Oregon Senator Ron Wyden supports American’s right to grow hemp.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has introduced an amendment to the farm bill to allow American farmers to grow hemp. Currently all hemp raw materials must be imported. The DEA disallows Americans from growing the source plant cannabis sativa, even in the many states where voters, legislatures and governors have acted to allow their farmers and entrepreneurs to profit from hemp. Wyden’s home state of Oregon legalized hemp cultivation in 2009.  Currently, even in these states, planting hemp risks SWAT raids by DEA, forfeiture of land and long imprisonment. The accomplished Democrat Senator seeks to allow American citizens the freedom to help feed thriving markets for the plant’s nutritional and fiber products. The bill, S. 3240 is similar to legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Ron Paul, R-Texas, H.R. 1831. Lucia Graves reports on Wyden’s bill in Huffington Post.

Ironically, this farm bill amendment finally allows Americans farmers to grow perhaps the world’s most nutritious food. The farm bill has been implicated as a prime cause of America’s obesity crisis by subsidizing some of the planet’s least nutritious food. The bill creates a flood of subsidized calories, primarily from corn, including high fructose corn syrup. These excess calories that have swollen the American waistline and have brought the country to a health care precipice. Finally, if this passes, the farm bill amendment S. 3240,  will encourage American farmers to grow and produce hemp seed and its oil, vital sources of essential fatty acids such as omega-3. New research just released shows the cognitive damage caused by excess fructose consumption on the brain and how such damage can be reduced by consumption of fatty acids such as omega-3s.

A better bill would have done more than simply excluding hemp from the definition of “marijuana,” but this is key reform and Senator Wyden (and Ron Paul) are to be commended. Hopefully, the US Congress, currently one of the country’s historically worst, will support American farmers and entrepreneurs by passing this job-creating amendment.

 

Apple-icious – An apple a day can help keep you trim, strong and young.

Apples offer fairly amazing health benefits. As folk wisdom, the term, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” has long reflected this fact, but modern science now fills in intriguing details. As it turns out, that apple a day is boosting your health by keeping you lean, by making you stronger and by slowing aging.

The apple can serve as a centerpiece of a weight control regimen. That’s right, eating apples can be a powerful cornerstone in helping conquer obesity! Doing so does not involve eating just apples; just be sure to eat one a day! Actually, eating 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables of various types each day is nutritionally wise and hugely beneficial to long term weight control. These low-calorie-density, high-nutrient-density plant foods fill you up. They also provide the phytochemicals and other nutritious molecules utterly missing in typical fast food meals. By making part of this plant-heavy diet, an apple a day, you add a powerful to help you lose weight and maintain weight loss. Although the apple theoretically adds about 100 calories per day to your diet, in practice it will prevent your intake of far more calories. You may, in fact, balk at eating an apple a day. There are many varieties of great apples out there, experiment. Fujis are a favorite for many.

Some of the apple’s capability to cause loss of fat may come from its facility to build muscles. New studies show that the ursolic acid in the apple peel helps prevent muscle atrophy. Loss of muscle causes disability and loss of mobility in old age.  Strong elders function a much higher levels. The presence of muscles serve as calorie furnaces to help burn energy from fat around the clock. In addition, muscles provide the personal mobility for walking, jogging or other activities that so burn calories and promote vitality.

Much of the apple’s nutritional “goodie” comes from the peel. Most of the apple’s fiber is found in the skin.  Such fiber is lacking in obesogenic (obesity-causing) diets, such as those eaten by overweight Americans. Fiber promotes satiety, feeling full, the key in signalling to stop us eating. Fiber rich meals and snacks are eaten more slowly, and help prevent other eating episodes by dimming hunger between meals. Fibrous foods are generally nutrient dense but lean in calories. Apple skin offers more than fiber however. With ursolic acid, apple skin helps boost muscle growth, mass and strength.

The peel can also present a danger as it may contain pesticides. All apples should be washed before being eaten. Buying organic apples free of pesticides may  be money well spent. Apple seeds are mildly poisonous and a few people have allergies to apples, so take a few precautions when adding an apple a day to your diet.

Get Wellness: TIME Magazine, prevention and 10,000 steps a day.

TIME Magazine printed an important story in its January 10, 2011 issue. Get Wellness by Francine Russo. The story points out the Medicare change that will now pay for one wellness consultation a year. For the first time, physicians can get paid for not treating disease, but for actually trying to prevent it.  And the new health reform act provides other incentives and requirements for preventive wellness programs and counseling. The US health care (actually sick care) system would be wise to accelerate this new focus on prevention and wellness to balance its concentration on medical care and disease.

