Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)-will the western scientists ever get it?

ginger-rootThe problem is the dominant ideology from the West, a.k.a the U.S. medical establishment: enlightenment-tinged white supremacist capitalism. I started thinking about this as I read Alan Yu’s blog on NPR, which is an interesting article, mostly for what it exposes about the U.S. medical establishment. U.S. scientists have to get drugs approved through this incredibly bureaucractic process, which I’m sure has as one of it’s (not-so-unstated) goals to ensure that a drug is profitable and will not cause malpractice lawsuits. This is partly or more than, the reason for the American Medical Association’s war on herbalism which Barbara Griggs documents so well in Green Pharmacy The History and Evolution of Western Herbal Medicine.

This NPR article exposes to me that that thinking has to change. Another example is the controversy about ma huang and its extract, ephedra. Do you remember that controversy a few years ago? Because Western medicine makes a fetish out of chemistry, viola, ephedra was born. The problem is that ephedra is an extract from the whole herb called ma huang, which has been used for thousands of years by the Chinese, and the herb (which of course cannot be patented like an extract can, because humans don’t make herbs, at least not until GMO herbs which ludicrously Monsanto might one day try) has components, also called chemicals/minerals in Western parlance, which balance its effects out. In effect, ma huang has been used to regulate both high and low blood pressure, but alas, ephedra since it is an extract, cannot. Therefore, some folks got sick from taking ephedra. Western medicine (and green capitalists who have set up shop as so-called herbalists), whose original and some present-day practitioners were the original quacks in the war against thousands of years of herbalism, do not understand the difference between extracting a chemical and the whole herb. So, the resulting FDA ruling, is that herbs are dangerous, when it was actually the extraction process, and the lack of respect for the power of the whole herb to heal, that is the problema.

The white supremacist part, as exposed by the NPR article, on my reading, is the arrogance of U.S. scientists and the drug approval process to discard thousands of years of use of TCM with a simple “not rigorous enough” rejection letter. Which reminds me of another example, when doctors trained in other countries, particularly in and of the global south, migrate to escape often made-in-the U.S.A exported horrors to make a living and have to go through years of what is relatively speaking, sub-standard training and education in the U.S. to be certified to practice medicine here.

The U.S. drug approval system seems ridiculous when thinking about Tradtional Chinese Medicine, which has been around for thousands and thousands of years. Not that thousands and thousands of years of use alone are enough to justify its efficacy, apparently, nor do I make a fetish out of TCM. Read the article and tell me that we don’t have a ridiculous medical system based on enlightenment-biased scientific “knowledge”. And the U.S. standards “for what is safe” are so high and mighty (and which TCM apparently falls short of according to those Western scientists quoted there). That seems curious to me, given the thousands of deaths caused by that very advanced U.S. medical system, and the daily horror stories of it. This harm induced by doctors or other medical professionals is known as “iatrogenic” (which I first learned about in reading Ivan Illich), and according to Wikipedia (referencing a Journal of American Medicine article) in the U.S., 225,000 people a year die this way (

I am not saying that “natural” is always better than the chemical, both have their use according to the challenge or issue faced. What is “natural” any way? I’m reading this very interesting book edited by William Cronon (Uncommon Ground Rethinking the Human Place in Nature), where he, in the introduction, and Candace Slater in her chapter called “Reinventing Eden: Western Culture as a Recovery Narrative” critique how we are always trying to treat nature as trying to get back to the Garden of Eden, when nature has never been that way. So, it would be useful, for us to do away with that safety-value obsession and be more realistic environmentalists, grounded in our lived lives in order to quit destroying nature and ourselves, because of course, we are part of nature, que no? And work for environmental justice in our nature which we embody and surrounds/is us, and not just in some far away national parks (which also are stolen Indian land, de todos modos).

Returning to the NPR article, my larger point is that Western medicine, while it is certainly useful in dealing with crises, is not the only useful system people have come up with. I have read in various sources that 80% of the world relies on herbs to take care of their health, and that yes, preventive care is useful. I am not setting up a dichotomy that Western medicine is bad, and that herbal medicine is good, by any means, but that why, if the former is so useful in every instance does it have to work to denigrate and destroy all other forms of life-sustaining knowledge about how to care for oneself?

