Resuscitating Folk Medicine

Folk Medicine

My Accidental Discovery of Folk Medicine

In the first few months after I discovered what I am now calling the Simplywell Protocol, I would catch myself noticing that something felt decidedly weird: my head felt clear, my energy levels were normal, I could finally fall asleep at night, and the migraines that had been torturing me literally for years due to medications after c-section were now suddenly and completely gone.  What felt strange to me was feeling normal.  It had been that long since I had known what it was like to go through the day without being compromised with brain fog, indigestion, and some level of headache from mild to severe.

The euphoria I felt at being able to simply function was intense.  This euphoria escalated when I realized that in discovering the healing properties of a few humble roots that singlehandedly dissolved a huge constellation of otherwise intractable health problems, I had participated in and contributed to Folk Medicine.  Not only had I healed myself, but my determination to reclaim my life had resulted in a rather unusual discovery of safe, affordable, and effective food-based solutions that apparently no-one else had seemingly yet discovered because they were burdened with the luxury of having healthcare and therefore of outsourcing the solution to others supposedly more knowledgeable on the topic than they were.  After a few out-of-pocket investments in seeing various doctors, I had decided it was up to me to heal myself, and had transformed my lack of health care into an intense form of self-care that involved years of research and self-experimentation mixed in with some grace and luck.

I’ve spent the past nine months since the time of this discovery researching the how and why my protocol works as well as it does. In coming to understand the ways that these culinary folk medicines have helped me, I’ve also come to better understand the nature of migraine headaches, and how and why they developed in my life.  So this form of Folk Medicine I’ve accidentally become a practitioner of has involved an inverse sequence of logic in terms of my diagnosis and treatment of myself.  First I found a solution, then the solution clued me in to what the deeper problem was by way of understanding what the medicinal properties of these foods are.

The irony was not lost on me that the solutions to my years long struggle with migraine headaches were not only in my kitchen right under my nose the entire time I was suffering, but that the little old Ukranian lady who lives down the street who doesn’t speak any English could probably have given me a few important clues along the way.

Now, having helped a number of people regain their clear heads after years of debilitating migraines, I find myself incredibly enamored of Folk Medicine but also so excited to articulate what Folk Medicine means to me, why it is so important right now, and what can be done to resuscitate it.

What happened to Folk Medicine?

Folk Medicine is also known as “traditional medicine”,  “indigenous medicine”, “native medicine” and “ethnomedicine.”  It is still the dominant form of medicine practiced by indigenous, place-based, and rural people in third world countries.  This indigenous medicine is declining and under threat as indigenous people are displaced due to habitat or ecosystem destruction and along with it the loss of plant biodiversity that these people rely on for their source of medicine.

Ethnomedicine is the mother of all other systems of medicine . . . The traditional medicinal knowledge is thought to be within everyone’s reach and does not require any study or training to practice it. (Source)

In so-called “first world” countries, the history of folk medicine looks different.  In the United States, for example, a huge diversity of folk medicine traditions converged as immigrants from all over the world came here with their respective cultural indigenous folk medicine traditions and knowledge.  This knowledge has gradually been eroded due to political maneuvering (especially by the Rockefeller Foundation) that succeeded in stamping out alternative and plant-based medicines and molding the new practice of medicine to favor medical institutions, societies and doctors as the exclusive source for medical advice, expertise, patented, chemical-based medications and “evidence-based” medicine.

The Flexner report, written by Pritchett, concluded that only medical schools that committed to using synthetic based medicines and avoided plant based treatments (homeopathic and naturopathic protocols) should be offered large grants that were created by Rockefeller and Carnegie. Some 17 years after the Flexner report had been written and published, almost half of the previously existing medical schools had been forced to close due to an inability to attract students that would pay tuition. In a nutshell, these schools were unable to compete with the medical institutions that were regularly funded by the large foundations set up by Rockefeller and Carnegie. From that point forward, only medical schools philosophically aligned with petrochemical companies would become successful in graduating medical physicians. Presently, the same petrochemical companies have great influence and control over most components associated with modern medicine. (Source)

Along with this trend came a demonization of both alternative medical practitioners and anyone practicing medicine without a license, which would include local community folk healers.

