Grassroots Healing, Plant Medicine

Pragmatism in the Age of Novel Pandemics.

Or How not to Panic when you get the ‘flu.

(And a few recipes)

 

As we come to that transitional turning of the great wheel of the year again when here in the southern hemisphere summer begins to slowly release its grip, giving way to autumn, and winter tentatively begins to let spring take the reins in the northern hemisphere, it’s not uncommon for people to come down with colds, flu and other respiratory issues. For some in the north, the winter may have been particularly unforgiving, and seasonal colds did indeed move into a full-blown flu. Here in Australia, our usual bright summer sun was largely shrouded in smoke from nation-wide bushfires, and so many of us who didn’t already have respiratory problems have risen from the ashes with smoke-damaged, or at the very least, traumatised lungs & frazzled nervous systems. I know of no one here that was unaffected in some way. Whether freezing cold & frigid air, or searing heat with a thick blanket of smoke to greet our days for several months of the year, it is not surprising that our poor overworked and overstressed bodies suffer in some way, particularly if we are largely unprepared. With this in mind, I’ve been hesitant to comment on the novel coronavirus Covid19, which may or may not be a pandemic, according to which narrative one chooses to follow. Watching the narrative unfold, across both mainstream & alternative media, has been an interesting study in learning the mechanics of social engineering. In fact, I’ve felt a very strong visceral resistance to comment about this particular virus, maybe because I don’t think fear-mongering helps anybody, but there are also a lot of anomalies across all narratives being offered. The numbers simply aren’t adding up, & certainly aren’t any more alarming than other yearly statistics relating to influenza mortality. So, I’m not going to talk about that. I invite you to question the narrative for yourself. Question any and all narratives! Question what I’m going to put forward int his article. Prove all things for yourself. What I will say however is that there appears to be three common factors in all of these so-called epidemics, whether it be swine flu, bird flu, SARS or Wuhan flu SARS V.2;

 

  1. They begin in an area of very high density population.
  2. There is typically a very poor standard or complete lack of personal or public hygiene – whether sanitary or food-based (including the choice & preparation of foods people are eating).
  3. The area typically has extremely poor air quality due to high levels of pollution.

 

Maybe think about this, because context is important.

 

It might be more beneficial if instead we take a holistic, more pragmatic approach to how we prevent & treat colds and flu in general. Because a coronavirus is essentially the same spiky-sheathed virus that is found in the common cold and your typical winter type influenza – which typically also mutates or morphs each year. And because thinking holistically & pragmatically is how I roll, & no one really benefits in the long term (except the company selling it, or the Globalists behind it) if I just said, ‘go & take this magic pill, or get this magic shot’.

One of my other passions, besides plants & pursuing truth in all things, is history. Before I allowed the plant path to consume me completely, I began a degree in archaeology & anthropology. One day I may return to this & complete the circle with ethnobotany & archaeobotanical studies, but in the meantime, I will fascinate myself with the history of herbal medicine because as I have eluded to in previous posts, there is much wisdom in the work of our forebears. All of which was obtained in the thick of the battlefield, or at least boots on the ground experience, not just from books or from clinical studies.

 

“Does this work?”

“Well, we’ve been using it successfully for this thing for thousands of years, but I guess we won’t really know until someone extracts it with a solvent that herbalists have never used & then does a clinical trial on it using animals, & then we can put it in a pill, standardise it & charge lots of money.”

 

 

Our forebears knew stuff about how the body works & how to work with it, which by & large in contrast, we’ve now become too lazy & ‘convenienced’ (yes, I just made that word up) by our modern technological medicine. With regards to colds, flu, & fever they were particularly well versed.  And although many people died, mainly due to standards of hygiene before Florence Nightingale came along & said “hey, let’s clean this place up”, many people survived & thrived from the skill of these wortcunners (whether indigenous, pioneer, or colonial) (yes, that is an actual word. No. it’s not rude).  So, what did they know that maybe we don’t even bat an eyelid at today?

They knew that the two most important aspects to begin helping a body overcome illness was to build the vital reserves (ie: nourish the nervous system), & to support the thermoregulatory system.

Being perhaps the highest centre of regulation in the body, one’s physiological functions can therefore only be as strong and as healthy as one’s nervous system. Too stressed & uptight? Nerves ‘frazzled’ or ‘on edge’? or as a tightly strung harp that has been wound to breaking point, the system becomes too relaxed, lethargic, fatigued, and burnt out. Every effort is just too hard. In either case, this will be reflected in the cascade of regulatory functions that follow. For example, whether the state of a condition can be characterised by being too tense, or too relaxed, & further to being too dry or too damp, or too hot or too cold. This nervous system input is particularly evident in the thermoregulatory system, that system you’ve probably never heard of that is really the first line of defence proceeding the immune system. To put it simply, the thermoregulatory system is governed by the hypothalamus, a centre in the brain, which through various neurotransmitters & receptors & interaction with the thyroid, monitors the internal temperature of the body in relation to environmental stressors, both external (eg: climate) and internal (eg: pathogen, or undigested food). Using the medium of water in the body to control the internal temperature because water conveys heat, the hypothalamus then instructs the autonomic nervous system (the branch of the nervous system responsible for involuntary action of smooth muscle tissue, for example things we don’t have to consciously make an effort to maintain – like breathing) to dilate or constrict the capillaries (fine blood vessels under the surface of the skin) to control circulation of the blood & to open or close the ‘vents’ of the body to release or retain this heat. These vents are the pores in our skin which are surround by tiny bands of smooth muscle (and to a smaller extent pores in our mucous membranes where water is lost in the form of mucous.). Our blood vessels are also bound by smooth muscle tissue which is directly innervated by the autonomic nervous system. To illustrate this, in the heat of summer, the hypothalamus senses this temperature range so instructs the nervous system to dilate the capillaries so more blood will flow to the surface, & then open the pores to release heat via sweat. This maintains the core temperature of the body, so we don’t overheat & ended up cooking ourselves from the inside out. In the cooler climes of winter, the hypothalamus instructs the nervous system to close the pores to retain heat, stop us from sweating & keep the core temperature warm. This is a very sophisticated but simple mechanism that is occurring constantly throughout every second of our lives.

 

We can therefore make the distinction between two parts in this system – the Core (the internal ‘fire’ or centre of heat) and the Shield (the periphery, or our skin & mucous membranes – the inner skin.). The importance of the Core & maintaining its temperature has been recognised through all traditions of healing across all cultures. In Ayurveda, this inner fire is referred to asAgni& its strength is ultimately responsible for the health for the whole body. In the western herbal tradition, Samuel Thomson, practicing in the early 1800s in North America learned, along with other pioneer-era botanical doctors, from village wise women, & observed in indigenous American practice of the sweat lodge, the importance of keeping this inner fire stoked & the vents functionally effectively in response. In the folk tradition of the North American South, the observance of whether the blood is thin or thick also plays an important part in this process. For example, in the summer, thin blood is more desirable because it is more water-rich, enabling heat to be released through sweat more readily.  It has been noted that many elderly people are lost to heat stroke in the summer months in the deep south because their blood is too thick to release the heat needed to maintain their core temperature. The observation of the interplay between the core & the shield was imperative in the successful treatment of fever, frostbite, & other concerning maladies of the time.

 

There is no mystery in it, the whole plan consists in keeping the determining power to the surface, from the fountain of the body, which is  the stomach;  from  which all  the  limbs receive  their  support and warmth,  and  when you  cannot  raise the  fountain  sufficient to  give

nature its power course, you must lower the stream, or outward heat, by  keeping the  heat  down on  the  limbs, and  raising  the inward  heat, when  there can  no  mortification ever  return  from the  limbs  to  the body, any more than a log can float against a stream. (Samuel Thomson. 1828)

 

What has this all got to do with WuFlu, or any seasonal flu?

 

Consider this.

 

Many of us live or work in an air-conditioned environment. This is an artificial environment that electromagnetically is also very draining to every single electrically charged cell in your body, and ultimately confuses the body’s nervous system, which I like to think of as our own electrical wiring.

At the time of writing it is nearing the end of Summer here in Australia. Over the last few months it has not been uncommon to see temperatures in my area hit the low 40s. This is typical for this time of year, and yes, I turned on the air conditioning. Air con is sometimes a necessity if we want to continue to have a productive life, but we need to keep in mind the subtle changes that our body needs to make to regulate our internal temperature when we move between the cool air conditioning and the heat outside. Or vice versa in winter with indoor heating. These subtle changes of internal temperature regulation are under the direction of the nervous system. Do you see the catch-22 here? In this case, in being mindful we need to dress appropriately for these transitions, but more importantly we need to address the needs of our nervous system. This will also address the fear factor that the media machine feeds on. If we are under chronic stress the NS regulation of the internal temperature via the pores in our skins (vents), can become stuck or confused and appropriate regulation fails to take place. This in turn impedes the changes necessary to the internal environment that will help fend off invading pathogen – such as a virus- and infection begins to take hold.

