Tuesday, May 16, 2006

If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good

Medicine is not supposed to taste great. I know this. At least I know that it usually doesn't. Even as a child, I knew that whatever that pink stuff was, it did not taste like any bubblegum I ever had. (Let's not discuss the time little brother and I ate "chocolate bar" Ex-Lax. Little kids don't care much about taste. It looked like chocolate, and finders are keepers, you know.)

We really are spoiled to live in a time when so many pharmaceuticals are available as tablets and capsules. In the old days when folks made their own medicine, or at least got it from a local doctor, everything tasted bad. "A spoonful of sugar" was not just a cute saying, but a very necessary anti-retching maneuver.

Some of us who have become discontent with the current pharmaceutical-happy culture in which we are immersed have gone back to the "old days". We study and learn to discern and diagnose those conditions that can safely (and likely more safely) be treated at home. We are making our own herbal medicines, and learning how to use them effectively. The good news is, we are healthier. The bad news is, everything tastes yucky again.

Case in point, I am struggling with pregnancy-induced anemia. When expecting, a woman's blood plasma volume increases fifty percent, while the hemoglobin level only increases thirty percent. Hence, even though I faithfully eat my green vegetables (I swear), my iron level has significantly dropped.

My first measure in any condition is dietary intervention. I envisioned black-strap molasses in cookies, baked beans, and barbecue sauce. I was prepared to live on spinach-and-orange salads with that raspberry dressing I love. I could add more iron-rich foods to my diet, and even vitamin C to make sure it was absorbed properly. I was looking forward to this. Food is always more fun than medicine.

Alas, since the dietary-intervention-route was not quite getting the job done, it became time to bring in the big guns. Herbs. This also looked pretty simple. I made red raspberry, nettles, and alfalfa tea, (throwing in a little peppermint to cover the taste give it a springy flavor), and administered it intravenously drank it by the gallon. I was even getting close to making my daily quota of fluids. Well, sorta.

But even the tea wasn't quite strong enough. Bigger guns were required. That's right-tinctures. And not just any tincture, either. The single-most-effective herb to increase iron levels (Yellow Dock) just so happens to be the single-most-bitter-tasting herb as well. Blech and more blech. Although the most effective as far as potency, a tincture is the single most repugnant form of any herb as far as palatability. Great.

Remembering the spoon-full-of-sugar method is the only way I have gotten through this treatment. (My regards to Mary Poppins.) Admittedly not the "most delightful way", it has worked wonders. My iron is up, and I am feeling much better. "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" Hebrews 12:11.

Sometimes the really good stuff does taste bad.

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