Impressions of Bowen Therapy

For a number of years I had been struggling with the annoyances of lower back pain, bulging discs, arthritis, mild spinal stenosis, leg and hip pain with numbness and tingling in the toes. At my first appointment with Carol-Ann, to be truthful, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. However, in her sweet, gentle nature, she assured me that the treatment would be non-intrusive – and the explanation of the ensuring proceedure set any apprehensions at rest.

The first session left me in such a state of total relaxation – a place in my mind which I had never visited before. When I was first asked to lie on the treatment table flat on my stomach, my initial reaction was “This ain’t gonna happen”!  because I had not been able to do this in years! However, after a few very gentle movements over the body, I became painfree and comfortable. The next hour involved more of the same – and I left the appointment encouraged that this could quite possibly help me – sooo… I booked a follow-up meeting the next week.

On the second occasion, we began by reviewing my symptoms and it was decided that this session would focus primarily on my back ailments. I knew that part of my discomforts were a result of a shift in body weight to my right side, which after extended periods of standing, walking and exercise, the burden of these movements would take its toll on the “S I”  joints of the opposite hip – resulting in nagging pain, plus complete discouragement in persuing any type of exercise regime where this problem would be challenged.

After initially relaxing the body through simple hand movements, followed by 2 minute rest intervals, Carol-Ann began to focus on aligning my hips – which she had diagnosed as the main cause of my discomforts. I had been previously told that there was a significant discrepancy in my leg lengths, but I hadn’t given this much thought.
The treatment started out with me lying flat on the table  on my back with both legs extending in front, stopping several inches short of  the wall at the table’s base. Next Carol-Ann explained that in order to proceed with the alignment she would need to perform a hand movement which would apply pressure to an area adjacent to the groin and I gave my consent to proceed when asked if this was within my comfort level. The ensuing results of this simple movment left me in total amazement!

Beginning with my left leg, she moved it straight up slowly, all the while gently applying pressure to a spot near the groin, while holding the weight of the leg entirely. She then brought the leg down to a bending position and then slowly down to reach up to my chest (a position my leg has never before had the flexability to reach) and then gently moved it back to its resting position on the table. To my total amazement the bottom of my foot rested snugly against the wall which had previously been a few inches distant! I couldn’t believe this result!  In my excitement – I asked her if the right leg would perform the same way? After the ususal 2 minute break we would know!

Sure enough, when the same movements were applied to the right leg, the leg upon returning to a resting postion, was aligned with the left leg, leaving both feet snugly touching the wall side by side! The changes to both my leg lengths and flexability were so incredible. Needless to say, I was totally overwhelmed with emotion. However the most amazing moment occured when I began to walk shortly thereafter. My body appeared to be completely balanced – there was no longer a need for my inner body to strive to correct the  balance in my gait. For so long I had been accustomed to correcting this uneveness while walking with the fear of staggering – and suddenly this all changed!  I began to ask myself – “What other benefits could my body experience through such  simple non invasive movements to bring more positive results?”  Those I intend to persue in the near future! And finally, what every “shopaholic” gal wants to hear from any practioner or friend “You need to buy new shoes”!  Hey, what could be more liberating? Thanks, Carol-Ann for allowing me the opportunity to try this new experience and to be reasured that we all need to return to the simplicity of nature and all that it offers.

25 May 2010

Just because it’s recommended, doesn’t mean it’s safe

screen-shot-2012-08-04-at-10-08-04-pmJust because a vaccine is recommended by government officials and state-sponsored media, does not mean that it is safe. One of the most startling examples of this discrepancy occurred during the H1N1 Swine Flu Pandemic.