My main concern about last year’s health insurance reform act focused still on the sick care system, and gave too short shrift to behavioral preventive care. As the TIME article points out, about 3/4ths of the two and a half trillion dollar “health care costs stems from chronic disease, many of which may be prevented by lifestyle choices.” Indeed, a person’s own habits of exercise, eating and living are far more important, except for emergencies or accidents, to his or her health status than the entire medical care system. Little wonder that belatedly, insurance companies and health care providers are allocating resources to helping people help themselves live lifestyles that delay and prevent common infirmities. But as the TIME piece points out, most physicians are ill-equipped, by training and by incentive, to know anything about helping people adopt these positive health behaviors. The TIME article even included a graphic indicating the health wisdom of getting in 10,000 steps per day. How often do you see something like that at the doctor’s office?

Some good changes have taken place without much medical intervention. In the last generation, the USA has made substantial progress in one of the health care behaviors of its citizens. The rate of cigarette smoking has dropped in USA. This major cause of mortality and morbidity has waned, mainly though actions and social changes such as declaring no-smoking areas. Physicians have probably helped here some by advising patients to quit. In reality, though, a cigarette smoking habit should be seen as life-threatening by a doctor and an area for major concentration. Cigarettes still kill over 400,000 Americans each year, so there is a long way to go.

In other health behaviors, the news is less good. Distressingly, the past generation has seen a huge increase in Americans (and many of those in other lands) becoming obese. This trend is predisposing millions of people towards increased illness, disability and death by Type II Diabetes and other obesity-related maladies. The medical care industries can do little to cure these behavior-related diseases. These are essentially caused by poor health habits and can be cured only by healthy lifestyles. Once a year Medicare wellness consultations may help, but really obesity is now a pediatric disease, with victims as young as two years old. Fat babies usually become fat children and fat children usually become fat adults.

Blissful brains depend on strong bodies to support them. Bliss out your brain, improve your health and extend your life by taking 10,0000 steps per day, getting aerobic activity, doing weight training and eating right. A health-promoting lifestyle is your open-source health care. It is something you choose and do yourself. Perhaps now, though, some of you can even get a little preventive help with Medicare.

Cannabis dispensaries can be true wellness clinics.

Cannabis dispensaries and clinics are multiplying as citizens of ever-more American states vote to decriminalize medical marijuana. Many use the term “wellness” to describe their wider range of services. In fact, as medical cannabis becomes evermore accepted for the variety of conditions for which the herb provides benefit, dispensaries and clinics really can provide a mechanism for providing true wellness services.

The term “wellness” relates to a high level of health status, not simply the absence of disease, but the presence of behaviors that help prevent disease and cause the body to thrive. This behavioral perspective emphasizes the health practices that provide prevention effects from today’s causes of death and disability. High level wellness indicates a body not just disease-free, but strong, toned, nutritionally well fed, and free of excess tension. Wellness also refers to a relaxed but purposeful mental set, engaged with the world.

Several health behaviors are key determinants of our health status and our health future. A few of the physical activity behavioral goals may be beyond the capabilities of those with serious physical ailments, but serve as important guidelines to all. As a wellness center, the dispensary can communicate these basic practices and their importance to all patients in a variety of unobtrusive and complementary ways.

Virtually every person should:

  • Get sufficient exercise, especially walking.
  • Maintain good body composition with considerable muscle and little to moderate fat.
  • Practice good nutrition, focused on nutrient-dense, calorie-lean foods.
  • Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke.
  • Cultivate a supportive social life.
  • Manage and reduce stress.

Open Source Health Care

Two huge problems, besides the obscene cost, beset the current state of health care in the USA. One is the general non-availability of cannabinoid medications for most Americans. The other is the lack of prevention perspective; in fact, current “health care” is mainly medical care, focusing on relieving and curing established diseases.   Despite the fact that most of the ailments and diseases afflicting Americans are related to health behaviors, there is very little true prevention effort. The open source health care alternative for the 21st Century will enable people to harness cannabis for pain relief, anti-inflammation, glaucoma prevention and a dozen other conditions for which medical marijuana provides results superior to the mainstream medical/pharmaceutical approach. It will also provide a harm reduction, health promotion, preventive alternative to the current curative medical approach. Both these two problems could be addressed by dispensaries providing cannabinoid-based medications and true wellness services. Such services would address the health behaviors above:

