Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Unfortunate Truth About Aspirin

Aspirin, you know what it does and you probably take it yourself.
Unfortunately aspirin has a bit of a dark side to it and may not be as safe as we'd like to think.

The History of Willow Bark and Aspirin

Aspirin has a bit of a dark side lodged in its history, in the mid 1700's the active ingredient of Willow Bark was first discovered, this compound was named Salicin.

We know today that the compound Salicin found in willow bark works like aspirin but is metabolically quite different. The compound Salicin is synthesized into salicylic acid by the body after it has bypassed the stomach and is then converted into aspirin, unlike aspirin however which harms the stomach lining and can cause ulceration and internal bleeding.

The problem was that extracting Salicin was not feasible at the time and people needed more willow than was available.

They could produce Salicin in the laboratory if they tried but they would not be able to patent it that way since it is a naturally occurring compound and very quickly any drug company would be able to make their own painkillers making for a very competitive market.

Unfortunately for the world, this did not happen, in fact what actually happened is that in 1897 (over 100 years later) salicylic acid was first isolated and was found to have analgesic effects but unfortunately had negative effects on the digestive system.

Shortly after that, an even easier to synthesize compound which we now know as Aspirin (Acetylsalicylic Acid) was created and patented by Bayer and the rest is history, Willow is almost all but forgotten today.

So which is safer? Willow Bark or Aspirin?

Willow bark, unlike Aspirin does not cause digestive problems or internal bleeding and provides the same pain relief as Aspirin. However, willow bark is almost 3x the price.

Why haven't I heard of Willow Bark before?

Although herbal remedies are making a comeback, with all the quack remedies out there for pain like MSM and the like.

In addition, we have yet to learn much of the knowledge that was lost to history such as dosages and preparations. Willow bark is simply not something that a drug company can make a lot of money out of and as such, it is not marketed very much.

I hope you found this post interesting, if you did please leave a comment and share with all your friends.

Peace Out :)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A Faster Way To Cook Pasta?

A delicious plate of Spaghetti Pomodoro

Spaghetti, macaroni, linguine, tagliatelle, capellini, spaghettini, ravioli, you name it they're all kinds of pasta. If you've been making pasta the old fashioned way like I had been for the last 15 years, then you'd know that it takes quite a lot of time, some concentration and really good timing and or luck.

You have to salt and boil a large amount of water in a large pot which takes quite some time to reach boil, you have to add the pasta, stir it to make sure it doesn't stick and if you're using a lousy electric stove you may even have to put a lid on to make sure it stays boiling and of course then you have to watch that it doesn't boil all over the stove top, then you have to strain it and after all that with a little bit of forgetfulness you can easily overcook it leaving you with a batch of mushy, sloppy, starchy pasta.

I remember reading back in the day about a method on (now known as about a quicker way of cooking pasta and after researching online I finally was able to find an article that gave me the method which I will explain now.

First you will need a small pot, yes I know what you're thinking: But how can I use a small pot, the pasta will burn to the bottom, I won't be able to fit enough water to keep a rolling boil etc etc.

Just hear me out, none of these things will happen and you will end up with the most aldente pasta you have ever eaten in your life.

We want to use a small pot because it heats up quicker, this is where you save the most time, you can save up to 10 minutes if you're using an electric stove and about 6 minutes using a gas stove, the method uses much less energy to get a much better result so even if you're using gas you will save in the long run by using half the gas you'd normally use.

This method also uses about 1/3rd of the water you would normally use, basically just enough to cover the pasta and a little bit more for extra measure, maybe an inch. By using a smaller pot we will also have to use a different method to make sure the pasta doesn't burn or stick and to make sure it cooks aldente.

Note: If you're adding anything that can't be fully covered by the water in the pot like spaghetti which sticks out the top you will have to break the strands in half and add it in this way.

