Living In Tick Country-updated post tick bite recommendations

 

Living in Tick Country

Fall is truly upon us now and this is one of the times of the year that ticks seem to be most prevalent in the Northeast/Adirondack foothills. Spring is the other season when they're highly active. During the summer when we may popularly think of ticks being about, they are less of a problem because they don't thrive in hot or dry conditions. Ticks thrive in cold, damp conditions and although they can be present during both winter and summer, they are far more active at spring and fall.

For me this means that I become more vigilant and discerning when I’m out walking, hiking, or wildcrafting. Ticks are found most abundantly in tall grass, brush-like areas such as where you would find goldenrod growing, and in leaf litter on the forest floor. Any place where you may be standing or walking where the vegetation is high enough that it touches your ankles or legs and part of your clothing or person, including hair, is a place where there could potentially be ticks. I know, it’s crazy!

It’s important to note that what we call Deer Ticks are called that because our white-tail deer host them during all phases of their life cycle, BUT, and this is important, all mammals can carry ticks. AND the primary vector for spreading ticks in the grasses and leaf litter are rodents. When we consider Lyme disease from a standpoint of ecological imbalance we can see that overpopulation of various rodents, as well as deer, is a major contributing factor. I must add that the word “overpopulation”, when regarding both deer and rodents, or any species other than human, is really not accurately placed upon them. It’s more an overpopulation of humans resulting in habitat loss and overcrowded living conditions for other animals.  I will also take this opportunity to add a plug for the goodness of predators and, specifically here, coyotes. Coyotes are hunted ruthlessly and I am a strong proponent of stopping this behavior immediately. Rodents are a mainstay of coyote diets.

Tick season also means that I’m receiving a lot of calls and messages from folks who want to know about prevention and treatment of Lyme disease so I decide to update and post my latest recommendations. These are the herbal preparations that I use for myself and my family as well as what I have been suggesting to friends and client for several years. I’ve updated some of the herbs and added a list of where they can be purchased. If you get bit by a tick and don’t have everything that is recommended just use what you have.

Please note that I cannot make recommendations about whether or not folks should take antibiotics after getting bit, if there is a suspected infection, or at any stage of lyme dissemination. This is a personal choice and I have seen successes of treatment with and without antibiotics. I have also seen the effects of undiagnosed and untreated Lyme disease and the personal risk of not taking antibiotics for a confirmed infection should be strongly examined. I can say that early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics coupled with herbs is extremely effective based on my clinical and personal experience. Antibiotics have their highest level of effectiveness during early stage infection. Both Lyme (and Lyme co-infections) and the excessive use of antibiotics can have long-term and devastating health effects. In making any decision about treatment protocols for yourself or family members it’s important to consider overall immune conditions, other health related concerns, health history, lifestyle, intuition, and the ability to comply successfully with whatever treatment is chosen.

 

Herbal Recommendations for Post-Tick Bite Lyme Prevention

I. Your best defense against Lyme disease is a healthy immune system. Your immune cells are capable of fending off a Lyme infection when it is in optimal health. These tips will support and strengthen your body to its highest immune potential.

  • A well-balanced diet that includes essential nutrients, healthy fats and good quality protein. Animal proteins are the most nutritious when they are derived from grass-fed and humanely raised animals or wild game. Vegetarian proteins are best sourced from organically grown plants.

  • A healthy microbiome/gut flora that includes a diverse population of “good” bacteria that promotes the complete digestion and assimilation of nutrients.

  • Sunlight and fresh air. The best and, possibly, the only true and reliable  source of Vitamin D is sunlight.  Even as little as 20 to 30 minutes per day of morning sunlight is enough depending on skin type.

  • Moderate exercise

  • Balanced activity and effective coping mechanisms. Stress is a major impediment to good health as stress hormones interfere with the immune response. Excessive activity and time demands increase stress and making it more difficult to cook good quality meals and gain enough rest

  • Rest, rest, rest! At least 8 hours per night or more is essential to good health. Naps are like super heroes for your health if you can take them. Rest is difficult when we are stressed out or feel like we have too much to do but if you get sick with a chronic illness it will be hard to get anything done at all.

