Just another Blacksmith who retired after way too long and got back to the garden in just the nick of time. My organic herb garden is my pride and joy. Ask me about Lyme disease. I spend most of my time nibbling my way through my garden while chatting up my chickens.
A bitter scale? If there is such a thing. Taste, well… IS a matter of taste isn’t it? I eat hot peppers like candy but others avoid even the mildest peppers for their entire lifetime. What I really avoid is sour. The important thing that no one really says is that there is not, nor can there be any truly accurate way, to scale taste.
We can only strive to make general indicators for wide groups of people. Connoisseurs of beer, wine, coffee and chocolate have their own scales but are limited to the ingredients or preparations of those products. Genetic research will no doubt figure out the specifics as they have done already with the Cilantro gene. Then we’ll know why people have different reactions to the same stimulus.
So here goes my simple list of plants you could easily access, perhaps in your own garden, from the mildest bitter down to strongest:
Melissa (Lemon Balm)
Mugwort (Cronewort) – a VERY common “weed”
Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor) – a VERY common ground cover
A bitter truth. I know quite a few people who have had their gall bladder surgically removed. Why is that? Some of them talk about their excised organ as if it was just worn out and they are better off without it since afterall “you can live without it”. Of course the real reasons are different. Excruciating pain being the prime factor for the patient but then there’s the curiously high, even staggering rates of gall bladder surgeries promoted by the medical profession.
Evaluate your options.
“I have seen many hundreds of patients who have had their gallbladders removed and I don’t recall anyone ever telling me that their surgeon advised them to do something to compensate for removing this important organ. Just about every one of them was told they didn’t need their gallbladder and that it was perfectly fine to have it removed. This is reprehensible ignorance as it condemns the patient to a lifelong deficiency of essential fatty acids.” Dr. Joseph Mercola
Not everyone finds this acceptable or necessary. For those not ready to accept the notion of disposable body parts, herbal solutions are often possible.
I believe it is nearly criminal what traditional medicine is doing to the public when it comes to managing this problem. It is RARELY ever necessary to remove someone’s gallbladder. If one ignores warning symptoms and does not address the reasons why their gallbladder is not functioning properly, than the disease can progress to the point where the pancreas is inflamed or the gallbladder is seriously infected and may have to be removed to save a person’s life.
However, it is important to have a proper perspective here. Nearly ONE MILLION gallbladders are removed every year in this country and it is my estimate that only several thousand need to come out.
So, not only are surgeons removing these organs unnecessarily, but also in their nutritional ignorance they are telling patients that their gallbladders do not serve any purpose and they can live perfectly well without them. Dr. Joseph Mercola
Thing is – it’s bitter! Can you handle that?
I’m told bitterness is the least favorite taste. I suspect, bitterness has become the least favored to the modern western palette and not too long ago either. Most industrially farmed crops have been bred relatively recently to taste less bitter. Iceberg lettuce the most commonly used salad green in the USA is nutritionally worthless and bears little resemblance, in any way, to wild lettuce. People eat gadzillions of megatons of it. Many actually consider it a vegetable!
Salads should contain bitter greens and be served before the main course of a meal for optimal digestion. Alanna Kellogg of A Veggie Venture has a good list of bitter greens. Modern dietary “innovations” all have the same thing in common: they’re blander, sweeter, softer and whiter than what was eaten years ago and never ever bitter. We have evolved baby mouths.
There are so many naysayers who deride vitamin supplements with the now standard claim that “if you eat a wholesome diet, supplements are unnecessary and wasteful”. This might be true if what was sold in supermarkets was only truly wholesome foods and we actually bought and consumed them within the correct ratios. Naw, that’s not happening anytime soon. Free choice is a bitch. Example: with the rise of consumer capitalism in China came rising obesity rates and worsening nutrition. So much for the free market diet. I am guessing there will be fewer bitter greens for the Chinese too.
Bitters do remain in the apéritifs, like Vermouth, Absinthe or Chartreuse all made with Wormwood (Artemesia absinthium), and the bitter greens like Kale, Chicory, Endive or Dandelion. Without going into the chemistry involved suffice it to say our ancestors were much smarter then we realize today. The bitter taste is the critical thing. The thing we avoid. The thing we need. We need bitters because of the fascinating connection between our taste buds and our liver, gall bladder, pancreas, stomach, etc… to, forgive me, the bitter end of the alimentary canal. No, de-bittering a bitter doesn’t do the same thing. If you love your friends and family, make it a bitter love.
The short story is, if you don’t “like” bitterness, you probably really need to eat more of them. The even shorter story is, if you eat more bitter foods, your digestion will improve and so will your immune system and oddly enough, the more bitters you eat – the less bitter they taste. Bitter taste triggers hormones and nerves which direct the the release of bile by the gall bladder, acid by the stomach and several enzymes by the pancreas. All this from a bite of the bitter thing many people avoid with unreasonable dread.