Through expensive and extensive PR campaigns, folk-medicine began to be viewed as dangerous and ineffective quackery. The use of food and herbs for healing made way for the use of pills and synthetic compounds mimicking nature. Part of the reason for this push towards petrochemical drugs was patents. You cannot patent a plant, therefore you cannot make money from it. Since money is the bottom line for the industrialists it is obvious why they invested so much time and energy into creating an entirely different paradigm around health care. (Source)

This new way of practicing medicine shifted the role of the doctor from that of teacher (from the Latin verb docere, to teach) to that of “doer” or performer of specialized diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Our new sense of the word “doctor” when it is used as a verb, means roughly to “tinker” or “fool around with” . . . Dr. Moskovitz says in his article “Plain Medicine”,

Especially in a profession dominated by science and technology, it provides our best assurance that health and illness, improvement and worsening, and the success or failure of our work as physicians will be judged according to the patient’s own standards, rather than others imposed arbitrarily or coercively by and for the profession itself.  Our failure to keep these priorities straight is a lot of what I hear from patients about what they think is wrong with the medical system today, and it is difficult not to agree with them. (Source)

Welcoming the Wake Up Call

Currently, we’re reaching an apex in our culture where many people are waking up to the horrifying reality of systemic chemical pollution to our bodies that this form of corporate chemical “medicine” has created, which manifests as a huge variety of chronic inflammatory diseases.  In general, people are more and more interested in and open to exploring alternative healing modalities, and taking responsibility for the self-care and lifestyle choices that are the foundation of wellness.  We are arriving at this wake up call through the very uncomfortable realization of just how incredibly sick we’ve become.

Because the damage to our basic bodily systems by pharmaceutical medicine has been so severe, it has become imperative that Folk Medicine traditions be not only rediscovered and resuscitated, but also upgraded to address this relatively recent damage that our ancestor’s particular form of folk medicine traditions had never encountered.  This is just fine, because even if they had known or did know how to address it, we have basically lost their knowledge at this point anyway.

One way that we know that real medicine (which results in healing) is different from medications (which can create even worse problems through masking of symptoms), is that the body doesn’t know how to selectively heal. So, real medicine will usually have a number of unexpected but desirable “side-effects” that include the dissolution of various other seemingly unrelated (but apparently related) niggling health issues falling away simultaneously.  For me, this meant that in addition to my migraines clearing up, my skin also did, the ringing and ache in my ears subsided, brain fog, PMS, and bloating also disappeared.  Now these are the kinds of “side-effects”, (ie, systemic holistic effects) I can get behind.  Real, plant-based folk medicine heals by way of supporting the body as a whole system.  Migraine medications – which are not medicine in the sense that they suppress rather than cure – do the opposite: they target specific symptoms at the expense of the whole.  Our bodies did not evolve to process pharmaceuticals.

The Courage to Care

There is no clearly defined professional scope of practice for folk medicine (or, therefore, malpractice), because folk medicine is by definition an untrained, unstandardized and unstandardizable, mutable, and informal tradition of healing practices.  Not only are both the practitioners and practices of folk medicine highly diverse depending on the culture and person practicing them, folk medicine itself, as a practice, can’t be controlled or regulated because folk medicine is simply the inevitable process of people taking care of themselves and their communities with the most common solutions available to them.  And we’re starting to do it – we’re starting to learn to care about our quality of life again and realize we are our own most powerful agents in our state of wellbeing.

Caring is not only an emotion, but an activity.  Physical pain and suffering requires physical acts of care to alleviate.  The use of plant foods, spiritual practice, human touch, and sharing of helpful information are all native, indigenous forms of folk care that naturally arise out of the process of being a human being who cares about herself or himself and those he or she lives around.  The results of this care, especially when food (which is generally regarded as safe) is used to care, usually don’t have very disasterous consequences.

(This brings up the converse but important point that one reason that allopathic medical practitioners need the specialized education, standards, and scope of practice that they do, is because the medicines they use can be extremely dangerous if used improperly – and even when used properly.  Serious systemic damage to the body is not impossible, but less likely to happen with the use of time-tested herbs, but even less likely to happen when common foods are used in the practice of culinary folk medicine as compared to herbal folk medicine or other alternative healing modalities.)

The scope of practice of actually caring is infinite.  Caring cannot be embodied by standardized treatments or pills, but it is called forth in the healing process. As Dr. Moskovitz clarifies here, treatment and healing are decidedly different.

