Holistic Self-Defense

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  Effects (Eastern View)

  Effects (Western View)

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Seven Herbalists Speak

  Elisa Adams

  Diane Brigida

  Bill Fage

  Gene Fitzpatrick

  Cheryl Kelly

  Jeanne Polcari

  Joan Reardon


  Muscle Testing



A Balance of Energies: Diane Brigida

“That’s what got me into the whole thing, was red raspberry leaf tea,” says Diane Brigida.

Brigida is a slim woman in her forties with long brown hair. She’s sitting inside the picture window at her herb shop, Back to Eden, in Littleton, Massachusetts, surrounded by shelves of herbs, books on healing, and house plants. But herbs are not the only reason customers come to her store. Another reason is her use of muscle testing in conjunction with herbs and nutritional counseling to help with health problems.

Brigida was trained as a pianist and has a degree in music. In the early eighties, she says, “I was having problems with my children, with colic and indigestion and not sleeping well, and I was nursing.” Fatigued from caring for her children, she was looking for a massage therapist. A friend recommended Cheryl Bauer (now Cheryl Kelly), in Shirley, Massachusetts.

“Cheryl came over to my house, gave me the massage, and then did Touch for Health” (TFH), a technique that incorporates muscle testing. “I was complaining to her about problems I was having with my children. She said I could use herbs to help, and if I took them internally, the baby would get them through nursing. I didn’t know anything about herbs at the time, other than teas.”

On the advice of a neighbor, Brigida had started taking red raspberry leaf tea during her first pregnancy, to help with the home births of her children. “Most women who are pregnant should use red raspberry leaf tea,” she says, “because it’s high in iron, it tones the uterus, it eases labor, it can shorten labor time, and it cuts down on the bleeding and gets the uterus back in shapeit’s fantastic for that. Red raspberry has an affinity for the female reproductive system. That’s what got me into the whole thing, was red raspberry leaf tea.”

“The body has the ability to pick up the electrical energy from substances and the energy fields from people, and you can test this using muscle structures, to find whether it’s having a positive or negative reaction on your body,” says Brigida. “I started seeing Cheryl on a regular basis to help me with the children and myself, and we became good friends.” Bauer had studied in the seventies with Dr. John Christopher and Dr. Bernard Jensen, renowned teachers and practitioners in the herbal field, and was certified as a master herbalist and in TFH.

After about a year, says Brigida, “I was so excited about the herbs that I told Cheryl I wanted to learn more.” Bauer suggested she take a course with Bill Fage, a master herbalist in Sterling, Massachusetts. She called Fage and signed up for the class.

“I didn’t learn how to muscle test or use Touch for Health for several years — I depended on Cheryl. I didn’t feel confident that I could learn how to do it, and I was too busy with two children fifteen months apart. I would take people to her, and I took notes — you could say I apprenticed under her. I took many, many clients — friends and family — to her who I was trying to help with herbs, and I would get recommendations from her, and then I would work with them after that. But I would sit there for two hours and take notes and listen.”

Cheryl Bauer had gotten involved in herbs and, later, TFH as a result of a gymnastics accident in college that had fractured her skull and left some of her facial muscles paralyzed. She was unable to eat animal protein without throwing up and knew she needed protein to rebuild from the accident. Because her doctors were unable to offer any help about how she could get protein, she began investigating herbs and subsequently made a complete recovery, contrary to medical expectations. She then entered the health field and began helping others. She describes Brigida as one of her best students, saying that she “picked up on it strongly and has gone with it.”

Eventually, another woman Brigida met, Elisa Adams, gave a class in muscle testing, although it wasn’t Touch for Health. This involved testing a number of points on the body to identify imbalances in specific minerals, vitamins, and body systems. After taking Adams’s one-day class several times, Brigida began to use the techniques on family and friends. In the mid-nineties, she studied TFH with Gene Fitzpatrick, an herbalist and certified TFH instructor in Nashua, NH, and became certified in it herself. What she now does is a combination of TFH and the nutritional muscle testing she learned from Elisa Adams. “Touch for Health takes care of opening up the energy, but the herbs take care of the chemistry, to nourish the organs and tissues. Touch for Health also gives you another way of getting the information, so you’re confirming what you’ve learned through the nutritional muscle testing.”

Brigida and other colleagues in the Boston area and elsewhere use muscle testing to custom-tailor an herbal program, because each person’s needs are different. Muscle testing allows her to determine which herb a person needs and how much per day. It also tells which of several brands the body prefers and in which form, if more than one is available — capsules or extract, for example.

Brigida says that the body typically breaks down for three reasons: nutritional deficiency, toxic overload, or stress. “What we always need to do is look at whether the body is deficient in some nutrient, or is it overloaded with toxins, or does it have so much stress that it can’t deal with it, because it doesn’t have the nourishment to deal with it? If you can’t cut down your stress, you need to support your body. That’s where the herbs come in, because they have the ability to rebuild and restore. I don’t look at diseases — I look at where the deficiencies are, how we can help the elimination organs work better, and what we can give the body to help it with the stress until the stress can be cut down.

“The primary thing we need is minerals, even though we need vitamins, and the reason we need minerals so much is that minerals are the builders in the body. According to Dr. Jensen, vegetables are the building blocks of the body, and fruits are the cleansers. Even though minerals in fruits help build the body, the action of a fruit on the body is cleansing, and the action of a vegetable is building. So the most important food we eat is vegetables.