 

As a side note, this is one of the reasons why vitamin C is such a benefit in preventing illness. Vitamin C is among a myriad of other functions, essential for adrenal health. Stress depletes vitamin C stores rapidly as the adrenal glands produce the hormones needed to regulate body in order to deal with the stressor. One of these actions is anti-inflammatory. An invading pathogen such as a coronavirus triggers inflammation in the body, a critical step in the immune response, but also dangerous if the body cannot produce its own anti-inflammatory mechanism to keep it in check. So, up your intake of vitamin C. Starting your day with a shot of freshly squeezed lemon juice in water will give you a good amount of vitamin C. Lemons also helps cut excess mucous in the body. Vitamin C is also a prime antioxidant, meaning that it deals with the ‘rust’ (oxidation) or debris left over after the normal metabolic processes of the immune response.

 

Interestingly, it is only AFTER (albeit possibly nanoseconds after) the thermoregulatory system kicks in that the immune function as we know it begins to take over. In the capillaries at the periphery, mast cells are ready & waiting to gobble up any pathogens that do make it through the very first defence of temperature change.

 

I said that I like to take a very pragmatic approach to these sorts of things, and I do that within the context of a paradigm I learnt from herbalist, Steven Horne. This is the ABCD approach. It stands for Activate, Build, Cleanse, and Direct aid.

 

Get Activated

 

In this regard, we want to activate the body’s vital reserves for both prevention and healing. This is where we address the nervous system. How do you nourish your nervous system? Do you take regular time out of your day to just relax and rest? Do you allow yourself to switch your mind off from the chatter of the world and the demands of work, school, or family life? The first thing I would do is turn off the TV and limit your screen time. Be mindful of what you are feeding your mind and your heart. What sort of emotions does it produce in you? If they are mainly negative, then it’s a good idea to turn it off because ALL of the cells in your body will be feeling the same way.  Then I would recommend getting out in nature somewhere away from the chaos. I also recommend a regular practice of gratitude and forgiveness, of meditation & prayer. Surround yourself with encouraging friends. If you find it difficult to switch off, take an Epsom salt bath or footbath 2 -3 times per week. This is a very affordable, very quick, and very noticeable way to switch your body from being on constant alert to simply letting go and being. (This is not something you want to do if you have an open wound however. It will sting like the blazes.)  The magnesium that makes up the salts not only relaxes the nerves & muscles, it also opens the pores & encourages detoxification. You might also want to consider any unresolved issues and subsequent emotional blockages that you might be aware of. For example, unresolved grief often lies in the lungs. Unresolved fear in the kidneys. Much of what can be contributing to disease development is an underlying emotional issue, therefore, In order to really activate your vital reserve & healing response, it would be prudent to begin working on these. Here we might consider flower essences along with counselling or somatic experiencing to help release these unresolved traumas and shocks to the nervous system.

 

Anxiety, tension, cold, & fright tenses the sympathetic nervous system & therefore thermoregulation of the skin – herbs that we might consider here that have a special affinity for soothing the nervous system include lemon balm (also anti-viral), lavender, passionflower, skullcap, milky oats (a nutritive tonic), & vervain (if cold is felt in the back). I find it interesting that one of the tactics of causing fear or panic among the general populace, is to completely saturate all forms of media with around the clock coverage. The same mantra, or scripts are repeated on loop ad nauseum. Passionflower in particular is specific for people who experience anxiety generated from obsessive thoughts. They are stuck in a loop that they can’t seem to break out of. A nice tea blend for general relaxation, as well as helping one to sleep soundly, & can be made up and added to a bath contains equal parts of Lavender flowers + Chamomile + Skullcap + Passionflower. A nice gentle tonic that is particularly calming for children (of any age) is a combination of chamomile + oat straw.

 

Build

We then want to build the body and support optimal function. We do this through choosing to eat good, clean, nourishing whole food, through movement, through getting adequate sound sleep, and sunshine, and fresh air, and clean water, through supplementing if necessary (such as with vitamin C, Vitamin A for mucous membrane integrity, Vitamin D if inadequate sun exposure, the B complex vitamins for nerve support). Foods like citrus, rosehips, elderberries (also anti-viral), all the dark berries, are high in vitamin C & bioflavonoids. Typically, many begin coming into fruit around late summer & moving into Autumn, a perfect time to start preparing for the extra demands the body goes through to adjust to the cooler months ahead. Every year around the Autumn equinox I have a tradition of making Elderberry syrup. I call it my Luminous Immunity Winter Elixir. Often, I sell it & I always end up needing to make several batches. It has gone through various incarnations over the years, depending on availability of herbs or what I am intuiting might be a good addition for that years’ particular flu, but generally it is based around this formula (all herbs are dried):

Elderberry_Seeds

Elderberry Syrup

2 parts elderberries

1 part rosehips

1 part echinacea whole plant or 1 part calendula

1 part star anise

1 part cinnamon

 

Add all the herbs to a pot & add about 400mls water, this would be if you were using teaspoon measures of herb. I use slightly higher measures because I do a deep decoction which concentrates the brew. Bring to the boil, & then reduce to a simmer. Partly cover & simmer for around an hour, or until the liquid has reduced by half. Turn of the heat & let cool. At this point, while it is still hot, you can add any dried leafy herb that prefers to be gently infused rather than vigorously decocted. Herbs such as blackcurrant leaf, lemon balm, or tulsi might be a nice addition here to help support the nerves or adrenals. Once the decoction is lukewarm, strain and add an equal amount of either raw honey or food-grade vegetable glycerine. I use glycerine because people with blood sugar issues or those who can’t have sugar can take it & it still adds the sweetness. Either way, bottle, cap tightly, & store in the fridge once opened.

 

 

The third point that I listed in considering the common factors of where these epidemics come from referred to poor air quality. This is going to have a big impact on the integrity of our lungs, and in cases such as these coronaviruses we need to be building up our lung health as much as possible. Here I would employ herbs such as mullein & plantain to tone the lungs & repair damaged tissue. I make a tea blend specifically for this purpose, made from equal parts of:

Mullein leaf + plantain leaf + liquorice root + oatstraw + peppermint. This is a moistening, nourishing, & cooling blend which I made specifically for those of us having to breathe through hot, smoky air during the recent Australian bushfires. I called it Desert Lungs – implying that it will help hot, dried out, damaged lungs. The liquorice & oatstraw I added to support the nerves as well as the adrenals, as well as adding moistening & nourishing properties. If your air quality is already cold, swap the peppermint for a warming herb such as angelica, thyme, elecampane, or cinnamon. Reishi mushroom is also considered a lung & immune tonic that maybe beneficial in adding to your lung loving regime. On an emotional level it also helps to release unresolved grief.

 

A note about air filtering face masks: I’ve read numerous conflicting reports about the efficacy of face masks in preventing spread of the virus. I would recommend them if 1. You live in area with poor to hazardous air quality, and 2. Your lungs are already damaged. It’s important to note that we live in a sea of viruses, bacteria, yeast, fungi, & other micro-organisms. They either live in us or on us. Constantly. They become an issue when our internal environment provides the optimal conditions for their survival. Understanding this helps us to understand that it’s our overall approach to health that is important.

