This chapter describes some of the holistic therapies that people with MCS have tried. The descriptions include a little about the underlying philosophy of each system and the various procedures involved with each alternative. In regard to trying new therapies, I suggest that you learn about the methods ahead of time and choose those that correspond with your own philosophies of healing, or those to which you feel attracted. Since few people will have enough money to try them all, you must pick and choose wisely. Reading and making an informed choice is much safer, cheaper, and saner than going naively from one treatment option to another. I also suggest researching the particular practitioner that you will be seeing. You can ask practitioners where they were educated, how long they have been practicing, and whether or not they offer a free or reduced-fee consultation to see if they would be an appropriate provider for you. It is possible to get certifications in various techniques in as short a time as a weekend, so being careful when choosing a provider makes good sense.
More detailed information on alternative therapies can be found in Appendix C for further reading and in Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide by the Burton Goldberg Group (2002). Also see Appendix E for our study of treatments tried by 917 persons with MCS. Most of the treatments discussed in this chapter are included in the study. I have not added the results of that study to the sections of this chapter, but rather made the study available as a whole.
A 5,000-year-old component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture aims to enhance qi (or chi), which is what the Chinese call the life force circulating in all living beings. Optimum health occurs when the qi is balanced in its circulation along the twelve meridians or energy pathways of the human body. Each of the vital organs is associated with a meridian, and can be affected by stimulating specific areas called “acupoints,” which are located along that meridian. Acupuncture treatment is administered with hair-thin, stainless steel, disposable needles that usually are not painful. The needles are inserted under the skin to stimulate the acupoints and to correct the energy flow, allowing for an improvement in health. The meridians have actually been documented by microdissection as existing separate from the blood and lymph systems (Burton Goldberg Group 2002). Acupuncture may be used in combination with moxibustion or burning of herbs over the skin, and other needling or pressure techniques such as electric acupuncture, laser acupuncture, acupressure, and microsystem acupuncture including stimulation of sites on the ear, face, and scalp.
The World Health Organization lists 104 health problems that can be helped by acupuncture (Burton Goldberg Group 2002). Pain, particularly, is helped by acupuncture, because acupuncture stimulates the body’s release of endogenous endorphins (natural opiatelike substances made in the brain) and neurotransmitters (chemicals used by nerves to transmit information). Acupuncture also has shown promise for helping people who are addicted to controlled substances; many drug treatment facilities have incorporated acupuncture into their withdrawal and rehabilitation programs. In China, acupuncture is used for anesthesia during various surgeries, including head and neck surgery. Veterinary medicine is beginning to explore acupuncture for animals. The National Institutes of Health’s (1997) consensus statement on acupuncture concluded:
“Acupuncture as a therapeutic intervention is widely practiced in the United States. While there have been many studies of its potential usefulness, many of these studies provide equivocal results because of design, sample size, and other factors. The issue is further complicated by inherent difficulties in the use of appropriate controls, such as placebos and sham acupuncture groups. However, promising results have emerged. For example, showing efficacy of acupuncture in adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting, and in postoperative dental pain. There are other situations such as addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma, in which acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment or an acceptable alternative or be included in a comprehensive management program. Further research is likely to uncover additional areas where acupuncture interventions will be useful.” (p. 2)
In Phase I of my study, seventy-eight people had tried acupuncture with 24 percent finding great benefit, 8 percent moderate benefit, 27 percent mild benefit, 29 percent no benefit, and 12 percent adverse reactions.
Acupuncture was also reported in the Johnson (1996-1998) and LeRoy, Davis, and Jason (1996) studies. Of the 153 participants Johnson surveyed, 7.2 percent found acupuncture enormously helpful, 18.3 percent found it to be a major help, 30.1 percent said it was a slight help, 17.6 percent reported that it didn’t help, 12.4 percent said it was harmful, and 14.4 percent reported that the effect was unclear. LeRoy, Davis, and Jason surveyed 132 participants. The results included 11.4 percent reporting acupuncture to be an enormous help, 14.4 percent reported it to be major help, 33.3 percent said it was a slight help, 20.5 percent reported it did not help, 6.8 percent reported acupuncture to be harmful, and 13.6 reported that the effect was unclear.
The American Journal of Acupuncture published a paper entitled “The Treatment of Pesticide Poisoning with Traditional Acupuncture” (Chatfield 1985) which described acupuncture treatment as substantially improving the health of three victims of pesticide poisoning. Most urban areas have acupuncture practitioners. (See Appendix C for further reading and Appendix E for our large study.)
