Tag Archive | sinus

Allergy Sufferers Get Ahead with Purple Dead-nettle

dead nettle

Lamium purpureum © 2016 Thea Summer Deer

It is Spring and a carpet of Purple Dead-Nettle is covering my garden. Even though I had put the raised vegetable garden to bed and tucked it in with straw this particular weed decidedly took over. These Dead heads not only look like a weed, they smell like one too. And unlike the followers of a particular psychedelic rock band there is nothing distinctive about this plant that would indicate it might be edible, useful or medicinal. While I was never a Dead Head I do march to the beat of a slightly different drummer, and just because I harvest, juice and infuse what most people think of as useless weeds it doesn’t mean I’m tripping or that I smell bad, but it does mean that I’m ahead of my time, so to speak, meaning ahead of allergy season.

dead nettle_1522Introduced from Europe and listed as an invasive species in some parts of North America it can frequently be found growing alongside Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule.) Both have similar leaves and bright purple flowers, but the difference between the two can be seen in the leaves. Purple Dead-nettle’s leaves are stalked on the flower stem compared to the un-stalked leaves of Henbit Dead-nettle, L. amplexicaule. Amplexicaule means “clasping” and refers to how the leaves grab the stem.

If you were called to inspect this plant more closely you would find that it has a square stem typical of the mints but the smell would never let on that it is in the mint family. It smells more like earth and grass with the flowering tops and leaves being edible. The harvested young aerial parts can be finely chopped and used in sauces, salads or as a spring vegetable and while it may be nutritious it has no flavor of great interest. It is one of the first plants to flower in the southeast where I live and may continue flowering throughout the year even during the milder winter months providing a food source to bees (and humans!) when few other nectar sources are available.

Purple Dead-nettle has long been used in folk medicine in Europe, Asia and Africa and unlike stinging nettles (Urtica) it has no sting and is therefore considered, “dead.” There is evidence of anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and free radical scavenging properties comparable to that of ascorbic acid. It can be used fresh or dried and made into a tea or tincture for allergic inflammation. A natural source of flavonoids including quercetin Purple Dead-nettle can improve immune system performance while reducing sensitivity to allergens and inhibiting inflammation. The anti-allergy properties of flavonoids come from their ability to reduce the release of histamine. Research has shown that L. purpureum is significantly anti-inflammatory with pain-reducing properties and works through inhibiting the release of prostaglandins, the principle mediator for inflammation in allergies and chronic inflammatory conditions. This is good news for allergy sufferers (see recommendations below.) The whole plant has also been used to relieve pain in rheumatism and other arthritic ailments. A rich source of antibacterial essential oils Purple Dead-nettle has a wide range of antimicrobial activity and antifungal properties, which may be useful for staph, E. coli and candida.

800px-Illustration_Lamium_purpureum0

Never before has one weed so thoroughly taken over my garden. It definitely had my attention. Previously L. purpureum was only vaguely familiar to me, as I had seen it on my daily walks growing along the roadside. It was so far off my radar as a medicinal plant that I had trouble remembering what it was. My apprentice had pointed it out to me before and one day on a walk together I felt totally incompetent asking her – what is that plant again? In my defense it is indeed rather obscure in the herbal literature. There is still so much we don’t know, but I do know that our medicine is never any further than where we are right now.

Recommendations:

Taking Purple Dead-nettle when you suffer from allergies will help prevent secondary infections of the sinus, throat and lower respiratory tract. There are no known contraindications. Purple Dead-nettle’s actions have not been extensively researched and documented but may include: anti-inflammatory, astringent, diuretic, diaphoretic, antimicrobial, antifungal and purgative. Collect entire above ground, aerial parts for food and medicine.

dead nettle infusion_1525Tincture: 1-2 ml 3x/day (1:5 in 40%)

Infusion: 1 cup boiling water over 1 heaping teaspoon dried herb and infuse covered for 10 minutes. Strain and drink as often as desired. To use as a daily tonic for chronic conditions put 1 oz. dried herb in a quart jar, or 1/3 jar filled with chopped fresh herb, fill with boiling water and cover. Let stand for 3-4 hours and drink one quart per day just prior to and at the start of allergy season.

