What our Ancestors can teach us about healing

It is odd that today I came across not one, but two examples of the ‘super-‘bug’ MRSA being defeated, or at the least severely dented, by ‘old recipes’ for fighting disease.

The first was a report in NEW SCIENTIST that scientists from the University of Nottingham have worked on a recipe to cure styes, laid out in a 1000 year-old Anglo-Saxon medical recipes book called Bald’s Leechbook . (article here)    DSCF5518

It sounds like the three witches in Macbeth, ‘Take cropleek and garlic, of both equal quantities, pound them well together… take wine and bullocks gall, mix with the leek… let it stand nine days in the brass vessel…’  But this is exactly what the scientists did.. though they made sure everything was sterile, and had controls set up, and had each element set up separately too (to see if only one would work – none did on their own)

The result: ‘The potion was tested on scraps of skin taken from mice infected with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. This is an antibiotic-resistant version of the bacteria that causes styes, more commonly known as the hospital super-bug MRSA. The potion killed 90 per cent of the bacteria. Vancomycin, the antibiotic generally used for MRSA, killed about the same proportion when it was added to the skin scraps’.

Just imagine how long and how much experimentation had to have taken place in ancient times to come up with this particular mixture of herbs and the vessel to use to make it in, made up so carefully (another ‘try’ with this recipe by a US university in 2005 resulted in  ‘a loathsome, odorous slime‘ that did not work,) and left for that particular length of time to discover it worked, that it cured styes (for that is what the recipe was for – and as styes are caused by Staphylococcus aureus – this is why the scientists were trying it)

This method has been peer tested by Dr Kendra Rumbaugh, of Texas Tech University in the US, who was asked to replicate the findings. She said that the salve performed ‘good if not better’ than traditional antibiotics at tackling the superbug. The findings were presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology in Birmingham which runs from March 30 this year.

IMG_0384The second MRSA attacker I heard about on the radio — my ears pricked up when I heard the goats (we used to keep goats) and they were the source of this other unexpected beater of MRSA.  It is a long story – but the goats had initially been kept to help with their son’s asthma (this is well documented that Goat’s milk is a less antagonistic to bronchial conditions than cows milk.) They also found that it helped clear up his eczema when made into a cream and a soap.

Now, eczema is an auto-immune disease and many auto-immune diseases appear to be triggered in the gut. By making a fermented product from the goat’s milk, called kefir, they found they had something that seemed to help many auto-immune gut related conditions. Kefir is a powerful probiotic that has been made for hundreds of years in Russia, though the name is possibly Turkish (from keif meaning good feeling).

Then, after surgery, the husband contracted MRSA from the hospital. The wound wasn’t healing, worse, the MRSA was attacking the skin and flesh and making the wound larger and worse and, despite treatment, would not go away. Having read of the curative powers of kefir and having seen how it had helped their son with both asthma and eczema, the wife started treating her husband with kefir by getting him to drink it. She also read-up on essential oils and, believe it or not, the bubonic plague and a bunch of perfumiers who didn’t catch it, and created her own blend of essential oils which she used to bathe his skin, after which she used the kefir on his skin too. In two weeks his skin was testing negative for MRSA and soon healed. The blend of essential oils has since been lab-tested to show it is effective against a whole bunch of pathogenic bacteria, and they are currently working with Swansea university on the effects of kefir and the essential oils  (read an article here)

Now these are concoctions that have been ‘known’ about in the western world for hundreds of years – and we are still only just realising how nature works, how our bodies work and how they can work together – or against each other. If this is the state we are in with cures and remedies we already ‘know’ about  – how many more cures are out there in nature, especially in the most bio-diverse regions like the rain-forests that man seems set on destroying? It makes you think!  (Yes, I did quite get into all this while I was writing ‘The Angel Bug’ as one of the main characters was deeply concerned for the rain-forest and its bio-diversity – does it show?

Had you picked up on these stories in the recent media?

What are your thoughts?

Are you fed up with the general election  (UK) ALREADY?