 

 

Cleanse

 

Let’s start with hygiene first. Everybody should know to wash their hands after they’ve been to the bathroom or changed their baby’s nappies, after touching animals, after touching other people or kids if helping with first aid issues etc. Everybody should know to wash their hands before touching food, especially if they are preparing it for others. You don’t need to use harsh chemical detergents (and you shouldn’t because we also have vast populations of microflora on our skin which protects us), a mild pure olive oil or castile soap will suffice. We all should know how to store food properly. If we eat meat and cook it ourselves, then we should be aware of what fresh good quality flesh looks and smells like when we buy it. If you aren’t sure, then find out. We should also know how to cook it properly, particularly if eating flesh that has a tendency to harbour hidden parasites. (Like bats and rats, and pig, and fish. Maybe there are some flesh foods that just shouldn’t be eaten) We should all know to cover our mouths when we cough or sneeze. And most definitely, we shouldn’t be hawking up phlegm and spitting it into the street where people frequent. Find a tissue, use that and then flush it.

to-prevent-influenza-a108877
To Prevent Influenza, Illustrated Current News, October 18, 1918
National Library of Medicine #A108877 (courtesy of https://circulatingnow.nlm.nih.gov/2015/01/15/influenza-precautions-then-and-now/)

Secondly, if you do have a cold or signs of any type of flu, please quarantine yourself. No, DON’T soldier on. You just inflict it on the rest of us, and if you work with air con in your office, or sit in it on the train to work, it is largely a closed system. Other people will eventually suffer,  because at the very least you will be breathing on them when you talk to them. We need to be mindful of cleansing ourselves internally. I’m not talking about following a rigid full-on detox sort of lifestyle full-time. A small three day cleansing diet from the Ayurvedic approach to help the body adjust to the changing seasons may be beneficial, particularly if you’ve been eating unhealthily over the holiday period, or eating too much stodge over winter, or too many cooling watery fruits in summer. Instead I’m interested in taking an overall approach to eliminating too much or all refined sugars, processed foods, & foods with lots of additives in them from your diet. We also want to remove any known food sensitivities or allergens. A great deal of our immune function resides in the gut. If we are continually eating foods or food-like products that our body finds difficult to digest, or just not compatible, then this can cause inflammation & congested lymph in the gut, which in turn engages our immune response & diverts it away from, or reduces the effort of where it might be more needed. Reducing alcohol & quitting smoking is also going to help your body process toxic build-up more effectively, as is removing personal care & body products that contain a vast array of chemical ingredients that no one can pronounce but do clog your skin & get into your blood stream.

The goal here is to make clear the pathways of elimination. These include the colon, the kidneys, the lungs, & the skin, & the lymphatic system as the all-important adjunct to immunity. The reason for this is that not only does it keep your body functioning smoothly & efficiently overall, it also keeps the movement of metabolic waste product flowing through the body for ease of elimination. During the normal processes of metabolism (the usage of nutrients, the building up & breaking down), waste products are produced (just like on a macro level when we eat & then need to go to the bathroom). Waste products are also produced when bacteria move in to help scavenge up debris after a viral attack. We’ll talk a bit more about this aspect when we discuss Direct Aid. If we can’t eliminate this from the body effectively, it contributes to poor health & poor immunity. The lymphatic system is largely responsible for picking up this waste, processing & filtering it, & making it ready for excretion through the kidneys in urine & through our colon in faeces. The lymphatic system, however, does not circulate through the body like the blood does. It needs the aid of muscular movement to move it through the body through its various ducts. Thus movement, whether it’s formal exercise or just the everyday activities of doing household chores, shopping, walking to the bus or train, etc helps move this lymph. Just move more than you rest throughout the day. Another way of moving lymph is by ‘rebounding’ on a mini-trampoline, which creates a gentle pulsing rhythm throughout the body. 15 minutes a day is enough to activate this flow.

 

Dry skin brushing of the face & body also moves the lymph, and it gently improves circulation & encourages the pores to open. This latter function may also have something to do with the gentle stimulation of the nervous system as you do it. I’ve made a habit of brushing my face & body before I have a shower each morning. I find it invigorating but calming at the same time. It gets me ready for the day & puts me in a good mood.

 

It is hardly  necessary to  call  attention to  the  importance of  a healthy skin, as associated with good health, and to its impairment as a frequent  cause  and constituent  of  disease.    This  organ  not only removes a large amount of nitrogenized waste, but it also regulates the temperature, and assists in the respiratory function.  If its function as a regulator of the temperature (safety valve) is impaired, we will have a  wrong of  this  condition of  life  which will  work  a  wrong  of every  function  of life.   If it  fails to  do  its work  of  excretion, the  blood  must suffer from  the  retained material,  unless  the kidneys  and  bowels do vicarious work.   Impairment of the skin thus imposes additional labor upon the lungs

(Dr John Scudder, 1881. As quoted by Matthew Wood 2020).

 

Calendula is a lovely bright & sunny herb that blooms year-round & was used in European tradition to help warm the core, move the lymph, & prepare the body for the cold winter months. The flowers were picked & added to soups & stews. This is why it is also known as ‘pot marigold.’ Calendula plants are easy to grow form seed, & the seedlings are easily found at most nurseries. Even Bunnings sells them! You can add the bright petals to salads, soups, stews, or make a tea, or add them to the bath as well. Calendula is also what is known as a vulnerary, this means that it helps wounds to heal, particularly pink, puffy inflamed wounds like a cat scratch. It can be used internally for this purpose as well & is great for helping to heal inflammation in the gut, including ‘leaky gut’.

IMG_8498

You might also want to consider cleaning up your liver, particularly if you regularly drink alcohol or are taking prescription medication. The liver also detoxifies a lot of waste leftover from immune activity. Dandelion root is a gentle liver supporting herb  & can be taken as decoction or tea. Saint Johns Wort also helps the liver to detoxify & has anti-viral properties, but because it has such an effect on the liver it can interfere with some medication, so it would be wise to check with a medical herbalist first to see of there might be any adverse interactions for you.

 

Direct Aid

This is where we get down to the nitty-gritty of dealing with colds & flu, & learning to work with the body rather than against it.

Many of the herbs that we use for building the body up & nourishing the ‘vital reserves’ can also be used for direct aid. In this regard we want to think of herbs to nourish the nervous system (particularly dealing with anxiety), herbs to warm the core, herbs to help open the pores, and herbs to clean the lymphatics if they’re congested or stagnant. And these herbs can also address the energetics of whatever cold or flu that might be going around.  For example, Chamomile can be effectively used on its own for children (of any age) to calm the nerves, open the pores & help bring on a gentle sweat in order to break any fever associated with the flu. Chamomile also helps calm inflammation, gas, & bloating in the stomach that may be due to food sensitivities & allergies.

 

At the first sign of a sore throat, we might start simply by gently massaging the glands in the neck & underneath the jawline. This helps to activate & move the lymph in that area. Gently massaging for 10-20 minutes can sometimes be all the relief that you require. If it continues however, check your diet & eliminate refined sugar in particular as well as dairy if that typically causes you to make more mucous. Consider a hot lemon, honey, & ginger tea.  Building, cleansing, soothing, & warming – this tea is a great all round first aid to help activate & work with the body’s efforts to prevent further infection.

 

If you begin to feel a head cold coming on with thin watery mucous, red watery eyes, & maybe a post-nasal drip that causes an irritating cough, think of onions. A simple onion syrup can be made by cutting an onion in half and sitting it on a saucer into which you have poured a tablespoon of honey (preferably raw honey). The honey, medicinal in its own right, draws out the juice from the onion. Take a teaspoon full every 2 hours. If there is an earache with it, saute the onion in a little water in a pan on the stove, then wrap it in a clean handkerchief or cotton cloth & hold this over the ear while still hot (don’t place on the ear if it will be hot enough to burn). This will relieve the pain & reduce the inflammation. But we want to deal with the cough before it settles in the chest.

 

If the sinuses are congested, make Fire Cider! This can also be used, like elderberry syrup, as a tonic preventative. Fire Cider has as many variations as there has been people making it. The term Fire Cider was originally coined by the ‘grand-mother’ of modern north American herbalism Rosemary Gladstar. Her recipe looks like this & like most of the Fire Cider recipes that followed is based around horseradish & lot of other potent food medicines:

 

Fire Cider

  • ½ cup grated fresh horseradish root
  • ½ cup or more fresh chopped onions
  • ¼ cup or more chopped garlic
  • ¼ cup or more grated ginger
  • fresh or dried chopped cayenne pepper. Use as much as it will give a nice kick, but only what will be tolerated.

Place herbs in a one litre jar and cover with enough raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by at least a few inches. Cover tightly with a tight fitting lid.

Place jar in a warm place and let it sit for one lunar cycle (eg: from one full moon to the next). Shake it daily to help extract all the goodness.

After three to four weeks, strain out & compost the herbs, and reserve the liquid.

Add enough raw honey so your Fire Cider tastes hot, spicy, and sweet. You want a nice balance of all three tastes.

Bottle & store in the cupboard or fridge once opened. It has a long shelf-life.

You can take a small shot glass every day as a general tonic, or take a teaspoon or two every couple of hours if you feel a cold coming on.

 

Wasabi is a paste made from Japanese horseradish, if you’ve ever had that, then you’ll know what to expect with this Fire Cider. Horseradish is renowned for really clearing out the sinuses. Onion helps clean up mucous production, garlic is anti-microbial, ginger is anti-inflammatory, & moves the blood to the head & to the surface, bringing lots of immune cells with it, & cayenne pepper also brings the blood & helps bring on a gentle sweat. Fire Cider can also be used as a topical linament for sore muscles. Which might be useful if the cold moves into a flu, & the whole body begins to ache.

