Notions, Potions and Nostrums

Part I

Following the article on kefir in our previous issue*, we now introduce you to a variety of remedies, ancient and modern. 


Have you no single remedy that you "swear by"?  Did your mother not, when you were a child and she suspected that you were "sickening for something", rub your chest with camphor, or insist that you drink a glass of warm milk with a knob of butter melting on top of it?  (Yuk!!)  And do you not, to this day, nourish the belief - albeit it silently and with some embarrassment - that it must have been "good for you"?


It's rather like everyone having their favourite curry restaurant and swearing it is the "best in the land".


Well, here are a few of our editorial board members' suggestions, and a few culled from other people, and we will welcome contributions from readers to go into our next issue.


As previously we will provide brief introductions in this section, and follow this by articles showing how some of these models are used in practice.


It should be noted that the inclusion of any specific model in this section does not imply its unqualified acceptance by Nurturing Potential, merely that we recognise the contribution it has made to the body of knowledge in this area.  Indeed, we both provide - and invite from others - sceptical responses.


[Click on subject headings to be taken directly to the article - or simply scroll down the page]




Colloidal Silver


Health Supplements





We believe that practising simple self-massage techniques on a regular basis, even if only for a few minutes at a time, two or three times a week, will help to tone the body, relieve tension, ease muscular strain, and generally improve one’s health.  What is not always appreciated, however, is that even when you are in good health, practising self-massage will help to maintain health and prevent susceptibility to illness or disease. 

It is, after all, a quite natural reaction, when feeling tension or discomfort in the neck or shoulders, for example, to rub the back of the neck, or rotate the shoulders.   Gentle friction at the side of the head, below the hairline and above the eyes, can be relaxing when you are “headachy”.  Squeezing the calf muscles or stroking the arm, perhaps using baby oil or talcum powder, is also beneficial when arm or leg muscles are feeling strained.  Pressing and rotating the fists into the small of the back, or above the buttocks, can ease backache and tiredness. 

This is not to suggest that such self-massage is a cure for all muscular problems that may derive from physical or emotional causes.  It is not.  And if symptoms persist despite any of the techniques described here or in accompanying articles, then professional help has to be sought.  But very often a simple ache or bodily dysfunction can be eased considerably by self-manipulation.  Because massage stimulates blood flow it will relax tense muscles and relieve pain. 

There are available, these days, a variety of simple massage tools that help people to “reach the spots that . . . “ hands alone will not reach, both electrical and manual.  Unfortunately there are also a lot of people and companies designing a  whole variety of tools, seats, and other devices that will separate the gullible from their money, and that sooner or later find their way into cupboards or attics, never to be used again. 

It is no part of our brief to extol the virtues of any of these devices.  But we do believe that the primary device of all – the hands – may be taught techniques that will produce positive results.  And self-massage, using the hands, can perform a dual function: if the massage is slow and gentle, it will be effective in relieving tension and relaxing the body; if it is performed quickly and firmly it will be invigorating, reducing fatigue and revitalizing the body. 

A word of warning: if the skin is particularly tender, or if pain in a specific spot is particularly fierce, self-massage should either not be attempted or should be used extremely gently, without much pressure.

Article on this subject: Rub It Better

Sceptical response: Massage



Colloidal Silver


For centuries the beneficial properties of silver have been known. Prior to World War II, silver was used both externally and internally for a variety of medical conditions. Indeed, silver had been used since ancient times to prevent and treat a variety of diseases, most notably infections. It was used in ancient Greece and Rome as a disinfectant for water and other liquid storage. In America in the 19th century, silver coins were placed in the jars of liquid to maintain sterility or in jugs of milk to prolong freshness. But the discovery of penicillin and the increased cost of silver in the 1940s account for its fall from grace.


It was possibly a reaction against the increase in, and perceived excessive use of, penicillin and its derivatives in the decades following World War II that caused some practitioners to revert to the use of colloidal silver, a product that most people had never heard of, and many had forgotten.  It is certainly true that modern antibiotics tend to be overused, with the result that more and more bacteria become resistant to them, leading to a continual need to find new products.


It is also undoubtedly the case that silver possesses anti-microbial properties. Apparently, too, NASA has used silver to maintain water purity on the space shuttle.  And as long ago as the 1920s, charged silver solutions were approved by the American Food and Drug Administration as antibacterial agents.  But it is important to distinguish between silver itself as a curative agent and colloidal silver, a distinction that we will pay some attention to later.  What then is colloidal silver?


A colloid is a suspension of sub-microscopic particles in a medium of a different material. Colloidal silver is metallic silver, electro-magnetically charged, and suspended in deionised water.  It is tasteless, odourless and non-stinging to sensitive tissues.  One of its major advantages is that only a minute quantity of silver is required in a solution (estimated at one part per 100 million) to be an effective antibiotic. 


