1-2-3- magically healthy!

Those of you who know me already know I don’t believe there is a magical path to health. Question everything that sounds too good to be true, my friends. Hell, question that which sounds just a little bit good too. Critical thinking is a tool, use it. that being said, as an herbalist I do often get the question “what is the most important thing I should do for my health?” In the cranky spirit of not really talking to anyone and just linking to my blog instead I am making a list of what I consider the foundations of health. I have chosen a totally arbitrary number and I am sticking to it. SO here goes: An herbalist’s toolbox for health, happiness and abundant booty!

1. Wear minimalist shoes! I am a strong believer that our feet are the foundation of our entire body’s health. I see us putting our base into pinchy chunky footwear and it horrifies me. Alignment is important and it starts with feet. grounding is important and starts with feet. Proprioception is important and starts with our feet. Balance is a LOT easier in a zero drop shoe. I love watching my dog run outside, how she has never learned awkward gait patterns, never deformed herself with high heels or pointy-toed slides, how her paws grip the earth in a relationship that just cannot be formed with several inches of synthetic material between the foot and the earth. Yes, I love bare feet but I totally acknowledge a lot of problems that can come from shoelessness. I firmly believe that a lot of pain that we are currently treating as herbalists or as medical doctors could be at least partly remedied and/or prevented by wearing a flat minimalist shoe with a wide toebox. I highly recommend http://www.katysays.com and http://www.mobilitywod.com as great resources for information on feet, walking and alignment.

2. Exercise! I heard a doctor on the radio this week recommend 2.5 hours a week of exercise. Hmm. Well it’s better than none. But I try to exercise/move 2.5 hours a day! The benefits of exercise are vast–encouraging lymphatic movement, moving meditation, muscle building, bone building, circulation boosting, blood sugar support, balance-inducing, buttocks building, community forming, endorphin promoting, good old fashioned fun. The benefits of sitting are….um..nothing. Some great exercises are hiking, brisk walking, obstacle courses, kettlebells, dancing, sports, gardening, wood chopping, swimming, biking, yoga, mobility, plyometrics. I consider treadmilling and Jane Fonda-ing to be last resorts. You don’t have money? A jump rope is 5 bucks. You don’t have time? What the hell are you doing? You don’t have legs? I am sorry. I still suggest some type of movement though. Movement heals.

Ruby doesn't wear shoes.
Ruby doesn’t wear shoes.

3. Limit screen time. No, I am not going to tell you to kill your TV/computer/video games. Life sucks, sometimes we need to escape. And heck I like to laugh. However in my experience too much time spent watching TV steals our vitality. Sitting and zoning out should be used occasionally rather than big chunks of every day IF you are trying to achieve optimal health.

4. End the war on “dirty”. This one is a little more abstract. But the attitude that our bodies are dirty causes us to do weird things. We are very open to manipulation due to our underlying body discomfort. We speak of our body hair as dirty, or our body’s natural fluids and excretions and/or our natural non-harmful thoughts. We squirt all kinds of fluids up our buttocks, force ourselves to live on juice, imbibe scary amounts of fiber and apply hot molten wax to our vulvas all in the name of “clean”. We cover our homes in stank-ass fake spring breeze sprays, apply antibacterial gels all over our bodies and live in fear of sitting on toilet seats. Argh! We expend so much energy destroying, fearing and suppressing totally normal processes and substances-not to mention spending a pile of cash and producing a lot of garbage in this war on dirty. Chill, it’s normal.

going outside can be fun!
going outside can be fun!

5. Let go! Links between a suppression of emotions and physical illness have been identified. [see When the Body Says NO by Dr. Gabor Mate for more information, http://www.dr.gabormate.com) Our culture loves to say “smile!” as if that in some way fixes anything. We promote the suppression of anger, especially in women. Yes, unchecked anger can eat us alive and harm others too. But denying it does not help. Express yourself, even if it is just on paper, and move on. Learn to manage anger in a realistic way. As a culture we are more comfortable with vision boards and positive energy than acknowledging the dark sides of life and the dark sides of humans. But shit’s complicated, dudes. People are complicated. Explore, acknowledge, express, let go.

