Michael Moore, May 1996, herblist.
To: Multiple recipients of list HERB <HERB.TREARNPC.EGE.EDU.TR>
Subject: An 87-year-old is NOT a yoga instructor
From: Michael Moore <hrbmoore.RT66.COM>
Date: Sun, 19 May 1996 13:13:55 -0600
I have been so busy deleting-before-reading the recent posts from SEVERAL lists that I am ashamed to admit I never read the original request for suggestions. Nonetheless, in the thyme-honored fashion of most lists, I will add my two cents worth anyway.
All our lives we exist in balance or homeostasis...balance between expansion and contraction, hot and cold, anabolic and catabolic, adrenergic and cholinergic. When our actions, health or external agents draw too heavily on us and we cannot remain in balance, we generally get sick. In a sense, "getting sick" is just another way of shifting energy until you get well...and back in balance.
When we are young, we are able to abuse or stress ourselves wildly before getting out of balance and getting sick. When we are middle-aged, the parameters of "safe" abuse and stress have pulled in a lot...we get sick with less imbalance. When we are old, there is VERY LITTLE leeway between balance and imbalance, and we must, by then, have learned to live within our diminished "safety zone". When we cannot regain balance or homeostasis anymore, we die.
This is an achingly simplified version of a very large picture, but, by whatever means used, and given the wildly varied genetic and lifestyle homeostatic tools of each of us, this is the center of alternative healing methods that are "holistic" or vitalist. Helping another or ourselves to get back to the center, and helping same to try to increase the bredth of our "safe" zone. To increase our capacity to deal with our environments before we get sick, given our current resources.
View this as a chart, and a young person can careem WAY above and WAY below the center line of "balance", before "getting sick" becomes a necessary response. An aged person can only oscillate a little above and below "balance" without getting sick.
I try to drum into my students the absolute necessity of extreme conservatism when using herbs in the aged. To view with great wariness the semi-mythic paradigm of the "healing crisis" in the aged...they can seldom afford it without getting MORE sick from the treatment. The disorders of the young are nearly always functional. The disorders of the aged are nearly always at least partially organic.
Holistic methodology depends on the existing potential for the person to return, unimpaired, to their balance. These imbalances are functional and reversible. When there is organic disease, there is permanent impairment, not only of FUNCTION, but of STRUCTURE. They ain't cherry anymore. Some part of themselves is busted, and their centerline of balance must permanently compensate for that...my herbs must help strengthen their EXISTING balance, since they cannot regain that which is lost.
One of my personal cliches is that we, in the alternative community, must deal with the simple fact that most of our patients and friends are ALSO alternative. We risk the incest-like state of the herbalist treating the yoga instuctor, who teaches the coop worker who sells to the political activist who sees the herbalist. Such people can usually afford to take fasts, meditate and visualize, do the Archer...or take wheat grass "cleanses".
Much of this can be viewed as either self-indulgence (since these folks can remain easily in balance and don't really NEED to do these things) or valid actions within the alternative community that export poorly to the general population.
Wheat grass juice and rejuvilac is metabolically TAXING, as is fasting, nootropics, bee pollen and blue green algae...and as is MUCH of the politically-correct semi-nonsense that we in the alternative community wallow in.
An 87-year old, subjected to these devices, benign or even helpful in gleefully alternative younger sub-cultures, can find them TERRIBLY imbalancing.
Ginkgo, further, dilates and strengthens arterioles and metarterioles...in an 87-year-old woman who has already had a stroke, I would consiter this VERY unwise. There is no way of knowing the existing strength and fragility of the cerebral vascularity...especially third-hand.
Most of the tools we use everyday, within what is usually a group of our peers, translates VERY poorly to the aged. It can be done, of course, but I frankly think few if any of us have enough life or therapeutic experience to attempt any more than gentle balancing for such a person. I know I don't...and I have been at it full time for 27 years.