Grassroots Healing, Plant Medicine

Calling Dr Jones: The ABCs of working with the everyday, and the Forbidden.


I am one of those people who see the patterns underlying all things. Not in a mathemagial member of MENSA wizard sort of way, but more holographically. Ethereally. Or as Goethe would have said, phenomenally. I see the patterns on which Creation was founded and made, including the incredible design of the human body. This ability to see patterns has given me a good ability to discern truth and understand the relationship between things. And as I’ve studied healing over the years, including the support I’ve given birthing women, I’ve learned that success comes when you work with that design, rather than against it.  My paternal grandfather had a motto he used to live by. It was “plan your work and work your plan”. The Creator did this, still does it, and expects us to do also. Other professions seem to get this idea – of working to the design – except the healthcare profession. And science at large. And religion. Which is interesting because the world wants you to believe that science and religion have nothing in common, which isn’t true because both believe that human body is inherently flawed.

(Which also isn’t true.)

‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.’” (Rita Mae Brown in “Sudden Death” 1983. No, it wasn’t Einstein.)

So instead we have been caught up in the illusion of the quick fix – the ‘magic bullet’ if you will. It looks good on the surface and it can provide instant relief, but at best it’s a band-aid approach, and at worst it supresses the body’s innate healing intelligence. (I feel like I’ve said that somewhere before) And then epidemic opioid addictions result, and chronic illnesses like cancer proliferate, or complications with the birth process occur.  And people wonder why. And then after a time, many consider this ‘normal’, and ‘that’s life’. But that’s not life, because the design and the patterns nested within it are dynamic and living, and the true reality is that Life begets Life.

The core message of all my thoughts that I share, is to work with the design, rather than against it. It just makes life a lot easier.

There is an underlying Torah – or guiding principle – that is woven into and sustains all creation, and perhaps one day I will expound on that, because that’s THE design that we collectively need to work with, but for now it is probably sufficient to just look at how to work with our personal bodily design. One person whose work I really admire is Steven Horne. I’ve referred to his insights in previous articles and in this article, I want to expand on a pattern which he noticed in his studies of healing that works with this design. I’ve since noticed it in the work of other successful healers, and indeed most traditional systems of healing. And it’s a pattern that I’ve also been working to for some time, because I’ve been working to the underlying Torah. As Life begets Life, truth resonates with truth.

Steven articulates the pattern as an ABC + D approach to healing. As a brief overview, the ABCD represents the following:

A = Activate the healing process. Here we engage and address the higher realms of spiritual and emotional states that underlie an illness when imbalanced. I personally begin this process with praying and meditating in faith on the universal guiding principles. Steven also suggests engaging faith, prayer and meditation as well as using positive affirmation techniques, and visualisation techniques.  Through emotional healing work we work to identify unresolved emotional wounds and trauma, and then address them with the above techniques as well as using appropriate vibrational remedies such as flower essences, essential oils, and sound healing. In this first step, some of us also cast out demons (Yes, really. Wild, isn’t it?). Here we also address the stress response and begin to incorporate stress management skills into daily life.

B = Build. That is, to provide the body’s basic needs and begin to nourish the vital reserves, in order for the body’s innate healing process to occur effectively. These basic needs include ensuring there is good and adequate nutrition, ensuring proper hydration, ensuring good sleep quality and quantity, ensuring appropriate movement, and addressing any allergies or intolerances. This also leads into…

C = Cleanse. In order to be properly nourished (as covered by B), we need to ensure that we can absorb, assimilate, utilise, and eliminate effectively. In this step, we address the need for all pathways of elimination to be functioning effectively (liver, lymph, bowel, kidneys, skin, lungs) so that there isn’t any stagnation and congestion inhibiting the cells from receiving full nourishment, and we remove agents that do not serve our overall health and wellbeing. These deleterious agents include refined and processed foods, preservatives and other synthetic food additives, GMOs, pesticides, toxic cosmetics and personal hygiene products, exposure to electromagnetic smog, fluoridated water, toxic household cleaning products, etc. Steven also suggests doing a short cleanse or ‘detox’ a couple of times per year. I like the Ayurvedic approach to this of doing a short cleanse over the two equinox periods to help the body adjust to the change of seasons. These cleanses may be water fasts, juice fasts, or very light diets depending on the individual constitution.

When all of these ABC’s have been accounted for, we apply D.

D= Direct Aid. That is, we address the specific body system or tissue affected. Nested within this we take note of the individual constitutional pattern, as well as the energetic state of the tissue affected (using the Six Tissue State model, which I discussed here.) This is where we apply very specifically chosen remedies that match these energetic patterns.

You will often be working on all of these steps simultaneously as there is a certain amount of overlap that occurs. These are steps that the everyday person (ie: not a ‘certified’ health practitioner) can apply. And all of these can be applied to any health concern. Including the childbearing year. And cancer.

It wasn’t my intention to go into the dark and dank dungeons of the big ‘C’, but as Earth Poet and Herbalist, Stephen Buhner asserts, one must go where the golden thread of the story that wants to be told leads, and so it has led me here, so this is where we are going. Let’s see where we end up.