 

Traditional  medicine  treats fever  and  other diseases  by  opening and closing   the   peripheral  ‘vents’  of   the   body  –   the   sweat  pores, sebaceous  glands,  and capillaries.   It does not  attempt  to ‘kill microorganisms’  directly.   Instead, it  dooms   these   critters  by

changing the environment in which they live. By opening the pores and   capillaries  heat   trapped   in  the   surface   is  released   and   the environment returns to normal – a state in which viruses and bacteriacannot live. Thus, traditional medicine  works  with fever,  a  natural process, to restore health. ~ Matthew Wood. Unpublished essay Samuel Thomson: Naïve or Sophisticated? Thermoregulation in Traditional Medicine. 2020.

 

If the flu begins for you with an overall achey feeling, a headache, or like a chill is trapped in the bones, then it’s time to start warming up the core, opening the periphery, & inducing a serious sweat. You can do this relatively easily by taking a hot bath in which you’ve dissolved 2 cups of Epsom salts, while drinking a brew of yarrow, elderflower, peppermint, & boneset.After about 25-35 minutes in the bath, get out of the bath, dry off & dress warmly, wrap yourself in warm blankets, and then put yourself to bed. If you’re not sweating already, you soon will be. If you don’t have a bath, you can successfully do with this with a footbath. Just fill a basin with hot water to cover your feet, ½ cup of Epsom salts, & you can make the tea & add it to the footbath if you don’t want to drink it (this is a great way of helping fussy kids take herbs). Soak your feet for about 30-40 minutes, and then rug up.

 

So, why do we want to support the body during fever, rather than supress it?

 

Fever is a healthy and intelligent response from the Vital Force to the overwhelm of pathogenic infection. A functional fever, or a fever that increases antibody, white blood cell production and metabolism, and ‘cooks out’ a pathogen is said to occur between 37.2 °C (99F) and 40°C (104F). The Influenza virus is said to die at 37.2°C a lot of other pathogens are killed off at 40°C, and at 41°C (106F) bacteria such as pneumococcus as well as spirochetes (such as those responsible for Lyme Disease and syphilis) die.

Unfortunately, a fever of 41°C brings with it the potential for febrile seizures, and in infants, the elderly, and fragile or immune-compromised individuals, this can prove to be a dangerous temperature. Therefore, in this regard, the fever needs to be monitored. A fever that reaches 108-110°F cause brain damage and our own cells and tissues begin to die. The normal body temperature ranges between 36-37°C.

Let’s look at the four stages of fever and how to manage them.

Stage One– the thermoregulatory/immune response is activated, cold, shivering, and pallor of skin occurs. Here we want to encourage the body to reach the new temperature set by the hypothalamus via messages from our thermoregulatory system. We want to keep ourselves, or our patient warm with extra blankets, a warm or hot bath, and a warm room as described above. We might also use herbs that are warming such as ginger or cayenne (small amounts), thyme, yarrow, or rosemary to help the circulation move. These can be taken as a tea or diluted in the bath.

Stage Two– the new temperature is reached, and you feel warm/ hot, the skin is red and dry. This is because the blood has been moved to the periphery, to the surface, but the pores of the skin are closed and can’t yet release the heat as sweat. The pulse is also rapid, and superficial (right under the surface of the skin). When the fever reaches 99.5°F (37.5°C), the digestion is no longer a priority, so here we want to fast during the fever. Eating during the fever will only suppress immunity, and prolong the infection, making it worse. During this stage, the immune system is very active and very ‘hungry’, so it begins to strip amino acids from the muscles to fuel itself and form more immune components. This results in muscle aches and pains. During this stage we want to keep hydrated with water or herb teas, or fresh juice such as watermelon, and also replace lost electrolytes (which we can do by adding a small pinch of full-spectrum Himalayan pink salt to the water or drinking coconut water. You can also buy electrolyte powders to add to your water). Taking a tepid or lukewarm bath will also support this stage of the fever and calm the nervous system to release tension. Taking a cold bath or consuming ice at this point will suppress the fever, so it’s not recommended. Herbs that will support this stage and can be taken as a hot tea include elder flower, lavender, boneset, lemon balm, yarrow, and peppermint. Helping the body to release tension then prepares for the next stage…

Stage Three– when it receives the signal from the immune system, the hypothalamus resets the temperature back to what it should be normally. The fever is still peaking at this point at around 103°F (39.4°C), so you’ll still feel really hot. At this point, the pores of the skin open, the fever ‘breaks’, and sweat is released as the temperature starts to drop. Here we need to rest and continue to fast until the fever drops below 99°F (37.5°C), and until hunger returns. When this occurs, we break the fast with nourishing and easily digested soups and broths. We also tend to hygiene: change the sheets, and clothes, take a shower, and open the windows in the sick room to allow fresh, clean air to circulate. You may also like to diffuse some essential oils like eucalyptus or lemon, or some cleansing blend.
It is important to note here that it is not uncommon for the fever to go back and forth between stages 2 and 3. This results in alternating chills and fever, or intermittent fever. In this case we both stimulate and relax appropriately using the guidelines given above.)

Stage Four– this is the recovery or convalescenceperiod. This is not a word that is used much anymore, probably because everyone is rushed to get back to work or the general busyness of life. But the period of convalescence, or recovery, from an illness is just as important as how one treats the illness. It should be as long as the fever period, or duration of the illness. Here we want to maintain our focus on rest, recuperation, and nourishment. We don’t want to return to strenuous work, and we need to allow the immune system as a whole to take care of any residual issues. If the illness lingers, this is more often than not due to returning to strenuous activity too soon. To help the body deal with clean up of any residue, we can use herbs that are strengthening, nutritive, and blood cleansing such as Nettle, or Calendula to move the lymph, and we can go back to the ABC’s.

Over the counter medications such as Panadol, Aspirin, Tylenol, and Neurofen all suppress the fever mechanism. A more appropriate response to fever then is to follow the guidelines given above and use time- honoured herbs that support the movement of the Vital force during this important process of healing. A traditional blend of equal parts of Yarrow, Elder flower, and Pepperminthas been used with good effect for this purpose. This blend of herbs covers stages one to three. It can be taken as a hot tea and sipped every 10 minutes or so, or added to a hand, foot, or full body bath. For active infection, particularly with chills & aching in the bones, I recommend adding Bonesetto the traditional blend of yarrow, elder flowers, & peppermint. Boneset will also bring up mucous that is hard to expel.

For managing fevers in children, the temperature must be continually monitored.In babies and infants, the continuation of breastfeeding during the fever is encouraged as the composition of mother’s milk assists the child’s immature immune system and provides comfort during a time that can often be scary for young children. In this case, the breastfeeding mother should also keep herself well hydrated to ensure a good supply. Children of all ages should be encouraged to sip water or a fresh vitamin C rich juice (like orange or blackcurrant) every 15-20 minutes in order to prevent dehydration. A warm chamomile tea can be given, as this will also help the fever to break and calm the nerves. This can also be used in a tepid bath or to sponge the child down to also ensure that the fever doesn’t go over 103°F -104°F(40°C). Keep sponging the child until the fever comes down to at least 102°F (38.8°C), but don’t do this for more than 2 hours. Once the temperature comes down, put the child to bed, keep encouraging them to drink, and monitor the temperature every 20-30 mins, and follow the guidelines given above for stages three and four. Chamomile is also wonderful for infants who throw a mild fever when they are teething, either as a tea or in the homoeopathic form. If the temperature remains high, or rises suddenly, seek medical assistance and give the homoeopathic Aconite 12c or Belladonna 12c.

Attention to basic hygiene should also be more focussed during this time– washing hands after using the bathroom and before eating, keeping the sickroom clean, well ventilated, and open to natural sunlight, changing and washing clothes and bedsheets, towels etc that are used by the patient. Throwing used tissues away and keeping the house free of rubbish. If the flu has gastrointestinal involvement, and vomiting and diarrhoea is involved, it is especially important to isolate the patient and keep the bathroom clean, and to use gloves and a mask when cleaning up after them.

Smudging dried herbs like white sage (from cultivated sources), lavender, rosemary, thyme, lemon myrtle, eucalyptus, or vaporising essential oils such as eucalyptus or ti-tree oil to sanitise and freshen the air during this time is also useful. If people in your school or workplace are coming down with colds or flu or worse, you can also use the trick of the Four Thieves of medieval legend. These wise souls managed to escape the curse of the Black Death by using a combination of herbs with anti-microbial properties infused in vinegar & sprinkled on a handkerchief and tied around their face to protect themselves. It can also be used as a household cleaner, an air freshener or body spray, it can be rubbed on as an insect repellent, or it can be taken internally. plague-woodcut-by-hans-WEB-700x462

 Four Thieves Vinegar (courtesy of The Herbal Academy)

2 cups of raw apple cider vinegar

2 tsp dried garden sage

2 tsp dried rosemary

2 tsp dried lavender

2 tsp dried juniper berries

1 tsp black peppercorns

1 tsp dried thyme

1 bulb fresh raw garlic.

