PLAYING OUR PART IN A HEALING RESPONSE OF NATURE

HERBALISM: PLAYING OUR PART IN A HEALING RESPONSE OF NATURE

 

The other day I delivered a talk to some second year medical students in Winnipeg and I would like to share one very powerful question that arose. Sometimes it takes only one question to strike at the heart of what is holding back our collective evolution and I think this is one of them.

Before we rush to the question, however, let’s explore a key principle in holistic philosophy – that the human body is totally and completely one with the planetary body. In this sense the term holistic is referring to the meaning of the word “hologram” and “fractal.” Fractals are micro and macro patterns found in nature that mathematically support the ancient Hermetic phrase “as above so below.

 

This is not simply a serving of romantic earth loving woo-woo. The body and the planet both consist of 76% water, and are composed of the very same minerals, bacteria, air, etc. Yet, some of us still don’t appear to understand the impact of such a fundamental natural law of unity and interdependence.

 

Collectively we have plenty of information, yet we still seem to lack the capacity or inspiration to adapt. The question naturally arises then, even if we are given good information, is information anywhere near enough to inspire us to adapt intelligently?

Somehow we are still operating under an old program born out of scientific reductionism – the idea that there are “people over here” and “nature is over there.” More so we have been sold the idea that nature is not sentient, or alive and living as we are. This is similar to when science or religion told us that animals or slaves did not have souls or feel. Just recently, in 2012, the Whanganui River in New Zealand was granted “rights of personhood,” to protect it from harmful practices. This is an example of holistic philosophy in action in the modern world.

 

The essential gap or wound we are recovering from might be identified as a corrupted view of the inter-relationship of all of nature. It involves how we relate to each other and our own “greater nature.” When we speak of holistic perspectives we are speaking of “Wholism” or looking at things as a whole and not only as “parts.”

 

A practical example of this schism is the daily assumption that what comes out our taps is miraculously separate from what we pour down it. We rest a great deal of blind faith in technology and natural processes to miraculously fix the health of the water, earth, and air that make up our bodily health. We somehow hold the view that regardless of what we do to these elements we will be OK. Such a view is what allows for some of us to be surprised at the rise in cancer or auto immune disease rates.

From such a view, we might see ourselves, as being the victims of some terrorist like disease where there is little room for personal responsibility. It does not often register that the chemicals we are putting down our drains, or on our crops are accumulating in our waters and directly affecting our well- being. Yet if we do not understand the way that chemicals are building in the ecosystem we will likely not bother to become “conscious consumers.” We will not likely read a label to see whether it is filled with harmful chemicals or if it is natural and safe for our self and our loved ones.

 

This is not about becoming fearful nor neurotic, it is just about becoming informed of our choices and choosing wisely – as if we truly cared. It’s amazing that we are a species so intelligent that we can fly ourselves into space, yet we could be so easily lead to self-harm by flashy labels and crafty brand loyalty sciences.

 

On a much more positive note we do seem to be waking up, even our doctors are waking up from the illusion of the paradigm of “chemical wars” against “terrible diseases.” We are realizing that we arrived here as a result of misplaced trust and poor relationships to our food, the elements, and ourselves. We have blindly trusted that there are “parental organizations” that have our best interests in mind over their own power and profit. We are waking up to the fact that it is time we ask questions directly to the powers that be and expect some intelligent answers.

 

There is a very high likelihood that we will look back at this era as a chemical nightmare that took us decades to awaken and disentangle from. The irony is that we are running around searching for an amazing cure for diseases that are often caused by the toxicity levels of chemicals in our elements and a poor relationship to the earth. Relationship is at the heart of most healing, and not simply the suppression of symptoms via more chemicals.

 

Through grand funding campaigns we have raised money in our quest to eradicate disease – but we generally don’t want to look at the chemicals in our own homes and lives or our own lifestyle patterns. Ironically, the money raised by such campaigns is often going right back into the very empires that produced the chemicals in the first place.

