Parasite panic.

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Did you know that everyone is FULL of parasites? 90% of us have “Candida”, nearly everyone is constipated “whether they know it or not” and an undiagnosed virus is sapping your vital force right now! You are toxic and every single problem you have is due to this fact. Unless it’s due to planetary mis-alignment, of course.
At least, that is what the internet says.
And it is very easy to debunk these claims. Because we are actually full of bacteria, yeasts, viruses and IT IS FINE. We are participating in a lifelong dance of waste elimination, our body usually has this under control and we are actually co-existing with most of our critters. In fact, a lack of symbionts can be as bad as an excess.
“Viruses are the most abundant obligate intercellular entities in our body.”-Pubmed.gov
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And it is easy to make fun of this stuff too.There seems to be a confusion between living with our natural symbionts and suffering from antagonistic parasitic or viral imbalances–which do happen but are not common and are not the source of all evil, and can usually be corrected.
There are some truly extreme claims being made in the world of parasite panic:
You get parasites from a handshake?
Parasites slowly eat away at your internal organs and poop toxic waste into your system?
ALL cancer is caused by an intestinal parasite?
THEY don’t want you to know!!!
Yeast overgrowth is keeping you drunk!
A dirty colon poisons the body from the inside out and makes us all… walking zombies?
Some of this stuff is literally just made up.

But here is the thing. There is a reason why this stuff resonates with so many people. The cleansing, detox and parasite-a-noia products are selling, at least some of them. And if we do not change the conversation, shed some light, open this issue up and air it out the rhetoric of Original Sin will continue to drive people to strive towards a delusional ideal of intestinal purity. Just like a parasite, health delusion thrives in silence and darkness.
So let’s observe the way our body is commonly framed in discussions about alternative healthcare.
Often the context is based on the idea that there is something WRONG with the body. The body is broken. You have fallen from health-grace. You are a victim.
The paradigm is based on the idea that you need to take something. Are you tired? “Sluggish”? Have a little gas? Do you have an itch or indigestion? Imperfect skin that doesn’t glow enough? Feel a tad grumpy? Take this!
These are not necessarily pathologies. These are normal reactions to having a body.
But often the entire business plan is built on promoting a fear and loathing of the body and its functions.
The people who wish to sell us these harsh cleanse products use our deepest fears, our discomforts and our individual and cultural misunderstanding of Science, Anatomy, Bacteria, the process of elimination and the way our body achieves homeostasis and balance to manipulate us into buying their products or clicking fearfully on their links. They promote a fragility mindset in which we must constantly be guarding against evil entities that are trying got destroy us.
It is exhausting.
The blog writers and Senna salespeople seem to know more about Psychology than basic Anatomy and use their knowledge of human behavior to induce PARASITE PANIC!!! and bring you into the CLEANSE CULT!!! “It’s God’s medicine! It’s health freedom! The medical system doesn’t want you to be well. “They” are covering this up. They will tell you this is wrong but I know it, only I have the truth!”
(But I have absolutely zero citations for my allegations!)
And unfortunately there are some real examples of the medical system causing harm or seeking to make money over caring for individuals, but to imply that no alternative healthcare practitioner would ever do that is just bizarre. Business exists, no shit.
And the fact is, their cleanse products and protocols suck.
A Super Tonic that you have to take every 15 minutes for several weeks?
Purgatives to get all the feces out with 3-5 bowel movements every day?
Oil of Oregano daily as a preventive?
A month-long juice cleanse?
Avoiding ALL carbs to starve parasites?
“mysterious Ancient Chinese herbal formulas”?
These products show a fundamental misunderstanding of the body and how it works as well as a shocking lack of basic problem-solving skills and a laundry-list of logical fallacies.