Add all of the herbs to a clean 650ml jar and pour the apple cider vinegar over until you it is about an inch from the top of the jar. You might need to use a chopstick or clean spoon to mix the vinegar through, so all the herbs are well covered, & remove any air bubbles. Tightly cap the jar with a plastic lid (vinegar will corrode metal) or place a piece of baking paper between the lid & the jar if you only have a metal lid. Place in the cupboard & let the vinegar infuse for a full lunar cycle (eg: from full moon to full moon). Shake the jar daily to extract all the goodness & keep the herbs saturated with the vinegar. After about a month, strain & bottle the vinegar. Again, there have been a number of variations on this recipe. If you can’t find juniper berries for example, you could use eucalyptus leaves, lemon myrtle, or lemon balm leaves, or tea-tree leaves, or cloves.

 

It should be noted that viral infections are often followed often almost seamlessly by a bacterial infection such as pneumonia if the chest has become heavily congested. This will typically be observed by noting the change in colour of the mucous. Generally speaking, clear mucous indicates a general irritation to the mucous membranes – the first effort to launch an immune response, white mucous indicates immune cells are moving in, yellow mucous that a viral infection has taken hold & there is a lot of debris, green mucous indicates a bacterial infection, blood in the mucous indicates damage to tissue, dark brown mucous may indicate pollution, tar, or a septic condition (other signs will also indicate sepsis, & this requires emergency medical care). Bacteria move in to scavenge viral debris, as well as metabolic debris. This is helpful & may also provide a distraction of sorts as the virus can move onto infecting the bacteria instead of the host. But the problems arise with bacterial infection as the bacteria excrete endotoxins – waste products from their metabolic processes. Warming, decongesting, anti-microbial herbs such as thyme & elecampane are specific for breaking up these deep-seated infections characterised by green mucous, and relieving the cough associated with them.

It is important to note that deep, severe, or septic infections of any type are more likely to gain a stronghold if the overall state of our internal environment is one of cold depression. That is, as we began this discussion, the thermoregulatory system is most often confused, and the core is not warmer than the periphery, the circulation isn’t moving effectively, & much needed nutrition isn’t getting to the area.

 

Herbalist,Matthew Wood reminds us that to be really specific we need to understand the energetics of the illness as much as we need to understand the energetics of the herbs we are working with. For this novel coronavirus (Covid-19 or n19 or ‘WuFlu’), the information shared during Facebook discussions (ref; Matthew Wood- Herbalist, or The Luminary Medicine pages), the energetics are ‘damp turbidity’. This basically means “toxins blocking release of heat, mucous building up not allowing emptying of the lymphatics.” (M.Wood 2020)

DoctorSchnabelVonRom-217x300

The treatment strategies being employed in Traditional Chinese Medicine for this seem to be relying on aromatic herbs, in steams or inhalation, around the house or hot teas. Chai spices are good here if that is all you have available. (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, black pepper, star anise, ginger – add these to dandelion root & you also have some nice liver support). They are also focussing largely on what we have discussed in the above ABCD approach;

  • Warm the centre
  • Clear the lymphatics.
  • Open the periphery

We also need to watch for a shift from viral to bacterial dominance. This can be dangerous because it can move into pneumonia. Using an onion or mustard poultice on the chest (place a cloth underneath if using a mustard poultice, it can blister) encourages circulation to lungs & chest, which in turn will help remove the heavy mucous & bring in new immune factors & white cells, & more red blood to carry in new nutrition. To make an onion poultice, use the same method outlined for using onion for earache.

If pneumonia does become an issue and fluid builds up on the lungs, we need to ask ourselves why? Is the skin closed, are the kidneys dealing with more? Is the lymph stuck or congested? Are we keeping our organs of elimination open & working effectively? Herbalist & former Green Beret army medic, Sam Coffman noted early in the outbreak that this particular coronavirus seems to be targeting the kidneys. In our ABCD approach of building & cleansing, we might want to pay attention to how well our kidneys are functioning. Herbs such as Stinging Nettle, Golden Rod, and Astragalus (astragalus is not advised during active infection because it closes the pores) can all help to nourish the kidneys. But before we consider the herbs, simply keeping the kidney area warm & making sure we are adequately hydrated is essential. Again, for keeping the kidneys warm, baths & warm packs will help here.

One herb that appears to be a good ally for this particular flu is Angelica archangelica– it relaxes the vagus nerve (the nerve that innervates the core), warms the core, opens the periphery, has an affinity for the respiratory tract, as well as the stomach, & is anti-viral. We use the root in particular. It would make a nice addition to the Elderberry syrup as a preventative, in the Fire Cider, or in Four Thieves Vinegar. Or it can be added to the traditional yarrow, elder, & peppermint tea blend for during treatment.

 

All of the other factors that I’ve gone into above need to be taken into consideration first and during active infection. Changing the internal environment so it is hostile to the invading pathogen, and building a healthy immune response is more beneficial long term for the body and will prevent future threats, than to just go in off the bat with something that kills the pathogen directly without considering the body as a whole. The above ABCD approach will do much in the way of helping to prevent this flu and knock early symptoms on the head, and this can be used for winter or spring colds & flu. For an active infection that has set in, or you have a history of respiratory issues, or other issues that may impede healing, a skilled herbalist can assess the condition, offer advice on how to prevent or manage the current condition, and formulate a custom treatment protocol that will help it reach a resolution. A herbalist is also the best person to ask about finding good quality herbs if you don’t grow your own, aren’t familiar with them enough to find them in the wild, or can’t access them at a local health food shop, or if you have any questions or concerns generally around how to prepare herbs, or just about your health or your loved ones. To find a herbalist near you, enquire at your local health food shop if you have one, or contact a state or national organisation such as the NIMH in the UK, the AHG in the US, and the NHAA in Australia,  that has a list of practitioners in your area. In the meantime, I hope you have found this useful & I wish you many blessings of good health.

If you take away anything from this brief summary of how to work with the body to treat or prevent colds & flu, it might be summarised in two easy steps:

  1. Don’t panic. Turn off ALL forms of media.
  2. Go & have a relaxing bath.

 

 

Many Blessings,

Michelle x

 

 

Resources:

Free Fire Cider Recipes

Organisations to help you find a herbalist near you:

https://www.nhaa.org.au (Australia)

https://www.americanherbalistsguild.com (USA)

https://nimh.org.uk (UK)

For people into the science of this viral infection. COVID19 specific protocol by Stephen Harrod Buhner https://www.stephenharrodbuhner.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/coronavirus.txt.pdf 

Suppliers of herbs:

Australia

mullumherbals.com.au

highland herbs

USA

https://www.mountainroseherbs.com

UK

https://www.indigo-herbs.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Grassroots Healing, Plant Medicine

Learning to converse with Pain and understand it’s language.

A Primer for the Post-Opioid Age.

 

Friday 26/07/2019

Last night I woke suddenly from a seizure of sleep paralysis that had made me feel trapped inside my own head. My brain felt drained and sore, like the top of my head had come off and everything was leaking out. I’ve had these episodes many, many times before over the last twenty odd years. The nature of the seizure changed about 4 years ago, but now on rare occasions when I’m all together exhausted, stressed-out, dehydrated, and have had sugar, one will come along and render me useless for a day or two. The episode itself is terrifying, exhausting, and traumatic, but the pain afterward is almost unbearable, as my already acute senses are heightened with the shock, only to be then bombarded with every usually inaudible sound around me. Pain is something every human suffers with at some point in their life – whether it is physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual – it hurts, and it makes us stop in our tracks. We either hold our breath hoping it will pass while our body frantically produces endorphins to try and numb it, or we numb it with external aids like drugs, alcohol, or whatever vice we have on hand. At best this just supresses the pain, and the underlying cause waits for the right conditions to align again when it can scream at us and try once more to get our attention. At worst, we continue to numb it and ignore what it’s screaming and end up either addicted to the drugs or with some degenerative and possibly terminal condition, or both.  Some of us are good at ‘relaxing into it’, or ‘breathing into it’, and this is also useful to a degree (it has particular merit during childbirth). But at some point, we just have to sit with it, and to really listen to what it’s actually telling us. Last night, while waiting for the cannabis root balm that I’d applied all over my head to take effect, I did exactly that.