I’ve had the privilege of supporting several people who’ve been dealing with cancer over the years. I say ‘privilege’ because, like birth, to hold space for someone at such a vulnerable time in their life is an extraordinary thing. At such time many transformations are taking place on many different levels, so it’s a time of witness and walking alongside as the individual goes inward, becomes self-aware, becomes aware of their mortality and their God, and grows toward the Light. Regardless of outcome (although we pray for and do our best), we hold space for people to face the Void, and surrender to it. It’s important to note here though, that surrender does not equal defeat. Surrender is about trust. Trusting a process, trusting a design, trusting it’s Creator.

At this point, I should probably interject the disclaimer that I do not proclaim to cure cancer. It’s actually illegal for me to even say that I treat cancer. Which doesn’t bother me because I treat people, not diseases nor labels. And I endeavour to treat them how I would like to be treated. The ‘cut, poison, and burn’ mob (did I type that out loud?) are welcome to their mission to ‘fight’ cancer. I don’t claim any cures, of anything. My only claim is that I will endeavour, in all things, to work to the design, guided by the Designer, to procure the best possible outcome. And that’s it.

What I can do however, is share how certain healthcare professionals who did work to the design found actual healing for people with cancer.

Step into my TARDIS. We’re going back to 1911.

Doctor Who?  (photo & teapot: M.Carnochan 2019)


Eli Jones was an extraordinarily common-sensed American eclectic medical doctor with an equally extraordinary success rate in curing cancer (ah, that other forbidden ‘c’ word). In 1911, he published a book of his common-sense approach, very practically titled Cancer: It’s causes, symptoms, and treatment. He was a doctor who got to the point and made it well. I’ve quoted him before, here.  The book is an easy read and although some of the more specific remedies he offers and their rationale of use might be lost on the untrained, his overall approach is one that anyone can employ, and should, and fits the systematic ABC +D pattern that Seven Horne articulates.

At the risk of outright plagiarism, I’ll let the good doctor speak for himself. Chapter One: The Causes of Cancer is superb.

“The medical profession have been theorizing as to the cause of cancer for many years. About once in six months we read under startling headlines in the public press, that the cause of cancer has been discovered! Students in the laboratory and with the microscope, now and then make this announcement to the world, that a serum has been discovered that will cure cancer! Vast sums of money have been expended in erecting cancer hospitals; institutes for “cancer research.” Remedies have been lauded time and again as a cure for this disease, yet the people keep on dying in the same old fashioned way. We have tried to deceive ourselves and the public with the comforting thought that cancer was not on the increase, but the fact is that the mortality from cancer in England is 4 1/2 times greater than fifty years ago. In the United States, in 1890 there were 18,536 deaths from cancer; in 1900 there were 29,222 deaths from this disease. At the present time the mortality cannot be less than fifty thousand annually. Dr. John A. McGlinn, in a paper before the Philadelphia Medical Society says: “That one man out of every thirty-two and one woman out of every eleven die of cancer. After the age of thirty-five one man out of every seventeen and one woman out of every nine die of cancer; one third of the deaths from all surgical conditions were due to cancer.”

It would appear from the above that cancer is not being cured, that it is still numbered among the incurable diseases. It has been the practice of many of the profession to cut out everything that looked like a cancer, but statistics will abundantly prove that a surgical operation not only does not cure cancer, but really hastens the death of the victim. A surgeon can only cut out what is seen and felt under the knife, while millions of cancer germs grow and multiply in the blood, the nuclei of future cancer. Another fact, the surgeon seems to forget that every operation is a shock to the nervous system, it lowers the nerve power, weakens the power of resistance to disease and thus encourages the invasion of cancer.

It is often remarked that after an operation “the wound healed up very quickly”, why? Because nature rebels against such mutilation and repairs the damage as soon as possible. While sticking to the old theory that cancer is a local disease and depending on surgical operations to cure it, the regular profession have not cured the malady. Is it not about time that we should abandon the theory of the fathers and do some thinking for ourselves? The men in this country who have treated this disease successfully have treated it as a constitutional or blood disease. From my own experience of forty years in the study and medical treatment of cancer in all its forms, I am convinced that it is the local manifestation of a blood disease. To say that a disease is incurable because someone else has said so, to sit calmly down and repeat parrot-like “it cannot be cured” is unmanly, is un-American, is cowardly. What are we waiting for, some savant in Germany, France or Italy to show us how to cure cancer? The victims of cancer are dying all around us; what can we do for these poor unfortunates? The object of this book is to get the profession interested in the rational treatment of the disease, that we may at least try to cure them. To treat the subject intelligently we must consider the causes why cancer is on the increase.

I honestly believe that if it were possible to keep the vitality of a person at or near the normal healthy standard there would be no danger of cancer. We find in cancer victims, weakened vitality and enfeebled nerve power; this gives us the key to the situation and tells us how to successfully combat the disease.Every epidemic like typhoid fever, pneumonia, diphtheria, la grippe, etc., weakens the vitality of the people and lets down the bars for the invader — cancer. Every war this country has ever had, every financial crisis, anything that causes worriment of mind and severe strain upon the nerves lowers the nerve power and weakens the vitality of our people and makes them good subjects for cancer, consumption, pneumonia, etc. Tea and coffee drinking weaken the nervous system. In all countries where they drink tea and coffee to excess, there you will find cancer on the increase. Excessive meat eating is another fruitful cause of cancer.

