Cypress tree roots on the St. John River, Florida [source:]

Sunday, December 4, 2011


The Yanomami people of the Amazon Rainforest who live along the border of Venezuela and Brazil have one of the lowest recorded blood pressure readings around the world with an average of 90/60. (Image courtesy of

(Image courtesy of

Yes, they live in a society free from the stressors of the modern world, yet their culture has been described as one “that encourages aggression and a life of chronic warfare with violence and tension.” The key to their low blood pressure is their dietary salt intake. It is <0.5 mg per day. They represent the ultimate human example of the relationship between dietary salt intake and high blood pressure.

Among the Masai people of Kenya in East Africa, there is not one person suffering with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease or obesity. Studies confirm that many who live in rural tribes and villages throughout Africa and other parts of the world have much lower blood pressure than those living in urban areas. (Image courtesy of

The key common denominator is maintaining a balanced diet that is naturally low in salt.

Heart disease or cardiovascular disease associated with high blood pressure is the leading cause of death for people of all races and cultures around the globe.

Unequivocally, around the globe, in every demographic group, research confirms that ADDING SALT TO YOUR DIET INCREASES BLOOD PRESSURE.

(Image courtesy of

Humanity has known this for thousands of years. The earliest medical comment that relates dietary salt to blood pressure was recorded in 1700 BC and comes from Chinese physician Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wein who stated, ". . . therefore if large amounts of salt are taken, the pulse will stiffen and harden." (Translated by Wan Ping, AD 762.)

There are other contributors that could also increase and compound high blood pressure in addition to dietary salt as well. Stress, a magnesium deficiency, lack of exercise and movement of the body, obesity, and a poor diet that is high in fat and includes too many packaged, processed and prepared foods can cause high blood pressure and lead to other chronic health problems.

The daily-recommended sodium health intake is:
Under age 51: 1,500 mg per day
Ages 51-70: 1,300 mg per day
Ages 70+: 1,200 mg per day.

The average American consumes 3400 mg. of sodium per day, way over the recommended amount. To give you an idea of how much this is, 1 teaspoon of table salt is 2325 mg.

Some foods naturally contain sodium like dairy, meat, shellfish and vegetables. They do not contain a high degree of salt but it contributes to your overall salt intake. 1 cup of milk has 107 mg. of sodium. And, sodium is essential for our body functioning in small amounts. Sodium, salt is harvested in the sea and on land. Some people think sea salt is better for you than iodized salt, but research shows and many health professionals say sea salt impacts our body the same way.
(Salt farming in Thailand. Courtesy of

The vast amount of sodium in the American diet comes from processed and prepared foods that typically have high sodium content.

Many prepared foods from restaurants market themselves as healthy alternatives but have high sodium content. Six-inch subway sandwiches have very high sodium content that exceeds or almost meets our recommended daily dosage in one serving! Some of these readings are below.

Italian sandwich 1640 mg of sodium
Chicken fillet 1123 mg. of sodium
Tuna 998 mg. of sodium

A Chick Fil A Hard-grilled Chicken Club sandwich contains 1460 mg. of sodium.

El Pollo loco Jalapeno Chicken Sandwich contains 2017 mg. of sodium.

You can’t always tell how much sodium foods contain by tasting them. To help lower your sodium intake, get in the habit of reading the nutrition facts label found on packages. You can also find nutrition guides of most common restaurant chains online.

Below is a list of salt and sodium-containing compounds in most packaged and processed foods. When you see these products on the label, you know the sodium content is high:

Baking soda
Baking powder
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Disodium phosphate
Sodium alginate
Sodium nitrate or nitrite

These terms and condiments also indicate high sodium content: (Image courtesy of

Pickled, smoked, marinated, teriyaki, soy sauce, broth, au jus, gravy, ketchup, mustard, mayonaise, tobasco, barbeque, cocktail sauce and salad dressings.


Surprisingly, medicines such as the antacids Alka-Seltzer and Bromo-Seltzer have rich sodium content. A two-tablet dose of Alka-Seltzer contains 995 milligrams of sodium while Bromo-Seltzer contains 761 milligrams in just one tablet. These two "medicines" contain more sodium to your diet than many processed foods.
(Image courtesy of


Black folk medicine remedies

Joe Hayes, legendary water-diviner of Paradise, North Carolina, regularly harvests YELLOW ROOT aka GOLDENSEAL and makes a water infused tea that he sips on daily to maintain normal blood pressure and to ward off illness. Hydrastine, a chemical in goldenseal is shown to reduce blood pressure. Goldenseal also contains the chemical berberine which may have the opposite effect. If you start using goldenseal, make sure you take your blood pressure to see how it affects you and if it is elevated, stop using it; goldenseal is not for you. Joe Hayes also takes a daily swig of cod liver oil, rich with Omega 3's, which help prevent heart disease and lowers blood pressure.

