Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Wise Woman Tradition Empowers Women

The Wise Woman Tradition is the oldest known healing tradition on our planet. It offers a unique view of health that is woman-centered and deeply empowering to women. This is in stark contrast to orthodox - and most alternative - healing traditions, which are based on male viewpoints which disempower women.

The medicine I learned in school was based on a linear, scientific, male worldview whose truth I did not question. When this medicine failed me, as a woman and a mother, I sought alternatives. Herbs helped me take care of myself and my family, simply and safely, but I questioned the assumptions behind what I was taught. It was clear to me that alternative health care disempowers women as much, or more than, orthodox medicine does. They both actively assume that the norm on which assessment of health is to be based is masculine in gender.

Assuming that a healthy male is the definition of health may not seem like much of a problem, unless you are a woman. This core assumption has hurt, and continues to hurt, women in a multitude of direct and indirect ways, from the deeply personal to the widely political. This assumption leads to attempts to "correct" - with drugs and surgery - physical and emotional states that are normal (and healthy) for women, but not for men.

Consider: Healthy women were given DES (a hormone) simply because they were pregnant - their offspring are cancer-prone.

Millions of menopausal women have been (and are still) treated with hormones in an effort to replace what is "lost." Does this improve their health? No. Use of hormone replacement increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and breast cancer.

Menstruating women need some quiet time alone. Instead they are offered pink Prozac to help them overcome their "depression."

Women are advised to have their uterus (and increasingly their ovaries, too) removed since they are "not needed after menopause ... just places that can harbor cancer." It is well known that a woman's sexual response is unlikely to be as strong, and may even be lost, when she loses these vital organs. A century ago, a woman who challenged male authority could be diagnosed as "hysterical" and her uterus ("hyster") removed (often without anesthesia or disinfectants).

There is more to medicine than the male perspective. I speak for the woman-centered tradition. It offers men and women a new way to think about and create health in all stages of their lives. It empowers women to take charge of their health and their lives, to honor and respect themselves, and the earth. I call it the Wise Woman Tradition.

The Wise Woman Tradition empowers women by:

* Focusing on simple remedies that are easily accessible
* Sharing information freely
* Offering compassionate listening
* Renaming her weaknesses as strengths
* Reminding her that her body is the body of the earth, is the body of the goddess, is the sacred ground of being.

The Wise Woman Tradition empowers women to:

* View themselves as healthy, even when they have problems
* Create their own healthy norms
* Honor their natural cycles and changes (puberty, menses, pregnancy, menopause)
* Define themselves from a woman-centered viewpoint
* Connect with other women for personal and planetary healing

Much of modern medicine seems complicated and difficult to understand. Many alternative remedies are also complicated, some are unduly expensive, others require special training and initiations. This disempowers women. The Wise Woman Tradition, by focusing on simple remedies that are easily accessible, and by sharing information freely, allows women to feel competent and powerful in taking care of their own health.

The Wise Woman Tradition heals by nourishing the wholeness of each unique individual. Nourishing has three primary aspects: simple ceremony, nourishing foods, and compassionate listening. When women are heard, when we listen to each other, then we feel validated and empowered. Harking back to the consciousness-raising sessions of the 1970's, and informed by Native American teachings of the talking stick, compassionate listening reshapes women's stories so they can reshape their lives.

One of the great gifts of the Wise Woman Tradition is the renaming of our weaknesses as strengths. When we allow ourselves to be depressed, outraged, yearning, grief-stricken, confused, fearful, bitchy, and more; when we allow all that we are to be part of us, then we can finally find and celebrate our wholeness/health/holiness.

The Wise Woman Tradition empowers women by reminding us that we are sacred, that our bodies are sacred. As women, we are the earth. Each one of us lives in the body of the earth. Each one of us comes from this sacred ground of being. And not only are we empowered to honor ourselves, we are empowered to demand that respect from all others.

When women accept orthodoxy's image of them as constantly in need of help, they accept a powerless position. When women accept the Wise Woman Tradition's assertion that they are already perfect, already vibrantly healthy, even when they have problems, they assume a position of power. When women create their own healthy norms, they create a place of power in which they can stand, no matter how fast and furious the changes.

When women believe that their natural cycles and changes (puberty, menses, pregnancy, menopause) are somehow sick or wrong, they open themselves to medical experiments. When women learn that the Wise Woman Tradition honors these states above all others, they find a source of deep wisdom and great power flowing into their lives.

When women define themselves from a male-centered viewpoint, they always loose. When they define themselves from a woman-centered viewpoint, they always win. The Wise Woman Tradition offers this power to women, from the Ancient Grandmother's heart to yours.

