Thursday, October 28, 2010

The medicine wheel, the Great Spirit, and John Wesley

By Richard P. Holm M.D.

The American Indian medicine wheel is thought to have existed for more than 5,000 years and has been the basis for not only medicinal but also religious approaches to problems of living.

Although there are significant differences between regions and tribes, the medicine wheel reflects not only certain botanicals but also the circle of life and the Great Spirit surrounding all of us. East is spring, sunrise, childhood, physical, and yellow; south is summer, noon, adolescence, social, and red; west is autumn, sunset, adult, intellectual, and black; north is winter, night, elder, spiritual, and white. Up is sky and Father; down is earth and Mother; and center is fire.

The history of modern medicine in the Americas starts with the spiritual and herbal knowledge of the Indian. As the Europeans made their great western migration into this new land with Mediterranean medical concepts, there was a great mixing of ideas with the American Indian’s spiritual and herbal way. This resulted in the evolution of a uniquely American way of caring for the ill, especially helped by Indian knowledge of the medicinal nature of flora and fauna, and their respect for the spiritual element needed for healing. This in turn, influenced health care throughout the world and reflections of it remain with us today.

In 1735, when young John Wesley the famous English Methodist came to a new American colony at Savannah, Georgia, he was impressed by the rugged health and the medical practices of the American Indian. Later back in England he even composed a book, which described many Indian secrets to the art of healing.

Wesley wrote that Indian illnesses, during this era, were exceedingly few because of their continual exercise and lack of excessive alcohol. The great epidemics brought from Europe followed, however, and the physically rigorous life was no longer required. It resulted in decimation of about 80% of the Indian population with severe injury to their spiritual focus and culture.

We should learn and never forget the lessons from American Indian heritage: the proper use of medicinal ingredients, the value of a physically active life, and the spiritual power of the circle of life and the Great Spirit surrounding us all.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A lousy essay about cooties

By Richard P. Holm M.D.

Remember a cruel playground game about cooties or “you’re it?” Also called pediculosis capitis, cooties, or a head louse infestation truly is something from which to run. Head lice are small wingless insects that get into the hair and scalp. Except for the common cold, this infestation is the most common communicable condition of childhood, affecting something like 10-20 million people per year.

They do not jump or fly, or live on any other animal but humans, but these little blood-sucking invaders are extremely easy to spread by head-to-head contact. This happens especially in pre-school, kindergarten, grade-school spaces, where kids will be kids, and personal hygiene has nothing to do with it.

The diagnosis is confirmed by finding the louse, which is clear to tan and the size of a sesame seed, crawling around the ears and at the nape of the neck, or discovering tiny white to grey eggs, also called nits, attached to hair shafts.

It is nice to know that head lice generally do not crawl outside the scalp, and other than causing severe itching, the condition does not cause any other important problem or carry any illness.

This is in contrast to their cousin “body lice,” who reside below the scalp, after feeding set up in the creases of clothes, and can carry infectious diseases such as typhus, trench fever, and relapsing fever. Head lice are also different from bed bugs who are brown and larger, can live away from the human body, and can feed off warm-blooded mammals other than humans. It is a relief to know that bed bugs carry no disease, which is similar to head lice but unlike body lice.
The treatment of head lice involves attacking from several directions. Start with over-the-counter Permethrin lotion (Nix), or Pyrethrin (Rid, A200, or Pronto shampoo). These need repeating in one week to get the next egg hatch. (Suffocating with mayonnaise, herbals, olive oil, or butter does not work.) What is most effective and yet underutilized is to thoroughly comb wet hair every two days for two weeks with a special fine-tooth comb. Finally wash all bed linens and clothing that came in contact with those infested, drying in a hot dryer for 40 minutes. Bagging stuffed animals and clothing for two weeks also works.

So when your little one comes home with cooties, don’t panic and don’t run. Get out a fine-tooth comb, special lotion, and get to work.