While studying regeneration of limbs, spinal cords and organs in the late 1970s, Robert O. Becker, M.D., author of The Body Electric, discovered that silver ions promote bone growth and kill surrounding bacteria. They work by blocking the respiratory enzyme system while having no negative effect on human cells.  [But see his "disclaimer" via the Sceptical Response pages]


The March 1978 issue of Science Digest, in an article, "Our Mightiest Germ Fighter," reported: "Thanks to eye-opening research, silver is emerging as a wonder of modern medicine. An antibiotic kills perhaps a half-dozen different disease organisms, but silver kills some 650. Resistant strains fail to develop. Moreover, silver is virtually non-toxic."


My own [Joe Sinclair] introduction to colloidal silver came via a consultation with a podiatrist in Dorset, in connection with a fungal condition on a big toe.  The small bottle of colloidal silver was far from cheap, and the treatment (self-applied) lasted for several months.  But there was an immediate, albeit small, improvement in the condition, and in eight months it (and the supply of colloidal silver!) had disappeared.  [Turn to the sceptical response section to see the corollary to this story.]


Taken orally, the silver solution is absorbed from the mouth into the bloodstream, then transported quickly to the body cells. It is eliminated by the kidneys, lymph system and bowel after several weeks.  This presumes the use of the minute amounts of silver found in colloidal form.  What if larger quantities of silver are ingested, however?  Any silver the body is unable to excrete will build up in body tissues and can result in argyria—the depositing of silver in the internal organs, tissues, and skin. Argyria causes the skin to turn gray or bluish gray and to turn dark on exposure to strong sunlight. This discoloration is permanent and there is no known effective treatment for it. In addition to argyria, the intake of very large amounts (far in excess of the amount that causes discoloration of the skin) of silver can cause neurological and organ damage and atherosclerosis.  [Further details of this problem may be found in our sceptical response section.]


“Most cases of Argyria [writes Alexander G. Schauss, PhD of John Hopkins University] reported in the medical literature over the last 100 years involved chronic intravenous or intramuscular use of the silver preparations, most often involving a silver drug prescribed by physicians which in most cases contained silver nitrate. Other cases of Argyria reported in the medical literature involve application of silver preparations used for many months or years in the  treatment of the eye or vagina for certain diseases. We could not locate a single case of orally consumed colloidal silver manufactured in the last 25 years causing Argyria.”


The American Government report on colloidal silver, from which the above quotation has been taken, may be seen in full at, which includes the entire quotation from Dr. Schauss. 


Sceptical response: Colloidal Silver




Health Preparations and Food Supplements


The growth in demand for food supplements in Europe increased by a remarkable 50 per cent in the 1990s.  If it didn’t increase quite so dramatically in the United States, that was only because it had already achieved the distinction of becoming a multi-billion dollar industry during the 1980s.


In Europe the issues raised by this expansion in trade led to a number of resolutions being passed by the European Commission in the need both to rationalise legislation covering food supplements and to protect consumers from potential health hazards.


Many manufacturers in the UK were up in arms about what they saw as an infringement of their basic right to produce and market “safe” and “healthy” vitamin and food supplements.  Their press clamour[1] provoked the European Commission to issue a statement shortly before the second reading of the resolution in the European Parliament, in the course of which they stated:


“The aim of the directive is NOT to ban vitamins but to ensure that products on the market are safe to be consumed as supplements to a normal diet. We are not putting hundreds of health food stores out of business. We owe this work to our consumers while at the same time assuming those supplements currently on the market are safe. Business has a responsibility to only put safe products on the market."


The full statement is at 


In March 2002, the EU food supplements directive, in favour of controlling supplements, was approved in the EU Parliament despite heated discussion and opposition (mainly from the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden). The complete text may be found here as a pdf file, but the major decisions were:


1.      Recommendations as to maximum dosages.

2.      Lists of vitamin and mineral sources that may be utilized in the formulation of supplements.

3.      A time limit within which member states may issue their own laws to put the directive into effect. This is normally a year.

4.      The establishment of a single market for supplements in Europe.

5.      A proposal for the medicinal registration of herbal products.

6.      A general revision of the European medicines code including a change in the definition of what constitutes a medicinal product.


Why do people take food supplements?  Why has it become such a vast industry?  Why is it felt that a satisfactory diet cannot be obtained simply by eating the right foods?  Who decides that we cannot survive healthily without a dietary supplement of Vitamin E?  Or that St. John’s Wort is essential to breaking the smoking habit?  Or that we cannot get enough selenium from our normal consumption of fish, meat, grains, and plant foods, but need to supplement it with a commercially produced product if we wish to avoid cancer, heart disease, arthritis and HIV?


The fact is that worldwide pollution, global warming, high-density farming using chemicals and pesticides, have all succeeded in reducing the nutrient value of the food we eat.  And this is not a recent phenomenon.  As long ago as 1940 an American university reported on the depletion of base elements and minerals from plant life as a consequence of soil depletion, mono-cropping, and artificial fertilization.