All content except where otherwise noted © 2016 Thea Summer Deer

References:

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Think You Have an Ulcer? Think Again: H. Pylori and Mastic Gum

Pistacia lentiscus in flower

Pistacia lentiscus in flower

I had wanted to write this article on mastic gum as an effective treatment for Helicobacter pylori for some time now, but it was Dr. OZ’s Christmas Eve show that finally did it. When a friend who knew that I had healed myself of H. pylori reported that this and ulcers were the topic of today’s Dr. OZ Show, I was all ears. I was glad the show was helping the general public to make the connection between ulcers and H. pylori, as this has long been overlooked. Regardless, doctors rarely recommend one of the easy tests that detect H. pylori to patients presenting with ulcer symptoms. While kefir was mentioned for these symptoms, most of the folks on the show had never heard of kefir. And while this helps to increase awareness of the importance and necessity for probiotics, kefir doesn’t cure H. pylori.[1] It was when I heard the final recommendation for H. pylori was antibiotics, however, that I knew I couldn’t put off writing this article any longer.

Let me start by sharing my own story. For years I had this on again, off again burning in the pit of my stomach. It was worse at night and felt like a gnawing hunger that might feel better if I ate something to help coat or soothe my stomach, but eating made no difference. After awhile I surmised that I must have an ulcer. I tried digestive enzymes but that didn’t work. Then I tried antacids and H2 blockers, which are completely against my belief system of treating symptoms and not the cause, and they made no difference whatsoever. I did notice, however, that eliminating sugar helped.

mastiha_tear2

Mastic gum resin

Then I had a recurrent mold exposure that launched a raging sinus infection. My eyes swelled shut with yellow puss oozing from them and my throat was so swollen I could hardly swallow. I feared that I wouldn’t be able to breathe. So, I immediately went to the doctor who in an effort to keep me out of the hospital gave me what he called “gorilla-cillin,” without ever diagnosing what I had. It was after this round of antibiotics that my sinus infection got better, but the “ulcer” got significantly worse and I started having pressure in my esophagus. I went back to yet another doctor who recommended an endoscopy, so I paid the gastroenterologist a visit but declined the test in favor of doing additional research on my own. This doctor suggested that I might have an ulcer as well as an overgrowth of candida in my esophagus. In my search for the cause of what was creating this havoc in my body, and without wanting to undergo an invasive test, I discovered the information connecting ulcers to H. pylori infection, something that had not been previously mentioned. I also learned that statistically up to 90% of duodenal ulcers might be caused by a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, and not by stress, spicy food or excess stomach acid as had been previously assumed.

So back to the doctor’s office I went for my yearly exam and to request a blood test for the H. pylori bacterium. Several non-invasive tests exist for evaluating the presence of the bacteria including a blood, saliva, stool or a breath test. However, the most reliable method is a biopsy check during endoscopy. I opted for the blood test.

At least half the world’s population is infected with H. pylori making it the most widespread infection in the world, and while H. pylori is contagious, the exact route of transmission is not known. Findings suggest that it is more easily transmitted via gastric mucus than via saliva. It may also be transmitted via contaminated well water, soil, or from food harvested in fields where workers defecate. It is also very possible that houseflies act as a viable source of spread since they frequently come into contact with human food and fecal matter.

When I returned to the doctor’s office for my blood results I sat in the waiting room for almost an hour before being brought into an exam room. I was left there alone for another hour before the doctor finally arrived. During that time in the exam room I noticed a small paperback reminiscent of a Readers Digest on the counter next to the sink. It contained articles on the latest drug recommendations for various conditions and I busied myself reading it. I was surprised when I turned to an article on H. pylori and the recommended drugs and antibiotic cocktail for curing it. H. pylori is obviously a growing concern in the current pharmacological literature.