1. Healing implies wholeness.
Etymologically, the English verb “to heal” comes from the same root as “whole,” meaning essentially to make whole [again], and refers to a basic attribute of all living systems, which is evident both in wound healing and in spontaneous recovery from illness . . .  Like the metastatic cancer patient who pulls off a regression against every probability or expectation, healing represents a concerted response of the entire organism, cannot be achieved or ascribed to any part in isolation, and implies a deeper level of integration than could be defined or approximated by any mere assemblage.

2. All healing is self-healing.
As a fundamental property of all living systems, healing proceeds continuously throughout life, and tends to complete itself spontaneously, with or without external assistance.   This means that all healing is ultimately self-healing, and the role of physicians and other professional or designated healers must be essentially to assist and enhance the natural healing process that is already under way.  However useful and necessary it may be, merely correcting abnormalities will also have to be judged in relation to that fundamental standard.  Finally, a self-healing orientation transforms the doctor-patient relationship itself, from a hierarchy of knowledge and command into a partnership of consensus and trust.

3. Healing pertains solely to individuals.
Always possible but also inherently problematic and even risky, healing applies only to individuals, to flesh-and-blood creatures in unique, here-and-now situations, rather than to abstract “diseases,” abnormalities, principles, or categories.  In other words, whatever else it may be, it is inescapably an art, and should never and can never be reduced to a mere technique or procedure, however scientific its foundation. (Source)

With Folk Medicine the scope of practice is contained within caring and supportive rather than manipulative and corrective activities. Folk Medicine is passed on by word of mouth as a form of gossip, such as “this worked for me” and “I heard that this works well for that,” or “I heard that this worked well for so-and-so.”  The gossipy or second-hand nature of Folk Medicine, rather than being dangerous and ambiguous, forces any person wanting to implement it to use common sense, discernment, and their own faculties of intelligence, cautious experimentation, and research to integrate the information, probably customizing it along the way according to their own specific knowledge of their body’s sensitivities and vulnerabilities.

Folk Medicine is generally the most empowering, gentle, affordable, accessable, time-tested, common-sense form of health care that exists.  It is born from attention, relationship, and a belief in the resilience of the body if given the right support.  It involves self-responsibility and ownership, and the ability to communicate with one’s body intelligence.  Let’s breathe some life back into Folk Medicine, and be conscious that whenever we take good care of ourselves or someone else, we’re practicing it.

The art of healing comes from Nature, not the physician . . .
Every illness has its own remedy within itself . . .
A man could not be born alive and healthy were there not already a Physician hidden in him . . .
~ Paracelsus

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.simplywell.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Marya.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Marya Gendron is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist, health coach, and wellness researcher. She specializes in chronic migraine headache relief and alleviation of brain fog, indigestion, and histamine intolerance through plant-based solutions.

The SimplyWell Protocol is available here, or you can book a consultation with Marya.
Learn more about Marya’s healing journey here.
[/author_info] [/author]

Anti-inflammatory Chai with Ginger, & Coconut

Antihistamine Ginger Turmeric Chai Simplywell Migraine Protocol

If you’re familiar with the low-histamine diet as a way to manage histamine intolerance symtoms, you’re probably aware that many spices traditionally used in delicious chai contain histamine – especially cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice.  I love cinnamon, and am so grateful I can eat it again.  Cinnamon is a plant that is dear to my heart, because it was the ingredient that clued me in to my migraines and histamine intolerance.  Early on in my migraine hell post c-section, a naturopath prescribed a Chinese remedy that contained cinnamon in it as its first ingredient.  She was trying to help me with my peripheral neuropathy issues, and thought cinnamon would be great for increasing circulation to my limbs.  But while on the remedy, my migraines got even worse (she also prescribed vitamin B12 to me, which increases histamine). I examined the ingredients and started doing some online research.  It was the realization that cinnamon contains histamine that tipped me off to the whole concept of histamine intolerance, which was one step on the path towards me finally healing my migraines.

