Breech Presentation. As an expectant mother, this is something you don't want to hear, and often in today's medical society, this means an automatic Cesarean Delivery. Other than telling you to do head stands in the pool, and offering External Cephalic Version (ECV), there are not many options that Western Medicine can offer to avoid delivery via cesarean.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has used Moxibustion for the correction of fetal position for thousands of years. It has been written about in several ancient medical texts and researched in China and Europe.
Moxibustion is the burning of an herb call Mugwort, or Moxa. For breech presentation, moxa is burned close to but not touching the pinkie toe at a point called UB 67. The moxa is held to the point for approximately 15 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a reddening of the area. Treatments are then repeated twice daily for 5 days, unless there is significant fetal movement, then treatments should stop and the patients should have the position of the baby checked. If after 5 days of treatments there is no change, there should be a break in treatments for 3 days, and the mother should have the fetal position double checked. Then treatments can begin again for up to another 5 days. The first treatment is often done in the office or at the patient's home to demonstrate proper technique, while subsequent treatments are done in the home with the help of a partner. If after 10 days of treatments there is no position change, it is time to consider other options. Life in the womb can be a mystery, and often there are unforeseen circumstances than inhibit a baby from moving into the correct position, these include a short umbilical cord, uterine structure, or just a good old stubborn child (It won't be the last time they test you).
How Does It Work?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the technique warms, tonifies and invigorates the uterus and the fetus create fetal movement and a descending effect. In Western Medicine the application of moxa works in two ways.
The most optimal time to administer Moxibustion is between 32-36 weeks, with the most recognized success being between 34-36 weeks, but there can still be success before 38 weeks. (Between 32-34 weeks there is still a great chance that the baby will turn on its own, without additional stimulation) But, the larger the fetus is the more difficult it becomes to stimulate significant movement, so the sooner the better. Currently, studies in China and Europe hold that, when used correctly, moxibustion is 80-90% effective if administered at 34-36 weeks, and 70% effective if administered between 36-37 weeks, and 50% effective if administered 37-38 weeks. (Cardini and Huang 1998, Italy)
Although this technique is safe, and does not carry any additional risks of complications, there is always a natural risk when a baby moves in the womb, including cord entanglement and cord knots. The use of Moxibustion does not increase the likelihood of these occurring. However, there are some situation where the use of Moxibustion is not applicable.
In conclusion, Moxibustion is a safe and effective treatment, that should be used as a first measure. This is one time that the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine as the "last resort" doesn't do the situation any justice. The best plan is to receive treatments as soon as a breech presentation is diagnosed by your primary care provider.
Echinacea - Purple Coneflower
Echinacea, or Purple Coneflower, is a member of the daisy family. It is native to North American prairies and open woodlands. There are nine species within the genus Echinacea. The most commonly used for medicinal preparations are E. purpurea, E. augustifolia, and E. pallida. All varieties are perennial and easy to grow, making them a good beginning for someone starting a medicinal garden. In my opinion, no medicinal garden is complete without some of these beauties.
E. purpurea or Eastern Purple Coneflower, is the most popular as a cultivar. It is shrubbier in appearance and will grow up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide. This variety does not have taproots, like most other species.
E. augustifolia or Narrow Leaved Purple Coneflower or Blacksamson Echinacea is a bit more spindly than the E. purpurea, and will only grow 1-2 feet tall.
E. pallida or Pale Purple Coneflower, is similar in structure and appearance to E. augustifolia, but it grows slightly taller, 2-3 feet tall. Like the E. augustifolia, they grow in long stemmed clumps, making them good for cutting.
It is better to grow seedling indoor and transplant once they are about a foot tall. Seedlings make a good meal for grasshoppers and slugs, their only real predators. They also have a hard time competing with weeds, and do not do well with mulch, as it holds too much water. Echinacea attracts pollinators such as bees, butterflies and if the cones are left during the winter, they will attract birds.
Well known for its anti-microbial properties, it has become the most recognized medicinal herb. Which, unfortunately, because of its demand on the herbal market, it has been over harvested in many areas of the country. It is so easy to grow, that every medicinal garden should have Echinacea. (Did I already say that?)
