The Household Physician
-147 hand written pages of advice to correspondents-
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The Importance of Kelp
An Excerpt from
Folk Medicine by D.C. Jarvis, MD
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THE Advantages of civilization are many, but it has its disadvantages also. The lack of mineral bearing food is a major disadvantage. The composition of the human body, being mineral, it is of utmost importance that it should be maintained by the needed minerals. Ocean kelp furnishes such a maintaining agent.
Sea water is water only in the sense that water is the dominant compound. It is a most complex liquid, containing about 3.5 per cent of dissolved inorganic compounds. Kelp growing in the sea, converts these inorganic compounds into organic form.
Being the lowest portion of the surface of the earth, the ocean is the catch basin into which the chemical substances of every kind have been dumped by the many moving forces in Nature. Loose and transportable materials are either moved directly and swiftly, or indirectly and by degrees, downward to the sea. Particles are carried bodily by wind, watercourse, and glacier. Other substances are dissolved in water and transported to the sea, where they are caught as it were in a trap and made permanently available. Thus has the ocean become a reservoir of accumulated wealth in chemical materials which makes the resources of the land appear insignificant by compasrison.
This accumulation of useful materials is a direct challange to chemists.
It seems safe to predict that coming generations will learn the inexhaustibility
of the ocean's hoarded wealth and how to make priceless use of the complete
assortment of chemicals it includes.
The surface area of the earth is 196,950,277 square miles. Of this area 70.73 per cent, or 139,295,000 square miles, are occupied by the ocean. The average depth of the ocean, is estimated to be 2.38 miles, while the greatest depth yet found is 6.7 miles, in the Philippine Trench near Mindanao. More than four fifths of the ocean floor is covered by water more than a mile deep. Two thirds of it is covered by water 2 ¼ miles deep.
We do not know the composition of the first primitive seas. We do know, however, that throughout the ages many forces have been bringing material to the oceans from outer space, from the interior of the earth, and from the land. Meteors or cosmic dusts arriving on the earth have seven chances out of ten of falling in the ocean. Numerous rock meteors as well as those of iron and nickel are found strewn on the bottom of the sea. Volcanoes have contributed much to the ocean, either directly or by dust thrown high into the atmosphere, to be carried by wind over the ocean and brought doivn by rain. Submarine fissures and springs bring materials from the interior of the earth. Glaciers rasp out rocks, mud, and debris and, when they arrive at the shore yield icebergs to drift to sea, where they melt and drop their cargoes of minerals.
Perhaps the greatest and most continuous addition to the ocean is carried by water. It is estimated that about .82 meter depth of water evaporates on the average over the whole ocean each year. This vapor, which is pure water with no minerals, rises in the air, is blown about the earth by wind, and is precipitated as rain. If we assume that 29.27 per cent of it falls on land, there is then 22 inches of rainfall over a11 the land of the earth. This water erodes and washes away the soil, which is carried as mud and silt down the brooks, creeks, and rivers back to the ocean. Part of it seeps into the ground to some depth, dissolving out soluble materials, issuing again in springs, geysers and artesian wells, and returning with its dissolved and suspended substances to the sea, where, again leaving its load of minerals in the ocean, it returns to the land for more. The most soluble substances go soonest and most completely. Whatever increases solubility also increases the impoverishment of the land and the enrichment of the sea. Among the most soluble compounds are the nitrates, the halogen compounds-the chlorides, iodides, bromides; also sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and others. The less soluble substances, such as silica or sand, and the clays, or alumina, are left behind. It is these less soluble materials which are now the bulk of our soil.
