If you catch a cold this winter, don't let anyone in Santa Fe know, unless you want to be regaled with litanies suggesting both cause and cure: "You eat too much dairy, you need a colon cleanse, your chakras are out of whack, you've picked up some nasty astral parasites, it's Saturn square Chiron, it's chemtrails, it's mold, you're allergic to wheat…" The expertise among Santa Feans, whether they are amateur curanderos, metaphysicians or "spiritual nutritionists," is astounding. Sure, it seems completely reasonable to blame illness on mysterious causes for which we are entirely responsible, but the problem is you're sick, you're ***image2***cranky, you want relief. It's tiring enough, feeling bad. Who wants to take responsibility for it?
Ask one of those old-fashioned medical "doctors" what to do about a cold, and he or she will invariably say, "Nothing to do. Rest. Drink lots of fluids. Come back if it gets worse. What method of payment are you using today?" If you get assertive, said medical doctor might relent and prescribe antibiotics, tsk-tsking all the while that those little magic pills only work on bacteria, you have a virus, nothing to be done.
Au contraire! This is where what used to be called "alternative" medicine comes in. Now, it's called "complementary" medicine, and in the United States alone, it's a $30 billion a year business. Apparently, Americans don't give a homeopathic hoot about the small print on the labels of herbal and other remedies: "These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA." Forthwith, a battery of holistic attacks, all of which are available right here in Santa Fe, of course. (Note: Always seek expert advice before ingesting herbs or other remedies; sure, herbs are "organic," but so's snake venom.)
Surprisingly, it turns out that the best remedy for a cold is to not catch one. Herbalists, bodyworkers and holistic practitioners in general recommend a panoply of preventive strategies, including diet (cut down on dairy, reduce caffeine and sugar intake, stay hydrated) and "immune system boosters" such as echinacea and vitamin C. Periodic massage therapy is suggested to improve the circulation of the lymph. The basic theory behind common illnesses such as colds and the flu in the field of holistic health care has to do with the general term "toxins." The idea is that these unnamed toxins can build up, and a cold is your body's way of flushing them out.
But let's say it's too late, you're already toxic, you can feel the creeping crud, the aches and pains, the low energy and that telltale tickle at the back of your throat. This is precisely the moment when certain complementary therapies can be most effective, according to Tim Gautchier, herb specialist at Santa Fe's 30-year-old complementary medicine cabinet Herbs, Etc.
"When a person first feels symptoms, Early Alert can be effective," Gautchier says. A combination including echinacea (to boost white blood cell count), olive leaf (to fight infection) and elderberry (to shorten the duration of a cold), Early Alert is just one of Herbs Etc.'s many proprietary blends available in a tincture (both with alcohol and alcohol-free) and capsule. "There's also yin chiao and a variety of other Chinese, ayurvedic and homeopathic preparations, all of which are best taken when people first notice early symptoms," Gautchier adds.
Maybe you're in denial and you procrastinate on those early symptoms. You're in full-blown contagion, your negative thoughts have won, the astral parasites are having a party on your mucus membranes. Bypass Early Defense and head straight for Peak Defense, another proprietary blend that includes goldenseal and a local herb, yerba mansa. There's also osha root, ginger, garlic, Phytocillin, Lymphatonic and the No. 1 cold and flu remedy used in France, Oscillococcinum ***image1***(a homeopathic remedy of somewhat mysterious formulation first manufactured in 1925). Baths infused with essential oils, such as eucalyptus oil, can also relieve common discomfort. Herbs, Etc., as well as other purveyors of complementary remedies, also have cough syrup, decongestants, lozenges and painkillers that are analogs for drugs you can buy at the typical drugstore, often with organic and herbal formulations. There's also an upsurge of interest in a device called a Neti Pot, helpful in irrigating sinuses with warm salt water, sometimes infused with goldenseal or other herbs.
Gautchier comments on herbal remedies, "The New Mexico area has an ancient tradition in herbal remedies. There's a burgeoning interest in herbs and complementary medicine in general. But we still have a long way to go."
Skeptics among us may scoff, but recent advances in organic chemistry combined with the mysterious increase in scientific interest in a $30 billion a year business have resulted in some fascinating discoveries. For example, both ginger and garlic have been shown to contain antirhinoviral chemicals (rhinoviruses "cause" the common cold, according to hopelessly unromantic, outdated Western theories).
Speaking of skepticism, there are a wide range of preventive and curative approaches on the very leading edge of complementary medicine. For example, colorpuncture (the application of light to acupuncture points), Reiki, astral cleansing, nuevo-shamanism and so on. If you get sick and can afford it, holistic complementary medical practitioners recommend a comprehensive approach called "integrative medicine." Santa Fe Soul and Mountain Spirit Integrative Medicine are two local practices that offer all of the above and more.
Then there's Emerald Earth. This local store is almost entirely devoted to the work of Masaru Emoto, author of several books including The Secret Life of Water. Most relevant to cold and flu prevention and cure is a product called Proem 1 Probiotic, which co-owner James McMath says contains "beneficial and regenerative microflora," including Rhodopseudomonas palustris, "one of the earliest of all living organisms." Ingesting Proem 1 Probiotic enlists these little critters to "consume toxins and give off beneficial byproducts." You can also snag a ceramic ringstone, a handy device that you place in the bottom of your water jug that transforms plain tap water into "hexagonal water," purified and a "better fit" for human cells. "We've sold more than 1,000 ringstones since we opened about a year ago," McMath says.
In short, Santa Fe residents need never get sick at all. If we ever have the bad karma to get sick anyway, our local holistic, complementary health providers offer far more remedies than our friends and co-workers could imagine.