I REMEMBER the day I wore the wrong shoes to a corporate meeting in Lagos. Mr Sola Oluwole, my former boss at the Daily Times and, at that time Chief Executive Officer of INTER-PUBLIC, an advertising and public relations company, must be hearing this story for the first time. Early that day, I left the office at about 3 am, got home about 4 am, caught some sleep, hopped out of bed by about seven after BBC and VOA news, rushed a bath and managed to dress up. As I had no driver, I slipped into my Jalopy, and, then, off to a Ten O’clock meeting I went, managing to keep my eyes open behind the wheel. That’s the Daily routine of many senior Journalist for you. I was not a coffee man and I still am not, whatever good tidings the researchers may break from time to time on its benefits for the heart and health. For I know coffee over fires the neurons of the brain, making them rapidly consume CHOLINE and INOSITOL, principal components of LECITHIN, a wonderful energising brain nutrient. When Choline and Inositol burn out and are not well restocked, the neurons become fagged out, limp and weakened, which is how we are and feel and make us reach out for another cup of coffee in a vicious cycle. I would later get well-kitted “upstairs” with brain energisers, adaptogens, stress antidotes and other anti-fatigue and anti-ageing food supplements I intend to share today. But, before then…my story of the wrong shoes need to be completed.
I sat in the office of Mr Oluwole’s secretary, waiting for him to finish an ongoing meeting before he called ours. Suddenly, her eyes fell on my feet. She whispered the anomaly into my ears. I looked at those shoes and was shocked beyond words. A crazy idea sprang in my head. The journalist is never in want of an escape route, even in a blind alley. Do I say it is the new craze in town? New craze?. I reconsidered my thought. Do top management executives dress to corporate meetings as though they were going to clubs or Boys’ nights? I gave her my car keys as evidence that I was around, took a taxi home and back for the meeting. This story shows anything can happen when the mind and the brain are under stress and not well coordinated.
Stress is multi-headed and boundless. It may be psychic, physical, emotional, bio-chemic, oxidative, environmental or spiritual. Orthodox medicine handles it with pharmaceutical drugs specific to the cause sometimes, with some unpalatable side effects. Tonics are the springboards for healing in Alternative Medicine. According to Dr Andrew Weil, M.D., a graduate of Harvard Medical School, with work experience at the National Institute of Mental Health and, over fifteen years as a research associate in ethnopharmacology at the Harvard Botanical Museum, says:
“Anything that increases the efficiency of the healing system or helps it neutralise harmful influence will increase the probability of spontaneous healing. Tonics and natural products which do just that, are one of my special interests”.
In 1995, I bought Dr Weil’s book, SPONTANEOUS HEALING, which I found useful for tackling some of my biological stress conditions. Prior to this time, I had known about psychic stress which I tried to resolve with JAMES REDFIELD’s CELESTINE PROPHECY. Redfield says energy is the common denominator in the universe. It is what everything is made of, and everything tries to acquire it from the environment in order to optimize its energy potential. Humans try to steal energy from one another to grow their own energy stock or value. In this regard, there are four kinds of human energy stealing behaviours, and each person is classified according to his/her own mode of stealing. These four categorisations are;
3) Poor me, and
The Intimidator pounds the victim into psychic surrender, through physical, verbal, financial or other violence, if need be. Soldiers, policemen, arm robbers, motor park touts or bullish bosses or spouses are in this category. The Inquisitor never finds anything good in whatever you do. He/she is always criticizing you, ever seeing the fault, not the good, in you. His/her aim is to make you feel you are no good and that he/she is superior to you. You are meant to bow to him/her. Sometimes, we get home from work exhausted, not necessarily from traffic troubles but from office encounters which unknowingly to us drain our life force. The “Poor me” person makes himself/herself an underdog in any relationship, making you feel guilty for his/her condition, to evoke your sympathy for him/her, thus obtaining “energy” from you. As for the “Aloof” person, he has no opinion or decision on any matter and leaves everything in your hands. You must, therefore, find him a job, rent an apartment for him, find schools for his children, and all that.
Intimidation and Inquisition are rife at the board level in corporate settings. As a straightforward up builder, nurturing and growing the organization, you are giving your best, you cannot stand thieving, but the predators and the opportunists whose interests you are blocking to save the organization are all over you with poison tongues and pens. They tear your ideas to pieces. But when you indiscreetly pass the same ideas through outsiders, they are hailed as wonderful and adopted. Mr Henry Ford returned home from work one day, broke down and sobbed because, for the umpteenth time, his idea of a motorcycle was rejected by the Board. His wife gave his stolen energy back to him when she advised him to pull out and work on his work. Today, he left behind not only motorcycles but some of the best motor cars on Earth. Steel-like Will and deft diplomacy are some of the working tools required to overcome the Intimidator and the Inquisitor and fight off psychic stress. In spiritual stress, the underdog just cannot bear the power of radiations emanating from the stronger person. The solution to this kind of trouble is a change of “environment”.
