Coconut oil miracles, fallacious thinking and building foundations.


So, let’s say we are looking for a new home. Can you imagine buying one without opening the basement door, walking down the stairs and peering at the foundation? (Imagine you live in a basementy bioregon please)

Would you take a realtor’s word for it that the foundation is fine? The person who is trying to sell you the house? I wouldn’t. I’d bust out my headlamp and see for myself. And I certainly would never suggest that others on the internet should buy that house without that information. Would you buy a car without looking under the hood, or at least kicking the tires? (Which…I don’t know, do people think the tires are going to explode or what? But anyway–let’s just imagine. It’s a thought experiment.)

So why are we taking overdramatic statements which have not been backed up from people who are selling the product or have something to gain as fact in the world of natural health, repeating these claims as if we’ve looked in the basement, when in fact we often haven’t even opened the front door?

For example, I frequently hear that oil pulling is miraculous, but you absolutely must spit out the oil after swishing as “it is FILLED with toxins”. What are all these toxins? How does coconut oil pull them out? Where did they come from? Come on, people. The reason why this is a problem is that it turns many more realistic people off, makes it much easier for them to dismiss alternative medicine in general, and allows us to live in unexamined delusion. Additionally, it obscures the basic idea that coconut oil may have some basic benefits in helping to reduce certain types of gum and skin inflammation.

If a claim is true but the foundation of it is fuzzy logic or magical thinking it is no better than a beautiful home built on a termite-infested base. It is easily knocked over.

If a claim is exaggerated it shows an inherent under-confidence in the claim. I often feel like IF the solutions alternative types are bringing to the table are so great THEN we do not have to use words like “miraculous”, “magical”, “the one solution” and so forth. LET THE REMEDY SPEAK FOR ITSELF. Because plants and foods have properties, they will stand or fall on their own merit in practice, and do not need fallacious thinking to promote them.

We in the natural health community often give those who dislike us on principle a proverbial box of ammo to use against us by failing to use logic, relying on fear-based tactics, denying basic scientific principles and/or  failing to call out absurd marketing claims. Perhaps we should reconsider this approach?

Let’s stop trying to get blog clicks at the expense of reason.

Let’s stop fear-mongering.

Let’s recognize that integration may be more valuable, long-term, than separation.

Let’s recognize that some of our promotional materials make us, as a community, sound like judgmental douchebags.

And let’s let go of the naturalistic fallacy and open our minds to helping to discover what works best, which I believe includes plant-based medicine in many cases, as well as standardized medicine, movement, community-building, nutrition, addressing systemic and environmental  issues which contribute to health outcomes and, occasionally, just letting people be heard.

Ultimately, let’s examine our motives. Are we trying to advance care for our community? Or are we trying to be rock stars? What unfolds as we build this house will depend in many ways on whether to not we are building our solutions on a strong foundation or on a slidy pile of sand, so let’s consider that next time we combine our hands, a laptop and an idea, eh?



Addendum: Please don’t think I am against case studies, narratives or personal stories, but I think they need to come with FULL disclosure and I think “It worked for me, I don’t know why but you could look into it and try it of you want” and  “I heard it cures cancer” and “It is a miracle and you must use it now” are extremely different types of statements. Words have meaning, people.

Why ask why?


Why do we, as a culture, need alternative medicine? Why do we need alternatives to anything? I don’t believe it is merely to provide choices. In fact, I believe too much choice is just confusing and not always helpful at all. But I do believe that all entrenched systems need alternatives.

So we have this model, some people cal it “allopathic” medicine but I prefer standardized medicine. (Because allopathic is by definition the opposite of homeopathic and I am not talking about that binary at all here.) So we have this model, and we have this alleged “alternative” model…actually many different models that fall under the umbrella of alternative medicine, some of which are great and others of which are suspect in my opinion.  What role does the alternative serve in this culture? It is here to provide questions and expose holes in what could otherwise be the only hamburger joint in town.

Someone needs to point out holes in the fabric of culture, whether it be a political culture, standard education, fitness culture…someone has to be the Green party, the Charter school, the anti-globo-gym….in order to change giant beauracracies we need curiosity, questioners, humor, we need to know that different paradigms do exit and are possible and this can potentially make those behemoths better.

So a punk outfit questions a standard fashion outfit.

A differently abled body questions the standardized body.

Natural hair questions productized hair.

Queers question gender binaries.

Herbalism questions standardized medicine.