While other countries raised concerns about the lack of safety tests for the H1N1 vaccines, Canada made use of Section 30.1 of the Food and Drugs Act, which gives the minister of health the authority to fast-track a drug “to deal with significant risk, direct or indirect, to human health, public safety, or the environment.” [1] As written on the “Package Insert” for Arepanrix H1N1 – AS03-Adjuvanted H1N1 Pandemic Influenza Vaccine:

Health Canada has authorized the sale of the Arepanrix H1N1 based on limited clinical testing in humans under the provision of an Interim Order (IO) issued on October 13, 2009. The authorization is based on the Health Canada review of the available data on quality, safety and immunogenicity, and given the current pandemic threats and its risk to human health, Health Canada considers that the benefit/risk profile of the Arepanrix H1N1 vaccine is favourable for active immunization against the H1N1 2009 influenza strain in an officially declared pandemic situation. [2]

 The declaration of a pandemic allowed the Health Minister to authorize the vaccine on “limited clinical testing.” Pregnant women in Canada were especially encouraged to receive it even though, in contrast with the limited data of other populations, absolutely “no data [had] been generated in pregnant women with Arepanrix H1N1 nor with the prototype AS03 adjuvanted H5N1 vaccine.” [3] In the absence of information, vaccine manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, advised consumers that “considerations should be taken of any recommendations made by the Public Health Agency of Canada.” [4] And “the agency says vaccine with the adjuvant is safe for pregnant women.” [5]

As a token precautionary measure Health Canada ordered just under two million doses of the vaccine without the adjuvant for pregnant women concerned about the health risks associated with the adjuvant. [6] Within a few short months, however, the potential danger of the vaccine with adjuvant was considered negligible compared with the danger that pregnant women faced of being infected. In December, 2009, Public health experts in Montreal urged pregnant women in particular to get the H1N1 vaccine, since they were considered to be at the highest risk of becoming sick and infecting their fetuses: “It’s the only way to protect your little baby.” [7] Dr. Richard Lessard, from Montreal’s Public Health Agency acknowledged that there was “some confusion in the early days of the vaccine campaign” but assured the public that “it’s now clear that with or without the adjuvant – – an additive that boosts the immune system’s response to a vaccine – – the vaccine isn’t dangerous for pregnant women.” [8]

It is not clear on what basis Lessard discerned that with or without the adjuvant the vaccine was safe for pregnant women. But it is clear that there is a difference between an adjuvanted vaccine and a monovalent vaccine, namely the adjuvant. It is a critical difference and yet it was consistently overlookeded in the (non-existent) risk analysis of injecting pregnant women. Unlike the monovalent version [9] Arepanrix H1N1 – AS03-Adjuvanted H1N1 Pandemic Influenza Vaccine contains an adjuvant that “enhances the vaccine-induced immune response and contains naturally occurring molecules (squalene and vitamin E) plus an emulsifier (polysorbate 80).” [10] Honing in on just one of the toxic ingredients, polysorbate 80 is a well researched substance and researchers have concluded that it cannot safely be used as a solvent for isolated tissue experiments “nor when considered for intravenous administration.” [11] It has been shown to depress the central nervous system, reduce locomotor activity and rectal temperature, [12] cause severe nonimmunologic anaphylactoid reactions, [13] and – – most notably – – cause infertility [14]. Despite the well documented damages associated with one of the main ingredients in the adjuvant, when the danger to pregnant women was considered high, it was decided that “with or without the adjuvant . . . the vaccine isn’t dangerous for pregnant women.” [15]

A comparison is instructive: in the absence of a pandemic, when GlaxoSmithKline is held to marginally higher safety standards, it explicitly acknowledged that ‘no data has been generated in pregnant women’ means that “safety and effectiveness” of a seasonal flu vaccine with adjuvant “have not been established in pregnant women or nursing mothers.” [16] Accordingly, they stipulate that all women who receive the vaccine while pregnant should be informed of the lack of safety tests and should be registered with GlaxoSmithKline’s pregnancy registry. That is, if, and only if, it is considered absolutely necessary to administer it to them. After all, the manufacturers at GlaxoSmithKline reason that since there are “no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women,” the vaccine should be given to a pregnant woman “only if clearly needed.” [17] When the world was no longer in a state of alarm, during the 2011 flu season, GlaxoSmithKline acknowledged that “although excess morbidity and mortality were observed among pregnant women during the pandemic outbreaks in 1918-19 and 1957-58, further studies are needed to determine whether pregnancy per se is a risk factor that warrants routine influenza immunization.” [18] But in a state of emergency, “pregnant women who don’t get the H1N1 vaccine are at the highest risk of becoming sick and infecting their fetuses.” [19] Pregnant women are lined up to receive the vaccine because it is considered “the best solution because it offers an almost perfect protection.” [20]

