that is neither here nor there. We digress.
The Big C vs. Big B(eef)
Back to the report: what is causing this cancer? Lacking an obvious culprit, evidence points to one or a combination of these three compounds: Heme, which binds oxygen within blood cells and gives blood and meat its red color; nitrosamines, caused by nitrates breaking down and combining with animo acids in our bodies; and Heterocyclic Aromatic Amines (HAAs), which develop in foods when cooked in high heat (think: char). Since bacon has heme, nitrates, and is generally served fried, it is theoretically more likely to be cancerous than, say, kale, which is chock full of nitrates and will create HAAs if fried.*
Making peace with meat
So, what does that all mean for us meat eaters? Once you get past the fear-mongering, there is not very much to fear in this WHO release, though we do suggest you consider the following three considerations before deciding that an all-bacon diet is the way to go: 1, your family history of colorectal cancer; 2, your overall health and lifestyle—if you are a heavy smoker and drinker that leads a sedentary lifestyle your bacon consumption is the cherry on top of an already profound increase in all forms of cancer; 3, your predilection towards high heat cooking.
Rural Intelligence photo.
If you are passionate eater of smoked and burnt meats, be aware that this passion is probably more dangerous than your passion for needlepoint and chamomile tea. We are waiting for the WHO’s report on that, though.
A final note
This study has, for better and for worse, propagated further discussion into the pros and cons of meat eating. While the WHO, and the subsequent media blitz, have focused entirely on the slight but real negatives of meat consumption regarding cancer, there has been little discussion over the notable benefits of eating meat, particularly pasture-raised, grass-fed and finished meat. We’d like to spend more time talking about that, to be honest. We also believe that the big danger in meat consumption is environmental, and deserves more consideration than these findings which, while not completely insignificant, seem to miss the forest for the trees. Nevertheless, this report is worth noting, and its information is useful particularly if you fall into the categories listed above.
Photo: Kristine Kisky.
When it comes down to choosing what you eat for dinner, however, there are more important factors to consider: notably, where your meat comes from. That’s for another day, though.For now: don’t burn the bacon. Go for a walk. Enjoy your life.
*We here at the shop have nothing against kale, which, like bacon, is delicious when properly prepared, and like bacon, can theoretically kill you. We suggest combining kale and bacon, though please refrain from charring them in the skillet, as that would probably be ill-advised.
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
Body Lab GB: An Urban Oasis Of Massage And Mobility
By Lisa Green
When Dan Shaw visited Bridget Ford Hughes for Rural Intelligence back in 2009, he wrote about The Pastures, the massage therapist’s spa retreat at her home, a beautifully renovated dairy barn in Southfield, MA. At the time a recent cancer survivor, Hughes offered wellness weekends to women with breast cancer. She created the Women’s Cancer Wellness Fund, which brought financial assistance to women with cancer who wanted to add complementary medicine to their care. Hughes became a familiar wellness advocate in the Berkshires.
She still is. But her focus has changed.
“When I turned 50 recently, I did a lot of thinking about what I wanted to do. And I realized, I’m not the cancer girl anymore,” she says.
She’s put The Pastures behind her and opened Body Lab GB, a boutique massage therapy and core fitness studio where, she says, clients can power up or power down in one peaceful location. Tucked up on the hill on Gas House Lane in Great Barrington. Hughes and a small staff of wellness professionals will help clients integrate a range of modalities, including massage, of course, to achieve core fitness goals.
At Body Lab GB’s open house last weekend, Hughes had visitors trying out yoga tune up balls and the reformer tower used in Pilates and other fitness modalities. The lovely fragrances emanating throughout the space were courtesy of the lavender bath salts and room sprays Hughes has created (she plans to expand her aromatherapy collection).
By Berkshire standards, BodyLab GB is smack in the middle of an urban enclave, unlike The Pastures. But still committed to helping people live fully, Hughes has created an urban oasis for all.
Body Lab GB
115 Gas House Lane, Great Barrington
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
Izlind: A New Wellness Center Opens In The Heart Of Rhinebeck
Photo by Dion Ogust.