6. Food. Yeah, you knew that was gonna come up right? There is soooo much information out there about food and damn if people don’t ALL seem to think they have the answer. I am a Unitarian, and I am a fooditarian too. I do not accept that there is one right answer. I think humans can live Paleo or live Vegan. I think humans do well on a low-glycemic diet–yet some can eat mostly white rice. But there is one clear food rule: do not eat a bunch of crap. Large amounts of sugar is not good for anyone. Large amounts of processed food are not helpful. Be reasonable. But beyond that, I think we need to look at culture, class, temperament and lifestyle and make our own decisions.


7. Bacterial balance. Oh man do I ever love bacteria. I love probiotics. I love fermented foods. I love compost! I am not against antibiotics–but I am against their overuse. I also think we should limit our use of strongly antibacterial herbs and I almost never use essential oils internally. I avoid oregano oil and grapefruit seed extract. I even use Goldenseal sparingly. (To be clear, in emergencies I will use whatever works.) We are absolutely full of bacteria and I’ll be damned if they don’t help us more than we will ever fully know. So avoid killing them if possible, avoid hating them and give them a little replenishment whenever you can!

8. Go outside! Time spent outdoors is foundational to my mental health plan. The outdoors feeds me on every level. I believe it can help with insomnia, mild depression and anxiety, grounding. It deepens our appreciation of the world we live in, gets us out of human-made environments, helps us build observational skills. Very little heals me more than time spent in nature and I highly recommend it.

9. Replenish! Marketing of low-fat foods and lab-made oils has affected us deeply. But we need good fats and healthy oils in our lives. I believe strongly in nourishing and rebuilding with foods and herbs to allow the body to heal itself. It is part of getting out of our own way and just giving our body the tools to make repairs. Sometimes the easiest and most basic health support is really the best, and adding good oils while removing crap oils is something nearly all of us can do for ourselves. Additionally, sleep is extremely valuable. Repairing, dreaming, and rebuilding are vital to our well-being. I suggest viewing sleep as a pleasure rather than a pain in the ass that keeps us from making money/destroying the world/texting/whatever the heck you do.

10. Stop slathering excess chemicals on yourself and your vicinity. Hair dye, lipstick, anti-perspirant, douches, scented tampons, scented everything, Lysol tm, paint, lotions, driveway sealant, household cleaners, air “fresheners”, medications, pesticides and herbicides, fertilizers, fake flavorings, dryer sheets….ack! Read the ingredients of everything, always. Question everything. Think critically about these products. Where do they go?!? Into your body? or “Down the drain”? And right into a frog’s boudouir! Yes, there is sometimes a lesser evil alternative. But giving up as many products as possible will benefit the short and long-term health of humans and non-humans alike. Trust me, I love to slather myself with homemade scented oil. I am no ascetic. But things are out of control. The air freshener aisle at Target tm is like 2 miles long. Open a window, people.

Bonus: Get some booty, friends. It’s medicinal. Tell your partner an herbalist “prescribed” it to you! No partner? I believe in medicinal masturbation. Ain’t no shame in a little personal pleasure.

brand new magic miracle weight loss herb!

