Skip to content

Farewell to the Free Clinic

August 21 marks my last day as a clinical herbalist at the Olympia Free Herbal Clinic. After 5 years of volunteer work, my departure conjures an array of emotions: excitement, sadness, and contradictory ones like guilt with concurrent relief.

I’m leaving the free clinic to engage in premedical studies at the University of Washington. I’ll still be available as a clinical herbalist at my own practice, Goldroot Botanical Medicine, and will continue to see clients who I’ve established a relationship with at OFHC on a sliding scale basis. (Sliding scale is available to all my clients.) To help focus my efforts, I want to bring everything under one roof. Working between 2 different practices is hard, and it leaves me feeling scattered as a practitioner. Read more

How to email people

I’ve had the pleasure to work for several high-impact and well-known figures in the mycology and medical fields. Over the years of being a research assistant and science educator, I’ve handled an extraordinary amount of email inquiries: speaking and interview requests, research collaboration proposals, business proposals, technical questions, requests for personal advice and mentorship. And throughout that time, I’ve come to understand what makes emails compelling and engaging, and how to effectively communicate a message or request. Here are some of the key points to consider when you’re emailing someone for the first time. Read more

Building the Healing Hut: Advice for New Diagnoses and Related Plot Twists

When receiving a new diagnosis, we’re rarely prepared. It’s as if we’re woken up from our sleep and told that we have to leave for a trip overseas, right now, with 5 minutes to pack an overnight bag. You have to rapidly reorganized, rethink, replan. What does this mean for me? Can I heal? How will I?

The healing journey is one that everyone travels at some point, as we all hold passports to this night side of life. But it can be a difficult road. Along the way we confront fear, isolation, uncertainty, resource limitations, the mundane horrors of medical treatments and the metamorphosis of identity. There are many ways that we can gracefully support the road of healing. I call this Building the Healing Hut. It’s a metaphor for the container in which healing takes place. It’s a way to conceive of the preparations to encourage healing, expansion, peace, and grace throughout the journey.

This handout was inspired both by my process and experiences with clients, as well as my own personal experience with the healing process. Download the free PDF here, and feel free to share widely.

Reishi reduces obesity in mice and positively alters microbiome composition

Over the last few years we’ve been fed hints that nutraceutical mushrooms may play a role in the composition of the gut microbiome. First there was an in vitro study. Then, in August 2014, a clinical trial from Harvard Medical School found that Turkey Tail (biomass) polysaccharides acted as prebiotics in the digestive tract.

Now, a recent study in Nature Communications found that Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) reduced obesity in mice by affecting the composition of the gut microbiome. Now, I’m not one to jump at the sight of research ‘against obesity’ as if fat-shaming. But we already knew that Reishi impacts insulin sensitivity, but microbiome alteration is a new piece of data. Read more

Problems with Plant Immunostimulation Research

What’s a ‘good’ immune system? Presumably it’s one that can fight infections and inhibit tumor development without causing collateral damage. And conceivably, we can support our immune system by taking plants that fortify or strengthen it, hopefully by restoring the internal controls that keeps the immune system from destroying its own tissues. We call these agents ‘immunomodulations’. When you think about it, it’s a pretty esoteric concept.

As opposed to immune modulation, immunostimulation seems more straightforward and precise. Right? However, the concept of immune ‘stimulation’ is a new one, originating from conclusions of in vitro research. It doesn’t have a discernible historical or traditional basis. (But signs and correlates of inflammation like pain and fever were embraced and treated by a wide range of cultures.) So immune stimulation isn’t empirical in origin; it’s largely based on theoretical considerations from in vitro work. And there are some issues with this data. Read more

Medical Cannabis Class Notes from the Traditional Roots Conference

Last weekend the Traditional Roots Conference was held at NCNM in Portland. And what a great weekend it was! Along with myself, teachers and speakers included Jim McDonald, Aviva Romm, Lydia Bartholow, Donnie Yance, Glen Nagel, Howie Brounstein, Tania Neubauer, and Jillian Stansbury. Orna Izakson is a stellar organizer and hosted a wonderful and engaging event (besides being an overall excellent person and good friend!).

Along with a clinical case panel on PCOS (with Elise Schroeder and Amanda Lattin), I taught a class on medical cannabis for herbalists on Friday. I was still recovering from the flu, so I’m grateful for the patience of all in attendance. Nevertheless, it was a true joy to teach on this important subject. We covered chemistry, pharmacology, clinical applications, routes of administration, safety/toxicology and QA issues.

Read more

Medicinal Mushrooms in the Human Mycobiome

Big discoveries in little things. That seems to characterize our learnings about the importance of the human microbiome. Our developing understanding of microbes and their role in health and disease has led to a nation-wide wake up call for more responsible use of antibiotics in livestock farming and medical practice. We’re beginning to understand the role of bacteria in systemic immunity, digestion, nutrient absorption, inflammation, autoimmunity, hormone metabolism, and neurotransmitters. We’re expanding our awareness by examining the human virome and the role of beneficial viruses.

And now, researchers are now beginning to look at the human mycobiome. The relationship between humans and their resident fungal species has been a neglected field of study. We’re familiar with genuses like Candida, Cryptococcus, and Aspergillus. But there are many, many species of fungi living in our lungs, digestive tracts, oral cavities, and skin that are just starting to be characterized. These likely play a big role in health and disease and highly influenced by our own immune responses. I suggest this is another pathway by which medicinal mushrooms work in the body. Read more

The AncientBiotics Project – testing medieval remedies to treat contemporary pathogens

Researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK investigated a formulation was a 10th century remedy for eye infections from Bald’s Leechbook to treat MRSA. The main ingredients include garlic, alliums, wine, and oxgall (cow bile), steeped for 9 days.

So far, the research seems promising. The data is not yet available, but the investigators claim that Bald’s eyesalve-

  • eradicated of 90% of MRSA cells in vivo (murine wound infection model),
  • penetrated biofilms,

Furthermore, a dilution did not eradicate but inhibited quorum sensing and the ingredients tested as sole agents did not demonstrate the same antimicrobial effects. 

Now, this is preclinical in vitro and in vivo research–the clinical significance is not clear. The mechanisms of action have not been elucidated by the team, but they suspect the complex array of antimicrobial compounds target bacterial reproduction and biofilm formation in several ways. And from our knowledge of phytochemical complexity and systems biology, this would seem to make sense. The findings were presented the findings at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology on 3/30/15.

Not only do I find this type of research collaboration (medieval studies and microbiology) fascinating, but I think the applications to antibiotic resistant bacteria are very relevant and important. I think future treatments for antibiotic resistant bacteria will be complex and target multiple aspects of the infection cascade. This is a great partnership and promising field–and I look forward to more developments.