Love Is…Green Slime

My diet (and my life) have gotten complicated.  I hope to write more about that soon.  Basically, I have been having allergic-type reactions to many foods I have previously been able to eat, and my diet is very restricted right now.

To go along with that, I have a complicated medicine routine.  My newest medicine has to be taken 4 times a day, on an empty stomach.  So I have a schedule of medications that begins when I wake up and goes throughout the day until I go to sleep, and requires me to deconflict one of my medicines from all the other medicines (and food), and requires that I take the new medication on an empty stomach (no food from 2 hours prior to 30 minutes after).  Yeah…

So I wake up, take the empty stomach med, wait 30 minutes, take another med, and eat breakfast, so that 1 hour later I can take my next med.  Did I mention I’m not a morning person, and don’t function very well when I first wake up?

The LAST thing I feel like doing half an hour after waking up is hassling with breakfast.

I used to eat several hours after waking up, when I had the capacity to deal with making food.  But now when I eat is dictated by my medicine schedule.  And what I eat is dictated by my allergic-type reactions.

Currently, I am having a drink for breakfast that we jokingly call “Green Slime.”  (You would probably call it green juice, or a green smoothie.)  We call it green slime because it looks like duckweed:

The recipe comes from one of the low histamine chef Yasmina Ykelenstam‘s cookbooks – she calls it green lemonade, although the recipe includes no lemons.  It’s mostly green vegetables, with apples as sweetener.  I also add chia seeds, for fiber and protein.

We first tried making green slime in the blender.  It’s do-able, but I don’t recommend it – for 2 reasons.  First, it’s hard on the blender motor.  Second, the consistency is like applesauce, which can be unpleasant to drink if you’re squeamish about textures.

Having determined that I liked green slime in theory, and would likely be drinking more juices, we bought a juicer.  I prefer a minimalist kitchen, and try not to buy extraneous kitchen tools, but this has proven to be a very useful device.  [And the slime is now a juice consistency, rather than an applesauce one.]  But I digress…

Because of my health condition, I need to eat very fresh foods.  So I can’t make green slime the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight.  Thus, every morning, veggies and fruit need to be chopped and processed through the juicer.  Working a knife within 1/2 hour of waking is not a good idea when you’re as out-of-it as I am in the morning.

It is highly probable that, left to my own devices, I would starve or die of malnourishment.

Fortunately for me, I am not left to my own devices.  Spousal Unit wakes up hours earlier than I do (for reasons that are completely inexplicable to me), and is gracious enough to prepare green slime for me every morning, even though Spousal Unit does not drink slime.

Each morning I take my first medicine, wait 30 minutes, take my second medicine, and then stagger out to the kitchen.  I open the refrigerator door and find a glass of green slime waiting for me.

Which means that Spousal Unit has cut up the fruit and veg, fed it through the juicer, poured the green slime into a glass, added chia seeds, stirred, and left the juice for me – every morning.

And all I have to do is drink it.  And then take my next medicine an hour later.  Totally do-able (most days).

And this is why I say “love is green slime.”  Thank you, Spousal Unit!


Guest Post: What It’s Like To Try Acupuncture And Cupping

This week we have a special treat – a guest post from Doug Nordman a.k.a Nords, from The Military Guide.  He’s sharing with us his experiences with medical tourism.  He bravely (or foolishly?) underwent acupuncture, cupping, and moxibustion in Thailand.

Remember the Olympic swimmers and their purple dots this past summer?  That’s what you look like after cupping.  To learn more about these procedures, and medical treatment abroad, read on:

Thanks for inviting me to write about these treatments, Crew Dog!

I’m a 56-year-old retired U.S. Navy submariner. As a “recovering nuke,” I’m skeptical about alternative medicine. Before I believe in a medical technique I want to read a pile of peer-reviewed reproducible studies of double-blind experiments with statistically significant evidence– and acupuncture just isn’t there yet. If acupuncture achieves anything at all, it might be simply a gigantic placebo effect.

However I’ve lived in Hawaii for over 25 years, where Occidental and Oriental cultures overlap with science and technology. I’ve learned to keep an open mind when I encounter treatments which defy the explanations of medical research.