 

II.  If bitten by a tick or other possible Lyme vector:

***There has been much recent speculation that Borrelia burgdorferi(Lyme bacteria) can be spread by other insects including mosquitoes and black flies

  • Most importantly, don't panic. I know that's hard and I've done it myself but just because you have been bitten by a tick does not mean you will get Lyme disease. And stress hormones reduce the effectiveness of your immune system. Just try and align with the knowledge that your body has an awesome way of protecting you and, in the meantime, stay vigilant for signs and symptoms. Knowing the symptoms of Lyme disease is crucial 

HERE is a Lyme Disease Symptoms Checklist

 

 

 

 

  • Remove the tick as soon as possible. It is not true that the bacteria can’t be transmitted unless the tick is embedded for several hours. The bacteria live in the gut of the tick and are released into the bloodstream of a mammal host when the tick regurgitates as it backs itself out. This can happen at any time. I repeat, the borrelia, the lyme disease causing bacteria, live in the stomach of the tick and at any time when they are embedded they can regurgitate it into the bloodstream of their host.

  • Burning the tick, using soap or alcohol, or twisting the tick to get it out will provoke it to regurgitate.

  • Use a pair of pointed tweezers or a commercial tick removers to quickly pull the tick straight out. It’s ok if the head remains although it freaks everyone out. The head does not cause Lyme infection and digging at it to get it out CAN cause infection. If it’s driving you crazy you may want to go to an urgent care or your primary physician to have them remove it.

  • Some people choose to send the tick to a lab for testing. You can have the tick tested for Borrelia and other co-infections. To find a lab to send the tick to you can go to: Tickencounter.com. They have a list of labs and full instructions on how to package up your tick. The cost is around $40 depending on the lab and extra for various co-infections.

 

III. Once you have removed the tick have some or all of the following herbs in your medicine cabinet.

MOST IMPORTANT

  • 2-4 ounces of Echinacea purpurea or angustifolia (or a combination) extract
  1. Soak a cotton ball in Echinacea extract and place it directly on the bite with a band-aid. Do this 2x per day for 2 days. Cryptolepis (see below) can be added to the cotton ball as well.

  2. Take Echinacea extract internally at the dose of 1 dropper 3-4 x per day for 2 weeks

 

  • 2-4 ounces of Astragalus Root extract at the dose of 30-60 drops 3x per day for 30 days

        ****PLEASE NOTE! It is generally NOT recommended that Astragalus Root be used post tick bite by those with chronic Lyme disease. If you have chronic Lyme you may want to eliminate this part of the protocol. BUT I have chronic Lyme and I do use it with no problems.

        ****Astragalus is contraindicated in pregnancy but safe for children

 

  • Homeopathic Ledum palustre 30c, 3 pellets 3x per day for 3 days

 

POST TICK BITE  PLUS (If you have the resources add this)

  • 2-4 ounces of Cryptolepis extract at the dose of 30-60 drops 3x per day for 2-4 weeks. Also can be added to Echinacea soaked cotton ball and placed directly on bite.

    • Cryptolepis is a broad spectrum antibiotic herb from Africa that was used widely as a traditional herb for the treatment of malaria. It has been well researched and written about by Stephen Buhner in his book "Herbal Antibiotics".  I have had many years of experience using it and find it to have variable results for Lyme and Lyme co-infections. It seems to work remarkably well for some and not as well for others but, because of its well-recorded anti-bacterial activity, it is a worthy advocate for any tick related situation.

 

POST TICK BITE PLUS PLUS (If you're really on your game)

  • You may want to add Plantain fresh leaf or tincture directly on the bite with Echinacea soaked cotton ball as well.