By Andrea Pyros
In many ways, it’s easier to describe the Izlind Integrative Wellness Center & Institute of Rhinebeck by stating what it’s not. It’s not a spa—there are no mani/pedis given here. It’s not a health clinic with sterile hallways or the lingering smell of antiseptic; instead the space is tranquil, with soothing colors and full of local art. It’s not a gym, though there are fitness and bodywork classes offered daily. Instead, Izlind is a interwoven web of disparate private, individualized services; group classes; and workshops all focused on a central, singular goal: merging traditional and holistic forms of healing and wellness under one roof in order to promote health and reduce stress for the mind, body and spirit.
That’s not quite a 10-second elevator pitch, but how simply can you explain a healthcare environment that’s so different than anyplace else?
“We’re unique, one-of-a-kind,” says Beth Gershuny, Ph.D. [left], the founder and President of Izlind. Gershuny is a licensed clinical psychologist who spent many years in academia, and it was during her early years at Harvard where she first began looking at different ways of approaching illness. Gershuny was involved in studies showing the positive benefits that mindfulness meditation had on the structures of functioning of the brain, and she “started to wonder if there was another way of approaching illness, both physical and psychological. A gentler way,” she explains. “Why was there nowhere someone could go to have access to all these modalities under one roof? I saw it as a real gap in care, and since it didn’t exist, I started to dream of creating it myself.”
It wasn’t until years later that the Poughkeepsie native and current Rhinebeck resident gave up a tenured academic position to launch Izlind, which celebrated its grand opening on April 16. Currently, clients can find 19 providers, including clinical psychologists, licensed acupuncturists, life coaches, Reiki masters, sex therapists, yoga instructors, Thai body work masters, neuropsychologists and others, all of whom “believe deeply in integrative care and collaboration,” says Gershuny. “None of the providers believes that they can do everything.”
One of those is Anne Ballantine, a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. Ballantine left her solo Rhinebeck-based practice in order to join Gershuny’s dream team. “Beth was talking about her vision for this practice; how she wanted it to feel and how she wanted people to be treated and I thought that was a great way to start a group practice. I was ready to work with other people, too. It’s nice to connect with a community and have people to refer to and bounce ideas off of. That was a big part of my decision.”
Gershuny understands that though many people yearn for a more integrated, holistic approach to their health, they’re often unsure of how to proceed. So she welcomes questions and offers introductory consultations. “Someone may call and say, ‘I’ve just had heart surgery and I have high blood pressure, what are the services that might help and might lower my stress so that physically I can function better?’ For one person, that may be therapy and massage, others Reiki and acupuncture, still another may need nutritional counseling and Chinese herbal therapy. It’s about figuring out what suits the person best, uniquely tailoring to the individual based on personal preference.” Izlind is equally welcoming to one-time and occasional visitors, too. “People may just pop in for a quick acupuncture session, we can do that as well.”
Steven Michael Pague teaching a Lunchtime Qigong class. Photo courtesy of Izlind.
The classes—and the pricing structures—are varied. There’s a Lunchtime Qigong series (drop-in $20, 8-week package $120); Tai Chi (drop-in $25, once-a-week 8-week package $160, twice-a-week 8-week package $290); a children’s Karma Kids series (drop-in $15, 8-week package $96); a range of workshops like Enhancing the Mother-Daughter Connection (advance $65, at door $80) and a Sexual Vitality & Cancer: Men’s Group and separate Women’s Group series (drop-in $45, 6-week package $240). Fees for private work such as mentoring, massage and neuropsychology can be discussed directly with Izlind. New services at Izlind are still being announced almost daily. Other providers — including the possibility of one or more doctors — will be joining in the near future.
Gershuny, who’s clearly delighted by the whirlwind of excitement and positivity of the past few weeks, finishes her talk with RI by speaking about her conscious choice to open Izlind in the village of Rhinebeck. “The feedback has been so enthusiastic and so strong. It’s been so deeply touching to me to hear ‘What a gift this is to the Rhinebeck community,’ and how pioneering this is for the region and how people feel they are taken care of the moment the walk in the door. People who like to spend time in the Hudson Valley are seeking a certain type of quality of life and I’d consider us part of the fabric.”