Susun Weed

PO Box 64

Woodstock, NY 12498

Fax: 1-845-246-8081

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Vibrant, passionate, and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international reputation for her groundbreaking lectures, teachings, and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges conventional medical approaches with humor, insight, and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine. Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic lectures are engaging and often profoundly provocative

Howl On a Cliffhanger in the Canadian Rockies – A Golf Feature for Women

I write this golf feature for women who love to golf. Women are falling for this game and I too have fallen truly, madly, deeply in love with golf. My summer afternoons are spent daydreaming about which course to play and plotting whether I can sneak away early enough from the office to play a full round.

I want to share my passion for the game. My features will discuss the journey, the accommodations, the game and experience, from a woman's perspective. Yes, I will describe the game from the forward tees.

My goal is simple: to share my "experiences" hoping that you, my dear readers, are encouraged to explore some of the wonderful golf resorts that North America, and the world, has to offer. Golf is a wonderful game and I hope to share my enthusiasm with you.

Girls just want to have fun, and in our case, fun means golf! I love to golf and in fact, the gals and I belong to a "ladies league" just so we can golf once a week. We do this for a couple of reasons - to improve our game and to escape from life's daily annoyances, if only for a few hours.

By January, I commence fantasizing about golf as I shovel mass amounts of snow. I stand in my driveway, shovel in hand, totally engrossed in my fantasy. I smell the freshly cut fairways and hear the chatter of the birds. It's hot and I wipe the sweat from my brow as I plan my next shot. I remove my driver from my golf bag, and then reach into my back pocket for my tee and ball. Instead, a cold, wet mitt presents itself. Reality strikes once again!

I call my girlfriend and shriek, "I need to golf, where are we going and when? It's time to plan our annual golf vacation! - Mexico, the Carolina's and California are discussed as possible destinations. In pursuit of our goal, I discovered a great website that offers vacation packages to all these locations.

After a lengthy discussion, we chose the interior of British Columbia for a few reasons. First, the flight is fairly short from Toronto, second, the climate is less forgiving out West, and, third, that naughty little phrase, "exchange rate" need not apply.

We chose to stay at Panorama Resort, and resort known to Canadian's for its skiing and golfing. The resort is approximately 20 minutes southwest of Radium, BC. It is rated as a four-star resort, complete with all the amenities: spa, restaurants, tennis courts, and shops that sell snacks, beer and a decent bottle of wine. The package also included three rounds of golf, at local courses. We were fortunate enough to choose the courses and book our tee-off times prior to our departure. Panorama is also home to Grey Wolf, classified as one of Canada's top 100 golf resorts.

We flew direct to Calgary, Alberta. Total flying time was 4 hours. We departed early in the morning to ensure that we arrived in Calgary with enough daylight to drive through the mountains. We packed our rental car (one large enough to fit our clubs and massive amount of luggage), found the map, and headed west. Much like our ancestors, I knew heading west would eventually lead me to my paradise where my fleeting dream would be fulfilled.

The drive from Calgary to the interior BC is approximately 2.5 hours. I love to drive, but my girlfriend was driving, and I was jealous! However, after some thought, I changed my mind and considered myself lucky, because while her eye was on the road, mine was on the approaching vistas. If you have the opportunity to take this trip, happily relinquish your driving rights because the sights are truly breathtaking.

Majestic mountains appeared on the horizon - the snow-capped Rockies, the symbols of Canada that they are, dominate the countryside creating a perfect picture postcard.

On your way, make sure you stop in Banff for a bite to eat; it's truly a town worth seeing. Sure, it's full of tourists and tourist shops that sell overpriced, tacky items, but it's a quaint village in its own right, so take my advice, make a stop.

After lunch, we continued the drive to British Columbia. Remember, we are driving from one province to another. (For those of you unfamiliar with traveling in Canada, there are NO border stops between provinces.) The trip from Banff, Alberta to Radium, British Columbia, is approximately one hour. That is if you don't stop. But you will stop, and have your camera ready because the views are breathtaking. Valley upon valley unfolds before your eyes. As the mountains reach for the sky, I spotted where the tree line ended and was replaced by stark protruding rock faces. I can't help but ask my girlfriend to stop the car, so I can take pictures. I feel compelled to photograph everything, as I didn't want this memory to fade.

