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Tinctures, tisanes, infusions, decoctions: what’s the difference?

Herbal medicine is enchanting because it’s a simultaneously an art, craft, and science. It’s an art to formulate and be a matchmaker between people and plants. It’s a science to inquire about why and how herbs work the way they do. This post introduces you to the craft of herbal medicine, and demystifies some of the terminology. [This post was originally published in the November 2017 Face the Current magazine.] Read more

Lion’s Mane: nutrients for the nervous system

If you’re familiar with nutraceutical mushrooms, then you’re probably already aware of their well-studied effects on immunity. But there are some mushrooms that go even further. Lion’s mane is a truly unique mushroom that not only supports immunity, but also provides valuable nutrients for the whole nervous system. Given the importance of mental and neurological function to our quality and experience of life, as well as the variety of stressors that can impact it, Lion’s mane can be a treasured addition to any health regimen. This article first appeared in the October issue of Face the Current – the Unity edition.  Read more

Three authors on time: reflections on a solar return

Today marks 32 trips around the sun. It’s a cherished time of reflection for me, highlighted by the changing seasons that inspire an introspection and quietude of their own.

The object of my contemplation has been passage of time. Three authors explore the deep facets of our temporal being in their books – Felt Time: The Science of How We Experience Time by Mark Wittman, Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation by Alan Burdick, and Time Travel: A History by James Gleick. Instead of attempting to summarize or recapitulate their work, I am posting selected passages below.  Read more

Should you take Western fence lizard tincture for Lyme disease?

Over the past few months I’ve seen this remedy recommended to people who are seeking treatments for these debilitating disorders, due to observation that they are resistant to Borrelia infections and the proposition that their tissues contain a special compound that eradicates the infection. That’s actually not the case at all: they just have really strong innate immune systems.

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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