Posted on


Coconut Products

Are you aware there are healthy alternatives for foods like canola oil, white sugar, coffee and conventional toothpaste containing fluoride and other nasty’s?

I have been playing with various coconut products for some time now and would personally say that coconut is one of nature’s health miracles. We at ani HEALTH CARE are now stocking a few of those amazingly yummy and healthy goodies like Coconut Oil, Coconut Sugar, Coconut Cream, Coconut Flour, herbal coffee (OMG… you gotta try that!) and natural toothpaste. Nice, convenient and ALL ORGANIC! Come in and try them out next time you’re in Hanmer!

Look what I made this morning: A superfood chocolate fudge – rich, velvety chocolate infused with almonds and dates for a filling and indulgent treat.

  • 22 dates
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder (or carob powder)
  • 2 tsp natural vanilla extract
  • 4 tsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of sea salt
  • (optional: I sprinkled some raisins, coconut threads and cayenne pepper on top :))

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend on high. Add some water to achieve your desired consistency. Spread evenly in a tin and cool in refrigerator. Best served chilled. ENJOY!!!

!!!And best news: this treat is part of our platter that comes with a bottle bubbles and a massage for you and your friend or partner (2x 1 hour massages, platter & bubbles for $190)!!!

 Superfood Chocolate Fudge Superfood Chocolate Fudge


What is oil-pulling?

by Todd Caldecott


One of the newer health trends that has people talking is a practice called “oil-pulling”. Of course it’s not a “new” practice at all, but comes from the ancient practices of Āyurveda, a 4000 year old medical system that originated in India.

Oil-pulling is part of the daily regimen in Āyurveda, called dinācaryā (di-naa-char-yaa), performed during the morning ablutions to cleanse and purify the body. To cleanse the mouth specifically, Āyurveda suggests a number of techniques that can be used on a daily basis, including “tongue-scraping” (jihvānirlekhana) and “cleaning the teeth” (dañtadhāvana): oil-pulling is one among several techniques. But the term “oil-pulling” invented by proponents doesn’t actually represent the entire scope of practice. Called gaṇḍūṣa (gan-doo-sha) and kavalagraha (kavala-graha), the practice of oil-pulling is comprised of filling the mouth with oil (gaṇḍūṣa) and swishing it through the teeth (kavalagraha). For gaṇḍūṣa  the mouth is completely filled with a prescribed medication, and then held without expectoration for some time. According the 6th century physician Vāgbhaṭa, there are four categories of gaṇḍūṣa based upon the clinical manifestations of the bodily humors or doṣaḥ: 

  • snigdha (‘lubricating’, to reduce dryness and deficiency)
  • śamśana (‘pacifying’, to reduce inflammation)
  • śodhana (‘purifying’, to reduce congestion and mucus)
  • ropaṇa (‘healing’, for ulceration and wounds) (Sū 22:2-3). 

Although oil is often used, a large number of medications can be used in gaṇḍūṣa depending on the indications, including warm water, fats and oils, milk, fermented gruels (śukta, dhānyāmla), wines, meat soup, herbal decoctions, honey, and alkalis (kṣāra) diluted with water. For daily application, the most commonly used medication is unrefined, cured sesame oil (taila), but other oils such as ghee (ghṛta) or coconut can be used as well. The effects of each oil differ slightly:

  • sesame oil: reduces dryness and mucus
  • coconut oil: reduces dryness and inflammation
  • ghee: reduces dryness and inflammation

To perform gaṇḍūṣa, approximately 2-3 tablespoons or more of the medication is held the mouth for several minutes, until saliva is produced or the nose or eyes become secretory, after which time the medication is spit out. Usually this only takes 3-5 minutes at most. Sesame oil is naturally antimicrobial, and given its lipid-soluble nature, it penetrates into the gums and below the gum line to inhibit the growth of oral bacteria. Sesame oil needs to be cured before use, however, which can be done by heating the oil in pan at a low-medium heat, and sprinkling a few drops of water on top. Once the drops of water have evaporated, the oil is ready to use and can be stored for a few months at a time. In this way, only small batches of sesame oil are cured at a time. Although I don’t generally recommend that oils such as sesame, which are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids be heated, sesame oil is unique in that it contains a heat-activated antioxidant called sesamol that protects and improves the quality and stability of the oil after heating.

