Boundless Healing

Boundless Healing
Published by Shambhala
Tulku Thondup
List: $22.95US/$32.95CAN

Order it now!

This book offers simple meditation techniques that will awaken healing energies in the body and mind. Using Buddhist principles as a basis, Tulku Thondup has created a universal guide that anyone can use. It will benefit those who want to preserve good health as well as those who need comfort and relief from illness or mental distress. Boundless Healing offers:

ways to employ the four healing powers: positive images, positive words, positive feelings, and positive belief
detailed healing exercises that can be done individually or as part of a twelve-stage program
exercises for dispelling anxiety
healing prayers for the dying and the deceased, plus advice for helpers and survivors
These meditations draw on our innate capacity for imagination and memory, our natural enjoyment of beauty, and our deep-seated longing for a state of quiet calm. For all those who wish to become healthier, happier, and more peaceful in everyday life.

Tulku Thondup was born in Tibet and studied at the Dodrupchen Monastery. He fled to India in1958, where he taught for many years. In 1980 he moved to the U.S. as a visiting scholar at Harvard University. His many books on Tibetan Buddhism include The Healing Power of Mind, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Enlightened Journey, and The Practice of Dzogchen.



TO FIND TRUE WELL-BEING, the best place to look is close to home. We could travel around the globe a hundred times, turning over every stone on earth in the quest for happiness. Yet this would not necessarily give us what we seek. Money does not necessarily grant well-being either, nor does a youthful or healthy body. Health and money can help us, of course. But the real source of peace and joy is our minds.

The mind wants to be peaceful; this is really its natural state. But there are so many distractions and cravings that can obscure our peaceful nature. A characteristic of our time is the speed of our daily lives, especially in the West. Everything is a rush. Meditation can slow us down so that we touch our true nature. Any meditation can help us. The object of our contemplation could be a flower, a religious image, or a positive feeling. Or it could be our own bodies.

One especially rich way to develop a peaceful mind is to meditate upon the body. By doing this, we promote the welfare of our whole being.

Through meditation, we can learn how to encourage our minds to create a feeling of peace in the body. This can be as simple as relaxing and saying to ourselves, “Let my body be calm and peaceful now,” and really feeling that this is happening. It is the beginning of meditation — and of wisdom, too.

This approach is a kind of homecoming. We are reintroducing ourselves to our bodies and establishing a positive connection between mind and body. Quite often, we have a rather strained and distant relationship to our own bodies. We think of the body as unattractive or ugly, or maybe our health is poor. Or else we like the body, cherish it, and foster cravings around it. But even if we cherish the body, we worry that it could be better than it is or that it will get sick or grow old. So we are conflicted and ambivalent. The body is an object of anxiety.

The meditations in this book will help us approach the body with a realistic attitude, accepting it as it is. Then we will practice how to see the body as very peaceful, a body filled with light and warmth. So many mental and physical afflictions are associated with the body, and meditation can help to heat them.

Mind and body are intimately connected, and the relationship of mind to body in meditation is very interesting. When we see the body as peaceful and beautiful, who or what is creating these feelings? The mind is. By creating peaceful feelings in the body, the mind is absorbed in those feelings. So although the body is the object to be healed, it also becomes the means of healing the mind — which is the ultimate goal of meditation.

When our minds are peaceful in meditation, there is no other mind. Even if the peaceful feeling goes away, we are developing the habit of a peaceful mind. Our minds are becoming accustomed to their true nature. Really, it all comes back to the mind. This is where our true happiness is. The Buddha said:

Mind is the main factor and forerunner of all actions:
Whoever acts or speaks
With a pure thought
Will enjoy happiness as the result.

Like a physician treating a patient, Buddhism deals with mental, emotional, and physical afflictions by diagnosing the cause and treating it.

In this world of ceaseless change, the mind tends to develop a grasping quality and gets attached to all kinds of illusory wants and desires. This is at the root of our suffering. We heal ourselves to the extent that we can release that grasping.

As it was first practiced in the ninth century, Tibetan medicine viewed the body as composed of four elements — namely, earth, water, fire, and air — and as having hot and cold temperatures. Western medicine has given us a wonderfully detailed and up-to-date knowledge of the body and how it works, and we can take advantage of this. Yet even today, the ancient Tibetan picture of the body is very useful, both as an aid to meditation and as a way to understand the various qualities of the mind.

According to this view, when the four elements are in balance, we are in our natural healthy state, but when there is disharmony, emotional or physical disease can take root and flourish. The third Dodrupchen writes:

The ancient masters said that if you do not foster dislike and unhappy thoughts, your mind will not be in turmoil. If your mind is not in turmoil, the air [or energy of your body] will not be disturbed. If the air is not disturbed, other physical elements of your body will not experience disharmony. Harmonious elements [in turn] will help the mind stay free from turmoil. Then the wheel of joy will keep revolving.

The mind is the source of true well-being. So before we get to the guided meditations upon the body later on, we would do well to consider the qualities of the mind and how we can improve our lives.


When I was ten or eleven years old, my personal tutor, some friends, and I made a rare excursion from the monastery. I looked forward to visiting the great adept Kunzang Nyima Rinpoche in a valley two days away. Though I enjoyed my life in the monastery, it was so exciting to ride a horse across the spacious Ser Valley. For miles and miles, we rode through this untainted land, enjoying the sight of peaceful and beautiful animals. Butterflies dotted the air over the green carpet of grassland, and birds played and sang freely, in a timeless scene of natural beauty. It was the greatest feast for the senses of a little boy to enjoy, an unforgettable adventure for someone who had lived for years within the sanctuary of a monastic compound.

Arriving in the evening, we reached a small, peaceful gorge walled by gentle green hills. In the distance, the majestic mountain of Ser Dzong seemed to preside over all of existence.

We camped in a beautiful field at a distance from Rinpoche’s big black tent. Early the next morning, we crossed the meadow to meet Rinpoche. He had a beautiful and powerful face with wide, smiling eyes, a brownish complexion, and long hair tied around his head and wrapped in a silk turban. He might have been in his fifties, and he had a strong, vital body. With a blossoming, flowerlike smile, he welcomed us as if he had just found his long-lost friends. He kept his treasure of writings close at hand, about forty volumes, most of which were his mystical revelation. I remember the feeling of unconditional and unpretentious love in his heart, which wasn’t only for me but for all around. Although his voice was powerful and far-reaching, he spoke in a stream of gentle and soothing words. He was someone who enjoyed the simple gifts of life with deepest contentment. I was a guarded and shy boy, but in the sunny presence of Rinpoche, I became so natural. There was no place to harbor darkness or anxiety anymore.

Rinpoche’s joy and calm seemed pervasive. Immediately upon meeting him and for all the time I was there, the world appeared to be a very peaceful place. As I looked around, I vividly felt that his presence had somehow transformed my surroundings, that nothing was separate from this wonderful peacefulness. The trees, the mountains, my companions, myself — everything was united in calm and peace. It wasn’t the mountains and people that changed, but my mind’s way of seeing and feeling them. Because of the power of his presence, my mind was enjoying a greater degree of peace and joy, almost a state of boundlessness. That feeling enabled me to see all mental objects through those qualities. For a while, no attractions or disappointments mattered. Even today, when I remember that experience from more than four decades ago, I feel joy and completeness. The heat of that memory helps me to melt the ice of obstacles as they come up on life’s journey.

The mind creates peacefulness. In this case, my mind had focused on an object outside itself — this benevolent spiritual teacher — and expanded the feeling of peace. We can benefit from such experiences, because they offer a taste of peace and show us how our mind would like to be. And we don’t have to go to the Ser Valley to experience such peace. We can feel happier and more peaceful in our everyday lives and encourage this feeling of peace through meditation.

True healing and well-being come down to enjoying an awareness of peace, the ultimate peace of existence. The mind is not passive in the sense of being half-asleep. Instead, the mind is open to the thought and feeling of total peace. An unrestricted and uncontaminated awareness of peace is the ultimate joy and strength. When we are truly aware of peace, our nature blossoms with full vigor.

Some people are so fully open to the true nature of existence that they are peaceful no matter what the circumstances. For the enlightened mind, peace does not depend on any object or concept. Awareness of the absolute nature of things, the universal truth, is not limited or conditioned by concepts, feelings, or labels such as good and bad. A mind that is free can transcend dualistic categories such as peace versus conflict and joy versus suffering. The enlightened mind does not discriminate between a subjective or an objective reality or between liking and disliking. Time is timeless, and everything in existence is perfect as it is.