My physical therapy for joint injuries has taught me that Western medical science doesn’t always have a precise explanation for why a technique works. I’ll enjoy the results whether or not I fully understand the mechanisms. If acupuncture is simply just a gigantic placebo effect then I can live with that.

I’m also willing to try new approaches because I’m a little frustrated with my aging body. I’m encountering new limits in my maximum heart rate and recovery time. When I was in my 40s, I used to burn through the Navy’s physical fitness test and then go work out. These days, after that type of exercise I’m tempted to burn through 800 mg of Ibuprofen and take a nap. When I do a couple hours of heavy yard work, I have to be careful to maintain good posture in my knees and my back – I don’t want to end up in another round of physical therapy.

My body’s latest betrayal is my left shoulder (deltoid) muscle. Over 10 months ago I felt a small “pop” during a push-up set, and the next day I couldn’t raise my left arm above my shoulder. It slowly healed over the next six months but I kept re-injuring it. When we traveled to Bangkok, I still didn’t have full range of motion and I couldn’t put my left hand up behind my back. I was worried that I’d injured my rotator cuff and I felt like an idiot.

Thailand’s cost of living is incredibly cheap, and Bangkok’s major hospitals are a magnet for medical tourism. My spouse and I had heard about the Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinic of Hua Chiew Hospital, and we were happy to spend a few dollars to experiment on my deltoids.

Hua Chiew is definitely not practicing traditional Western medicine: the hospital takes walk-in patients. The lobby was a beehive of activity with a large waiting area by the cashier’s window. The clerk at the front desk explained (in English) that a typical acupuncture treatment would be less than 600 baht. (At 35 baht per dollar, that’s just over $17– and nobody asked us about insurance.) He entered our names into their computer system. We stopped by the next table for a quick health check of height, weight, temperature, and blood pressure before being sent up to room 504.

The fifth floor was quieter, with a few patients in the hallway and a family in the waiting area. When I walked into room 501’s open ward, it smelled like old cigarette smoke– and marijuana. (Hey, I have a training certificate from a 1980s Navy drug education class with a “test burn”.) I was greeted by an acupuncturist and an assistant who asked me where it hurt. A few minutes later the assistant was guiding me to an exam table.

“This won’t hurt a bit.”

I was asked to remove my t-shirt (which the assistant quickly hung on a hanger) and arranged on my right side with my left arm extended across a pile of pillows. While the assistant set up the privacy curtains, the acupuncturist came up behind me with a tray of needles and other tools. (Selfies were discouraged during this procedure, but I took photos afterward.) I turned my head to watch, but she politely asked me to relax on my pillow so that she could put needles into my neck.

She swabbed my skin with antiseptic and opened a package. Each needle was about three inches long with tiny coils at their gripping end, and they seemed very delicate. They must have been extremely fine and sharp because I could barely feel them going in– just a cool sliding sensation as she inserted them about an inch. My skin didn’t even dimple as she gently and quickly placed them from neck to elbow. A minute later I had a dozen needles sticking out, and she suggested that I should stay still. She even put two needles in the side of my left calf, explaining that there’s a nerve connection to the shoulder.

Then the assistant brought out a power supply and an electronics box. I later learned that this was an electrical muscle stimulation system, and the acupuncture needles make it easy to deliver the electrons directly to the injured area. She wrapped electrical wires around two of the needle coils and flipped a switch. My deltoid promptly started twitching gently, about once per second. After she checked the electronics display, she brought out an IR heat lamp and positioned that over my left shoulder. She said she’d check on me in 30 minutes and gave me a call button to push if I had any problems.

I stayed as still as I could despite being a human pincushion with my shoulder twitching like a frog leg in Dr. Frankenstein’s high-school biology class, while the lamp heated my shoulder (and the metal needles). It must have looked extremely uncomfortable.

A few minutes later I dozed off.

Judging from the assistant’s polite smile when she woke me up, this must happen a lot.

Well, technically my deltoid kept twitching while the rest of me had a very nice nap. When she turned off the machine, my entire shoulder relaxed.

She gently extracted all the needles that they’d inserted. (I kept count just to make sure.) I could barely feel the sliding sensation as they were removed, but there was no pain.