And do you know about recetas caseras/home recipies? I love learning together with folks about them! I’m doing a workshop with my dear friend Lisa with mothers at her son’s school this week!

I know things are changing – valuing prevention, nutrition, medical marijuana, herbs are being grudgingly accepted by Western medicine, but it seems that the arrogant attitudes by some Western scientists, as they are codified largely still in our knowledge, acceptance and practices by our institutions (and seep into our heads, especially when we are facing health challenges), have a long way to go to change. En el mundo caben muchos mundos.

As I think of friends who are dealing with cancer, as we all fight to go beyond fear to heal/care for ourselves and our world.


Even more Plantain Lavender Salve/Aun hay más pomada de llantén con lavanda

ImageI just went through the great experience of making some more salve, in sweet almond oil. The preparation with sage is so important, to clear out the containers and to smoke the whole process!  Plantain is such a great herb, what more can I say about it?  It so great for the skin, if you have rashes or other skin eruptions, bites or venom you need to draw out.  It is an herb that lives pretty much wherever there is grass, in parks, along roads, on lawns.  Like most herbs, it is considered a weed, since it pops up in unplanned ways in perfectly manicured lawns.  It is striking – broad or more narrow leafed with symmetrical lines the length of it, it has a stalk with flowers on it that don’t look all that flowery.  

Acabo de tener la experiencia chevere de hacer otra pomada, esta vez en aceite de almendra dulce. La preparación con salvia es bien importante, para limpiar los frascos y humar a todo la experiencia!  Llaten esa si es una hierba buenísima, que más les cuento sobre ella?  Es buenísima para la piel, si tienes problemas de la piel, roces, infecciones, piques o veneno en ella que tienes que sacar.  Es una hierba que vive en toda parte donde hay pasto, en parques, al lado de las vias, en los prados de pasto.

See my drawing of it above.   I have a good book on drawing herbs, which is a long herbalist tradition for plant identification, but it is also a great way to get to know their features and to design them.  I was going to say, replicate, but it is not so much so since paper is one dimensional, but to give an idea of their signification, and to be able to distinguish them.  

Vea mi dibujo de ella ahi arriba. Tengo un libro bueno que trata con el dibujo de las hierbas, algo que tienen una tradición larga en herbología para identificar a las plantas, y además es un modo buenísimo para conocerlas y dibujarlas. Hiba a decir que reproducirlas, pero asi no es, dado que el papel es de una dimensión, pero mejor para dar una idea de su significado, y para distinguirlas.

I’m always amazed at the alchemy which happens, every time!, when I make herbal medicine, at the point where I add in the grated beeswax or really as it transforms while I serve the role of partera, because I don’t really do the hard work.  

And I also appreciate the power of ginger to clear up pesky coughs and colds, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sure is great!  

Siempre me asombro con la alquimia que ocurre, siempre!, cuando hago medicina de hierbas, al momento cuando le agrego la cera de abejas, o de verdad, cuando se transforma mientras yo juego el papel de partera, porque realmente yo no hago el trabajo difícil.

Y además aprecio el poder del jenjibre, para quitar la toz y la gripa que dura, Medicina Tradicional China si que es buena!

Oh, and a big bag of rice really works well with which to immerse your keyboard that you accidently spilled a glass of water on, as you are finishing your last paper for the semester, and your reach for your headphones to listen to and get at that so appropriate musical reference, not realizing that the cord is wrapped around the glass, uh oh .  Immerse the keyboard completely in the rice, for about 24 or more hours, and you will have a brand spanking new working keyboard.  The power of food!  And then compost the rice!

O, y una bolsa grande de arroz es muy eficaz para meter tu teclado al cual por ser burro le deramaste un vacito de ago, al punto que acababas tu ultimo trabajo del semestre, cuando alcanzas a tus audifonos para escuchar esa canción clave como ejemplo, sin darte cuenta que la cuerda esta agarada del vaso, uups. Meta al teclado completamente en el arroz, por 24 horas o más, y saldra un teclado nuevo y cheverísimo. El poder de la comida! Y después puedes usar el arroz como abono!


