Nature as Medicine

When I was 15, I had two secret wishes: first to become a ninja, second to be an astronaut. As I was already practicing my throwing-stars and rubber nunchucks skills in the backyard, I decided to join the Civil Air Patrol (aka C.A.P.) I had a plan, and it involved packing my young resume with the “right stuff” as a ploy to get my local congressman in Pennsylvania to sign off on my impending application to the Air Force Academy. I would finally realize my dream of becoming the first ninja-astronaut in space.

After two months in C.A.P. of standing at attention, about-facing, and polishing my boots, we went on a day trip to practice our bivouacking skills. Our lanky 40-something leader, who had never been in the military, yelled instructions at us from a car in the parking lot and sipped hot coffee from a silver thermos while we stood in the cold March morning in a local park trying to balance three large tree branches together and fortify it with a canopy of pine needles. “Now make a fire!” he yelled. “It’ll save your life someday.” Later that afternoon, as I explained to my mom how I had tripped into the fire and signed my hand, she cut off a piece of an aloe plant in our kitchen. I marveled how the soothing juice cooled the burn on my skin, and I realized that my mom had a bit of ancient healing-knowledge in her that I never noticed before. It was ninja plant knowledge. A knowledge that I knew I needed if I were to survive the rigorous challenges of life in the Philadelphia suburbs. Sure, I ditched the ninja-astronaut stage a few months later, but the wonder of the earth and its bounty seems to have stuck.

Vitamin C-itrus

Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking points out that human evolution and plant evolution are linked. He notes that although fruits and veggies contribute only modestly to protein and caloric consumption, they’re our primary source of several vitamins. One of the essential vitamins we get from fruit is Vitamin C., and winter fruit is vitamin C (give me a “C” for CITRUS!) territory. We also have to be aware as we exist in this modern world how the food we eat (which can be like healing medicine in its own right) reacts with our modern lifestyle. Grapefruit, for example, can have adverse effects on certain medications people take. Generally, it can increase the potency of the medicine prescribed. Check out the Berkeley Wellness archives (which we give you access to for free – see sidebar) for a great article on Vitamin C and (at the bottom of the article) how grapefruit interacts with certain modern prescriptions and why it affects people differently.

Check out this week’s mix (photos and fruit descriptions) on our In the Mix page.

Enjoy and be fruitful! – Chris Mittelstaedt

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