Then she picked up a tray of heavy glass cups, and I realized that I’d signed up for a bonus cupping session after the acupuncture.


The assistant laid out a dozen cups of various sizes. They were each about 2”-3” tall and 1”-2” in diameter, made out of heavy glass. She rubbed a light coat of oil over my shoulder and back (to get a better seal).

Next she used her forceps to pick up a cotton ball and dip it in a liquid that looked like alcohol. Then she picked up a cigarette lighter, set the cotton ball on fire, and walked over to my shoulder.

An open flame. In a hospital. In a ward where there were probably oxygen canisters near more flammable liquids and oily skin. With a submariner who used to teach firefighting tactics at a training command.

I was not happy.

It turned out that the flaming cotton ball heated up the cups (and the air inside them). The acupuncturist briefly warmed each cup over the flame and then gently slapped them down on the skin that had held needles. As the air in the cups cooled and contracted, the suction drew the skin up into the cups and held them in place. A few cups were pried off and re-applied for a better seal.

As the skin on my shoulder and back was pulled up into the cups, I could feel a warm tingling as more blood was pulled up into my muscles. Several minutes later the assistant released all of the cups (with a wood tongue depressor) and wiped the oil off my skin.

The acupuncturist asked me to sit up and move my arm around. It was still warm from the treatment, and the deltoid felt particularly loose. I was happy to discover that I had much more flexibility and no pain. Wonderful!

When I checked my shoulder and back in a mirror, it looked like I’d lost a grappling match with an octopus. (This picture was taken an hour later.) The acupuncturist reassured me that the bruising would fade in a few days. In my case, the marks took nearly three weeks to disappear.


What happened to make my arm feel so much better?

According to traditional Chinese medicine, my body’s qi had been manipulated by the needles and the cups to bring more healing energy to my damaged deltoid.

Western medicine claims that my muscles had been stimulated by electricity, bringing more blood and lymph fluid to help repair the microtears. The heat and the cupping had brought even more blood into the muscle and skin, causing more bruising yet supplying more healing fluids. My body would focus greater effort on repairing damage in that area, which would also accelerate repairs to the deltoid muscle.

And, of course, the hour’s performance had kicked my placebo effect (and endorphins) into overdrive. No wonder I felt so good.

I’ll leave that debate to the doctors. Whatever happened during that hour, the pain relief (and the greater range of motion) was worth every penny of $17.

When I paid the bill at the cashier’s desk in the lobby, it was more like $16.75. My smartphone’s Google Translate software wasn’t much help here, but if you read Chinese or Thai then please feel free to share the details.



As I left the fifth floor, I was handed a small appointment card and admonished to return in three days for more treatment. My spouse and I got busy with other activities (there’s a lot to see & do in Bangkok) and we returned in nine days. When we walked in (still no appointment necessary!), the front desk checked our cards and started the routine again.

When I walked back into room 501 it still smelled like marijuana. I confidently returned to my treatment table, hung up my t-shirt, and laid down for an encore of my last visit. The setup went the same and I was soon bristling with acupuncture needles, but they didn’t haul out the electrical box.

This time the assistant unwrapped a couple small paper packages the size of a section of a Tootsie Roll. Later I learned that they held a dried Chinese herb called moxa, and I was about to experience moxibustion.

She poked two of the herb bundles on top of two of the acupuncture needles… and then lit them with her cigarette lighter. I immediately realized why the ward smelled like marijuana smoke, only it was burning moxa.


As she pulled the privacy curtains closed, she asked me to push the call button if my deltoid got too warm. I soon realized that moxa burns just like tobacco and it was heating up the acupuncture needles. Those, in turn, conducted the heat straight down to my deltoid muscle. I wasn’t exactly getting first-degree burns, but it was uncomfortably warm under my skin. I gritted my teeth and vowed to wait out the moxa.

It must have worked because I dozed off again. The moxa stopped smoldering in 20 minutes and the assistant followed up with the heat lamp for another 10 minutes. They removed the acupuncture needles and commented that my cupping bruises were sure taking a long time to heal, but that was the end of the session!

This time I only paid 525 baht ($15).