IMG_6444IMG_6443I am staggered by the sheer amount of claims out there for a magic health bullet. But even more so in the area of weight loss. There is a willing team of marketers working day and night to exploit our self-hatred, our body shame, our total confusion about health and our overwhelming desire to be “saved” from ourselves. This is NOT a holistic approach to health or weight loss. There is no magic weight loss herb. There is no combination of exotic supplements that is going to replace exercise. And why would you want to? The health benefits of exercise extend WAY beyond weight loss to cardiovascular health, stress reduction, community building and muscle building. There’s no community in a bottle of raspberry ketones, my friends.
So how DOES one lose weight then? I would argue that emotional work needs to be done. A long, slow process for some of uncovering our excuses, our misconceptions, and our addictions. That’s right, I said addictions–we are hooked on convenience, distraction and crap. No magic pill will get your ass out of a rut, it must be fought for. And fighting is the key-do you see yourself as a warrior, an athlete? I didn’t. How easy it was for me to live all up in the head, to seek comfort and avoid confrontation with reality. But the connection of body and mind is so abundantly clear and amazing that it can no longer be denied.
And there comes a point in life when one must say fuck it. When we have to FEEL the fear, to push through the crap that we cover ourselves up with like a blanket, go and go and go until you feel your burden lifting. Mom didn’t love you? Dad called you fat? You don’t have the “right” outfit?You couldn’t run the mile in high school? You really really like cheese? Let it go. Give it up.
Oh, there is pain involved. There may be tears, and pushback, and exhaustion. Bring a hankie. But one day you may just realize that noone gives a hoot if your arms are jiggling in Zumba!tm class, and others are so high on their own endorphins that they don’t even see you, and suddenly all that crap that held you back seems very insignificant. There is no feeling as empowering as finally asking oneself “What the heck was I so afaid of?!?”
It’s about taking our power back from advertising, from bullies, from judgement, from our own or others’ ideas of “perfection” and feeling, for real, what the body can do. Taking pride in our muscles, in our booty dances, in overcoming obstacles-both literally and figuratively! Feeling the wind in our hair and the sweat in our armpits and finding our own inner peace. Movement is medicine! It can help with many many common health problems-from digestion to insomnia to stress to poor circulation–which we currently throw buckets of pharmaceuticals and “natural” remedies at.
Herbs will NOT fix your repression, pills will NOT give you determination, supplements will NEVER address self loathing. 100 Dr. Oz shows won’t take your fear away. Action will.
And there are barriers–class, race, gender, disability-I understand the challenges our society places in front of us. Poverty. Junk food. Stereotypes. Accessibility. Seek and destroy barriers whenever possible. True wellness is not a “diet”, it’s a way of life. Movement, emotional processing, relaxation, vegetables, music, fresh air are all tools for us to use. Mantras can be helpful-mine is currently “I HAVE NO EXCUSES!” So build your own toolbox with what works for you! Ditch the grapefruit and the supercleanses, toss the hydroxycut and the magical bioslimmer fast and easy crap.
Seek and destroy, baby! It’s time to take our power back from those who wish to exploit us-for their own financial gain. And damn, girl-have some fun and shake that thang while you’re at it.