Chiropractic care is a widely used holistic treatment approach to whole-body health. It is concerned with the relationships between the spine, the musculoskeletal system, and the nervous system. More than fifteen million people each year receive chiropractic care, according to the Burton Goldberg Group (2002). Although modern chiropractic methods were established in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer, a physiology and anatomy student, spinal manipulation is thought to extend as far back as the early Egyptians. Chiropractic care is popular because of its ability to address a large number of health issues without the use of drugs, including pain, trauma, injuries, back, and internal problems. A properly aligned spine is understood as the key to good health and is thought of as the “switchboard” for the rest of the body. Misalignments in the spine, referred to as subluxations, may exert pressure on other vertebrae or nerves, interfere with the flow of electrical impulses, or force a person into an unnatural posture that can, in turn, cause additional problems. The Burton Goldberg Group cites several studies that support the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of chiropractic care over conventional medicine for back pain and work injuries. Chiropractic care is successfully used to treat conditions of the musculoskeletal, respiratory, gastrointestinal, pulmonary, cardiovascular, and endocrine systems.
There are many types of adjustments in chiropractic practice that involve touching, stretching, and movement. All chiropractic adjustments are aimed at releasing pressure and restrictions, increasing the range of movement, and correcting misalignments. In Phase I of my study, 128 people had tried chiropractic care: 21 percent reported great benefit, 20 percent reported moderate benefit, 32 percent reported mild benefit, 23 percent found no benefit, and 4 percent reported adverse reactions. In LeRoy, Davis, and Jason’s study (1996), 181 used chiropractic care: 14.4 percent reported enormous help, 18.2 percent said it was a major help, 30.4 percent said it was a slight help, 20.4 percent said it was of no help, 6.6 percent said it had been harmful, and 9.9 percent said the effect was unclear.
Applied Kinesiology seeks to diagnose and resolve health problems through the identification of specific muscle weaknesses. Muscle dysfunction is understood as corresponding to organ and gland dysfunction and, therefore, can be used to identify possibly weak organ systems. Postural balance, gait, and nerve function, as well as endocrine, immune, digestive, and cardiovascular functioning can all be affected by Applied Kinesiology, which aims at preventing new problems as well as correcting existing ones.
Detroit chiropractor George Goodheart developed applied kinesiology in the 1960s, and it frequently is integrated into chiropractic work. Muscles need to function properly for associated bones and joints to be adequately supported. Therefore, Applied Kinesiology is very useful for chiropractors. Because specific muscles are associated with specific organs (e.g., the deltoid muscles are specifically associated with the lungs), they are used to monitor the functioning of those organs. Certain nutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals, glandulars) that may help a patient to heal, for example, can be tested immediately for effectiveness by placing them on the patient’s tongue and checking to see whether the associated muscle becomes stronger or weaker. Applied Kinesiology is often used in sports medicine and has been an aid to some world-famous athletes.
In Phase I of my study, of the seventy-six people who tried kinesiology, 34 percent described great benefit, 22 percent moderate benefit, 25 percent mild benefit, 18 percent described no benefit, and no one reported harm. Johnson’s study (1996-1998) included 124 people who used Applied Kinesiology. Of these, 9.7 percent said that it was of enormous help, 28.2 percent said it was a major help, 22.6 percent said it was a slight help, 17.7 percent said it didn’t help, 2.4 percent said that it had been harmful, and 19.4 percent said the effect was unclear. These two preliminary studies indicate that Applied Kinesiology may help—to some degree—more than half of the patients who try it.
Energy Work and Combination Techniques
Body Restoration Technique (BRT)
BRT works with barriers within the body’s communication systems (e.g., between the neurological and endocrine systems), addressing areas of body confusion or energy blockages. Symptoms are used as information as to why the body may be malfunctioning but are not “treated” per se. Body reflex points, like acupuncture points, connect the skin surface to underlying energy pathways. Like a living computer, the body has many automatic functions, such as a constant temperature, but these are susceptible to malfunctions of many kinds. Toxics, microbes, stress, radiation, and other stressors may elicit blockages and confusions. The body attempts to compensate for the insult, but may then get stuck in a maladaptive pattern. BRT uses hands on triggering of body reflex points to correct malfunctions.
Contact Reflex Analysis
Contact Reflex Analysis extends the theory and application of Applied Kinesiology to allow for greater detail and more complex diagnoses. It is a method of determining root causes and preventing health problems. It works by testing any of the approximately seventy-five reflex areas on the skin that correspond to organs, glands, and bones. As practitioners probe reflex sites with their fingertips, they use muscles as circuit indicators, to determine whether body circuits are functioning correctly.
