Earth care and people care go hand in hand and cannot be separated.
For this work to be sustainable, we have to take care of ourselves and of each other. Below are a few different ways that medicinal plants, mushrooms, nourishing foods and alternative therapies could be used to support folks as they work to heal the land or if they find themselves in toxic situations.
NOTE: Below is just some general information. It is not a prescription, and this information should not be taken as medical advice or instruction. It is not intended to replace the attention or advice of a health care professional. If you or someone you know is dealing with the impacts of contamination, I highly recommend you seek out medical attention (conventional or alternative) immediately, as we are all different and require different doses as well as different strategies to recover. Some plants react better with our unique systems than others, and different plants can react poorly with current medications you may be on or existing medical conditions you may have. This information is intended as a starting place for self-care, offering some empowering options in critical situations.
Liver Detox and Support
Exposure to carcinogens and toxins can damage or destroy liver. Without your liver, you cannot protect yourself from your own toxicity of that of the environment around you.
Things such as industrial solvents can destroy the liver and cause rapid jaundice. Industrial solvents or PCBs that get into the fats of the body can be very damaging for the liver. Some herbs and foods that provide ongoing daily support to your liver include:
- Milk thistle seed is the shining star of liver detox and liver damage – especially when it comes to dealing with contamination from oils and solvents. This feisty weed is an amazing liver protector and detoxifier, especially in acute situations. Some herbalists recommend that if you are using milk thistle, pair it with burdock root or dandelion root.
Bitter plants, such as dandelion root, artichoke leaf, and other bitter greens. A lot of bitter plants have bioflavonoids, and these are key to helping the liver function and decrease inflammation.
- Ginger root tea helps with nausea and appetite loss, as this can happen in acute poisoning. Ginger is also anti-inflammatory. Tumeric root is also a great anti-inflammatory.
- Eat lots of fiber – tons of fruit and veggies or psyllium/Metamucil supplement and drink lots of water to allow the toxins to bind and also be flushed from the system. You don’t want what is being detoxed (via the bile) to be reabsorbed.
- Reishi and shitake mushrooms are great for supporting the liver.
Endocrine System Support
Our body needs healthy sources of phyto-estrogens so that it can better block the uptake of toxic, endocrine disrupting forms found in chemicals like PCB’s, DDT, and dioxin. Some sources of these phyto-estrogens are:
- Red clover
- Legumes (chickpeas, soybeans)
- Licorice (* Do not take Licorice if you have issues with high blood pressure*)
- Flax seeds
- Hawthorn berries
Preventing Cancer and Dealing with Carcinogens
There are many contaminants that can cause cancer, they are known as carcinogens. Exposure to these carcinogens require long term vigilance and care. Some helpful herbs, foods and mushrooms for preventing cancer are:
- Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc)
- Medicinal Mushrooms (Turkey Tail, Reishi, Shitake, Lion’s Mane, etc)
Turkey tail is a great mushroom for those who are at risk for cancer (from breast cancer from endocrine disruptors, to liver cancer). Reishi and shitake mushrooms are not only great for fighting off cancer, but they also support the liver, which is absolutely necessary. Besides fighting off cancer cells, the reishi mushroom decreases the level of irritation and inflammation that our body will experience. Reishi can be powdered and prepared in tea or soup. Shitake mushrooms are used for liver diseases and cancer support and really maintain a vigilant immune system to make sure tumors don’t develop.
Dealing with Heavy Metals
If you are dealing with heavy metal contamination, consider the following herbs and foods:
- Parsley, Blueberries and Hawthorn
- Drink lots of water
- Eat lots of bitters!
- Zinc (pumpkin seeds)
Ingest cilantro in high doses, as cilantro pesto or tincture. Cilantro works really well in chelating/carrying toxic metal out of the body.
During this process you need to drink lots and lots of water and eat lots of bitters.
Eat lots of garlic, as chelating will also inflame liver and garlic helps the liver function. Eat some form of antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory, bioflavonoid-rich, vitamin C-rich food such as parsley, blueberries and hawthorn. Or you can take vitamin C.
Take zinc during heavy metal chelation – 15-20 mg/day but not above 30-40 mg or zinc has an immune-suppressant effect. Many enzymes in the body use metals as part of their structure, and they grab onto bad metals when they would rather use zinc or copper. Ingested zinc (which body needs and would rather use) will take the place of toxic metals. A great source of zinc is pumpkin seeds, so eat up to a cup a day!
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
For some people, the combined effects of many chemicals or a large exposure of even one chemical due to an industrial accident or spill may cause an illness called multiple chemical sensitivity. If healthy, our bodies have the ability to handle and detox a certain amount of toxic substances, but after a certain point, we can surpass that amount and overwhelm our body’s natural ability to clean and protect itself. This toxic overload blows out our capacity to handle any toxic chemicals or elements in our environment and thus results in a hypersensitivity to our environment along with a whole host of health problems.