“But these products are natural!” Listen, I am a fan of natural. I love nature. But the definition of natural is very much open to interpretation. Not everything natural is good, and not everything “unnatural” is bad, this is a false binary that we shout about when it feels convenient and there is NOT always agreement on what is natural. For example, there is a video going around in which a Pastor claims the only “correct” sex position is missionary because “YOU’RE NOT AN ANIMAL SO DON’T HAVE SEX LIKE ONE!” Sometimes our ideas of what is natural and unnatural are a direct reflection of our personal or political hang-ups.

(And why are we so darn obsessed with poop anyway?)

Abusing natural herbs to fix non-problems which are allegedly caused by nature, which viruses and parasites certainly are, nature that is, feels like a huge red flag to me.
And natural products can absolutely do harm, induce side-effects, and damage the beneficial bacteria and intestinal lining.
And you probably can’t alkalize your way out of a prison of self-loathing.
If needed, a few doses of standardized medicine may take care of a problem that would take a month of high doses of herbal medicines–herbs are not always the best solution for every issue, and certainly not without a downside. Herbs can be abused, too.
So let’s talk about what is really going on here.
Your body is always eliminating waste. Occasionally a little support is needed and that is fine. Eat some fiber, great. Movement and hydration are the 2 easiest ways to keep things moving and flowing. Trust the process while gently moving stagnation.

But if 85 or 90 percent of a given population “HAS” something, such as parasites or cellulite or wrinkles, it is NOT an epidemic. It is normal. I’d be more concerned with the freaks who don’t have it. What’s their deal?
You are not broken. Sticky feces are not currently destroying your life. These people say they promote health freedom, but you cannot be free if you are chained to self-loathing. You cannot be free if you fear your own butt-hole.
This is not a battle between good and evil, my friends. You don’t win points with God or some mysterious forces for your intestinal purity. We don’t need to project fantasies of sparkly cleanliness onto the places that depend on moist darkness to work properly. We can’t purge and punish our way out of reality.
So let’s put aside the desire for an easy answer and get real.
Let’s admit that we are full of wonderful, delicious bacteria and viruses and symbionts and yeast and it is totally freakin normal.
And maybe instead of making fun of those who are joining the cult of cleansing we can examine how people are sometimes dismissed by standardized medicine, and how that feels. Let’s look at what drives people to seek out alternatives, for better or worse, and let’s note that parasite panic fills an emotional hole that is real. Just like joining a cult, people often seek answers out of a sense of desperation, out of disconnection, fear, confusion.
Let’s note that many of the symptoms that marketers attribute to parasitic attack are extremely similar to the symptoms of poorly managed stress and fear. Is it possible that we are inducing our own indigestion by dwelling in a fear state, constantly looking for signs that our colon is under attack?
Is it possible that our confirmation bias helps us feel GREAT that we are finally doing something–anything–about all the “toxic poison” collecting in our duodenum and ruining our purity?
Are we seeking a sense of identity, of belonging, or trying to correct greater cultural ills by exerting control over something in our own life? Are we trying to prove a point about health or behavior or conspiracy theories?
Ideologies can create realities. But true self-love means loving all of ourselves, inside and out, including the less shiny bits. You do NOT truly accept your body if you cannot accept that your colon stores feces.
And to me, a lot of these blogs and articles and ads have a terrifying lack of a sense of humor. Our body and its processes are fun and funny! Our symbionts are delightful and interesting and heck if you can’t see humor in poop then you really can’t see humor anywhere.
And parasite fear for example may point to a deep inner discomfort with our animal nature, an evolutionary fear of certain frightening insects or antagonists, an ancient obsession with belonging and “the other” and a misunderstanding of our basic intimate processes and desires.
There is no battle between good and evil being fought in your colon, but there jut may be a marketing battle preying upon our ancient brains.
Some marketers claim that their cleanse will help you lose weight–even as much as 10 pounds overnight! But the best weight loss you might ever achieve is losing the weight of eons of shame over having a fabulous dirty body…and losing the fear of the symbiotic flora and fauna you live with.
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Get Boundless Energy with Herbs!