Muscles weaken considerably when the practitioner locates a reflex site that has had its energy flow interrupted. Contact Reflex Analysis can locate subclinical problems, i.e., physiological problems in their early stages that have not yet manifested as organ disease. The system was developed during the past thirty years by a chiropractor named D. A. Versendaal (1998) and others in the industry.
Contact Reflex Analysis is taught to health professionals in continuing education courses and at conferences. Versendaal has hired a researcher to document the usefulness of Contact Reflex Analysis so it can be taught in a more formal education environment.
Craniosacral Therapy is based on the belief that the body has a third movement in addition to the heartbeat and breathing. This rhythmic movement in the spinal fluid varies depending on health and moves in the cranial sutures all the way down to the sacrum (a wedge shaped bone behind the pelvis that is part of the vertebrae). This movement was termed the “Breath of Life” by Dr. William Sutherland, the pioneer of this therapy.
There are three types of oscillating waves. The cranial rhythmic impulse occurs at around 8-12 cycles per minute. A lower speed is called the mid-tide and happens at around 2.5 cycles per minute. The slowest wave is called the long tide as it only happens once in 100 seconds; it is seen as the foremost stirring of motion coming from the core of our being. When all of these waves or tides are flowing normally, our bodies are healthy (www.craniosacraltherapy.org).
The stress/trauma that gets locked in the body hinders the movement of the Breath of Life. To unblock our bodies and get the life force moving again, a skilled practitioner can massage the motion back to its fully functioning state. The practitioner first must listen with her/his hands to determine sites of fluctuations or blockage of the spinal fluid. This fluid carries intelligence as well as potency and the practitioner taps into this intelligence and prompts it to remember its original state of health. The touch used to stimulate this behavior in the cerebrospinal fluid tends to be so light that you may not even notice it.
The number of sessions needed is determined by the severity of the problem. The length of each session can range from twenty minutes to an hour. This gentle and non-invasive therapy is thought to be safe for children, who may derive particular benefit from this therapy, as the bones of their skulls are still mobile.
Jaffe-Mellor Technique (JMT)
Developed by two health practitioners, Carolyn Jaffe and Judy M. Mellor, JMT works with manifestations and developments from arthritis and joint disease that, according to its founders, are the result of microorganisms establishing themselves in soft tissue and bone. Though the manifestations appear to be autoimmune, they actually are normal attempts to extrude the microorganisms. The immune system becomes confused and fails to target the “stealth pathogens” causing the problems, and instead attacks the body’s own tissue. Certain problematic “external pathogenic factors” test positively in many people. JMT resembles NAET in that it includes many of the same tools including muscle testing, desensitization, and deactivation (http://www.jmtjafmeltechnique.com/index_files/index_what_is.htm). The practitioner “interrogates” the body through asking questions and tapping energy pathways while muscle testing to ferret out and eliminate malfunctions of the immune system. A number of adjustments can be made in each session.
Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques combine the use of techniques from chiropractic, acupuncture/acupressure, kinesiology, and nutrition to treat allergies (http://www.naet.com). Practitioners include over 7500 trained persons worldwide. One allergy is treated per session (with the patient avoiding the substance for 25 hours afterward) and the claim is made that the techniques work for foods, chemicals, environmental allergens, vaccinations, and other sensitivities. The website says “Highly sensitive individuals may require additional ‘combination’ clearings.” Dr. Devi S. Nambudripad is the originator of NAET. Kinesiology is used to uncover allergens, chiropractic to relieve any energy flow blockages due to pinched nerves, acupuncture to restore energy pathways in the meridians, and nutrition and supplements to deliver proper nutrients after allergies have been cleared. Allergies are seen as energy imbalances in the body and as causing blockages in the meridians. The acupuncture and acupressure are used to “clear” the body of a particular allergen by balancing the body in the presence of that allergen. The balancing is done by nervous system stimulation using acupressure (or acupuncture in some cases). The idea is that there will be no further reactions to that substance. If the clearance lasts for 24 hours it is said to be effective for life. The website claims that “80-90% of the patients treated thus far by NAET have experienced complete relief from their allergic symptoms to the items for which they have been treated.” Of the 207 persons in my large treatment study who tried NAET, 22.9% reported that it was very helpful, 31% somewhat helpful, 38.6% no noticeable effect, 3.8% somewhat harmful, and 3.8% reported that it was very harmful.