Get sufficient exercise, especially walking. Most Americans walk far to little, depriving themselves of muscle and burdening themselves with fat. Taking at least 10,000 steps each day is a key health behavior of huge value to your health, and a crucial foundation for a preventive, wellness lifestyle. Even better is when some of these steps, or additional steps, are taken a faster pace, such as jogging a mile a day. Dispensaries could encourage patients to aspire to such basic fitness guidelines in a variety of ways:

  • Pedometers retail for $5. Providing each patient with one for no cost as part of the wellness services would send a profound message a hugely useful tool. The pedometer would of course bear the clinic’s logo.
  • Posters at the dispensary could impart more awareness of the 10,000 steps per day guideline.
  • If the clinic does the medical evaluations for eligibility for medical cannabis, this presents a perfect opportunity to encourage physical fitness goals such as 10,000 steps per day.

Maintain good body composition with considerable muscle and little to moderate fat.

America, and much of the world is suffering a crisis in body composition. Our bodies are composed evermore of excess fat. Plus we tend to carry too little muscle. Sufficient walking, see above, is key to building muscle tone and preventing fat, but additional muscle building is a healthy practice. A more muscular body composition helps burn calories, but more importantly provides a basic framework of physical strength that provides preventive and fitness dividends. Dispensaries could help patients gain the benefits of strength training with the same method as above, including posters and other messaging. The question of the obesity of its clients is important to a dispensary. Wanting to, “first, do no harm,” the clinic should confirm that its cannabis medication does not contribute to such problems. Cannabis is very effective at ending the wasting syndrome by helping people eat; its effect on people that are overweight may be less helpful. Obesity might even be seen as a contraindication in the prescription or recommendation of cannabis.

Practice good nutrition, especially nutrient-dense, calorie-lean foods.

  • The clinic or dispensary could educate on the quite incredible nutritional value of cannabis itself, in the form of hemp seed and hemp oil. Hemp seed is perhaps the most nutritious single food source, filled with essential fatty acids and proteins. The omega-3 profile of hemp seed is nearly optimal.
  • Good nutrition sets focus on nutrient-dense, calorie-lean foods, nearly the opposite of an American fast food meal.

Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke. The smoke from cigarettes, inhaled directly or as second-hand smoke, is a deadly toxin that kills over 400,000 Americans each year. Avoiding such exposure is a key preventive behavior. The reduction of cigarette smoking and proliferation of non-smoking areas providing freedom from this toxin have been a major public health victory in the last generation (and it was accomplished with zero SWAT raids and no one going to jail.

Although cannabis smoke appears far safer than cigarette smoke (marijuana smoking is not associated with lung cancer nor emphysema, two of the great risks of cigarette smoking, it is still smoke and contains toxins such as carbon monoxide (CO). Vaporizers provide a safe way to gain the medical benefits of cannabinoids with no exposure to smoke, and should be encouraged, and sold in dispensaries. With vaporizers, medical users can titrate dosages nearly as well as with smoking. In California, clinics, dispensaries and collectives have helped pioneer other ways of medicating with cannabis in a smoke-free manner. Tinctures with alcohol and edibles offer yet other alternatives. Invention, or rather reinvention of these medications (tinctures of cannabis were available to Americans 100 years ago) has been a major contribution of dispensaries in California.

Cultivate a supportive social life. Isolation is detrimental to physical and especially, mental, health. Although most important social interactions occur with family and friends, the dispensaries themselves could help provide some of this social glue so important to health.

Manage and reduce stress. Cannabis itself, especially types rich with a variety of cannabinoids, is a natural stress reducer. Indeed, much of the so called “recreational” use of cannabis helps users maintain a relaxed and happy state of mind. Stress reduction is of course a huge topic and the steps a clinic or dispensary might take are virtually limitless, from yoga classes, to progressive relaxation to massage.

Wellness and open source health care are giant topics that will be revisited.

Medicine Grown by Hand: Medical Cannabis as an open-source model.

In his near-future dystopian novel, World Made by Hand, James Howard Kunstler presents a bleak portrayal of a small upstate New York town a couple of decades hence. The federal government had collapsed, Washington DC was nuked and the availability of gasoline and electricity ended. Ex-motor cycle toughs run the community’s central resource, the old town dump, now the source of riches such as nails. In this new world, owning a horse makes one wealthy.

In the novel, the system no longer provides medication nor medical care. The town’s doctor is the protagonist. He faces the frustrations and tragedies of having to practice medicine with no modern supplies, tools or services. With pharmaceuticals unavailable, the good doctor grows medicinal herbs. A key medication for pain relief and succor from various ailments is one not freely available before the collapse, cannabis. Treatment with cannabis is part of open-source health care in this new world. Seeds are the open source. Such self-treatment will become an ever more important part of our own health care future.