When considering the safety of vaccines, it is critical to remember that the risks involved with vaccination do not change when the danger of infection is considered high. The only thing that changes is the population’s eagerness to line up for it.


[1] “The Road to Rollout,” CBC News; Health, last modified November 9, 2009.

[2] “Product Information Leaflet; Arepanrix H1N1 AS03-Adjuvanted H1N1 Pandemic Influenza Vaccine” GlaxoSmithKline, last modified October 21, 2009. 2.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “The Road to Rollout,” CBC News; Health.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Pregnant Women Urged to Get the H1N1 Shot,” CBC News; Montreal, last modified December 1, 2009:

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Product Information Leaflet; Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 Pandemic Monovalent Vaccine (Without Adjuvant)”, Health Canada.

[10] “Product Information Leaflet; Arepanrix H1N1 AS03-Adjuvanted H1N1 Pandemic Influenza Vaccine” GlaxoSmithKline.

[11] RK Varma and others, “Polysorbate 80: A Pharmacological Study,” Arzneimittelforschung, 35, n. 5 (1985) 804-8.

[12] Ibid.

[13] EA Coors and others, “Polysorbate 80 in Medical Products and Nonimmunologic Anaphylactoid Reactions,” Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 95, n. 6 (2005) 593-9.

[14] M Gajdova and others, “Delayed Effects of Neonatal Exposure to Tween 80 on Female Reproductive Organs in Rats,” Food and Chemical Toxicology 31, n. 3 (1993) 183-90.

[15] “Pregnant Women Urged to Get the H1N1 Shot,” CBC News; Montreal.

[16] “Fluarix (Influenza Virus Vaccine) 2012-2013 Formula” GlaxoSmithKline.

[17] Ibid.

[18] “Product Monograph; Fluviral (2011-2012),” GlaxoSmithKline, last revised April 21, 2011.

[19] “Pregnant Women Urged to Get the H1N1 Shot,” CBC News; Montreal.

[20] Ibid.

