NEBSM Student Survival Kit

7song gave us each a "student survival kit" for the Rainbow Gathering which is somewhere in Montana, in 3 weeks. We are working the first aid station at this yearly outdoor gathering that attracts roughly 10,000 humans, mostly hippies and fringe folks. The first aid station's name is "CALM," but 7song says a more appropriate name would be "Staph and Diarrhea." Besides staph infections and diarrhea, I look forward to treating a diverse array of health issues with herbal medicine. 7song says that we will learn more at the Rainbow Gathering than in doing anything else during the entire course of our studies here. This is because we are practicing herbal medicine in a chaotic setting, with thousands of humans in an off-the-grid anarchist setting (usually at least a two to four hour's walk from cars). And, many people who come here are open to using herbal medicine.

7song introduced the "One drop test" today. We administer most of our medicines via tinctures, which are plants infused in hard alcohol. (We usually infuse plants in 95% alcohol, and then dilute the alcohol to 50% for medicinal usage.) Sometimes, we also administer teas and powders. But, tinctures are the most convenient to use as medicine, as the alcohol delivers the medicine immediately into the bloodstream. Teas take longer to make, and also take longer for the body to uptake and circulate. The powders can carry more medicine, but it's also more work to add water, and swallow so much of a usually-disgusting powder. More rarely, we also give honeys, glycerites, pills, oils, and liniments. Honeys and glycerites are helpful for people who don't intake alcohol. The pills usually work as long-term supplements. We use oils and liniments for external uses. 

Our student survival kit is a gallon zip-lock bag with the following simple yet invaluable items: 
- 2 pairs of rubber gloves (for sanitation) 
- a 4 oz bag of activated charcoal (an internal/external adsorbent for pulling out "bad stuff") 
- chapparo amargosa tincture of dried stems (1 oz) (GI tract strong antimicrobial and antiparasitical) 
- barberry tincture of root (1 oz) (prevent and treat waterborne illnesses) 
- echinacea tincture of fresh root (1 oz) (immune booster) 
- peppermint spirits (1 oz) (prevent nausea) 

And now, for a brief introduction of how to use these herbs, and why they are in our survival sack! 

- rubber gloves - 
These are for handling all open-flesh wounds, to avoid contaminants for ourselves or others. These will be constantly replenished and changed, as sanitation is key. 

- activated charcoal -
Charcoal is an adsorbent material, which is a solid that picks up liquids. Being "activated" just means that the organic matter went through a long slow burn on high heat without oxygen, which gives the charcoal more pores, and makes it even more adsorbent. We use it both internally and externally to pull out unwanted materials, especially for GI tract bugs (such as food/water poisoning) and for staph infections. For treating staph herbally, you clean out each staph wound, then have the patient take strong antibiotic herbs internally (echinacea, oregon graperoot, or chapparal). To clean out the external wounds, we boil water, soak a clean cloth in the boiling water, then place the cloth onto each staph abcess on the body (this process takes a long time). This helps to remove the scabs to open up the wound, so we can add activated charcoal. We prepare an activated charcoal poultice by mixing enough water with the activated charcoal (a little water at a time) to turn it into a paste. We then carefully stick cover the staph abcess on the body with activated charcoal. The final step is to wrap this all up with vet wrap, and send the patient home with careful instructions to keep away from touching other people (prevent spreading the disease), and take medicines (1/2 tsp of medicine every 2-4 hours). Internally, activated charcoal draws out "bad stuff" (ie. toxins, unwanted bacteria, protozoa, waste products, and bacteria waste.) Our bodies don't uptake the activated charcoal, so we will poop it all out, with the "bad stuff" attached. So, we also will use the activated charcoal for adsorbing and releasing GI tract bugs, for such things as food and water poisoning. Growing up, my parents put whole pieces of activated charcoal into our water to oxygenate the water. They placed it in the refrigerator and around the house, to cleanse the air. They even cooked it with our rice (a Chinese food staple), to help purify the rice. As a gift for college, they gave me some for my bedroom, which I dutifully stuck under my writing desk, and rested my feet on the basket of activated charcoal. Needless to say, I like this stuff. 