Before this begins to sound too theoretical, I should say that there are many people who are enlightened, to one degree or another. Some Tibetan lamas I know were imprisoned for many years, and they almost enjoyed the experience. I try to avoid talking about the political upheaval in Tibet, because it is too easy for blame to arise. This can lead to a cycle of resentment, which could embitter the mind and is neither helpful nor productive. Suffice it to say that prison is not necessarily a pleasant holiday. Yet I have a friend who got out of prison only after twenty-two years and had felt quite at home there because of a very peaceful mind. When I asked him how it was, he said, “It was nice there. I was treated very nice.” When you ask one of these lamas to explain, he will say, “Alive or dead, it doesn’t matter. I’m in Buddha pure land.”

We can be inspired by tales of enlightenment, where peace is every-where and even turmoil is OK. But for most of us, the goal should be to work with our ordinary minds and just try to be a little more peaceful and relaxed in our approach to life. If we can become a little more peaceful, it will help us handle everyday problems better, even if big problems are still difficult.

Even so, it can be helpful to remember that the enlightened mind and the ordinary mind are two sides of the same coin. The mind is like the sea, which can be rough on the surface, with mountainous waves stirred up by ferocious wind, but calm and peaceful at the bottom. Sometimes we can catch sight of this peaceful mind even in times of trouble. These glimpses of peace show us that we may have more inner resources to draw upon than we had realized. With skill and patience, we can learn how to be in touch with our peaceful selves.


If we lack peace of mind, then what good does it do us to have youth, beauty, health, wealth, education, and worldly power?

We can find many reasons to be miserable. Somehow, even if we experience some happiness or excitement, we feel haunted by a void in our lives. We all know of people who appear to have everything but fall victim to darkness and pain and even end their lives by committing suicide. Shantideva, one of the great masters of Buddhism, writes about the snares of the mind that can entrap us:

[The Buddha], who tells the truth, says
That all fears
And all the immeasurable miseries
Are facilitated by the mind.

In India about twenty-five years ago, a Tibetan acquaintance of mine struggled to survive, as a lot of refugees do. After a few years, he made some money, enough so that he could live comfortably. But he never felt content with anything. From the time he woke to when he fell asleep, his mind was occupied with money. He constantly talked about money, lamenting that he did not make enough, worrying that he would lose what he had. He had no life. He was a slave of almighty money. He worried about getting sick, not for the sake of his health and well-being but because he would lose the opportunity to make a little more money. It sometimes seemed as if he were a grotesque apparition, for even his facial expression and body looked crimped, so tightly did he cling to the idea of money.

Unfortunately, he is not the only person who functions as a mere shadow cast by material goods. Many of us are more or less sucked into the same kind of existence. We take no time to cultivate true happiness and may not even be sure what that is. Many writers are occupied with mere word games and theories. Many politicians promote their ideas only to gain power. Many rich people are trapped by the drive to amass more wealth or the fear of losing what they have. Many intellectuals are blinded by arrogance or intolerance. Many spiritual teachers run a business show or go on an ego trip to gain power over others. Many poor people, in their hard struggle for survival, are unable to take any pleasure from life. The wonderful skills and achievements of the modern age often end up as fuel for greed, obsession, bondage, pressure, worry, and pain.

All these miseries could be healed by our minds, but without practice in cultivating the peaceful mind, we are too vulnerable and weak. The fault lies not with the wonderful material objects but with our own attitudes. Many of us are spellbound by our wild emotions and cravings, slave masters created by our minds. Caught up in these attachments, many of us even find it painful to be alone or experience silence.

According to Buddhism and many of the world’s other wisdom traditions, the root of all our problems is the grasping of the mind. The Buddhist term for this is grasping at “self.” This can be somewhat tricky for Westerners to comprehend. For one thing, the common understanding of “self” is an “I” or an “ego.” In the Buddhist view, “self” includes “me” and “mine” but is also very much broader and encompasses all phenomena arising in our consciousness. However, according to the highest understanding of Buddhism, there is no “self” that truly exists as a solid, fixed, unchanging entity.

We normally think that a person is a subject who perceives and is separate from objects, and we tend to treat objects as if they were solid and dependable in some kind of absolute way. Yet mental objects — wealth, power, a house, a television show, an idea, a feeling, whatever phenomenon you can think of — are really not so absolute but instead are relative, arising and passing away, and seen only in relation to other phenomena.

But how can this be, you may ask? Surely as “I” read a “book,” they both exist, since there seems to be an “I” who holds the book in my hand. The answer is that all things exist in relation to one another, and existence is marked by change. Perhaps the best way to clarify this a bit would be to use the example of the body. The body is changing all the time. In babies, we can see this more vividly because they grow so quickly. But we all know that every body changes, even from day to day — for example, according to what we eat or how much we weigh. Even our moods can affect the body and be reflected in how we look, perhaps crestfallen or haggard or else bright and vital. Above all, we know that the body ages and eventually passes away. The body is a vivid illustration of the transitory nature of existence. If we think of the body as solid, fixed, and unchanging, and cling to this notion, that is grasping at the body as “self.”

To the extent that grasping at self becomes tighter, all the mental and emotional afflictions — such as craving, stress, anxiety, confusion, greed, and aggression — will be intensified, and physical and social problems will be magnified. Shantideva writes:

All the violence, fear, and suffering
That exist in the world
Come from grasping at “self.”
What use is this great evil monster to you?
If you do not let go of the “self ”
There, will never be an end to your suffering.
Just as, if you do not let go of a flame with your hand, You can’t stop it from burning your hand.

The Buddha himself said:

When you see with your wisdom
That all the compounded phenomena are without a “self,”
Then no suffering will ever afflict your mind.
This is the right approach, the approach that cuts off all the pains of craving.

According to Buddhism, grasping at self can be the source of physical disease as well as mental anguish. Many Western scholars agree that negative emotions, anger, and anxiety can cause many diseases. Daniel Goleman writes:

Both anger and anxiety, when chronic, can make people more susceptible to a range of disease.

People who are chronically distressed — whether anxious and worried, depressed and pessimistic, or angry and hostile — have double the average risk of getting a major disease in the ensuing years. Smoking increases the risk of serious disease by 60 percent; chronic emotional distress by I00 percent. This makes distressing emotion almost double the health risk compared with smoking.

Loosening the grip on “self” is our best remedy for all problems, and to the extent that we can do this, that much happier we will be. This is healing in its truest sense. A common Buddhist scripture, or sutra, puts it this way:

“What is healing from sickness?
It is the freedom from grasping at “I” and “my” [egoism and possessiveness].”

In Buddhist scripture and commentary, sickness often refers to the ills of both mind and body. Vimalakirti said, “As long as there is ignorance and craving for the existents, there will be sickness in me.”

So much of our troubles are created by not realizing who we are and what our true place is in the ever-changing universe. The physicist Albert Einstein, pioneer of the theory of relativity, knew something about the place of the human being in the universe. While the self in the following quote probably was intended to mean “ego,” Einstein clearly was aware of the merit in loosening the grip upon narrow-mindedness and cherished concepts when he wrote, “The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.”

If common sense and religious tradition tell us to loosen our grasping attitudes, how can we do this? One way is meditation. In the guided meditations that come later, a primary technique is to visualize the body as filled with light, which shines outward to the universe. It can be very positive to imagine the body as boundless. This can help ease the grasping of the mind.

However, sometimes we are so mired in our suffering that it’s hard to see a way out. We need to find a focus point, any positive feeling, image, or idea that can light the path before us and give us a glimpse of peace.

*Endnotes were omitted.

Copyright © 2000 Tulku Thondup Rinpoche

Bringing Your Plants Indoors

As the risk of frost nears, it’s time to bring in some of the non-hardy plants so that they can overwinter indoors. But before you start digging up your plants and plunking them in pots in front of your window, follow a few easy steps to ensure that your plants make it through the winter.

Choose vigorously growing, healthy plants to bring inside. No need to try to save the ones that look sickly. Dig them up carefully so that you get as much of the root mass as possible. Place the plant in a good size pot – 1 gallon if you can – with regular potting soil.

Do a moderate pruning as you bring your plants indoors. The older leaves of most garden plants begin to yellow as they’re moved inside and pruning back will help encourage new growth that is better adapted to the lower light conditions indoors. Plants like basil also benefit from pinching back to encourage bushy growth.

If your fall days are still sunny, you may need to water quite often to prevent your plants from drying out. As we move into the winter, your plants will require only moderate watering – no more than once a week. Over watering is the #1 killer of houseplants so test the soil before you water.

Plants can also hide unwanted stowaways as they’re brought in. While they are outside, pests are controlled by a number of biological controls but as soon as you bring them indoors, YOU become the only pest control method. If aphids & mealy bugs aren’t kept under control, they will soon overwhelm a plant.

Check all of the leaves and if it looks like you have some insect activity, spray the plant with soapy water or insecticidal soap and make sure to spray both the top and underside of each leaf. Keep the plant out on the porch until you’re quite sure you have killed most of the pests.