Some of the tonic herbs Dr Weil recommends helped me wade through storms of other stresses and stressors with little or no infarction. I will discuss some of them here and add the others I picked from other sources. On the prescription pad of Dr Weil are Ginseng, Garlic, Ginger, Green tea, Milk Thistle, Astragalus, Dong Quai, Ho Shou Wu, Maitake and Cordyceps.
This is an adaptogen herb. When you run too high or fall below par, it brings you to the middle ground. It was described centuries ago as the “panacea” for all ailments. Incidentally, panacea was the name, in Greek mythology, says Dr Weil, of the daughter of Asklepios, the god of medicine. Dr Weil says: “It increases energy, vitality, sexual vigour, improves skin and muscle tone, and confers resistance to stress of all sorts”.
A prophet has no value in his own land, we say. That is probably why we overlook it in the daily diets in Nigeria. Dr Weil says:
“some of its dramatic effects are on the cardiovascular system. It lowers blood pressure by more than one mechanism, mimicking some of the newest antihypertensive drugs without their tendency to cause impotence, headaches and other toxic effects. In addition, garlic lowers cholesterol and blood fat(triglycerides) while increasing the protective HDL(High-Density Lipoprotein), a fraction of total cholesterol and reducing the susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to oxidise. Garlic reduces the clotting tendency of the blood by inhibiting the readiness of platelets to aggregate, that is to clump together”. Dr Weil adds that Garlic also kills many bacteria and fungi which cause diseases. Several studies are putting it up as an anti-cancer agent. This comes with the population boost in Natural Killer(NK) cells which check cancer growths.
I enjoy natural garlic with every meal. When it comes to food supplement, I prefer KYOLIC proprietary brand, which is aged for 15 months to make it 50 times more potent than the natural. One day in the office at The Guardian Newspaper, Angela Ally, my personal assistant, called the maintenance crew to check air conditioners because she suspected gas leakage. When they found nothing and left, I told her what she was smelling was from….Garlic in my breath and sweat! I am privileged to have run, and still run, a 110/70 blood pressure since the 1980s and to have had no cardiovascular questions.
Like garlic, Ginger needs no introduction in Nigerian kitchens. It is a warming herb, stimulates digestion, calms upset stomachs which makes it good for nausea and vomiting while relieving aches and pains through its anti-inflammatory properties. Of the more than 400 active compounds in Ginger, it is the Gingerole and Shogoals that have been well researched. Ginger helps protein digestion, protects the upper parts of the intestine against ulceration. Intestinal parasites, too, bow before Ginger. As fresh ginger is known to neutralise substances in fish and meat which compromise digestion, it is a wise idea to chew it with fish or meat pepper soup. Many men knock off from work to relax at pepper soup joints, munching not only large quantum of fish and meat and even cow skin but also washing the stuff down with beer or sugar drinks, all of which impact heavy workload on the liver, kidneys and intestine. In those days of youth flagellation, I added raw pawpaw leaves to ginger and garlic whenever my friends such as Mr Dotun Akintoye and Jide Ogundele went to our pepper soup joints. Today, Joy John supplies my weekly ginger order and Udeme James dices it raw in the meal for me to chew raw like meat.
This herb is indispensable for liver health. It earned me friendship with one of the Dantatas in the 1980s when I suggested it to him for a liver challenges, and the herb helped him. This herb facilitated the establishment of DYNAPHARM, a natural medicine networking company in Nigeria. A Nigerian with a liver challenge who attended a Dynapharm Kenya health talk in Nairobi, learned about Milk Thistle, used it and recovered from his liver challenge, brought the company to Nigeria. The active ingredient, silymarin, boosts liver metabolism and protect the organ against toxin injury, says Dr Weil. He adds:
“Although the pharmaceutical industry had produced drugs that damage the liver, it offers nothing to match the protective effect of Milk Thistle. Anyone who is a heavy user of alcohol should take Milk Thistle regularly as should patients who use pharmaceutical drugs that are hard on the liver, including cancer patients undergoing Chemotherapy. I recommend this herb to patients with chronic hepatitis and abnormal liver function, and I have seen cases of normalisation of liver function in persons who took it every day for several months and also worked to improve their diet and lifestyle. If you work with toxic chemicals it feels you have suffered toxin exposure from any source, take Milk Thistle. It will help your body recover from any harm”.