All parts of the plant are used, although each has a slightly different chemical composition. The flowers and stems are the most commonly used medicinally, which are higher in polysaccharides that stimulate the immune system.
There is debate over which compounds within Echinacea are the most beneficial, but it is most likely a synergistic relationship between them all that gives Echinacea its medicinal qualities. (which is the case with most herbal medicines)
It is also good to note that wild collected herbal supplements may have been mis-identified. There is another plant, Parthenium integerfoium, which looks the same, but has no medicinal value. Another good reason to grow your own.
Native Americans throughout North America have a long history with Echinacea. Although we think of it as preventing the common cold, the Native Americans used it primarily to treat the symptoms, like sore throat, headache, cough, and fever, and to shorten the duration of the cold.
Treatment of the common cold is definitely the most common use for Echinacea. The key is to begin taking the herb as soon as you feel your symptoms (cough, runny nose, sore throat) coming on. Like many other herbal cold treatment, the herbs active ingredients need a strong functioning immune system to work. Once you are days into a cold, it may be too late to stimulate and strengthen the weakened immune system. It is best taken as a tea, several times a day, until symptoms are gone. How does it work?
Antimicrobial (Bacteria, Viral, and Fungi)
As an antimicrobial that can affect bacteria, viruses, and fungi, echinacea can be used for a variety of infections including: respiratory, urinary, candida, herpes, skin infections, and preventing infections in wounds. The Native Americans wound grind the roots and mix into a paste with water and apply it to skin infections and wounds.
Echinacea was traditionally used by the Native Americans to relieve the swelling and inflammation associated with injury, specifically insect and animal bites. Not planning on playing with any snakes, well it can also be used to reduce the inflammation of arthritis, muscle pain, acute burns, and acute tendon injury (sprains)
Dosage and Preparations
There are several ways that you can take your beautiful Echinacea bounty and use it or store it. You can use it fresh, dry it, or make tinctures. Because so many parts of the plant are medicinal, and making a tea (which you can out of just the leaves and flowers) out of the whole plant can be a little difficult, I like to make tinctures.
The flowers can be harvested during their bloom and hung upside down to dry. You can then vacuum seal them and store them in the freezer until you need them. Remember that the active ingredients in the leaves and flowers if fragile and once picked they need to be dried in a dark room (sunlight will destroy them), and then after packaging, be kept in a dark, dry place.
The roots are collects in the fall, after the growing season, usually after the first frost. Dry them, also, in a dark and well ventilated room.(remember on the E. augustifolia, and E. pallida have tuber roots.) Don't be in a hurry, they normally take a couple of days to dry (If you are impatient, you can cut them and dry them in a dehydrator.) Once dry, (and make sure they are fully dry, or they will rot in the bags), you can vacuum seal them, or seal them in dark bags and store in a dry place. If you have air tight class jars, those will also work if stored in a dark place.
For the best potency you should wait until the plant is 3 years old before harvesting the roots.
The Fun Part (Making Medicine)
This is probably the most practical for the majority of gardeners. You cut and dry the flowers and leaves, and when you want you add them back to some warm water, and enjoy. The only downside to tea is that they tend to have the least amount of medicinal properties, although they do have some. Teas from the flowers and leaves are pleasant and mild in flavor.
Decoctions are a concentrated tea (if you have ever taken bulk herbs, this is the way you have made them). They are most often made with the root of the Echinacea plant. They are very strong in taste, and are often used as a medicine not as an enjoyable beverage. "A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down." Just like the fun saying, a little bit of raw honey may make the drink a little more bearable for those you just can't take the herbal taste.
Buying tinctures in the stores, if you are capable of making them on your own, is a waste of money. They are often very expensive, and the quality can sometimes be questionable. I prefer to make my own when I can. The use of alcohol not only preserves the medicinal qualities, but extracts and concentrated it. A Tincture will also keep its medical effectiveness longer than a dried herb will. Tinctures are easier to store and transport, and can be packed about in emergency kits. Alcohol based tinctures can have a shelf life of 3 years.
Topical ointments are easy to make and use, if you have already made a tincture.
Contraindications and Precautions
When taken correctly Echinacea is a safe herb, but there are some conditions and times when it is not appropriate.