Various agencies assist the process of escape of minerals to the sea. Every stroke of lightning oxidizes some atmospheric nitrogen to nitric acid, which is carried down by the rains to the soil, where it dissolves some minerals as nitrates. Some of this is used by plants, and some of it is dissolved and washed away to the sea. The carbon dioxide of the atmosphere dissolves in rain water and increases the solubility of limestone. Large quantities of this are transported down the rivers to the sea. While the above substances are carried in vast quantities to the sea, all minerals are soluble to some extent, though some of them more slowly; silica or sand, alumina, phosphates, and the like are carried in small amounts but add up over geologic time to huge quantities. The agencies of erosion-wind, frost, exposure to changes of temperature and sunlight-all tend to aid the escape of substance from the land to the sea. Mountains and hills Slowly crumble, valleys are chiseled out, rocks disintegrate and decompose and are dissolved and washed away.
Man himself has been a party to the robbery of the land. The primitive forest, with its leaves, roots, and vines, held the soil in place and served to restrain the flow of water to some extent and to prevent direct erosion of the soil. Now that man has cleared away the forest and laid bare the ground, solid substance is carried away much more rapid than ever before. In more primitive times man returned sewage, wastes, and dejecta to the soil. Now he has become sanitary and discharges what came from the soil into the rivers, and eventually into the ocean.
Man is also digging iron, tin, copper, zinc, and others minerals from the ground, making them into automobiles, tin cans, buildings, and so on. Eventrially these are worn out discarded, piled tip in junk heaps, there to rust, corrode burn, dissolve, and wash away finally to the sea. Vast quantities of materials are destroyed by combustion as fuel or for disposal of wastes. All of the coal, most of the petroleum, and much of the products of forests are eventually consumed by fire. Their smoke and dust go into the air, their ashes are leached out by rain, the portable materials going to the sea.
The various materials, upon entering the ocean from the rivers, begin at once to take part in a vast milling of chemical changes, reacting, dissolving, precipitating, redissolving, being taken up by living plants and animals, going through the life cycle and being set free again. Almost every kind of reaction has a chance to occur because the ocean is forever stirred by wind, and currents horizontal and vertical, exposed to change of temperature, frozen and thawed, exposed to light of varying intensities and colors. As it now exists the composition of the ocean is the result of millions of years of these reactions. Everything that exists anywhere in the earth or above it finds its way at last into the sea. Every element necessary for life is present everyvhere in the sea. Sea water and healthy human blood have an almost identical chemical constituency.
In the sea there is and can be no deficiency. Every element necessary for life is present everywhere, and the living animals and plants of the ocean select what they require. Sea-foods are capable of supplying all the elements necessary in our foods, whether we know what they are or not. In seafoods the necessary elements not only have been selected and assimilated on the basis of the natural requirements of living tissues, but thet are stored and available in the form of a natural food in something approaching the proper proportions of the diet of man.
Chemists have known for centuries that in the vast ocean there are
dissolved almost all the important chemical elements. It is estimated that
each cubic mile contains about 200,000,000 tons of chemical compounds including
elements like gold, silver, magnesium, aluminum, radium, barium, bromine,
iodine, sulfur, and many others. With knowledge that the ocean serves as
a mixing bowl for the mineral elements washed from the land, it is readily
understood why marine plants and animals face no deficiencies. In time
they take these mineral elements and assimilate them into organic combinations
which are, in turn, needed by land inhabitants to prevent and cure deficiency
diseases. Life reaches its richest abundance and its most varied forms
in the sea. From small creatures invisible to the naked eye-teeming millions
of them in a cubic inch of water-to the great whales, runs the animal life
of the sea. Its tropical and semi-tropical waters are layer upon layer
of life communities, starting at the very bottom of the sea and extending
to the surface.
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Equally rich in abundance of form and size with the sea's animal
life is its plant life. It too starts with tiny forms visible only with
the microscope and continues up to the
great tree of the sea, the giant kelp.
Feeding in their marine pasture, sea animals are supplied with food so abundant, so rich in vital elements, that their rate of increase is many times greater than that of land dwelling creatures. Why does life flourish so much more abundantly in the sea than on the land? Why are people whose diet includes much seafood practically free from certain disturbances to which others are subject?