 

Now to return to our main thread, the trillion-dollar question one young doctor aske: “What if I want to prescribe herbs that I feel have sufficient research and historical use, why can’t I?“ An additional question was “why can’t we as North American doctors prescribe both pharmaceuticals and herbalism medicine or homeopathy as is the case in other countries like China and India, and parts of Europe?” I had to explain that although herbalism is as old as the hills, and there had been a concerted effort here in North America to create a monopoly for chemical interest groups – interest groups are still running the show in our times. If anyone wants to learn more about this they need only research the formation of the American Medical Association well over 100 years ago. We also discussed the reality that no person or company can patent nature or a plant and how this posed a problem to the profit model of modern medicine.

 

One very reasonable suggestion was that “herbal medicine needs to be more evidence based,” and that “we as doctors must be able to know who a reliable herbalist might be so that we can refer patients to them.” Though I couldn’t agree more; and we need more research on herbalism, the truth is there already are a great deal of studies that are going nearly completely ignored. As far as knowing who to refer their patients to, right now there is the Canadian Council of Herbalists Associations, which is as great a place to start as any in order find out what Professional Herbalist Associations exist in Canada.

The theme I see emerging is much more than a battle for the control of corporate medicine. I see people like you and I literally re-membering a view of the livingness of the earth and doing our part to restore the sacred relationship between human beings and our greater planetary body. I see people seeking to relearn what their Great Grandparents knew and the desire to keep a living tradition alive.

 

I call this the sunrise culture of love and healing. The old paradigm of control and profit over love and healing is what I refer to as the sunset culture. The sunset culture is designed to implode in much the same way as a building with poor engineering might be – it is simply unsustainable. Today we are increasingly seeing people who are inspired to avoid needing pharmaceuticals by caring for themselves in the here and now and adjusting their relationship to life and nature’s laws. This is the traditional way, to live in balance and avoid disease by honoring harmony.

 

When it comes right down to it this is a movement of choosing to care. We are not getting any tax breaks for taking care of ourselves or our planet, it’s all coming from our hearts and the very intelligence of nature that seeks balance and healing within each of us and the whole. We can receive all the information in the world about health and environment but it’s meaningless without our human capacity to care. As such we could say this movement is not simply born out of the age of information but the tenacity of the human conscience, ability to care, and apply our intelligence combined.

Maybe nothing short of caring can mend the wound of disconnection and not caring. We are living in an information age, but maybe we are entering an age where we will be forced to care much more and to acknowledge the livingness of the earth and that not only is the body an ecosystem but the ecosystem a body. We are being asked to be more than heads of information with financial interests, we are being asked to be passionate and caring humans beings.

 

Just as it is a healing response of nature to re-green the wounded earth we call a parking lot, caring and compassion are at the core of healing. It is the role of the herbalist to mend broken views that lack integrity as much as it is to assist one in healing any physical wound. Of course we can use the great technologies available to us today, but what is really endangered is the number of truly well fed (information included), awakened, and compassionate human beings. Human beings that are at least as interested in our role as stewards of the planet as we are in our favourite television shows or next travel plans.

Somehow, we got duped along the way into the idea that money, a magic chemical pill, and surgery are all we need to heal and live a happy life. Somehow we nearly threw away all that was real to us and to our ancestors for centuries.

There was a tear in time, in the fabric of our traditional knowledge, that we ourselves our patching up today. It is a highly natural movement just like putting our hands on a scraped knee or holding our head when it hurts. We want to grow to become Grandmothers that can show our children around the

garden, we want to be Grandfathers that know which herbal oils to rub onto the chests of our little ones. It is this deep innate sense of what is good and what is right that takes this whole conversation beyond who is doing what studies and who owns what patent.

 

Yes the herbal industry should be regulated and yes we need both modern medicine and traditional herbalism in our communities. But our right to use plants (and to tend to them) as a part of our treatment – even in hospitals, should no longer be in question. It is the plants that give us the air we breath. It’s the plants that capture the light of the sun and feed us. It should not even be up for debate that plants can heal us on so very many levels? Even the vast majority of synthetic pharmaceuticals themselves have come from plants.