IMG_1915There seems to be a dearth of energy in the world today. At least you would think so if you spend 5 minutes on the internet or browsing “health” magazines at the bookstore. There appears to be an unlimited amount of products that claim to give us energy. How can we make sense of this? Is it really possible to create more energy by taking a pill or drink?
Let’s see what we can find…
“Insanely healthy energy!”
“Fat just falls off!” (WTF)
“7 Top herbs for an energy boost!”
“Nettles can give you as much energy as a cup of coffee!”
“Heavier foods use up more of our ‘digestive fire’, leaving us a little lethargic!”
“The culprit may well be a virus lurking, unidentified inside our body!” (They then suggest oil of oregano to destroy it.)
“Parasites are a hidden cause of fatigue!” (According to a ‘master herbalist’)
There are some creative products out there like:
Diet aid and energizer capsules
Peptime stimulant 357 magnum caplets (Hey, kids, what time is it? Pep time!)
Extreme power plus dreamlike weightless diet pill energy lose weight product (thanks, ebay)
Herbal energy plus (plus what?)
Fat burner 4x plus energy (“effortlessly melt away belly fat!”)
Thermogenix fat burner
Isogenix President’s Pak
And then we have chile peppers, grapefruit, nuts, green tea, adaptogens, juicing, bee pollen…
Ugh. First of all, any product can claim that it increases energy. This is one of the most vague, unmeasurable claims in the known universe. (Note that my claim is also unproveable.) But seriously, any person can say it. It’s like a creepy code. How can it be disproven? This vagueness is so perfect for marketers who prey upon our schlubby misery.

Just use testimonials:
“Oh, I never knew I could have so much energy!”
“Oh, my energy levels are through the roof now that I finally found the right combo of grapefruit and Chiles and Garcinia!”
This energy could come from the fact that you just blew 50 bucks on that bottle of pills and your confirmation bias insists that you feel great because you don’t want to feel like an idiot who just wasted 50 bucks.
Or from the way that humans respond to novelty. Every time you start something new it feels energizing because new things excite our ancient brains.
So, what is energy anyway? Where does it come from? What is wrong with just having a regular ol’ amount of energy? Why do we feel like we must constantly be bursting out of our blouses with this mysterious energy stuff?
And what are they REALLY saying?
In my opinion, gaining solid healthy energy is more about taking away what is not working than adding products to produce more. Stop wasting the energy you do have with worry and bullshit. Sleep like your life depends on it. Nourish the hell out of yourself, deeply, and if you are out and hungry but can’t find kale and marrow bones, just eat what’s there and move on–because worrying that you ate a donut takes energy!
It takes a lot of energy to repair our body, consider how your body mechanics, posture and fitness level are giving you energy or taking it away.
Oh, and it takes energy to hold onto years of trauma and anger, it takes energy to repress unresolved emotions. So let something go.
Avoid any expensive product that is “as good as coffee” when coffee is cheap, tasty and widely available.
And avoid EXTREME energy plus 5,000 type products like the plague. Why?
-Insomnia. Not much produces a cycle of true exhaustion like relying on energy products.
-Pyramid schemes. Some of these products want you to go on and on about how great you feel, then sell it to your friends.
-Fat-Shaming. Losing 2 pounds will not magically make you happy. Looking at these shaming ads will just make you feel like you’re not good enough. And they often suggest extremely restrictive diets combined with caffeine pills. Great idea. Not.
-Side effects. What else is in there? Do you really need one million milligrams of every mineral every single day?
No. But clearly absurd claims of endless extreme energy sell products and move magazines.
Can we explore our feelings about energy a little more deeply before we attempt to fix it by shopping? Can we take note of our desire for a quick and easy solution to a part of life that is just a reflection of deeper issues? Can we accept that levels of energy do ebb and flow, naturally, not just through the day or week but through the seasons and the years? Can we see that we cannot Ginseng our way out of a hole that needs our attention, that anything that sounds too good to be true is probably NOT true, that the vague hyped-up claims are ethically questionable and actively obnoxious? Can we grasp that different people have different speeds to operate on and most, unless causing serious life problems, are not “bad” or “good”? Can we insert some critical thinking into our lives, and ask questions and look a little further beyond the label or advertisement? Can we create a conversation around this issue, and shed a little light on a system that attempts to push us too far, into a system that makes us feel like we aren’t good enough as we are?
I like to keep my energy slow and steady with a movement practice, active release of body and emotions, engaging in a creative pursuit, spending time outdoors, eating mostly nourishing foods, using occasional vitamins if needed, using caffeine sparingly (i.e. not all day every day), limiting soul-sucking energy stealing interactions when possible and adjusting my expectations according to season, wellness level and need. And ultimately I draw my energy from a sense of inner resilience. From not being knocked down by every little thing. From building strength in body and mind, slow strength, quiet strength. It is not flashy and it is not glamourous. It is real.
A little dose of reality can go a long way in speaking back to this marketing-created delusion.