Izlind Integrative Wellness Center & Institute of Rhinebeck
6369 Mill St. (Route 9), Rhinebeck, NY
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
Beyond Chicken Soup: Herbal Remedies In Our Own Backyard
By Sarah Todd
When it comes to cures for colds, flus and other winter maladies, most people go in for a bit of folk medicine. An old roommate of mine made a pot of garlic tea whenever she felt an ominous tickle in her throat; another friend rubs eucalyptus oil on her chest to battle congestion. But to truly harness the power of herbal remedies, it helps to get an expert opinion.
Happily, herbalists are abundant throughout Dutchess, Columbia and Berkshire counties. Take Germantown’s Lauren Giambrone, who came to alternative medicine by way of professional burnout. In 2008, Giambrone’s full-time job at a Brooklyn non-profit and long hours at an activist newspaper were taking a toll on her health. “At that time, within activism and community organizing, there was not a culture of self-care,” Giambrone says. “It was like, ‘No time to take care of yourself, we need to change the world!’”
But after years of feeling run-down, Giambrone realized she needed to take health off the back burner. She began studying at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine in Ithaca. On her 30th birthday, she founded Good Fight Herb Co., now approaching its fifth growing season.
Today, she’s dedicated to making community wellness a priority for social justice. “Herbalism is known as the people’s medicine,” she says. “Really the intention is autonomy. It’s about being the expert of your own body.”
To that end, Giambrone has plenty of DIY recommendations for staving off viruses that run riot in winter. “Fire cider is a recipe people can make at home,” she says. “It stimulates the immune system and brings a lot of warmth to the core of the body, where colds tend to instigate. It also clears your sinuses.”
To prepare it, Giambrone says, chop up equal portions of ginger root, garlic and horseradish. Then toss them in a jar with cayenne pepper and cover the batch with apple cider vinegar. After steeping the mixture for two to four weeks, take a teaspoon to a tablespoon as a daily preventative or at the first sign of sickness.
Another one of Good Fight’s standbys is an herbal throat spray that combines calendula, sage, thyme, propolis and anise hyssop. “That’s a great go-to once the throat tickle starts,” Giambrone says.
For maximum effectiveness, Giambrone says it’s important to take herbal remedies throughout the day. “We’re used to taking one dose of over-the-counter medicine and we’re done for eight hours,” she says. “But with herbs you’ve got to keep up on it.”
As a mother of 10, herbalist Jean Pollock knows all about that kind of healthful vigilance. “When you’re a young mother, you panic when your kids get sick,” she says. Herbal medicine offered the New Marlborough mom a way to keep her brood in fine fettle. In 1997, she took the fruits of her knowledge — and her herb garden — public with Mystical Rose Herbals.
Pollock says that elderberries are one foolproof way to banish colds. “If you’ve been hanging onto a runny nose or a cough,” she says, “get yourself an elderberry tincture. Just take four droperfuls of it three times a day.”
To wage further war against cold and flu season, Mystical Rose Herbals offers a therapeutic bath salt blend. Mineral-rich salt from the Dead Sea is married with boneset, feverfew, ginger, horehound and eucalyptus for what Pollock describes as “a kind of whole-body tea.” The bath salts loosen phlegm, while hot water and herbs reduce stress and restore electrolytes.
For those who prefer to drink their tea rather than soak in it, Pollock offers a health tea packed with 15 herbs — from alfalfa to red raspberry leaves. “It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals,” Pollock says. “If you drink it on a regular basis, you’ll keep yourself in top running order.”
Terri Lundquist, owner of The Village Herbalist in Millerton, has a lifetime of experience with alternative medicine. “Growing up,” she says, “my mom believed that you could cure anything with apple cider vinegar and clay.”
Lundquist went on to study at the Vermont Center for Integrated Herbalism. There, she learned how herbal treatments could complement Western healing methods. “They build us up to be balanced and strong,” she says, “so that we don’t get sick in the first place.”
But sometimes it’s too late for prevention. When fevers wake the flu-ridden in the middle of the night, Lundquist recommends boneset tea — an herb named for its power to stop chills in their tracks. She also suggests fever tea, made with yarrow, peppermint, catnip and elderflowers. “Those four have been used together for thousands of years,” she says.