winter wellness for the mind

i'm lichen self care
i’m lichen self care
Ah, winter– on its way out here, sort of, over the next 6 weeks. And I do love spring. But I don’t want to see winter as something to get rid of. It is a valid expression of the earth-cold, rest, snow, ice and darkness have as much of a place here as sunny days and daffodils. But whether one can accept winter as a part of life or spend all day whining about it on facebook the reality is that many humans need extra support in winter. In order to keep ourselves healthy in body, mind and “other” the self-care program is extra important.
So. What are some ways that this herbalist would work towards wellness in the depths of late winter?
1. Take vitamins! Especially vitamin D, daily. Magnesium is fun too.
2. Nourish oneself deeply. I eat a lot of warm foods in cold weather. It’s 50 degrees in my house, you couldn’t pay me enough to eat a cucumber right now. I am a huge fan of braises and roasts, all slow cooking, bone broths and slippery noodle soups, spicy stews and big breakfasts.
3. Sleep. I value sleep very very highly. It is important-rest, dreaming, recharging.
4. Exercise. I am a person who spent 30 plus years thinking of myself as “unathletic”. I was chosen last for ALL team sports. I can’t catch a ball and don’t really want to. The thought of playing sports makes me literally burst into tears. I also don’t look like an athlete. Kind of the opposite- I am very short with a rounded hourglass body shape. I look like a librarian and spent years all up in my head acting like a librarian. But secretly I AM an athlete-we all are. I spend at least an hour hiking nearly every day. It is only a very recent human development to decide that some of us are physically active and others are not. We were made to move and it feels really really good-endorphins of course, which contribute to mental health. But hiking is a time to think and process too. Walking, swimming, yoga, nearly all sports and workouts contribute to mental health in many ways by giving us the time and space to just be, to meditate or think or just ROCK OUT!! Plus, my ass looks great.
5. Outside. Though indoor exercise has a lot of benefits, going outside is vital for my mental health. I will go out in almost any weather, except for hail or very damaging storms. I am not a fair-weather-friend to nature, I love nature in every form. I enjoy visiting with a tree throughout the seasons, watching for new spring growth or bud swelling. Looking at the same mountain every day in every different type of weather is also very healing. Fresh air, varied terrain, bird songs and clouds all contribute to my mental health plan. And, if you’re into that crap, the intangible quality of grounding is something I can only get by going outside. It’s just being part of something, making connections, being out in a wild and uncontrolled space, feeling the earth under my feet, it feeds me in a way no manmade structure ever can.
6. Talk. Winter is a holding-it-in kind of time, and it is wonderful to think and mull. Writing is a nice way to express that stuff. But occasionally getting a good bull session in can do wonders for us. When we ask for support and provide that support to others it is like setting down a heavy pack after a hike. AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH. It is amazing the things that come up when we feel safe and let go. Sometimes I didn’t know the cause of my malaise until I am deep in a discussion or writing session and a little chunk of shame from 20 years ago shows up. Oops. Learn to let go and move on.
7. Herbs. I should mention that adding herbs on top of seasonal depression or just a winter funk is somewhat pointless if you don’t commit to greater self care. Herbs are magic, but they don’t take the place of common sense. That being said, I do use herbs in the winter-I love lemon basil on dark days with or without rosa rugosa elixir. I drink linden tea in the evening, I always love scullcap, I keep my milky oats tincture handy and I also like lavender tincture. I put warming herbs in coffee like cinnamon or nutmeg. I cook with rosemary on chicken or in shortbread. I eat bunches and bunches of parsley. I eat buckets of garlic to keep myself healthy. It is also a nice time for me to experiment with tinctures I’d made the previous summer, to press out tinctures and make new tea blends, simmer syrups and soak in an herbal bath.(see “I’m not an athlete” for why I need to do that!”) It is an experimental time, with few garden duties and time to plan out next year’s seed purchase.
8. Lovin’. I find sexual wellness to be a great contributor to overall wellness. I am not going to go into great detail here about the role of orgasm in mental health but let me just say ALL of our body parts need attention.
9. Sensory input. I play music that cheers me up, seek smells that make me happy, make my bed with soft sheets that comfort me. In the summer it is easy to feel moss under bare feet, smell flowers and get sun in our bodies. But sensory input is important all year and it is helpful to remember to feed all of our senses. Revel in a hot bath, roaring fire, birdwatching, dog patting, soup slurping.
10. Education. I see winter as the time for unlimited interlibrary loans. I read about anything that interests me, right now I am reading about barefoot running, wilderness navigation, butchery, competitive rose gardening and the history of Barbie. I am taking a class on herbal first aid and listening to pema chodron audio talks. I read the newspaper, devour seed catalogs and magazines, and enjoy proofreading. Self education is something I value highly and learning new things keeps me feeling balanced and happy.

We all have our own strategies for dealing with difficult times. I find I really enjoy feeling great and doing what I have to do to stay great. But of course wallowing in self-pity has its own value at times. I think, if I have one piece of advice to sum up my winter wellness strategy, it would be: Don’t just lay down and die becasue it’s kinda cold out. Take your time for introspection, take your sleeping-in and snuggling, and balance it with getting up off your ass and moving, challenging, creating and connecting.

winter is wonderful!

IMG_5461IMG_5518IMG_5508IMG_5495IMG_5470aH, WINTER, time to huddle in front of the fire complaining about how life sucks, right? NO! Winter is a great time to get off your ass and go for a hike.
Hiking is 90% of my mental health care plan and I sure as heck won’t let a little thing like “one degree temperatures” stop me from being well. Attitude goes a long way–We are not victims of weather-we need to learn how to coexist with the earth and that means all of it. We don’t just get to live here when it is 70 degrees and sunny, people. We are here on earth every darn day from birth to death and we can take the opportunity to know all different types of weather.

