Health Notes

Are our soldiers coming down with “Gulf War Syndrome, the Sequel”? 

The latest post-war information sounds familiar: mysterious (and serious) illness, vague excuses, and silly explanations. Just like last time, odds are we’ll hear everything but the truth. We were told, for example, that there had been 1,124 casualties during the war. But the Washington Post recently let it slip that more than 6,000 service members have been sent back to either Germany or the US “due to medical reasons.” That’s over five times the number we’ve been hearing. (Close enough for government work.)

The Post article doesn’t elaborate much. All it says is that the figure includes “thousands who became physically or mentally ill.” That’s it. No further explanation or detail.

I tried to find some additional information on my own, but there just wasn’t much out there. The snippets I did find weren’t exactly the most credible. They point the finger at pneumonia, which doesn’t tell you much (and that’s the purpose–to tell you as little as possible). Then they say “there is enough depleted uranium expended in Iraq to cause many health problems...” Where does the media get its scientific input– Greenpeace? There is no justification for such an assertion.

But there was one point raised that did seem plausible–or at least worth considering: Did the massive immunizations the soldiers were forced to endure lower their immune resistance so that they were more susceptible to serious illness?

We may never know for sure, but considering that over 4,000 soldiers have fallen so ill that they’ve needed to be transferred to hospitals, this certainly sounds like a much bigger problem than any of the authorities or media outlets are letting on.

And considering all of those soldiers have been forced to get numerous immunizations for everything from hepatitis to smallpox and anthrax, it sort of makes you think twice about putting your own name on the vaccine waiting list, doesn’t it? Until we start getting some real answers, my advice to you is to steer clear of the “government-issue” vaccines.


“Number of Wounded in Action on Rise: Iraq Toll Reflects Medical Advances, Resistance Troops Face,” Washington Post, 9/2/03, page A01

New twist on a “bad” habit 

Everyone is after you to quit smoking. You’re blamed for giving other people lung cancer just by being in the same room with them. Now they say you’re giving people– especially children–asthma, birth defects, and even tooth decay!

So what’s a nicotine addict like you to do? QUIT? Well, let’s not panic yet. You addictive degenerates have rights just like normal people. It’s just that some people (the new Puritans) think they have more rights than others. (If you want more details on how crazy the anti-smoking crusade has become, read my new book, The Smoker’s Paradox, available in January from Rhino Publishing at

But what can you do to protect your right to smoke in the meantime? Well, you could try the new Ecstacy cigarettes. I know what you’re probably thinking, but, in this case, Ecstacy is just the brand name–it doesn’t have anything to do with the drug you’ve heard about on Dateline and 20/20.

It’s a clever idea, marketwise: Tobacco is bad; herbs are good, so smoke herbs. With that in mind, Ecstacy “cigarettes” were created out of a combination of lettuce, damiana, catnip, peppermint, and passionflower. The burning concoction smells like marijuana but has no mood effects, no hallucinogenic effects, and is not addictive.

They’re promoted as “100% legal weed smokes” and a way to “enhance your love life.” It didn’t work for me, and I doubt it would work for you. But, to be honest, I didn’t give it a fair trial–one puff was all I could stand.

They are 100 percent legal, but who knows what inhaling passionflower will do to your mind? And what about inhaling catnip? Before lighting up, send your cat over to the neighbor. Is damiana meant to be inhaled? Do you know what damiana IS? I think you’re old enough to know–it’s a female-specific aphrodisiac. So unless you are prepared for the consequences, before you light up you’d better send your wife off to the neighbor’s with the cat.

Action to take:

They’re available from numerous on-line sources (go to and type in “Ecstacy cigarettes” for a complete list. Please note that I have no information on or affiliation with any of these sources). In my opinion, this stuff is krapola. But if you want to try it, go right ahead. Just don’t let your cat get any “secondhand” smoke. As for your wife, that’s a personal decision.


“Ecstacy cigarettes, regular,” Ecstacy, Inc. (product description,, accessed 9/30/03

Never heard of a lizard with diabetes? This might be why 

I didn’t even know lizards could spit, and, like you, I didn’t know I cared. But apparently, Gila monsters, the giant lizards that live in the Arizona desert, have a powerful blood-sugar regulating chemical called exenatide in their saliva. So some lucky scientists from Amylin Pharmaceuticals get to harvest the spit and formulate it into a diabetes drug. (Making lizard spit sound like something you’d want to take is a job for their marketing department.)

According to representatives from Amylin, the Gila monsters’ “salivary secretions help prevent a sudden surge in blood sugar levels in response to infrequent but large meals.” The latest exenatide test involved 155 patients who hadn’t responded to the other prescription diabetes mainstays, metformin and sulfonylurea, or even to a combination of the two drugs.

About half the patients responded to the exenatide treatment with a significant lowering of blood sugar, and, as an added benefit, they lost an average of seven and a half pounds.

Not to rain on the Gila monsters’ parade here, but I have to add that even if the drug is as successful as the reports (not to mention the pharmaceutical companies) want it to be, simply controlling your blood sugar will not eliminate the risk of diabetic kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, compromised circulation, or vision problems.

I don’t mean to spoil the party, but there is more to this disease than meets the eye. Somebody has to tell you the terrible truth–that’s what you pay me for.

Action to take:

Check out the article “The vitamin no diabetic should be without” on page 1 for some REAL advice on tackling diabetes and all its demons. Trust me, it’s better than lizard spit.


“Lizard spit drug controls diabetes and cuts weight,” Reuters Health news (, 8/25/03

The herbal secret for good luck and much more 

My brief foray into Ecstacy cigarettes got me thinking about certain herbs and what else they might do. So I did a little bit of poking around and discovered some intriguing facts about catnip.

I found out that it not only makes house cats (and jungle cats) high as a kite but also affects humans in many ways.

It can be used to treat colds, flu, stomach upsets, headaches, toothaches, and insomnia. It acts as a mild sedative and supposedly even attracts luck when you grow it near your house. You can rub it on meat to improve the flavor or put it in your side salad–oh, and it makes a delightful tea.

But the most interesting tidbit I came across about catnip is that it has a powerful insect-repellent effect. Studies have shown it to be an excellent cockroach repellent. It also works well against flies and aphids. Researchers at Iowa State University found that purified nepetcalactone (the active ingredient in catnip) is 100 times more effective than DEET.

Action to take:

Go ahead and try catnip in one form or another–why should your cat have all the fun?


“Catnip and Osage Orange Components Found to Repel German Cockroaches,” Iowa State University Entomology Department (press release,, 9/9/99

“Cat’s Bliss Is Roach’s Blight,” CBS News (, 9/30/03