With the pollen-saturated winds of spring just around the corner, Lundquist adds that now is a great time to head off allergies. “You should start six weeks in advance,” she says. Nettles, sage, and goldenrod can all be used in preventative teas. Lundquist also recommends reishi mushrooms, which are available at her store.
If the prospect of spring — allergies and all — still seems woefully remote, Lundquist has a few antidotes for cabin fever. Nettle tea and lemon balm are both mood-lifting tonics. Lundquist is also a big believer in the healing power of food. She suggests keeping onions, garlic, turmeric and curries simmering on stovetops throughout winter. With ingredients like that, she doesn’t mind getting a taste of her own medicine. “In fact,” she says, “I’m having curried chicken tonight!”
The Village Herbalist
Products soon to be available online.
28 Main Street, Millerton, NY
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
Kim Tripp, DO, PhD: She Nurtured Plants, Now Heals People
By Lisa Green
Going back to school when you’re 50 is admirable. Going to medical school at that age is inspiring. Going to medical school when you already have a PhD and one of the highest profile jobs in the world of botanical gardens is simply — well, head scratching?
Kim Tripp, DO, PhD, one of our area’s prominent plantswomen and Director of The New York Botanical Garden from 2003-2007, chose her first career in the botanical garden world based on a seemingly endless enthusiasm for plants and her ability for meaningful scientific research (her PhD is in plant physiology), garden savvy, effective teaching, and local and international plant and garden advocacy. She was always driven by personal goals of understanding plants, growing and conserving them, and inspiring people to enjoy and learn about plants and gardens.
“I loved connecting people with nature and gardens through the delight of plants — they are extraordinary organisms — and when people connect with plants and nature, they invariably connect with their own health.”
So how did the switch to medicine come about in the middle of all her other work? Credit a fall from a horse, and an appointment with a doctor of osteopathic (DO) medicine.
“I was fascinated by this hands-on approach to healing practiced by Andrew Goldman, DO,” she says. He’s a fully licensed osteopathic physician in Sharon, CT. “I had always been interested in medicine but found standard medicine less than inspiring and so professionally had found my way into horticulture and botany. And historically, botanical work connects to medicine.”
“I was amazed at how much osteopathic manual medicine helped me personally, and I was astounded that I had never heard about it before, so I became determined to learn about it and in the process I became inspired to train deeply as a physician, go to medical school, and practice this remarkable approach to medicine.”
After extensive reading, learning, and volunteering at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, which has an excellent physician residency in osteopathic manual medicine, Dr. Tripp decided to take on a new challenge and go to osteopathic medical school. It would take six years of training. Some people told her it could not be done.
She smiles broadly. “But that just added to my determination. My work with plants and nature taught me how to see and hear and sense based on subtleties and quiet diligence. Plants don’t speak out loud to us. You can learn a great deal more about the life of a forest by initially sitting quietly and waiting and watching and listening than first charging around digging and disturbing before you have even taken time to get a sense of what is there. I learned that osteopathic manual medicine depends on this same kind of sensibility and became fascinated and inspired by this approach to health and healing.”
And, despite the unfortunate incident with the horse, Tripp says horses (which she still rides) gave her some of her first training as an osteopath. “To be an effective and compassionate rider, you must be sensitive with your hands and body. You learn to converse through body language, incorporating subtle muscle changes.”
Photo: Wendy Brooke, Cedar Crest Equestrian Center
Dr. Tripp graduated from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine with numerous awards and honors, particularly in osteopathic manual medicine, the unique, hands-on approach for a physician that so inspires her. And where did she land after all that medical training? Back here full circle to join the practice of Dr. Andrew Goldman in Sharon and Great Barrington.
Dr. Tripp still indulges in her love of plants and nature at home in Ancramdale, NY and in various gardens around our area. She serves on the Ancram, NY Conservation Advisory Council and includes natural history in all of her teaching work with her osteopathic medicine colleagues and students, as well as offering equestrian clinics in biomechanics to improve the performance of riders and horses. And as if she isn’t busy enough, she also writes poetry and participates in a poetry group, and has a show on Robin Hood Radio called “Your Health.”
“I love bringing together my two professional passions, osteopathy and nature, in the same spirit as Dr. Still, the founder of osteopathic medicine, who was a passionate student of nature. And what better place to do that than here in our beautiful and healthful area where we have the great privilege and pleasure to live and work?”