Echinacea and Pregnancy
Echinacea is considered safe to take during pregnancy, if taken correctly. To date, the only major study done to test the safety of Echinacea for pregnant women was published in a 2000 issue of "Archives of Internal Medicine." This study examined the effects of Echinacea on 206 pregnant women, including 112 who took the herb during the first trimester. Women taking the herb did not have an increased risk of having a miscarriage or fetuses with defects as compared to women who did not take Echinacea.
I am often asked questions about what a person can take at home to alleviate specific ailments. This is a great question, and one that I love to answer. Kitchen medicine is one of my favorite topics, and those who have seen me regularly may know that I often tell you to take herbs that you can buy at the grocery store. Why would you buy expensive pills (even herbal supplements) when you can get the same or better remedies at home. This is the first of many to come that will highlight some of my favorite kitchen medicines.
We all (well, most of us) enjoy eating and cooking with garlic, or alum, on a regular basis. (I personally feel you can never have too much garlic in a meal) Did you know that garlic can be used to fight infections, among other things?
One of the active ingredient of garlic is Allicin. To get allicin you must take fresh garlic and SMASH IT, CHOP IT, MINCE IT, PUREE IT, whatever to break it apart. This creates an enzymatic reaction between the precursor Alliin and the enzyme Alliinase. It is this compound that gives garlic is sharp smell and taste, and what leaves you smell, well garlicky when you eat large amounts.
Allicin is VERY FRAGILE and will break down with processing and heat, so cooked and dried garlic have very low potency.
World's Oldest Antibiotic
Thats right, antibiotic. For thousands of years, several different cultures, from the Chinese to the Romans, knew that garlic was a powerful anti-microbial, killing viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi. In this way it can be used topically for wounds, ringworm, and athlete's foot. As a rinse to treat mouth sores, gingivitis, and chronic tooth decay. And internally to treat and prevent roundworm, ulcers, urinary tract infection, and vaginitis. The great thing about using garlic as an antibiotic, is that it does not kill off the good bacteria in the body. I have seen garlic and probiotic supplements (in the refrigerated section of health stores, or pharmacies) that I just love. (remember that they NEED to be refrigerated or they rapidly lose allicin.
Got a cold? Mayo clinic is currently doing a study to determine garlics effectiveness on combatting the common cold. As of now, the results are very promising, showing that those consuming raw garlic during cold and flu season had fewer, and less severe symptoms.
Promotes Cholesterol Balance
Garlic was once hailed as this amazing heart health miracle. While it does have great heart health benefits, It was a little hyped up (as have many other great food medicines, like Acai). Don't get me wrong, I love garlic and it is wonderful for you heart, but I dislike when huge health claims are applied to a single product. It often come out that this product wasn't quite as great as we made it out to be, when to product talk about is still a very important, good for you medicine.
What garlic does is block the excessive production of LDL cholesterol by the Liver. What this means is that if there IS an excessive production of LDL, garlic can balance it out. But, it should be noted that garlic intake alone will cure the cause of the excessive LDL production. For those of you who are not 100% on the understanding of the Liver and LDL/HDL and what they do exactly....here is a crash course....deep breath....and....go...When the inner lining of the blood vessels is damaged by some toxic, foreign substance, such as free radicals or chemicals, this lining sends an SOS to the Liver. The Liver then sends in the paramedics (LDL Cholesterol) to mend to damage, so YES while they are working to repair the damage done they accumulate in that location which can lead to a blockage in the blood vessel. When the injury is healed, they return home to the Liver as HDL Cholesterol. So, really there is no good or bad cholesterol, just an imbalance in the levels due to an underlying cause. This is why garlic will not against nature and lower LDL level when they are not out of balance.
Garlic can also benefit LDL cholesterol when the presence of free radicals oxidizes the LDL cholesterol. This causes the LDL cholesterol to act out of their natural and attack the lining of the blood vessel causing instead of healing damage. Garlic contains several antioxidants which help to prevent and stop cholesterol oxidation.