The answer lies in the completeness of the sea's supply of mineral matter needed for health. Sea plants grow in mineral-rich medium. They take from this source and store up these important minerals. When seafood, either plant or animal, is eaten, these minerals are reabsorbed and perform their marvelous chemical functions of regulation and correction. The numerous elements coming from the sea, one the most important of which is iodine, furnish the fina1 essential link in the balanced diet.
The most essential mineral elements of the body composition, in the order of their apparent importance, are iodine, copper, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, potassiuim, magnesium, chlorine, and sulfur. All but the first of these iodine, which is a native of the sea, have their source in soil. We would naturally suppose that when we eat products of the soil we should secure an ample supply of them. That is no doubt what Nature intended. But Nature did not foresee that man would remove the trees and other growth allowing the rains to erode the soil, leaching out the essential minerals and, by means of our creeks and rivers, carrying them down to the sea. The result has been mineral-starved soils, in turn producing mineral-starved foods. The obvious result is that humans, who depend upon these mineral-starved foods for our supply of minerals, are literally starving in the midst of plenty.
It is easy to know when one is hungry for sweets, starches, or fats. The body sends out distress signals almost immediately and, if we are in normal health, our appetite tells us what is needed.
Once we learn to know them, the signs of mineral hunger are quite as definite and the results, if our body's SOS is long ignored, are far more serious.
There have developed within the last few generations especially here in the United States, where food is most -abundant and the average person eats most generously, a whole series of "deficiency diseases." It is recognized that each of these diseases is due to a lack of vital elements in the diet, and the essentials most often lacking are the essential minerals. The thyroid requires iodine. The parathyroid requires cobalt and nickel. The adrenal glands require magnesium. The pancreas requires cobalt and nickel. The anterior pituitary gland needs manganese. The posterior pituitary needs chlorine. The gonads require iron.
An entirely new respect is being acquired for iron, copper, manganese, zinc, and aluminum, for it has been discovered that these minerals have a most profound influence as catalysts, or electrifiers, or self-starters, in our body processes in general and upon the formation of good and plentiful blood in particular.
Iron enters directly into the construction of the hemoglobin of red corpuscles, which are the oxygen carriers of our blood. Anemia is a deficiency disease which may develop if there is an insufficient supply of iron in the blood. Unfortunately the human body cannot store up much iron, so it is necessary to replenish the supply regularly.
Though our diets are mineral-deficient because the soil is mineral-starved, fortunately we know where these mineral riches have gone. Every year, every day, as our soils become more impovcrished, the seas become richer in these minerals. So we are learning to do a quite natural and undoubtedly a very wise thing-we are going back to the sea for the minerals of which our lands have been despoiled. We are appreciably developing a new interest in seafoods, but-as sparingly as we consume sea foods as yet-it is still difficult to catch up by the use of seafoods alone with our clear lack of minerals.
However, we find in the ocean a plant whose botanical flame is Macrocystis pyrifera and which is commonly called kelp. It is often referred to as a sea vegetable and serves well as a food supplement.
Kelp grows in great abundance off the California coast. It flourishes best at a depth of from six to ten fathoms found only where the ocean bottom is rocky. It has no roots but is anchored to the rocks by tough ropelike cables, called hold-fasts, and derives its nourishment entirely from water. It is one of the largest plants in existence, often reaching a length of seven hundred feet, growing as much as fifty feet in a single year. Each plant consists of a trunk or stem, lined on either side with large single lanceolate leaves. The leaves occur in files of six or eight or more, the files alternating, each leaf supported by a buoy or floater at its point of contact with the trunk of the plant. Each leaf finely but irregularly corrugated, is bordered with a -row of short, soft spines, and is olive brown in color.
Biochemistry teaches us that plants are the only organisms that can manufacture food, and that the essential food elements man receives from the flesh of animals come originally from plants. As every raw material essential for plant 1ife is right at hand, the seaweeds such as kelp are naturally rich in the food elements required by man and other forms of animal life. The minerals it absorbs from the water in such abundance are present in an organic colloidal state, readily usable, and directly transferrable to the human body.