Do share – you know you want to 🙂

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Having a Jammy time …

DSCF7517The house is feeling empty; having been jam-full for the past five weeks. It has been a joy, this big old house and garden likes to be full of young people, from the very young (grandson #3 at 17 months) through his brothers (4 & 6) – right up to their Mum and Dad – all over from Malaysia, plus two other sons of ours, and a girlfriend, then after the ‘Malaysian’ contingent left, my second cousin and boyfriend (from Australia) .. it’s been great … and busy!

And now it is quiet and the soft-fruit needs picking and the jam stocks need replenishing.

It is blackcurrant time and ours have produced a good quantity. Most of this will go into the freezer – having been carefully ‘picked over’ to remove bits of stalk, so that jam making through the year will be easier. After all, who wants to be making jam when the sun is shining? It is also useful when you want a bit of extra flavour to sharpen up an apple crumble or similar, to know you can just pull a handful from the bag in the freezer and throw them into the mix knowing they are ready to cook with.

A new comment on my ‘recipes’ on the drop-down (above) made me think I ought to put my MW recipe for Blackcurrant jam into a blog as well as just on the recipes. If you are a regular reader you may have realised by now that I use my microwave for a lot of REAL cooking – and especially for jam as I find it faster, much less of a bother (no standing over steamy pot stirring to prevent burning or sticking) and less messy – easy cleaning of bowl as there is nothing burnt on.

My MW blackcurrant recipe has proved to be very popular – in fact Google Analytics shows me that over the last week alone 89 people came to view my microwave recipe for Blackcurrant jam (and 20 the MW Apricot jam one) and, judging by the average time spent on the page, many of them chose this recipe over other recipes available on the net.

So here goes:

My microwave Blackcurrant Jam recipe (makes 5lbs)

2lbs blackcurrants (picked over to remove stalks – if using frozen, make sure they are fully defrosted overnight, defrosting by MW seems to make the skins tougher
3 dessert-spoons water
3lbs sugar

1, Place blackcurrants and water in large* Pyrex or similarly heat proof microwave safe bowl, covered, 10 mins on high power to soften fruit and release pectin. (*large enough to hold at least twice the amount of fruit you are putting in it – mine holds 6 litres)
2, Add sugar and stir in well.
3, Lid off, bring up to the boil again in MW on high – about 6 mins.
4, Stir well and put back into MW to Simmer for 8 mins ( Simmer or med > low power)
5, Stir well, and put back into MW to simmer for 4 mins and check for set (place a teaspoon of jam mix on a cold plate – pop back in fridge – will show a set if the jam skin forms wrinkles and feels thick when finger is pushed though it when cool)
6, Into well washed jars pour about 1 cm (half an inch) of boiling water, place in microwave on full power for 3 – 4 mins until the water boils in the jars. Take care and tip them out well and stand to evaporate the last bit of water while you re-heat the jam mix
7, If a set is demonstrated by your test – return jam mix to microwave and heat until bubbles appear then remove from microwave and ladle into hot jars. (if no set then simmer for another 3 mins and retest, continue until a set is demonstrated)
8, Cover with clear jam-covers as per instructions with the packet, and label.
9, Enjoy!

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This recipe makes a very intensely favoured Blackcurrant jam … which we also use to flavour our home-made yoghurt, just by stirring in a scant teaspoonful at the table – YUM!

Are you a jam maker?

Do you like to use your microwave to make jam or is this a new idea for you?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you.

6Oh – and if you are a Facebooker – there is a draw on Pendown Publishing’s page to enter where you can win a paperback copy of The Angel Bug  – please do pop over there and enter – you just Like the page and answer the fun question – ‘What genre would your life-story be?’ to enter. Thanks

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And this week’s excuse is …..

Ok, so the blog is late….    Radio St austell pic

Sorry… but… and here comes this week’s excuse ….

I blame it on YouTube!

You see I had a long interview with Marj James (poetry and literature) on Radio St Austell Bay – the radio station that has The Eden Project in it’s zone (you know, that wonderful place in Cornwall where I set my latest novel – The Angel Bug) and I wanted to share it all with you.