 

Today what we need are herbalists that can respond to the growing interest in natural ways of living, we need people who are committed to bringing the knowledge and safe practices of herbalism back into our families and communities. Yet we also need doctors who are inspired and tuned in enough to ask the right questions and be a part of the necessary emergence of an Integrative Medical Model. What it means to be a doctor and to honor the oaths taken upon graduation is taking on new depth for the awakening physicians of today.

 

Learning about our plant allies, along side practices such as Yoga and Qi Gong, we generate a more dynamic movement toward freedom, health, and happiness. Beauty and longevity are simply natural side effects of adopting such methods. Yet these are timeless technologies that go far beyond beauty and longevity – to the heart of abiding in our natural “state of health” and assisting in evolution and planetary harmony. In the end this is more than an issue of politics or philosophy. This topic is at the heart of our cultural and planetary vitality and is essential to the quality of life we might all expect in the decades to come.

Chad Cornell, IT’S TICK SEASON AGAIN

On our way back from a family gathering in Saskatchewan we stopped for walk in the woods. It was only mid April, but by the time we returned to the car we were pulling wood-ticks off of ourselves and the dog. My nine year old son was terrified at the site of the creepy little crawlers in a way that I can remember as a boy myself. There is something so unsettling about ticks that has only been magnified since the discovery of rapid spread of lyme disease over the past couple of decades.

 

It’s quite interesting that in America, just south of the Canadian border, there has been a very high incidence of lyme disease recorded and diagnosed, yet according to the Canadian medical establishment it has not really existed. If a Canadian wants to get tested for Lyme they have to travel and or pay for expensive tests through naturopaths that provide a good margin of accuracy but not a 100% accuracy of diagnosis.

 

After many years of studying Lyme disease, and authors on the topic such as American Herbalist Stephen Buhner, I have come to gain a sense of how the disease works. I have also looked for practical ways for us to both prevent and address it. How to heal from Lyme disease is not something I can cover here in a big post. If you are in need of some place to start on such a vast topic, I would look into Stephen Buhners work to start with. What I want to address in this blog is primarily the idea of how we might prevent Lyme from infecting ourselves and others.

 

To begin, the most important thing to consider is that we are only just learning about what this “Lyme Disease” is (besides the name of the town Old Lyme in the Northeastern U.S.). However, it does seem clear that the main bacteria associated with it is Borrelia burgdorferi, and there are many other co-infections that can and do accompany it that result in varied degrees of symptoms and in some cases can destroy and even end lives. Most people who contact the back legged tick, which has been moving into Canada from the U.S. ( possibly more rapidly due to climate change) if bitten will get a large red ring or rash around the bite. However, not all people get such a rash. The main initial symptoms can include; headaches, body and joint aches, fevers, nights sweats, feeling very weak and experiencing brain fog. There are a host of more minor symptoms including other rashes, changes in vision and so on.

 

Two very important questions we should be asking ourselves are: Why do some people fall hard to Lyme disease while others do not? And why do some people recover well from treatment while others do not? Of course, healing is dynamic and has any aspects to it, but to answer these questions more directly I believe we have to look a classic and sound theories of body ecology. There is a famous quote from the historic medical researcher Louis Pasteur that clarifies his discovery that it is not the germ or “bug” that causes a disease to flourish, but the “terrain” of the body that either inhibits or allows it to take over it’s new host with ease. Such would be the case with people who are really run down by chronic candida, leaky gut type syndromes, chronic viral overloads, and so on. In order to understand this in more detail please see my last blog on spring cleansing and the concept of keeping a healthy terrain happening within us in general. If we cannot keep a healthy inner terrain happening we are basically the perfect hosts for opportunistic infections – which require certain conditions in order to thrive.