Improvised Baño Maria, sounds much better than double boiler, que no?  



Coffee filters work well as strainers!ImageImage


I finally added the labels to the remnants of the last batch!/Por fin le puse la etiqueta a la ultima! Image



The moment when liquid become solid.  

 Coolness, literally!/El momento que cuajo


Um, smells smoky, because of the sage!

Um, smells smoky, because of the sage!

Here is the video and song that I temporarily sacrificed my keyboard for, isn’t it great/Este es el video y la canción por cual sacrifique my teclada, chevere vivir una vida autochtona/living an authocthonous life!
Bienvenidos by Systema Solar

Every little step, no more antibiotic laced meat?

Loving Life, and the end of the semester!

It is amazing how a break from school and work frees the mind and the heart. Here are some pictures to share –

Lisa and I at the NY Botanical Garden for the Holiday Train Show, the trains reminded me of my Mami’s love for them, and the buildings are made out of natural materials, mostly wood. Look at Lisa looking up to da skies! We also hung out together on Christmas Eve, look at Carlos the keyboardist and Kendell the blur, get’s that from his Mama, too fast for da camera.

Ofelia and Diego, my kitties, accompanying me in the waining days of the semester, they are sweet company!

A beautiful rose that a prisoner in New Mexico drew, sent to me by my dear friend Alicia, through her friend Maura who works with prisoners. Beauty in the midst of oppression. Surely we can figure out a better system to treat other human beings and have community accountability.

And lastly, pictures of the NYC blizzard last night/this morning. Looks like new Mayor Bill DeBlasio did a better job than that blizzard Bloomberg messed up. Having the first Democratic mayor in 20 years, let’s see how they do and we push them to end so many years of catering exclusively to the rich, and let’s see what this new definition of progressive means. Always hoping and pushing on the streets! Also thinking of all the homeless folks the last 20 years have produced, and grateful for the sunshine today.

Here’s to a more hopeful and loving year!













IMG_20140103_010646Loving Life, and the end of the semester!

Food/Comida! Another Ethnobotany #6 Update!





I am one paper away from completing my third semester in doctoral school, and tons of final exams to grade also for my dear students. These fotos have to do with the former – as some one who is into ethnobotany, it is good that I like food, through I still haven’t found that creme brule tree! One of my lovely students, during beginning-of-the-semester introductions said, “And I like food, as you can tell!” It was a wonderful comment for embracing her sweet chubby self! It really inspired me, and I have to say, it is also true for me.

Me falta un trabajo para terminar este 3rcer semestre del doctorado, y además, tengo toneladas de examenes finales para marcar para mis querides (incluso todos los generos!) estudiantes. Estas fotos tienen que ver con lo primer dicho, bueno que como persona interesada en la etnobotaníca, me gusta la comida, aunque hasta ahora, no encuentro ese arbol del flan! Una de mis queridas estudiantes, mientras nos introduciamos, dijo, “Y me gusta la comida, como se nota!” Que lindo comentario para abrasarze, esa gordita! Me inspiro, y les digo, ese comentario también me cabe.

So, my taken classes gave me the great opportunity to begin to integrate my research about ethnobotany in the midst of the fight back against the globalization of money. For my Black Pacific class, we got to read Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic, and we asked ourselves if there is a Black Pacific. I argued that there is by looking at Afro and Indigenous cultures and communities in Colombia, and how they form hybrid ethnobotanies and music. Carney and Rosomoff’s book was very helpful for me in comprehending the resilient ethnobotanical skills enslaved Africans held on to and developed further with their Indigenous kin in the Americas and the Caribbean, within so much trauma and brutality. I was also able to focus on the Paro Agrario Campesino in Colombia for my globalization class and argue that these on-going mobilizations powerfully show the leadership of rural communities in fighting back against the theft and stupidities of free trade agreements. And now, I am writing a paper for my space, place and experience class on sustainability, not sustainable development issues. I think this is a really important distinction.