Most houses have quite dry, warm air which can also encourage spider mites. These mites spin fine webs around plant leaves and will suck on the leaves, causing them to yellow & die. Wash the leaves well under a strong stream of water to dislodge them and keep the plant well misted to increase the humidity. Insecticidal soap will also help keep these mites under control.

Finally, if any of your plants were in pots outdoors, make sure to lift them out of the pot and check for slugs. Slugs will often enter plant pots through the drainage holes and lay their eggs at the bottom of the pot. The young slugs will then nest quite happily in your pot, feeding on the roots as they need nourishment. Flick them out before you place your plant back into the pot.

Plants to bring indoors include:

Christmas Cactus

Arzeena Hamir is an agronomist and President of Terra Viva Organics. When she’s not planting peas or picking zucchini, she answers questions about organic gardening at: You can also read her gardening articles on Vegetable Gardening at

Integrated Pest Management

Woody and perennial weeds can be controlled now by spraying their foliage with glyphosate or triclopyr. Plants are moving sugars from their leaves down to their roots, and the herbicide will be moved as well, killing the root system of the weed and eliminating the chance for regrowth. Don’t spray unless winds are calm. Nonselective herbicides like these could kill any plant that comes in contact with the spray, so be extremely careful. In a tight spot, apply the herbicide with a paint brush or sponge attached to a long stick.

Remember that stressed plants are more prone to disease. Be sure that your plants are in the proper location and have adequate light, water, and nutrients.

Dogwood trees can succumb to a fatal fungal disease called Discula anthracnose. The fungus spreads in cool, wet spring and fall conditions. Summer drought stresses trees so they are more susceptible to attack. Early symptoms occur on the leaves and, if left unchecked, the disease can spread into the twigs and branches resulting in cankers. To help prevent the spread of this disease, promptly dispose of all fallen dogwood leaves.

Flower flies, also known as hover flies, are important late season pollinators and predators in your garden. The tiny adults, which look like bees, are easy to see with their bright orange, yellow, and black markings. They feed on pollen and are especially attracted to asters, marigolds, goldenrod, and blue mist shrub. The immature larvae are brightly colored red, orange, and green maggots. They have a ferocious appetite for aphids, rivaled only by ladybird beetles and lacewings.

Flower flies, also known as hover flies, are important late season pollinators and predators in your garden. The tiny adults, which look like bees, are easy to see with their bright orange, yellow, and black markings. They feed on pollen and are especially attracted to asters, marigolds, goldenrod, and blue mist shrub. The immature larvae are brightly colored red, orange, and green maggots. They have a ferocious appetite for aphids, rivaled only by ladybird beetles and lacewings.

Bring your houseplants inside when night temperatures drop below 45°F. Most houseplants are from tropical climates where the average temperature during the coolest month is 64°F. Before moving them inside, spray your houseplants with a 1% horticultural oil solution to prevent insects or eggs from making their way into your home.

Look for signs of juniper webworm on junipers. The adult moth can lay 50 to 130 eggs in the late summer. During early fall, caterpillars mine the leaves on the inner foliage of the plant. This feeding is difficult to see because the caterpillars do not reach maturity until the onset of winter. It is important to act now if your junipers are heavily infested since most pesticides do not adequately control the caterpillars in the spring when they do most of their damage. In serious infestations, the mature caterpillars cover branches with their webs and eat most of the interior foliage. Carefully check interior foliage now, separating the branches to look for silk webbing and, small tan caterpillars with brownish red stripes. Prune out the webs and brown foliage. If caterpillar populations are high you may want to apply a pesticide containing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

Grilling Basics, 101

Okay, so now that summer has practically drawn to a close (where did it go?) and you’ve been grilling all the while, you’re asking yourself, “why is someone writing an article about grilling at the so-called-end of the grilling season?” The answer is simple: Because grilling is a year-round cooking event! (Do you only eat Chinese food in the spring–??) If it isn’t raining you can grill outdoors!

Several friends who know that I have an annual cookout involving 60 or so friends, have asked me why some thing or other didn’t turn out properly on their grills. I realized that there aren’t any books that address cooking problems simply. So, here are a few specific facts that I’ve learned over the years.

About Chicken: Folks these days are SO fat-conscious that they remove the chicken’s skin before grilling it over an open flame. BIG mistake! You see, leaving the skin on allows the chicken pieces to baste themselves — leaving behind tender, succulent pieces of meat. Anyone who doesn’t want the added calories can simply remove the skin prior to eating. I cannot remember anytime that I’ve had chicken — a breast for example — grilled without the skin, that I didn’t leave feeling as though I could have strapped the piece of meat onto my foot and walked across a dessert!

Another fact about chicken is that it is best when it has been marinated for at least 12 hours. Use your favorite salad dressing or barbecue sauce. Or a combination of oil and vinegar — for a base (aged balsamic is very good) then add a bit of catsup, garlic, basil (or oregano) salt and pepper to taste. After 12 hours in the marinade the flavor will permeate the chicken so that it isn’t only on the outside, but rather all the way through. The end result is a real crowd pleaser! An exception to that rule is when your marinade is highly acidic — like a Tandoori marinade, which includes yogurt: don’t marinate it for more than 3-4 hours because the acid will leach the moisture from the meat and you’ll be back in the leather mode.

About Beef/Venison/ Lamb: You have never experienced red meat over the grill until you’ve used Kosher Salt. Yup — that’s the ONLY seasoning you will need – – Promise. Your coals need to be hot — not flaming. Just before placing the meat on the grill, LIBERALLY sprinkle each piece on one side with kosher salt. Lay THAT side over the coals first. Before you turn the meat, do the same with the other side. Those of you who are “salt-aware” may be horrified — but the truth is that the MAJORITY of the salt cooks off of the meat leaving a tender, juicy, flavorful steak behind. Really.

About Fish: This is not exactly “straightforward”. The cooking method depends on what kind of fish you’re grilling. Is the fish firm and oily, like Swordfish? Is it a tender, flaky white fish, like Sole? The key to cooking fish on an open grill is basting. Baste with something as simple as lemon/ lime and butter, which is refreshing and delicious. If you’re cooking a flaky fish you should put down a piece of heavy aluminum foil over the grill so that pieces don’t fall through. You can also use a grilling basket, but I find that often I lose much of the juices and the fish, if I’m not careful to baste it often, may be dry. With large or whole pieces of fish, brush the cavity and exterior with olive oil or melted butter, stuff the interior with onion slivers and fresh herbs — tarragon, dill, and chives, whatever suits your fancy — salt and pepper to taste. Then seal the fish in heavy aluminum foil and grill for 6-8 minutes on each side, depending on the size of the fish. The process both steams and grills the fish infusing the flesh with the herbs you’ve chosen. Nothing quite like it!

Grilling to me is a time to have fun with cooking.. While there are a few “do’s” and “don’t” in grilling, such as those I’ve suggested above — it’s an interesting platform for foodies to experiment on. For instance, how about grilling something less obvious like fruit. Try this: In a grilling basket, over a moderate heat, place slightly under-ripe, peeled bananas which have been halved lengthwise. Baste the halves liberally and frequently with a combination of fresh lemon, rum, a smidge or two of brown sugar and melted butter. Serve over ice cream. Zowza!

Your imagination is the only limit to creating great food on the grill ALL YEAR LONG.

Holly has co-authored Chicken Dinners 1-2-3, Italian Dinners 1-2-3 (Clarkson and Potter) and several Herbs and Spice Calendars (Judd & Avalanche) with her mother, Jacqueline Heriteau. She currently resides in Sharon, CT with her three-year-old son

Home Landscaping Practices to Protect Water Quality

In Virginia, we rely on reservoir systems, wells, and other sources for our freshwater. In recent years, our previously plentiful clean water supplies have been threatened not only by overuse, but also by contamination. Pollutants are carried down with water soaking through the soil to the water table. Runoff (water that does not soak into the ground) flows over the surface, often taking soil and polluting chemicals with it into lakes and streams.
Home lawns and landscapes may contribute to this water pollution when homeowners apply pesticides and fertilizers carelessly. By using pesticides and fertilizers properly and only when necessary and following recommended landscape practices, you can do your part to protect our lakes, streams, and drinking water for the future.

