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Cabin Speak

I cannot remember exactly when it was that working with my son on the restoration of our log cabin in the country was transformed from misery to mystical. Certainly not in the beginning, when we had to remove decades of decaying material from the interior of the 1840’s structure, practically indistinguishable from the trash itself. Nor was this transformation present during its relocation as we dug the basement in the rocky Missouri soil, seemingly either powder dry or muddy at any given time, and then hitting bedrock at four feet deep.

No, those were the days when we worked in an area so remote as to have no access to the airwaves for cellular communication, no electronic social media such as text messaging so basic for my teen son's survival.

In our isolation, we went through several stages of grief including anger and bargaining – I think we missed denial – until we settled on acceptance. By then my son learned that I was neither cruel and ignorant nor super-human. We discovered a curious new form of communication, not requiring electronic technology, or even words.

We communicated better with the distraction of the work – but it was the silence between us that spoke the loudest – a silence not of the awkward kind but the peaceful kind; an understanding reached between a loving father and son working in unison toward a common goal. I knew when he needed more nails, he knew when I needed help lifting a log. We both knew we needed each other.

Our simple tasks were noble with rhythm to it. The wood in the logs came to life with our heartbeats, our sweat, speaking truths.

I hope I shall never finish working on this log cabin; never stop the silent dialogue.

Fiber – the unrecognized macronutrient of evolution

Fiber, although not considered a macronutrient, has a RDA of 25 – 38 gm/ day according to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board and is only available from plants. We know that the most healthful diet is one that is high in fiber and low in rapidly digested carbohydrates. This regimen is referred to as a low-glycemic diet because it helps keep our blood glucose at optimum levels. Wild fruits and vegetables are the original low-glycemic foods[1].

It is estimated that 97% of Americans do not consume the recommended minimum amount of fiber[2].

Shown above are a few example foods and their fiber density, expressed as grams of fiber per total grams of dry weight of food substance.
Generalizing, fruit and vegetables are significant sources of fiber, but beans and cruciferous vegetables are best and starch and grains much less so.


[1] Robinson, J. (2013). Eating on the wild side: The missing link to optimum health (pp. 4-5).
[2] Moshfegh, A., & Goldman, J. (2005). What We Eat in America, NHANES 2001-2002: Usual Nutrient Intakes from Food Compared to Dietary Reference Intakes. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.


Mind-body-spirit is often considered together as a triad – connected as a unity. While it may be useful to conceptualize the mind and body as a dyad, expanding those concepts to include the spirit is much more difficult to associate.

Mark Twain wrote:

“Between Kipling and I, we cover all knowledge; he knows all that can be known, and I know the rest.”

This quote jokingly differentiates knowledge and concepts, or form, from that which cannot be “known” in the conventional sense. Any attempt to explain or conceptualize the spirit is not spirituality. For example, the Bible is not God but it points our spirit toward the spirituality that is God.

To “be” is deeper than existence. No concepts, external or internal, are necessary to “be. “ No physical forms or thought forms are necessary – in fact, they can impede just being present in the now. We all have experienced such a spiritual state if only for a few moments, perhaps precipitated by external forms. Sister Wendy stated:

“There are some works of art that are so beautiful … that all we want to do is look at it, in silence.”

The spirit resides in this silence, the stillness, while one is fully aware, fully present but without form, internal or external. Only then can we be fully conscious.

To live is to “be”. The mind and body can be supportive to the spirit, as the spirit gives meaning to the mind-body.

Saffron for Depression

According to ancient Greek mythology, Hermes and his friend Krokos were horse-playing and Hermes accidentally killed Krokos through a head injury, with three blood drops from his head falling on the top of a flower, creating three stigmata and naming this plant thereafter Krokos (Crocus)[1]. Thus the ancient and godly identification of this plant and saffron.