Insurance men tell us that if a man or woman at 40 lose 20% of their normal weight there is danger of cancer, consumption or Bright’s disease. Following out the idea of Dr. William Waugh of having adults examined physically once in six months we would be able to detect the above disease in the early stages. and so by proper treatment be able to stave off future trouble. The chemists and scientists for many years have tried to discover some powerful drug, some deadly poison, some deadly serum which. taken by the mouth or injected into the human body, would kill the germs of cancer and knock out the disease. They have overlooked one fact; a drug which would do all that would weaken the vitality of the victim if it did not hasten his death, any remedy or treatment, whatever it may be, that weakens the vitality of the patient lessens the chance of recovery.

The rapid increase of cancer throughout the civilized world may be explained by the following great causes of cancer:

  • Worriment of Mind. Worrying weakens the nervous system, lowers the “nerve power” and thus opens the way for the invasion of cancer. In all countries where you find insanity on the increase you will find cancer a close second. In Chicago where insanity has increased the fastest in the world, cancer has increased 812% from 1861 to the present time.
  • Vaccination. In all states. and countries where there is enforced vaccination there you will find cancer on the increase.
  • Meat-eating. Meat-eating is a prolific cause of cancer. In England the mortality from cancer has increased; it is 4 1/2, times greater than it was fifty years ago. The people consume 131 pounds of beef per head every year. Is it any wonder that the “Beef Eaters” have cancer? In twenty-five countries using meat largely, nineteen had a high death-rate from cancer, five a moderate and one a low rate. In countries where the diet is almost entirely vegetable there you will find very few cases of cancer. In Bombay, in 1875, the death-rate from cancer was only one in 10,000; in England 5.5 per 100,000. In Egypt cancer is never found among the black races who are vegetarians, among Arabs and Copts, who eat as Europeans. In the monastery of the Grand Trappe, where the diet excludes tea, coffee and meat there has not been a case of cancer for twenty-seven years.
  • Tea and Coffee. Tea and coffee weaken the coats of the stomach and the nervous system and produce various disorders in the human system. In all countries where the people drink tea and coffee freely there you will tend cancer on the increase. Our own country — America — has become a nation of “tea drinkers”; as a result, three out of five persons have some form of dyspepsia or indigestion, and cancer has increased from one in ninety-one in 1850 to one in twelve in 1890. In thirty countries drinking very much tea and coffee, twenty-five had a very high death-rate, five a moderate, and none a low rate. In America we are becoming a nation of nervous, hysterical people, and insanity is on the increase. It must be ever borne in mind that if the nerve power falls below the normal standard there is danger of invasion of cancer.
  • Alcoholic Stimulants. The use of intoxicating liquors is a fruitful cause of cancer. In all countries where they are used to excess there, cancer is on the increase. In England among the wine and spirit merchants, the death-rate is five times greater than other men. Beer-drinking towns such as Munich, Stuttgardt and Copenhagen have a high mortality from cancer.

What our people need is to be taught how to live. There must be temperance in all things. Good pure water, good pure air helps to make good healthy red blood. Unadulterated food, mostly vegetables, easily digested, leaving out tea and coffee, keep the nervous system strong and vigorous. Stop worrying. In this way we can protect ourselves against the dreaded monster — CANCER. A return to the “simple life” of our forefathers is what we need. Modern civilization, with all its luxury, high living and drinking, and filling the stomach with all kinds of food and drink (the most of it never intended for the human stomach), is only encouraging the inroads of cancer.

In a case of cancer, no matter how far the disease has advanced or how bad the case is, there are two things that we have to depend upon for a cure: First. We must raise the nerve power, the vitality of the patient at or as near normal as possible. Second. It depends upon whether the system of our patient will respond to the action of remedies or not. In other words, we must begin at the very foundation and build up our patient to strengthen his power of resistance against the disease.Many times I have noticed this fact that when the eye, the pulse, and the tongue showed the organs of the body secreting properly, good digestion, a strong, full, regular pulse, the disease itself would be at a standstill, but if the signs showed a weakened vitality, the disease would take on new life and activity.”


Keep in mind, that this book was published in 1911. Dear Eli Jones’s head would have probably exploded if he knew that the incidence of cancer in the USA alone was estimated to be 1,735,350 cases in 2018, equalling more than 4,700 new cancer diagnoses each day. According to the same report from the American Cancer Society’s journal, which predicted the above incidence, the lifetime probability of being diagnosed with cancer is 39.7% for men and 37.6% for women, which is a little more than 1 in 3. Now we could argue that the population of the US is significantly larger now than what it was back when Dr Jones’ was practicing, but given that above the factors he mentions as causes, as well as industrialised agriculture, environmental pollutants, xenoestrogens, pharmaceutical pollutants, and electromagnetic pollution has been added to the mix, I don’t think a correlation in incidence with population growth means a hill of beans.

Nothing much has changed, because you can’t use the same thinking that causes a problem to solve it. Refer to the definition of insanity.

Lavender is particularly soothing to the nervous system. Photo: M.Carnochan 2019

In this opening chapter, what Eli does do is identify some of the key factors that he observed as possible causal factors. The first being ‘enfeeblement of nerve power’, or the weakened vitality of the patient. This is where we begin, and what Eli Jones recognised, with the need to address the ACTIVATION of the healing process.

Eli’s go-to treatment plan for activating the healing process and raising the nerve power was with medicated baths. He did this with Epsom salts – cheap, accessible to everyone, and very simple. He addresses this in Chapter Eight: The Medicated Bath.