You may be asking yourself right now, "These free radical things sound horrible, but what exactly are they?" A Free radical is a molecule that has lost an electron. How do they lose these electrons you ask. Rarely do normal molecules split in this way leaving a loose electron, when it is weakened this may happen. Free radicals are very unstable and are on the look out for other stable molecules that they can steal an electron from. This new hijacked molecule now becomes a free radical. The body makes SOME free radicals naturally as an immune response to kill bacteria and viruses. HOWEVER, when environmental factors such as pollution, pesticides, fertilizers, cigarette smoke, and other chemicals enter the body they can cause an excess of free radicals in the body. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by giving up an electron to the rouge molecule.
Reducing Blood Pressure
Garlic lowers blood pressure by dilating blood vessels, especially those of capillaries (the smallest blood vessels) The dilation of the blood vessels lets the blood flow more smoothly. Garlic also reduces the rate at which platelets stick together. The combination of these two functions allows for easier pumping of the heart, lower blood pressure, and in turn less stress on the heart.
Dosage and Use
To achieve the medicinal properties of garlic, it must be used fresh. Cooking and processing loses potency. If you are buying a garlic supplement the bottle should read 6,000 mcg of Allicin potential. Note that these do not contain actual allicin, but the precursor that must be processed and broken down in the body. Allicin is very fragile and is not shelf stable. This is why I prefer to get it from fresh garlic!
For topical applications crush one clove of garlic and mix with 1/3 cup of water. Use this within 3 hours, or its potency will begin to diminish (the allicin is super unstable remember). You can up this on a bandage and put directly on a cut to prevent infection, or increase dosage to make a foot soak for athletes foot. You can also put drops into the ear to help fight ear infections, or gargle to prevent and treat gingivitis.
Contraindications and Precautions
YES, even garlic has some contraindications. I have heard people say that kitchen medicine doesn't have side effects, or contraindications (I've even heard people say this about herbs in general, man are they misled). Even things they we consume as food can have precautions.
Fats are not only broken down into Saturated, Polyunsatured, and Monounsaturated, but also by the length of their fatty acid chain (this is a big consideration when looking at fats, some polyunsaturated fats can be beneficial and others harmful).
The "Dreaded" Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are general solid at room temperature. They are classified as saturated when all the available carbon bonds are filled with hydrogen atoms. (who didn't take chemistry). They are considered hightly stable, and do not spoil (go rancid) quickly, making them ideal for high temperature cooking. Found mostly in animal fats and tropical oils, your body will also make them, when their is not enough present for proper organ function, from carbohydrates.
SATURATED FATS DO NOT CAUSE HEART DISEASE....overconsumption of sugar, hydrogenated fats, and the improper use/cooking fats.
An analysis of the fat content of clogged arteries breaks down like this...
26% saturated fats
The remaining 74% is mostly polyunsaturated fats.
Short Chain Fatty Acids
Short Chained Fatty Acids are always saturated. These are carbon chains of 4 or 6. 4-Carbon atoms are found primarily in butter fat from cows, while 6-Carbon chains are found mostly in butter fat from goats. Both forms have antimicrobial properties (virus, yeast, bacterial protection). They are directly absorbed for quick energy without digestion from bile and are less likely to cause weight gain than vegetable oils because of this. (See, their not all bad)
Medium Chain Fatty Acids
These have 8-12 carbon atoms, and are found mostly in tropical oils, coconut oil and some butterfat. Like the short chain, these too have antimicrobial properties, and are absorbed quickly.
Long Chain Fatty Acids
This category overlaps and can be found Saturated, Polyunsatured and Monounsaturated. They have 14-18 carbon atoms.
Steric Acid: 18 Carbon saturated fat found mainly in beef and mutton.
Why Saturated Fats ARE GOOD for You
Monounsaturated Fats and the Mysterious Omega 7
Monounsaturated fats contain a single double bond and therefore lack two hydrogen atoms and are "kinked". Your body can make Monounsaturated fats from Saturated fats. Because they contain a kink, they do not pack together nicely and are not solid at room temperature, but will turn solid in the refriderator. Like Saturated fats, however, they are quite stable and do well when used in cooking. These fats are found mostly in olive oil, and in the oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados. (The exception is olive oil, this is not a good cooking oil...I already foresee another post on cooking oils.)