Wild harvested YellowRoot tonic recipe

Harvest a bunch full of yellow root, pulling up the plant from the root.
Clean off the dirt with luke warm water.
Break the root into 1-2" size pieces and fill a pint sized mason jar 1/4 to 1/2 with the root.
Fill the jar with luke warm water and let sit for a day until the water turns deep yellow.
Take a sip, 1-3 times daily until all gone.
Wait a week and repeat process.

Or, you can buy the Yellowroot tincture known as Goldenseal and swallow a dropperful under the tongue or in a cup of warm water 1-3 times a week. Follow recommended dosage and if your pressure elevates, discontinue use.


Eating 2 cloves of garlic daily will lower your blood pressure. Just chop it up and sprinkle it on your meals. Add a raw clove as a condiment to your meals or add it to your dish.

Ma Mare Mamie Cerre (aka Salena Gray, b.1888, d. 1960) of New Orleans, Louisiana added several cloves of garlic and bay leaves to her meals regularly. She would also tie garlic cloves around her head and let them hang from her neck to ease headaches.


Add 3-4 leaves regularly to dishes like stews, soups, casseroles, meats and vegetables. Make a tea using 2-3 dried or fresh bay leaves, letting them steep in 1 cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Drink 2-3 times a day.

SEASON WITH COLORFUL HERBS INSTEAD OF SALT TO BOOST FLAVOR. The herbs and spices below enhance any meal and are also medicinal. Ginger, cayenne, garlic and bay all reduce blood pressure.

garlic, cayenne, ginger (grated, sliced or dried), cinnamon, bay leaf, basil, oregano, chives, marjoram, cumin, tumeric, curry, nutmeg, onions, shallots, chives, vinegar, lemon, orange, apple (fruit or juice) SPIKE, DASH and many other seasonings.


- Marinate meats in vinegar, citrus or pineapple juice

- Use balsamic, apple cider and plain vinegar to flavor greens and salads

- Cook and flavor with wines, the alcohol will evaporate with heat and the flavor stays.

- Season with SPIKE, DASH and other salt alternatives you can buy in the store.

- Adding celery to your diet regularly lowers blood pressure.
Eating ¼ cup a day, about one stalk, will help to treat your high blood pressure.

FINALLY, Exercise and . . .

- Eat more fresh foods, fiber rich foods and fruits and vegetables.

LIVE HEALTHY!!! The world loves you and needs you!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Staying Healthy as Life Happens: 10 Preventative Healthcare Routines

Nora Dockery, age 3, happy and playing in a No. Carolina field.

Peaceful Greetings Dear Readers. It’s been a minute since I posted my last article. I had every intention of doing one or two posts a month. But hey, life happens and we do the best we can. I hereby declare again that I will make one or two posts a month. By the way, my months stretch from 30-60 days--☺

In the past year, I’ve been laid off from my job, lost my health insurance, downsized my living situation and turned in my car. Like I said, life happens.

And, on the other hand, my son graduated from college, my daughter is starting high school and they are both healthy and happy. I’m a full-time urban bicycler. It's great exercise! I sleep through the night and wake up rested. I am grateful!

At 52+ years young, I am infinitely thankful for my good health and strong physical ability. No pills, aches or pains and I still get my “Moon” like clockwork.

Me (in blue) with good friend Sala Ajaniku in San Francisco photo: Asual Aswad

And now, I have another opportunity to expand who I am.

In the meantime, I am without health insurance, like so many of my kindred global beings. So, I heartily embrace the healing and healthy living traditions of my ancestors who stretch 7 generations back in New Orleans and Mississippi.

I face the same situation they did which is having no health insurance or limited access to it. I do what they did and take care of myself by maintaining a routine of preventative health care so I don't get sick. And if I do fall ill, I use natural remedies to treat the ailment. Our healthcare industry is not based in preventative care or holistic healing but rather relies on "drugs" to mask the symptom and other aggressive treatments. I’m afraid of “them” and besides, I do a better job at my healthcare than they would anyway.

It's time to start using some of the preventative health care routines the wise ol’timers did to stay healthy. My grandmother, Maw-Maw, is a testament to that. She’s 104 years young. MawMaw is a New Orleans native who moved up to Oakland, in the 1940s. She lived on 54th street below San Pablo Ave. for over 50 years. She cooked with garlic in everything and had her occasional garden of seasonal veggies like peppers, collards, tomatoes and milliton (chayote squash).

Eveline Elizabeth Prayo-Bernard at age 104. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana on May 19, 1908. photo: Kai Allison Gordon, 8/11

Here are 10 Healthy Living Routines to maintain good health:

1. The Daily dose of Cod Liver oil or another omega3 like Flax seed oil.
Cod Liver oil has omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, is an immune booster and is anti-inflammatory which keeps your body oiled and joints from aching. It also helps prevent dementia, alzheimers and degenerative conditions associated with aging.