When we arrived in Radium, I noticed the hot springs were open. Note to self about Radium. Natural hot springs are favorite tourist spot, so if you're into this type of scene enjoy, if not, wave to the "springers" and keep driving. Another note to self. Beware of mountain sheep on the side of the road and don't stop to close to take photographs, as they get frightened and begin to "joust" right in front of your car.

Twenty-five minutes later, the car stops. I am at Panorama Resort! Greeted by friendly staff, I was handed a map and promised the weather would cooperate. I was somewhat dubious about the weather comment and I became fixated on the weather channel.

We arrive at our condominium and as we pull up, I squeal, "this is too good to be true!" Picture this: four chateau-style condominiums, perched high on a hill. Behind them loom snow-capped mountains as far as the eye can see. Traces of the snow remain on a few of the ski runs, making me consider that I might have to return for a ski trip. The car stops and I get out. Silence. I inhale deeply and my lungs welcome the fresh air. I feel like I've been beamed from a busy, stark city into an enchanting countryside that offers nothing but splendor and peace of mind. Blue sky, tall pines and silence are the elements the make-up the landscape.

It's one of those moments one experiences when s/he realizes there is much more too life than daily rituals - it is a moment where values are questioned. I hadn't even golfed yet and I was ready to move here!

Our suite is on the fourth floor. It is a corner suite that overlooks the pool area as well as provides us with a panoramic view of the mountains (I'm guessing that's how the resort acquired its name.) It's been a long day, it is time to get some supplies, soak in the hot tub, and eat.

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Folic Acid Prevents High Blood Pressure in Women

Women who get lots of folic acid from both diet and supplements have less chance of developing high blood pressure than women who get very little, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2005;293:320-9) that re-analyzed data from two previous studies.

Hypertension (HTN) is defined as blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg. HTN affects approximately 65 million people in the United States, and the prevalence is increasing as the population ages. Blood pressure is influenced by the openness and elasticity of the blood vessels; HTN indicates loss of elasticity, narrowing of the vessels, or both. It is frequently caused by plaque formation along the inner vessel walls (atherosclerosis). Because the heart pumps against the resistance (pressure) of the arteries, HTN increases the work the heart must do to keep blood flowing to all parts of the body. Chronic HTN can therefore cause thickening of the heart muscle and eventual heart failure. HTN also increases the risk of stroke and kidney failure. Preventing HTN is critical to reducing the incidence of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the US. Public health recommendations are based on evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats, combined with regular moderate exercise, can protect against HTN.

Folic acid, one of the B vitamins, occurs naturally in many plant foods (such as beans and green leafy vegetables) and is commonly found in multivitamins and B-complex supplements. Due to its role in preventing some birth defects, a number of foods are now fortified with folic acid, such as cold cereals and other grain products. Along with vitamins B6 and B12, folic acid lowers blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that has been found to be a heart disease risk factor. Several small studies have suggested that folic acid supplements might improve the health of the vessel walls and lower blood pressure.

Data from two previous studies of health and disease patterns in women in the US, known as the Nurses' Health Study I and II, were used in the current study to examine the effect of dietary and supplemental folic acid intake on HTN.

More than 238,000 women participated in the two studies. One study included women between 25 and 42 years old and the other included women between 30 and 55 years old. Women in both studies answered questionnaires about health and dietary habits upon enrollment. For both studies, follow-up health questionnaires were filled out every two years for eight years, and a follow-up diet questionnaire was answered after four years.

The study involving younger women found that those who consumed the most total folic acid (more than 1,000 mcg per day) from both diet and supplements had a 46% lower risk of HTN than those who consumed the least total folic acid (less than 200 mcg per day). In the study with older women, consuming the most folic acid afforded an 18% risk reduction compared with consuming the least. In women whose dietary folic acid was less than 200 mcg per day, a combined dietary and supplemental folic acid intake of at least 800 mcg per day reduced HTN risk, relative to a combined intake of less than 200 mcg per day, by 45% in the study with younger women and 39% in the study with older women. In women who did not take supplements, getting the currently recommended 400 mcg per day from food was not protective against HTN in either study.

This analysis of the results from two studies provides evidence that folic acid can significantly reduce HTN risk in women. It further suggests that supplementing with folic acid is an effective way to increase intake to a level that protects against HTN. Future studies should further examine the relationship between folic acid intake and HTN risk, as well as the possible role for folic acid supplements in reducing blood pressure in people with HTN.

For more Vitamin Information and other Vitamin Articles, visit Vitamin Herb University.

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VTFree Reprint Articles, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.


For more Vitamin Information and other Vitamin Articles, visit Vitamin Herb University.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to VHU's Healthnotes Newswire.