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Herbal medicine as substrate for art

I recently watched an instagram video loop of a lovely young herbalist chopping roots from a wildcrafted plant. Her feed is full of poetic and intimate photographs of herbs. I feel her sense of wonder and awe of the natural world by the way she chooses to portray them.

I pause when these artistic tokens enter my screen. Not only do they imbibe the viewer with a sense of beauty and connection to nature- the use of herbal materials and techniques for art also spurs a curious contrast with the use of herbs as medicine. Read more

Oregon grape monograph

Oregon grape has a place in every herbalist’s apothecary. It possesses unique antimicrobial activity and will be increasingly important in our post-antibiotic world. It also offers liver support, cardiovascular support, and blood glucose regulation. Read on for more information on this treasure of a plant. Read more

Shire City Fire Cider: Don’t buy it

You may have recently learned out the potential health benefits of fire cider: a sweet, spicy, sour, eye-widening infusion of pungent herbs in vinegar and hon. The taste is true to its name. It’s a popular addition to cold and flu regimens. Fire cider is considered to be a “medicinal food” that can be taken as-is or used in a variety of foods and beverages, such as juices, teas, salad dressings, soups, etc. Read more

The Wicked Problem of Lyme and Chronic Infections

Part 1 of a series on chronic infections and their treatment. 

In systems thinking we have this thing called a wicked problem. It’s a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing parameters that are often difficult to recognize. It’s characterized by complex interdependencies, and is not easily subjected to assortment into neat categories with tidy and quick solutions. Wicked problems change when you apply a solution to them. As a culture we tend to hate wicked problems because they defy mechanistic thinking and solutions.

Wicked problems can show up in our bodies, ecosystems, and societies. There are problems that involve all of these levels. Chronic infections like Lyme disease are an example. I am wholly fascinated by Lyme disease and related infections for several reasons:

  • ecosystem disruption is a driver of zoonotic infectious disease epidemics
  • they are challenging our current immunotherapies and are redefining medical practice
  • I have skin in the game: I have contracted and overcome these illnesses, albeit with great effort and considerable expense
  • microbes are cool

Herbalists have the potential to contribute to this area of great need. While this potential has yet to be actualized, we possess tools to sculpt a damaged immune system back into harmony and function by managing inflammatory reactions, increasing innate defenses, restoring GI tissue integrity, and the thoughtful use of complex antimicrobials. In this sense we’ve done some great work so far. We’re also at a fork in the road where we can decide if we want to continue with the “infection as invader” narrative, or broaden our understanding of chronic infection etiology and clarify our therapeutics.  Read more

On Ghost pipe and respect

Ghost pipe (Monotropa uniflora) has received a lot of attention on the blogosphere in recent years. As a mycoheterotroph (takes nutrients from both trees and fungi) it does not photosynthesize, giving it a ghostly, ethereal white appearance. It’s simply breathtaking.

It’s lovely to photograph and share on social media. Yes, the tincture is a breathtakingly beautiful violet color. Yes, it is effective as an analgesic and anxiolytic herb. But it’s become too popular, and stands are disappearing. It’s being misused. Read more

All of the things that livers do

Herbalists love livers. Liver lovers, you might call us. And there’s a good reason for this: The liver regulates many of the body’s chemical and nutrient levels. It’s a metabolic powerhouse of detoxification, chemical organization, and regeneration. So herbalists, who like to support the body systemically, find a wonderful leverage point in this one single but not simple organ. Read more

The Thinking Patient’s Guide to Cannabis and Cancer

Like no other substance in history, cannabis sits at the eye of a storm that is currently upsetting the status quo across the spectrum of political, economic, legal, cultural, scientific and healthcare worlds. Read more

The allure of the cure

Today, while scrolling through Facebook and sipping coffee, I saw a post titled “100 times more effective then chemotherapy: A herb that kills cancer in 48 hours“. This was in reference to the Dandelion Root Project at the University of Windsor in Canada. The hyperbole is obvious- this group started biomedical research on dandelion extract for cancer therapy. It is far from 100 times more effective than chemotherapy. We’ve all seen these posts. Chances are, if you’re a reader of this blog, you are a critical thinker and this kind of thing bugs you. I get bugged too. But I’m beginning to notice that we bring our hope for cures and love of miracles along with us when we interpret science. And instead of seeing this as a problem, I think it’s OK. These can coexist, but I want to emphasize an awareness of how they can affect us. Read more