"Someone bring me a Cappucino, stat!"
“Someone bring me a Cappucino, stat!”

Celebrating herbs

Herbal products aren’t really a great substitute for actual human contact. I definitely suggest going outside and talking to people, family, friends, neighbors and even random strangers. But the tincture you bring home from an herbal event, the package of scented oil that shows up in your mailbox, the artisanal bitters or handcrafted muscle rub exchanged with a friend help extend the meaningful moments of connection with plants and people.
It’s a long cold winter here in upstate NY and I do miss the smells and tastes of fresh plants as well as the smells and tastes of herbalists-who tend to gather more in the summer.
So I consider these photos to be a celebration of the harvest, of the work we’ve done throughout the year and of the times we have gathered together or packaged up some goodies to send or share. It’s like, you know sports people? They have their jerseys and their giant #1 foam hands? Well, this is how I root for my team.
Often I focus on the medicinal properties of plants but the reality is that sometimes they are just good old-fashioned fun. And it’s an art. It’s a craft, and these are craftspeople who are making this stuff!
This is an art gallery.
I thought I’d share a small taste of my collection to honor those whose hands created this body of work, to honor the creativity, connection, persistence and joy. And most of all, to honor the plants that went into the jar.
To those who use their hands and craft plant medicines, gather and forage and blend, for business and for pleasure, I say this:
THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!
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Towards a more multi-faceted view of injury-pain management.

not exactly, bro.
not exactly, bro.

Last weekend, A.J. McLean of the Backstreet Boys was talking about the band’s reunion show on NPR, and mentioned that they were icing their back and knees backstage after dancing, which gave me 2 different reasons to grit my teeth while listening to Morning Edition.

There is a lot of advice available via the internet which combines RICE-rest, ice, compression, elevation- with ibuprofen for assistance with pain from an injury or post-workout pain and muscle soreness. But RICE has been debunked.

I see icing suggested for nearly everything from Plantar Fascitis,  both chronic and acute pain, “heel pain”, back injury, too much running. Heck, my kid was given ice by the school nurse for an earache! (shudder.) This is not my personal strategy. I am most likely to use– and recommend– basic self-care strategies like active recovery, warm or hot soaks with Epsom salts and herbs, gentle massage,  lymphatic activation and herb-infused liniments or infused oils. In certain cases, rest.

And longer term,  I suggest working towards prevention of injury. Strengthening the fabulous glutes, addressing your  weaker areas over time, improving balance and proprioception, building protective muscle with weight-bearing exercise, releasing tension with bodywork and personal mindfulness practice, sleep, exploring movement and mobility every day, hydrating with both water and good fats, eating bone broth and gelatin and paying attention to your nutrition may all help the body to resist injury and recover more quickly.

(Just a quick note here, I am saying “help”. Accidents happen, and I am not alleging that  there is ONE answer. Always seek medical care in an emergency and take the advice of your doctor, not some lady on the internet.)