Apart from its antimicrobial effects, gaṇḍūṣa with sesame oil also lubricates the mouth and the jaw, and is effective for problems such as gingivitis, periodontitis, receding gums, dry mouth (xerostomia), temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, earache, headache, coryza, pharyngitis and narcolepsy. Likewise, there are similar benefits for coconut oil and ghee, although these oils are more nutritive and pacifying, rather than purifying. Coconut oil also contains a short chain fatty acid called caprylic acid (octanoic acid) that has specific anti-fungal properties, making it useful for oral thrush (candidiasis).

Similar to gaṇḍūṣa is kavalagraha, in which a smaller amount of medication such as sesame oil is taken and then moved about the mouth, pulling it through the teeth and gargling in the back of the throat. This is what people are mostly referring to when discussing “oil-pulling”.  Performing kavalagraha with warm water is said to alleviate mucus congestion, promote digestion, and eliminate ‘toxins’ (āma). For hoarseness or sore throat, a variety of preparations can be used, including Indian herbs such as the fresh juice of Brāhmī or a decoction of Bibhītaka fruit. Western herbs such as Sage (Salvia officinalis), Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) or Toothache flower (Acmella oleracea) can also be helpful, used as the diluted tinctures. I frequently use these diluted tinctures in the treatment of problems such as gum disease, throat infection, tonsillitis, and tonsiliths (tonsil stones).

I frequently recommend both gaṇḍūṣa and kavalagraha in my practice, changing up the ingredients as required. Sometimes I recommend the use of oil, sometimes not. This is why the term “oil-pulling” does not do justice to the original scope of practice. As well, the abundant claims made for the benefit of oil-pulling border on the absurd. This is a technique used primarily for cleaning the oral cavity, and while it does have some systemic benefit, the claim that oil-pulling can resolve serious diseases such as cancer or heart disease is irresponsible. As a practitioner of Āyurveda it is my duty to support and uphold its practices, but at the same time, it’s important to address what are clearly exaggerated claims to protect the integrity of its practices. In a similar fashion, I frequently hear that one should perform oil-pulling for 20 minutes or more at a time. Quite frankly, this is another ridiculous statement, and is not reflective of traditional practices. While swishing oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes is unlikely to cause a problem, it has no benefit over doing it for 3-4 minutes, as is traditionally done in India.

Hopefully this post clears up some misconceptions around the practice of “oil-pulling”, and provides a more coherent approach to using this venerable technique. Feel free to get in touch with me if there are further questions.



Back Pain

by Anne Heckel


An estimated 80 percent of people will suffer from chronic back pain at some point in life. Some 25-30 percent end up struggling with persistent or chronic back pain, leading many to resort to prescription painkillers, expensive steroid shots, or even multiple surgeries. Recent data shows that back pain is increasingly being treated with addictive drugs and diagnostic exams that expose patients to potentially unnecessary and dangerous levels of radiation. These treatments do not cure back pain — they only treat your symptoms.

Back pain is actually one of the primary reasons why so many people are getting increasingly addicted to painkillers. These drugs have now surpassed both heroin and cocaine as the leading cause of fatal overdoses in the US! This is a high price to pay, considering the fact that, in most cases, back pain is usually the result of simple biomechanical problems relating to poor posture, inflexibility, or improper movement, which are best prevented and managed by exercises that strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, as well as exercises that maintain proper function of your joints.