Identify the Problem before Using Pesticides
When diagnosing a plant problem, remember that most problems are not caused by insects or disease. Severe cold or heat, waterlogging or drought, lawn mower damage, and carelessly applied herbicides frequently injure plants. Pesticides will be useless for these kinds of plant damage.
Be aware that even if an insect or disease is present that may not be the cause of your plant problem – the original source of damage to your plant may no longer be present. Also, poor growing conditions can make a plant more susceptible to pests and are often the cause of “pest” problems.
If you determine your problem is caused by a pest, identify the insect, disease, or weed before choosing a pesticide. Ask yourself: Is the injury severe enough to require control? If so, what options are available? Is chemical control the best option? Can the pest be controlled by a; pesticide at this stage of its life cycle? Is there a pesticide labeled for use on the plant involved and effective against the pest?
Often no pesticide is required for proper control – but if needed, the right pesticide must be applied at the right time to control a particular pest.
Refer to expert information. Talk to your Extension agent, or an experienced horticulturist at your local garden center – or check the symptoms against a good chart or reference book.
Use Pesticides Properly
Plan ahead to eliminate or reduce storage and disposal problems. Buy only what you will need for one season. Purchase pesticides in formulations with minimal packaging, if possible. For example, some herbicides are now available in a tablet form that can be dissolved in water.
Always read the label completely before spraying. Measure accurately and according to label instructions. Mix only the amount needed to do the job at hand. Follow the label’s instructions for application method and safety measures. Note specific warnings and precautions – they are there for your protection!
Never spray near water or when there is wind. Pesticide can drift directly into streams or drainage ditches, polluting our waterways. Pesticide may also drift into unintended areas, damaging desirable plants.
Buy and mix only what you will use – unused pesticide is difficult to dispose of properly. Never pour pesticides down the sink or into storm drains. If you have extra pesticide mixed, to dispose of it legally you must spray it on plants listed on the label at no more than the allowable rate. This means you cannot respray the same area (this would exceed the allowable rate) and you cannot spray excess pesticide labeled for tomatoes on the lawn (unless home lawns also happens to be listed on the label). Consult your Extension agent for advice on disposal of excess or unusable pesticide.
Clean liquid containers by rinsing the contents into the spray applicator when you mix the last batch. To rinse, fill container about one fourth full with clean water, recap tightly, and shake. Allow 30 seconds for the container to drain between each rinse. Repeat three times.
Dispose of empty containers as directed by the product label. If possible and appropriate, break or puncture the container so it will never be reused. Containers destined for a sanitary landfill should be wrapped securely in newspaper before disposal.
Apply Fertilizer Properly for the Best Result
Always apply fertilizer at the right rate and time. See your local Extension agent for recommendations. Too much fertilizer or fertilizer applied when the plant cannot take up the nutrients can damage plants and contribute to water contamination.
Calibrate your spreader for each type of fertilizer so you can apply the right amount.
Have your soil tested for fertility and acidity/alkalinity, and follow recommendations on the soil test report. See your Extension agent for forms and instructions.
Use slow-release fertilizers for most ornamental plants, including lawns, especially in areas with sandy soil. These fertilizers are less likely to allow nitrates to wash through the soil into the groundwater.
Sweep spilled fertilizer off pavement before it is washed away by rain or irrigation. Nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers have’ been associated with many environmental problems, including excessive algae growth, depletion of the water’s oxygen supply, and suffocation of aquatic life.
Reduce Erosion
Because soil sediment makes up most of the pollutant carried by runoff and most of the phosphates and pesticides entering Virginia’s waters are attached to this sediment, controlling erosion will help control water pollution. Landscaping can help control erosion by holding soil in place and reducing runoff.
Plant a vigorous ground cover on steep slopes to reduce erosion and runoff. Turfgrass is often impractical here because mowing is difficult and dangerous on steep terrain.
Build terraces or a retaining wall on slopes. These can intercept runoff, giving water time to soak into the ground, and can make attractive planting beds. Be aware that altering the soil level near established trees can seriously damage their root systems.
Don’t leave soil bare over the winter. Plant a cover crop, such as annual rye, or place mulch on the soil.
Use Good Landscape Practices
By taking good care of your landscape plants, you can reduce the need for pesticides that could potentially endanger water quality. Good planting and maintenance practices can also promote healthy, attractive plants that can add value to your property.
Mulch with shredded bark or other organic material around planting beds, trees, and shrubs. Mulch helps keep down weeds, protects trees from lawn mower wounds, helps reduce erosion, and protects roots near the soil surface from hot, dry summer weather.
Prune dead or diseased branches out of trees and shrubs.
Use the right plant in the right place. Placing plants where they will do their very best can help reduce pesticide needs. For example, planting a rose in full sun with good air circulation can reduce black spot.

Keep your Lawn Healthy
A properly maintained lawn looks beautiful and also helps protect water quality. Healthy grass needs less pesticide and will be better able to take up fertilizer, reducing the chance of pollutants washing through the soil and reaching our water supplies.
Mow high and often. Setting your mower at the highest recommended level for your grass type (2 1/2 to 3 inches for Kentucky bluegrass and fescue, I inch for, bermudagrass) helps keep out weeds, especially crabgrass, and makes your lawn more resistant to drought and disease.
Leave grass clippings on the lawn. They add nutrients to the soil, lessening the need for commercial fertilizer. Clippings also add organic matter, helping to reduce runoff.
Fertilize cool-season grasses (Kentucky bluegrass, fescue, ryegrass) in the fall. Fertilize warm-season grasses (bermudagrass, zoysiagrass) in the summer.
Follow Virginia Cooperative Extension guidelines for fertilizer rates – more fertilizer is NOT better.
For more information on selection, planting, cultural practices, and environmental quality, contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office.

Growing Great Garlic

In the garden, garlic makes a wonderful companion crop and tends to repel most bugs. Planted among members of the cabbage family, it helps repel imported cabbageworm. Many gardeners have also found using sprays made from garlic to be very effective in helping to control plant diseases such as powdery mildew, bean anthracnose, and brown rot in almonds, apricots and peaches.

Garden Preparation
Garlic prefers well-drained, moderately-fertile soil in a sunny spot of the garden. Raised beds are ideal so that water drains quickly and the soil warms earlier in the springtime. If the soil is too fertile, you will end up with lush leaf growth and smaller bulbs.

Before planting, loosen the soil with a rake or hoe. You may want to amend the soil with a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus (the middle number) like bone meal or rock phosphate.

Just before planting, break apart each bulb of garlic into its individual cloves, trying to keep as much skin on the cloves as possible. Next, simply poke your finger into the soil until about your third knuckle (2 inches), drop the clove in pointy side up, cover the hole, and pat firmly. Space the next garlic 5 inches further down the row. Each row of garlic should be about 15-18 inches apart. After planting, water the buried cloves well.

To form cloves, garlic must be exposed to temperatures below 41 F (5 C). Thus, if planted too late in the spring, garlic will tend to form large onion-like bulbs instead of individual cloves. In the North, garlic is normally planted in October so that it can establish roots before winter and really take of in the spring. Southern gardeners can only plant garlic if they know the temperature will dip low enough. Often, they can wait until November or December to plant.

Growing & Harvesting
In springtime, the green tips will start to emerge and the garlic should be side-dressed with fertilizer again by placing the fertilizer 2 inches away from the row and lightly scratching it into the soil. During the growing season, keep garlic keep a mulch of grass clippings or similar material around the garlic to help conserve water and suppress weeds.

When the tops turn yellow in early summer, stop watering. Allow the bulbs to cure in the soil for 2 weeks and then harvest the garlic by pulling the whole plant out of the soil and tying the leaves together. Allow the bulbs to dry on a rack in a warm, dry spot.

Garlic types
Silverskin – This type of garlic is the one most often seen in grocery stores. As the name implies, the skins are silvery-white and the taste is mild & garlicky. Silverskin garlic, often referred to as soft-neck garlic, stores incredibly well and is the type used for making garlic braids.

Rocambole – Also known as serpent garlic, rocambole is classified as a hard-neck. During the growing season, this type of garlic will form flower heads which need to be cut off so they do not drain the resources of the bulb. Most rocambole-types have a very pungent, almost hot flavour and are often identified by the purplish tinge to their skin. Although this is a much more gourmet garlic, it does not store well, usually just a couple of months.

Elephant – The cloves of this garlic can weigh an ounce and will usually give up to 3 tablespoons of chopped garlic. Elephant garlic is actually a member of the leek family and thus, has a much milder taste. If your growing conditions are cool & damp, this is the garlic to choose. The bulbs of elephant garlic should be spaced farther apart, usually 10 inches, to give the plants enough room to grow.

Sources of bulbs
The best source of bulbs would be local growers who sell seed garlic at local markets. These varieties are well adapted to your growing conditions.

A second best, or to get more variety, try mail-order catalogues such as Territorial Seeds or Garden City Seeds. The best selection I’ve seen by far, however, is Salt Spring Seeds. Dan Jason, the owner, keeps about 40 different varieties.

If it’s getting late, as a last resort, I would buy organic garlic from a health food store and plant it. Normal garlic is often sprayed with sprouting inhibitors which prevent the cloves from sprouting in the store. No good if you actually want them to sprout for you in the garden.