The doctor finally arrived apologizing for being late, explaining that she had been going over the results of my blood work and was happy to announce and that everything looked normal; good blood sugar, cholesterol, thyroid, white and red blood cell count, etc. I had to ask her, “what about the H. pylori?” She had completely overlooked it and had to scramble through her paperwork in order to find the results. “Oh!” she said, quite flustered, “You are positive for H. pylori!” Obviously she had not spent the last hour looking over the result of my blood work. I flashed the article on H. pylori from her magazine that I found in her exam room, and told her she might want to read up. She then prescribed the routine antibiotic cocktail, which included flagyl, (an antibiotic drug also used to treat Candida with serious possible side effects[2]). Since I had good insurance at the time I filled the prescription and carried a grocery bag full of antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors home with me.

As I sat contemplating this turn of events, and the fact that a round of antibiotics had put my “ulcer” symptoms over the top in the first place causing what I felt to be an overgrowth of H. pylori, just like they can cause an overgrowth of Candida, I just could not bring myself to take them. In addition, an increasing number of infected individuals harbor antibiotic-resistant bacteria and there is a high treatment failure rate (up to 20%) requiring additional rounds of antibiotic therapy, which further discouraged me. It made sense that I had noticed a difference in a reduction of symptoms by eliminating sugar since perhaps sugar feeds H. pylori, just like it does Candida. Then, I started a time line of my symptoms and realized it had been after a round of antibiotics for an earlier sinus infection (also from mold exposure) that the symptoms had initially started. Further research showed that H. pylori is a member of the normal flora of the stomach and helps to regulate stomach acidity. It is only when there is an overgrowth accompanied by symptoms that it becomes problematic. Common sense told me that antibiotics were contraindicated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was clear to me that the H. pylori needed to be brought under control, but not only did I not want to take the antibiotics, I was downright afraid of taking them. So back to the computer I went, this time looking for alternatives to antibiotics. What I found was mastic gum and not surprisingly as I have a lot of faith in plant medicine.

l_410709Mastic gum is a tree resin produced by an evergreen shrub from the pistachio tree family, Pistacia lentiscus. It hails from the Greek island of Chios and is also known as “Chios tears” because once the bark is slit, the resin trickles out slowly creating crystal like “tears.” In some shops it is called “Arabic Gum”, not to be confused with gum arabic. The word mastic is a synonym for gum in many languages and is derived from the Greek verb, “to gnash the teeth”, which is the source of the English word, masticate. Greeks have been chewing on these resin granules for centuries. It is consumed to freshen the breath, cut down on bacteria in the mouth, and remove dental plaque. Ground it is used in a variety of baked goods for its rich aroma and licorice-like flavor. Mastic has been used as a medicine since antiquity and for a variety of gastric ailments in the Mediterranean for at least 3,000 years. It is still used in traditional folk medicine of the Middle East.

One of my herbal mentors, Patricia Kyritsi Howell goes to Greece every year and affirmed the power of this medicine for healing gastric complaints. Mastic production in Chios is granted protected designation of origin and the islands production is controlled by a co-operative of medieval villages in the south of Chios. Traditionally there has been limited production of mastic, which was further threatened by the Chios forest fire that swept the southern half of the island in August 2012 and destroyed many of the mastic groves. During the Ottoman rule of Chios, mastic was worth its weight in gold. I would argue that it still is. The benefit of this “tree-medicine,” as I like to call it, is now being rediscovered for its antimicrobial effects. The most exciting of these discoveries is its effectiveness against at least seven different strains of H. pylori with no side effects.

Chios, Greece

Chios, Greece

Helicobactor pylori is a spiral-shaped bacteria which live in the mucosal lining of the stomach. The genus is derived from the ancient Greek “spiral” or “coil”. Pylori means “of the pylorus” or pyloric valve which is the circular opening leading from the stomach into the duodenum and is from an ancient Greek word meaning “gatekeeper.”

How mastic gum works is that is causes changes within the bacteria’s cell structure, causing it to weaken and die. In an article published by the New England Journal of Medicine, “Mastic Gum Kills Helicobacter pylori” it was suggested that even low doses of mastic gum can cure peptic ulcers very rapidly. In several studies using mastic gum on ulcer patients, the original site of the ulcer caused by the bacterium was completely replaced by healthy epithelial cells.