Saffron is the dried stigma (the top part in the center of a flower which receives the pollen and on which germination takes place) of the blue-purple flower Crocus sativus L., and it has a long history of use as a spice, coloring agent, and medicine. Due to how saffron is grown and harvested, saffron is considered one of the world’s most expensive spices (upwards of $11,000 per kg, requiring 450,000 hand-picked stigmas)[2]. Apart from its traditional value as a spice and coloring agent (originally for the Persian carpet industry), saffron has a long history of medicinal use spanning over 2,500 years[3].

This use of saffron in traditional medicine included for cramps, asthma, menstruation disorders, liver disease, and painful dysmenorrhoea[4], among many other uses. Evidence from recent in vitro and in vivo research indicates that saffron has potential anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, antioxidant, and memory-enhancing properties[5] [6].

Neurodegenerative disorders

Administration of saffron 30 mg/day (15 mg twice daily) was found to be as effective as a leading medication for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease (donepezil) in a placebo-controlled double bind for treatment in subjects of 55 years and older[7] but with a better side effect profile. Although there are a growing number of non-human animal studies and theories why saffron could be neuroprotective for Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurodegenerative conditions, clinical studies are too few to make any tentative conclusions to date.

Mood disorders

In two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, saffron was effective for the treatment of mild to-moderate depression[8] [9].

A systematic review of randomized control trials examining the effectiveness of saffron in mood disorders revealed a statistically significant effect on improved mood on subjects clinically diagnosed with depression[10]; the dosing was typically 30 mg/ day.

In clinical studies, the use of saffron extract at doses of 20–30 mg/day twice daily for the treatment of mild to moderate depression has been compared with currently marketed antidepressants such as fluoxetine[11] (20 mg/day twice daily) and imipramine[12] (100 mg/day three times daily). So these comparative evaluations revealed that saffron was equally effective as chemically synthesized marketed pharmaceutics, in mild or moderate depression without causing the typical side effects of the artificial preparations.
Saffron may act in a manner similar to antidepressants to improve mood by inhibiting serotonin reuptake[13] or there could be multiple pathways involving, for example, its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties.

Saffron contains in excess of 150 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds and many non-volatile active components, many of which are carotenoids[14] . Safranal is the compound primarily responsible for saffron’s aroma. Safranal has shown to have anti-convulsant and anxiolytic effects[15] as well as antidepressant properties[16]

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

One randomized controlled trial examined the effects of saffron supplementation on premenstrual syndrome[17]. It was found that found that women with regular menstrual cycles experiencing premenstrual syndrome who took 30 mg/d of saffron supplementation for eight weeks reported relief in premenstrual symptoms and depression levels compared to placebo. Remarkably, just the aroma alone – without otherwise any oral intake of saffron was itself found effective in relief of PMS symptoms in another placebo controlled double blind study[18], indicating effectiveness at very small does and the likely active component being Safranal.