We may not be providing the answers, and maybe there are no answers to life’s endless cycle of questions. But if we fail to ask questions or suppress these questioners, because it makes us uncomfortable, feel challenged or squirmy or awkward,  many will live their lives without even realizing that the most popular paradigm is a paradigm!  By providing an alternative we point out that there is something standardized, and ask if we are okay with that. We are adding to culture, not taking away from culture by our asking.

diet food from hell

diet food from hell

Just listen.


I am finding myself reading yet another book about power written by men and clearly FOR men. The examples are men, they use HE and HIM exclusively throughout.   Multiple otherwise great podcasts and interviews about math, science, sports, business, drugs are often aimed at a male audience.  HE HE HE. It makes me wonder if there is a place for someone like me, or if they just want me to go away, to dwell in Mommy blogs and chick lit……

And I am finding myself defending my feelings, again, about the constant barrage of sexual harassment on the internet, in this case within the fitness industry. “But men get harassment too!” Sure. And by speaking  up, I don’t aim to harm men, but to bring us ALL to an equal level of safety in this culture.

We have been objectified in such a ubiquitous way that we have to tune it out to even get through the day. Our bodies have been used to sell every fucking thing, abused, controlled, shamed and ogled. It’s OK to say “I don’t know how that feels.”

And I am seeing people claim that food deserts have been solved, that poor people need to just make better choices, that positive thinking will solve ALL of your problems and attract money to you. Nothing against making good choices but why not just listen to people’s stories? WHY NOT JUST LISTEN? Maybe there are things out there that can’t be solved with a vision board alone. Maybe you don’t know how it feels to be the  other. Maybe you don’t know how it feels to get your breasts grabbed on the bus. To be looked down upon.

How easy it is for someone to say “don’t get offended”.  To make a joke. To blame the victim for feeling bad. Offended? Hell, no. Offended is like annoyed and people I am angry. Because this is not just one isolated person being annoying.  It is other-ing. Dirty-ing. It is a long-term pattern of harassment, abuse, violence, systematic oppression and suppression and privilege  which has worked to keep us separate, afraid, broke and confused for fucking millennia.

Look, it is not a contest. We all have problems. We all deal with judgement. But when you exclude women or harass women, you push us away. Most of us, anyway.  And maybe we have something to add!!!

When you judge women, immigrants or people dealing with poverty you aren’t helping….When we include and integrate “the other” into our words, deeds and places we all benefit. OK? Let me say that again. Including women, as well as people of color, poor people, those with other religions, different abilities, LGBT people, basically any usually marginalized population into our words, communities, works of art and writing, we ALL benefit.

Stop shaming. It doesn’t work.

I am not too sensitive.

Women gaining power doesn’t mean men losing power.

Jut say “thank you for sharing your story. “

And you won’t drop dead from saying SHE.

The “other” Green Juice



Has anyone else noticed a huge explosion in juices available at health food stores…or heck, even at Stop-and-Shop now? Five, ten dollar bottles of squeezed plants with claims to do every darn thing, from reduce inflammation to calm us down to sparkle up our colons. Sounds great, right? Who doesn’t want imported Turmeric and Coconuts in disposable single-use plastic bottles with a very nicely designed label backed by a crack marketing team!

But. Do we really believe in this? Is this progress–too many beverages to count lining the refrigerators of Whole Foods….Is it a lasting truth or is it a Band-Aid that just makes us believe we are doing something healthy? What good is a shiny colon if we don’t really have an underlying connection with the Earth, if we aren’t  feeling empowered or creating lasting positive change for everyone?

Is this progress for humanity or progress for capitalism?

I am not exactly against the occasional use of a healthy juice. I have used one for extra B-vitamins after a long flight and sought C during a particularly nasty head cold. But I see it as a temporary fix in the context of a disconnected world, a symptom of my own lack of planning and self-care, an answer so easy as to be perhaps meaningless….and I advise folks to try the other green juice.

Yes, the most ancient and lasting beverage is free, and it is NATURE. Standing next to plants can offer us a kind of food that is so obvious as to seem worthless in this culture. But it is not.

It’s great, actually. I have yet to fall hopelessly in love with any squeezed liquid from who-knows-where. But we all have the ability to lose track of time with a tree, to disappear into a field of honeybee-laden Asters, to lie on moss and forget to worry about our colons and how shiny they are.

And we give of ourselves in this paradigm too… not just 5 bucks but an exchange of our energy.

It does not have to be either one or the other, of course. One could drink kale while sitting in a field. But if I had to, I would choose the green juice that speaks to me in my mother tongue, the green juice that feeds me with fiber and that never fills up landfills…the Earth itself buzzes with the green juice that is available to everyone, independent of shipping routes and disposable income. This green juice endures.