- chapparo amargosa tincture - (castella amorii) 

Chapparo amargosa is a desert plant that is often found in the Sonoran desert of Mexico, and difficult to find in the USA. It is the first herb to use to kill protozoa and bacteria in the GI tract. Take it if you feel like you might have parasites. It is an antimicrobial and anti-parasitic herb. Take 1 tsp of tincture for the loading dose (initial large dose), then take 2 mL every four hours until symptoms subside. At the first sign of loose stools, take this tincture, increase vitamin C, wait half an hour, and then take 1 tsp activated charcoal. Repeat in 4 hours. I found it interesting that 7song will take half a dropperful of this tincture twice a day at the Rainbow Gathering, starting two days before the Gathering, as a preventative for stomach bugs. I plan to try this, as well. This herb can be used with chapparal (larrea tridentata), which is one of my favorite desert plants, also a strong antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-parasitic plant. 

- barberry tincture - (berberis thunbergii) 

Barberry bushes are aptly named, with long sharp barbs and small red berries. They take over whole chunks of forest, as an invasive species. I spent many hours with a trail crew in CT, hacking down the endless thorny bushes. I admired their bright orange roots, which carry most of the medicine through the chemical alkaloid berberine, and acts as an antimicrobial. 7song also takes this as a preventative medicine at the Rainbow Gathering. He thinks that it prevents waterborne pathogens from sticking. 7song usually chews on this root throughout the gathering. If I can stomach the bitter taste, then I will also chew on a root. But, I will most likely just add 1-2 dropperfuls into my 1 L water container. Berberis is helpful to kill a wide range of gut parasites, even viruses. You can use any of the berberis species plants. 

- echinacea tincture - (echinacea purpurea) 

Echinacea increases innate and adaptive immunity. Its massive circus-tent-like pink and purple flowers draws butterflies to the garden, and a smile to my face. Take large doses as needed, such as in any circumstances in which the body's immune system should be strengthened. A good time for echinacea is when you think someone might get an infection, or have compromised immunity. 7song gives a loading dose of 2-3 dropperfuls, then 1/2-2 dropperfuls every 2-4 hours (depending on the patient's needs). An improvement should be noticed within 1-2 days. If echinacea does not help boost immunity then try another herb, as the body develops a tolerance after a period of usage. I gave my mom some echinacea, and she enjoys it as a light tea. 
- peppermint spirits - 

Spirits are internal medicines made with essential oils. These peppermint spirits are an experiment by 7song. He made them by first drying and tincturing the peppermints 1:4 at 50% alcohol. Then, he cold infused peppermint for a day. Finally, he added a 1:10 ratio of essential oil to tincture, and diluted it with the tea at 1:20 (1 EO-tincture-blend : 20 tea). Peppermint decreases nausea, and just a little of these peppermint spirits will help a lot. If someone is vomiting, then you can put 1 drop on the lips, have the person lick their lips, then see if the person continues vomiting after 5 minutes. If vomiting continues, then increase the dosage to 2 drops every 10 minutes, 5 drops every 10 minutes, etc. 5 drops is the maximum dosage at any one time. While traveling in India, we used the pure peppermint essential oil for cleaning hands before eating, a digestive aid, relaxant, and breath freshener. Growing up, my mom would always rub peppermint salve under our noses when we were congested, onto mosquitoes bites to help with itches, and onto the temples and (again) under the nose while traveling (especially in airplanes) to help with stuffiness and nausea. 

Here are some other plant medicines that I will bring with me to the Rainbow Gathering, to increase my personal sense of well-being and quality of life: 
- moxa sticks (dried artemesia vulgaris rolled into sticks to burn) for smudging onto or around aches and pains
- black cohosh (actaea racemosa) and cramp bark (viburnum opulus), to help with menstrual cramping 
- bee propolis, for cleaning out wounds 
- castor oil, for achy limbs
- st johnswort cream (hypericum perforatum) for scar tissue reduction and general skin care
- a variety of sweet-smelling perfumes from my friend ananda wilson, to keep me happy 
- skullcap and valerian, for sleep aid
- dandelion (taraxacum officianalis) and flax seeds, for digestive aid
- a personalized smudge smoke blend of white sage, moonwort, cedar, sage brush, sweetgrass, chapparal, osha, etc for incense 
- relaxing tea: rose, tulsi, passionflower, oats, chamomile, stevia

(photos: 7song bandaging Cali's sprained ankle at Roy Preserve, reishi mushroom (ganoderma spp.) at Roy Preserve, me amidst valerian roots (photo from Nishaan) at 7song's home)