Romantic Medicine

In many ways, the early reception of Kantian philosophy within medicine became the point of departure for the early Romantic era in Germany. Immanuel Kant’s delineation of knowledge – more specifically, his denial of our capacity to ever really grasp living organisms – had a significant impact on the theory and practice of late-18th and early-19th century German medicine (an influence that still prevails in reductionistic approaches to medicine). According to Kant’s theory of knowledge, our discursive intellect proceeds from the isolated parts of nature and subsumes these parts under the universal concepts of the understanding, such that it can never grasp unity in its diversity. More specifically, by proceeding from the parts to construct a whole, the discursive intellect is incapable of grasping organisms, which consist of inherently distinctive but mutually supporting parts. In view of the inadequacy of discursive understanding, Kant acknowledges that: “It is at least possible to consider the material world as mere phenomenon, and to think as its substrate something like a thing in itself (which is not phenomenon), and to attach to this a corresponding intellectual intuition” [1]. As an integral part of their reaction to Kant’s delineation of knowledge, romantic thinkers sought to elaborate the mode of thought capable of grasping organisms as integrated identities, namely intellectual intuition. They recognized that this approach must be intellectual because it must be capable of seeing ideas and not merely sensible data. And it must be intuitive, as opposed to discursive, because it does not grasp empirical objects as things determined by and known in terms of external conditions, but as a self-subsisting, self-producing unity [2]. Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.12.51 AMOne of the most seminal thinkers in this romantic response is Johann Wolfgan von Goethe. Throughout his ambivalent reception of Kantian epistemology, ranging from distain and disinterest to active engagement and endorsement, Goethe remains a strong advocate of careful – one may even say reverent – observation of natural phenomena. Goethe lamented the hostility of Kant’s epistemology to a more immediate congress with nature [3]. His sojourn in Italy from 1786 to 1788, during which he devoted himself to studying the metamorphosis of plants, had convinced Goethe that the veil surrounding nature was not as impenetrable as Kant’s epistemology dictates. The first fruits of Goethe’s labours in the Sicilian gardens at Palermo were cultivated shortly after his return to Weimar in the form of a little book, The Metamorphosis of Plants (Die Metamorphosis der Pflanzen, 1790), which, “seeded a revolution in thought that would transform biological science during the nineteenth century” [4]. Albeit simple in its execution, the methodological implications of Goethe’s study are immense. In contrast with previous researchers, who focused on how different parts of a plant appear at various stages of development, Goethe emphasizes the process by which one and the same organ appears in a variety of forms. He demonstrates that if plant parts are perceived alongside one another, one can begin to recognize continuity between the parts. The potential impact that Goethe’s insight has on the development of the life sciences, including medicine, after Kant cannot be overstated. In direct contrast with Kant, who attributes our recognition of an organism’s growth and development to heuristic aids, Goethe identifies metamorphosis as a foundational law of nature [5]. His observation of plant growth provides a living testament of a natural researcher’s capacity to grasp the unity that underlies and determines the parts and their relations. In agreement with Kant that only an intuitive intelligence can grasp organisms, Goethe is unwilling to deprive the patient observer of this capacity. Though he admits that the act of recognition implies a cognitive division, Goethe maintains that we have been granted the ability to reconstitute artificially that which should not have been divided in the first place in order to understand the natural world. In other words, he “affirms that humans have the ability to replicate . . . organic processes. . . as intellectual operations” [6]. Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.06.52 AMGoethe’s experience as a natural researcher convinced him that if we allow intuitive thinking a place in scientific method, then – provided these are deployed in agreement with exact observation and clear thought – a much fuller and more complete experience of nature would be possible. He insists that a “great scientist without this high gift [of imagination] is impossible” [7]. But he is also careful to qualify that by this he does “not mean an imagination that goes into the vague and imagines things that do not exist . . . [but rather] one that does not abandon the actual soil of the earth, and steps to supposed and conjectured things by the standard of the real and the known” [8]. It is only ever in this moment of indistinction between empirical and creative encounters with nature that we can begin to grasp the mode of observation characteristic of ‘romantic science.’ Goethe’s mature conviction that his “ideal plant” stemmed from “empirical observations . . . [that] had been transformed by the creative imagination to reveal a deeper core of reality,” [9] is emblematic of the tradition that it spawned, namely, a romantic science of life. Far reaching in both its applications and implications, romantic medicine distinguishes itself from reductionist forms of medicine by engaging with living organisms as living organisms, without reducing them to disconnected, isolated parts. By responding to organisms in their ever-transforming and dynamic wholeness, a romantic approach to medicine enables us to therapeutically interact with what is most alive in us and in others.

[1] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason. translated by J.H Bernard ( Publishing, 2010), p. 173.

[2] Dalia Nassar, The Romantic Absolute: Being and Knowing in Early German Romantic Philosophy 1795-1805 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), p. 6.

[3] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe on Science; An Anthology of Goethe’s Scientific Writings, selected and introduced by Jeremy Naydler (Edinburgh: Floris Books, 1996), p. 330; 429.

[4] Robert Richards, The Romantic Conception of Life; Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002), p. 407.

[5] Richards, p. 225.

[6] Jocelyn Holland, German Romanticism and Science: The Procreative Poetics of Goethe, Novalis, and Ritter, (New York: Routledge, 2009), p. 40.

[7] Goethe, 118.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Richards, 2.