To share the interview it meant capturing from the ‘listen-again’ service and turning it into a youtube ‘video’ so I can put it on the blog.

(Makes me sounds all good and technical doesn’t it?  But I have to admit that I get one of my sons to do this as, it seems, I do not have the appropriate software to achieve this task 🙂 )

So, lovely son duly does this for me and I happily post it onto YouTube.

  !*YouTube alert – this contains COPYRIGHTED  material and will be blocked *!

Ooops! I had totally forgotten the pieces of music that I was asked to choose to go with my interview – of course they were copyrighted material!

Cue ‘excuse’ so this then meant a re-jig by (long-suffering) son to remove the offending material – who was offline when I found the problem.. and then was working  (I mean what is more important a PhD or re-jigging my interview 😉 ) .

So, all in all – here is my interview – minus these pieces of music. Daydream Believer by The Monkees, Tusk, by Fleetwood Mac (which got messed up anyway and ended up at the end instead of the middle of the programme) and Hi Ho Silver Lining, which was going to end the programme.

And now, for some weird reason of its own the ‘video’ will not ‘appear’ on my blog (as it usually does when I use the ‘share’ code.. oh no, this time I have to give you this link  below which will take you to YouTube and the ‘video’ – but don’t forget to click back to this blog when it’s done 🙂 .

http://youtu.be/wMLJi0BZjpk


Well, after that all I can say is that was another notch on my experience list – a really long interview (thanks to Marj James) and a ‘tussle’ with YouTube!

How do you get on with all the different types of social media and sharing options?

Do they cause you more stress or less?

Which ones do you like best – Facebook? YouTube? Pintrest?  Twitter? etc, or do you dislike them all ?

Do share your experiences – you know I love to hear from you 🙂

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Judging a Book by its Cover

This week I have been trying to get a handle on what I want on the cover of my new novel ‘The Angel Bug‘.

Traditionally published novelists often get no say in what goes on their cover. I heard one author complain that the cover of one of her Romance novels showed a blonde wearing tweeds, when it was obvious to anyone who’d even read the first chapter of her book that the main character was a brunette and wouldn’t have been seen dead in tweeds. (She said that it was set in the countryside, and she guessed that’s as far into the description of the novel as the illustrator had read)

The other extreme is deciding totally on your own what to have on your own book cover. And there’s the rub… what impression to convey with the cover? It is definitely a tricky choice because some people DO JUDGE BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS !

Now, I have the offer of a professional job on the cover, once I have an idea of what I want .. so I have been trying a few rough mock-ups myself – finding this easier than explaining in words what I want. (The words that come out of my mouth seem to get translated into a different language as they go into someone elses ears)

The Angel Bug is set at the (world) famous Eden Project (in Cornwall) – at least for the core of the novel… so I thought I’d try to combine a picture of this with the idea of a ‘bug’ or ‘bacteria’ and change the picture of Eden to look like something you might see down a microscope.

Ok, effective-ish but WHAT MESSAGE WAS IT GIVING?  Having shown it to a few people I realised it wasn’t coming over the way that it was meant… it was looking a bit sci-fi..ish, a bit ‘weird’ and probably my usual readers wouldn’t pick it up.

So I tried the same idea without the inverted colours… now it just looked messy.

I won’t show you the weird effects I created trying to make it look like Eden was sat in a petri dish.. or indeed under an actual microscope – the images were too rough and I deleted them before thinking about this blog post!

I tried with a different picture and different view – better, I thought, but still the book looked like a sci-fi or a thriller…. neither of which it is, though,I suppose, it does carry some small elements of both.

original photo Neil Kennedy wikimediacommons

Another colour change and I felt I was working towards something that might not frighten off my readers … but did it convey the right image of the book?

At this point I really don’t know … I do know that it needs more thought and more feedback … or perhaps I’ll settle for the ‘blonde in tweeds’ and be done with it …

What does this cover say to you? Would you pick it up to read the blurb?

Do you judge a book, in the first instance, by its cover?

How do you select books to read?

Do share – I’d love to hear from you… and you never know it might help me 🙂

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