To me the strategy of RICE and NSaids for pain ignores the causes of pain, ignores the lymphatic system’s role in our health, ignores the existence of fascia and values short-term relief over long-term wellness, helping us to feel like we are “doing something” whether or not it actually supports healing. Rolling your foot on an icy bottle to fix Plantar fascitis seems to misunderstand  how the body works as well as what preventive care means.

Yes, there are times when a quick-fix is the right choice for an individual, and should remain available to those who need to git-r-done, for whatever reason. I don’t wanna judge your choices.  But ultimately, I believe that the tide  of opinion, as well as solid scientific fact,  is turning away from icing and immobilizing and towards active recovery, and though many establishment folks are resisting a deeper view of recovery it IS happening.

When the doctor who coined the term RICE has officially retracted his support for the method we may want to reconsider, hmmm?

What I am really asking you to do is just think it through. I believe much of our current attitudes towards health in general and pain management in particular do not come from places of deep wisdom, innovative testing or knowing what is truly the best but what is easy, available, marketed, affordable and culturally sanctioned. Many people do not want to ask WHY we do things and whether they are right. And sometimes  health care professionals (including herbalists!) don’t have the time or desire to stay up on the latest information, to question their own practices–or don’t have the time to spend with each patient to truly support them. Maybe we just need to get them fixed up quickly.

Not everyone believes in self-care or preventive care. We claim that we “don’t have time”. We don’t always want to notice that we are overdoing it, that we are relying on poor movement patterns to get something done faster or generating force now at the expense of our longer-term health. Or that we haven’t exercised in 20 years, and it’s catching up to us. And perhaps there are issues inherent in the structure of our culture that tell us we have to shut up and move that entire pile of bricks RIGHT NOW. Perhaps marketing and “fitspo” tell us that if it doesn’t hurt we haven’t done enough. And perhaps some  people are not willing to feel a bit of discomfort in the short term to benefit longer term health. It is possible that our culture fears discomfort and pain, misunderstanding that sometimes pain can be just a symptom or a signal which is suggesting that we address underlying causes, look at our movement mechanics and patterns and imbalances.

Ultimately, I suggest you decide for yourself what is best for yourself. Wellness isn’t always as easy as “just take something” or just slap an ice pack on it. Addressing underlying issues can be a pain in the ass, literally. Self-care can be work, it can be play if you let it, but it definitely requires more thought than swallowing a pill. And those shoes that are slowly destroying you look so cute! There is a side effect to self-care though…a feeling of self-empowerment; the knowledge that we have a certain responsibility to help support our own health. I’ve got a few links here for you to explore, and trust me you can find a LOT of links to represent the opposite side–though not much in the way of great scientific studies to support RICE or preventive ibuprofen before a workout. (ugh!)

So let’s think before we reach for ice, and certainly before we perpetuate the ice myth to others. Ice is on its way out, kicking and screaming perhaps, but better late than never.

People, We’ve Got to Stop Icing Injuries. We Were Wrong, Sooo Wrong | Community Video

http://www.mobilitywod.com/2013/07/community-video-peoples-weve-got-to-stop-icing-a-year-later/ (video)

http://www.tabatatimes.com/de-iced-end-cold-war/

http://www.tabatatimes.com/stillness-enemy/

http://drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html

http://www.kennykane.com/gary-reinl/ (podcast)

http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ_09_2013_Ice_Achauer2.pdf

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/23/ice-baths-strength-soreness_n_3795622.html

http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/the-top-5-ways-fascia-matters-to-athletes

http://www.katysays.com/diseases-of-captivity/

http://www.methowvalleyherbs.com/2012/03/everybody-hurts-sometimes-relieving.html

http://www.liberatedbody.com/welcome/ (podcast)

http://www.therollmodel.com/

http://herbcraft.org/solseal.html

http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/bodywork/performance-plate/Athletes-Guide-to-Bone-Broth-Soup.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/01/22/how-bone-broth-became-kobe-bryants-secret-stone-age-weapon/

http://bearmedicineherbals.com/a-general-guide-to-creating-an-effective-pain-liniment-or-salve.html
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