“If the patient has a bath tub, put one pound of epsom salts in the usual quantity of warm water in the bath tub. The best time to take the bath is just. before bedtime and in the treatment of. cancer it should be taken as often as twice a week. The skin should be well rubbed until all the greasy, gammy stuff is removed from the skin and it becomes soft as velvet. The blood needs the magnesium in the epsom salts. It neutralizes the toxines, it soothes the tired nerves and makes the patient rest like a tired child upon its mother’s bosom. Any treatment for cancer would be incomplete without this medicated bath. Many a time I have had my lady patients tell me “Doctor, I love the epsom bath; it just makes me feel splendid.”

If a patient has no bath tub you may have them add one ounce of the epsom salts to a pint of warm water (use it in that proportion) and bathe the body all over with the mixture.

It will also be found to be a grand thing in many acute diseases, especially fevers. Used once in twenty-four hours or twice a day if there is a high fever. When the patient feels rather languid after the bath it shows that the epsom salts bath has done its work and it should be: used less often. In the treatment of any form of cancer this medicated bath should never be omitted; it is just as important as any part of the treatment.”

This is a wonderful idea, which we now know will soothe the nervous system by way of switching us over from the sympathetic (fright, flight, fight or freeze response), which most of us live in, to the parasympathetic (rest, digest, repair response) nervous system, which we need to be in to heal. This will also relax the person enough to begin to be in a better place to release stored or blocked emotional trauma, which is at the root cause of much cancer development. These emotional traumas may be from the individual’s living experience, it may be inherited via ancestral or familial living experience, or cultural/societal living experience. We might begin by asking where the illness is located. Traditionally, organs and systems were associated with specific emotions. Issues with the lungs may speak of unresolved grief, for the kidneys it is fear, for the breasts it is about how we give nourishment – particularly to ourselves, for the female reproductive areas it speaks to how we receive nourishment, the liver is associated with unresolved anger, and for the colon it might be about our ability to let go of past hurts. Or we might think of past trauma in our lives that we may have not allowed ourselves to process. So, we might ask ourselves, when was the last time I felt truly well, and what was going on in my life that changed that?  In activating the healing process by acknowledging and releasing these emotional wounds or blockages, we can use flower essences and essential oils specific to the emotional wound and add them to the bath, as well as take regularly. We might even begin with the Bach flower remedy Star of Bethlehem for the initial shock of the diagnosis. A nice foot bath can be used if a full bath is not available and sponging all of the body with the solution is awkward. The French herbalist, Maurice Messague achieved excellent results just by using medicated foot and hand soaks.

Eli’s second fundamental approach was to BUILD up the patient ‘to strengthen his power of resistance against the disease’.  We build ourselves up largely by what we eat, and how we nourish ourselves. Sugar didn’t seem to be much of a problem back then as it is now, or if it was, it wasn’t on Dr Jones’ radar, but sugar is a no-go when it comes to cancer, mainly because of the interplay between insulin and cortisol levels (the stress response) and a hormonal cascade that can lead to all sorts of problems such as insulin resistance and increased inflammation, and besides cancer cells thrive on it. I do like the following quote which draws us to looking at the individual and their unique constitution, because each unique constitution will benefit from certain foods over others, and different ratios of the macronutrients. We should reiterate though that across the constitutions, the foods should be whole foods, organic where possible, with no additives, preservatives, numbers, artificial colours, flavours, or isolates, and with a focus on an abundance of anti-oxidant-rich fruit and vegetables.

Study each case carefully and adapt your diet to each individual case.”

 He goes on.

“Now it is a well-known fact that our American people eat too much and too fast. They eat until their stomachs are full and they are in too much of a hurry to chew their food. They bolt it down and depend upon the stomach to get rid of it in some way. In addition to that they drink strong tea that weakens the nerves and muscles of the stomach. As a result of all this abuse, the stomach “goes on a strike” and refuses to do duty. Then we have some form of indigestion, dyspepsia, ulcer of the stomach or cancer. Now the real fact of the case is this, in most cases, patients would do well on one-half the food they eat and that food should be chewed over and over again before it is swallowed. When we eat our regular meals, only a certain part of what we eat can be digested and assimilated. The rest becomes refuse matter. It may produce autointoxication and toxins in the blood. In these conditions we find a fruitful cause of cancer. Now good red blood depends upon pure air, pure foodand pure drink, but if the food is not properly assimilated it will create toxins and not pure blood. To cure permanently any case of cancer we must have good digestion to make good blood, and when we can make good healthy blood, we can fortify the system against the inroads of cancer.”


In this stage of building with good diet, we may also consider the medicinal mushrooms which perhaps may be considered as much a nourishing food as a medicine. Chaga and Reishi are among the most studied mushrooms when it comes to immune-modulation or nourishing the immune system. The dual-extract powders are considered the most potent, as both the water-soluble constituents and those only extracted by alcohol are present. These can be made into a tea or a broth along with Astragalus – another immune nourishing herb or mixed into food and taken at least twice daily. Herbalist, Kiva Rose Hardin also reminds us that people who have been have been significantly weakened by this illness (or its treatment such as when undergoing radiation or chemotherapy) particularly in the latter stages, can gain nourishment and regain strength  by using elm bark (a number of elm species may be used, as well as sustainably grown slippery elm – Ulmus fulva) even when no other foods can be tolerated, digested or absorbed.