In recent years an effort has been made to redress the balance somewhat by devoting part of agricultural production to organic methods – at an increased cost to the consumer, naturally – but this is perhaps too little, too late.  And the lobby for intensive chemical farming is vociferous and wealthy.


In April 1998 the American Institute of Medicine stated, in a televised broadcast, that “they do not believe the American public can get the nutrients they need from their diet.”  They recommended that “all Americans should supplement their diet.”


It is all very well for cynics who debunk the use of vitamin and mineral supplements to say (as they do!) “all you need do is maintain a sensible diet, ensuring that you take the correct variety of food, and making sure that you have fresh fruit, vegetables, and salad three times a day.”  But if that food is deficient in the substances that the body needs to maintain health, then something more needs to be done if the body is going to take care of itself.


The body requires fuelling in the same way that a petrol-driven car requires petrol.  When the fuel gauge shows empty you have the choice of going to a filling station or disconnecting the fuel gauge.  The latter will remove the visible sign that you are in danger of breaking down.  But you won’t get very far without a supplemental increment of fuel.


Here is a chart of the basic vitamins and minerals and their benefits:


Vitamin A

• needed for new cell growth, healthy skin, hair, and tissues, and vision in dim light
• sources: dark green and yellow vegetables and yellow fruits, such as broccoli spinach, turnip greens, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, and apricots, and in animal sources such as liver, milk, butter, cheese, and whole eggs.

Vitamin D

• promotes absorption and use of calcium and phosphate for healthy bones and teeth
• sources: milk (fortified), cheese, whole eggs, liver, salmon, and fortified margarine. The skin can synthesize vitamin D if exposed to enough sunlight on a regular basis.

Vitamin E

• protects red blood cells and helps prevent destruction of vitamin A and C
• sources: margarine and vegetable oil (soybean, corn, safflower, and cottonseed), wheat germ, green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin K

• necessary for normal blood clotting and synthesis of proteins found in plasma, bone, and kidneys.
• sources: spinach, lettuce, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, wheat bran, organ meats, cereals, some fruits, meats, dairy products, eggs.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)

• an antioxidant vitamin needed for the formation of collagen to hold the cells together and for healthy teeth, gums and blood vessels; improves iron absorption and resistance to infection.
• sources: many fresh vegetables and fruits, such as broccoli, green and red peppers, collard greens, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, lemon, cabbage, pineapples, strawberries, citrus fruits

Thiamin (B1)

• needed for energy metabolism and the proper function of the nervous system
• sources: whole grains, soybeans, peas, liver, kidney, lean cuts of pork, legumes, seeds, and nuts.

Riboflavin (B2)

• needed for energy metabolism, building tissue, and helps maintain good vision.
• sources: dairy products, lean meats, poultry, fish, grains, broccoli, turnip greens, asparagus, spinach, and enriched food products.


• needed for energy metabolism, proper digestion, and healthy nervous system
• sources: lean meats, liver, poultry, milk, canned salmon, leafy green vegetables

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

• needed for cell growth
• sources: chicken, fish, pork, liver, kidney, whole grains, nuts, and legumes

Folate (Folic Acid)

• promotes normal digestion; essential for development of red blood cells
• sources: liver, yeast, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, and some fruits

Vitamin B12

• needed for building proteins in the body, red blood cells, and normal function of nervous tissue
• sources: liver, kidney, yogurt, dairy products, fish, clams, oysters, nonfat dry milk, salmon, sardines


• needed for healthy bones and teeth, normal blood clotting, and nervous system functioning
• sources: dairy products, broccoli, cabbage, kale, tofu, sardines and salmon


• needed for the formation of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the body cells
• sources: meats, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains and enriched food products


• needed for healthy bones and teeth, energy metabolism, and acidbase balance in the body
• sources: milk, grains, lean meats, food additives


• needed for healthy bones and teeth, proper nervous system functioning, and energy metabolism
• sources: dairy products, meat, fish, poultry, green vegetables, legumes


• needed for cell reproduction, tissue growth and repair
• sources: meat, seafood, and liver, eggs, milk, whole-grain products

Pantothenic Acid

• needed for energy metabolism
• sources: egg yolk, liver, kidney, yeast, broccoli, lean beef, skim milk, sweet potatoes, molasses


• needed for synthesis of hemoglobin, proper iron metabolism, and maintenance of blood vessels
• sources: seafood, nuts, legumes, green leafy vegetables


• needed for enzyme structure
• sources: whole grain products, fruits and vegetables, tea



[1]  A typical press release of the period may be seen at


Sceptical response: Health Supplements



*A rather happy circumstance resulted from the article.  I got a request from a Canadian reader asking how much of my kefir grains I could spare, as he wanted to start producing kefir commercially in Canada. I subsequently sent him my entire surplus stock.  Not only was it gratifying that this will be useful, but even more pleasing to contemplate a Canadian market for a product that (as far as I am concerned) originated in an airplane trip to Seoul, Korea in the seventies.  (Joe Sinclair)