The Method (Gas Stove)

  1. Bring water to the boil in a small pot and add salt to taste, you can speed up this process even quicker by using a kettle to boil half the water
  2. Add dry pasta to the water, and stir for the first 3 minutes while it comes back to boil
  3. Once the pasta has reached a boil again you can stop stirring
  4. Immediately put the lid on and turn the gas off
  5. Wait for the same amount of time you would have spent boiling the pasta
  6. Strain and Serve
  7. Be amazed at how you've been doing it wrong your whole life

The Method (Electric Stove)

  1. Bring water to the boil in a small pot and add salt to taste,you can speed up this process even quicker by using a kettle to boil half the water
  2. Add dry pasta to the water, and stir for the first 3 minutes while it returns back to just before boilin
  3. Immediately put the lid on and turn the stove off
  4. Wait for the same amount of time you would have spent boiling the pasta
  5. Strain and Serve
  6. Be amazed at how you've been doing it wrong your whole life

Please let me know if this worked as well for you as it did for me, every stove is a little different and you know your stove better than anyone else so use your own discretion and chef's intuition.

I personally have a really cheap two plate electric stove with built in oven and this technique worked so well for me that the cheapest brand of pasta tasted came out like Barilla, I can't even imagine how good it would have come out if I actually used Barilla!

The Best Natural Scientifically Proven Anti-Depressant

Image of a depressed individual

Depression affects a large percentage of the worlds population and is extremely predominant in the USA, with the percentage of individuals at an all time high. But there has to be an alternative to expensive pharmaceutical drugs, with all the millions of plants out there certainly scientists must have found something by now that has been proven to be as effective as pharmaceutical grade antidepressants.

And indeed they have.

I'm not talking about St Johns Wort here or some basic amino acid you get from food like Tryptophan or anything similar like 5HTP.

No, I'm talking about Saffron!

Threads of Saffron

There have been over 4 clinical studies published and no conflicting studies of any kind that show that saffron extract (15-30mg) a day is just as effective as fluoxetine, a commonly prescribed drug used in the treatment of depression. You can find all four links to the Pubmed articles here: [1][2][3][4]

My partner suffered from depression so I thought I'd give it a try.
We bought 1 gram of saffron and every morning he'd eat about 15 threads, it started working from the first day, he was more cheerful, happier, less moody and a lot less depressive.

We now carry around a bottle of saffron in our medicine bag everywhere we go in case he has a depressive episode (which seem to happen less frequently now that I occasionally cook with saffron)

For those of you who want something a bit more standardized, like the ones used in the studies above, try this saffron extract from Amazon.

Are Electronic Cigarettes 10 Times More Carcinogenic Than Traditional Cigarettes?

All over the media, for the past couple of days has been word about how electronic cigarettes contain 10x the carcinogens of regular cigarettes. This was based on a study conducted in Japan.

I found this very surprising as many studies have been done on electronic cigarettes before and none of them have found carcinogens.

 Reality vs Study

In reality your modern electronic cigarette has 3 components.

An image of a modern Electronic Cigarette

  1. Battery
  2. Atomizer with Tank (This stores the liquid in a tank and heats up the liquid to produce vapor)
  3. Nicotine Liquid
 An electronic cigarette like this typically costs around $40.

The Japanese study made use of  the model #510 electronic cigarette which is extremely outdated, you will have trouble finding it on the market today, it has 4 components.

An image of an old model 510 Electronic Cigarette

  1. Battery
  2. Cartridge (This is a plastic sponge which is held against the atomizer)
  3. Atomizer (Heats up the plastic sponge. If there is no liquid inside, it burns the sponge)
  4. Nicotine Liquid
 An electronic cigarette like this typically costs about $12.

My first electronic cigarette was a black 510 like the one above, I bought it 6 years ago and even back then it was the cheapest model. I did not like the idea of the sponge (like the majority of users back then) and resorted to a technique called direct drip because it was kind of obvious that burnt plastic was probably not healthy for you.

The Japanese study claimed to have found 10x more of a single carcinogen (formaldehyde), not of total carcinogens, this makes the headline misleading.

Of course burning plastic couldn't be a carcinogen could it?? (Rocket Science!)