The beauty of my protocol, the SimplyWell Migraine Protocol, is that elimination of histamine and tyramine rich foods is only a temporary step while your gut heals.  So, you should be able to drink normal chai with all the cinnamon and nutmeg in it again – but you may not want to after tasting this delicious and creamy antihistamine chai.  Eventhough I can consume traditional chai spices now, I stick to this chai recipe because I love the benefits all the ingredients confer, and it tastes amazing.

This chai imparts an incredible creaminess without the use of dairy, thanks to the coconut oil.  You can use coconut manna too (which has arabinogalactan prebiotics in it) but it will be a little bit gritty.  I prefer just the oil. Cardamom is anti-inflammatory and incredibly delicious.

This chai will spice up your antihistamine diet during the temporary month long elimination phase of the Simplywell Migraine Protocol.  The majority of antihistamine foods are bland and have little flavor – so this chai will bring some much-needed character and kick to an otherise bland diet.

Anti-inflammatory Chai Recipe

2.5 thumbs of chopped raw ginger (a thumb is the width and length of the tip of your thumb to its first joint)
3 cups of water
seeds from 2 pods of fresh cardamom, or 1/8 t of turmeric powder
a dash of fresh black peppepr
honey or maple syrup to taste (I use 1.5 teaspoons)
1.5 T coconut oil (or manna)

Important Note: I also like to add 1 thumb of fresh turmeric (or 1.5 teaspoons of dry turmeric powder) to this mix, but I don’t include it in the main recipe here because turmeric is a DAO inhibitor.  If you get migraines relatively infrequently, adding turmeric to this drink will probably be overall very beneficial for you, but if you get constant migraines, you should probably leave the turmeric out.  Now that I no longer get migraines thanks to the SimplyWell Protocol, I use turmeric liberally.  Turmeric is not a migraine trigger, but because it is a DAO inhibitor, it is not supportive of the breakdown of histamine.

To make this, simply blend together all the ingredients except for the coconut and honey in a blender on high.  Transfer this mixture into a saucepan and simmer for about 5 minutes.  The color will change from a lite to a deep orange.  Strain the mixture back into the blender so that only liquid remains.  Add the honey and coconut and blend for about 30-60 seconds so that the coconut gets fully whipped into the chai.  I like my tea very strong but if you prefer it less concentrated, just add a little more hot water.

Enjoy!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.simplywell.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Marya.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Marya Gendron is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist and health coach specializing in chronic migraine headache relief and alleviation of brain fog, indigestion, and histamine intolerance through plant-based solutions. She practices out of Portland, Oregon. In January of 2016, Marya healed herself of chronic debilitating migraine headaches caused by pharmaceutical medications she received after a c-section operation. Her life purpose is to educate people about broader health-care and self-care options through promotion of specific fabulous medicinal foods that have been forgotten or ignored. She is actively trying to form a Folk Medicine movement to transform the culture of suppresive and poisonous medications to one of holistic health accomplished through an educated, pro-active, and mutually-supportive community.[/author_info] [/author]

Antihistamine Mint, Radish, & Jicama Prebiotic Salad

antihistamine mint, radish, jicama salad

It’s Autumn, and prime season for the delicious jicama – a fiber-rich, gently sweet, very hydrating, and generally overlooked tuber.  As many of you are aware, I am a big fan of starchy tubers and humble roots.  They literally pulled me up out of a severely compromised state of inflammation, brain fog, and chronic migraine headaches and into my new life now where I can think clearly, be more available and energetic with my young son and husband, eat a wide variety of foods without severe consequences, and help others to heal themselves with these antihistamine roots.

The recipe I share below is fantastic for a number of reasons: 1) It includes a variety of foods that contain both arabinogalactan and inulin prebiotics, essential for good digestion and lowering histamine in the colon 2) the recipe mutes the strong taste of radish, which some people want to ingest for its insane health benefits, but whose flavor they don’t prefer, and 3) it is hydrating, cooling, anti-inflammatory and downright refreshing – not to mention delicious.

I personally don’t mind the taste of radishes one iota.  I love the combination of crisp crunch, sweet white meat, and pungent, invigorating red rind.  I snack on radishes a few times a day (ever heard the Chinese saying, “A radish a day keeps the doctor poor?”).  But once in awhile it is fun to mix radishes up in a creative way and see how their character can mesh with other unique flavors such as mint and jicama.