Archetype 2: the Firebreather


“They got guns but it points the wrong way”-MIA


Ah, tension. It is vital to life on Earth. I can’t imagine life without the delicious tension of expectation, the tension between lovers and land, movement and excitement. It is the element of fire which creates motion and heat, generates ideas and crystallizes juices.  And yet. Too much of a good thing burns your ass off.

The firebreather as an archetype is widely known but poorly understood. Have you ever seen someone so full of energy and ideas they lay it all out, get it all done and still have juice to make sweet love? Yeah, it happens. They’re on fire. But those who can’t direct this fire–the “firebreather”–get up and get burned by all this fire running them ragged. Waste it on screaming about all of the problems of the word, and oh there are so many, then need to take hours to recover.

If we are going to get up in the morning and expend that much effort, why not make it count? Perhaps the firebreathing dragon can put it in writing, send it to their Congressperson? Paint it? pound it into pie dough? Or set out to limit the undirected rage–only 5 minutes a day raging at that which we can’t change? Then move on. Use the rest of the rage for movement, processing, influencing that which is in reach. Why waste valid anger?

If we use our precious fuel to burn garbage we can potentially drive others away. How easy it is to direct this energy at those who neither want nor need to take on the burden, to breathe in the acrid smoke, and how easily the firebreather forgets that not all people have the capacity to burn up over everything that is AMAZING!!! or SUCKS!!! And these less-fired types may not continue to come around, therefore deepening the levels of anger and rage. What initially attracts others-well-managed fire-can become scary when burning out of control. A common result is the firebreather’s attempts to sedate the fire with ill-conceived self-medication, often creating more problems in the process.

And what does the firebreather type really need? How to let go, how to move on? An outlet. An ally. A plan.

I have observed several firebreathers take up running  in their 40s to manage their emotional states with great results-but I believe various types of movement can help. I see grounding and time spent with the other elements-working in soil, swimming in water and deep breathing of fresh air as especially important for those who are out of balance. It helps t find our own herbal allies which help us deal with pain, emotional and physical, as well as Hawthorne to balance the fiery heart energy  and cool movers such as Cleavers and Dandelion-becasue fire  energy gets stuck just like the other elements, just hotter. Mugwort. Rose. Level it all out with Milky Oats.

Writing, walking, listening and learning to let go. The excess fire state has an element of grasping, a type of sticky attachment to hammering everyone and everything over the head with your energy-it’s like an energetic rabies outbreak. So Mad-dog Scullcap may provide support for “the mad dog of the mind”.

And ultimately the firebreather may wish to learn to harness the fire for productive purposes, to accept that which we can’t change,  to find the balance between git-r-done and recovery, to direct the blazing soul juice and take a time-out when needed or run the risk of that fire burning up or burning out, at which point it may be too late.


Updates, Specials and Little Nuggets


Wonderful people! I have made it to August and I have made many wonderful things for you.
I have a new set for August: a Fungi set!
This contains 3 items: a bag of dried Black Trumpet mushrooms for eating, a tincture of double-extraction Mushroom Blend (Reishi, Chaga and Turkey Tail) for immune support and a solid Black Trumpet scent–intense, woodsy and not for the faint of heart.This set provides an immersion in the world of Fungi for exploration and fun.
Sets are 30.00 and ship for 5.00!

black Trumpets!

black Trumpets!



I also would like to announce a new line of restorative blends-tasty, gentle supportive elixirs for the body and mind.
Oatstorative: Milky Oats, Reishi, Scullcap
Rosestorative: Rosa Rugosa, Raw Cacao paste, vanilla, honeycomb
Florastorative: Hawthorne flower/leaf/berry, Linden leaf/flower, elder flowers
Chocostorative: raw Cacao paste, Milky Oats and Vanilla

One ounce elixirs are 10.00, or for the week of Tuesday August 5 to Monday August 11, I will offer four elixirs as a set for 30.00! (Please specify which 4.)
Some other extra-fabulous elixirs I’ve got ready here are:

Blue Ruin, named after a Prohibition-era Gin drink, it’s a blend of fresh Scullcap, Blue Vervain and Violets. Relaxing!
Foothills elixir, Angelica, Roses, Orange, Calamus Rhizome, Currants, Maple.
I’ve got fine Rosa Rugosa and Rosa Multiflora elixirs made with my own honeycomb.

I’ve got Dandy Day elixir which combines entire dandelions-fresh flower, leaf and root-with fresh Oranges and chunks of honeycomb. (sticky, but in a good way.)

And of course I still have my award-winning Calamus bitters!
Just a taste of the apothecary, friends, I’ve got a vast inventory list and I’ll mx you up a special order on request.