The study failed to mention what brand of  liquids were used, not that it would matter considering aforementioned burning plastic. Many liquids on the market have no quality assurance like Dekang or unbranded liquids and don't even mention the ingredients.

Is it the liquid?

But the vast majority of liquids are tested and typically are composed of 3 of the following ingredients, sometimes only 2 (such as unflavored liquid)

  1. Propylene Glycol
  2. Vegetable Glycerin
  3. Nicotine
  4. Flavoring
  5. Water
None of the above mentioned ingredients are carcinogenic, even when heated.
Yes, for those of you wondering nicotine is not a carcinogen.
It just happens to be very addictive.

Where is the study?

If the purpose of a study is to learn something or add knowledge for the betterment of society these Japanese researchers didn't do anyone a favor.

Here are some more problems with the Japanese study.

  1. The study was never published in a medical journal and is not open to public scrutiny
  2. The information was delivered directly to the Japanese Health Ministry without following protocols
  3. The information passed directly to media in a dishonest way, even if electronic cigarettes all had 10x more formaldehyde, the total percentage of carcinogens would still be 90% lower than traditional cigarettes as smoked tobacco has over 43 known carcinogens of which 42 of them present in higher concentrations that electronic cigarettes. 
  4. Even if all electronic cigarettes had 10x the levels of formaldehyde, it still lacks the remaining 41 carcinogens.
  5. The levels of formaldehyde was only found to exist in one tested electronic cigarette out of an unknown number tested  

 The Bottom Line

While electronic cigarettes aren't perfect, they are certainly according to every other scientific paper published on the topic magnitudes safer than conventional smoking. Do not let one bogus study out of hundreds of studies stating otherwise scare you away from a much safer alternative.

A note to smokers

If you  are currently smoking I highly recommend you make the change over to the electronic cigarette, the brand I recommend and use myself is Janty, I recommend this starter kit, it also comes with free global shipping. This set doesn't use an atomizer but rather a puromizer, which does not use a plastic sponge, heck I'm using one of these right now!

You can buy it here on Ebay

With regards to nicotine liquid, you should always buy local liquid and if you're new to vaping, you will want liquid in the 24mg/ml range (2.4% Nicotine) and this is very important because you don't want to start using your Electronic Cigarette only to find out that you're going through withdrawal because you aren't using a strong enough nicotine liquid.

If you're like me you will likely end up tapering down to 18mg/ml (1.8%) once you've kicked the cigarette habit altogether. When buying liquid it is important to know what's inside, use the list above as a guide for what should be in your liquid, if there's anything else; don't even consider it.

Scientifically Proven Natural Headache Remedies

Scientifically Proven Natural Headache Remedies

A typical expression of a headache

Most of us get the occasional headache and when we do, we usually reach for the closest headache pill in our cabinet. This would be fine, only there are major problems with using pharmaceutical painkillers, especially if you're using them regularly on a long term basis.

The Problem with Pharmaceutical Pain Killers

Paracetamol/Acetaminophen can cause liver damage and overdose is the leading cause of acute liver toxicity.

Aspirin may seem innocent enough, but the problem with aspirin is it can wear out your stomach lining leading to ulcers and eventually internal hemorrhaging.

Codeine based painkillers are addictive.

Combinations containing caffeine tend to cause rebound headaches.

Ibuprofen and other NSAID's have similar problems to aspirin.

The Solution


There can be three aspects to your headache; Pain, Tension and Inflammation. If you don't eliminate all three aspects you will remain uncomfortable. 

We can eliminate the pain and tension fairly easily, to do this all you need is a menthol containing oil such as peppermint, spearmint or eucalyptus and something to dilute it in, preferably ethanol. 

A study published in 1999 from Germany showed that applying a 10% peppermint oil, 90% ethanol solution to the forehead, temples and back of the neck with cotton 3x over 30 minutes was as effective as 1000mg of Paracetamol with zero toxicity!

You can read the study in all its glory here.

I have tested this myself and it works great, but for more serious headaches something else needs to be added to remove the underlying inflammation.