“Dr. Jensen believes we should have seventy percent alkaline-forming foods and thirty percent acid-forming foods. When we say that, we’re not talking about acid fruits and non-acid fruits. We’re talking about the fact that all fruits and vegetables, in their final breakdown, have an alkaline effect on the body, and starches, even good starches, even good grains, have an acid effect. So in order to keep a good acid/alkaline balance in the pH of the body, you need to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables — a lot more than we’re eating.

“It’s hard for people nowadays to eat enough fruits and vegetables, and we also have to deal with all the sprays and poor-quality fruits and vegetables we’re getting. That’s where the herbs come in again, because they’re specifically grown in better soil — if you’re using a good company — in growing conditions that are the best for that plant to get the highest active ingredients and the highest mineral and nutrient content. So when you’re using herbs, you’re actually using highly concentrated foods we’re not getting in our diet, no matter how many fruits and vegetables we eat.” 

Brigida points out that because herbs are foods, the body assimilates their nutrients more readily than it does with laboratory-produced supplements. “I think that just about anyone, unless they’re doing a lot of juicing and sprouting and that type of thing, needs to take herbs—to give the body the ability to do this healing process and to keep all the organs functioning.” She emphasizes that “the herbs do not do the healing. The herbs bring the body into balance, and the body does the healing.”

The quality of the herbs is extremely important, Brigida says. Lower-quality products do not test well — meaning that the body is responding negatively to one or more of the energies in them. Another consequence of low quality is that the levels of active ingredients and minerals may be low. Even if the product is less expensive, the quantity required to do the job may make it as expensive overall as a higher-quality product.

“The hormones play a big part in regulating our minerals, along with the urinary system. The urinary system is taxed because of the heavy amount of proteins we eat, and because of sweets, which cause a lot of acid problems in the body. The urinary system is related to the structural system. Chinese medicine always puts those two together — in fact, we have herbal combinations that support both the urinary and structural systems.”

Like many of her colleagues, Brigida teaches classes in herbs, kinesiology, and other techniques. She has a strong spiritual belief that’s the mainstay of her life, and she looks at her work in those terms. Although she regrets not being able to play piano more, the explanation for what she’s doing is simple: “I’m called to this,” she says.

A session with Diane Brigida typically begins with her testing the large muscles and acupressure points relating to nutrients and body structures. She also tests for food allergies. “A lot of people don’t know they have food allergies,” she says, “because they don’t have outward reactions. They don’t have rashes, they don’t have stomach upsets, so they think they don’t have a problem. But fatigue is a symptom of food allergies. Muddled thinking, not being able to concentrate, aches and pains — a lot of things can be related to food allergies that people don’t realize.

“The reason people have food allergies is that they’re missing nutritional factors, complementary nutrients, that need to be available for a particular food to be digested. You need particular minerals, vitamins, or amino acids for particular foods,” Brigida says, expounding on a concept expressed by Donald LePore, N.D., in his book The Ultimate Healing System.

With wheat, for example, “you need histidine, which is an amino acid, and you need magnesium, and you need a particular essential fatty acid. So if you’re low in magnesium, which many people in America are, because they eat so much wheat, you’ll have trouble digesting wheat. You won’t have magnesium to keep your blood pressure down, to keep your irritable bowel from being irritable, to avoid spasms in your legs, or cramping, or aches and pains, or for your digestion or nerves or heart.

“You also need calcium and magnesium and potassium to neutralize acid conditions in the body. This has to do with acid/alkaline balance. The body will do anything it can to keep this balance. It’ll steal minerals out of the tissue and bones to keep the pH of the blood in the right balance. All our starches, all our proteins are acid-forming foods” in their final breakdown at the cellular level. “You need the major electrolytes to neutralize the acid condition created by eating so many acid-forming foods. You use up all these nutrients just to get the pH right, and you don’t have the nutrients to nourish the organs.

“I check to see how you’re handling major food groups. If you’re not handling one well, you need to take an herb, which is a concentrated food source, to build up that nutrient in your body, so you won’t have the allergy any more.”

After testing for food allergies, she balances the body using acupressure points, neurovascular holding points, or massage treatment points. “Then,” she says, “I sit down and go through whole foods. We’ve just talked about what you can’t do — now we need to talk about what you can do. We want to leave on a positive note. You can’t take something away from someone if you don’t replace it with something better, because they’ll only have the discipline to stay away from it for a short time.

“If you’re going to take white sugar away, you have to give them a whole-food substitute to replace it. You have to give them a bread they can eat if you take away a bread they’ve been eating. You have to give them a pasta they can eat. So I go through a whole-food shopping list and give them suggestions or recipes and ways they can eat healthier.”

Touch for Health follows the Chinese system of relating particular emotions to particular organs. “The body stores memories in its cells,” Brigida explains, “and particular organs have affinities for particular emotions. So when you have a tragic event — or sometimes not even a major event, but maybe one that happens at a time when you’re vulnerable — the body will hold an emotion in an organ, and that emotion will affect the organ’s ability to function.” TFH can be used to release these stored emotions.

Tragically, Diane Brigida died in a car accident on January 8, 2004.