A Great Read
Growing Great Garlic: The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers by Ron L. England – an in-depth look at the history of garlic evolution and a how-to guide on planting, growing, and harvesting garlic.

Arzeena Hamir is an agronomist and President of Terra Viva Organics. When she’s not planting peas or picking zucchini, she answers questions about organic gardening at: You can also read her gardening articles on Vegetable Gardening at

A Tisket a Tasket

There’s something pretty wonderful about having a variety of daisies in your garden. They are user friendly, cheerful and easy to grow. They look charming plunked in a vase – my apologies to real flower arrangers.

As children, all of us have delighted in picking a bouquet of daisies growing along the roadside or in an open field as a special present for our mothers. As adults, these flowers evoke great memories and bring a smile to our faces.

Today, the variety of great daisies to choose from is outstanding. One of my particular favorites is the Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum xsuperbum). In 1890, Luther Burbank, a great North American hybridizer, brought us this popular plant. It reminded him of the pure snow on Mt. Shasta. Shastas are wonderful white daisies with yellow centers. They grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8 (AHS Heat Zones 12 to 1) in full sun. All they require is good drainage and average garden soil. These daisies are reminiscent of childhood, when you plucked a daisy and said “he loves me, he loves me not.” All these lovely plants require is deadheading to keep them blooming. They start in June, the month of graduations and weddings, and are the perfect plants for these events. ‘Snowcap,’ is 14inches tall and produces lovely compact plants with many intensely white blooms. When in flower, it is hard to see the foliage. Plants hold up in all kinds of weather. ‘Summer Snowball’ is a stately tall cultivar (30 inches) with double white daisy blooms. It bears large flowers that really make a wonderful statement in the garden.

Erigeron speciosus is called Daisy Fleabane. Sometimes a great plant has an awful common name, which puts people off and they don’t buy it. Supposedly this native North American plant originally was used as a flea repellent. It is hardy (USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8; AHS Heat Zones 8 to 4), flowers easily in full sun, blooms for quite a few weeks and will grow in just about any soil. If deadheaded, they will continue to flower. ‘Prosperity’ is a wonderful lavender-blue hybrid with large double daisy flowers and a yellow center. It is 14- to 18-inches tall and can also be used as a cut flower. So don’t let the unattractive common name dissuade you from buying this diminutive charmer.

Aster xfrikartii (USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9; AHS Heat Zones 9 to 1) is known as Frikart’s Aster. This 20-inch plant is for full sun and well-drained garden soil. It is a wonderful disease- and insectfree plant that flowers in early summer for more than eight weeks. The cultivar ‘Flora’s Delight’ is a charming plant. It produces scads of lilacblue flowers that are very large in comparison to the diminutive size of the plant. Many of the other cultivars develop urban sprawl, but ‘Flora’s Delight’ stands nice and straight through the whole season. This particular Aster merits a place in your garden just for its long season of bloom.

Later on, three great sunny, golden daisies bring magic to the garden. Rudbeckia speciosa Viette’s Little Suzy’ is a delightful plant for the front of the border (USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8; AHS Heat Zones 9 to 2). This dwarf Black-Eyed Susan, 12- to 14-inches tall, is small but mighty. The single daisy flowers are golden-yellow with dark black centers that combine really well with Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly Blue,’ the perennial plant of the year.

For those who are thinking tall, try Heliopsis helianthoides, the False Sunflower. This plant is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9 (AHS Heat Zones 9 to 1). All you need is full sun and well-drained soil. Heliopsis begins to flower in midsummer and, with deadheading, continues to enchant you until the fall. Each flower of the cultivar ‘Bressingham Doubloon’ is extremely large and showy on stems that are (more)

2 ad daisies 48- to 60-inches tall. The 2- to 3-inch double, golden-yellow flowers with undertones of orange make it irresistible. For almost 10 to 12 weeks, it energizes your perennial border. For something slightly different, check out ‘Loraine Sunshine,’ a really unique perennial. Beautiful, big and bold, orange-gold daisies are nestled among leaves that are white with dark green veins (30-inches tall). This is truly an eye-catching plant. No garden is complete without a showstopper, and this daisy with variegated foliage is a winner.

As summer begins to wane, Helenium autumnale, Helen’s Flower, comes into its own. Flowering starts in mid- to late summer in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 8 (AHS Heat Zones 8 to 1). Not to be outdone by the yellows, golds and orange-golds of summer, ‘Coppelia’ bears coppery-orange flowers on sturdy 3-feet stems that don’t require staking. The small daisies simply smother the top of the plant. Its dark centers and extraordinary color capture the flair of the late-season summer garden. This is a perfect plant for the back of the border and particularly handsome when back lit, catching the sun’s rays. It is a great plant for using with early flowering fall grasses. The two companion plants are a joy in the garden.

I cannot imagine my garden or any perennial garden without these wonderful, carefree daisies. In jolly old England, the name daisy really meant the “day’s eye,” later simply corrupted to daisy. To tell the truth, I feel they are a group of plants that novice and advanced gardeners can enjoy not only for a day, but for the entire gardening season.

Ms. Cohen is Adjunct Professor at Temple University Dept of Landscape Architecture & Horticulture, Ambler Campus, 20 years; Mid-Atlantic representative o’ the perennial Plant Association; and her articles have been featured in leading consumer and gardening publications.

The Headache Prevention Cookbook

The Headache Prevention Cookbook
Houghton Mifflin
David R. Marks, M.D. and Laura Marks, M.D.
List: $16.00

Order it now!

If you’re one of the 50 million Americans who suffer from headaches, you can eliminate the pain entirely just by changing the way you eat. A headache sufferer himself, Dr. David Marks treats thousands of patients a year at his internationally known headache clinic. The recipes in this book can help you ward off headaches while ensuring that you eat well in the bargain.


The following is an excerpt from the book The Headache Prevention Cookbook: Eating Right to Prevent Migraines and Other Headaches
By David R. Marks, M.D. and Laura Marks, M.D.
Published by Houghton Mifflin; July 2000; $16.00US; 0-395-96716-3
Copyright © 2000 David R. Marks, M.D. and Laura Marks, M.D.


If you’re reading this, chances are that you or someone you know suffers from headaches. Take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone! Headaches affect as many as 50 million Americans a year and account for more than 18 million visits to the doctor. In fact, headaches are the leading cause of absence from work; some researchers have estimated that 30 million workdays are lost each year because of the problem.

But numbers do not even begin to tell the story. The pain of a headache can completely disrupt a person’s life. I have seen patients whose headaches are so severe that they are afraid to plan activities such as vacations, weddings, dinners, or dates. Their lives center on the dread of the next headache attack. Mary P. is a perfect example. When Mary came to my office, she had suffered from two to three headaches a week since her early twenties. Now that she was forty, her headaches were occurring on a daily basis. She complained of a constant throbbing sensation from the back of her head to her forehead. The headaches had become so severe that she was having difficulty taking care of her seven-year-old daughter and four-year-old son. The constant pain was also taking a toll on her marriage. The only way she could get through a day was by taking a lot of pain medicine.

Like Mary, many patients complain that their suffering is worsened by a feeling of helplessness. They have been told by friends and physicians alike that they will have to “learn to live with it.” At one time or another, most headache sufferers have also been told, “It’s all in your head.” Often they blame themselves for their condition. The combination of fear, helplessness, and self-criticism can lead to depression and/or the chronic use of pain medication.

Many doctors now think that heredity may play a major part in the underlying cause of headaches. As I often tell my patients, if you really want to cure your headaches, you need to pick your parents better! I suspect that what a person inherits is the predisposition to getting headaches. I think of it like this: Everyone is born with a certain threshold for getting headaches. Some people have such a high threshold that they never get a headache, no matter how many “headache triggers” they are exposed to. Others have a headache threshold that is high enough so that they suffer from headaches only occasionally, and usually only with extreme triggers, such as severe stress or sleep deprivation. Frequent headache sufferers, on the other hand, are very sensitive to trigger factors and may get headaches in response to a multitude of them.

Headache Triggers
Stress, lack of sleep, bright lights, weather changes, and strong odors are all potential headache triggers. But what many people, including many doctors, don’t realize is that some of the most common causes of headaches are ordinary foods that most of us eat every day. Avoiding those so-called food triggers can be one of the most effective and least invasive ways to treat headaches, without the risk of side effects and allergies (not to mention the cost) associated with the use of medications. In fact, by just following an appropriate headache-prevention diet, you may be able to get rid of most or all of your headaches!