Exercise as a Tool to Improve Pain Tolerance

According to some experts, in the absence of a mechanical problem, the pain may be caused by changes in your nervous system, making it send out false pain signals. Surgery will not do anything to correct this. Remember, back pain is frequently the gateway that leads people down a path of drug addiction and lifelong disability. This doesn’t have to happen, but you need to be willing to look at options beside painkillers and surgery as your go-to treatment.

One reason invasive treatments for back pain have been rising in recent years, experts say, is the ready availability of MRI scans. These detailed, color-coded pictures that can show a cross-section of the spine are a technological tour de force. But they can be dangerously misleading. “Seeing is believing. And gosh! We can actually see degenerated discs, we can see bulging discs. We can see all kinds of things that are alarming. But they’re most likely not the cause of the pain. Lots of people who are pain-free actually have terrible-looking MRIs. And among those who have MRI abnormalities and pain, many specialists question whether the abnormality is really the cause of the pain, and whether fixing it can make the pain go away.”

Dr. James Rainville, a rehabilitation medicine specialist from Boston, notes that some back pain may be related to the way your sensory system processes pain signals. Essentially, you may have hypersensitive nerves. While that may be true in some cases, I believe a much stronger case can be made for the theory that the vast majority of back pain is caused by mechanical problems related to poor posture and soft tissue that lacks regular hydration, oxygenation and nourishment.

Herniated Disc – One Back Problem Where Surgery May Improve Outcome

There are of course instances where surgery may be warranted, although this is without a doubt the rare exception. Some studies have indicated that less than five percent of patients are good candidates for surgery.

Surgery should be your absolute last resort. Remember you simply can never undo a surgical intervention and the multitude of repercussions that surgery introduces. Surgery is an injury…extreme injury, even though controlled. If it is not addressing the foundational cause of your problem it could make your current pain seem like a walk in the park that you would long for. For many it is like going from the frying pan into the fire. It is absolutely crucial to exhaust every single possible non-surgical option before you submit to surgery. I would also include steroid shots in the surgical camp as they are nearly as bad, cause enormous side effects and simply do not address the cause of the problem.

Uninterrupted Sitting Can Cause Back Pain

Sitting can lead into chronic poor posture, and inflexibility in the thoracic spine, chest, and hips. I am firmly convinced excessive uninterrupted sitting plays a major role in a lot of back pain patients. It makes perfect sense that what you do all day long is going to have more impact that what you do a few hours a week in the gym. That is why it is important to make it a regular practice to get up at least every 15 minutes and engage in some movement even if only for a minute or less. Simply standing up would likely work but I think you can do better by addressing your posture and including some movement exercises.

I have been working with a so-called 3-D dynamic movement program. This technique opens up the nooks and crannies of the body, areas that were compressed and starved of resources, and irrigates those areas with life-vitalizing fluids. The movements create a pumping action, pulling in the “good stuff” (hydration, lubrication, oxygenation and other nourishment) and pushing out the “bad stuff” (metabolic wastes and toxins). When you accomplish this regular essential resourcing and detoxification of the soft tissues you maintain healthy, properly-mobile joints that working together as a system of joints can achieve better alignment as well as efficient movement.  Each joint is doing its ideal delegation of work, creating an efficient team, while no one joint is getting over-worn. I have been experimenting with these ideas and really enjoy the increased range of motion it has provided in previous less than flexible areas of my body.

Most Body Pain Can Be Traced to Poor Posture and Improper Movement

Many fail to realize that back pain may actually originate from tension and imbalance at a completely different place than where the pain is felt. For example, when you sit for long periods of time, you end up shortening your iliacus, psoas, and quadratus lumborum muscles that connect from your lumbar region to the top of your femur and pelvis. When these muscles are chronically short, it can cause severe pain when you stand up as they will effectively pull your lower back (lumbar) forward. Imbalance among the anterior and posterior chains of muscles leads to many of the physical pains you experience. By rebalancing and strengthening these muscles, you can remedy many pains and discomforts, including low back pain. One of the best things you can do to prevent and manage back pain is to exercise regularly to keep your back and abdominal muscles strong and flexible.