Throughout the book, Dr Jones refers to the concept of cancer being a disease of the blood. He talks of the importance of clean or pure blood. As herbalist Matthew Wood notes, when the old doctors speak of ‘dirty blood’ or the need to ‘clean the blood’, they are in fact speaking of the Extra-Cellular Matrix – or the inner ocean that exists between the cells, the blood vessels and the lymph, and acts as a transitional repository for nutrient and metabolic waste material  before they respectively enter or exit the cell. The importance of keeping this fluid matrix free-flowing and relatively clean is therefore paramount to the health of the individual overall, and especially more so when cancer is present. This is the CLEANSE stage of instigating the healing process, and the methods used will often overlap with the previous two. For example, we have already noted that the Epsom salt bath can draw and neutralise toxins from the body, and a clean and sensible diet can eliminate a lot of potential causative and extenuating factors. Cleaning up our lifestyles, dramatically reducing or eliminating environmental toxins, and ensuring we sleep well, move well, think well, speak well, is important, as it is that we eliminate well. This is really important. If you don’t eliminate and eliminate well, you become backed-up and stagnant and therefore the toxins we breathe in or ingest, as well as the waste products from our own metabolic processes, don’t get eliminated.

“Many doctors, in their anxiety to conquer the local growth neglect to look after the “general condition” of the patient and their vitality. Many patients have been lost in this manner. Be careful and examine your patients every day — the pulse, the eye, the tongue — so that you know exactly how they are.

Watch the tongue and see if your patients are digesting their food properly. If there is a coating on the tongue your patient is not digesting the food he eats properly. The strength which should be derived from the nourishment is not being obtained. In order to make good blood your patient must have good digestion.

If there is a hardness or tension to the pulse it shows a contraction of the capillaries, a focus of congestion somewhere, you are not obliged to ask your patient if they are suffering from pain for the pulse tells you that fact by its tension.

Your patient must have a regular movement of the bowels every day; the refuse matter must pass off as often as that and not be retained in the intestines to poison the blood. This is just as important as any part of the treatment; if you neglect this you may fail to cure your patient.”

Some alternative therapies such as Gerson Therapy, include enemas and colonic hydrotherapy as a key part of their protocol when helping patients who have cancer. If this is needed, a good probiotic should also be included as a part of the protocol to help restore the gut flora, which is also an integral part of nourishing the immune system.

The popular Essiac herbal tea, and other formulated herbal teas assist in this cleansing process by supporting the organs of elimination. Fasting and intermittent fasting have shown promise in restarting the body’s innate healing mechanisms as well as providing a good opportunity to cleanse the system. There are some parameters around fasting though that should be considered, such as the type of fast and when to fast. It isn’t wise to fast a person who is already considerably weak and depleted such as in the latter stages of an illness. These people need to be built up and nourished in an appropriate manner, such as with a porridge made from slippery elm. Fasting is perhaps more appropriate in the beginning stages of illness and the decision to fast therapeutically should be made with someone familiar with the process, or dare I say it, if a person is in tune with their own body – instinctively.

After covering these aspects of treatment and reiterating it at various intervals, much of the rest of Eli Jones treatise is then dedicated to specific remedies that he had used to treat the varied and numerous cases that came in to his care and attention. This is the DIRECT AID aspect of healing. The remedies and formulas which he worked with were very specific to the type of tissue, organ, or system that was affected. Here a skilled practitioner would also consider the energetics (for example, in the beginning stages the area affected may exhibit a lot of inflammation or heat and redness, in the latter we might see a very cold, depressed, or even withered and atrophied state of the tissues – and the individual as a whole.), as well as considering the innate constitution of the client in guiding their choice of remedy. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss specifics, and I have already tested your patience enough. (Although at this point, we need to address the myriad of Black Salve enthusiasts. Dr Jones also has something to say about the use of escharotics. That is, if people must use them, then use them ONLY while covering the other A,B,Cs and use them with an accurate understanding of the lesion that they are being used on!)

Some practitioners who are well-versed in homoeopathic practice might also consider any miasms– or inherited weaknesses that may be underlying the issue. And although, as herbalists or holistic therapists we don’t and are legally restricted to treat cancer itself, we will find that this Direct Aid often brings us back to the first step of Activation of the healing process. So, whether it is to try and remove underlying inherited weakness and clear familial or ancestral trauma or assist the person in coping with and accepting the journey that they are on, we may still have an effective and positive role here. Incidentally, there are a number of Australian Bush Flower essences that are specific to this particular aspect of support. These include the essences of Autumn Leaves and Lichen, which help people come to terms with their transition. Herbalist Jonathon Treasure, who has wide experience in supporting people with cancer using botanicals alongside conventional treatment, asserts that as practitioners we often find that our role also needs must transform alongside the transformation that is occurring with the person we are supporting. As I initially drew the comparison to the transformative process that occurs during a birth, here we walk alongside our client or loved one, holding sacred space. We must flow and adapt with their process, and we find that as we take this journey together, we as the practitioner or support person can’t help but let it change us. And I believe that this is also very much a key aspect of the healing that we offer.

Autumn leaves. Photo: M.Carnochan 2019.