 

What I would like to focus on here is a very practical conclusion I have come to – that the best time to address the possibility of Lyme disease is immediately after the bite and at the location of the bite itself, before it gets a chance to spread! Yes, it is appears true according to research that Lyme disease can apparently be spread via saliva and through other body fluids, but if we are bitten by a black legged tick there is research suggesting that there can be a 100% kill of the infectious bacteria with the topical use of certain antibiotics. Here is a link to check out on this topic: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3910720/

 

Since I am an Herbalist, and we herbalist’s focus on the use of natural antibiotics rather than pharmaceuticals, I use certain plants and remedies instead. I am not saying there is no place for pharmaceuticals, in fact Lyme disease, if caught early may be one of the best times to consider them. However, if you do not have access to an effective topical or internal antibiotic, or if your personal belief system has you avoiding them, there are natural options to consider and for you to also research further into.

 

If I myself, or someone I love get’s a tick bite this is what I would do: First of all don’t rely on the idea that if the tick has not bitten in or attached itself for more than 24 hours there is nothing to worry about. Also don’t assume that back legged ticks will forever more be the only tick that spreads disease producing bacteria. The best first response of course is to remove the tick as safely as possible and you can watch videos or read articles on this – but the main thing is getting the head out along with the body. Another key thing to consider is that it appears helpful for our body to have at least have a short amount of time to recognize a foreign entry of harmful bacteria. Allowing it do so ensures it responds with the correct immune defences to address the infection. After this point I add natural remedies to kill off an neutralize the infection.

 

My main plant allies and remedies, the ones I always try to have handy during tick season, often include: A quality colloidal silver, tea tree oil, lavender oil, oregano oil, a tincture with goldenseal in combination with myrrh and other antibacterials (Echinasea by St Francis Herb Farm). After I apply a couple of the above I finally add a bentonite clay plaster/ poultice that I leave on to dry and draw out and neutralize any infection. Of course these have not been as heavily researched as pharmaceutical antibiotics but have a long track record of proving themselves as potent anti-bacterials.

 

Some of these remedies can also be used internally very safely to support and modulate the immune response as well. Please check with your local herbalist or do your diligent research to decide how to proceed in a way that is best for you. Other herbs that have helped people who may have contracted lyme include Olive leaf, Cat’s Claw, Ashwagnadha, Eluthero, and many others. Some people also use bio-resonance therapies as well as heat therapies such as those found in Germany that can take ones body temperature so high that infections die off, but unfortunately also some of the patients die off in the process as well.

 

This weekend I plan on heading out on the land to do some building. I won’t let wood ticks stop me from going into the bush but I will tuck my pants into my socks and keep all my senses alert so that I can try to catch them before they latch on. I’ll also be wearing some geranium essential oil which they seem to especially dislike. I find they tend to be less active after rain and it’s always better to stay away from the long grass during peak tick season (from May to late June).

I have also been thinking about the conversation I had with an American from the area known as Old Lyme in the U.S, where this problem is theorized to have all started. When I spoke to them about Lyme disease and how rampant it is up here, and how much to seems to be spreading, their reply was that they didn’t know anyone with Lyme back home. It’s had me wondering whether they have adapted to the disease as a collective and have now developed a resistance.

 

Either way, we have to do our best to keep our inner terrain healthy and resistant to as many diseases as possible, and we can also have natural remedies handy to help our bodies fight off infections of all kinds. These are our folk remedies and they require no prescription. However, they are very dynamic and very powerful in their own right. Possibly the topical antibiotic referred to in the link above will also one day be available and more research can be done on it. However, the challenge with bacteria is that they are very good at adapting quickly to antibiotics and it’s our natural herbal antibiotics and such remedies as Colloidal Silver will become increasingly important for us. There is so much more to explore on this topic, possibly at a later date. I am available for consultations in person or online. Have a great Summer, enjoy the wild lands, and keep your natural medicine kit close at hand!