Every muscle that directly connects to your pelvis should be considered part of your core, and this includes your glutes, adductors (inner thigh muscles), deep lower back muscles, hip flexors, hamstrings, and abdominal muscles. Having strong, balanced core muscles is like having a built-in corset that not only holds your gut in, but also stabilizes your spine, vertebrae, discs, and most importantly your pelvis. Teaching your body to naturally support itself at the deepest level is going to be far more effective.

                               Back Pain Is Common, Yet Largely Avoidable!


Other Strategies for Preventing Back Pain

Preventing back pain is surely easier than treating it, and there are many alternatives available, in addition to what I’ve already mentioned above. Here are a more tips that can help you lead a pain-free life:

  1. Exercise and physical activity will help strengthen the muscles of your spine. Make your exercise time count by including high-intensity sessions. You probably only need this once or twice a week at the most. You’ll also want to include exercises that really challenge your body intensely along with those that promote muscle strength, balance, and flexibility.
  2. Yoga or Pilates, which is particularly useful for promoting flexibility and core muscles, has also been proven to be beneficial if you suffer from back pain.
  3. If you spend many hours every day sitting down, pay careful attention to consciously sucking in your belly and rotating your pelvis slightly up. At the same time, make sure your head is back with your ears over your shoulders and your shoulder blades pinched. This will help keep your spine in proper alignment. You can hold these muscles tight for several minutes and do this once every hour.
  4. Ground yourself. Grounding yourself to the earth, also known as Earthing, decreases inflammation in your body, which can help quiet down back pain and other types of pain. Your immune system functions optimally when your body has an adequate supply of electrons, which are easily and naturally obtained by barefoot/bare skin contact with the Earth. Research indicates the Earth’s electrons are the ultimate antioxidants, acting as powerful anti-inflammatories. Whenever possible, take a moment to venture outside and plant your bare feet on the wet grass or sand. Walking barefoot is also an excellent way to strengthen your feet and arches.
  5. Address psychological factors like stress, constant worry, fear and concerns.
  6. Get regular massage therapy. Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation and relieve pain.
  7. Keep your weight spread evenly on your feet when standing. Don’t slouch when standing or sitting to avoid putting stress on your back muscles.
  8. Always support your back, and avoid bending over awkwardly. Protect your back while lifting – this activity, along with carrying, puts the most stress on your back.
  9. Wear comfortable shoes. For the ladies, it would be good to not wear heels most of the time.
  10. Drink plenty of water to enhance the height of your intervertebral disks. And because your body is composed mostly of water, keeping yourself hydrated will keep you fluid and reduce stiffness.
  11. Quit smoking as it reduces blood flow to your lower spine and can cause your spinal discs to degenerate.
  12. Pay attention to how—and how long—you sleep, because studies have linked insufficient sleep with increased back and neck problems. Pay attention to your sleep position. Sleep on your side to reduce curving of your spine, and stretch before getting out of bed. A firm bed is recommended.



The Healing-Power of Ayurveda

by Anne Heckel


There were two main reasons for my trip to India this year: primarily, to continue my studies in Ayurveda (Indian Natural Therapies) with Dr. Arun Sharma, the director of Ayuskama in Dharamsala, India and secondly, to find a ‘magic treatment’ to heal my back pain that I hadn’t been able to find in Western medicine. And I succeeded with amazing triumph!

I had been suffering from chronic lower back pain with radiating pain into my right hip and leg for the last 2 years. I did not know what caused it nor how to successfully eradicate it. An x-ray film showed no significant deviations of the bony structures in my spine. In conventional medicine the most popular treatments for back pain are various forms of Massage, Chiropractic, Osteopathy, Physiotherapy, Acupuncture, Hypnosis, Yoga and even Psychotherapy. None of them were able to give any long-term relief. In the end it wasn’t just the physical pain that made me take painkillers, anti-inflammatories and glucose injections. It was the mental exhaustion caused by days of agony and the longing for just a few hours without aching discomfort in the body.