I emphatically recommend Carmen Lynde Medical Herbalist’s presentation. It is perhaps the most important thing you can do to understand the role of bitter herbs in your diet.
Insufficient release of any of these juices causes all kinds of problems. Instead of suppressing stomach acid with chemicals or surgery many more people should be eating their bitters. Alternatively you could chew a pinch of bitter herbs. How about a sprig of Mugwort? or Sage? not so bitter. Or a squirt of Barberry or a drop of Wormwood tincture in a shot of water before a meal?
Bacteria in the gut microbiome drive the formation of cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs), clusters of dilated, thin-walled blood vessels in the brain that can cause stroke and seizures. The research team’s research suggests that altering the microbiome in CCM patients may be an effective therapy for this cerebrovascular disease.
So many great studies about the relationship between our co-evolved symbionts and dreaded diseases came out in May of 2017. I hope you looked at The People’s Pharmacy article for the wide range of effects of these simple critters which live in our gut. Including, most surprising to me – Depression!
It’s like a jungle in there. The thing is, I like to bring it back to herbs and nutrition because whether or when the scientists have caught up with what herbalists knew thousands of years ago or not, you can experiment on yourself for cheap. Eat right – feel better. Since June is Burdock month, I’ll point out that it contains inulin, a carbohydrate not found in many American’s diet but one uniquely suited to encourage and feed several types of healthy gut critters. Inulin is a diabetic’s friend, sort of an anti-sugar. Sugar does not promote or encourage healthy critters, it does the exact opposite.
So try doing Burdock for one month and see if your:
Herbs: Chronic Liver Disease and Neurological Lyme Disease
If you have read some of my praise of Burdock, you might have a good idea of how effective this herb can be. What may be more significant is my own personal history with what my doctors called “chronic liver disease“. As a result of industrial metals poisoning (copper, chromium, nickel), alcohol and aspirin abuse and Lyme disease (neurological phase 3) I found myself laying before a surgeon hearing the “liver transplant” speech after draining six liters of fluid from my abdomen.
Although the gory details which preceded the speech might be useful to some, I still don’t like to talk about those dark days. What I believe is more important, is to carry the message that it may be possible for others to recover from such a condition just like I did.
First, I am very fortunate and grateful to have had wonderful doctors. With advisement and precautions they followed my herbal journey and encouraged me to continue my regimen as long as I was examined and tested regularly. So it went and within two years I received the liver panel blood test results which made my gastroenterologist laugh out loud, pat me on my back and with a warning like Cinderella’s fairy godmother tell me “make sure you CONTINUE to do what you’re doing”.
So what did I do? I began by dietary changes. The doctors suggested “simple” proteins as they are more easily digested, so I eat very little red meat, only a little white meat and a lot more fish, nuts, seeds, particularly hemp and yogurt. Whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables make up the majority of my diet. Afterall, Hippocrates himself said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food”.
I became a serious organic gardener of herbs, a careful student and avid researcher of nutrition. I read “Alpha Lipoic Acid” by Dr. Burton Berkson, July 2000, Better Nutrition. I immediately began taking Alpha Lipoic Acid, Milk Thistle, CoQ10 and vitamin C. All of which are included in doTERRA’S Life Long Vitality supplements. Then instead of planting more tomatoes and lettuce I began planting the herbs suggested as beneficial for my condition. At that point I just wanted to see what these live herbs looked like. They fascinated me at the time but now I can understand how generations of people came to revere them as sacred. The language herbalists used to describe their actions and their “signatures” pulled me deeper.
Once I realized how rare the turnaround of my liver condition was I thankfully credited these brilliant doctors and generations of herbalists who accumulated this knowledge. If they could work so dramatically on my liver, what could they do for my Lyme disease? One good thing led to another. My gardening passion turned into hardcore herbalism which brought me to Permies and Paul Wheaton who asked us to help herbalist Deb Soule of Avena Botanicals to get a new dishwasher for her business through a kickstarter campaign. My small donation was acknowledged with an unexpected gift, a book called Healing Lyme Naturally by Wolf D. Storl. The foreword was written by herbalist Matthew Wood who has since become my favorite herbalist and who’s wisdom I abide.
Teasel is an herb which is the foundation of my Lyme disease success. Had not I had been open to new ideas and become willing to try alternative treatments I might have become yet another medical ping pong ball or worse, have my original body parts hacked off. The horror stories about Lyme are as bad as liver disease. The hair on the back of my neck crawled when I heard The People’s Pharmacy podcast What You Need to Know About Lyme Disease.
The takeaway from this post I hope will be, not to despair, not to give up, stay positive and find your path. In my present liver regimen I now include the herbs Burdock, Dandelion, Yellow Dock and Agrimony, each of which is worthy of separate discussions.