Long-term results

We’ve been back on Oahu for a couple of weeks, and my left deltoid is completely healed. It could be qi or it could be targeted electricity and heat therapy, but the results are undeniable. I’m back to pull-ups and push-ups and reaching up between my shoulder blades. I’m also doing more stretching and taking it a little easier with the multiple sets, but now I know what a local acupuncture clinic (or the placebo effect) can do for me.

Either way, I’m happy.

Crew Dog: Doug usually writes about Financial Independence and Early Retirement, and how he did it on a military salary, at  He’s also the author of The Military Guide To Financial Independence And Retirement.

Have you been a medical tourist, or tried alternative medical procedures? What were your experiences like?  Comment below.

Health Hack: Chia Seeds

Ch-ch-ch-chia!  Lately, eating chia seeds has been all the rage.  But for those of us of a certain age, all we knew about them was Chia Pets (as seen on TV).  Slightly more fun than a Pet Rock (perhaps), a Chia Pet is a terra cotta shape that you soak in water and slather in chia seeds.  When the seeds sprout, your Chia Pet grows fur.  (I don’t know what the deal is with the alligator.  Who ever heard of a furry alligator?)

It never occurred to me that you could eat the chia seeds – it would have been like suggesting you could eat Sea Monkeys.

Flash forward a few decades, and suddenly the health food crowd is eating chia seeds (Salvia hispanica).

Touted as a “super food” by some, chia seeds are relatively high in protein and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  Many claims have been made regarding possible health benefits of chia seeds but, since this blog is for informational purposes only and I am not a healthcare professional, I leave it to you to do your own research and due diligence.

This article provides an overview, and is a good place to start.

Not much scientific health research has been done on chia seeds yet.  However, according to one journal article, “the historical use of Salvia hispanica suggests that it is safe for consumption by nonallergic individuals. Further rigorous examination is warranted pertaining to the use of Salvia hispanica as a dietary supplement, as well as in the treatment or prevention of human disease.”

If you are skeptical about the health claims being put forth in the popular media about chia seeds, and you want more scientific information, this blog post is just the thing for you.

My Experience: I read that chia seeds grew slimy* when they were reconstituting, and I thought the texture might be gag-inducing off-putting.  (*Apparently the less unappetizing adjective is “gelatinous”.)

In fact, “Chia seeds have the ability to absorb up to 27 times their weight in water,” according to Dr. Rebecca Rawl, from Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C.

The articles I read suggested that the easiest way to start eating chia seeds was to mix the chia seeds into something where they could absorb moisture but the texture wouldn’t be noticeable, like yogurt.  So that is how I began eating chia seeds – mixed into yogurt.

To me, chia seeds don’t have a noticeable flavor.  But if they haven’t fully reconstituted they are a bit crunchy, which is fine, as long as you’re expecting it (yogurt, for example, doesn’t typically crunch).  So, if you want them to get good and slimy gelatinous, you have to give them a few minutes to soak up moisture from whatever you’ve mixed them into (or pre-mix them with water).

I currently mix them into a 6 ounce glass of low-sodium V-8 juice (which I season with Tabasco sauce), and wait for them to reconstitute before I drink it.  [Stir well – they tend to clump on the bottom of the glass!]

I have found that I don’t mind the consistency of the reconstituted chia seeds – it reminds me of tapioca pearls.  But a few always get caught in my teeth at the gum line.  So check your teeth before you leave the house…

“Why are you eating this slimy, disgusting seed?,” you might ask.

Good question.

To put it delicately, chia seeds help keep you regular.

Chia seeds are high in fiber*, and the gelatinous coating around the seeds helps them ease through your digestive system.  *“Just 1 tablespoon of chia seeds will give you 19% of your recommended daily fiber.”  It also helps your stool to be “fluffier,” if that makes any sense to you.

In other words:

“Chia seeds are a good source of insoluble fiber. The seeds expand quite a bit and form a gel when they come into contact with water. This gel adds bulk to your stool, which keeps bowel movements regular and helps prevent constipation.”

Certain medications, like iron supplements or opioid painkillers, cause constipation as a side effect.  Eating chia seeds helps counteract that effect.  Instead of getting dense and compacted, your stool stays more liquid and continues to move through your system.

It’s up to you whether you decide to take them daily, as preventative maintenance for your digestive system, or whether you choose to use them on an “as needed” basis.  They do seem to act relatively quickly, so you don’t have to wait days for the effects.