[1] Koulakiotis, N., Pittenauer, E., Halabalaki, M., Skaltsounis, L., Allmaier, G., & Tsarbopoulos, A. (2011). Isolation and Tandem Mass Spectometric Characterization of Selected Crocus sativus L. (Saffron) Bioactive Compounds.Planta Med Planta Medica, 77(12). doi:10.1055/s-0031-1282560
[2] Gohari, A., Saeidnia, S., & Mahmoodabadi, M. (2013). An overview on saffron, phytochemicals, and medicinal properties. Pharmacognosy Reviews Phcog Rev,7(1), 61. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.112850
[3] Srivastava, R., Ahmed, H., Dixit, R., D., & Saraf, S. (2010). Crocus sativus L.: A comprehensive review. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 4(8), 200. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.70919
[4] Kianbakht, S., & Ghazavi, A. (2011). Immunomodulatory Effects of Saffron: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Phytother. Res. Phytotherapy Research, 25(12), 1801-1805. doi:10.1002/ptr.3484
[5] Abdullaev, F., & Espinosa-Aguirre, J. (2004). Biomedical properties of saffron and its potential use in cancer therapy and chemoprevention trials. Cancer Detection and Prevention, 28(6), 426-432. doi:10.1016/j.cdp.2004.09.002
[6] Bathaie, S. Z., & Mousavi, S. Z. (2010). New Applications and Mechanisms of Action of Saffron and its Important Ingredients. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 50(8), 761-786. doi:10.1080/10408390902773003
[7] Akhondzadeh, S., Sabet, M. S., Harirchian, M. H., Togha, M., Cheraghmakani, H., Razeghi, S., . . . Moradi, A. (2010). ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Saffron in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: A 16-week, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 35(5), 581-588. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2710.2009.01133.x
[8] Akhondzadeh, S., Tahmacebi-Pour, N., Noorbala, A., Amini, H., Fallah-Pour, H., Jamshidi, A., & Khani, M. (2005). Crocus sativus L. in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: A double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial.Phytother. Res. Phytotherapy Research, 19(2), 148-151. doi:10.1002/ptr.1647
[9] Moshiri, E., Basti, A. A., Noorbala, A., Jamshidi, A., Abbasi, S. H., & Akhondzadeh, S. (2006). Crocus sativus L. (petal) in the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression: A double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial.Phytomedicine, 13(9-10), 607-611. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2006.08.006
[10] Hausenblas, H. A., Heekin, K., Mutchie, H. L., & Anton, S. (2015). A systematic review of randomized controlled trials examining the effectiveness of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) on psychological and behavioral outcomes. Journal of Integrative Medicine, 13(4), 231-240. doi:10.1016/s2095-4964(15)60176-5
[11] Noorbala, A., Akhondzadeh, S., Tahmacebi-Pour, N., & Jamshidi, A. (2005). Hydro-alcoholic extract of Crocus sativus L. versus fluoxetine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: A double-blind, randomized pilot trial. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 97(2), 281-284. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2004.11.004
[12] Akhondzadeh, S., Fallah-Pour, H., Afkham, K., Jamshidi, A., & Khalighi-Cigaroudi, F. (2004). Comparison of Crocus sativus L. and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: A pilot double-blind randomized trial [ISRCTN45683816]. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine BMC Complement Altern Med, 4(1). doi:10.1186/1472-6882-4-12
[13] Hausenblas, H. A., Saha, D., Dubyak, P. J., & Anton, S. D. (2013). Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) and major depressive disorder: A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Integrative Medicine, 11(6), 377-383. doi:10.3736/jintegrmed2013056
[14] Sampathu, S. R., Shivashankar, S., Lewis, Y. S., & Wood, A. B. (1984). Saffron ( Crocus Sativus Linn.) — Cultivation, processing, chemistry and standardization.C R C Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 20(2), 123-157. doi:10.1080/10408398409527386
[15] Hosseinzadeh, H., & Talebzadeh, F. (2005). Anticonvulsant evaluation of safranal and crocin from Crocus sativus in mice. Fitoterapia, 76(7-8), 722-724. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2005.07.008
[16] Hosseinzadeh, H., Karimi, G., & Niapoor, M. (2004). Antidepressant Effect Of Crocus Sativus L. Stigma Extracts And Their Constituents, Crocin And Safranal, In Mice. Acta Hortic. Acta Horticulturae, (650), 435-445. doi:10.17660/actahortic.2004.650.54
[17] Agha-Hosseini, M., Kashani, L., Aleyaseen, A., Ghoreishi, A., Rahmanpour, H., Zarrinara, A., & Akhondzadeh, S. (2008). Crocus sativus L. (saffron) in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: A double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled trial. BJOG: Int J O & G BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 115(4), 515-519. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.2007.01652.x
[18] Fukui, H., Toyoshima, K., & Komaki, R. (2011). Psychological and neuroendocrinological effects of odor of saffron (Crocus sativus).Phytomedicine, 18(8-9), 726-730. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2010.11.013

The Biggest Health Issue is Neuropsychiatric not Cardiovascular

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has created the world’s first and largest catalog of health-related data, the Global Health Data Exchange, producing an annual Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD). This figure is based on that data and appeared in a JAMA article April of 2018.