Las clases que tome me han dado la oportunidad regía de comenzar a integrar mis investigaciones sobre la etnobotaníca en medio de la lucha contra la globalización de la plata. Para mi clase del Pacifíco Negro, leimos el libro de Paul Gilroy, El Atlantico Negro, y nos preguntamos si existe el Pacifíco Negro. Yo dije que si, en enfocarnos en culturas y comunidades Afro e Indígenas en Colombia, y en como forman etnobotanícas y musica hibridas. El libro de Carney y Rosomoff me ayudo mucho en comprender las habilidades etnobotanícas resaltantes que mantuvieron Africanes esclavizades i expandieron con sus cuates Indígenas en las Americas y en el Caribe, en medio de tanta trauma y brutalidad. Además me enfoque en el Paro Agrario Campesino en Colombia para mi clase de globalización y abogue que estas actuales mobilizaciones muestran fuertemente el liderazgo de comunidades rurales quienes luchan contra el despojo y las estupideses de los tratados de libre comercio. Y ahora mismo, estoy escribiendo un trabajo con respeto a asuntos sostenibles, no de desarrollo sostenible, distinción importante, para my clase de espacio, hogar y experiencia

This semester I had time make a delish soup, which is pictured – kale, roasted (in coconut oil) almonds (blended together) cooked with pasta, with a cilantro garnish. I think I put rosemary or thyme, both good herbs, but I don’t really remember which I put in. I can understand why vegans love almond paste, and cashews and other nuts, as tasty ingredients for their culinary delights. I also made a small batch of plantain salve in coconut oil, and I will make a larger batch in sweet almond oil soon.

Además, este semestre, hice una sopa rica, la cual tienen la foto – col, almendras azadas en aceite de coco (mezcladas en la licuadora) cocinadas con fideos, con adorno de cilantro. Creo que le puse romero o tomillo, ambas hierbas buenas, no recuerdo cual le meti. Entiendo bien porque los vegetarianos estrictos (asi se traduce, jaja) les gusta tanto la pasta de almendras, o de anacardo, u otras nueces, como ingredients ricos para sus riquezas culinarias. Además hice una porción pequeña de pomada de llantén en aceite de coco, y haré una más grande en aceite de almendras dulces prontico.

La estrella esta formada de semillas de pera, cortada de manera transversal, que maravilla lo natural, que no! The star is formed by pear seeds, cut cross-sectionally, ain’t nature wonderful and real purdy!

A dormir/to sleep!

Great workshop with Creating a NeuroDiverse Community/Taller Rico con Creando Comunidad Neurodiversa


I participated in some really good few hours of conversation, sharing and learning together with compas of the Creating Neurodiverse Community in a workshop we did together on Friday.  We shared healthy food, about our lives, our cultures, how we see diverse abilities, how we see different ways of learning and of expressing ourselves.  We talked about how different abilities are dissed, in this particular case, how human beings with autism are because society has created this unreal fantasy called norms of how and who we should all act like and be.  We talked about nutrition, home remedies, chemicals, and herbs that are good to help our bodies strengthen ourselves and deal with stress, and herbs that help with the challenges of autism.

It was a great experience and I was really honored to be there with the 9 compas who participated.  I look forward to continuing our conversations on how we can continue to improve our health, continue to love and treat each other well, and continue to learn & work together with la Madre Tierra to make all of our lives better!  

Participe en unas horas bien buenas de conversaciones, compartimiento y aprendizaje juntas con compas  de la Creando Comunidad Neurodiversa en un taller que logramos juntas el viernes.  Compartimos comida saludable, sobre nuestras vidas, nuestras culturas, como vemos las habilidades diversas, como vemos diferentes modos de aprender y de expresarnos.  Hablamos como capacidades diferentes son vistas como dis, en el caso particular que tratamos de como seres humanos con el autismo y como la sociedad crea una fantasía poco conectada a la realidad por medio de las normas al respeto a como debemos portarnos y ser.  Hablamos de la nutrición, de remedios caseros, de las quimicas, y hierbas que fortalecen nuestros cuerpos y ayudan manejar la anciedad, y cuales ayudan enfrentar los retos del autismo.