  • Teasel flower essence treatments are my personal primary treatment for post tick bite and any stage of Lyme infection. These treatments must be done by a qualified flower essence practitioner. To find one near you call Delta Gardens: 603-601-6929 or go to deltagardens.com

    • ​In the Mohawk Valley these treatments are available from myself and Susan Roback at Windspirit Holistics

 

IV. Signs of Lyme Infection

  • You may get a rash. This happens in about 50% of Lyme infections. The classic bull’s eye rash is only ONE way that a Lyme rash can appear. There are several atypical rashes that may arise and they can be round or irregular, there may be more than one and may or may not be at the bite site. They can look like a bruise, ringworm, a spider bite, cellulitis, and can be in the shape of a line.

Here is a link to some images of atypical Lyme rashes

 

  • If you take antibiotics take a good quality probiotic. My favorite brands are: Pharmax and Ultra Flora Plus by Metagenics

  • See a qualified alternative health care practitioner. Antibiotics have a high failure rate as a treatment for Lyme disease with the best outcomes occurring if used as quickly as possible after infection. There are numerous alternative and holistic protocols available and I have not yet found one protocol that works for everyone. Lyme manifests uniquely in each person and usually finds its way to the weakest system or point in the body. This is why protocols must be crafted individually with a holistic approach that includes nutritionally, emotional and lifestyle components.

  • For info on some of the major herbal protocols you can refer to:

  1. Healing Lyme, by Stephen Buhner

  2. Healing Lyme Disease Naturally, by Wolf D. Storl

 

For the most up to date information on Lyme disease for physicians, public awareness, treatment guidelines and patient advocacy go to: International Lyme and Associated Disease Society: ILADS.org

 

Where to buy herbs:

 

  • In the Mohawk Valley the Little Falls Co-op has all of these available but call ahead to make sure they're in stock: (315) 823-0686

***Photo of Coyote from: Coyote photo from wiki commons.Attribution: http://www.ForestWander.com

 

 

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Herbalism Rising

 

Herbalism Rising and Staying With The Trouble

 

Working with plants, their healing potential, and their influence on human health has opened me to a relationship with nature, place, and herbs that goes far beyond the simple and effective uses of plants as medicines. Plant medicine and herbalism as a tradition belongs to more than just our contemporary impulse to identify, name, label, and cure with “this herb for that”, although this is often the initial spell that so cleverly draws us into the long, lost woods where our ancestors once foraged for talking roots carrying handwoven baskets into places with mythic names and hollow trees that open to the Underworld.

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The plants dazzle and enchant us

Even with hardened, colonial hearts we are inspelled.

They have not lost their magick

We follow them back to ours.

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Taking on a journey such as this in our current world has not found me attuned to any sparkling, ethereal “new age” or nicely “holistic” ideal of instant cures and one-liner elixirs. It’s not that this doesn’t happen; it certainly can and does.

 

PLANTS ARE MAGICK AND HEALING HAPPENS~

 

It’s just not where I have found my solace.  As the writer Ted Hughes once said,

“I don’t just jot things down you know. If I can’t bring them out of the pit I don’t go get them.”

This is the way I walk with the plants. Into the roots, below the ground. I want to uncover the sources of wounds, not just heal over them. Like the lessons of the riddle mother who knows that true wisdom comes when we seek and unravel our own answers.

+++Oh please, please, Riddle Mother, just tell me what you know+++

BECAUSE The gift is in the wound. The gold lives right next to the rot and our pain and symptoms guide us right to where it’s hidden.

Current events within the United States as well as many other world nations have driven a stake right into the heart of oppression and injustice uncovering generations and generations of cast out, exiled, and unhealed collective wounds and ongoing traumas. Capitalism as it functions for us has continued to strive for unrestrained growth and the exploitation of resources, both human and environmental, to maintain a vertical, top-down, inequitable power structure that necessitates conquest as a means of accumulating the wealth and status that will allot access to resources and safety. This allotment includes healthcare and the ability to pay for it. Healthcare has become a privilege in our society and not a basic human right as it once was.

 

The transgressions of capitalism are many, but as an herbalist, my practice with the land, plants, and wild nature has brought some dominant themes into the center of my work. Author Peter Grey sums it up neatly in his book Apocalyptic Witchcraft,

“It is simple: Mankind has broken the covenant with nature.”