Bodywork therapies share the goal of improving the functioning of body and mind, often using movement, touch, or energetic therapeutic interventions. Some, such as Rolfing, massage, and Hellerwork, focus on working with body tissue to restructure the body. Feldenkrais and the Alexander Technique work more with movement to correct postural problems that may affect various systems, including the brain and nervous system. Energy therapies, such as polarity therapy and therapeutic touch, strive to improve health through balancing the body’s energy patterns. The participants from my research studies rated each of the seven body therapies. The results are presented at the end of this section.
Most people are somewhat familiar with massage, which is an umbrella term for a collection of bodywork methods that manipulate muscle tissue for therapeutic goals. The Burton Goldberg Group (2002) cites studies that show massage is beneficial in treating injury-induced trauma, stress, headaches, muscle problems (such as spasm or pain), and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems. Massage can help the body to eliminate toxins, reduce pain, increase blood flow, relax, and recover from scarring. Furthermore, massage may help prevent the development of additional health problems, by reducing or releasing tension and prolonged constriction from the body.
Rolfing (Structural Integration)
Ida Rolf, a biochemist, invented the Rolfing technique. When an osteopath treated her for an injury, she became convinced of the importance of good body structure for both physical and psychological functioning. Rolfing seeks to align the body properly to improve functioning and health. Often, people unknowingly have minor and, sometimes, major misalignments in their posture that interfere with their movements and clear mental functioning. The work involves the manipulation of the fascia, an elastic membrane that surrounds all muscle tissue. The fascia is important because it covers all muscles that influence posture and if the fascia is constricted, it may restrict muscle and joint movement. Deep pressure is used to work on the fascia, one body segment at a time, with the aim of creating less restricted and more balanced movement. Sometimes people have emotional responses to Rolfing, because emotional trauma can stay lodged in muscle tissue for long periods of time. The Burton Goldberg Group (2002) cites studies that show Rolfing induces smoother movement, reduces stress, and even enhances neurological functioning. Other systems of bodywork evolved out of Rolfing, including Aston Patterning and Hellerwork.
The Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique was invented by a Shakespearean actor who used the study of his own posture to cure himself of losing his voice. The technique uses touch, movement, and awareness of one’s own habitual misuse of bodily position to correct harmful habits that can lead to disease. The Alexander Technique is practiced by more than 2,500 people worldwide, including people in drama, dance, speech, and athletics (Burton Goldberg Group 2002). Sessions involve receiving gentle instructions for postural change as well as hands-on help from the practitioner to prevent continual repetition of harmful patterns.
A physicist who healed himself from a sports injury without having to undergo surgery invented Feldenkrais. Similar to the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais seeks to interrupt negative movement patterns to allow the body to move in a freer manner. Self-image and breath are both seen as important influences on the function and movement of the body. Feldenkrais does not teach people how to move, but rather has each person discover, through experimentation and the release of old patterns, the healthiest way of moving for him or herself. Because of its ability to help people move with more ease, Feldenkrais is used to treat injury, stress, and illnesses that have caused restricted movement.
Trager is a movement reeducation technique that uses touch, including rocking, pulling, and rotational movements, to loosen stiff muscles and joints. Trager was developed by Milton Trager in 1927 and, similar to Feldenkrais, aims to release old tension patterns in the body. Trager uses mentastics, which are dance like movements that help the body learn to move more effortlessly. Its goal is to modify the feedback that the nervous system receives from body tissue to improve the person’s sense of well-being. Trager is used for injuries, diseases that affect neuromuscular function, such as multiple sclerosis, and for athletes. The Burton Goldberg Group (2002) says that more than 7,000 people have received Trager training.
Polarity therapy revolves around releasing blockages and restoring proper energy flow to the body in an electromagnetic sense. It was developed by Randolph Stone (1890-1981), a chiropractor, osteopath, and naturopath, who was interested in electromagnetic energy and the body. He felt that human health reflected the condition of the energy field and that the energy field was affected by a number of variables including diet, touch, thought, experiences, relationships, and environmental and other insults. Polarity therapy uses a variety of techniques, such as pressure point contact/manipulation, breathing, reflexology, and exercise to release energy blockages that are said to originate in the subtle and move into the grosser physical levels of manifestation.