You may still need to take medication for your pain. But medications have side effects especially when they are taken too frequently. Indeed, one of the most frustrating things about treating headache patients is that they tend to be more sensitive to medications and experience more side effects than people without headaches. Whenever possible, it is ideal to be able to treat headaches without resorting to the use of medication. This is where diet modification is useful.

Diet modification worked for Mary P. After stopping her chronic pain medicines, we were able to identify many food triggers that she had previously been unaware of: Chinese food (even without MSG), cured pork products, aged cheeses, bananas, citrus fruits, and peanut butter cookies. Each of these foods caused a severe headache within hours of consumption. Once Mary identified her headache triggers, she modified her diet to avoid them. Her headaches became less frequent, and her relationships with her husband and children improved dramatically. Mary is just one person who has been helped by eliminating trigger foods from her diet. There are many others:

Indira P., a thirty-year-old Indian woman, moved to America in 1996 to make an arranged marriage. Shortly after her arrival, Indira developed headaches that occurred almost every day. But she spent the following winter in India and had no headaches while there. When she returned to the United States, her headaches recurred.
Indira did not believe that any of her headaches were caused by foods. However, I became suspicious after hearing that she had experienced no headaches while vacationing in India. I asked her what her husband did for a living. As it turns out, he operated a food truck that served sandwiches, and every day he would bring some home. Indira usually ate either a turkey and Swiss cheese or a cheese steak sandwich for lunch. I advised Indira to eliminate cheese from her diet, and when I saw her two months later her headaches were much better.
Sharon M. had daily headaches for about a year. The symptoms were typical of chronic tension-type headaches: a “tight band” around her head that was fairly constant and usually not associated with nausea or vomiting. After ruling out any serious cause of Sharon’s headaches, I put her on the headache-prevention diet. Sharon kept a detailed record of everything she ate. (She is a bit compulsive, and in this case, it worked to her advantage.) When I next saw her two months later, she had experienced only a few headaches. Then, after slowly reintroducing the foods known to be common headache triggers, Sharon identified freshly baked bagels, pickles, chocolate, and citrus as some of her headache triggers. As a result, her life was, in her words, “totally changed.”
John R. loved diet cola. At his initial evaluation, he said that he drank four glasses a day. Since diet cola contains artificial sweeteners and caffeine both potential headache triggersI recommended that he gradually reduce his intake and switch to something else. But, like many patients, John was reluctant to give up his favorite soft drink. He stopped drinking it for a short period of time, then tried to reintroduce it. Within hours, he suffered a severe migraine headache. John tried on four more occasions to reintroduce diet cola. Each time ended with the same result: a migraine. Finally, he was forced to admit to himself that his favorite soft drink wasn’t worth the pain.
Trisha P., age fifty-nine, suffered from headaches since she was eight. When Trisha first came to see me, she complained of frequent headaches and was taking too much pain medicine, which can cause “rebound” headaches. I discontinued her medication, and within a few short weeks, Trisha’s headaches became much less frequent. To see if we could eliminate the rest of her headaches, I suggested that she avoid certain foods. After doing so for a few weeks, Trisha gradually began adding them back to her diet, one at a time, to try to identify the offenders. She reintroduced cheeses, artificial sweeteners, and pickles without any problems. One night, Trisha decided to have a piece of ice-cream cake with chocolate sprinkles on it. Seven hours later, she awakened with a migraine. Three days later, she ate a chocolate candy bar and developed a migraine within four hours. Since cutting chocolate out of her diet, Trisha has been doing fine, with only an occasional headache.
When I first saw Nancy R., she drank the equivalent of five cups of coffee a day. On top of that, she was taking a caffeine-containing pain medicine for her headaches on an almost daily basis. I warned her about the problems of “caffeine-rebound” headaches, but she insisted that she couldn’t make it through a day without caffeine. After one year, Nancy’s headaches became so severe that she began to feel desperate. Again I brought up the issue of her caffeine use, and we developed a plan: Nancy would stop her caffeine-containing pain medicine immediately and would begin tapering off her coffee intake, reducing it by one cup every three days until she had given up coffee completely. During the first couple of weeks off caffeine, Nancy had a number of bad headaches, but when I saw her a month later, her headaches had virtually disappeared.
Chocolate, caffeine, and red wine are common headache triggers, but as the stories of Mary, Indira, and John suggest, there are other, less well known offenders: most cheeses, citrus fruits, beans, freshly baked bread, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives, to name just a few. (A list of foods that frequently trigger headaches can be found on page 27.) Not all these foods cause headaches all the time — most people are affected by only a small number of them. Some of my patients are unaffected by chocolate but will get a pounding headache from bananas.
Amy C. came to my office complaining of daily headaches that would get so bad that she had to close her office door and turn out the lights for hours at a time. Amy worked as a newswriter and producer, a high-stress position that regularly required twelve- to sixteen-hour workdays. She was not sleeping well, not exercising, and not eating properly. Amy skipped meals frequently, and when she did manage to eat, she ate as quickly as possible. She had gotten into the habit of eating bananas every day because of their convenience. Unfortunately for Amy, bananas are on the headache hit list, at least in large quantities. When Amy cut them out of her diet, her headaches improved.
Rhonda B.’s headaches, which used to trouble her only a few times a month, had become a daily torment. She had lost over forty pounds on a diet that prescribed eating three oranges and one grapefruit each day in addition to other low-fat foods. In Rhonda’s case, it was the quantity of the citrus fruits that was the problem. Cutting back on her consumption of oranges and grapefruit helped keep her headaches in check.
Some people are affected by a particular food only at certain times. Eilene M., for example, was troubled by migraines around the time of menstruation. The migraines lasted for up to three days at a time, causing her to miss work. Eventually, Eilene noticed a pattern: Beginning about two days prior to her period and continuing until its end, eating bananas, grapefruit, or yogurt would cause her to develop a severe migraine within ten minutes. During the rest of the month, these foods did not affect her. Fortunately for Eilene, her menstrual cycle is regular, so she can avoid those food triggers during that time of the month.
Identifying Troublesome Foods

Not every headache sufferer is sensitive to food triggers. The first step before undertaking any regimen is to see a doctor and determine if there is any underlying condition that may be causing your headaches.

But a significant percentage of sufferers are affected by food, and I see it every day in my practice. Unfortunately, there is no physical sign or blood test that will tell you if some of your headaches are caused by food. And if you’re not paying very close attention, you may not notice a pattern even if it’s there. For that reason, I recommend that every headache sufferer try diet modification, at least temporarily. To discover if your diet is contributing to your headaches, you’ll need to start with what doctors call an “elimination diet,” in which you will try to eliminate all potentially troublesome foods.

You can follow an elimination diet by using the recipes in this book and by creating your own recipes that avoid foods which can trigger headaches. You should avoid these foods for at least two months and record whether your headaches improve during this time.

After the two-month period, you can begin to reintroduce the potential trigger foods into your diet, one food at a time. Wait for a week or two before adding another. That way you can more accurately determine the effect of a particular food on your headache pattern. If your headaches increase after introducing a food, then you should assume it is a trigger and avoid it permanently. If the food does not result in any change in your headache pattern, you are not sensitive to it.

Paula S., a twenty-eight-year-old Italian woman, came to my office complaining of headaches that occurred three days a week. She was understandably distressed by their frequency but had noticed no particular pattern to them. Three weeks after starting the elimination diet, Paula’s headaches improved dramatically. She was feeling great, but she wanted to go back to her normal diet. As Paula slowly began to reintroduce one food at a time, she remained headache-free, until she came to her favorite cheese-filled Italian foods: ziti with mozzarella, pizza, and lasagna, which she had previously indulged in several times a week — the same frequency with which she used to get headaches!
Another patient, Carla L., had discovered that she was sensitive to aged cheeses like cheddar and Parmesan. But when she ordered a chicken Caesar salad in a restaurant one day, it never occurred to her that the small amount of cheese in the dressing would be a problem. Big mistake! Within an hour, she developed a severe migraine.
Sometimes people have reactions to foods that don’t usually cause headaches. These items are not included on the list of “forbidden” foods because they rarely cause problems. Unfortunately for some people, “rarely” is not the same as “never.”
Gail H. was a teacher who went on the headache-prevention diet. One night she ate a lobster dinner. Within an hour, she developed a severe migraine. After that episode, Gail decided to experiment, and three days later, she had lobster bisque for lunch. Within an hour, she had a migraine. Because lobster is not a common headache trigger, it is not on the list of prohibited foods. But by paying careful attention to her headache pattern, Gail was able to determine that this food had an adverse effect on her.
Michael N.’s food reaction was one of the strangest I have seen in my practice. Michael never had a headache for the first thirty-five years of his life. One day, while driving, he bought a roll of hard butterscotch candies and put one in his mouth. Within fifteen minutes, Michael developed an excruciating cluster headache. He had trouble staying on the road but was able to make it to his destination. When he arrived, he was almost totally incapacitated. Fortunately, this attack lasted for only an hour and a half. However, Michael did not make any association between his headaches and the butterscotch candy. Three days later he ate another butterscotch candy while driving his car. Once again, within fifteen minutes he had a severe clusterheadache.
Why Do Certain Foods Trigger Headaches?