This, to me, includes not only our relations to land and place, or what we call “the environment” and the awareness that we are not merely in the environment but are one of the forms taken by it,  but also the covenant we share with each other and all the living, sentient beings. This way of practicing herbal medicine involves comprehensive and foundational healing right down to what Traditional Western Herbalism defines as the “tissue states” within the human body. These are underlying patterns and power dynamics that exist in the cellular and intercellular realms.  When the tissue is injured, ill, or otherwise disrupted, the conditions that invite and enable disease are generated. True healing will only occur when these underlying states are supported in re-establishing optimal flow and function. Human health is influenced and facilitated by both the conditions of the the inner and outer terrain, and, if not more importantly, the liminal spaces where the worlds of both converge. These deep, cellular matrices between forms connect and embody us to the living landscape.

 

Plant based medicine has been a central component of these interactions for all cultures on Earth and, as many experience the ramifications of our current health care crises, herbs and herbalism is becoming a strong source of resilience, health justice, and community sustainability. The tradition of herbalism has always been the medicine of the people, and herbalists, village healers, and the like were in service to, as well as supported by, the community in such a way that everyone was provided access to health care regardless of social or economic status. These ways were cooperative, decentralized, and rhizomatic as I have written about HERE.

 

To me this means that as a person of the plants, a woman of the herbs, and a witness to the innate healing potential and the evolutionary power of nature with a committment to passing on a world and tradition to my descendants that is better than the one I was given, I must not ignore the deep wounds that I have encountered. This commitment bequeaths me to discovering, knowing, understanding, upholding the principles and actions of social and environmental justice that will create the conditions necessary for healthy human community to exist within and connected to, in reciprocity and mutual respect, with the mandala of the more than human world.

 

This is no easy path and I often have no idea how to continue forward. It is easy to feel inadequate, overwhelmed and completely bewildered. What is hard, and I believe what is called for now, is a concept I recently heard social activist and artist Rachael Rice discuss in her talk with visionary Sonali Fiske about the ongoing issue of race, systemic oppression, and unjust power structures within the realm of spiritual business-making. It’s the concept of “staying with the trouble” that comes from the book of the same name Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Experimental Futures) by Donna J. Haraway. This involves staying with our discomfort and overwhelm, and even fear, because we don’t always know what to do or say. We will make mistakes and we are imperfect, but we are still accountable to “staying with the trouble” and resisting the urge to be good and know all the answers.

 

For me, as I work with herbs, health, and the Earth from where these emerge, part of staying with the trouble means that I make a home for the entire spectrum of past, present and hoped for future of my own place and the meaning of my presence here within it. This means that I cannot exile, ignore, or deny my complicity and participation in the effects generated by a nation that channels power through inequitable and unjust systems of oppression. I have found this to be a deeply painful and grief producing process as I have encountered the ugly and unconscionable truths of the pain and suffering caused by the activities of greed, exploitation, and privilege that I have benefitted from and continue to benefit from. I have made a place for this at my table, and in doing so, have also discovered that there is room for this and it doesn’t mean that my own trauma or the trauma of my own people and my ancestors losses it’s seat.  We sit together. It is not what we bring to the table that salts the wound, it is what we exclude.  It also doesn’t mean that I cease to cherish all that I am and all that is hopeful, good, and creatively possible in all of us. In fact, I have found that including the shadows of the world brightens its light.

 

This all requires me to practice not just confronting but honoring and making sacred these dark places. One way I do this is by what I call “setting my place”. It’s a prayer of sorts and I find myself repeating some version of it while I am gathering in the woods, before I spend time seeing my clients or even out loud when hosting a group or a class. This obviously can’t and doesn’t touch on every oppression or all sides of everything. It’s a work in progress. I know there is more that I am not aware of, not willing to see or ready to understand.

