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Modern Maturity and Medical Madness
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Several months ago, my husband was stricken by what he considered an uncommon cold. A scientist by choice and a male by chromosomal selection, he huffed through more Puffs than most noses have seen in a lifetime. As the mountain of damp Kleenex on his night table burgeoned, his communication skills diminished. Gruffly and grimly, he weathered the siege and slowly returned to what we have long accepted as "normal".

Determined not to succumb to such an antisocial germ, I headed for the herbal remedy department at the closest emporium of Natural Nutrition. Coached by a salesperson who looked a bit pale to be surrounded by such a plethora of panacea, I purchased enough echinacea and zinc to reduce global tissue futures. Whether by coincidence or by cure, I never caught the cold. My only discomfort was an overstimulated sucking reflex from my zinc-around-the-clock routine.

Years ago, in college, I sampled many herbs and many ways. As a young mother, I fed my children natural baby foods, some self-produced and others prepared. But as I drifted into the minivan mentality, I returned to traditional healing for myself and my family. Today my medicine cabinet is filled with commercial potions guaranteed to shrink sinuses, minimize muscle pain, and tame tension. Sure, we eat sprouts and salmon, but cholesterol and unsaturated fat often sneak into our unsuspecting diet. Like many of us who never imagined the aches and spreads of middle age, I have joined my generational peers on the search for youth and serenity. Vitamin E and Niacin have joined my morning ritual. As soon as I was invited to join the AARP (How do they find us, anyway?), I added Centrum Silver to my potion panorama. In one respect, I do feel younger. Once again, I find myself popping pills of dubious distinction.

A self-styled researcher of contemporary custom, I recently observed Cathy Guisewhite's "Cathy" at dinner with a new male friend. Cathy watches his preprandial health habits with disdain. "Gingko Biloba", he expounds, "Excellent for combating memory loss."..."Folic acid can lift you out of the doldrums". As Cathy scorns her date's nutritional obsessions, he touts :"Golden Seal! Chlorella! Spirulina! Ginseng! Natural Energy Boosters!!" Cathy's conclusion? "I'm sick of dating."

A recent edition of the Sunday Times Magazine included an article by Richard Woodley describing how "a woman's love turns a whisky-loving carnivore into a health-o-holic". As the older Woodley dates a fifty year old woman he describes as "evolved in the 1960's," his diet subtly changes from meat, ice cream and Scotch to "miso, tofu, oats and beans, gravelly black bread, venous garlic bulbs, and ecru organic yogurt". Accompanying this mouth-watering menu are Co Q10, L-Tyrosine, Antioxidants, Siberian Ginseng, the ubiquitous Gingko Biloba, and of course, St. John's Wort.

John's wonderful "wort" (just an archaic word for plant) is everywhere. Multitudes are ingesting the "Prozac Plant" in hopes of dispelling depression in a "natural" way. Some find success with the age-old custom of mind over matter. Others, however, can use St. John's Wort with the practice of matter over mouth. Modern mutations in the cosmetic industry have produced a product certain to revolutionize the lips of legions. In a stroke of new-age genius, the mavens of make-up have combined lipstick with St. John's Wort. Is this a sequel to the sexual revolution of the sixties? Will women once again feel great about indiscriminate kissing? Will social smooching be elevated to ecstasy by this lithium of the lips?

I, for one, am sticking to Clinique. I don't want the sensitive nerve endings in my lips to be misled by manufactured mood swings. When the rest of me is depressed, my lips will have to follow suit. Anyone I kiss must pass my subjective criteria for passionate or perfunctory. Although I may sequester St. John in the medicine cabinet, I still make sure that Ben and Jerry are safely ensconced in the freezer. After all, a kiss is just a kiss, but cholesterol is forever.

Written by Marcia Brown Rubinstien
September 19, 2003

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