If you happen to keep an eye on your stool, you can make adjustments as necessary.

“Bottom” line: Many health claims have been made about the benefits of eating chia seeds.  Most of them have not been substantiated by scientific research (although much research remains to be done).  I use chia seeds as a natural means of maintaining regular bowel movements.  They contain only one ingredient, they’re easy to add to my regular diet, and they counteract the constipating effects of some prescription medicines and supplements.

But chia seeds are not for everyone.  See cautions below.

CAUTION:  WebMD lists several possible side effects of consuming chia seeds.  If you have one of these conditions, consult with your health care provider before consuming large or frequent quantities of chia seeds.  

CAUTION:  Some people are allergic to chia seeds.  These individuals should not consume chia seeds.  If you are allergic to sesame seeds or mustard seeds, you may also be allergic to chia seeds.

CAUTION: “If you plan to consume chia seeds or chia seed oil on a regular basis, talk with your doctor. Chia seeds can thin your blood and may affect how medicines such as Coumadin (warfarin) and aspirin work. You may need to avoid chia seeds before surgery.”

CAUTION: Although you can eat chia seeds wet or dry, it is not recommended that you eat a bunch of dry chia seeds and then drink a glass of water.  If you do this, it is possible to have problems with chia seeds lodging in your throat.  People with a history of swallowing problems or esophageal strictures are cautioned to only eat chia seeds after the seeds have fully expanded (same source as previous link).

CAUTION: It is recommended that you not consume more than 3 tablespoons of chia seeds at a time, as this can cause you to visit the bathroom more frequently than you might desire.  According to one source,  the recommended dose for children ages 4 1/2 – 18 is 1 tablespoon per day, although research has not yet established optimal or maximum doses for any age.

NOTE: For an overview of scientific research conducted on the health benefits/side effects of chia seeds, see here.

NOTE:  Nowhere have I found clarification as to whether the suggested doses (in tablespoons)  refers to the dry seeds or the reconstituted (wet) seeds.  I measure approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of dry seeds into my food or drink and wait for them to reconstitute before consuming them.

Indoor Air Quality – How I Made the Air I Breathe Healthier By Using NASA Research

Some of you may be wondering why I said in my first post that I’d rather have house plants than an air purifier.  I chose house plants because they do not use any energy other than sunlight, and because my research did not convince me that air purifiers were significantly better than houseplants.  Thus, I preferred the cheaper, more natural option.

What I said in the previous post:

To me, [naturopathic self-healing] means utilizing evidence-based natural solutions when possible, such as using house plants to improve the quality of the air in my house, rather than buying an air purifier.

The Spousal Unit and I had talked for years about getting an air purifier.  We thought that putting an air purifier in the bedroom would help us get better sleep.  I had read blogs and websites written by asthmatics and allergy sufferers who highly recommended air purifiers with HEPA filters, and they were pretty persuasive.  The only thing holding me back was the price – $500+ for a one-room HEPA filter air purifier.

“Maybe I could start with something less expensive,” I thought.  “What about those Himalayan salt lamps?”  According to the advertisements, a Himalayan salt lamp “works as an air purifier by emitting negative ions into the air.”  And they retail for $25-$30 for a smaller lamp.  So I did some research.  Unfortunately, I found that Himalayan salt lamps do not emit negative ions in a large enough quantity to have an actual effect on your indoor environment.  For a thorough examination of Himalayan salt lamps, I recommend this post over at A Breath of Reason blog.  Bottom line: they don’t improve air quality.

Ok, what about beeswax candles?  They are also touted as being good for air quality because they release negative ions.  Nope, Skepticcystic over at A Breath of Reason debunked beeswax candles too.  (See this post.)  According to her research, not only do beeswax candles not release stable negative ions, but there is no scientific evidence that beeswax is healthier to burn than other types of wax.  So, although some would argue that you should avoid the phthalates in artificially scented candles, the type of wax  a candle is made of doesn’t appear to make a difference to indoor air quality.  Bottom line: Regardless of what they are made of, burning candles does not improve indoor air quality.