Chad Cornell, Spring Cleansing

Things We Should All Know About Spring Cleansing

 

 

1.  That we need it!  Though we do not want to become neurotic about ideas of being clean versus impure – there is a very practical side to the timeless concept of cleansing our bodies.  We clean our cars, our homes, and we all feel better after a good shower. In the same way there are simple and effective ways to cleanse the inner body.   Cleansing is something that we used to do naturally as we used up all of our winter food supply by late winter.  However, in the modern age we have full access to a bounty of food year round.  The main thing to realize is that nature has cycles to it, and so does our body.  When we eat less our body has a chance to catch up on other things and do some house cleaning so to speak – some maintenance and repair.  In the winter we are meant to be resting more and eating less because in most cultures there was usually less food around.

 

Understanding the research on eating less and longevity inspires us to learn what the benefits are to eating less also.  It does seem clear that for the majority of nature over eating is a recipe for disaster and eating less is a recipe for longevity and vitality.  Digestion is at the foundation of natural healing and it is considered similar to the element of fire.  So in order to explore the idea of cleansing we are going to use the analogy of fire and smoke.

 

We all know that when things compost they go through a form of enzymatic and bacterial breakdown just like a compost pile.  When we stir a pile of leaves in the Fall we can see that they are in a breakdown process that includes heat.  Just like fire transforms wood into energy and heat – so too does our “digestive fire” transform food into energy.  However, it is easier to digest food in the Summer when the environment is warm – because we and our environment are totally connected.  In the ancient science of Ayurveda they would say we should eat along with the Sun.  When the Sun is high in the sky – so too is our ability to digest and assimilate well.  Noon hour is also akin to Summer and the cool night akin to winter.

 

Further to our analogy . . .  If we put too much wood on our fire (or food in the stomach) while the fire is running low (or even running well) then we get a lot of smoky residue.  We all know this from when we put wet wood on a low burning fire. In our analogy the smoke is unhealthy gut flora and poorly digesting food creating toxins that spread through the body.  The by-product of poor digestion is referred to in Ayurveda as Ama.  Think of ama as creosote building up in your stove pipe after a long winter of burning wood in the wood stove.  If we do not clean out the chimney then it is clogged and this could be considered analogous to the cause of many health concerns ranging from poor digestion and pain to sinus infections, brain fog, and all kinds of inflammation and irritation.

 

Those who have lived with wood stoves know that one of the best things to do to keep the chimney clean is to burn a hot fire – with wood that is not damp and cold.  Damp and cold wood is analogous to sweet heavy foods, yeast, flour, and literally cold foods.  Even a meal like a creamy pasta followed by ice cream or a smoothie would be considered thick, heavy, and damp.  The next thing to understand is that in traditional herbalism every flavour belongs to an element.    As mentioned above the heavier foods tend to be sweet and belong to the earth and water elements.  They actually increase those elements in our body.  After all we are all made up of the elements!  The air element on the other hand is generally associated with the bitter flavour.   So to think like an Herbalist you would consider that in the Spring we are coming out of a damp cold season and trying to ensure that our fire gets going well – just like it is in nature.  So what we do to get a fire going is we blow on it with the bitter flavour which is related to the air element!

 

As the fire element heats up the body and the environment it is the time for us to help our body cleanse after a winter stagnancy.  As an herbalist I notice that the first herbs that mother nature gives to us are generally bitter and cleansing herbs.  The bitter flavour of herbs like dandelion, wormwood, and burdock are very helpful to get the digestion primed and they cleanse out the liver, kidneys, and blood.  They also generally kill off parasites in the body that can underly various disease processes as well.  Another very important herb that comes up early is nettle leaf – Nettle leaf is an amazing blood tonic and cleanser that has been used for centuries to cleanse the body.  It’s amazing how the first herbs up in the Spring are actually the herbs we need to stay healthy.  If we were living closer to the wilds we would definitely be eating these herbs first.   I have included a link here to a great herbal formula called Clear Glow by the Canadian company St Francis Herb Farm.  It is based on the understanding I shared above.  It tends to be used for skin rashes, eczema, boils and so on that are caused by poor digestion and “toxic heat” in the blood.