The protocol that I have found to be the most effective is to start out slowly and increase the amount taken over a three week period as follows:

Mastic Gum Extract, 500 mg. capsules,

Week 1: take 2 in the morning on an empty stomach one hour before breakfast for one week.

Week 2: Up the dosage to 4 per day, adding 2 in the afternoon on an empty stomach.

Week 3: Up the dosage to 6 for a total of 3 grams per day, adding 2 in the evening on an empty stomach (2 hrs. after dinner, one hour before bed.)

Die off can cause nausea so back off on the dosage if you start to feel nauseous. Some folks take a break and then do another round, but you can be retested via a stool sample after a month or so. A blood test will not be accurate because of the antibodies. Be sure to add a good probiotic to your regimen following treatment.

Mastiha_productionI have used this protocol to heal myself of H. pylori and very successfully in my clinical practice. One client shared it with her doctor after the stool sample came back negative. This is why we need herbalists with their “feet on the ground” so to speak. The ones who are working first hand with the plant medicines. We cannot always depend on clinical trials that are funded by pharmaceutical companies, or doctor’s knowledge whose education is also funded by pharmaceutical companies. The more of us who share our herbal knowledge, the more we will learn how to alleviate suffering and hopefully bring enough attention to alternative medicine to get the research funded that is so badly needed.  It is in this spirit that I share my experience with the tree medicine of mastic gum. I can also attest that the results are long lasting as it has been six years since curing my H. pylori. My yearly physical exam was last month and I am happy to announce that the blood work (I had to specifically request a test for H. pylori) came back negative for the bacterium. And so it is.

References:

1. Wang KY, Li SN, Liu CS et al. (September 2004). “Effects of ingesting Lactobacillus- and Bifidobacterium-containing yogurt in subjects with colonized Helicobacter pylori. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 80 (3): 737–41.

2. Pounder RE, Ng D (1995). “The prevalence of Helicobacter pylori infection in different countries”. Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 9 (Suppl 2): 33–9.

3. Cave DR (May 1996). “Transmission and epidemiology of Helicobacter pylori“. Am. J. Med. 100 (5A): 12S–17S; discussion 17S–18S

4 Brown LM (2000). Helicobacter pylori: epidemiology and routes of transmission”. Epidemiol Rev 22 (2): 283–97.

5 Blaser MJ (February 2005). “An endangered species in the stomach”. Sci. Am. 292 (2): 38–45. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0205-38

6. Al-Said MS, Ageel AM, Parmar NS, Tariq M. Evaluation of mastic, a crude drug obtained from Pistacia lentiscus for gastric and duodenal anti-ulcer activity. J Ethnopharmacol 1986;15:271-8.


[1] An article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found evidence that “ingesting lactic acid bacteria exerts a suppressive effect on Helicobacter pylori infection in both animals and humans,” noting that “supplementing with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium containing yogurt was shown to improve the rates of eradication of H. pylori in humans. (see reference below)

[2] Metronidazole crosses the placental barrier and enters fetal circulation rapidly. It is prescribed during pregnancy for the vaginal infection, trichomoniasis. Metronidazole is a carcinogen and may cause serious central and peripheral nervous system side effects such as: convulsive seizures, meningitis, and optic neuropathy.

Umckaloabo

Umckaloabo – Pelargonium sidoides

A potentially life saving herb any time of the year

Writing about the spirit of an herb and channeling its deva is one of my gifts and a passion.  When asked why I write about specific herbs my reply is, I don’t pick the herbs, the herbs pick me. And while this statement might be the most accurate it is not the whole truth. I do physically pick up an herb, but not in the rational way that we have been taught to think about these things like – oh, I need this herb because of xyz so I’ll go to the store and buy it, or get online and order it.  Rather, I journey with the herbs by calling them in both physically and energetically. I have developed an intuitive knowing about plants and a kinesthetic alignment.  It’s akin to a navigation system where both the plant and I are traveling at a certain frequency, and as long as I remain open and receptive, that plant will find its way to me and I to it. This is a story of how one particular herb, Pelargonium sidoides, came to reveal itself, helped me to heal from an upper respiratory infection, and how it might help you too.