In health care, the term open-source includes self-care, with the individual taking more responsibility for his or her health and treatment. In some cases, the person (the term patient not quite right) becomes the source of treatment. Self-care itself is part of a larger wellness model that focuses upon a preventive lifestyle, especially with sufficient exercise and mindful nutrition, as key aspects of health.

Without doubt, more open-source medication, especially with cannabis, will be part of America’s health care future. For many people, including the 45 million uninsured Americans, the current health care system does not work. It has many problems:

  • The current medical care colossus sucks up one dollar out of 5 in the American economy.
  • The American system is by far the most expensive, and offers far less care for the dollar than in other countries.
  • Much of what passes for medical care is in reality too late and inefficient. It does not do well treating the huge class of auto-immune inflammatory disorders that most afflict the health of Americans with chronic degenerative diseases.
  • Medicine is (over)used to try to stave off injury of primarily a behavioral nature. Medical technology is used to try to fix damage caused by behaviors such as cigarette smoking and sedentary lifestyle.
  • Pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed for most ailments. Mortality from these drugs alone is a major cause of death.

The choices and actions of Americans, especially regarding physical (in)activity and (over)eating behaviors underlie much of what ails us. In most of the degenerative, inflammatory diseases that bedevil modern Americans, much medical care is merely palliative, relieving just the symptoms, symptoms of behavior-caused damage. Obesity, flaccid body composition and sickly organs damaged from cigarette smoking and alcohol poisoning are examples.

Type II diabetes is essentially a self-chosen disease; walking 10,000 steps a day is a robust preventative, even cure for Type II diabetes. Personal health actions such as increasing physical exercise, if universally adopted, could abolish many of the inflammatory ails that now pass for disease.

  • To ignore these preventatives and to proceed as before with a late intervention, medical and pharmaceutical approach to life-style-based health problems is folly.
  • Just as the pre-diabetic can literally walk away from diabetes, so too our general health practices determine how healthy we really are. The 10,000 steps-a-day prescription is not just for those threatened by diabetes or obesity, but serve as a good goal for nearly everyone. Such activity is open-source self-care at its best.
  • Eating daily 5 to 9 fruits and vegetables is the core of healthy nutrition. Rich in nutrients and sparse in calories, this plant based foundation provides much fiber. High fiber helps us stay full and tune the digestive system.

Aspirin-taking is open-source self-medication. Because aspirin is a legal and available drug that provides relief for a wide variety of ailments, we are free to use it for self-medication. Aspirin is very useful, but not without some dangers, such as attacking the stomach. Like most drugs, it has a lethal dose and several hundred people die from aspirin poisoning each year. Still, its ability to reduce pain and inflammation and to provide protective cardio-vascular effects make it a key open source medication.

Another substance to relieve a wide variety of symptoms such as pain and inflammation is cannabis. Unlike aspirin, no deaths are associated with its use. Like aspirin, cannabis is medically useful not just for a small array of discrete problems. Although it does provide fairly specific prevention and therapy of maladies such as glaucoma, and works wonderfully for reducing the worse symptoms of chemotherapy, its applications are broad. It is useful in treating a dozen major diseases. Other benefits are less specific. The cannabinoids in cannabis are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and analgesic. The latter, pain relief, points to the more generalized medical benefits of cannabinoids.

Pain is one of the chief reasons people seek medical care at all. What percentage of the humankind, what single person, does not experience pain at sometime in life? To quell pain is the reason most people take an aspirin. To quell pain is the main reason tens of millions of Californians in the future may take a tincture of cannabis.

  • A century hence, and hopefully far sooner, Americans will regain the pain-relieving, self-health remedies available to their ancestors. They already have in California and a dozen other states.

In a country supposedly searching for national health care answers, the open-source, self-care benefits of medical cannabis must not be ignored. Medical cannabis will not be ignored by those without insurance, nor those increasing millions who become aware of the superiority of pain relief and other medical benefits available to them with cannabis. Bizarrely, conservatives who worry that a national health care system would deny medical choices are the first to deny totally American citizens the right to choose cannabis-based medications.

Americans will make these choices anyway, using the cannabis seed as the open-source basis for their medication. Hopefully they will have state laws in place to provide them some safety from the dangers inflicted upon them by their government, as they again produce their medicine grown by hand.