As much as I have spoken about the role of the practitioner in this and drawn on Dr Jones work, these steps to healing are in fact steps that anyone can take, and I encourage that they should consider them whether they are dealing with their own health concerns or supporting a loved one with theirs. I have not gone into specifics, which may frustrate some of you, as each person is unique, and so will their journey be. In the case of cancer, these steps can be considered as both a stand-alone approach and in conjunction with conventional treatment if that is the direction that has been decided upon. In fact, employing these steps will improve the outcome whilst having conventional treatment because we are working with the design and supporting the person as a whole being. I encourage you to explore the concepts discussed here further. Begin to see life with new eyes and look for the patterns. And then work to the design.


Many Blessings,

Michelle x




Steven Horne’s ABC+D approach to healing charts are available from:   (No, this is not an affiliate link.)












Grassroots Healing, Musings, Reflections, Spirituality, Plant Medicine

Learning to Open the Eyes on the Ends of my Fingers

(or Reflections on The Diagnostic Touch)


The times are changing and perhaps more exponentially, or more rapidly than ever before. Tech is venerated as some new god that will redeem us all, as we get swept up in a tsunami of information unprecedented in human history. For folks who are digital migrants, we have either taken to it like a fish to water, or we have started to feel like we are really drowning. In my own work, there’s now an unspoken burgeoning pressure to somehow be ahead of this game as most people now are wont to self-diagnose via advice from Dr Google. Some people subscribe to every internet health gurus eNews, and as a result not only end up taking every supplement and ‘superherb’ that’s on trend, or worse – start prescribing these wonder drugs indiscriminately as some sort of panacea to everyone they meet. At the other end of this spectrum, we also have clients who are on about twelve different pharmaceuticals and so we now have to wade through which drug is for the original ailment, which are for the side-effects, possible drug-herb interactions, contraindications, and half-lives. And then we have to figure out if we can actually be of help at all, and if they have a doctor who is willing to work with us to begin to wean the patient of this chemical cocktail. The mindset that births both of these extremes is the same. In this Age of Instant Gratification & Technological Wonderment, it is the reductionist mindset of the quick fix. And as a result, we are losing our traditional knowledge and understanding of the unique essence and specific virtues of the plants, and we are losing our skills of diagnostics. And why not? We have the machines that go ping to do that for us now. (And we have standardised plant extracts – but that’s another story). We are losing touch.

But machines, or even standard lab tests, can’t detect nuance. They can’t depth diagnose through empathy or perceive the dynamics of the life experience that courses through a patient’s veins. They can only take snap shots of that given moment, without regard to extenuating circumstances. The conventional assessment of blood pressure is a prime example.

Monty Python fans will understand.


Before medicine became technological and profit-driven by the pharmaceutical companies, the physicians/healers  themselves, if they were any good, had to also be skilled diagnosticians. Trained on the job, their own bodies were highly aware, acutely sensitive diagnostic instruments. The full use of all of their senses was employed to make an accurate assessment of the dynamic being that sat or lay before them. Mindful observation of mannerisms, pallor of skin, observation of the tongue, colour of eyes – both iris and sclera, the posture, the gait on walking, facial expressions, the colour of urine and any discharges, as well as skilled and thoughtful palpation of the tissue, the moisture of the skin, feeling the temperature, feeling and reading the pulse, smelling the general odour, hearing the tone of voice, hearing the heartbeat or the lung sounds, the crepitations (crackling) in the joints, the gurgling of the stomach.  All of these, as well as a detailed case history allowed the physician/healer to make a highly accurate diagnosis.  Of course, one needs to have a certain depth of knowledge and understanding to then be able to understand the significance of what the senses are reading, as well as the most appropriate treatment, but overall what we have is a truly holistic picture of the state of health of the person. Up until the 1950s, many physicians in the West still practised like this and with an understanding of the energetics of the disease process. Physicians who practised in the East within the systems of TCM, Ayurveda, and Unani-Tibb continue to practice under this paradigm. Their diagnostic skills have been maintained.

Touch is a human need. Babies crave it. Appropriately given, it soothes our nervous system, or it can stimulate it. It can convey a sense of belonging, and of being loved and cared for. We may think of the therapeutic touch of massage and bodywork. Yet, the diagnostic touch, the touch that conveys that someone is willing to spend time with you, is willing to listen to you -on all levels of your being- in order to most appropriately care for you, can also be therapeutic. We all want to be heard. We all need our pain acknowledged. Whether modern medicine thinks so or not, this acknowledgement forms as large a part of the healing process as the treatment itself.

I’ve come to this reflection on this diagnostic touch from my own nagging feelings of inadequacy, of something missing, spurring an eagerness to learn. When I did my training at college, out of the four or so years dedicated to the practice of Western Herbal Medicine, we did a grand total of two days dedicated to physical examination. Even then we didn’t use it much, nor were we encouraged to, in the 400 hours of student clinic. And reading the pulse or feeling the tissue for changes beneath didn’t come into it at all. But a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, I’ve learnt much on the job, and I often find that when the time is right, things come into your world that suggest – either subtly or blatantly, that it’s time for further development. The personal upheaval of recent months has been such a time.

In my previous post, I mentioned that working with plants and making medicine is one of my coping mechanisms. Reading is another. I devour books almost insatiably. The first book that came into my world around this time was “Cancer: It’s Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment’ by the late, great American physiomedicalist, Eli Jones, MD.   Published in 1911, it is as relevant today as it was back then. Perhaps more so. After spending the first two to three chapters lamenting the state of cancer treatment in regular (allopathic) medical practice[1], and indicting it all to shame, he then begins an emphatic treatise on the physician’s skill in correct diagnosis.