Dr Weil’s message may be of help to those people in Nigeria who work in cement and paint factories, filling stations, spend long periods of time in traffic jam and electricity generator smoke, or even in the press hall. It is also good for Journalist because many of us are lager(beer) prone. I took Milk Thistle when I read of experiments in which three groups of animals were fed with the liver-damaging Carbon tetrachloride poison. All of those not fed with Milk Thistle prior to the experiment died, mortality was low among those who took the herb after the experiment began, none died in the group on Milk Thistle before the study.
My advice to my friends in those days and even now is to not go drinking or stuffing on flesh foods without protecting themselves. It is dangerous to imitate other people. Simply because alcohol does not harm Mr A, does not mean it cannot kill Mr B. What if Mr A’s body is producing more anti-oxidants readily and faster than Mr B’s? I have an uncle who is 92. He drinks beer like as we would assume fish drinks water. Yet you cannot read beer drinking on his face or see the effects on his body. I rowed out with the “boys”, like any young man but in full guard, otherwise, stress would beget more stress as the experience of many now.
Any time I remember Astragalus, I remember Mrs Veronica Mommoh, of Benin, an avid reader of this column who gets caught between Astragalus and Asparagus, as though they are tongue twisters. Astragalus root is good for cold and flu but it’s contraindicated in fevers. It is energising, circulation promoting and digestion improving. Dr Weil says:
“The Chinese use it to restore immune function in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Research in China has demonstrated increased survival in patients receiving both herbal and Western therapies, as well as the moderation of the immuno-suppressive effects of the latter”. European studies, says Dr Weil, confirm that Astragalus increase the production of all sorts of white blood cells as well as Interferon. He adds:
“I recommend Astragalus to many patients since I find it to be safe and effective. In particular, I suggest it for people with chronic infectious diseases, such as bronchitis, sinusitis and AIDS. I also recommend it to many cancer patients, both those undergoing conventional treatment and those who have completed treatment. And I think taking Astragalus regularly will be beneficial for people who are debilitated, lacking in energy or vitality, or feeling vulnerable to stress”.
Dr Weil also mentions DONG QUAI for blood and circulation and a “general tonic for women”, in respect of several reproductive system disorders, “especially for irregular or difficult menstruation”. MAITAKE mushroom catches his attention as not only an anti-cancer agent but, also, as a fighter against hepatitis, hypertension and HIV.
Where many Alternative Medicine doctors begin the treatment of stress is the ADRENAL gland, a small organ sited located on too of each kidney. It produces substances which make us withstand stress. In over stressed conditions, the adrenal glands may be overworked and become exhausted or burned out. In this scenario, the body converts sex hormones to stress hormones, causing libido loss but prolonging life and preventing the stress. Some of the herbs which help to revive the adrenals are Licorice DGL, Ginseng, Cordyceps, Maca root and Golden root.
CORDYCEPS swept through Nigeria in the 1990s. That was when nine Chinese women shocked the world by breaking nine world records with a whopping 42seconds in the 1993 Chinese National Games. Cordyceps, too, is about energy, especially when it is combined with Siberian Ginseng.
According to Google, “Cordyceps is used to treat coughs, chronic bronchitis, respiratory disorders, kidney disorders, nighttime urination, male sexual problems, anaemia, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, liver disorders, dizziness, weakness, ringing in the ears, unwanted weight loss, and opium addiction”.
Finally, I gave the brain serious attention in the days of work stress. We should never forget the penchant of Mohammed Ali to punch his opponents on the head. He once composed a poem for one of them….. “I will take him in the head where he lives”. Isn’t everything gone when the head goes? GINKGO BILOBA was one of my brains support good supplements which included LECITHIN(for Choline and Inositol), FISH OIL, GOTU KOLA, VITAMIN A, WALNUT and WALNUT LEAF TEA. I remembered the popularity of the pharmaceutical nervines PHOSPHERINE and PROPLUS among school certificate students of my time in the 1960s. What there was to them was phosphorus which is plentiful in onion.
Before the next labour day, that is 1 MAY 2022, toiling and stressed up Nigerian workers have bountiful opportunities in nature to overcome their stress-induced health challenges. This column cannot tell them in one article or many all that modern nature has lain in the fields for this purpose. They have to learn that health is live, show more interests in natural health matters and budget for those foods and medicinal herbal products which can resolve their health challenges and imbue them with radiant health.