Heretofore most peoples have availed themselves of vast food supply of the sea as created only indirectly, through the consumption of fish and certain crustaceans. Some maritime nations, however, like the Japanese, the Irish, and formerly our coastal Indian tribes, have been large consumers of edible seaweeds. It should be noted that, because of this diet, certain deficiency diseases have been very rare or entirely absent among these peoples. For example, the natives in Japan eat about the equivalent of ten grains of dried kelp each day; in the Japanese boats coming to Califiornia there are always six or seven different varieties of kelp stored in the supply room to be eaten later.
Happening to be in California to attend a medical meetmg I wanted to familiarize myself with the manner in which kelp was harvested from the ocean and the method of its preparation for the consumption of humans and farm animals.
A couple of harvesters gather the kelp from the sea. They operate off the shores of San Clemente Island and in the kelp beds between Redondo and the San Pedro Breakwater.The kelp harvester is an interesting contraption. It operates at the end of a barge onto which carriers load the kelp as it is cut. The harvester works something like a mowing machine, but in addition to the horizontal blade it has a vertical blade on either side. The cutting apparatus is lowered into the water to a depth of three feet and shears off the tops of the kelp plants. The government does not permit it to be cut more than that much.
The larger of the harvesters mows a swath 18 feet wide and gathers a load of two hundred tons in six hours. It is operated by a gasoline engine at the farther end of the barge.
The kelp is unloaded at the factory by means of a couple of huge iron forks, which are operated by a crane and which clasp the kelp like the fingers of two hands. They pick up as much as nine hundred pounds of kelp at one time and dump it into a hopper, where it is cut up in less than a rninute. From the cutter it passes on a conveyor to a macerator, in which it is reduced to a pulp, and then run into a huge storage tank. A pumping system conveys it from this tank to the drier.
At this stage the kelp flows quite readily. Its water content, together with the ooze that attaches to the plant and makes it extremely slippery, mixed with the fine pieces of kelp produces a maze of semiliquid pulp of a consistency like that of heavy gruel. In the drier the process is so controlled that the constituent elements of the kelp are preserved.
The drier is a revolving steel tube 60 feet long and six feet in diameter. At the end of the tube where the macerated kelp enters is a gas furnace, which provides the heat. This end is several feet higher than other end. At the lower end is a large fan. The incline of the drier, its revolutions, and the current of air produced by the fan cause the kelp to move slowly through the tube while the dehydrating process is going on. In its course it passes through heat ranging from 1400 degrees Fahrenheit at the entrance to 300 degrees at the point of exit.
When it emerges from the drier the kelp is in small somewhat like fine popcorn. It is then run through a grinder and comes out in the form of a coarse powder. In this condition it is ready to take its place in the preparations manufactured by the company.
The Company has a large, well-equipped laboratory containing a large number of rabbits, hens, and white rats to which its kelp preparations are fed. A minutely accurate tabulation is made of the results in every important aspect. The Company prepares a 5-grain tablet form of kelp for human consumption and the seaweed is also prepared granular form.
A number of years ago the late Dr. Weston A. Price Cleveland, Ohio, internationally known for his work relating to the cause of dental decay, came to Barre to discuss with me my years of study of native Vermonters living close to the soil, and of Vermont folk medicine. He had just returned from a trip to Peru, where he studied and photographed the condition of the teeth of individuals living at high altitudes in the Andes Mountains. He had been all over the world studying the teeth of primitive peoples, in an effort to learn causes of dental decay, and wished to add to his studies dental conditions of people living in high altitudes.
He himself was unable to go higher than 12,000 feet, but he learned about individuals living at 16,000 feet. He arranged for some of them to be brought down to 12,000 feet so he might study them and photograph their teeth.
While he was working he chanced to notice that each individual carried a little bag, of which all seemed to be partictilarly careful. Out of curiosity lie looked into the bags and discovered that they contained kelp. When he asked where they had got kelp so far from the ocean, they said calmly that they got it from the ocean. This surprised him since it took a month to make the trip to and from the coast What did they use the kelp for? To guard the heart, they explained to him.