People with MCS can have strong reactions to common chemicals and elements in paint, perfume, cars and building materials where before they never reacted. Signs of multiple chemical sensitivity may include runny nose, itchy eyes, headache, scratchy throat, earache, scalp pain, mental confusion or fog, sleepiness, fast heartbeat, upset stomach, nausea, abdominal cramping, diarrhea and aching joints.
When it comes to getting relief from MCS, keeping a clean, scent-free, chemical-free space can help, as well as taking breaks to leave the city or situation for cleaner, less toxic surroundings. In terms of herbal support, the following plants and mushrooms can be helpful:
- Reishi, Shitake, and Lions Mane mushrooms. Red Reishi is a fantastic liver detoxifier, is an adaptogen, and reduces allergies and hypersensitity, which is why it is good for those who suffer from MCS. Shitake supports the liver. Another interesting mushroom to consider working with could be Lion’s Mane, as it has shown promise in helping with nervous system regeneration, as well as strengthening memory,concentration and enhancing cognitive abilities.
- Adaptogenic herbs such as Rhodiola, Ginseng, Licorice, Reishi mushroom, or Devils Club.
* An adoptogenic herb should be selected based on what symptoms of MCS you are suffering from, as each adaptogen has a different effect on the body and some may be a better fit for you than others. Do more research or consult an herbalist for more information.*
**Do not take Licorice if you have issues with high blood pressure**
Dealing with Radiation
Eating a lot of clean, non-contaminated (so nowhere near the radiation plume or other contaminants) seaweed is a great safeguard before and after radiation exposure. Kombu and bladderwrack, members of the kelp family, are some of the most radioprotective sea vegetables because they are high in a compound called fucoidan, a potent radioactive detoxifier, which is also known for inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. Seaweeds like bladderwrack are also a good source of natural iodine (iodine-127), which the body prefers to radioactive iodine-131 ( a common radioisotope released in nuclear accidents and by nuclear power plants). It is most effective as a pre-exposure measure, as having sufficient natural iodine in your system can protect the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine. Also some brown algae seaweeds (like kelp, kombu, wakame and bladderwrack) contain a compound called sodium alginate which has been known to reduce absorption of strontium-90 by 50-80%. These seaweeds have also been found to be helpful in binding and eliminating other heavy metal contaminants (such as lead, cadmium, and mercury) in the body.
Rhodiola and Tulsi (Holy Basil) both have radioactive protective/antioxidant properties and are believed to stop radioactive damage to DNA. Tulsi also increases the activity of enzymes that repair DNA and destroys mutant cells. Chaparral, Eleuthro and Yarrow have also been touted as having radio-protective properties.
Support anti-inflammatory response in the body with turmeric and bioflavonoids (e.g. bitters, flax seeds, hawthorne, blueberries).
For burns from radiation, use calendula and aloe or licorice plasters (which have a steroid-like action).
Because radiation and its radioactive particles pose big cancer concerns, ongoing ingestion of medicinal mushrooms (reishi, turkey tail, shitake, maitake, etc)is the way to go. Just make sure both your mushrooms come from clean, radiation and chemical-free sources.
Miso is a traditional Japanese food produced by fermenting rice, barley or soybeans with salt and a special fungus called k?jikin. Some folks believe that miso can help treat radiation sickness, as people were fed miso after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with positive results.
Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, has also been found to be quite helpful in dealing with the radiation. Spirulina and other algae contain high amounts of these metallo-thionine compounds which scientists think may strip the body of radioactive metals and protect against radiation damage.
Foods such as barley/wheat grass and chlorella (a green freshwater microalgae you can get in pill form) contain chlorophyll, which can inhibit radiation and the metabolic activation of many carcinogens. Chlorella has also been touted to help the body detoxify heavy metal and other chemicals.
Bee pollen has also shown some promise in assisting folks in tolerating radiation.
Essential fatty acids (e,g, flax oil, fish oil, evening primrose oil) are believed to help with radiation exposure and in warding off cancer.
Finally, there are many other foods and plants that help the body handle radiation and its impacts, such as tomatoes, beet juice, sea buckthorne, foods that are high in calcium and potassium (to assist in the excretion of radioactive particles, such as cesium-137) and foods that are high in beta-carotene, like squash, yams, carrots, spinach and chard.
The information above is just a tiny slice of what is out there in terms of medicinal plants, mushrooms, nourishing foods and alternative therapies that could be used to support folks as they work to heal the land or if they find themselves in toxic situations. More extensive information can be found in Earth Repair.
As part of your earth repair practice, consider growing and tending these powerful plant and mushroom healers in your backyard, in the community commons and in the wilds that they call home. Give thanks to them for their work and welcome them into your life. Protect the places where they grow and help detoxify the environment around them – their power as medicine comes from the health of the lands and waters that support them.