So back to air purifying machines…

For a practical overview of air purifiers, check out this article from ConsumerReports.  For example, ConsumerReports suggests:

“Before you buy an air purifier, try some simple, common-sense steps to reduce indoor air pollution. Begin by vacuuming often, banning smoking indoors, minimizing use of candles and wood fires, and using exhaust fans in kitchen, bath, and laundry areas.”

As the article continues, various claims made by air purifier companies are tested.  ConsumerReports cautions that ozone-producing air purifiers are actually harmful to your health and should be avoided, particularly if you have allergies or breathing problems.  This is confirmed by the American Academy of Asthma Allergy & Immunology:

There is no debate about the negative effect of ozone…with the FDA concluding there is no place for ozone in medical treatment.” (See article here.)

For more information on the pros and cons of air purifiers, read this article from the New York Times, in which Steven Kurutz, an allergy sufferer, tested six popular air purifiers.  Here are a few excerpts from his article:

“For all their high-tech wizardry (some claim to be able to eliminate particles 0.3 microns in size and smaller), air purifiers occupy the same category as faith-based wellness products like nutritional supplements.”


“Over the years, the Federal Trade Commission has taken action against several makers of air purifiers, including brands like Honeywell and Oreck, for unsubstantiated allergy-relief claims or for advertising that their devices removed virtually all impurities from the indoor air people breathed.”

According to ConsumerReports’ deputy home editor, Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, whom Kurutz interviewed for the article,

“The first thing you need to know about an air purifier is that most people don’t need one.”

However, some doctors do recommend air purifiers for their patients, particularly children who suffer from asthma.  So, if you have asthma or allergies (or both), talk to your doctor about whether an air purifier would be beneficial for you.

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology:

There is no definite evidence of filtration clinically benefiting patients with allergic disease, but this may be the result of the studies being of insufficient durations to prove benefit.   The best review of the topic is by Sublett et al in 2010, a report of the Indoor Allergen Committee of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.” (See AAAAI article here.)

The Bottom Line for Air Purifiers: The different things you may be allergic to (dog allergens, cat allergens, mite allergens, mold, pollen, etc.) have different-sized particles.  You will see the most benefit if you select an air purifier that is designed to filter the particle size of the allergen that most affects you.

Conclusion from the Sublett et al report:

“As far as optimal choice of cleaning devices, initial cost and ease of regular maintenance should be considered. Portable room air cleaners with HEPA filters, especially those that filter the breathing zone during sleep, appear to be beneficial.

For the millions of households with forced air HVAC systems, regular maintenance schedules and the use of high-efficiency disposable filters appear to be the best choices.

However, further studies and research in this area are desirable to make more definitive recommendations in the role of air filtration on improving disease outcomes.”

Ok, so I could buy an expensive HEPA filter air purifier for my bedroom, which might help us sleep a bit better.  Are there any other options?

That’s when I remembered that house plants help improve indoor air quality.

Most of us learned in school that plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen (roughly speaking), which is great for humans because we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.  So having plants in the house helps increase the oxygen level in the air and decrease the carbon dioxide level.  But indoor plants can do more than just produce oxygen.

NASA published research in 1989 which demonstrated that house plants help reduce indoor air pollution.  Due to the energy crunch in the 70’s, buildings became more air-tight to reduce energy costs associated with escaping heated or cooled air.  But then occupants began developing health problems, and researchers determined that decreased air flow in buildings led to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the indoor air.

Three of the VOCs NASA focused upon in its research were benzene, tricloroethylene, and formaldehyde.  These chemicals pose various health hazards that range from skin and eye irritation to headaches, asthma, and cancer (pp. 3-5).  Assuming we’d like to avoid these health hazards, what can we do to reduce the levels of these chemicals in our homes?

As NASA points out, “The first and most obvious step in reducing indoor air pollution is to reduce off-gassing from building materials and furnishings before they are allowed to be installed.” (p.2)

The best way to reduce chemical indoor air pollution is to choose lower-VOC or zero-VOC options for furnishings, floorings, and other elements inside your home (wall paint, flooring glues, shower curtains, etc).  That way, you’re bringing less VOCs into your house to begin with.  (There are lots of good articles about this on the web; I encourage you to Google-Fu them.)