Winter is beautiful. I hear folks say “everything is dead” but really that’s bullshit. Just because a plant isn’t flowering doesn’t make it dead. Are you dead when you are resting? And hey-what about lichens? ferns? mosses? sheepsorrel? evergreens? mullein? celandine? ajuga? garlic mustard? HELLO! You have to get down there on your hands and knees and look!
We have created highly unrealistic conditions indoors, with temperatures which do not in any way reflect the reality of life. The disconnect is shocking. I saw 2 different humans outdoors in pajamas yesterday. The high was like 7. I was cheerfully sweating in my thrift store coat and wool socks.

And I value a feeling of accomplishment. I value building character. I don;t wish to avoid discomfort at all costs, and I question how our culture constantly gives us messages that our comfort and convenience are more important than
our character! Additionally, we would benfit from feeling responsible for our own wellness, and both exercise and outdoors time contribute immensely to our well-being.
So my advice is get yourself appropriately dressed and motivate to get outside and move, check out the amazing ice and brilliant sky, keep moving and soak up a little sunshine. The best way to really feel grattitude for the warmth we have is to feel it deep down in your bones… coming in from the cold!

Ear infections: natural support


So, otitis media–the common ear infection. It is very common in children and not unusual in adults. It is the number one reason for antibiotics prescriptions in the US and costs 3-4 billion-yes, billion-dollars each year to treat in the us alone. WHY?

Ear infection with no complication can be easily treated at home by a caregiver. And the world of standard medicine is beginning to see this. Many studies have been done in the past 10 years or so. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics, a VERY conservative group, is suggesting the “watchful waiting” approach-where the parent keeps an eye on the child or on oneself in case of worsening while treating the illness at home. Wow!

WEb MD, a bastion of meds and alarm,  recommends using garlic/mullein ear oil at home. The New York Times says “Most cases of acute otitis media do not require antibiotocs”.  Harvard Medical School says “80% of children with acute ear infection will get better without antibiotics.” Well, then! maybe it’s time to stop the madness, eh?

I have personal experience with ear infections. All of my kids have had at least one. I myself am prone to ear troubles, and get an ear infection each winter. I also have dealt with  ruptured eardrums, which also usually resolve on their own.

I do not recommend an emergency room visit for ear infections. My personal opinion is, I don’t think a doctor’s visit is needed at all for an ear infection unless there is a secondary complication, an underlying condition or it goes on for more than 3-5 days.

So how does an herbalist Mama treat herself and her family? Lymphatics. Heat, rest, time. Good food. This is a situation where I will use an otc pain med. A few of the treatments I use:

1. Ear oils. If there is no rupture in the eardrum, a slightly warmed ear oil can be droppered into the ear. The gold standard is Mullein flower and garlic. Some folks like alder, willow, aspen or another anti-inflammatory. This should be done every few hours, cotton balls can be used in the outer ear to keep it al in there. You can make this oil yourself!

2. Heat. When my daughter told me she received ice for her ear pain at school I shuddered with horror. Heat is soothing, moving and brings pain relief. I use a hot water bottle but any kind of heating device can be used. Additonally, keep ears and head warm and dry. WEAR A HAT! even in the house if needed. Keep your neck warm too.

3.Pain management-contrary to popular opinion I am not against all otc medcines all the time. There is a time and a place for using acetaminophen or nsaids to reduce pain and inflammation.  I use them sparingly but ear infections can be shockingly painful. However, be sure not to mask pain altogether, we must know if the condition is getting better or worse, or if it is resolving itself.

4. Herbs-I use frequent high doses of lymphatics in tincture form such as Cleavers, Calendula flower, Violet leaf, Mullein leaf, Alder bark. My intention is to support the body’s natural healing process. In the case of a ruptured eardrum I used a more intense approach, with frequent high doses of  Alder,  fresh Echinacea root and 1 part Calendula flower alternated with a tincture of Elecampane root and  goldenrod. This is a short term protocol as it is quite drying. I love to use Monarda fistulosa here, and Propolis, Linden, California Poppy. I also like lymphatic massage, high doses of vitamins C and D, medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi and Maitake, simmered broths and soups with ginger and garlic and a drink of warm water or Elder flower tea  with raw honey and raw apple cider vinegar. I can’t say enough about supporting our own healing process with nutrition–cut out crap food, sugar, milk if needed and nourish yourself through the illness.

