(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
A Gentle Way of Healing…
I read with great interest randgrithr’s Essay on Swine Flu and encourage her to write more about the “New Dark Ages”!!! Our conversation there reminded me that yeah, I am an herbalist, and maybe I should offer some of what I know to those among us are wondering about how to stay healthy while the Murder-by-Spreadsheet crowd is busy robbing us blind for nothing.
First (I guess) I should say that the “active ingredients” in most drugs – including synthetics – are called alkaloids. Opium, for instance, is an alkaloid. Alkaloids are chemical compounds that contain nitrogen, which gives them an alkaline base. Life from bacteria to fungi to plants and animals all produce alkaloid compounds, usually extracted via an acidic extraction method. Quinine, cocaine and nicotine are further examples, as are a great many of the compounds identified as “active” in other natural sources that end up getting synthesized by Big Pharma and sold for way too much money to sick people who can’t afford it.
The difference between synthetic drugs and natural herbal remedies is significant. When you use an herbal extract, such as Samento, or tea, you’re also getting a host of associated natural compounds that can boost the effects and/or dampen harmful effects. Plus, natural compounds come in the proper chirality for life, thus are readily absorbed by the body and put to good use. Synthetics often have backwards compounds that life can’t use, and these are either useless or harmful depending on what it is you’re using and how it is put to use in your body.
The Horseman mentioned something about ginseng for a preventative tonic per flu season, and while I’m not familiar with any anti-viral properties of the plant, I do grow it in my forest for general tonic uses. Usually dry the roots and then grind, steep in vodka for a few months, then strain and take a shot occasionally. I’ve got 30+ year old man-roots that I can’t sell since they changed the law – nothing younger than 5 or older than 15 – but I can certainly use them here at home, and do.
I made an anti-viral tea this year because I knew the Unicorn (misnomer: swine) flu was coming. Just a mixture of dried peppermint, lemon balm, Japanese honeysuckle, raspberry leaf, goldenrod and grape leaf. Plus last year’s rose hips (vitamin C), steeped with green tea and served with raw honey. I’ve been drinking it regularly for a couple of months, when Unicorn flu hit it wasn’t that bad at all. One day mostly in bed, that’s it. Hubby thought it was allergies (until I reminded him that allergies aren’t contagious).
Up here on the mountain almost all the readily known herbals grow either in the balds or in the forest. Everything from black cohosh and ginseng and goldenseal to chickweed, cleavers, liverwort and wild ginger. And everything in between! We have glow-in-the-dark fungi, entire meadows of “Lady Herbs” the Indians used for female issues (including birth control), and club mosses, ferns and healthy stands of hardwoods, dogwoods, tulip poplars and sassafrass. Wild cherry, slippery elm, six kinds of oak plus hickory and maples from which syrup is annually drawn. When I concoct a remedy I either make a tincture (vodka or high-dollar moonshine), or a dry material to be made into an infusion. I know what’ll hurt you and what’ll heal, for every active alkaloid you spot there’s an antidote growing within eyesight. Don’t do dangerous blends, as there are things growing here that the natives used to commit suicide! You’ve gotta know what you’re doing.
First and foremost, do no harm. If somebody’s got a real serious problem, tell them to go to a doctor. I can’t cure heart disease, can’t treat internal cancers (I could, but I won’t), can’t make your blood pressure go down by much without life-counseling and can’t make you live as if you meant it. I can treat serious diarrhea (Joe Pye), I can treat skin cancers, I can pretty much cure your psoriasis, and I can help treat infections, asthma, allergies, stomach issues, constipation, lethargy, chronic fatigue, Seasonal Affective Disorder and liver/kidney problems if they aren’t very bad yet. Basic health maintenance. Plus I can set bones, stitch cuts, and treat rashes and stubborn skin ulcers (even in diabetics).
My customers are friends and friends of friends. Sometimes they come here to the mountain, sometimes I listen to the description and give a friend a concoction to give someone else to try. Most general health issues arise from eating the wrong diet – some people are yin, some are yang, fast food and Steak House garbage will kill you – and wrong habits. Unhappiness causes most of the fatigue syndromes I’ve met, so often my remedies just get people involved in thinking about changing the way they look at life. Even if it’s not too specific, it’s something they want to believe will help, and the placebo effect is real. What I give them won’t hurt them, though if they’re on a regimen of pharmaceutical drugs I usually don’t offer anything but advice. Get off of as many as possible, then call me.
And on a last note, as the current practitioner of an ancient art I earned the hard way over many years of life, I give it all away for free. Never charged anybody for anything, even when my mother’s physician requested some of my skin cancer cure to test because it worked better than anything he’d ever encountered. I live in close harmony with my land, I carefully manage my medicinal crops, and they’re there if I ever do need money. The ginseng alone – which increases annually as I transfer seeds (that don’t sprout for 2 years) from the Grandmothers in the bottomland to more convenient new woods near the cabin – is worth its weight in gold. Literally. The black cohosh is endangered too, I have an entire mountainside of it growing amongst dogwoods and ferns. The government would pay me not to harvest, and I only harvest a few roots a year. But it’s my responsibility to manage lovingly, not theirs. So I do.
I live in a most magical place, here in these ancient, magical mountains, because I chose to do so. I am just guarding and protecting the land, the land loves me right back. When I tell people I have fairies in my spring, some of them laugh like I’m crazy and some know what I’m talking about. The laughers never see it, the believers get as much water as they want. It comes out from under the roots of an ancient poplar about six feet in diameter, is piped to two cisterns before pumping uphill. It silts up on occasion and we go clean it out – in the silt is gold dust, and occasional fairy tears. Fairy tears are hematite crystals formed at right angles into tiny crosses. There’s a whole legend for that, but I won’t tell it now. There’s also rubies, emeralds, garnets and sapphires in the granite, quartz and mica mix. No fossils here, this mountain was built before there was life on earth. Now it is the most abundant place on the planet.
Only you can heal yourself. All a doctor or anyone else can do is help, but in the end it’s your body and your own body’s systems that will heal or fail. Ultimately we all fail, the question is how much we’ll suffer first. I am not suffering, I am loving my life and the choices I’ve made. The political world can fall completely apart tomorrow – there can be revolution on the streets, mass chaos, bodies piling up. But I am fine, thanks, until I am not. It doesn’t hurt to make those kinds of choices, and learn to live by (and with) them…