He [the physician] must educate his hands — have his eyes at his fingers’ ends. The delicate, sensitive touch of the fingers will soon teach him how to detect cancer in any form….”   (Eli Jones. Ch.5)

In “taking a case” of cancer to treat we want to look the patient over carefully; ……

We examine the pulse of our patient; we find the pulse of cancer a weak pulse, often a discouraged feeling to it, and quicker than normal. The weight and feeling of the muscles show lack of nutrition. The tongue under its yellowish, white color shows, in advanced cancer a dark red color; in the last stages we have the “beef steak” tongue. The white of the eye has a pearly tint with greenish yellow spots, showing a drain upon the system, toxic matter in the blood and decomposition of albumen. The eyes will tell you if the glands are acting normally or not. The tongue shows you whether the patient is digesting his food or not; if he cannot digest his food, he cannot make good blood. The pulse tells you whether the vital forces are strong or weak. You must learn to study the quality and character of the pulse; until you can do that, you cannot cure this disease or any other.

Thus it is, by a careful intelligent study of the eye, tongue and pulse of our patient, we can get a good idea of the advancement made by the disease and the vitality of the patient; and this will be a guide to us in making up our prognosis and also for the rational treatment of the case.”  (Eli Jones, Ch.6)


“Never forget the fact that the general health of the patient must be better before the cancer is any better. Watch the eyes, the tongue and the pulse; they will tell you of your patient’s condition. One of the first things my students have to learn is how to read the pulse. Not one doctor in a thousand can do it…. Grasp the wrist of your patient; banish every thought from your mind; think of what you are doing and what you want to know. How does it feel? What is the impression you get from the pulse? Remember the pulse of cancer has a weak discouraged feeling. It is a little faster than normal. If there is pain the pulse will show it, also if there is any heart difficulty. You can tell by the pulse if your patient is responding to the action of your remedies. The pulse will feel a little stronger, fuller and more regular. Remember that the healthy, normal pulse is full, strong and regular.”

I particularly like this admonition to his students;

“A doctor of all men should be a gentle man, and have an easy, gentle touch. I have had patients tell me how their physician pinched and squeezed the tumor in their breast until they screamed so that people could hear them out in the street. Such men are ignorant jackasses. I told these patients that they should have “slapped them in the face.” Such men need that kind of treatment. It is the only treatment that they can understand. In examining a case of cancer, it is hardly ever necessary to cause a patient a moments pain where a doctor understands his business. Treat your lady patients just as you would like a brother physician to examine you or examine your wife, sister or mother.”

Throughout the rest of the book, he then cites numerous successful case histories, along with his particular treatment protocols. The good doctor clearly knew his stuff and got extraordinary results. It’s a fascinating read and one which I will refer to time and again, and perhaps I will expound upon his work in some future article, but this idea of the importance of the physical examination, the diagnostic touch, to confirm a case spoke to me. Something was stirring, once spoken of, long forgotten, wanting to be heard once more.

Perhaps it spoke because of my own case of fibrocystic breast change. I’ve had it for about 9 years, managing to reduce it somewhat through various means including fasting, juice feasting, and dietary management, but never fully being ‘cured’ of it. Over the years it has changed character, largely influenced by hormonal cycles, that in themselves are an apparent barometer of whatever stress I have been going through. Recently, the character of the fibrous tissue and the cysts changed again. Using it as my own case study, I am acutely aware of the ‘eyes on the ends of my fingers’ as I palpate the changes and monitor closely the response to more accurately chosen remedies. It is often said that it is very difficult for the practitioner to self-diagnose, and an objective view must be obtained. Having said that, there is also the adage; “Physician, heal thyself.” Why pass up an opportunity for such intimate hands-on learning? It’s only through direct experience, that which we then can internalise, are we able to apply the knowledge gained with true, deep understanding and maybe a hint of wisdom. During my pregnancies, I learnt to feel the growth, and the positions of my babies, to listen to the heartbeat, and the whooshing of the blood coursing through the umbilical cord, as well as the difference between a ‘ripe’ and an ‘unripe’ cervix.  I am, by and large, my own practicum, being curious by nature. But I digress.

As luck (or divine direction?) would have it, I came across another book for the hands-on aspect of diagnosis simply called ‘Hands On’ by Nic Rowley. It outlines in very easy to read and systematic detail the course of physical examination that any practitioner can employ (the subtitle is ‘Basic Clinical Skills for Students and Practitioners of Complementary and Alternative Medicine), and in a logical and what may become intuitive sequence. Although written much more recently than Eli Jones’ work, it borrows from the physical examination methods used in modern conventional medical practice (but devoid of observation of the tongue or reading of the pulse beyond counting it’s beats), and the author states that “if you have not got a pretty good idea of what is wrong with someone by the time they get on to your examination couch, you are unlikely to know what is wrong with them by the time they get off it”. This method of physical evaluation was what we were taught in that grand exploration of the subject during college. However, I think that despite the statement made above, not only does it’s offering still give our client the reassurance that we are leaving no stone unturned in their care, if we combine it with the careful visual and tactile observations of our tradition’s elders, then new information can be gained, and the case may be more fully rounded. After all, conventional medicine has left the concept of energetics and holistic practice behind, and as a result the most appropriate remedy. Unfortunately, in the modern practice of Western Herbal Medicine, particularly in this country, we are moving along the same trajectory. Nevertheless, it is a helpful book that reminds us that our senses are still among our best diagnostic tools. And even if we stop here with these ‘basic skills’, we can still determine likely differential diagnoses.