5. Movement-gentle exercise supports drainage and healing. While I do NOT recommend doing vigorous exercise with a severe ear infection due to balance issues I have found movement to be a great way to support healing. Do what works for you, but don’t automatically lay on the couch for days moaning “IIIIIIII’m DEEEEEAD!” if you can help it.

And, of course if the infection does not resolve with natural treatment there is no shame in getting some help. Antibiotics can help in severe or prolonged cases, and we must remember not to judge. It’s hardly a radical view to recommend this wait-and-see approach when the staid aap suggests it and many studies support it.  I strongly recommend taking basic responsibility for our own healing in non-emergency cases. I believe that to transform our ideas of healing we need to watch it happen! And to observe the body’s own healing power which is a truly wondrous thing. To have faith in our own abilities and to cultivate patience and observation skills. And, ultimately, to view the doctors and hospitals as AN option, not THE only option in dealing with our well-being.




in praise of the fever dream

—NOTE: As with every word in this blog this reflects my personal experience only, and is in no way meant to judge others, treat illness, or sell you crap.—

After a hot hot hot spruce bath and some linden/elderflower infusion I find myself in bed, floating through worlds, my bones burning and my mind drfiting up and up. Alternating between hot and cold with one sock halfway off I am dreaming and tossing about, waking occasionally to feebly reach for water or a lymphatic tincture.
It’s a fever dream, and I’m giving my body space to heal itself. After getting the un-fabulous advice, at a party, that “sudafed and benadryl are good for sinus infections” I find myself musing on what we—mothers, healers, our culture–have given up. If we pop a sudafed-tm-every time we fall ill we are denying ourselves the opportunity to build our OWN knowledge about the human body. This fever is giving me information about myself. It is giving me words and phrases, showing me my fears and my strengths.
I believe that it is part of life to fall ill, to feel our blood ice up and our brain catch fire. How else can we know what is possible? How can sudafed teach us what healing means?
And every time I hear folks ask me what they can do to avoid illness I tell them that illness is an opportunity. Some of my favorite healers are seekers who see illness as a learning experience. Our wisdom is hard-won and comes from hands-on experience which sometimes gets messy. Illness teaches us how to support healing, how to get out of the way of healing, and puts the knowledge and the feeling into our own hands, puts the power into us. Popping wal-mart echinacea pills every day is a suppressive technique. Taking unnecessary medications (natural or pharmaceutical) to suppress symptoms is not “healing”.
I find my best healing comes from movement. Moving the lymphatics, moving mucous, moving stuck energy, activating digestion. Allowing the fever to do its’ job inside of us.
Because all of life is a learning opportunity. Hot weather is an opportunity to feel hot. Cold weather is an opportunity to feel cold. Discomfort is a gift which gives us the chance to learn what tools we have, as humans, to help ourselves and to support our bodies’ natural processes. We are so eager to dry humidity and make ice less slippery that we never understand what humidity feels like, or what slippery really means. We do not KNOW hot or cold. We do not SEEK to know.
The way that we are giving our own power away harms us, and our children too. It rewards people and corporations who will give us comfort at any cost. Those who can learn to accept some basic discomfort as a normal part of life will be prepared for whatever may happen. Allowing our children to feel a fever’s heat and chills is a gift which teaches them not to fear their bodies.
It is my wish to ride my fever like a surfer, accepting the fear, facing the mortality of my body. Because more so than those without fear, it is those who feel the fear then do it anyway who build power and wisdom. Neither sudafed nor benadryl will give a speck of wisdom or empowerment to us, and they will never teach us about our bodies capacity to heal itself.