As it turns out Ginger and Turmeric are extremely anti-inflammatory and most people have some lying around in their kitchen, by taking one or a combination of the two and making a tea out of it you can achieve the same levels of anti-inflammatory properties as with Aspirin. The dosage works out to 1.2tsp of ground dry herb to get the same effect as 300mg of Aspirin. To make it even more effective use honey as a sweetener.

Give this a try the next time you have a headache, it certainly works for me.

How I Finally Eliminated My Anxiety After 5 Years!

How I Finally Eliminated My Anxiety After 5 Years!

Nail Biting, a common symptom of anxiety

As a child everyone around me seemed to think I was a little strange, it's one of those things you don't really notice until high school because until them people didn't really tell you what they really thought of you, I lacked social skills and wanted nothing more than to be as far away from other kids as possible. No matter where I looked there were just too many things going on, unpredictable things and people are the most unpredictable things of them all. I wanted nothing to do with it, so I spent my days of school alone, friendless.

When I started high school that was when I started wanting social interaction, the only problem was I was about as socially adept as a spastic seal... well.. maybe a little less than the seal.
This became problematic for me, I did make some friends but they mostly saw me as a liability to be around, sort of like something you do because it makes you feel better about yourself as a person.

When I finished my education as a whole I realized that over time I was becoming more and more scared of the world around me, I had an especially strong disliking for being driven around somewhere in a car or being in any situation that was out of my control like going to buy groceries.

Eventually I couldn't take it anymore and decided to stay home all day and night, occasionally friends would come visit but I was a mess.. I shook, wobbled, couldn't communicate properly and quite frankly just wanted to be left alone in the safety of my solitude.

At the age of 19 I had enough of it, I wanted to be popular!
I wanted to have a boyfriend, have a social life, go out drinking with friends and maybe even one day drive a car. So I started researching for ways to get rid of my anxiety.

There wasn't much online support for people with anxiety back then, no forums, no Youtube, heck we didn't even have Facebook. All I had for a social life was IRC and my only source of information was Google.

Not wanting to take the standard medical route I tried many remedies which were recommended by the local health shop.

The following did absolutely nothing beyond placebo.

  • St Johns Wort
  • Valerian Root
  • Passionflower
  • Sutherlandia
  • Ginseng
  • Milkthistle
If you know anything about herbal medicine you should know by now that the last three items on that list were bought out of desperation, just to find something that would help.

What I couldn't understand was why did Valerian Root fail me?
It was touted as the best natural thing, yes it did nothing.
From what I know today, Valerian Root is nothing but an overpriced placebo, not a single study has shown it to be effective against anxiety. NONE!

But then why would the health shop sell it to me?
I was under the impression that herbal medicine was a bunch of boloney.

I was discouraged and decided to try the orthodox thing, I booked an appointment with a Doctor and had to swallow the bitter truth that I had failed to treat myself, maybe a doctor could help me.

I spent about 3 years trying different medications from over 6 different types of anti-depressants, one drug which was a sedative (which made me sleepy but didn't help my anxiety) and two different anti-psychotics. I wasted so much money, I was beginning to think there was no hope.

To make matters worse I started getting panic attacks, they are absolutely horrible and I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy. They would usually happen when I went to the mall or if there were a lot of people around me, later on it developed into panic attacks just by being driven to the mall.

I went back to the drawing board; or the internet board should I say.
I learned about the different classes of drugs and medications used for anxiety and discovered that one class of drug was always being left out. Out of the 9 different medications I'd tried over 3 years none of them were of this class.

This class being called Benzodiazepines or commonly called Tranquilizers.
I quickly found out that my grandmother was being prescribed Xanax, a drug in the same class and decided to try one for myself.

The following two hours of my life were amazing, I went to the shop: Zero Anxiety, No Panic Attacks. For the first time in years I felt like a normal person.
I felt so good I thought maybe this Xanax was addictive.

After my amazing two hours on Xanax I did some research, I discovered Wikipedia at this point and learned that they are habit forming.