 

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I stand here in the United States on Turtle Island with a tradition and legacy that I carry from my old people and their old country that now lives in me. I am a descendant of peoples from the nations of Ireland and Italy. It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to keep this medicine of the plants alive as well as the living threads of ancient dna that I hold within me. I do so, here on Turtle Island, within the unceded territory of the great Haudenosaunee nations that were murdered and exiled as a result of the conquest and colonization of this land. This was a great holocaust and I am able to be here because that happened. I realize that I cannot change this horrible thing that happened but I CAN not forget it. I CAN not pretend history started with the colonists. I can remind others of this too.  I can also acknowledge and remind others that these same people are still being oppressed and conquested.

Northeast Turtle Island in Mohawk from: The Decolonial Atlas

I stand here in the United States on Turtle Island because the “founding fathers” gained economic power, and other sources of power, that allowed them to rebel against England. This economic power was afforded them by the flesh and blood of African slaves. There were obviously other factors, but slavery and the forced labor and brutalization of others, including indentured servants from Europe and the waged slavery of immigrants,  provided for the establishment and success of America.  Although this type of slavery has ended, at least here, the structural, systemic, and institutionalized oppression that it instilled continues, more insidiously but still deadly, to obstruct, oppress, exile, and deny these same people access to resources, social acceptance, political representation, dignity, basic human rights, and safety in general.

Although we all deal with oppression in some form, some of us have what is known as privilege. This privilege falls along many lines including class, sexual orientation, religion, gender, and especially race. Having it means having unfair advantages at the expense of others even if I don’t want them. Privilege isn’t personal and is not equivalent to how many struggles I’ve endured, how difficult my life has been, or hard I’ve worked. I can’t give it back or wash it off at the end of the day no more than a person of color can remove their skin to avoid being the target of racism or racial prejudice. I don’t like this, it’s uncomfortable, and I can easily ignore it because most white people are insulated from racism and are conditioned to be blind to their privilege, but when I do so I enact this same privilege that I don't want. By being able to live disconnected from what others in my country cannot escape I cultivate racism. This is complicity and even when I don’t know what to do about my privilege I would rather stay with that 'not knowing', stay curious, and stay present with it, than deny it thereby perpetuating it.

As I work for the value of healing, for the healing of people, for the healing of the land and the Earth, and the continued tradition of herbal medicine, as a white woman with many unfair advantages, I can and will make every effort to acknowledge where and how I may be perpetuating and complicit this system. This includes acknowledging how I benefit from it every day.

This also includes the practice, study, and exploration of how I can ensure that herbal medicine can become more accessible and more sustainable remaining decentralized and in the hands of the people. All of the people.

I believe that healthcare is a basic human right and should not be profit-driven. I believe in the  human capacity for cooperation. I believe that the human capacity of competition is not the natural dominant state, but one that would be rarely needed if our capacity for cooperation were cultivated. I believe that traditional herbal medicine and plant based culture is the medicine of the people and I will continue to do everything in my power to preserve it as so. Although I believe that herbal medicine can find a place in a vertical, top-down society and that plants can be healing anywhere or way that they are introduced to any system, I believe it’s optimal potential is when it is grass roots, horizontal and folk oriented. It’s traditional, mythic, and barefoot values are a most powerful ally to the founding of new worlds and new ways.

And finally, I believe another world is possible.

 

 

 

Links:

Podcast with Rachael Rice and Sonali Fiske: http://www.sonalifiske.com/free-resources.html

 

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Wild Imprints

 

Wild Imprints

The work that I do with plants and herbal medicines has many layers of expression. On the surface, it’s about plant ID and physical illness and finding remedies. This is good, much needed, and can be quite magickal, but beneath this lies a life’s journey of relationship, growth, learning, listening, and devotion, a dharma some would say, that seems perpetually awe-inspiring, creative, and beautifully humbling.  This work has challenged me on every possible repercussion of my self/Self, like the concentric circles that ripple out on the water when you throw in a stone. These challenges have caused me to not only reach and grow,  but to also de-evolve, disintegrate, break down(literally and figuratively), and be reborn over and over and over in a constant and infinite matrix of being. At times it has been painful and I’ve gotten lost, both literally, lost in the woods whilst hiking or gathering, and figuratively, lost and confused. And I expect to continue to do so for the rest of my life.