NOTE: this was scriblled on my bedsite notebook during a fever. if that is what YOU consider “medical advice”, fine. however, it should be clear that i do NOT intend this to be medical advice!!!!!!!!

chaga, oh chaga!

chaga with dog's leg
chaga with dog’s leg

Oh, Chaga. Inonotus obliquus. What the hell is this stuff? It is a fungus which grows primarily on birch trees and allied trees in the birch family-some of my very favorite trees, of course. To call it a “mushroom” sounds absurd. It is a fungus, a fruiting body, and a firestarter.Chaga and birch seem to have a symbiotic relationship, swapping the mutual aid of healing with each other and whipping up a little batch of betulin!People decoct chaga for the usual amazing medicinal mushroom benefits like addressing cancer, supporting immunity and deep nourishment. It may, along with its home the birch tree, help address inflammation.

i hike through the birch and pine forests looking for standing dead or partially downed white birches to harvest chaga from. It is an odd and mysterious, dense, heavy chunk of space junk and can be quite difficult to pry off.i enjoy it as a decoction, perhaps with some roots and warming spices,  infuse it into oils and make tinctures with it. i am working on a chaga-birch body butter right now and a warming chaga nutmeg massage oil.Chaga has an entry in the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s “cancer care” website. For more information on chaga check out Paul Stamets, Dr. Andrew Weil, Christopher Hobbes and Russia.

birch crown!
birch crown!


pain is a gift. pain is not a gift.

Some people say  “Pain is a gift.” others say “Pain is NOT a gift.” And then we have those who say “Don’t tell me whether or not MY pain is or is not a gift, dammit!” OK. So I see your point. And I think that pain is, in fact, a gift. A gift from the universe. But maybe it is not the gift you wanted. Maybe it is not what you asked for.  It wasn’t on your list. It’s like getting another ancient dried-out fruitcake from your drunk great-uncle Stan in the mail, and your mom claims you have to write a thank-you note.  Ugh. “I asked for an axe and a leather thong and I got this stupid bottle of Jean Nate and another pair of Isotoners!” I know.  You don’t even have the receipt.

green stuff.


But we do not get to choose our gifts. We don’t get to register with life. That is why it’s called “gifts”—because it is given to us. It may not be the right time. But it is not like shopping at the mall, where you can pick the right size, the right color. Where you can choose from 30 different flavored salts, all of which kinda suck.

Pain is a gag gift. Illness is a flaming pile of dogshit left on your doorstep. A stupid psychic booby prize. A yankee swap full of Neanderthals.And we must be alchemists and turn our gag gift into, if not gold, at least a tool we can use. We may say “if that’s all you’ve got, universe, pain and suffering, just don’t give me anything! Skip it this year!” but the universe HAS to give you something. You’re third cousins. On your Mom’s side. And the universe is obligated. She agonized over catalogs. She abhors a vacuum.

So until the universe employs a personal shopper who can sort out who has “more than they can handle” and who does not we are going to receive these cursed packages in the mail.  We are going to have to pay the rent on self-storage units to put all of our gifts, our amazing gifts and our cursed gifts, in until we can rehome them. We are going to have to build a first-aid kit to treat the fucked-up universe. And we are going to have to write a thank-you note to our creepy uncle. Even though we’d prefer not to.

PLEASE NOTE: this essay is meant to be humorous. also, YES, i live with a chronic condition. ok.

random beautiful earth-y photo


resins for climate change

so, climate change. first, i don’t give a rat’s ass if global warming is “real”. OR what/who is causing it. the extremely obvvious reality is that humans are causing parts of the Earth to be un-inhabitable through our use of toxic crap. fact. we are all complicit. re-usable bags won’t help. and we are making ourselves vulnerable to climate events and disasters by overbuilding, living completely dependent on fragile power grids and food systems, destroying wetlands, paving every damn surface and destroying plant life. we can’t feed babies without formula, can’t stay warm without electricity and haven’t purchased flashlights, batteries, or extra toilet paper.

but wacky preparedness rant aside, after the flood comes the mold. let’s say polluted water impregnates our home with toxic oils, sewage, mold spores, garbage, nuclear waste and dead rats. what do we do? break out the resins.

my sample post-disaster toolkit:

-propolis. it is a resin that comes from honeybees. a specific for mold exposure, it can be used as a tincture or raw, frequently, to treat those who have been made ill by short or longterm mold exposure.