Long Chain Fatty Acids
Palmitoleic Acid (Omega 7): 16-Carbon chain Monounsaturated fat that is almost exclusively found in Liver .It is antimicrobial. . It can be found in Sea Buckthorn, Macadamia Nuts, and Algae as well. It is created from Palmitic Acid (a saturated fat). It is a key component in the formation of skin, hair and nails, and help prevent premature aging. (this is such a fascinating and little known fat, that I will have to spend a new post just discussing its benefits.)
Oleic Acid (Omega 9): 18-Carbon chain Monounsaturated fat found as the primary constituent of Olive Oil, and the highest known source is the Acai Berry.
Polyunsaturated fats have 2 or more double bonds and therefore lack 4 or more hydrogen atoms. The two most commonly found are double unsaturated Linoleic Acid with 2 double bonds and triple unsaturated Linolenic Acid with 3 double bonds. (Say those 3 times fast!) Your body cannot make these two fats and so they are considered essential fatty acids (EFA's). These fats remain liquid even when refrigerated. These oils are highly reactive and will go rancid very quickly, particularly Linolenic Acid. They should never be used in cooking or heated. (Seriously Don't Cook With These)
Long Chain Fatty Acids
There should be a balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids in the diet. An excess of Omega 6 will cause degerative heart disease, and so must be balanced in a ratio of 3:1 Omega 3:Omega 6. (FYI: Commercially raised meat has a much higher percentage of Omega 6 to Omega 3. Grass fed, and wild game are balanced.) Omega 6's are general inflammatory in nature and, yes, we do need them. They cause beneficial inflammatory responses that help us fight pathogens, and heal. But when they are not in check with a proper balance of Omega 3's they can can excessive inflammatory reactions in the body.
Linoleic Acid (Omega 6): 18 Carbon Chain fat that is found in vegetable oils Gamma Linolenic Acid (Omega 6): 18 Carbon Chain found in Evening Primrose Oil or converted from Linoleic Acid
Alpha Linolenic Acid (Omega 3): 18 Carbon Chain fat found in Flax Seeds. This form of Omega 3 must be converted into usable forms
Very Long Chain Fatty Acids
These fats have 20-24 Carbon atoms and tend to be highly polyunsaturated with up to 6 double bonds. Some people are able to make these fats from the EFA's, but other, especially those whose ancestories ate a lot of fish, lack the enzymes to produce them. These people must obtain the elongated fatty acids from animal foods alone, like organ meat, eggs, butter, and fish.
Dihomo-Gama-Linolenic Acid (DGLA): You don't hear a whole heck of a lot on this fat, BUT it is nonetheless important. It is a 20 Carbon chain with 3 double bonds. A type of Omega 6 fatty acid that is found to have anti-inflammatory effects IF and ONLY IF there is a proper amount of Omega 3 in the diet (it gets really complicated from here). Why? The same enzyme used to break down Omega 3 is the same one used to break down DGLA into chemical AA (good EFA important during pregnancy) which in turn converts into Prostaglandin 2 to increase the inflammatory response. (PHEEWWWW that was a mouth full, Did I lose anyone?) SO, if all of the enzyme is used up working on Omega 3, there isn't enough to create AA or PG2, thereby reducing and preventing the inflammatory response. Instead DGLA is converted into an anti-inflammatory PG1. (Still with me?) This type of Omega 6 is created in the body by Gamma-Linolenic Acid
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA): A 20 Carbon, 5 double bond Omega 3 Fatty Acid. This fat is a precursor to Prostaglandin 3, which inhibits platelet aggregation. It is best consumed as fish or fish oils (cold-pressed please). It can be converted in the body from Alpha Linolenic Acid, BUT only if the proper enzymes are available to break in down. (Often lacking in Diabetics, and Vegans)
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): This 22 carbon, 5 double bond Omega 3 Fatty Acid is a all the rage right now. It is the big talk in the fat world, and for good reason. Most animals make very little of this fat through ALA conversion. It is primarily obtained through direct consumption in our diets. (bring on the meat). DHA is the primary fat composition of sperm, brain phospholipids, and the eyes. Its found in fish, fish oils, and algae primarily. But is also high in grass fed meat, and wild game.