 

I have come to think of my training and practice with plants, the land, and the wild in nature as an apprenticeship to the un-known or to not knowing. Wildness and plants as they emerge, tamed or cultivated, are not predictable because they are alive and animate. Their changes occur in synergistic communication with the place for which they inhabit. Plants and plant medicine persists and resists the world of knowing that might categorize, bottle, and box a thing so that it could be standardized, reproduced, and produce the expected results when administered. This kind of knowing is fixed and deadly. Once something is contained and captured it can no longer respond and express itself as a result of it's own agency, therefore it becomes no longer itself. The wild unknowing that I have experienced with the plants and the land has been most profound and healing when I have found myself amidst the living movement and beingness of the world where the rational, striving, pushing 'me' subsided, usually just briefly, enough to allow the wildness within me to echo with the tongues of the land.

 

The way that I have come to this great art and tradition was only partly of my own volition as a result of struggles with my own chronic health issues and discouragement with the, albeit life-saving but limited and incomplete, offerings of conventional modern medicine. The rest I came to as if it was an imperative of nature, like how the branches of the Fir must yield to the rush of the wind. I have often joked, when asked how I became an herbalist, that I was kidnapped by the plants. And I did go kicking and screaming because, well, I had gone to college and wanted a legitimate career with benefits. Plus, it was unknown territory especially in the early 1990’s when herbal medicine was just emerging from the dark ages of germ theory and pharmaceutical hegemony. I really don’t yet have, and likely never will, a complete and repeatable narrative on how I fell to the soils of the forest floor and the rich beds beneath the gardens, but the little I do know is about instinct. My working definition of instinct is that it is a sense that is triggered and responds to an external event, pattern, or phenomena that matches or corresponds to an already implicit, inner receptor. This is simultaneous as the external and internal environments that embody us meet and react.

 

This all started  for me that day when I was four years old and hiking in the Adirondack mountains with my grandfather. He took me along on his daily rounds up the mountain trails above his the cabin where he and my grandma lived, and where he was always tracking the daily activities of the white-tailed deer and collecting his favorite edible mushrooms. We were walking along as usual and I looked off the trail to the slanted rock faces, the smoothed over glacial crevices, the carved ancient grade with brief landings where trees gripped the edges and lifted their branches upwards toward the next turn of rock face toward the zenith.

 

Can we go that way?

 

I don’t know why I asked that and don’t remember if there were any thoughts that led up to it. The yet unconditioned, or only partially conditioned, mind of my child self, similar to all children, hadn’t fully learned to gate non-rational sensory inputs.  It was just an unmediated expression of how I felt in exactly that moment with no credence afforded the virtues of staying on the trail. Perhaps no more than a simple urge to change direction and go that way like the way your eyelids automatically close when you try to look straight at the sun. Some would call it a felt sense. It was instinctual and fearless and my grandpa, probably due to his conditioning as an Italian immigrant who had depended on keen instinct and stealth to survive deep poverty in his homeland and the dangers and struggles of adapting to the New World, was a fearless adventurer himself.

 

Although he passed two years ago, my relationship with him continues to deepen as his imprint upon my character continues to animate my soul.

 

So, up the mountain. We went that way. Then and always after that.

 

I believe that to have been an initiatory experience where a trusted elder not only confirmed my inner and individual propensity for something “off of the trail” but also guided me and walked(climbed) beside me showing me how to tune my own footfalls to the steep and unpathed courses of wild places. I wonder how or if I would’ve become someone different if he had said “No, it’s better to stay on the trail.” Those hikes with my grandfather were some of my only memories of ever feeling truly safe in this world. The woods, forests, and uncultivated fields of nature still, to this day, are a refuge for my heart, soul, and senses.plants and my work as an herbalist continues lead me back, and back again, to that impulse, or instinct to fall beneath the surface, to climb the mountain from the side, or find a way through the unpathed woods. 

 

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