As herbalists, more often than not we prescribe herbs for pain based on the nature of the pain itself – for example if someone presents with cramping in their gut, we may make up a formula with Wild Yam in it – which we call a spasmolytic, because it relaxes the spasms occurring in the gut, to which it has an affinity for. For period pain, we may also prescribe a formula with Crampbark in it – again because as its name suggests, it helps relax spasms and cramping – particularly in the smooth muscle fibres of the uterus. Sometimes we may also prescribe more general anodynes – or pain-relieving herbs – like Jamaican Dogwood, or Willow bark. These are all great and effective, and I use them as well, but we can easily fall into the reductionist trap of ‘here, you have a headache, take this generic pill that I give to everyone with a headache’. In our sometime anxious efforts to relieve the suffering of another, we can sometimes forget to check not only the nature of the pain, but what is actually causing it. Why is the uterus cramping? Why does my head pound at times, yet at other times I have sharp shooting pains radiating through it?

As I was contemplating all of this last night, I realised that the current iatrogenic (man-made) epidemic of opioid addiction, and antibiotic misuse and abuse fed this mindset of prescribing just to numb and supress. If we look at the energetics behind our medicines and the correlating energetics inherent in our physical makeup and the language through which our bodies communicate, both opiates and antibiotics are energetically very cold. Opioid drugs – originally derived from the Opium poppy – are ‘cold in the fourth degree’, according to the ancient Greco-Arabic system of medicine (and across most traditional systems of healing). This ‘cold in the fourth degree’ means that they can sedate someone to the point of death because cold is the absence of heat, or life. This category of medicines should only be used wisely and with great skill, matching with the persons own level of vital reserves. Modern antibiotics are the same energetically – literally the name means ‘anti-life’. So, the flagrant and unskilled use of both of these class of medicines can result in the cold/depression(as in lack of functionality) tissue state. This tissue state then makes a nice environment for opportunistic infections to move in. In the mental sphere, we might equate this with apathy, lack of interest in life, lack of motivation. In this state of apathy, we might lose our ability to discern and so we become more ‘suggestable’ and susceptible to things that in the end, aren’t really in our best interest. Cold is also constricting. In the mental sphere, this can equate with a chronic introspection to the point of narcissism. How well does this tissue state describe our Western culture just now?!

In the practice of holistic herbal medicine, we are in the unique position of having access to a vast materia medica of plants that may not seemingly be related to the nature of the pain itself but can effectively relieve that pain, largely by addressing the underlying cause.The pain, like most symptoms of the body, is the language used by the innate intelligence to tell us and direct us to a more specific and long-lasting remedy. In this regard, we are working with the body, rather than against it or simply ignoring its pleas. Learning to listen to this language, to understand the language of pain in particular, tells us a great deal about what’s actually going on. And, it has a lot to do with the energetics – again something that is peculiar to holistic herbal medicine across all traditions – including the Western tradition. Let me illustrate this concept with the example of processing the language of my own pain.

As I sat with my pain last night and began to listen to it, to really feel it, I felt an ache, a dull but belligerent, all-encompassing draining ache. I instinctively cradled my head in my hands, as if creating a helmet that would hold my brain in. In technical jargon, we might say that my pain was ‘better for pressure’. I reflected on all of the pain that I had suffered through in my life, and for me, it is always relieved by pressure. I began to process why a pain might be ‘better for pressure’, and my thoughts immediately went to the First Aid principle of applying pressure to a bleeding wound. This action not only ‘clamps’ the blood vessel/s effected, but also shunts the now restricted blood flow into the surrounded capillary beds, which can expand up to forty times, thus reducing the flow of blood from the original wound. In the tissue state model, or underlying energetics of the tissues, this free, unrestricted blood flow (in the case above, from an injury), we refer to as damp/relaxation. There is no tone or restriction to hold the blood or the fluid in (until we apply pressure, or an astringent to tighten the tissue, or a circulatory stimulant to diffuse the blood into the surrounding capillary bed). If this damp/relaxation state is left unchecked it can lead to dry/atrophy– or a withered, malnourished state with loss of function. I note that these ‘seizures’ that I have often occur when I am really stressed and dehydrated. Therefore, the pain is worse when dehydrated. Already we can see a pattern; things dry out when there is too much relaxation of the tissue and there is excessive fluid loss that can’t be replenished at the rate that it’s being lost. Instead of just drinking a glass of water, which may help, we also need to address the underlying cause of the relaxed tissue tone. We have a class of herbs here with an Astringent action that work to tone and tighten the tissue, and we also have a class of herbs with Moistening qualities that help to rehydrate the intercellular and intra-cellular fluids throughout the body and help maintain that moisture.

At the same time, as we have damp/relaxation, this can cause pooling in some areas and contribute to damp/stagnation. For example, we often see this manifest as varicose veins. The vein walls lack the tone to effectively allow the blood to move along, and so the vessel may ‘kink’ and the blood begins to pool. The damp/stagnation tissue state can then lead to the cold/depression tissue state because there is no movement. In these tissue states, we need to use herbs that stimulate and move the flow of blood and fluid. These herbs generally also have a very warming quality, thereby returning vital heat to the area. An example of this particular type of pain may be with period pain. The uterus may feel aching and crampy, but also congested and boggy, it feels better for a hot water bottle and a back rub (again, note the need for pressure to diffuse some of that congestion). The cramping is coming from a damp/stagnation and cold/depression tissue state, rather than just spasm. The spasm of the smooth muscle tissue may be seen as a knee-jerk response to these underlying tissue states, as the body tries to create some sort of heat through the movement, as well as responding to a diminished flow of nutrient. We might use ginger here, as a tea, in tincture, or infused in oil and made into a balm to rub onto the abdomen, or added to a nice warm bath.

As our perception of pain is transmitted through nociceptors (or pain sensors) on the end of the nerves, we should be aware that the nerve endings are also influenced by the basic quadrune of life – the meeting point between capillary, extracellular matrix, cell, and lymph vessel. The integrity of this unit, of how well the flow through this inner ocean occurs, I believe reflects the type of pain we feel. For example, if an area of tissue is drying out, the nerve endings here will sense this, and the insulating properties of the myelin sheath will also begin to wither and leave them more exposed and more sensitive. Like a rocky shore at low tide, all of the rocks below the shoreline are now exposed to the elements. They are vulnerable. And over time, as the tides and seasons and climates change, a certain amount of erosion can set in. To me this feels like an ache. One might think a longing of things lost (dry/atrophy – although pain that occurs due to dry/atrophy I find to sometimes also exhibit a sticking like quality, due to a lack of lubrication.), rather than the burning passion of things anticipated – the pain of heat/excitation. The pain of heat/excitation (where there is too much friction or irritation, or too much blood) can be sharp and shooting or tingling, as in nerve pain, when the nerve is either severed or impinged, or pounding and throbbing when the blood is high, thick, and fast. Here I think of a strike of lightning, and the contrast to a hot desert sun beating down relentlessly on hapless explorers. The pain of heat/excitation may also more likely be tender to the touch. In both of these tissue states, we might also see damp/stagnation, or dry/atrophy as contributing factors, although heat/excitation can lead to a literal burning up of the fluids causing dry/atrophy. In the case of heat/excitation, we look to herbs that are cooling, and sedating. Many members of the Rose family find value here.

The last tissue state, which is perhaps partly most familiar, in terms of a general sense of pain, is wind/tension.The wind here denotes symptoms that change suddenly or alternate (such as with the alternating constipation and diarrhoea of Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Tension simply means just that. This is the pain often associated with bloating and gas in the gut. Or a true tension headache after a stressful day at work staring at a computer screen and dealing with uncooperative or demanding colleagues or customers. A pain typifying tension will be one of spasm, as opposed to the tension we create in ourselves when we hold our breath or hold in our emotions. It may also feel stretched, like a guitar string that has been wound too tight, or a belly that has just received a really big meal. It can also arise from the previous tissue states. Oftentimes, wind/tension arises from dry/atrophy as tissues start to dry out and harden or become rigid. For example, recently I supported a woman who needed a knee replacement. The tendon behind the knee that was being replaced was incredibly tight and caused a great deal of pain, in fact it had caused more pain than the actual knee which had, by the time I saw her, become bone on bone! The reason for the knee replacement was due to osteoarthritis, which I assessed was due to the dry/atrophy tissue state, caused largely by damp/relaxation and wind/tension (according to her constitutional pattern and an extensive case history). I gave Solomon’s Seal – a moistening herb that relaxes or tones tendons as needed, and she was able to find great relief, to the point where she noticed a difference when she had run out and needed another bottle. Her recovery from the knee replacement operation was also notably quicker than usual. However, generally speaking in this wind/tension type of pain, we do rely heavily on herbs with direct relaxing qualities, or herbs that directly affect the nerves.