In his conversational tome, Traditional Western Herbal Medicine and Pulse Evaluation, co-authored with Phyllis D. Light and Francis Bonaldo, Matthew Wood reminds us;

“ In energetic medicine we view disease as a pattern. This is the basis of Holism, which looks to the unity in the diversity, the pattern that pulls together the disparate symptoms into a whole.

…In holistic medicine we believe – and everyday experience confirms this – that nature can cure herself. This is the primary difference between holism and biomedicine. But in order to make this belief a reality we have to pick up a different set of tools and approach the body from an entirely different perspective. Holism requires that we seek to understand the underlying problems that cause illness in the body such as heat and cold, damp and dry, tension and relaxation. If we can address these conditions before the disease has progressed too far, then we will be able to unburden nature and allow her to cure herself. Our understanding must be different and our tools must be of a different order.

…In natural, holistic, and energetic medicine our diagnostic tools must also be different. These include methods that help us to see the general patterns caused by stress in the body. We start with simple questions pertaining to hot and cold, damp and dry, tension and relaxation, basic emotions, aggravations and ameliorations. While we are asking questions, we are looking at the complexion of the face and skin, and then the signs of strength and weakness on the face (color, wrinkles, high spots, low spots, good hair, bad hair, etc.) Then we move on to methods that allow us to perceive very directly the imbalances in the body. This includes looking at the tongue, taking the pulse, and feeling the skin (for moisture, dryness, warmth, cold, oil, water, etc.) Pulse diagnosis is particularly suited to energetic medicine because the pulse reveals patterns of imbalance in the organism, not the sort of molecular lesions that constitute the evidence of disease in conventional biomedicine.

Such examination is usually enough for an experienced practitioner to draw conclusions about the origins of stress and disease within the organism. Then we select our therapeutic tools. These include exercise, nutrition, lifestyle, massage, bodywork, herbs, and homeopathic remedies. They must be suited to natural energetic patterns and changes in the body.”

This is the third book that happened to fall into my lap in recent weeks, and one that ran along with this theme building in my mind of the diagnostic touch. On first read-through I admit that I found it somewhat overwhelming. How in the world am I going to learn all of this? How in the world am I going to remember it all? There are no less than 22 different pulses that might be felt in 3 different positions on each wrist at three different depths representing the various organ systems, existing in pairs such as high/low, rapid/slow, tense, wiry/relaxed, slippery/non-resistant, strong/weak, etc., listed under the headings of dimension, time, tone, blood and vessel, and power. As well as the Southern blood types and the seasons of the blood noted by Phyllis.  Even with a knowledge and understanding of the energetic model of Traditional Western Herbalism, and of the physiological processes of the body, it still seems at first exploration to be overwhelming. But how it has spoken to something deep within me! Pulse reading is akin to learning a whole new language. But then so was the materia medica of herbs when I first began learning them. These things become indentured over time, seasoned by practice. Even Matthew states; “ It takes decades to learn pulse diagnosis and, like herbalism, there is always more to learn.”  I suspect that over this time, intuition will also develop alongside, much as it has with learning the herbs.

Phyllis D. Light picks up the thread;

“ The pulse is also that lyrical, throbbing, musical heart rhythm that sings the song of our body and soul. This is the pulse that I must explore. It is the cadence, depth, quality, breadth, speed, force and rhythm that invites me into the wrist to palpate the flow of the bloodstream, the river of life. Feeling the pulse against my fingers is one of the most important assessments of vital energy that I know.”

 This is a book that I expect to be referring to over and over again as I begin to slowly train those ‘eyes at the end of my fingers’ to ‘see’ and really feel into the dynamics of the blood – that river of life – moving beneath them. Don’t be alarmed if I greet you now with “may I feel your pulse?”, rather than “hi, how’s it going?”  It may take me a while to learn to really feel what it’s telling me but, in the meantime, I need lots of practice, so “may I feel our pulse?”

In this age of tech where even the idea of robots ‘caring’ for the elderly in nursing homes has been floated around, I fear that we are, quite literally, losing touch. Obviously for the practitioner – allopathic or holistic – mindfulness, empathy, and respect must accompany this ‘hands on’ tool. One must be aware of past trauma, or cultural taboo. This should go without saying and permission should be gained first. The diagnostic touch may also serve, however, as an educational tool. By explaining what you are looking for and why, the patterns that we are feeling and observing and how it all connects, we invite the client in to the conversation with their own body. We invite them to get in touch.

By often feeling of the pulse….we may get the faculty of discerning the natural magnitude of the different constitutions, which no words can explain…”  Sir John Floyer (1707)

I’m excited to add this tool to my practice, and to grow and develop with it in seeking a truly holistic framework for the wellbeing of my clients.






Jones, E. “Cancer: It’s Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment’.  1911. This book is available to read free online at

Rowley, N. Hands On: Basic Clinical Skills for Students and Practitioners of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. 2018. Aeon Books. London.

Wood, M. Bonaldo, F. & Light. P.D  Traditional Western Herbalism and Pulse Evaluation: A Conversation.  2015. Lulu Publishing.

[1] If we read it without a knowledge of the time he wrote it, one might think that he was writing about the state of affairs today. The allopathic paradigm hasn’t changed in 100 years.