Also, I will be at the IM4US conference in Portland, OR ( in September talking about bringing the JOYS of movement to the not-so-athletic and I will be at the Dandelion Seed Conference in Olympia, WA in October discussing Body image and why it matters to health care and Radherb convergence at Farmacy herbs in RI talking about niche herbal business and plant-walkin’!
Another class is in the works for me at the awesome new Providence Bodywork School in Providence RI, date yet to be determined.
I hope to see y’all there, and if you’d like to make an order go right to the source by e-mailing me: ( I use PayPal) or use this link to my Local Harvest store!

I thank you all fondly for your continuing support, it is my pleasure to share my treasured plants with you.

My favorite herbalist books…aren’t herbalist books!


One of my absolutely #1 most frequently received questions is “What are the best herb books?” And for awhile I have tried to have a mental list of my top few to share, cause, you know, I do love books. BUT. I have noticed, as time goes on, that more important to my learning has been resources other than herb books. Varied resources make well-rounded people. It is all too easy to get into a place where we are just reinforcing our previously held beliefs rather than challenging them! S
eeking out critical thinking resources, movement and alignment resources, food books, magazines, blogs and classes and online or IRL conversations are examples.
By no means do I want to toss out every herb book, as I do believe in references. What I am saying is, they are a beginning, not an end. They are old news–and old can be beautiful…or inflexible.
My very favorite “herb book” is a giant binder stuffed full of my favorite printouts from websites, blogs, class notes and online articles. This includes writing from some of my favorite herbalists like Jim McDonald, Kiva Rose, Renee Davis, 7Song, Paul Bergner, Rebecca Altman, Sean Donahue and David Winston-and more-curated by myself and organized in absolutely no reasonable order at all.
I also print out my favorite Plant Healer articles and keep those in a binder.
I printed out the VCIH journal and suggest it.
I print out AHG Journal articles.
I print out my own classes, blog posts and pieces of writing to refer to at times.
I rip articles out of magazines and stash those in a binder too, so I don’t end up with stacks upon stacks of magazines. (hoarder alert!)
I keep books and resources about critical thinking handy, as I believe that knowing how to research critically is more important than having every plant and illness memorized. I look at printed words as a “maybe” rather than as “if it was printed, it must be true”.
I also suggest books about movement and mobility, as I do not believe in fixing problems with herbs that could be fixed without. I am a rabid promoter of movement-as-medicine and I find anatomy and physiology to be a fun afternoon read.
Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers is one I refer to often. I also appreciate alternative anatomist Gil Hedley. (look him up!)
My very favorite resource for movement information is Katy Bowman and I strongly recommend her website and her books-I refer to Alignment Matters often. She has recently started a podcast too, which is fun for you busy types.
I am a big fan of and the book Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett. I have a big stack of fitness and movement books, magazines and blogs that I refer to often such as Tabata Times, Breaking Muscle, the CrossFit Journal and I like the New York Times wellblog.
I am a fan of MovNat and the primal movement movement–from the book Original Strength to to Mud and Obstacle magazine and Trail Runner I looooove the many resources out there for human movement outside of freakin Planet Fitness!
I’ve recently enjoyed the Liberated Body blog and podcast too.
I also like food resources, and I have a stack of delightful cookbooks and food books. There are some up-to-the-moment magazines such as Paleo that I seek out regularly and I love the book Death by Food Pyramid by Denise Minger.
Food is a big part of our overall health and there is an amazing amount of bullshit involved in the marketing, availability and discussion around food. So again, I say “critical thinking!!!!”
I also like to read about Science, Psychology, Biology.
I admire the author and psychiatrist Gabor Mate and I suggest his books In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and When the Body Says No. I take an interest in trauma and how it effects us, as well as religion and spirituality.
I enjoy learning about the history of health and health care, attitudes towards health and wellness in other places, cultures and times and the history of our use of plants and plant medicines.
And finally, I find books about life and philosophy to be important. I believe herbalists are called upon to be leaders– in whatever style works of course, and I believe self-reflection and dealing with our own crap helps us to be better listeners and helpers. In NO way does this mean herbalists are not just as wack as other people–but that ideally we are working on it in order to lead, teach and serve. So I read and think about leadership, teaching skills and philosophy.
Since you made it through, I will indeed share my very favorite herb books:
The Earthwise Herbal 1 & 2 by Matthew Wood
21st Century Herbalists by Jesse Wolf Hardin
Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman
Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore
Invasive Plant medicine by Timothy Scott
Herbal Therapeutic by David Winston
Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook by James Green

Blue vervain

Blue vervain