Reflexology is a holistic healing technique that uses gentle massage of reflex points in the feet that correspond to various organs and systems throughout the body. The feet are thought to be a microcosm of the body; pressure exerted on specific points affects the corresponding body parts. In The Art of Reflexology, Dougans and Ellis (1992) say that the goal of reflexology is to trigger the body’s return to homeostasis, i.e, restore balance through tension reduction and relaxation. It is an energy technique because, as Dougans and Ellis say, six main meridians, which connect with major bodily organs, travel to the feet. Massage at these meridians can remove blockages and allow the chi (energy) to circulate freely. Reflexology is essentially electrical in nature, with the human body likened to a battery that conducts electrical energy. Although this technique is medically unproven, practitioners report very positive effects. The Burton Goldberg Group (2002) says that there are almost 25,000 certified reflexology practitioners worldwide, and that it is the primary form of alternative treatment in Denmark.
According to Janet Strubbe Wittenberg (1996), a certified Reiki master, Reiki is an energy therapy where the practitioner becomes the channel for energy that affects the patient, opens the chakras, and energizes the body. Proponents of Eastern philosophies believe that the chakras are seven energy centers that reside along the spine and in the head. An imbalance in a chakra may mean an imbalance on the physical level that might be associated with a blockage or illness. The practitioner lays hands on the patient’s body allowing energy to flow through where needed. The energy flow may create actual sensations in the patient, such as electricity, warmth, or tingling. Reiki’s goal is to increase physical and mental energy. Reiki advocates say that this treatment method can also be done as distance healing, where the patient and the practitioner are not physically in the same location. In Essential Reiki, Diane Stein (1995) says that the practitioner’s body has received Reiki “attunements,” which open and clear their energy channels. Practitioners are then connected to the universal chi and can channel increased life energy to themselves and others. Attunements are given one-on-one from a teacher and open the student’s latent abilities. The hallmark of a Reiki practitioner is said to be heat emanating from their hands when they are placed on patients for healing purposes.
Therapeutic Touch, or T Touch, was developed in 1972 by Dolores Krieger and Dora Kunz. It combines several modalities including visualization, energy field/aura repair, and laying on of hands. Often, no physical contact is needed and the session consists of the practitioner determining blockages in the patient’s energy field or aura through the use of rotational hand movements two to six inches away from the patient’s body. Both practitioner and patient are centered (calm) and quiet; the practitioner aims to correct problems, such as obstructions, and reestablish a free energy flow. The Burton Goldberg Group (2002) cites studies that have shown T Touch to alter enzyme activity, accelerate wound healing, relieve pain (including headaches) and stress, ease asthma, and reduce fever. It is taught in colleges, in many countries, and is a component of many Lamaze pregnancy classes. T Touch also is used by veterinarians on animals.
EFFECTIVENESS OF BODY THERAPIES IN PHASE I
Technique Number No Mild Moderate Great Adverse
Tried Benefit Benefit Benefit Benefit Reaction
Alexander 8 13% 75% 0 13% 0
Massage 115 12% 32% 23% 31% 1%
Polarity 39 28% 31% 8% 33% 0
Reflexology 59 19% 27% 24% 31% 0
Reiki 23 26% 39% 26% 9% 0
Rolfing 10 20% 33% 10% 20% 20%
Trager 8 13% 50% 25% 13% 0
Herbal medicine is a system of natural healing that has been practiced for thousands of years. Historically, women were the herbalists in their cultures, but throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the use of medicinal herbs diminished in Western culture, partly as a result of women not being allowed to practice medicine. In fact, many women who were burned at the stake as witches in Europe and Colonial America actually were herbalists (Ehrenreich and English 1973). With the rise of allopathic medicine in the nineteenth century there was considerable resistance from physicians to herbal cures. Although in most areas of the United States herbal medicine is no longer considered mainstream, it is not difficult to find practicing modern-day herbalists. For those areas where herbal medicine is not easily accessible, information can be obtained through books, tapes, newsletters, and correspondence courses.
There are at least two different perspectives within the field of herbal medicine. Some herbalists say that only whole plants should be used for medicinal purposes; others believe that the active ingredients should be extracted from the plant and guaranteed as present in particular strengths in specific formulas. The first perspective is more in line with traditional herbalism and holistic medicine, while the latter is more closely imitative of modern pharmaceuticals. Because the holistic approach is integral to traditional medical practices in most rural cultures, the World Health Organization has urged integrating this system with allopathic medicine inasmuch as herbal medicine is already the people’s health care, and thus well accepted.