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
As Tick Infestation Grows, So Does Lyme Disease Research
Dr. Ostfeld tagging a white-footed mouse. Photo by Pam Freeman.
By Tresca Weinstein
Here are a few things you might not know about ticks: One, they’re not insects. They’re closer to the spider in nature, making them arachnids. Also, they don’t fly, hop, jump or fall out of trees. And winter does not kill ticks; while they typically don’t come out when the temperature is below 40 degrees, a January thaw can be enough to get them moving.
Finding out as much as possible about these tiny creatures is the work of Dr. Richard Ostfeld, PhD, a researcher with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York. Dr. Ostfeld has been gathering information about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases for 23 years. “The more we know about risk, the better we’re able to protect ourselves and avoid getting sick in the first place,” he said in a recent interview.
Dr. Ostfeld will share some of his findings with the public at a forum on Lyme disease on Saturday, May 10, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Spencertown Academy as part of its “Conversations With Neighbors” series. Also appearing is New York Congressman Chris Gibson, who has supported research funding for Lyme and introduced bipartisan legislation to establish a federal Tick-borne Advisory Committee. The event, moderated by Michael Singer, is free and open to the public; reservations are recommended and may be made at www.spencertownacademy.org.
The level of tick infestation—and, thus, Lyme incidence—in our region is “as high as it gets anywhere,” Dr. Ostfeld says. If you want numbers, he has them: About 28 percent of ticks carry Lyme, while 12 percent carry the tick-borne disease known as babesia. About six percent are infected with both, and another eight percent carry a rarer tick-borne disease called anaplasmosis. All three typically begin with a bout of fever and headache, followed by muscle aches, fatigue and multiple other symptoms.
Why so many infected ticks? Dr. Ostfeld believes the problem can be traced back to the suburbanization of our area. The loss of biodiversity as a result of forest fragmentation creates an environment in which the number of larger, predatory mammals is reduced, and the number of small mammals, like mice and shrews, increases. Those little guys—in particular, the white-footed mouse—are the ones who perpetuate the cycle of disease. Infected ticks bite the mice, and the mice pass the infection on to the next generation of ticks who feed off them.
“Ticks will bite any mammal—raccoons, foxes, deer, birds, skunks—but only some of these hosts allow the pathogen to proliferate,” Dr. Ostfeld said. Unlike larger hosts, the mice can’t fight off the disease, he explained. “They’re allocating all their resources to breeding and escaping predators rather than mounting an immune response against an infection.”
So what’s being done to turn the tide? Dr. Ostfeld has promising data on a vaccine for mice and other small mammals, which the Cary Institute has field-tested in the Millbrook area, baiting animals with vaccine-impregnated oatmeal cookies. Over the last four years, the trial has brought the population of infected ticks down from nearly 50 percent to between 10 and 15 percent. A company is now working to license the product, Dr. Ostfeld says.
Human vaccines are also in development in Europe and the United States, which will hopefully have better results than the last one. GlaxoSmithKline marketed the first (and only) human vaccine in the late 1990s, but the company pulled it after a number of class-action lawsuits were filed by people who claimed the vaccine gave them arthritis. It didn’t help that the vaccine only worked about 60 to 70 percent of the time, which is low compared to the efficacy of most American vaccines, Dr. Ostfeld says. A new version will likely be available in the next few years.
What can we do to protect ourselves in the meantime? For one thing, check yourself for ticks as soon as you come in from brushy or wooded areas. Right now, the bigger ticks are out (the ones left over from fall) but, in late May and June, the miniscule nymphs are born, which are much harder to see and feel.
“Super cold snaps like we had with the polar vortex this past year does kill more ticks than would normally die, but it’s not a massive die-off,” Dr. Ostfeld says. “We’ll be monitoring [the population] this summer to see the impact this cold winter had.” His team is also looking at the greater impact of climate change on ticks and tick-borne diseases; he says warming temperatures have caused ticks to move north into the Adirondacks and Catskills and allows them to come out earlier every year.