An interesting research study on 21 different plant extracts, including Burdock, and their effects on elastin and collagen, the two key proteins in connective tissue. Both proteins are critical throughout the body but highly noticeable in skin quality, muscle tone, bone strength and the all important arterial wall. Most people who have gotten this far know that skin condition often indicates liver issues. So it’s wonderful to have beautiful skin but perhaps better to have a healthy liver. Bear in mind that these researchers tested “extracts” of the herbs noted here. That means they were concentrates. So for instance, where “white tea” is noted, this does not refer to a simple cup of “white tea” tea, as an infusion, but rather the solvent extract of the white tea plant. The following excerpt is from a study referenced at the bottom of this post and available on the National Institute of Health’s website at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/
Owing to their roles in tissue remodelling in health and disease, several studies have reported investigations on plant extracts as inhibitors of proteinases and as anti-oxidants.
The anti-aging and anti-oxidant properties of 23 plant extracts (from 21 plant species) were assessed as anti-elastase and anti-collagenase activities and in selected anti-oxidant assays along with phenolic content.
Anti-elastase activities were observed for nine of the extracts with inhibitory activity in the following order:
white tea (~89%)
burdock root (~51%)
Anti-collagenase activities were exhibited by sixteen plants of which the highest activity
was seen in:
white tea (~87%)
green tea (~47%)
rose tincture (~41%)
From a panel of twenty three plant extracts, some one dozen exhibit high or satisfactory anti-collagenase or anti-elastase activities, with nine having inhibitory activity against both enzymes.
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009; 9: 27. Published online 2009 Aug 4. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-9-27 PMCID: PMC2728709
Anti-collagenase, anti-elastase and anti-oxidant activities of extracts from 21 plants
Tamsyn SA Thring,Pauline Hili, andDeclan P Naughton
School of Life Sciences, Kingston University, London, KT1 2EE, UK
Neal’s Yard Remedies, 15 Neal’s Yard, London, WC2H 9DP, UK
Burdock seeds possess a slight “diffusive” quality, producing a “tingly” sensation on the tongue when chewed or taken as an extract; this indicates that some of its virtues are quickly taken up via the nervous system and put to immediate action.
I have not seen burdock’s true virtue more clearly or beautifully captured than by herbalist Matthew Wood, who wrote:
“On a psychological level, Burdock helps us deal with our worries about the unknown… which lurk in the dark woods beyond our control. It seizes upon deep complex issues, penetrates to the core and brings up old memories and new answers. It gives us faith to move ahead on our path, despite the unknown problems that might snare us on our way. It helps the person who is afraid become more hardy, while it brings the hardy wanderer back to his original path. It restores vigor and momentum.”
If, after you read Dr Axe’s run down of the many substantial benefits of Burdock you’re not impressed, there’s more personal reasons to consider experimenting with this powerful herb. These are my personal observations and experiences:
tastes kinda like roasted potatoes to me
it’s a tonic and a medicine, meaning:
tonic you can and should take every day for continuous nutritive value and preventative care, especially for digestive health
medicine, usually in higher doses in tincture form for brief periods of time when ill
prevents many toxic chemicals, particularly metals from causing tissue damage, this is especially important for the liver and/or if you have been over exposed to metals, compounds in Burdock chelate metals
I noticed the first, most obvious effect on my skin within the first week and in my scalp and hair during the following week from eczema and it’s good for acne and psoriasis too
modulates blood sugar levels and once my digestive system healed, eliminated cravings and thus poor eating habits
many Burdock products including fresh root are available in good Asian markets
so easy to grow your own and just as good for your garden’s soil as it is for your gut and works in much the same way, deep in the soil as it does – deep in your gut, providing a suitable environment for good bacteria to thrive
I am surely a Burdock evangelist. Those plants which are now in their second spring go through a selection process right now, still early spring here in New York City, USA. Burdock is a biennial, so it reaches full maturity at the end of it’s second year of growth. Each healthy plant then begins to send up a mighty flower stalk from the center of the plant. All docks grow from a basal whorl – basically a circular arrangement of leaves growing close to the soil.
So the selection decision is between whether to harvest the root in the spring or wait until autumn and harvest the seed. Both parts are powerful medicines. If the plant is allowed to continue to grow throughout the summer it’s root will be consumed in order to produce flowers and seed. I generally only need one large Burdock plant to go to seed. From that one plant I will harvest all the seed for next year’s planting as well as enough for two pints of Burdock seed tincture.
Most of the Burdock I grow will be harvested for the roots. These are chopped first with pruning shears and then shredded in a blender with a little water and tinctured 1:2 (wt. of root: vol. of menstruum) at 45% ethanol.
I’ll get into the details of why Burdock is one of the most important medicinal herbs in another post. Gut and liver health is what I cherish Burdock for so it’s value will depend upon the user. Many herbalists say it’s a “blood purifier” which upsets many medical pros since technically – no it doesn’t. What does purify blood is the liver and Burdock acts upon the liver to support and enhance it’s proper function. It also supports all the beneficial gut bacteria which are the prime agents of good health.