https://www.hollowreedholistic.ca/st-francis-clear-glow-100ml.html

 

2. The second thing we should know about cleanses is That we should be gentle. Many of us are leading pretty indulgent lives it is important not to push too hard with any cleansing programs.  For example, when we fast too aggressively and take cleansing herbs without the intention of being gentle with our body then it is kind of like cleaning out every closet and under every piece of furniture and rug in the house all in one afternoon!  Our main elimination organs (kidneys, skin, digestive system, and lungs) can become really stressed and overwhelmed.  I have seen people stop eating entirely and only drink teas, and then go back to a crappy diet after 10 days which really only stressed and overwhelmed their whole system.  Cleansing instead should be a chance to eat a little less, eat more at mid day and less in the later evening.  It is a good time to gently take more herbs, rest more, get some gentle exercise and help the body rejuvenate itself for the active season ahead.  Cleansing should not be business as usual.  It is a good time to let the body catch up and heal.  By eating less (but good food) we get a chance to let our inner fire burn a bit stronger which is very purifying and can raise our vibration and mood.  It is usually also a time to process our emotions that we often cover up with food and this is why it’s good to have a meditation practice and maybe even journal.  We have to process and digest what has not been digested well in the previous months.  It’s also a great time to clarify what we wish to accomplish with our lives during the vibrant season of Summer ahead.

 

3. We should also know the signs of a healing crisis: One thing a lot of people do not know, that they should, is how to tell if the body is overwhelmed during a cleanse.  We all have different capacities or challenges when it comes to cleansing depending on our previous lifestyle, genetics, and age.  If the body is too overwhelmed by a cleanse you may feel like you are aching all over, constipated, and very weak.  If you’re body is cleansing well it is almost the same as when the body is cleansing well from a flu.  You will be able to sweat and eliminate toxins.  Your bowels and kidneys will be moving well and you will not feel super tired, aching, and toxic.  If you are experiencing heavy flu symptoms then you have to consider how well (or not well) you are supporting your body on the cleanse.  For example, there are herbs to support the liver in the process of detoxification like the legendary Milk Thistle Seed.  This herb appears to support the body in the production of an antioxidant called Glutathione which it uses to deal with all kinds of toxins that have built up in the system.  These toxins can even be chemicals from our environment.

 

One of the best herbs that can help you sweat is good old peppermint leaf.  It also really helps to ensure that you are producing enough stomach acid – a key ingredient to health.  Lemon water will also support us in our cleansing and drinking enough water cannot be over-emphasized.

 

Nettle leaf, as mentioned above, is filled with B vitamins and iron and it’s great for supporting the kidneys.  So too are the leaves of the dandelion and the herb parsley.  If you feel really poorly on a cleanse it likely means that you need to support yourself better in the process of detox and maybe even see an Herbalist for guidance.  It means you should be extra gentle and not do anything too extreme.  The old adage cleanse a little – build a little comes to mind.  No heroic cleansing please! Your body will appreciate you caring for it, and cleansing helps us dial in new healthy patterns of eating and living that we have been wanting to start.  Going for more walks, having a sauna or epsom salt bath, and even getting a gentle massage can all be great additions to support us in our cleansing process.

 

Keep in mind also that although “spring cleansing” is a the most popular time to cleanse we can cleanse one day a week as well and simply make it more of a part of our lifestyle in general.  It is a chance for us to get the upper hand on many of our unhealthy patterns of craving, and even issues related to deeper avoidance of more in depth healing we are needing to show up for.  It may sound like work, and yes it takes discipline, but we do it to avoid unnecessary future suffering and to honour and respect our precious bodies for the sacred vehicles that they are.  When we show up for ourselves in this way life tends to get more joyful and we have more energy and a greater sense of lightness of being.  This is why we cleanse – because it feels good, and it often inspires those around us to take better care of themselves as well!

 

If you would like deeper guidance on cleansing diet guidelines, ways of processing emotion, as well as gaining mental clarity please email mail for a consultation.  Have a great Spring season!