What is it about these foods that trigger headaches? There is certainly no factor common to all of these foods. The truth is that while theories abound, we are a long way from knowing what really causes the pain in your head. It is probably the result of a complex interaction between the nerves, blood vessels, and biochemicals located in the brain. The details of these interactions are unclear at present, but according to one theory, constriction of blood vessels to the brain decreases blood flow to the sensory area of the brain, resulting in the aura that often accompanies migraines. The blood vessels then expand, sending pulsations of blood to the brain, producing throbbing pain. Many headache specialists think that a neurochemical called serotonin plays a crucial role in bringing about these changes in blood vessels and other brain activity, altering blood flow and setting off a complicated cascade of events in the brain that results in a headache.

Food seems to be able to cause headaches regardless of whether you tend to get migraines, cluster headaches, or tension headaches. (For a discussion of the various kinds of headaches, see page 24.)

Although a few health-care practitioners maintain that allergies to certain foods set off headaches, most experts believe that such allergies play virtually no role in causing headaches. It is more likely that substances contained within some foods trigger the headaches either by changing the amount of serotonin in the brain or by affecting the blood vessels in the head. Amines, biochemicals involved in causing blood-vessel constriction and dilation, are found not only in the brain but in many different foods, such as cheese, chocolate, nuts, and certain meats. One common amine, called tyramine, is suspected by many experts to be a major factor in triggering headaches.

Preservatives such as nitrates and sulfites, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin, and food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) have all been implicated as headache triggers. They contain amines, which alter the constriction of the blood vessels. But for many of the foods listed below, the reason they trigger headaches remains a mystery. Scientists do know that alcohol can dilate blood vessels, and this may be one reason that alcohol can cause headaches. Many alcohols also contain amines such as tyramine and histamine. Caffeine can be a good treatment for headaches when used in moderation. Paradoxically, however, when it is taken on a daily basis, it can cause more headaches. Caffeine, in fact, is one of the most common food-related causes of headaches that I see in my practice, and it’s the one thing patients often have the most resistance to giving up, until they discover that doing so can help them eliminate disabling pain.

Using This Book

All the recipes in this book have been created without using the major ingredients that are known to be headache triggers. We have noted which foods should be eaten in only small quantities and have tried to suggest the appropriate limits.

We encourage you to add your own headache recipes to ours. We would love to hear about them so we can share them with other patients. By doing so, you will be helping a fellow headache sufferer.

Headache-Causing Foods

The list of foods that have been reported to trigger headaches is long and varied. The foods included here are the ones most commonly reported to cause headaches; that’s why it’s difficult to avoid them without following the headache-prevention diet. Some of you may be susceptible to many of these foods, others to only a few. If you are lucky, you’ll find you’re not susceptible to any of these foods. The only way to tell is by going on the headache-prevention diet. If you discover an ingredient that triggers your headaches and is not on this list, you should obviously avoid it too.


Prohibited: Beans (lima, Italian, pole, broad, fava, string, navy, pinto, garbanzo, lentils, snow peas), pickles, chili peppers, olives.
Allowed: All other fresh, frozen, dried, and canned vegetables and vegetable juices. Limit tomatoes to 1/2 cup per day; limit onions to 1/2 cup per day.


Prohibited: Dried fruits that contain preservatives (such as raisins, dates, figs, apricots), avocados, papayas, passion fruit, red plums, banana-peel extract.
Allowed: All other fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and juices. Limit citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons, limes) and pineapple to 1/2 cup per day. Limit bananas to 1/2 banana per day. (Technically, a tomato is a fruit, so remember to limit tomatoes to 1/2 cup per day.) Organic dried fruits without preservatives (particularly sulfites).

Breads and Cereals

Prohibited: Any fresh yeast product straight out of the oven; for example, yeast breads, crackers, pizza dough, doughnuts, soft pretzels.
Allowed: Store-bought and homemade breads (white, whole wheat, French, Italian, bagels, etc.) are fine as long as they are not straight out of the oven and have been allowed to cool (it’s OK to reheat them). Just be careful that they don’t contain other prohibited ingredients, such as raisins, nuts, chocolate, or cheeses. Likewise, you can eat all hot and cold cereals unless they contain specifically prohibited items, such as dried fruit or artificial sweeteners.

Dairy Products and Eggs

Prohibited: Most cheeses. Sour cream, whole milk, chocolate milk, buttermilk, cream.
Allowed: Skim milk or 1% homogenized milk. Cheeses: American, ricotta, cream cheese, Velveeta, pot, farmer, cottage. Skim milkbased yogurt (limit it to 1/2 cup per day). Eggs.


Prohibited: Alcoholic beverages, especially red wine; beverages containing chocolate or cocoa; diet beverages containing artificial sweeteners.
Allowed: Fruit and vegetable juices, noncaffeinated drinks (if they don’t contain artificial sweeteners). Limit caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, tea, or soda, to 2 cups (approximately 16 ounces) per day. For soda, that’s a little more than one can a day.


Prohibited: Most canned soups and bouillon cubes (they usually contain MSG, preservatives, or other prohibited ingredients).
Allowed: Homemade soups and stocks, unless they contain other specifically prohibited foods, such as beans, cheese, or large amounts of onion or tomato.


Prohibited: Chocolate, carob, and licorice; ice cream; desserts containing other prohibited foods, such as nuts or dried fruit, or those made with liqueurs; whipped cream.
Allowed: Cakes, cookies, candies, and pies, unless they contain prohibited ingredients; gelatin, sherbet, and sorbet.


Prohibited: Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and tenderizers containing MSG; soy sauce; vinegar, except for white and cider vinegars; salad dressings containing wine or vinegar, unless it is white or cider vinegar; cooking sherry; olive oil; seeds, nuts, peanuts, and peanut butter; all artificial sweeteners; preservatives, such as nitrates and sulfites; coconuts; capers. Most mustards, ketchups, and mayonnaises.
Allowed: Anything else not specifically prohibited, all herbs and spices, white vinegar, cider vinegar, honey, jams, jellies, dry mustard.

Meat and Seafood

Prohibited: Bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni, sausage, salami, bologna, ham; organs (liver and other organ meats); all aged, canned, cured, or processed meat products; caviar.
Allowed: All fresh beef, poultry, fish, or pork products, unless specifically prohibited; tuna and other canned seafood that is packed in water.


Sample Recipes:

Orange Blossom French Toast

Serves 2

An unexpected burst of orange flavors this morning standard, which is also served with an orange sauce.

Our kids look forward to having this on Sunday mornings.

3 large eggs

Rind of 1 orange, finely grated

1/3 cup orange juice

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

6 slices day-old white bread

2 large navel oranges

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

2 tablespoons canola oil

Beat together the eggs, orange zest, juice, and orange extract in a baking dish large enough to hold the bread slices in a single layer. Dip both sides of each bread slice into the egg mixture. Arrange the bread slices in a single layer in the dish and let the bread soak up all the egg mixture, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the oranges, being careful to remove all the white membrane around the outside. Using a sharp knife, separate the oranges into sections, cutting between the inner membranes. Discard the membranes and any accumulated juice.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and the brown sugar in a small saucepan over low heat. When the mixture foams, add the orange sections and cook, stirring, just until heated through, about 3 minutes. Remove the orange sauce from the heat, cover, and keep warm.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or brush it onto a large griddle over medium heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. When the butter foams, add the bread slices and cook until golden brown, turning once, about 5 minutes per side. Serve immediately with the orange sauce.


Veal Chops with Lemon-Basil Butter

Serves 2

This simple dish has a light, lemony flavor that enhances the taste of the veal.

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 1-inch-thick veal loin chops

Preheat the broiler.

Combine the butter, basil, lemon rind, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Hold each chop on its edge, fat side up. With a small, sharp knife, cut through the fat and halfway through the chop to create a small pocket. Stuff some of the butter mixture into each chop, then spread the remaining butter mixture on both sides of the chops.

Place the chops on a broiler pan and broil about 4 inches from the heat, turning once, for 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until browned and tender. With a fork, pierce the chop, checking often for doneness; overcooking will toughen the veal.

Serve immediately.


Grape Tarts with Vanilla Pastry Cream

Serves 6

These tarts look like a fancy restaurant dessert.

The tangy grapes contrast well with the smooth pastry cream, creating a unique and satisfying dessert.