For now, using repellents, Dr. Ostfeld says, is the most effective prevention method. You can use a DEET-based repellent (insecticides do work on ticks) or a permethrin product; some companies sell clothes inundated with permethrin. Because ticks stay on the ground or on low vegetation, it’s very important to use repellent on your shoes and socks, Dr. Ostfeld says. “Your first line of defense is your feet and ankles.”
Conversations With Neighbors
Emerging Threats to Our Health: New Research on Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases in the Hudson Valley
Congressman Chris Gibson with Dr. Richard Ostfeld - Moderated by Michael Singer
Saturday, May 10 from 3-5 p.m.
790 Route 203, Spencertown
To reserve free tickets, click here.
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
New Marlborough’s Mepal Manor Changes Identity Once Again
By Marilyn Bethany
In 1906, Hildreth Kennedy Bloodgood, a banker and sportsman, built a 25-room, gabled-and-turreted stone mansion in New Marlborough, MA. Like other Berkshire “cottages” of that era, Mepal Manor was designed to lend old world gravitas to new world wealth. Here, Hildreth and his wife Julia raised prize-winning ponies (hackneys, the high-stepping aristocrats of the carriage show ring), as well as cocker spaniels and two daughters, whose heirs held onto the property until 1946. Since then, Mepal Manor (pronounced Maple and named for the spot outside of London where Hildreth and Julia honeymooned) has been an inn, a boarding school, and, most recently, a spa and wedding venue.
“The client wanted the couches covered in linen, but I was afraid they wouldn’t hold up,” says designer Carole Murko. For this and all other fabrics, she turned to textile designer Peter Fasano, whose hand silk-screening studio is in Great Barrington. He suggested a sturdy hemp-like linen from his line that proved to be the perfect compromise.
Now the old stone pile has undergone an even more radical identity shift. Purchased last year for $4.1 million by the owners of the Manhattan-based, outpatient Center for Motivation and Change (CMC), the house has been transformed in the months since into CMC Berkshire, an inpatient treatment center for adults, 18-and-over, who are grappling with addictions.
Dr. Carrie Wilkens and fellow-psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Foote co-founded CMC a decade ago, but it was Wilkens’ husband Will Regan who shouldered the inpatient facility undertaking. A hospitality-industry veteran (his current co-venture is the Lambs Club in the Chatwal Hotel in Manhattan), Regan was undaunted by the challenge of creating and helping to manage the equivalent of a boutique hotel. So while Wilkens and Foote concentrated on developing a treatment program for the new facility—and working on a book, Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change (see box)—Regan was left to search for a suitable property and, once he’d found it, to supervise its renovation.
To avoid a ponderous look for the paneled dining room, Murko asked cabinetmaker Erik Schutz to built a table from two slabs of natural-edge English elm that they acquired from Berkshire Products, specialists in domestic and exotic lumber up to 90” wide and 6” thick. The wallpaper by Peter Fasano features silhouettes of trees, examples of which can all be found on the property.
In both of these endeavors, finding and renovating, he was aided by Carole Murko of the Boulderwood Group, a real estate and interior design firm in Stockbridge. “I’ve known Will since kindergarten,” Murko says. “I understand that he’s a neatnik with a contemporary New York aesthetic that needed to be wedded to the objectives of the facility.”
Using Berkshire County resources almost exclusively, Murko delivered the finished interior, including the public rooms, 13 bedrooms with en suite baths, and an elaborate catering kitchen, in just six months on what she describes as, “a limited budget. We had to pick our poison carefully.”
“Too feminine,” was Will Regan’s response to Carole Murko’s first suggested palette of spa-like blues and greens. In the end, they settled on a range of neutrals, from mushroom to pale beige.
No small undertaking. Mepal Manor was designed to be, at the very least, formidable and imposing. Yet, it is far from the best interests of The Center for Motivation and Change Berkshires to intimidate the people coming there for help. By sticking with soft-edged contemporary furnishings and a calm, mostly neutral color scheme, Murko has given the interiors an air of crisp modernity that’s leavened with a welcoming warmth.
Pleased with the results, she marvels, “You see this austere place, then you open the door and it’s, like, ‘Whoa! This is not what I was expecting!’”
Related Links: It’s Always a Holiday Weekend at Mepal Manor and Gedney Farm