Late this past summer I had the good fortune of attending the Traditions in Western Herbalism conference where I also had a vendor’s booth.  The conference took place at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM, in the magical red rock canyon lands of the Desert Southwest. We were herbalists on a mission. Herbalists that defy all attempts to be put in any kind of a box: Hippies, Freaks, Naturalists, Scientists, Grandmothers, Young Parents, Business Owners, Researches, Doctors, Nurses, Rebels, Free Spirits, Alternative Health Practitioners, or the plethora of self given and unregulated titles such as Clinical-Medical-Master-Village Herbalists. And if the Gods be willing it will stay that way – unregulated. And yet somehow through all of those labels we have managed to defy space and time. That’s because we’ve always been here. And will continue to be here for as long as there is life on this beautiful blue-green planet.

Coincidentally, my vendor’s booth sat directly across from Herb Pharm’s booth, a manufacturer of liquid herbal extracts and herbal healthcare products. They have been around for about thirty years and are based in Williams, Oregon.  Well it just so happens that they were giving away one-ounce bottles of their liquid herbal extracts. Score. Herbalists are a generous bunch of folks. And for those of you who have never attended an herbal conference it is a great place to experience the wisdom and generosity of herbalists and herbal manufacturers, test different products and receive a plethora of samples. So while looking over the tinctures: Echinacea, immune tonics, lymphatic tonics, and the names of various familiar herbs, I discovered one that I had never heard of before, UmckaloaboWhat a strange name, I thought and the description read, “Supports Healthy Sinus, Nasal & Bronchial Function.” Well, I had been sporting a chronic sinus infection for a number of years now that nothing seemed to cure (although New Mexico’s high desert air was certainly helping,) so I picked that one up, put in my bag and promptly forgot about it.

A month later while promoting my new book at the Miami Book Fair International I met a young black woman who was interested in my book.  She told me in hushed tones that her grandmother was an herbalist in Jamaica and had been teaching her about some of the African medicinal plants, but that her mother (who stood some distance behind her) was a religious woman and couldn’t relate to plant “spirits.” She wanted to know if I had ever heard of a particular African herb, Moringa.  I hadn’t. But somewhere in the back of my mind there was another herb whose strange name was stirring.

Meanwhile, my busy schedule of book tours, radio shows, interviews, conferences and teaching gigs continued until the exact moment of Winter solstice when I came down with a bad cold. The infection quickly moved into my lungs and I raged with a fever.  Having had asthma as a child my lungs tend to be susceptible to infection and eventually colds started turning into bronchitis, and then on a few occasions, pneumonia, until I learned how to take better care of myself.

Now in my late fifties I rarely get a cold, but when I do it almost always lodges in my chest with an energy depleting fever.  It seems that no matter how many herbs I have tried, and the list goes something like this; Echinacea, Goldenseal, Ginger, Garlic, Red Root, Yerba Mansa, Osha, Elecampane, Grindelia wild harvested from my beloved New Mexico, and a variety of Chinese herbs that clear heat, in the end I resort to antibiotics: A very frustrating proposition for an herbalist.  In addition, a number of years prior to this, I had been exposed to mold in a home where I was living, which reactivated my asthma and started a sinus infection that I had been unable to get rid of even after thousands of dollars of acupuncture and medical treatment, and of course a plethora of herbs, until now.

This recent illness had me scared.  It was only a few days before the Christmas holiday and having recently moved to a new town, I had no doctor to call. So, I immediately launched in with the herbal teas, starting with a diaphoretic and a hot bath, hoping to sweat in out. Then I climbed into bed with a good book, one that I had wanted to read for over twenty years, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou.  When I lived in Berkeley, California, a voice teacher in Oakland had given it to me. I wondered what had taken me so long to finally read this book.  On day two of the cold, which my husband thought was the flu I was so sick, and as I read about African American life as only Maya can write about it, I remembered the tincture bottle I had picked up at the conference.