With the rise of holistic health practices in the developed nations there is also an increase in the practice of herbal medicine. Consequently, now is an excellent time to find good information on native plants that may be useful for treating MCS. For a fraction of the cost of some of the experimental MCS therapies, you might learn useful knowledge that will put you more in charge of your own health. Although herbs may not cure MCS, they may offer safe, inexpensive relief from some symptoms and allow some people to strengthen specific body systems that have been ravaged by chemical injuries. Herbs each have particular actions they perform in the body based in part on their constituents, e.g., some are astringents, which staunch bleeding.
Some of the most common MCS symptoms, such as headaches, joint pain, digestive problems, anxiety, and others, are easily addressed by herbal medicine. Nevertheless, you should exercise caution when you begin to experiment with herbs. Because people with MCS have very sensitive reactions to all kinds of substances, they should be extremely careful using herbs, particularly if serious food reactions are at issue. One precaution might be to try a minute amount of an herb before taking a full dose. Additionally, be sure that your herbs are organically grown so that you will avoid reactions to herbicides and pesticides. Another general caution with regard to herbs is that some are toxic; toxic herbs can easily be confused with safe ones when collecting in the wild. Also, many herbs have contraindications, causing harm under certain conditions. For example, there are a number of herbs that should not be used during pregnancy because they may relax the uterine muscles too much (e.g., sage), or even stimulate a miscarriage (rue and black cohosh). So be careful, a little learning can be dangerous. If you do decide to use herbs as medicines, you might start by consulting a skilled herbalist while you study and slowly begin experimenting with safer herbs on your own. There are some very safe herbs for self-use with which you could confidently begin your study and experimentation. Some of the safer herbs with no contraindications include: chamomile, dandelion, burdock, and thyme. Each herb has a number of different actions, however, and you should be sure that none of the actions work against what you are trying to achieve.
The wonderful thing about herbs is that they can be used to strengthen, integrate, cleanse, and nourish your body in a holistic way. They do not have to be expensive. If you have a safe organic area, you can grow them yourself, and then dry them or use them fresh. There are several ways of storing and using herbs, with some techniques keeping the herbs closest to their natural state. Herbs can be prepared fresh or dried as teas. They can also be preserved in tinctures of grain alcohol, in glycerine, or even water. Some people think that alcohol is better at extracting the medicinal components from the plants. Herbal tinctures come in small dark bottles with droppers. These tinctures can be taken directly under the tongue, mixed with a little water for drinking, or dissolved in hot water to dissipate the alcohol before it is drunk.
The most processed method for storing a plant is pill form. Although some companies guarantee the potency of their pills, the dried, powdered encapsulated product is a long way from its original state. Many herbs are so bitter or foul tasting, however, that tinctures and pills are the best way to use them. (If you have ever tasted wormwood, valerian, or feverfew, you know what I mean.)
There are several ways that you can begin to learn about herbs. One is to learn the properties of a few very safe plants in which you are particularly interested and then to use them to strengthen your system. This is somewhat the approach of Susun Weed (1989), who lauds the healing properties of common plants, such as nettles and dandelions.
Another approach is to learn to categorize herbs by their “actions,” which define their various medicinal effects. I had been reading about herbs for twenty years and couldn’t keep them straight until I learned what their “actions” were. There are many wonderful books on herbal medicine and reading some will greatly increase your knowledge. (See Appendix C for further reading.)
There are various methods of preparing herbs for use. As a rule, you make infusions from leaves and flowers. This means that you pour boiling water over the dried or fresh herbs and allow them to steep. Roots and barks, however, are harder, and therefore must be boiled directly in the water to extract medicinal components. Herbs should be steeped or boiled for about twenty minutes and strained before use. Although the amounts of the herb used for preparation vary, often a teaspoon to a tablespoon is used per pint of water for roots and barks, and slightly more for leaf and flower infusions.
For people who need scientific proof of herb efficacy, evidence has accumulated for many plants to the point where even conventional medicine is investigating and using them. It must be remembered that many pharmaceuticals are extracted from natural products; e.g., digitalis, which is a powerful cardiac stimulant and diuretic, is made from of the common herb foxglove.
Plant uses that currently are supported by strong research include:
Ø Gingko for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
Ø Echinacea for infections
Ø Bilberry for capillary circulation to the eyes
Ø Chamomile for digestive upset, inflammation, and as a gentle sleep aid
Ø Dandelion for increased digestive health and as a diuretic
Ø Feverfew for migraine headaches
Ø Garlic for lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and as an antimicrobial
Ø Milk thistle for liver damage from chemicals
Ø Passionflower for nervousness or hyperexcitement
Ø St.-John’s-Wort for depression
Aromatherapy involves the inhalation or external use (on the skin) of concentrated plant oils to treat both emotional and physical problems. Because the olfactory system (which governs your sense of smell) has many neural connections to the limbic system (which controls emotions and motivation), it makes sense that plant oils can affect a person’s emotions and sense of well-being. Deanne Jenney (1997) says, “Aromatherapy uses scents to influence moods and pain and to treat and cure minor ailments. The essential oils work to encourage health and bring the body into balance.”
