Archive for August, 2014

Hope and herbal remedies

ApothecaryI’ve mentioned already that Germans in my view have a much greater interest in herbal remedies and alternative medicine than the Brits. You will find a traditional apothecary (as opposed to a Boots pharmacy)  in every corner – in many cases places which appear to hail directly from the renaissance, lined with tiny wooden drawers and brown and green glass bottles filled with potions and powders. Buy a simple body lotion from your local chemist and you will be swamped with free supplies of magnesium and zinc as goodies to take home.

Despite being a creature of conventional medicine, in my time here, I have learnt that teas with thyme are good for coughs and colds (bronchial tea), the rootstock of the herbal plant Valeriana (Baldrianis used commonly to help against insomnia (we even supply it for hospital in-patients) and zinc is a must when you have a cold (although I’m not convinced it helps you recover any quicker from a cold than the eggs with pepper and spoonfuls of honey that my dad is quick to recommend). How much of it is placebo and how much helps, I really don’t know. But they definitely can’t do you any harm. I see that companies such as Orthamol market their strong vitamin cocktails to expecting mothers, athletes and immunosuppressed patients at fancy prices (40-50 Euros a month) and question their need. Although admittedly, whilst not exactly eating junk food everyday, the thought and effort I put into securing a nutritiously balanced diet every day is nominal.

My knowledge of alternative medicine is shamefully limited to one special study module many years ago at university. I am the sceptic that scoffs quietly when someone tells me of an acupuncture course to reduce the duration of labour. But when patients quiz me on alternative treatments for their newly diagnosed lung cancer, I regret that I can’t offer them a more expert opinion. Other than to tell them there is no clear evidence for their use in this field and an offer to check that there are no drug interactions with any conventional therapy they take.

Recently we treated a Chinese patient who relied on Chinese herbal medicine to treat her advanced lung cancer. Several discussions with the patient and her family made clear that the aversion to chemotherapy was not just due to cultural differences and a rejection of conventional medicine, but due to the underlying hope that a remedy exits somewhere which could offer a cure. A cure which is out of reach with the chemotherapy we had to offer. This is the side of alternative medicine which I find the hardest to come to terms with.

Friday night at the movies

Friday night at the movies hasn’t happened for a while. And when it did this weekend, it was special.

The reason for this was the beautifully cosy independent cinema theatre in the centre of Munich. A short walk from the stunning buildings surrounding Odeonplatz, turning into a charming old arcade lead us to the basement cinema at Theatiner Film.

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And suddenly the romance of a Friday night movie was all too clear. The film itself – „Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au Bon Dieu“ – provided for an evening of laugh-out-loud comedy and a little bit of French practice.  The story of a set of conservative French parents and their 4 daughters who each choose a husband from a different culture and religion, very much to the clear dismay of their parents. The film is ridiculously full of every imaginable stereotype and cliche and has a predictably rosy-hearted ending, but I nevertheless found it easy to warm to.

As we left the cinema, we left with one mutual thought – thank goodness that neither of our parents made a fuss when we brought each other home for the first time many years ago.

Happy 1st birthday to Facts and Flowers

A change in environment, a new job and seemingly an endless number of cardboard boxes to unpack has left little time (or inspiration) for this space.

But the new kitchen has arrived, internet connection at home is just a week away, the first guest has been entertained and it’s slowly starting to feel like home here.

Just in time to celebrate my blog’s first birthday. A year ago today, I simply started blogging – on Manu Chao, tea-drinking and a wonderful weekend in Brussels. And since then, on everything from sleep medicine to the funny ways of German life (by far the most popular post to date).

Long-term bloggers say that blog-writing gets harder after the first year. Here’s to a happy first year and hopefully many more years to come.


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