Soon after Dr. Price visited me a patient who had had several heart
attacks came to my office to have his ears inflated. He came on a Friday
and I asked him to return on the following Monday. He said he did not know
whether he could make a second visit because, in climbing the one flight
of stairs to my office, he had been obliged to stop and rest three times
because of pain in his heart. He said that he was obliged to remain quiet
throughout each morning so that it would be possible for him to be moderately
active in the afternoon and evening.
I gave him some 5-grain kelp tablets with' instructions to take one tablet either before, during, or after each meal, whichever he found most convenient.
The following Monday he walked into my office and, holding out his wrist, asked me to take his pulse. It was 72 for the minute count. I then asked why he had wanted me to take it. He said that since taking the first kelp tablet he had been completely free from heart pain. He had walked up the stairs on this second office visit without having to stop and rest. I had him continue taking one 5-grain kelp tablet at each meal, with the result that he became much more active than he had been.
A minister and his wife who lived in California were visiting at our home. During the course of conversation an expression indicative of severe pain came across his face, and he clutched his heart region with his right hand. When were alone I asked him if he had suffered pain in the heart and he said he had. Occasionally he would have this momen tary heart pain and he was quite concerned about it.
I told him about Dr. Price's experience with the Peruvian natives living at 16,000 feet and gave him some kelp tablet with instructions to take one tablet at each meal. I learned later that this ended the attacks.
At Cornell, Professor Cavanaugh showed me his experimental work with kelp on white Leghorn hens, which demonstrated how much their health could be improved by a food supplement in the form of sea kelp and how much better the eggs were. He demonstrated how hard the shell of the eggs were and how the egg yolk could be tossed from one hand to the other without breaking. He was particularly interested in preventing soft-shell eggs.
Professor Cavanaugh also discussed cases of un-united bone fractures which medical friends had talked over with him asking what was wrong with the body chemistry that prevented formation of new bone and what was needed by the body in order to bring about bony union. In each case, he suggested, patients should be given kelp tablets, which he recommended strongly because it was such a good source ot the minerals in organic form which the body needed. Later reports to him said that bony union took place promptly after the kelp treatment was begun. Later Professor Cavanaugh made a study of the influence of kelp on the healing time of fractures when kelp was taken each day. Determinations were made of the blood calcium, phosphorus, iron, and iodine on patients with fractures at different intervals during convalescence. This study disclosed that the healing time of fractures could be reduced 20 per cent by having the patient take kelp each day and that kelp raised the blood calcium.
The composition of the human body and the composition of seven gallons of sea water are the same. In view of this fact it would seem practical to turn to the sea in order to supply the mineral needs of the body. To a certain extent we are already doing this, by eating fish and other seafood grown in the ocean. We shall materially step up the process if we take one 5grain kelp tablet (or its equivalent) each day. This is a simple, effective means of avoiding the mineral-deficiency conditions which appear in the human body when we eat only land-grown foods, which all too prevalently are grown in mineral-starved soil.
Many native Vermonters who have left the state to live at other points along the New England coast have reported the regular gathering of kelp washed up on shore after a storm. They dry the kelp and crush it with a rolling pin. They make a dessert of it by adding a teaspoonful of the crushed kelp to each cup of water. The mixture is allowed to simmer on the stove until it has the consistency of strained honey. After being taken off the stove and allowed to cool, whipped cream is added and it is served for dessert.
Moss is also used, pulled from seacoast rocks when the tide is out. This is dried and eaten without cooking. For many years I have seen a seaweed called dulce sold in the grocery stores of Barre. It is very much favored and I deduce that kelp and those similar marine substances must present something which the body very greatly desires, or they would not be in such regular use.
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-147 hand written pages of advice to correspondents-
CD-PDF Format $49.95 ea. Includes Shipping