In all of this ‘pain language’ of the six tissue states, we also want to juxtapose it with our individual constitution, as I described in the case above. We may have a tendency to lean in a particular energetic or elemental direction, and this may determine the way we perceive the pain and how it manifests. For example, I am a typically cold person, leaning toward dryness and nervous tension. In the Ayurvedic tridoshic system, I am predominantly Vata (a combination of the elements of air and aether/space). So, my pain will more often than not come from an underlying cold, dry condition. I need warming, moistening, astringent, and nerve nourishing herbs, that are also grounding. Currently, I am taking a formula that I made consisting of:

Agrimony (astringent, relaxing) – my constitutional remedy, Wood betony (circulatory stimulant to the brain, grounding, protective, astringent, relaxing), Skullcap (nerve nourishing, relaxing), Milky Oats (moistening, nerve nutrient), Sage (warming astringent, balances fluids, help assimilate the essential fats).

I also drink a chai or a Tulsi (relaxing, warming, adaptogen) tea with ginger (moistening, warming) every day. And once or twice/week I drink a cold infusion of marshmallow root, which is deeply hydrating. Because hydration should also include how well we use oils in our body, I usually eat a lot of good quality fats and use sesame oil on my skin. For acute situations like last night’s experience, we still want to match the acute remedy with what’s going on (e.g: when some women instinctively reach for the hot water bottle)I used cannabis root infused in olive oil and made into a balm because 1.) it is warming, 2.) it is anti-inflammatory and 3.) it does have relatively immediate analgesic and anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) and sedating properties, and 4) when infused in oil it also takes on the moistening and nerve-insulating properties of the oil.

When we consider pain, not only do we look at the tissue state, the overall constitution, the type of pain itself, but we also consider its: a) Onset – was it the result of an injury? (here we would consider first aid herbs for bruising and wound management, and if it began with an injury then it’s wise to give the herb we would have given at that time), when did it begin? What was happening in our life at the time? (In the example of my situation, I could see that I had been under a fair bit of stress, and had too many late nights, and wasn’t keeping up my hydration levels); b) Palliation/Provoke– that is, is there anything that makes it better (eg: pressure, warmth), or worse (eg: dehydration, stress, cold, touch, etc); c) Quality– what does the pain actually feel like (dull ache, sharp or shooting, congested, hot, cold, throbbing, tight, etc?); d) Radiates– where is the pain actually and does it radiate or travel anywhere else? This tells us a lot about the tissues, organs, or systems effected and helps us choose herbs that have an affinity for these particular areas. For example, this is quite evident with gallstone colic. Gallstones can form due to a number of reasons, such as congestion in the liver, heat in the liver, tension in the ducts, or drying out, and inactivity (remember the six tissue states?). Gallstones caused by dryness (due to too much heat in the liver) can be seen manifested in dry skin and hair throughout the body, and particularly if the skin of the right temple feels a bit rough like fine sandpaper. The pain associated with this may radiate from the area up through the back between the shoulder blades and over the head to the right temple. In this situation we need to cool and decongest the liver, and rehydrate the tissues; e) Severity– how severe or debilitating is the pain on a scale of 1 (mild) to 10 (extreme torture)? This tells us how much the area is affected, as well as providing a good way to measure how effective our treatment is; f) Timing– when, how often, and how long does the pain occur? Does the pain occur at various times of the day? After eating? Is it effected by seasonal changes, or changes in position, movement etc? This can help us determine if the pain is due to allergies or intolerances, as well as contributing food, lifestyle, or environmental factors; g) Concomitant symptoms– what else is going on with the pain? Constipation or diarrhoea, nausea, excessive or scanty urination, bleeding, etc?

Asking good questions and making observation of how we also instinctively respond to the pain (amongst our general observations of the complexion and feel of the skin, looking at the tongue, the eyes, and feeling the pulse) can give us a tremendous amount of useful information for not only being able to understand what the body is trying to tell us about its interior health status, it can also point us to selecting very specific remedies and treatment plans.

The formula that I made for myself, listed previously, will not look like a formula I might make for someone else because I’ve formulated it for my specific needs. None of the herbs I’ve used are specifically pain-relieving. This is the beauty of herbal medicine, that we can really make our remedies specific, not just for the pain but for the person as a whole, and sometimes we don’t need to use blanket pain-relieving herbs at all. Even our acute remedies can be more specific than “here, take a neurofen”. When we combine this with sound dietary and lifestyle habits (something which I fell back on and thus suffered for last night), we can affect positive, lasting change.

To summarise the flow of thought that I’ve written above, I’ve put together a simple chart highlighting the tissue states, the types of pain that may be felt arising from each one, the various virtues that we look for in herbs to remedy these, and some examples of these herbs. It is certainly not a comprehensive chart, just a quick overview to show that we have a range of herbs at our service to help with pain that speaks to us from a multitude of reasons. We might also consider herbs specific for nerve pain itself (sharp, shooting, tingling) such as Saint John’s Wort and Prickly Ash, as well as nervines (herbs that act specifically on the nervous system) for supporting the stress of living with chronic pain. These herbs not only include the more sedative herbs like passionflower, skullcap, and lavender but also adaptogenic herbs (herbs that help the body recover from and handle chronic stress) such as Ashwagandha, Tulsi, Eleuthero, and Reishi.

I hope that in my dull-ached and semi-functional ramblings I have been able to encourage you to see a way beyond the current opioid crisis and the modern view that nothing else can be done. Plenty can be done to alleviate people’s pain! We just need to learn to listen and take a wider view. If you are suffering from pain and would like to explore this way of approaching it, I encourage you to visit a herbalist to help you J

 

Tissue State Types of pain that may typify this. Medicinal Virtues Needed. Examples of herbs.
Heat/Excitation Hot, tender, throbbing, pounding, burning, sharp, shooting, intense. Cooling

Sedative

Rose

Hawthorn(cardiovascular)

Linden flower

Peach leaf

Chamomile

Yarrow

Lemon balm

Lavender

Peppermint

Passionflower

Catnip

California poppy

Yellow dock

 

Cold/Depression Dull, sometimes pins and needles type pain. Stimulating, warming. Ginger

Rosemary

Prickly Ash

Saint Johns Wort

Cayenne

Cinnamon

 

Damp/Relaxation Ache, sometimes a bearing down pain, can lead to spasm and twitch. Astringent (tightening and toning). Agrimony

Raspberry leaf

Blackberry leaf

Herb Robert

Ladies Mantle

Yarrow

Sage

Damp/Stagnation Congested, boggy, full, sometimes bearing down, sometimes dull and achey especially after sleep. Can be inflamed. Stimulant, warming, diffusive, circulatory stimulants, alteratives/blood cleansers, cooling diuretics (if hot and inflamed). Cayenne

Ginger

Black pepper

Prickly Ash

Rosemary

Turmeric

Cinnamon

Yarrow

Angelica

Celery seed.

Nettle

Yellow dock

Cleavers

Dry/Atrophy Sticking, crackling, stiff, a pressure type pain as tissue rubs against other tissue with no lubrication in between. Demulcent/moistening, emollient (softening and moistening) Solomon’s Seal

Marshmallow

Slippery elm

Violet

Red clover

Burdock

Liquorice

Wind/Tension Changes suddenly or may come and go, spasm, cramp, tight, stretched, tension, twisted and unable to relax. Relaxing, nerve nourishing, carminative. Agrimony

Wild Yam

Chamomile

Ginger

Fennel

Crampbark

Magnesium salts

Cimicifuga

Valerian

 

Many Blessings,

Michelle x

 

 

Birthings, Grassroots Healing, Musings, Reflections, Spirituality

The Mother Within

For Mum. Love you xo

 

“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love  her; rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her; That you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her breast, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory”…”behold I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On her sides shall you be carried and be dandled on her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

This is one of my favourite passages out of all the writings of the Prophets. It’s hard to imagine now of this troubled city, but it speaks of a time to come when a true, everlasting peace shall flow out of Jerusalem to bring comfort and healing to the whole world. The poetry evoking the maternal archetype is sublime. It touches that deepest part of ourselves, to that tiny baby that still exists deep in our core, who still craves the tenderness and comfort and nourishment that only a mother can give. The archetype is universal in its application, whether we experienced it with our own mothers or not, it gives us hope.

carnations
Carnations. My mums favourite. image source: Wikimedia commons.

The purpose of introducing this post with this quote is not to discuss or expound the belief system that it comes from, instead this central concept of drinking deeply of this outflowing comforting peace reminded me of an interesting parallel to that other, and equally archetypal mother we continue to carry within ourselves – the Extra-Cellular Matrix.