There are so many more fats in our diets. Some good, and some bad. I tried to touch on the most important ones to us as far as what are the good fats and where to find them. So, when you are cooking take a look at the fats you are using and make sure they are qualified for the type of cooking you are doing. I got a little more in depth on the Omegas, because there is A LOT of confusion around those, especially Omega 6, which can be both good and bad for you. I hope that my explanation of the role of Omega 3 in that conundrum was clear. If you have questions email me.
One of the first steps many women take when they have made the decision to try to conceive, is to take a prenatal vitamin. FANTASTIC! This is a wonderful beginning step to preparing yourself, and setting the foundation for pregnancy. That being said, most over the counter prenatal vitamin supplements are made up of fillers and synthetic, chemical based, laboratory created vitamins. They are often hard to digest and absorb, leading women to wonder why they are deficient in crucial nutrients when they are taking their vitamins regularly. The best sources of vitamins are from their natural sources. Even when a woman is taking a high quality, natural, food sources vitamin supplement, there is often a portion of the supplement that is not absorbed properly. This is why diet and eating highly nutrient dense foods are so important in preparation and during pregnancy.
**A Little Note on Birth Control:
The majority of women out there have been on some form of birth control, whether it was the pill, IUD, Depro, etc... We often forget, or where not informed that these common forms of birth control can cause vitamin deficiencies in our bodies that can lead to difficulties conceiving, or complications during pregnancy.
The contraception pill not only lowers levels of zinc (will talk about its importance later) by raising copper levels (as does the IUD), but it also induces deficiencies of vitamin B, B6, B12, folic acid, and vitamin C. The pill prevents conception by altering the body's hormone system. Even after it has been stopped, the body can take upwards of 3-6 months to begin producing certain hormones again. This is important to keep in mind if you are planning to begin trying to conceive in the near future.
Healthy Diet By Trimester
If we look at the changes that occur during each trimester in both the fetus and the mother, it is easier to see exactly what the nutritional requirements of both are.
Preconception - First Trimester
The nutritional requirements are the same for those who are trying to conceive and those who have recently conceived, as the goal is the same, to nourish a healthy mother and support a healthy fetus.
**Note on Morning Sickness
Morning Sickness is often caused by the rising levels of hormones, such as HCG. It can also be a sign of vitamin deficiencies. Most commonly; B6, Magnesium, Potassium, and/or Zinc. All vitamins that are depleted when you are on birth control.
Approaching the middle of pregnancy, physical changes are more noticeable, nausea and fatigue are passing and appetite is increasing. The old adage of eating for two isn't quite as good as it sounds. The second person starts out the size of a pea, and really doesn't consume all that many calories, and even at their biggest, the mother only needs to consume an additional 300 calories per day. While it is important to maintain a healthy diet full of quality, nutritious foods, too much weight gain will make for future difficulties, such as difficult labor and delivery, diabetes, high blood pressure, and general strain on both the mother and baby.
During the final 3 months of pregnancy, a baby grows faster, doubling in size. Nerve cells increase, the lungs and immune system mature, the digestive tract developed, bones strengthen, and the body begins to store fat, calcium, and iron in preparation for birth. The mother needs an additional 200-300 calories per day, with an emphasis on protein.
All good nutrition and correct diet during pregnancy needs to be followed up with the correct diet for the preparation of labor. It is important for the mother to eat plenty of complex carbohydrates for energy stores during the last 2 weeks. This means plenty of whole grains, vegetables, and legumes to ensure that glycogen reserves stored in the muscle and liver are filled to capacity. Labor can be compared in energy requirements to running a marathon. Deficiencies in energy stores can lead to long, difficult labors requiring medical interventions such as medication, and caesarean deliveries.
A healthy and well-balanced diet is just as important after delivery. The effects of blood loss, risks of infections, fatigue, and start of lactation take its nutritional toll on new mothers.
Foods to Avoid
Generally this means avoiding processed and refined foods and many pre-made foods such as cakes, sodas, processed and cured meats. Pregnant women should avoid foods that also contain a risk of salmonella or listeria contamination such as; undercooked meat, uncooked eggs, pate, soft cheeses, cheeses with blue veins, and unpasteurized dairy.