2. Apple Cider Vinegar tonics.
Cuts the mucous from your system, maintains healthy intestinal bacteria so you poop regularly, anti-inflammatory, kills viruses and bacteria to ward off colds and flu, helps regulate blood pressure. Granny from North Carolina would take regular vinegar shots after she’d eat dinner to “cut the mucus.” Use 1 tablespoon in a 1/4 cup of warm water and drink.

3. Castor oil.
Cleanses your colon to eliminate toxins and tone your intestines and help ward off colds. Take 4 times a year at the beginning of each season. Take one tablespoon and wait.

4. Eating chalk or clay from the side of the road.
Pulls toxins and heavy metals from your body. Your body does not digest it, so it expands and pulls toxins and metals from your body and is eliminated in your poop. You can get it today in the form of bentonite at any health food store.

5. Eating a lot of vegetables, fruits and beans, which were organic back in the day.

6. Eating minimal meat, which was also organic back in the day. Folks used to say “I knew what was in my cow, chicken or hog because I fed it.”

7. Cooking with healing foods and spices such as tons of garlic, onion, peppers, cayenne, vinegar, bay leaves, basil to name a few. Garlic and onions are natural antibiotics and antiseptics. Cayenne and peppers move the energy through your body and eliminates mucus. Eating collard, kale, mustard and turnip greens and drinking the pot liquor are very nutritious.

8. “Sip” on or take your seasonal tonics such as yellow root (aka goldenseal), mullein or sassafrass in the fall. All strengthen your immune systems to ward off colds. Mullein is also an expectorant and a great decongestant that can be sipped on or smoked. Also used in baths to reduce swelling and pain from inflammation.

9. Make your body more alkaline by drinking plenty of water with a lemon squeezed in it. Many people have a high acidic ph in their bodies which contributes to dis-ease.

10. Move it our lose it! Move your body by dancing, exercising or doing your regular chores. Even mopping, washing and hanging your clothes, vacuuming, carry your own groceries, gardening, hiking, walking the hood or the lake are good ways to exercise.

Breathe deep and slow and give thanks for the journey you’ve had so far. We all have amazing stories to have made it this far.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this. I canvassed the North Oakland area yesterday promoting Phat Beets farmers market (Saturday's on the corner of 57th and Market Streets in Oakland) and “chopped it up” with many of my neighbors. A few houses from where I live on 57th Street, I met a southern born 90 year old gentleman who was sitting on his porch. He has lived in his house on 57th Street since 1961. I found out he was a merchant marine who has travelled the world 3 times. What experience and stories he had and has to share. Many of our elders live among us and have valuable things to share. Let’s engage our elders and learn from their wisdom.

Below are a few of those down-home southern remedies for arthritis, rheumatism, gout and general inflammation that worked for the folks who used them:

Oak Bark soak and poultice for swelling and joint pain

With an axe or a sharp tool, shave the bark down to the wood on a small section of the oak tree. Peel the bark back like skin and tear off several pieces, about 5-10. Place bark in a pot, cover with ample water and slow boil it for about an hour. Soak the painful or swollen area in the solution or rub it on. You can also soak a cloth in the oak bark solution and wrap affected area with the cloth. If you use the oak bark as a rub, save the remaining solution with the bark in a glass container and use as needed.
Image of oak bark

Oak bark contains the minerals manganese, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc. It has strong anti-inflammatory and astringent properties. It strengthens blood vessels and tightens tissues.

Mullein leaf bath, poultice and tea for swelling and pain

Image of mullein in South Carolina field. photo: Michele E. Lee

The mullein plant has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Southerners often soak in a mullein bath or drink mullein tea to reduce pain and inflammation. The Mullein plant grows plentiful in the southern landscape. If you can’t find a plant nearby, you can always go to your local health store and get the tea, tablets or tincture.

How to use:
Bath or soak
Cut 4-6 dried leaves per 5 cups of water; boil in a pot and soak your feet or whole body in a bath for at least twenty minutes. If you soak your body in a mullein leaf bath, add approximately ten leaves uncut.

Mix 4 parts (4:1:1) dried and finely chopped mullein leaf to one part water to one part apple cider vinegar. Heat up and put in a cotton cloth and place on affected area.

Celery stalk broth to treat Gout

Many people have successfully treated their gout by consuming celery. Mama Farlice of Los Angeles, CA– Candie’s, Vickie’s and Bobby’s mother - recently gave me this natural remedy which works for her gout. Chop a bunch of celery, place in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool and drink the broth, eat the celery. You can also take celery extract, 75 mg. 2x a day or tablets. Include celery in your diet.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Apple Cider Vinegar: A timeless treatment for Arthritis and Rheumatism

For centuries, people all over the globe have conjured their own remedies to treat arthritis. And, southern folks being their own unique brand of people are no exception. Many took apple cider vinegar (ACV) shots after meals regularly to prevent or ease arthritis and to cut mucous in their system. Apple cider vinegar dissolves the acid crystals in the body that cause pain, joint stiffness, and inflammation associated with arthritis and rheumatism.