Fue una experiencia regia y me sentí muy agradecido de estar ahi con l@s 9 compas quienes participaron.  Me entusiasmo seguir con las conversaciones de como podemos seguir respaldando nuestra salud, seguir queriendonos y tratandonos bien, y seguir aprendiendo y trabajando juntas y con la Madre Tierra para mejor todas nuestras vidas!  

El Paro Agrario en Colombia/Agrarian Workers Bring Colombia to a Standstill

Trailer about the documentary 9.70, the law which was a result of the U.S.-Colombia “free” trade agreement. REVOKED por el PARO!

One of the most incredible country-wide work stoppages goes on today and has been occurring in Colombia for the last few months, but U.S. and englich-language media have censored it almost completely.  Why?  Because rural communities with others following their lead in Colombia rose up in defense of their food and lands and their lives against rapacious “free” trade capitalism with the U.S.  We know how that worked out for Mexico in the early 1990s. The Zapatistas made clear the brutality of global capitalism run by multinational corporations and backed by the Mexicangringo military! Uno de los más increibles paros involucrando a todo un país sigue ocurriendo en Colombia actualmente y durante los últimos meses, pero los medios gringos y los de ingles parlante no lo mencionan, casí ninguno. Porque? Pues, se alzaron las comunidades rurales y otras siguiendolas en Colombia en defensa de la comida, sus tierras y sus vidas en contra del rabioso tratado de “libre” comercio con los EEUU. Ya sabemos como eso le resulto a México en los años 90, no? Los Zapatistas desenmascarraron la brutalidad del capitalismo global dirigido por las corporaciones multinacionales y respaldado por el ejercito Mexícanogringo!

One of the most incredible scenes that brings home the reality of “free” trade with the U.S. is in this movie called “970″, it is on Youtube, under that name. The movie exposes the details of an agreement and a law that the Colombian government made with the U.S. government to flood Colombia with U.S. agribizness products, aka food, and to literally destroy food, in this case rice, produced by the labor of Colombian compesin@s/es. It is heart-breaking and enraging to see bulldozers run by Colombian brothers destroying the rice. It is not just a nationalist issue, but one of international nutritional, land and labor justice! Uno de los escenarios más increibles que demuestra claramente la realidad del comercio “libre” con los EEUU nos viene de la película “970″, está en Youtube, bajo ese nombre. La película desenmáscara los detalles del acuerdo y la ley que el gobierno colombiano hizo con el gobierno de los EEUU para inundar a Colombia con productos agrícolos, o sea, comida, de las corporaciones agrícolas grandes gringas, y al tiempo, destruir la comida, en este caso arroz, producto del trabajo de campesin@s/es colombianos. Rompe el corazon y da rabia ver a esas maquinas niveladoras manejadas por hermanos del país destruyendo el arroz. No es asunto solamente nacionalista, pero uno de justicia internacionalista – alimentaria, de tierra y de trabajo !

The great news is that after a tremendous amount of repression by the sold-out to U.S. capital Colombian government, murders of various campesinos at the hands of the “public” forces, heavy handed repression of campesin@s defending food, their lands and their lives, the colombo/gringo government was forced to back down and suspend law 970! Lo mejor es que después de esfuerzos de represión tremenda por parte del gobierno colombiano vendido al capital gringo, asesinatos de varios campesinos a mano de las fuerzas “publicas”, respuestas de los verdugos contra l@s/es campesin@s defendiendo la comida, sus tierras y sus vidas, el gobierno colombo/gringo se tuvo que retirar, y suspender la ley 970!

There are many good articles in Spanish detailing this struggle, and a few in Englich, but I have to figure out how to do the link thing on here. Hay muchos articulos buenos en español articulando esta lucha, unos pocos en ingles, pero tengo que averigüar como poner los links aca.

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