Antihistamine properties of this salad

Technically speaking, the only foods featured here that are truly antihistamines are the watercress and blackseeds – these foods directly block the cellular receptors for histamine.  Prebiotic soluble fibers present in the roots of this salad are actually very potent antihistamines in their own right as well.  They reduce histamine indirectly (but very profoundly) by feeding friendly flora that crowd out histamine-producing flora.

Let’s start with a little primer on jicama and then explore some of the other ingredients in this salad.  Like most foods made so exquisitely well for us by our sweetest Mother Nature, jicama has many benefits not to be overlooked!  But here I want to just highlight two of its nutrtitional properties –  it is a very good source of vitamin C and also contains B6.  As we know here at Simplywell, Vitamin C is a mast cell stabilizer (ie, it reduces histamine).  While vitamin C is usually known as a potent anti-oxidant, it is actually a pro-oxidant because it turns into hydrogen peroxide further down the line.  Our bodies, unlike other mammals, don’t produce vitamin C, so we really need it in our diet.  Vitamin B6 is also important because it is needed by the body to assimilate B12, increases serotonin in the brain and gut, and is needed to convert excessive inflammatory glutamate into calming GABA.

But I digress away from our friend the jicama.  Back in the late 1800’s Gen. Rivera and his Mexican army listened to a wise woman and used it to cure thousands of soldiers of typhus fever and pneumonia.  Jicama is full of inulin prebiotic fiber which binds to pathogenic viruses and bacteria. The wise woman who shared this wonderful root with Gen. Rivera didn’t know what inulin was. But she knew jicama’s effects and shared it freely.

If you’ve read my Simplywell Migraine Protocol e-book, you’ll know already that carrots are incredible not only because they contain arabinogalactans (another kind of prebiotic), but because they lower excessive estrogen, which also contributes to histamine.  So carrots are antihistamine as well – however indirectly.

Watercress is a wonferful antihistamine green that should be used if you can get ahold of it – replace with arugula or other greens if it’s not available.

I decided to throw a few roasted blackseeds on this salad because the contrast of the blackseeds with the red and orange colors was pretty – but also because blackseeds (aka nigella sativa or kalonji) are antihistamine as well (not to mention, they increase glutathione production by 500%).

But best of all, the arabinogalactan and inulin prebiotics in this salad will feed the friendly bacteria in your colon and, as I mentioned, crowd out the unfriendly histamin-producing bacteria.  In so doing, they will also raise GABA levels, thereby putting the brakes on excessive glutamate, which we know also contributes to migraine headaches and inflammation.  Once these friendly bacteria are proliferating thanks to ingestion of foods like this salad and implementation of other lifestyle choices as outlined in the SImplywell Migraine Relief Protocol, the histamine-producing bacteria in the gut won’t have such a stronghold, and your overall histamine load or “bucket” will be considerably reduced.

Again, THANK YOU Mother Nature.  She trumps the corporate pharmaceuticals yet again.  Gratitude.

Here’s the Recipe:

1/2 c thinly sliced jicama
1/2 cup grated carrots
3-4 thinly sliced radishes
3 Tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
juice of 1/2 orange or tangerine
juice of 1/2 lime
dash of salt and pepper to taste
drizzle of olive oil
sprinkling of roasted blackseeds (aka, kalonji, nigella sativa)
1 handful of watercress (or arugula)

Note: If you live in a place where jicama is not available or in season, this salad is delicious made with apple or cucumber.  You’ll still get some prebiotic and antihistamine benefit from the radishes and carrots.  If you’d like to download the Simplywell Migraine Protocol e-book and learn how to banish migraines and histamine intolerance symptoms, go to the homepage and subscribe to get it!

Enjoy!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.simplywell.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Marya.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Marya Gendron is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist and health coach specializing in chronic migraine headache relief and alleviation of brain fog, indigestion, and histamine intolerance through plant-based solutions. She practices out of Portland, Oregon. In January of 2016, Marya healed herself of chronic debilitating migraine headaches caused by pharmaceutical medications she received after a c-section operation. Her life purpose is to educate people about broader health-care and self-care options through promotion of specific fabulous medicinal foods that have been forgotten or ignored. She is actively trying to form a Folk Medicine movement to transform the culture of suppresive and poisonous medications to one of holistic health accomplished through an educated, pro-active, and mutually-supportive community.[/author_info] [/author]