The diagnosis after an MRI scan was pretty clear for Dr. Arun: two bulged discs between L4/L5 and L5/S1 which had been causing inflammation in the surrounding tissues and causing irritation to lumbar nerves.

Dr. Arun’s first order was complete REST. However, there was a big difference between my understanding of ‘rest’ and his. It wasn’t until he explained to me in greatest detail what happens to the vertebrae while continuing to walk, sit or to carry a backpack on my shoulders that I actually started to rest recumbently most of the time.

Dr. Arun started me on several herbal medicines with anti-inflammatory properties, including internal use of castor oil to clear any signs constipation. According to Ayurveda, there is a high correlation between chronic constipation and back pain. The physical treatments began with a reducing and drying therapy called Rukshanam to remove any superficial toxins, stiffness and to open up the body’s channels for external medications to access damaged structures.

Steaming and external oleation through massage – Abhyanga (Indian Oil Massage) was part of my daily routine.  After one week the doctor added different ayurvedic techniques: Kati Vasti, Patra Pinda Sveda and Passive Stretching into my treatment plan. In Kati Vasti the effected lumbar area gets flooded with warm herbalised oil, held in place with a dough dam. Patra Pinda Sveda describes a sweating therapy, in which fresh castor leaves are fried with other herbal ingredients, tied into boluses, dipped into warm medicated oil and applied over the affected body part. I experienced the first positive change in the pain pattern after 2 weeks.

My own responsibility was to do my prescribed back strengthening exercises on a daily basis. As with most chronic diseases, patience and persistence are keys to success. After an initial improvement, there was a time when negative symptoms returned. However, the great psychological support of Dr. Arun Sharma made it easier to deal with the occasional healing crisis. He then applied Lepan – an herbal paste on my lower back and taped it up tightly. It was the best posture training I have ever had and the continuously nagging pain slowly subsided day by day.

The Medicated Enema treatment called Vasti gave the final healing effect. On alternate days for a period of one month, I received medicated oil and a special herbal decoction inserted rectally. Due to the fact that the colon is very close to the spine, rectal medications can both be absorbed more rapidly and act more effectively. Literally, every day I felt the chronic inflammation being pulled out of my body. Recuperative aftercare is equally important, as the body needs time to fully recover and delete pain memory. But what an amazing path of healing to obviate the need for surgery and its’ attendant side effects!

Prior to this year’s trip, I had seen Dr. Arun for a partial tear of the anterior crucial ligament in my knee joint, amenorrhea and chronic constipation. Ayurvedic medicines in combination with knowledge about appropriate lifestyle changes have cured these conditions. Over 7 months in total studying with Dr. Arun, I have witnessed significant improvements in cases of psoriasis and other skin disorders, relief of arthritic pain as well as easing of stress conditions like insomnia and depression.

“Ayurveda”, originating from Sanskrit and meaning “Science of Life”, is the world’s oldest system of preventive health care and guidance, developing in India over 7000 years ago. It is a natural approach to create balance within the body and strengthens the body’s own healing abilities without external force. Not only does Ayurveda encompass a holistic approach, but a philosophy and lifestyle as well to balance the five elements Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. It is known as the “mother of all medicine” and what sets Ayurvedic medicine apart from Western medicine is that it is a complete health care system, working simultaneously on mind, body and emotions. Ayurveda pre-dates Western Medicine by millennia and has consistently provided efficacy in treating chronic conditions over this time.

After 60 days of continuous treatment, strengthening exercises, posture training and lots of patience on both sides – doctor and patient – I am returning home to Hanmer Springs, New Zealand pain-free and gifted with incredible shared knowledge and experience for patients of my own Ayurvedic Practice ani HEALTH CARE.