-white pine and other conifers. bark and resin can be tinctured or decocted to treat deep lung affliction. i used it for a nasty bronchitis i picked up in post-flood new orleans that had me coughing-hacking so hard i would vomit and tear up. for a month.   i had tried everything. it worked within 48 hours. use high proof alcohol to tincture raw resins.

white pine

 -cottonwood/poplar. the resinous buds make an intense tincture to bring stuff up and out. warming, sticky.

-ground ivy. for congestion, metals exposure, and hearing loss.

-goldenrod. also helps move sinus congestion and supports kidneys.

-monarda. for circulation, burns, infection. a polychrest, kinda for everything.

-burnables. i love to clear the air with some homegrown sages, maybe some mugwort, natural incense or a pot of aromatics simmering on the woodstove. not only does this clear the air physically but it can contribute to emotional clearing.

-seaweed. contains iodine for thyroid protection. though an end to nuclear power would probably protect our thyroids even better.

-lymphatics. the body needs support in processing the toxins that are challenging us in these times. cleavers, calendula, alder, mullein, redroot, violet.



-liver support. burdock, dandelion, milk thistle, blessed thistle, artichoke to help our favorite detox organ process this crap.

sticky burrs

-deep immune support. feed yourself! bone broth, garlic, astragalus, mushrooms such as chaga/reishi/shiitake/maitake. use nettle tea, oatstraw and greens daily–especially for exposure to dangerous metals like lead. cleaning out an old house? lead.

turkey tails

-emotional support. get grounded with motherwort and sage. move your emotional pain with scullcap. relax and de-stress with passionflower, vervain, california poppy, linden. rebuild your frazzled nerves with milky oats tincture.

-moisten irritated sore throats with herbs like propolis, sage, monarda, slippery elm, mallow, plantain.  it’s lovely to make a spray and use often throughout the cleanup process.

– heal the skin. white pine salve is my favorite for drawing, protecting, and healing chafed and dry skin. constant exposure to wet junk can be drying.


also, it helps have  some  herbs  on hand for non-emergency wound treatment and basic cold and flu issues  such as boneset, elder, usnea, elecampane, barberry  and alder. if you don’t have a water filter, keep a bottle of bleach or iodine around to purify drinking water. box up some matches, your family’s  medications and a bunch of ammo*. and for crying out loud, spend a couple bucks on a flashlight.

*OK, ammo is optional.


slaying the serpents of health anxiety #2!

1. use bitters!!! whether a tincture of bitter herbs, raw or cooked bitter greens, a bitter aperitif before dinner–bitters promote good digestion and assimilation.

2. F you raw food fruitarians! look, i try to be tolerant. but please stop promoting the fact that packaged “live” food snacks that cost 8.00 each are in any way reasonable. this is elitist caca. if all-raw food hapens to agree with your consitution, well, great. but the mere thought of eating a cucumber tofu sprouts wrap on a cold and rainy mid-october day literally chills my soul.

3. is there any possible way all humans could have evolved to NEED coconut oil every day? no, there is not.

4. is there any way “rescue remedy”, grapefruit seed extract, apple cider vinegar, diatomaceous earth or manuka honey  could possibly cure everything? no, there is not.

5. do you need to make kids separate food? less tasty food? hell no. model adventurous eating! please, friends, observe my 9-year-old son eat copious kale and octopus sushi. without a bribe. shhh, he thinks it’s “normal”.

6. gluten free has been a godsend to those with celiac disease. however, beware of replacing wheat with gluten-free junk food. it tends to be high glycemic and full of sugar. good for a treat, but not what i’d build my pantry on.

7. all food trends, from gluten-free to vegan to paleo and more-are what you make of them. some people seem to thrive on rules when it comes to food…but remeber, noone has all the answers. (including me!)

8. we do need to slay the myth that food and medicine are to be kept separate. food is medicine is food. food is poison is food.

9. if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

10. don’t look to “superfoods”, turdy little vitamin bars , packaged drinks and exotic snacks as your main food sources. that stuff is crap. nourishment does not come just from eating good foods. it also comes from the growing, the foraging, the cooking, the sharing, the plotting and mmm-ing.

11. advertising is manipulative. they are trying to sell you something. your skepticism should know no bounds. they do not care about you. they want your money.

12. a little wine with dinner is fun.