In addition to reducing VOCs by using less-toxic cleaning supplies, lower-VOC paint, etc., we figured “If it’s good enough for NASA, it’s good enough for us,” and bought houseplants – lots of houseplants.

Before I bought the plants, I did an online search and found many helpful articles.  This article at has a graphic of various houseplants and the chemicals they filter best.  And since houseplants have not fared well at my house in the past, I also read articles, including this one, on low-maintenance, hardy houseplants.  See this article for a good overview of the benefits of houseplants, including how many you need per room/ per square foot.

In the end, I decided to buy plants that didn’t have runners that would wind up all over the house (I’m looking at you, golden pothos).  I found a local nursery and selected plants for various rooms based on the available sunlight in those rooms, the amount of available space, and what looked good to me.  Be sure to check how big each plant typically grows, so you don’t buy ones that will outgrow the space you bought them for.

For the bedroom, I selected a snake plant (a.k.a. mother-in-law’s-tongue; see picture at top of post) because they are one of the only plants that continue to take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen at night.

So far, it’s been about six months and none of the houseplants has died.  In fact, nearly all of them are thriving.  It’s hard to say whether our indoor air quality has improved, since we don’t have a way to test it.  But at least we know that science is on our side, and we didn’t waste our money on air purification myths like beeswax candles or salt crystal lamps.

CAUTION: Many low-maintenance houseplants are toxic to dogs, cats, and sometimes children if they chew on the plants.  If this is likely to happen in your home, make sure you know which plants are toxic, and put them where pets or children cannot reach them.



Negative, Ghost Rider, the Pattern is Full – How My Quest Began

Have you ever read Catch-22, Joseph Heller’s novel about airmen in WWII?  Even if you haven’t, you’re probably familiar with the expression.  Catch-22 is a situation that presents a logical paradox – such as when, in the book, Major Major gives orders that people are only to be admitted to his office to see him if he is not there.

I experienced a Catch-22 situation with my healthcare recently.  After spending a great deal of time selecting an in-network primary care manager (PCM), I found out the night before my appointment that Tricare was not permitting patients to establish new relationships with non-Military Treatment Facility (MTF) providers.  However, the MTF near me was at capacity, and not currently taking new patients.  Thus, I could not go off-base for medical care, and I could not get an appointment on base.

Tricare’s solution was to send me to an MTF much further away, to a PCM who has no specialized training in my particular health conditions (unlike the network PCM I had selected).  Having no other choice, I saw this provider, and requested a referral to a specialist.  He denied my request and opted to treat me himself, prescribing two medications that are contraindicated for my condition, and could kill or further disable me.  Although I expressed concerns about the prescriptions both to the PCM and to the pharmacist, they both dismissed my concerns.

It’s difficult to describe the frustration of dealing with a chronic health condition that doctors can’t seem to get a handle on.  But after a decade-and-a-half of being prescribed medications that did not cure my condition and produced horrible side effects, I was simply not willing to gamble that this time would be any different and this provider would have the solution.  When I confirmed that the World Health Organization had issued guidelines never to prescribe to someone with my condition one of the medications that my new PCM had just prescribed to me, it was the last straw.

Faced with a debilitating medical condition and inadequate healthcare, I weighed my options.  I met with my PCM again.  He again refused to refer me to a specialist, and wanted to prescribe different medications.  And then I learned that Tricare has a procedure whereby complicated cases can be assigned a case manager, who will help advocate for the patient.  I emailed the MTF patient advocate’s office and requested a case manager, but they never responded.

While I was waiting for the response that never came, I found a blog that advocated self-sufficient living, including holistic self-healing using medicinal herbs, diet, exercise, and common sense. And I decided I had had enough of being experimented upon by PCMs who (mostly) didn’t care about my well-being for longer than the 20 minutes it took to get me out of their office. After nearly a decade-and-a-half of treatments that usually left me sicker, I decided to try naturopathic self-healing.

To me, this means utilizing evidence-based natural solutions when possible, such as using house plants to improve the quality of the air in my house, rather than buying an air purifier.  But it also means employing traditional medical procedures when necessary or beneficial, such as routine screenings, surgery, physical therapy, or psychological counseling.  The objective is to use all of these methods as tools, rather than being treated like one.