I began taking the Umckaloabo extract as directed and in between fits of a fever, an excruciating sore throat and profuse mucus discharges; I got online and looked it up.  The research was extensive.  This was an herb that has long been used to treat congestion and respiratory infections.  It has been shown to safely and effectively treat acute upper respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis, tonsillitis, sinusitis, pneumonia, and the common cold in adults and children as young as 1-year. It is also useful for chronic ear, nose and throat infections.  It works in three ways: 1) Stimulates the body’s immune system is such a way that bacteria and viruses are prevented from multiplying. 2) Acts as an expectorant, expelling contaminated mucous making conditions less favorable for the multiplication of virus and bacteria. 3) Supports a quick recovery phase by preventing bacteria and viruses from attaching to cells in the mucous membranes. This prevents re-infection and helps to break the cycle of infection.  One can see a rapid reduction of symptoms associated with colds and flu when using this herb and it has been shown to decrease the duration and severity of acute upper respiratory tract infections. Pharmacological studies suggest that its actions are many including mucolytic, antiviral, antimicrobial and an immune stimulant. P. sidoides has proved to be a good alternative to the conventional therapy of treating respiratory illnesses with antibiotics.

Umckaloabo, if you haven’t guessed by now is an African herb and a member of the Geranium family that lives in the coastal regions of South Africa. The name is derived from the Zulu tribal language and means, “heavy cough.” It is described among the Zulu as an herb that relieves chest pain with infection. The genus name Pelargonium is derived from the Greek word Pelagros, which means stork. It refers to the seedpod that resembles the bill of a stork. A medicinal extract is made from roots that are approximately 3 years old and Herb Pharm uses roots that are organically and sustainably grown, hand harvested, and carefully shade-dried. Umckaloabo has beautiful deep-red flowers and large heart shaped leaves. I was falling in love with this plant.

Love is the cohering force. It’s what brings us together with exactly what we need in any given moment.  This is what Umckaloabo and so many other plants have to teach us. That we always have everything we need. By the grace of the Umckaloabo deva, who is an intelligent being already in light body, I received a healing from this plant of both an acute upper respiratory infection and a long running sinus infection. Light contains information and that is what lives inside each and every atom of which we are made.  This is where we meet the plant devas – inside of ourselves when we call upon them, and are quiet enough to hear and receptive enough to receive the information and guidance they have for us.

If I told you that I know of herbs that could keep your child from needing to have tubes put in their ears or their tonsils taken out, or could keep you from needing to take antibiotics, would you believe me? Would you take them? You can know these things first hand, too. You have only to look inside of yourself and trust that you are living in a nurturing and supportive universe.  If you are willing to commit to working with a plant medicine and are consistent you will be richly rewarded. You will learn how to believe in yourself and deepen the relationship you have with your body. You will discover that you are a healer in relationship with others who are their own healer.  This is the inspiration that I wish to share with you. It comes from the wisdom of the plant devas, and is an herbal medicine for the New Earth.

Recommended Dosage:

The recommended dose is 1.5 ml, 3-4 x a day for seven days for upper respiratory tract infections, and 3 ml, 3-4 x a day for 21 days for acute sinusitis. Side effects are rare and have consisted of mild gastrointestinal upset or skin rash.  It has been sold extensively in Germany.  Pediatric safety has been demonstrated in large post-marketing surveillance studies[1].

References:

Pelargonium sidoides Extract: Alternative Treatment of Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infections, Botanical Profile by Donald Brown, ND, Natural Medicine Journal, 2009.

Resources:

HERB PHARM
P.O. Box 116
Williams, Oregon 97544
U.S.A


[1] Matthys H, Kamin W, Funk P, Heger M. Pelargonium sidoides preparation (EPs 7630) in the treatment of acute bronchitis in adults and children. Phyto­medicine. 2007;14:69-73.