Image courtesy of

The best health practice is always a preventative one. But if it’s been a while since you’ve taken a regular dose of preventative medicine like your parents or grandparents did with apple cider vinegar or cod liver oil, (or another Omega 3 oil), then using some of these remedies may take a while to work. And the length of time it takes to see results, vary with each person. You may see a difference immediately or in 6 months. Remember, for many it has taken the good part of a life-time for the illness to develop, so be patient.

As a good friend of mine from southern stock always says, “there ain’t nuthin instant, not even oatmeal. . . you gotta cleanse yo’self before you heal yo’self.” And in addition to being an effective treatment for arthritis, regular doses of ACV is a good cleanser.

What works for one person, may not work for another. Find the treatment that works for you. You have nothing to lose ‘cept that doggone pain.

Below is an Apple Cider Vinegar folk remedy followed by modern day testimonies celebrating its healing power with arthritis and rheumatism.

Ms. Ola B Hunter-Woods’ Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) tonic and Castor Oil rub. The tonic is to be taken internally and the rub is an external treatment

Ms. Ola B Hunter-Woods of Arkansas in her garden. Age 94

Internal ACV remedy:
A dose of Apple Cider Vinegar with honey helps dissolve acid crystal deposits left by uric acid that collect in your joints and in muscles causing pain, stiffness and inflammation. Once dissolved, the acid crystals leave your body by passing through your urine. So drink plenty of water. Both the ACV and honey have anti-inflammatory properties.

Dose: The standard remedy for ACV to treat arthritis or for preventative health care maintenance is one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, one teaspoon of honey in ¼ to ½ cup of warm water, once per day or week depending on your system. Variation: add one tablespoon of ACV to a serving of juice.

External ACV remedy:
Apply apple cider vinegar to the affected area so the skin can absorb its anti-inflammatory healing properties. Next massage warm castor oil onto affected area and wrap with a cotton cloth and cover with plastic so the oil does not stain. Castor oil is easily absorbed through your skin and it also has many healing benefits for arthritis. It reduces inflammation, repairs damaged tissue and increases immunity.

Modern Day Testimonies and studies:

Today, Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is the medicine of choice for many rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. For some, it has eased the pain and reversed the disease when conventional medicines did not work. One woman, Sarah Gall, got relief after following "a strict dietary regime that meant avoiding alcohol, cutting out foods with refined sugar and any citric fruit, as well as taking cider vinegar, mixed with honey, hot water and molasses, after every meal. This was combined with vitamin supplements - including A, B, magnesium and calcium - and a hot bath in Epsom salts. After one month, she got relief and after three, she was pain free."

Image courtesy of

Sir Ranulf Fiennes, the first man ever recorded to cross the Antarctic by foot, started taking apple cider vinegar 27 years ago when he developed bad arthritis in his hands and hip. Prior to that, he had watched his mother become bedridden at age 86 from debilitating arthritis. She was given an ACV tonic for six months and started to get better. A few months later, she completely got over the problem and was able to live pain free until she crossed over at age 92. After seeing her full recovery, he was convinced of it’s healing and cleansing power. You can read Sarah Galls' and Sir Ranulf Finnes’ testimony in the article, The Acid Test for Arthritis, published in the UK Telegraph.

If you decide to try apple cider vinegar to treat your arthritis, then use an organic Apple Cider Vinegar like Braggs.

Image courtesy of

For more information on the health benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar visit the

Grow healthy by taking the lead role in your wellness and become your body’s best friend. With so many people lacking health insurance, there is no better time than now to be responsible for your wellness. Being consistent with your natural remedies and finding the right routine is important for sustained good health. Patience is key. Remember, you may have to cut through years of bad eating.

Finally, here are some words of caution:

Before taking any supplement or changing your healing routine, it’s always best to consult your health professional, if you have one. If not, consult friends and others who are natural health practitioners or use books and the INTERNET as a resource for your research.

If you are taking pharmaceuticals, some natural and folk treatments may not be compatible. And even some natural remedies and herbs may contradict each other and give you a bad reaction or have a limit on the length of time you can take the herb. Also, keep in mind that ingredients used for home remedies 50 years ago may not have the same constituency or potency today. Only your body can tell you if it’s effective or not. Be in tune with how it responds to treatments. Finally, herbal and natural remedies work best at the right dosage and when taken consistently.

I wish everyone much success in living healthy and long!