12 ounces (about 1 box) vanilla wafers

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Pastry Cream

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 3/4 cups skim milk, heated

1 tablespoon vanilla extract


1 cup apricot preserves

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes, stemmed and halved lengthwise

1 1/2 cups seedless purple grapes, stemmed and halved lengthwise

Crust: Chop the vanilla wafers into fine crumbs in a food processor. Transfer the crumbs to a small bowl and stir in the butter. Line 6 removable-bottom 3-to-4-inch tart pans with the wafer mixture. Chill in the refrigerator.

Pastry cream: Whisk the egg yolks in a medium saucepan, gradually adding the sugar and salt. Whisk until the yolk mixture is thick and lemon colored. Sift the flour over the egg mixture and whisk it in. Gradually whisk in the milk.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. The custard will start to get lumpy but will become smooth as you whisk. Reduce the heat to low and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook for 2 minutes more, stirring. Press the sauce through a fine strainer into a medium bowl and stir in vanilla. Cover the surface of the pastry cream with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Glaze: Heat the apricot preserves, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Press the preserves through a fine strainer into a small bowl, then return to the saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

Fill the tart shells with the pastry cream. Cover the top with the grape halves cut side down, alternating red and purple, arranged close together in a circular pattern. Brush the grapes lightly with the glaze. Chill the tarts in the refrigerator. Remove the outer ring from the tart pans and let come to room temperature before serving.

Copyright © 2000 David R. Marks, M.D. and Laura Marks, M.D.

Basic Tree Care for the Home Yard

Your trees are the most important part of your home landscape. They provide beauty, shade, and enjoyment. They are expensive to remove when dead or damaged, and they are impossible to replace once they gain a little size. Learn to take care of your trees.

I have received a number of phone calls this spring reporting various stages of die back in the tops of a number of large, shade trees. Most of this is due to the two or three years of drought preceding the “wet” summer we are experiencing now. Many of our yard trees are growing on disturbed soils (disturbed when the house or community was built) and they tend to develop rather shallow root systems. Combine this with a prolonged period of dry weather and these trees become stressed. Stressed trees don’t accumulate a sufficient food supply during the summer and the following year they often lose branches, especially those in the top (the youngest) of the tree.

The sad part of this story is that there’s no way to replace the branches lost due to stress. They simply should be pruned out for safety purposes. This is often an expensive undertaking, especially if the tree is near the house. Hopefully the tree still looks ok after the dead branches have been pruned out, otherwise it may be best to have the entire tree removed.

Tree Companies don’t possess any special magic to fix these drought stress problems. They can look the tree over and make sure there’s are no other problems. Last week a homeowner called our office and reported most of his tree had turned brown and died. When he brought a sample to the office the problem turned out to be a common leaf fungus, oak leaf blister. The leaves on his tree had indeed turned brown, but his tree was by no means dead, or even dying. Brown leaves often means big trouble, but not always.

The two tips I have for taking care of your existing trees are (1) don’t do anything to disturb the trees root system, and (2) try and give them supplemental water during periods of summer drought.

A good root system is the key to maintaining your tree in good condition. Any major digging or soil disturbance that occurs beneath the canopy of your tree can cause serious problems. Removing soil, adding soil, or any type of trenching can hurt the tree. Compacting the soil by parking vehicles under the tree, or just excessive foot traffic around arid under the tree can hurt.

When your area has not received a significant rainfall within two weeks in summer it’s time to water your trees. Remember, you are applying water to the root system and the root system spreads out at least as far as the branches reach. You should set up a sprinkler, let it run for about 20 to 30 minutes, and then move it to another location under the tree. Continue moving the sprinkler in this way until every areas has received at least 60 minutes of watering. It takes a long time to properly water a large tree but it’s the most important thing you can do for your tree.

Take the time to look at your trees in the next week or two and reflect on their importance to your yard and landscape. Give thanks for the wonderful shade they provide and promise yourself that you will give them that drink of water they need during the next summer drought we experience. Your trees are a great natural resource, take care of them.

Your ‘When To’ List

One of the questions many home owners have concerning their landscape is, “when should I do this, or do that? ” Here’s a brief guide that gives you the best time of the year to perform some common home landscape chores.

In the home landscape there are seasons to reap and seasons to sow. Here’s a few tips on the best time of the year to take care of a few important landscape maintenance items.

Lawn Fertilization
To keep your lawn in tip top condition you should schedule to apply fertilizer sometime between September 20th and October 20th and a repeat application approximately one month later. This applies to lawns made up primarily of Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, fine fescues, or any combination of the four. If you have one of the rare lawns of zoysiagrass you should target your fertilizer application for sometime between June 1st and August 1 St. Most zoysiagrass lawns only require a single fertilizer application per year.

Tree Pruning and Trimming
If you need to prune off a single limb, the one that keeps hitting you in the head when you try to mow under it, you can prune it out anytime of the year. If you are planning a substantial amount of pruning on a single tree, removing more than 20 percent of the total branch area, you should carry out this pruning operation when the tree is dormant, sometime between mid December and mid February.

It’s nice to prune evergreens, such as holly and pines, in December and use the prunings for house decorations for the holidays. One warning here, pines and spruce are two trees that resent severe pruning. If you cut branches back beyond the point where any needles remain, you are unlikely to have new shoots appear on these branches. They will remain as ugly, wooden stubs. Most other plants will eventually produce new shoots from the cut branches, but pines and spruces won’t.

Tree and Shrub Fertilization
This has been the source of much confusion over the years and I have heard and read many differing recommendations. My current belief is that the fall, sometime between October 1st and November 15th, is the best time to fertilize trees and shrubs here in Maryland. If your tree is well established, more than ten years old, and is in a lawn area, the normal fall lawn fertilization will provide adequate nutrients to the tree.

If the tree is young and you want to maximize growth, you should have a wide clear or mulched area surrounding the tree and apply the fertilizer there. A ten foot tall tree should be surrounded by a cleared, or mulched, zone that’s at least ten foot in diameter. I know this is much larger than what you normally see, but this will help maximize your new tree’s growth rate.

Groups of shrubs should also be surrounded by a cleared, or mulched, zone and this is where you want to broadcast the fertilizer in mid fall.

Bringing the House Plants In
If you have given some, or all, of your house plants a summer outside you will want to bring them back inside well before the first killing frost in the fall. In Prince George’s County the first killing frost averages on or about the 20th of October. Some years it’s a bit earlier, some years a bit later. I don’t like to gamble with my plants and I schedule them to begin coming back inside in mid September with the entire move completed by the end of the month.

I move about 200 cacti plants outside every summer so I know all about the “great plant shuffle.” It’s dangerous to try and schedule the move at the very last moment. Just when the weather forecasters are predicting that first killing frost you may have a lot of other things to do, so get the house plants in a bit earlier, by the end of September.

Putting the House Plants Out
In Prince George’s County the last killing frost in the spring averages on or about the 1st of May. Since it is a real hassle to have to move the plants back inside right after they have been moved out, play it safe and wait at least two weeks beyond the average last spring frost date. This schedules the putting out of the house plants sometime after May 15th. Obviously if you live in the far southern end of the County, Brandywine or Accokeek, you can sneak things in a few days earlier, and if you’re up north, in Beltsville or Laurel, you may want to wait a bit later than May 15th to be on the safe side.

Remember, the one thing we can be sure about concerning the weather, is that we can never be sure about the weather.

When to Divided Perennials
If you are growing hosta, daylilies, chrysanthemums, or a host of other clump forming perennials, sooner or later you will want to dig up the clump, divide it into smaller parts, and replant. The best time of the year to tackle this chore is early fall, sometime in October, after the foliage

has deteriorated and turned brown, or in early spring, sometime between March 20th and April 20th, just as the new growth is appearing. One exception to this rule is the bearded iris, or flag lily as my mother use to call them. These are best divided in August when the plants are dormant and the hot, dry weather reduces the chances of rot in the fatty, fleshy rhizomes.

Applying Crabgrass Preventers
Crabgrass is the single most serious weed in our lawns and it is also relatively easy to prevent through the use of a preemergence crabgrass weed killer. These materials have to be applied prior to crabgrass seed germination. In Prince George’s County crabgrass seed usually sprouts in early April so target your crabgrass preventer application for the last two weeks in March.

Depending on the active ingredient in the crabgrass preventing product you use, you may be required to apply a second application in June. Read and following the product label carefully and you’ll get the maximum benefit from your product.

Getting Help for Other Yard and Garden
Timing Questions
If you have questions concerning gardening chores that were not covered in this article, you can call the University of Maryland Home and Garden Information Center. The Center is open on Monday through Friday from 8:00 am until 1:00 PM. You can reach the center from any location in the State of Maryland via their toll free phone number: 1-800-342-2507

Article supplied by MD Cooperative Extension.