Free medicine

When Jack’s life-long potassium deficiency disappeared, everyone, especially the doctor, was gob-smacked. His condition had required him to ingest mega-doses of the mineral all day long, or risk not being able to get out of bed. For twenty years, each new doctor had said, “We’ll get to the bottom of this medical mystery,” until he or she quietly dropped the subject.

We’d made a huge lifestyle change in the previous year, switching to a plant-based diet. The reversal of our dietary habits followed my reading of T. Colin Campbell’s, The China Study, which convinced me a link exists between animal protein and cancer.

Then came my breast cancer diagnosis. When I’d had enough of feeling like a hapless victim, the fighter in me decided to take control with diet and exercise. I vowed to add anything to my diet that offered the promise of prophylactic protection from another invasion. I devoured the available literature.

Jack planted two square-foot gardens, and filled them with greens, tomatoes and herbs. We began eating a wide range of veggies every day, in addition to seeds, beans and grains.

We stuffed ourselves with healthy food and got the bodies we’d always wished we had. Well, I did. Jack doesn’t care as much about his figure as he does about his knees, which don’t bother him now that he’s lost twenty pounds. We also felt better.

As I read about the medicinal properties of herbs like turmeric, which has been found effective in fighting a myriad of diseases, and especially cancer, I began incorporating them into our diet.

Making food your medicine when possible has big advantages: there are never any horrific side-effects; and plants and herbs are cheap, and even free, if you have a garden, like we do. Free medicine. What a concept.

I wanted to really learn about the medicinal plants growing everywhere around us here in Costa Rica, and mentioned this desire to my friend, Patsy. “I’ve decided to become an expert on herbal medicine,” I said, always humble and self-effacing.
“I’m taking a weekend course in the medicinal plants of Costa Rica,” she said.

And so, four of us traveled to the New Dawn Center, about a five-hour drive from Puriscal. We had all come to believe it’s possible to maintain our health and eliminate a lot of pain, suffering, and useless trips to doctors through diet.

The man who built the New Dawn Center, with his wife, thirty-some years ago, is Ed Bernhardt, ND and botanist. Ed refers to himself as a Phytotherapist: someone who uses plants or extracts of plants as medicine.

The Center sits next to a stream at the end of a long, narrow property exploding with medicinal trees, bushes and plants. During the weekend, Ed led us around the premises, introducing us to a staggering number of familiar plants with healing properties.

He taught us to make extracts, tinctures, salves, infusions, decoctions and concoctions, and how to use them. Ed is a believer in the preventative use of herbs and plants, and so am I. Look for more about medicinal plants in future blogs.

By the way, when we got our annual skin cancer check up in October, the doctor couldn’t find a thing to zap, for the first time in four years. He said, “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up.” You bet we will.

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About Myra

I'm retired in Costa Rica, having lived in Philly, State College, Salem Mass, and Kawagoe Japan. You might call me a career gypsy, but my last and best job was teaching English to some of the best and brightest kids in Philly. I'm new to blogging and websites, and will probably make all the mistakes there are, but now I'm sharing my writing. I moved to Costa Rica in June of 2009 with my husband Jack, my dog Buddha, and Jack's two cats, Hobbes and Noir.
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2 Responses to Free medicine

  1. Lynn says:

    I can’t wait to read more about this, Myra! Lots of “bush medicine” still used in the Caribbean as well. UVI established a center to research the traditional meds:
    Some of the links on the left might be of interest to you!

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