I honestly didn't care if they were habit forming or not, I just wanted to live a normal life so I did more research and discovered an ancient drug called Valium that has a much long half life, meaning you only have to dose once a day.

It would seem that the longer the half life of a tranquilizer the less addictive they seem to be and xanax's 1 hour vs valium's 24-72 hour definitely seemed great!

I set up an appointment with my doctor.

He refused to give me a script, saying they are addictive, damage the brain and he would never prescribe it long term or even short term to someone at my young age. He gave me another useless prescription for a new antidepressant. I threw it in the bin on my way out the door.

I decided that tranquilizers, although they work very well was not going to be easy to get a hold of, it seemed all over the internet reports were the same. Many people from older generations who were complaining how their doctors took their scripts away after 10+ anxiety free years on Valium who were now looking for other options. People in my age group were frequently given low doses of xanax but not on repeat. Xanax being the most addictive of the tranquilizers because of its very short half life. The worst of all were those who's scripts were being taken away were going through hell, tranquilizer withdrawal is heavy and can even cause seizures - Yikes!

I then wondered if any natural herbs posesed similar properties of Valium and I discovered Kava Kava, from a scientific point it works almost exactly the same way binding to the GABA receptors.
I ordered a batch from Vanuatu which never arrived, I soon found out it was banned in my country, my local post office didn't even bother to tell me that my parcel was seized at customs.

I was outraged..... I had enough of this medical jargon and denial of access to proper health care.
I decided that I would try a brute force method of trying to get some valium, I saw 4 different doctors, all who refused to give me a script and on my 5th try I was successful! Yes!!!!!

I had a strategy, I would walk into the doctors office and say I have tried all the drugs and the only one that works for me is Valium, you also need to explain that if you have depression it's only because you can't do the things in your life that you want to do because of your disorder, my doctor agreed to it as long as I took something for depression at the same time, I decided to take fluanxol because it also helps with anxiety.

I started Valium treatment 1 year ago 5mg, 2x a day and everyone on the online forums told me that I would become resistant to its effects in weeks, that I would need to keep increasing my dose until eventually no dose would work for me. Which was funny because the studies I read up showed that tolerance to the anxiolytic effects of valium does not occur, only resistance to the "high", the sedation and muscle relaxation.

From the article from Wikipedia on Valium
"During the course of therapy, tolerance to the sedative effects usually develops, but not to the anxiolytic and myorelaxant effects"
You can read the study here

It's been a year on Valium, my anxiety is still gone. I have decided to augment it with Ashwagandha and I just feel better with the combination, since valium can mess a little with your memory and Ashwagandha helps with memory. The combination of the two makes them work very well together.

In addition to this I do Acem meditation when I am overly stressed and have learned mindfulness meditation which also helps somewhat.

I also take Ashwagandha, it really takes the edge off.

This stuff really works, if you can't get a hold of Valium then give it a try.
When I ran out of Valium for a couple of days earlier this year it kept me from going through withdrawals for 4 whole days.

I recommend Gaia Herbs Ashwagandha that you can buy from Amazon or Ebay.

So to sum up how I got over my anxiety disorder:

  1. Started taking Valium 5mg x2 per day to manage my Generalized Anxiety
  2. Started doing Acem Meditation to manage regular stress
  3. Started taking Fluanxol 1mg 1x per day to manage depressive symptoms caused by Valium
  4. Started taking Ashwagandha Extract to augment Valium
I hope this post will help many of you out there suffering from Anxiety disorders.
If I had known this 6 years ago, I wouldn't have wasted 5 years of my life hiding in my room and neither should you!

Just a special word of advice, if you are on tranquilizers and you stop feeling sedated; that doesn't mean that the drug is not working for your anxiety and you must never increase your dose over something so silly and especially without your doctors permission. You can judge whether or not the drug is working by noticing a lack of anxiety symptoms, not an excess of any other symptoms.
You just want to feel normal, not drugged, if you are looking to feel drugged then you will find yourself constantly increasing your doses until you are forced to withdraw.

Peace out :)