Today it is Mother’s Day here in Australia, so I thought it fitting to drop a post about a thought process that I recently shared on Facebook, that as Matthew Wood noted, makes the Extra-Cellular Matrix exceptionally human, and in my pattern-attuned mind, Divinely inspired. It came to me whilst listening to Matthew talk about the mucopolysaccharides in Marshmallow Root (which gives a cold infusion of the root a slimy, gel like consistency) and how in practice we might use it in ‘leaky gut syndrome’ because it is similar to the Matrix material which acts as something like a mortar in between the cells in the gut lining. I’ll explain what this means and revise what the ECM is as I share my thought process here in the fulness of its progression.

Which came first, the protein or the Matrix? For a long time, alternative health practitioners have said that dairy/milk is mucous forming^, it’s acidic (when pasteurised and homogenised), and it’s one of the top food allergens. Mainstream medicine and mainstream dieticians have always refuted these concepts, possibly dependant on where their funding came from. This post/thought process isn’t about the inherent good or badness of dairy in the diet, nor is it an invitation to debate whether breast really is best (it is), rather I am drawing correlations in regard to the role of the Extra-Cellular Matrix in the effects of milk on the human body – particularly the infant human body.

Many years ago, during a semester of Nutritional Biochemistry, I learned that babies are born with purposefully designed ‘leaky guts’. That is, their gut membrane is full of tiny little holes^^. These tiny perforations don’t seal up until the appearance of the first teeth. There’s an ingenious reason for this. Mother’s breast milk, especially the Colostrum of the first 2-3 days post-birth, is full of proteins such as antibodies and other immunity-founding components, as well as the macronutrients – fat, carbs, and protein. The ‘leaky gut’ of the baby allows these large proteins to move through and start establishing a good foundation for the immune system. Different microflora species, as well the food they need are also found in breast milk, and this – along with the flora received during the normal birth process – helps to establish the baby’s own gut microbiome. We now know that a healthy microbiome has far-reaching health affects – from our immunity to our mental health.

My understanding is that the emergence of the teeth signals that along with this sealing of the gut membrane, the baby is now ready for solids and other foreign proteins – found in other animal products and grains in particular. Introduction of these prior to this milestone confuses the fledgling immune system and sets up an immune response, which if coupled with other foreign intrusions (such as formaldehyde, aluminium, mercury, and recombinant DNA from bovine, porcine, and simian tissue, and aborted human foetal tissue – also known as Human diploid cells MRC-5), results in the development of allergies and food intolerances. But in learning about the ECM (extra-cellular matrix), I’ve now come to a slightly more developed understanding.

The ECM is the gel-like fluid that exists between the capillaries, the lymphatic vessels and the cells themselves. It consists of single-molecule width polymers such as glucosamine and hyaluronic acid. This ‘matrix’ receives nutrient and metabolic waste product like some central transport station which then organises where everything needs to go. Whereas once the cell theory (that is, the cell was an autonomous unit that regulated itself) dominated medical thought (and still does), researchers have since found that it is actually this Matrix that regulates all cell function, and acts as a unified whole throughout the body as an organ in its own right. Most recently it has been rediscovered by mainstream science and is now known as the Interstitium. By and large this is the organ that the treatment of alternative practitioners targets the most. And we were doing this intuitively long before the mainstream got wind of it.

I’ll let Matthew, referencing Alfred Pischinger, the doctor who brought the Interstitium to the fore, describe the Extra-cellular Matrix with his usual eloquence;

“It was Dr Alfred Pischinger (2007) who demonstrated that the pathology and biology based on the cell as the basic “unit of life” was a delusion resulting from superficial observation and disregard for the complexities of natural systems. His research on the extracellular matrix is still to be appreciated in conventional medicine, but Pischinger has shown that the basic functional unit of life is the capillary/matrix/cell. The cell in a multicellular organism does not control itself, like a person or an animal, but is controlled by the matrix, which determines when and what it east, when it releases waste products, whether it reproduces or migrates, ad how actively it contributes to the life of the organism as a whole. The matrix is fed and drained by the capillary bed (including the lymphatic capillaries), and therefore this triad is the basic unit of life. Changes in the cell are related to changes in its environment, and changes in this environment are related to changes in the circulation.“(Wood, et al. 2015. Traditional Western herbalism and Pulse Evaluation: A conversation.)

klimt 1905 mother and child
Gustav Klimt.1905. Mother and Child.

Now I have to wonder, as I examine breast milk more closely – yes, it seems to be the same consistency as ECM fluid – indeed most secretions in and from the body are composed of this fluid. With this in mind, I contemplate whether the importance of breast milk lies not so much in the immune proteins etc that it provides (although the love, comfort, and nutritional nourishment is paramount), does it – as an extension of the mother’s matrix – actually entrain the baby’s matrix? We might compare this with how the mother’s heart entrains the baby’s heart to beat at a regular rhythm, or the mothers breathing patterns entrain, or teaches the baby to breathe more slowly and evenly. This speaks to the instinct to carry our newborns around, or sleep next to them, keeping them close to our hearts, now sadly often over-ridden.

When we introduce milk from another animal before the appropriate time, does the baby’s body instead recognise that this matrix material simply does not carry the same ‘vibe’ as the mother’s matrix? After all, as I write this I have to conclude that amniotic fluid also has its origins in the matrix fluid, and given that the baby has spent some 40 weeks being bathed in this very personal imprint of his or her mother, I suspect that the similarities would be instantly recognised – at least on a sub-conscious or instinctive level.

This is important, because if we understand the incredible significance of this Interstitium, this Matrix (interestingly, from the Latin – also meaning ‘mother’), on the regulation of our bodies and our overall health, then surely we should come to a greater appreciation of how important this innately human liquid gold is to our children.

I think another fascinating tangent off this is that for women who, for whatever reason, can’t breastfeed, the historical record going back to the most ancient of annals tells us that until we felt the need to sterilise our experience of life, finding a wet-nurse seemed instinctive. The wet nurse was a surrogate nursing mother, and often this was another mother, relative, or a hired servant. Occasionally, in the most dire of circumstances or in the mythological realm, the wet-nurse was an animal. But even the thinking that the intelligence of the wet-nurse would be inherited by the nursling is telling. And to complete the continuum, I was recently discussing this thought process with my own Mum, and she mentioned that when I was a baby her doctor told her that the baby’s saliva is exactly the same as the Mother’s. Instinctively, during the introduction of solid foods and foreign proteins, many mothers throughout history in all cultures would chew the food first before giving it to the infant. This instinct began the process of digestion, reducing the food to a mush and therefore making it easier for the baby’s young digestive tract to recognize and accept. I’m not one to think that the ancients were clumsily fumbling around in a darkness filled with the cobwebs of superstition. I think that they knew and experienced life in its full expression, something that most of us might only dream abou

It is beyond the scope of this platform, as well as your attention to go as deep as the subject will allow here, so if you would like to know and understand more about the Extra-cellular Matrix, particularly in regard to how we work with it through herbal medicine, keep an eye out for Matthew Wood’s new book on the subject, publishing sometime in the next year. A preview of his work on it can be found at www.matthewwoodinstituteofherbalism.com

I find that the physical manifestations of the untainted creation are an expression of the spiritual, and so some of you may continue to run with this concept of a unifying Matrix and consider what upholds and sustains the universe and keeps the planets and the stars in their orbits, or Who binds the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the belt of Orion?

I will leave you to ponder.

 

 

Until next time,

Blessings be on the Mothers xo

 

 

 

 

Addendums and continuing thoughts:

 

^ A 2013 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that bioactive peptides in cow’s milk do indeed induce mucous production in the neonatal rat jejunum (small intestine). The response appears to be a protective mechanism. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/133/11/3499/4817930

 

^^ It is now recognised that mouth-like openings known as ‘tight junctions’ exist in the gut membrane. Opiate-like proteins (bioactive peptides) such as those found in Gluten stimulate the release of a hormone called Zonulin which controls the opening and closing of these tight junctions, and this stimulation can give rise to gluten-sensitivity as the continual consumption of gluten-containing products keep these tight junctions open via the constant release of Zonulin, which then leads to an inflammatory response due to the entrance of the large foreign proteins in Gluten products that bypass normal digestion. Mammalian milk, whether from a cow, dolphin, or human also contains similar bioactive peptides that act like opiates in the body. This opiate like effect is evidenced by the ‘punch-drunk’ expression of a baby satisfied after a full feed from her mother’s breast, and why babies have a tendency to fall asleep whilst feeding. Further research is perhaps needed to determine whether these tight junctions in the newborn gut are permanently open and kept open by the continual supply of Mothers milk, or the perforations exist between the cells themselves and the tight junctions are not yet in operation until the teeth erupt.