The impact that diseases have on one’s life can be illustrated by the years of life lost (abbreviated YLL) due to death by various diseases, shown on the above figure. This is calculated by multiplying the numbers of death at each age by the difference between that age and a reference life expectancy. To calibrate the ordinate, YLL for heart disease per year is 1651 per 100,000 people.

As expected, heart disease is the number one cause of years of life lost with lung cancer second. Less expected is road injuries as third, suicide fourth, cerebrovascular disease fifth, drug use sixth, and dementia seventh.

Note the last four categories of YLL are neuropsychiatric in nature (CVA is cerebrovascular Accidents such as strokes; note that even Rd injury - road injury - could have a significant suicidal or substance abuse element). Therefore, if they are aggregated as a single category,
the number one category of years of life lost is due to neuropsychiatric illness, not heart disease.


[1] Global Health Estimates 2015: Disease burden by Cause, Age, Sex, by Country and by Region, 2000-2015. Geneva, World Health Organization; 2016.
[2] Murray, C. J. (2013). The State of US Health, 1990-2010. Jama, 310(6), 591. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.13805.
[3] Murray CJ, Ezzati M, Flaxman AD, et al. GBD 2010: design, definitions, and metrics. Lancet. 2012;380(9859):2063-2066.

The Science and Health Benefits of Horseradish

Homegrown horseradish has a clear, fresh taste and packs more flavor than the store-bought variety. It also ranks in the top five easiest-to-grow edible plants because it thrives in a variety of conditions. Horseradish contains strong antioxidants and is being investigated as a source of anti-cancer containing components as explained below.


Homemade prepared horseradish is about twice as strong in flavor as store-bought versions, and lasts about 3 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

o 1 cup peeled and cubed horseradish root
o 3/4 cup white vinegar
o Salt to taste (typically ¼ teaspoon or less)

Process the root by grating by hand or in a food processor or blender. If done by hand, be very careful not to directly inhale volatile isothiocynates – they are hazardous to mucosal membranes.

Let the grated horseradish sit for about 3 minutes, then add the vinegar and mix. See the Science section below for more details of the chemical transformations and the reason for the delay in adding the acidic medium.

Then just seal it up in an airtight container and keep it chilled. It’ll keep at least a few weeks, if not longer, in the refrigerator.

A variation of this horseradish sauce uses lemons instead of the vinegar, known in Germany as Tafelmeerrettich. For one cup of horseradish use the juice of one whole lemon. Other variation include mixing in grated garlic (Russian) or grated beetroot (known as khreyn in Jewish Passover).

Health Benefits

Horseradish peroxidase is being studied for its anti-cancer properties . Horseradish contains other glucosinolates which are strong antioxidants (Bonifert, G., Folkes, L., Gmeiner, C., Dachs, G., & Spadiut, O. (2016). Recombinant horseradish peroxidase variants for targeted cancer treatment. Cancer Medicine, 5(6), 1194–1203. doi:10.1002/cam4.668).


When horseradish cells are damaged by cutting, grating, or chewing, enzymes convert the glucosinolate sinigrin to allyl isothiocyanate (mustard oil) by the enzyme horseradish peroxidase. The plant uses isothiocyanates as a defense against attack by predators. The allyl isothiocyanate apparently decomposes quickly; this decomposition can be slowed significantly by an acidic medium.

There is an optimal time for the formation of the isothiocynate beyond which the decomposition becomes significant. Application of an acidic medium, such as from that from acidic acid (vinegar) or citric acid (lemons), effectively quenches the decomposition (Pecháček, R., Velíšek, J., & Hrabcová, H. (1997). Decomposition Products of Allyl Isothiocyanate in Aqueous Solutions. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 45(12), 4584–4588. doi:10.1021/jf970316z ).

This device could save your life

The Science and Health Benefits of Horseradish

Turmeric for mood, inflammation, and stress

Turmeric is a spice with perhaps the highest antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of any culinary spice – or herb. One active component of turmeric is curcumin (the pigment responsible for the bright yellow color of the spice), which may have natural antidepressant qualities and has been shown to protect neurons from the damaging effects of chronic stress.