Essential oils primarily have the same properties (or at least the major constituent) as the plants from which they were distilled: they can be antimicrobial, relaxing, invigorating, and relieve pain. It is not the essential oils’ aroma that has the medicinal effect, but the pharmacological properties of the oils, which penetrate body tissues due to their small molecular size. Although they are referred to as essential oils, they are not really oily. Instead, they are concentrated liquids that evaporate in the air and are not water-soluble. Essential oils should be stored in dark, sealed bottles away from any light and air. Oils can be delivered to the body either through olfaction (the process of smelling), which brings the healing elements of the oils to the brain, lungs, and blood, or through skin contact (massage), which allows them to enter the bloodstream and vital organs. A few oils can be used internally through the digestive system, but it must be kept in mind that they are very concentrated.
The historical use of aromatherapy goes back to the Egyptians and, through Ayurvedic medicine, the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans. Jenney says that the French perfume industry probably began as a result of the aromatherapy the Crusaders experienced in their travels. Oils are extracted from fresh (or sometimes dried) plants through steam distillation, cold pressing (for citrus), or the use of vegetable oil, alcohol, or solvent for very delicate plants. Jenney says that to extract oils from delicate plants, like rose and jasmine, they are coated with a chemical solvent. Most essential oils are diluted with carrier oils, such as vegetable oils, which require refrigeration.
The Burton Goldberg Group (2002) cites aromatherapy as effective for bacterial respiratory infections, immune deficiencies, skin disorders, cystitis, herpes, arthritis, and stress management. Studies show that certain calming oils can alter brain waves and induce calm and well-being. Some examples of extracted oils include the well-known tea tree oil, which is used as an antiseptic; thyme oil, which is used to prevent or treat infection; and chamomile oil, which is used to relax and relieve stress.
With the already sensitive olfactory system in MCS, you might ask whether aromatherapy is something to avoid, or whether nonchemically extracted oils would actually make positive use of your sensitive olfactory system. Since no studies to date have specifically investigated aromatherapy use for MCS, the question remains unanswered.
If you do decide to experiment with essential oils, be sure that they are truly pure, nonchemically extracted, and meant for medicinal use rather than fragrance. Prices will vary from oil to oil because of variations in the harvesting and other factors. The Burton Goldberg Group points out that good oils are usually expensive. It can sometimes take 1,000 pounds of a plant to produce one pound of oil. If you find a product line that has a uniform price for each of their oils, this is probably a bad sign, and may indicate oil adulteration. (See Appendix C for further reading and resources.)
Homeopathy relies on remedies that, according to the homeopathic “law of similars,” actually can cause symptoms in a healthy person.
Homeopathic remedies begin as dilutions of natural plant, mineral, or animal substances. Remedies are activated through “succussion” (shaking), and then rediluted and succussed again several times until, at very high levels of dilution, only an “imprint” of the substance is left; no actual molecules of the remedy source remain. The more diluted the remedy, the more powerful it can be. Studies have shown that homeopathic remedies release specific electromagnetic signals (Burton Goldberg Group 2002).
The remedies are often prepared in alcohol, which can be a problem to some with sensitivities. But you can put the drops in a small amount of warm/hot water and allow a few minutes for the alcohol to dissipate before drinking. This can be done also with the Bach Flower Remedies (listed next).
According to the Burton Goldberg Group, approximately 3,000 providers practice homeopathy in the United States compared with 5,000 in France, 6,000 in Germany, and 25,000 in India. The World Health Organization has urged the global use of homeopathy along with conventional medicine in attempt to meet world health care needs.
Samuel Hahnemann founded homeopathy in the late eighteenth century when the use of leeches, bloodletting, and cathartics was standard medical practice. His work was based on the principle that “like cures like,” a principle well known to Hippocrates, Paracelsus, and to Ayurvedic, as well as modern allopathic medicine.
