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24 July 2010

Appendicitis: YIKES!

A friend called me yesterday with the news that he has severe inflammation of his appendix. He has been diagnosed with a CAT Scan, and he asked me what I might recommend in the way of herbs/nutrition? Of course, this is a serious medical situation that often requires surgery (apparently 75,000+ a year in the US). I believe it is the number one cause of abdominal surgery in the world, so it may well turn out that he will need surgery and antibiotics and soon, but if I had this condition, I certainly might try some less invasive options if I had the luxury of time. Again, if we're talking about acute/emergency situations, I side with Western medicine and I'd get to an emergency room fast, so I'm not exactly sure how much time we have. If you're an herbalist though, you always get these phone calls at the eleventh hour!

Let's first go back to Susun Weed's "Seven Rivers of Healing" to try and get a better vision of the whole crisis:
1. Do Nothing
2. Gather Information
3. Engage Energy
4. Nourish and Tonify
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5. Stimulate and Sedate
6. Drugs
7. Surgery (Break and Enter)


The first four rivers never do any harm, the last three (separated by a huge gulf)always do harm in increasing severity by the time we get to the seventh river, so we seek to avoid the seventh river if we can -- maybe we can and maybe we can't.

Back to the "Seven Rivers":
1. Do nothing: In his case, this means stepping away from your "normal" life. The direct opposite of what the doctors and scientific tradition seek - they want to return him to "normal" as soon as possible. Not here. Step off the spinning earth for a while. Rest -- slow everything down. Like the ancient Greeks, go into a cave and lie quietly in the darkness and emptiness. Embrace the void as Susun writes so often in Healing Wise. I'm not sure he has done this.
2. Gather information: That's one reason he called me; he wanted to hear my point of view. Investigate all possibilities for healing -- take in many opinions, listen, seek, inquire. What are my options here?
3. Engage Energy: Let's examine the energetic aspects of the condition.He told me he has only a half hour for lunch (and he works long from morning till night), so he drives to a fast food place and wolfs it down like he learned to eat in the military! Not good. He's constantly eating food that cause inflammation too! We want to chew our food, make the solids liquid, relax, and no hot dog eating contests at Coney Island either! This is really important because he's been stressing his digestive system for years now, and we want to look at all the energetic implications of that. We want calmness and thankfulness over our meals. I have a feeling so many of us are under the clock at lunch. I know, I've been there too. Why not say grace, ask for a blessing from the food, breathe, slow down! Bring a cooler with your lunch you made at home. Don't drive anywhere. Sit under a tree and eat! Eat less if you don't have much time. Yoga, Tai Chi or just deep belly breathing may play a role here, too. He needs to increase circulation to the area, both blood and chi. Got to move the stagnation, gradually and gently though, not via "River Five" - that would likely bring a quick trip to the emergency room! Let's avoid tight pants or tight belts - let's not have clothing restricting the blood flow in any way around the area. How about a dip in the ocean? Well, not too likely he'll get there, but a dip in the cooling sea wouldn't be a bad thing.
4. Nourish and Tonify: Foods, herbs and lifestyle changes we can apply. OK, there is a lot we can do here. First off, most important, get the healthy bacteria built up. That implies yogurt or even raw milk if we can get it. He says he knows a goat farmer -- there you go! Milk is cooling for heat and inflammation anyway. Let's have that yogurt several times a day around meals. Other healing foods for the digestive system would be oats, especially oatmeal, first thing in the morning. Gentle, soft absorbent fiber is what is needed. Blueberries are superstars too -- loaded with fiber - just have to make sure the seeds won't bother him. I would suggest blending, smoothies, that kind of thing. Other good foods to consider are Black beans as they are an intestinal superstar! Lentils, excellent for quelling inflammation, too. Bitter greens are great, esp. Dandelions, Broccoli Rab, other leafy greens like Kale -- however the greens must be cooked thoroughly -- almost nothing raw or remotely close to raw! Even pureeing some of his meals or making soups wouldn't be the worst idea for a while. We've got to take it easy on our digestive track. I'd be careful of nuts and seeds or anything harsh or bulky. If you eat salad, make sure to put extra virgin olive oil on it to facilitate digestion.

Cook the above mentioned greens well in a big pot of water for a long while till they get limp and the water gets dark - drink the water or put it in soup, add onion and garlic to the pot. If he wants meat, fish would be best - maybe poached salmon. Food we want to avoid - anything with saturated fat from non-organic sources cooked at high temperatures and all foods with vegetable oils! Only oil he can have is extra-virgin olive oil. He needs to drink plenty of fluids through all this too -- see infusions further down.

Now, let's talk about herbs! Can he make infusions? Buy some dried herbs and get a mason jar??? What about tinctures and vinegars??? All of these could help,but this requires some action on his part,most people I talk to aren't up to boiling water every day! Some Herbs I would consider in tincture form:
Violet Leaf: Very cooling, lowers inflammation, helps the appendix detox itself.
Burdock Root: As a tonic for his digestive system. He could also make a tea out of the fresh burdock leaves to cool things down.
Dandelion Root: Could be useful before meals to aid digestion (perhaps 1-2 droppers full in water).
Wormwood: Great for relieving painful gas and cramping, only to be used on a short term basis (only 5-10 DROPS).
Echinacea: If I had an infection, which he may have, I don't know, I would use Echinacea now. Half your body weight in drops is the dose (so if you weight 140, you use 70 drops in a glass of water), frequency will be several times a day until the infection subsides, then taper the frequency but don;t lower the dose.

Vinegars:
Burdock Root: again this will tonify his digestive system
Dandelion Root: Helps with his digestion.
Apple cider vinegar in general is great, but when you bring in herbal-infused vinegars, that's super.

Two main infusions (he could do one for a few days and then the other and cycle):
Stinging Nettle leaf and Stems!
Linden Flower Blossoms.
Both of these two turn off inflammation. Nettle also helps move that stagnant chi. Linden Flowers would be very cooling and help put out that fire.
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5. Stimulate and sedate: Not sure where this one will come into play as far as we're concerned. Might involve strong herbs, laxatives, heroic cures, but that's not a place I'm going.
6. Drugs: Antibiotics for the infection before, during or after surgery. We'll leave that to the medical professionals.
7. Surgery: Remove the offending organ - not my job, but hopefully the job of a skilled surgeon who does lots of these kinds of operations. No big deal! Easy for the surgeon to say, but my buddy is young and strong, and I feel he'll probably do fine if it indeed came to the Seventh River. Apparently we can live without our appendix quite well, but knowing me, I still think there must be a reason for it!

Now, even if the surgery should become necessary, he should still do many of these things afterward because we still need to address the root of the problem (chronic inflammation), and taking away the appendix will not take away all the other organs and systems of his body that are subject to this inflammation! This chronic inflammation will simply manifest in a different way in days, months and years to come.

Two sites to check out to purchase herbs:
http://www.redmoonherbs.com/index.php RED MOON HERBS
http://www.blessedherbs.com/bh/home BLESSED HERBS

To access Susun Weed's work directly:
http://www.youtube.com/user/wisewomantradition LINK to SUSUN'S VIDEOS ("Seven Rivers" videos, "How to Make Infusions").
Link to Susun's Course on the Seven Rivers.


Note to friend: If you stop by, I can help get you started on the infusions. I'll show you how and then you need to make your own. I have some vinegar you can try as well. Give me a day's notice and I'll have some stuff ready!

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