For example, radiation can cause tumors, but it can heal tumors as well. Hahnemann tested homeopathic remedies for six years before writing about and practicing with them. He was greatly persecuted for differing from the medical establishment (some things never change), and at one point his work was publicly burned. His original testing, which founded classical homeopathy, was based on “type” or constitutional remedies. Therefore, homeopathy does not treat the disease per se, but the person who acquired the disease because of emotional, physical, or spiritual imbalances. This means that each temperament and type of person corresponds to one specific homeopathic remedy. Symptoms are seen as the body’s attempt to heal rather than as inconveniences to eliminate. In classical homeopathy, the task of the practitioner is to understand and assess a patient’s health and/or condition through use of many pieces of information about the person; and then to figure out the correct remedy, which will move the patient toward a better state of health.
Homeopathic remedies are used not only at the constitutional level, but the symptom level as well. For example, in recent years, some companies have made a variety of remedies that include newer allergens in addition to the classical substances used by Hahnemann. These include allergens that neutralize inhalant allergies to grass, pollen, and weeds; irritant substances, such as poison ivy and poison oak; and mixtures to help the body clear pesticides from its systems. It may be possible, either through homeopathic practitioners or self-study, for you to find some remedies that will help you. In chemical injury, the body has been so seriously altered, that it seems it would be very difficult to identify a type remedy. However, some people with MCS have reported receiving considerable help with this method. In Phase I of my study, 126 participants tried homeopathy: 20 percent reported great benefit, 22 percent moderate benefit, 26 percent mild benefit, 23 percent reported no benefit, and 9 percent reported adverse reactions. LeRoy, Davis, and Jason (1996) found that of 187 people who tried homeopathy in their study, 11.2 percent reported enormous help, 24.6 percent major help, 25.1 percent reported slight help, 16.0 percent reported no help, 12.8 percent reported the effect was unclear, and 10.2 percent reported harmful effects.
Nelson Bach, a renowned London physician, established the original thirty-eight Bach flower essences. In 1930, Bach gave up his medical practice to devote himself to finding safe remedies that would help people overcome illness and that could be used by anyone for self-healing. The Bach essences are all made from flowers, trees, and bushes, and are safe for use alone or with other methods. Imparting the “life force” of a plant to a water-based remedy creates the essences. These remedies then interact with body systems on vibrational energy levels, much like homeopathy. Flower essences are said to work on the emotional and soul levels, allowing the body to heal by restoring balance to the mind.
The Bach remedies are based on the most common negative states of mind. For example, there are five remedies that address five kinds of fear. The remedies can be used as type remedies when they correspond to the basic essence of a person’s personality, or on a symptom level for relief of a situational upset. The most well-known remedy is called Rescue Remedy. It is a combination of five remedies that restore emotional balance in times of great upset, fear, or trauma. It contains star-of-Bethlehem for shock, rock rose for terror and panic, impatiens for mental stress and tension, cherry plum for desperation, and clematis for the out-of-the-body feeling that may signal fainting or loss of consciousness. A large number of additional remedies have been developed by the Flower Essence Society, which is a “world-wide organization of professional health practitioners and interested laypersons who are devoted to the development of flower essence therapy” (Kaminski and Katz 1996, ix). Some people have more trust in the original thirty-eight remedies developed by Bach, while others are open to the later developments, which offer more options. (See Appendix C for further reading.)
Iridology is the science and study of the color of the iris to determine tissue weakness and the body’s predisposition to weakness. It is not used for diagnosis of any medical condition or disease. It is used only as an assessment for conditions and levels of health. According to C.E. Fusco, ND, MMS, PAC, CNHP, a qualified iridologist may identify MCS by linking certain signs noted in the eyes, e.g., the lymphatic rosary (personal communication).
The body is seen as reacting to toxic exposure (through diet or environmental assault) through the Toxic Stress Cycle. Even with a healthy diet, people can enter the toxic stress cycle. Assimilation is very important, and eating healthy foods will not be enough if you are deficient in the enzymes that carry the nutrients into the tissues, or if you lack the acid to break down proteins. In this cycle, toxics affect organs and systems in this order and manner:
Ø The digestive system is stressed
Ø The colon becomes toxic
Ø The liver and gall bladder are the first organs to be affected
Ø Next the lungs (also organs of elimination) are affected
Ø Circulation including kidneys is affected
Ø The heart and spleen follow
Ø The muscles and soft tissues of the body begin to show effects
Ø The brain and nerves are damaged
Ø The endocrine glands are the last to be affected
You can see that there is a variety of philosophies and techniques in holistic medicine. Some of these may offer avenues for careful exploration and perhaps you will find one that can help you bolster your health.