By Melissa Hoffman, Permaculture Food Lab at SHO Farm.
I was researching lyme disease and its coinfections in Stephen Buhrner’s excellent work this past week, and my reading drove home an important point. I suffered with CNS (central nervous system) and chronic lyme for over 15 years that has resolved for the most part, with some lingering systemic weaknesses. Both Shawn and I work outside much of the time, and the potential for lyme infection has grown in our home state of Vermont.
Many of the ingredients that Buhner recommends in his protocols are called ‘adaptogens’ that gently and non-toxically help moderate stress, support adrenal function, cleanse the liver, and even help the depression often accompanying lyme or other chronic illnesses. Some even help prevent lyme infection. Adrenals are taxed in many chronic illnesses, as they were with Shawn in conjunction with Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Her healing protocol called for adrenal support and stress mitigation--which is exactly what adaptogens help accomplish. Many people can benefit from these gentle, supportive plants, especially at a time when our systems are metabolizing so much--just from being alive in our current environment. Our life conditions call for a re-evaluation of the elements that nourish us on a daily basis. I think we also need expand the question: What is food?
I’ve been making probiotic water-kefir beers, meads, and ales for a long time, using ingredients like chaga, turkey tail mushroom, roasted milk thistle seed and dandelion root—to make a beer-like drink that’s also tonifying, providing gentle support for the body’s immune system. I don’t like taking supplements or extracts unless treating something specific, and I seek instead to integrate non-toxic amounts of the plants and fungi permeating my home biome into foods, broths, beverages, as central flavor and health-enhancing elements.
Hawaiian red turmeric grown in pots at SHO
Japanese knotweed, for example, is an invasive plant where I live. We have a patch of it growing on our farm, away from traffic. Not only are the young shoots edible, but the root is central to Buhner’s lyme and coinfection protocols.
We live in increasingly toxic times, especially in areas prone to tick-born infections. Why not include these valuable ingredients in the beverages we love, in our daily cuisine, thus blurring the line between food and medicine?
I simply make a 'wort' or strong tea in an 8-quart pressure cooker, using about a quarter cup of ground chaga, toasted dandelion root, ground milkweed seeds, turkey tail, eleuthero root, japanese knotweed root, reishi (smaller amounts since its antibiotic properties will diminish water kefir probiotics). I taste the tea for balance, and add other herbs like ginger or turmeric to taste. I often add a strong infuion of hops if I want to make an IPA-like water kefir. For those of you familiar with making water kefir or komboucha, you add the wort to the first fermentation liquid, and then bottle in swing-top bottles for teh 2F (second fermentation).
Some information from Stephen Buhrner about japanese knotweed, polygonum cusupidatum:
"Polygonum cuspidatum’s constituents cross the blood-brain barrier, where they exert actions on the CNS: antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, as protectants against oxidative and microbial damage, and as calming agents. The herb specifically protects the brain from inflammatory damage, microbial endotoxins, and bacterial infections. Knotweed enhances blood flow especially to the eyes, heart, skin, and joints. This makes it especially useful in Lyme and its coinfections as it facilitates blood flow to the areas that are difficult to reach to kill the organisms. It is a drug and herb synergist, facilitating the movement of other herbs and drugs into these hard-to-reach places when taken with them. It is also extremely effective for treating coinfection-initiated inflammatory arthritis. Its most potent constituents are the resveratrols, emodin, and polydatin. The plant root is so high in resveratrols that it is the main source of the supplement throughout the world.”...
…"The plant compounds in knotweed easily move across the gastrointestinal mucosa and circulate in the bloodstream. They cross, as well, the blood-brain barrier. Some 131 patents have been granted in the U.S. on the herb and its constituents for treating a variety of conditions, primarily cancer, inflammations, and neurodegenerative diseases.” (Buhner, Stephen Harrod. Healing Lyme Disease Coinfections: Complementary and Holistic Treatments for Bartonella and Mycoplasma (pp. 216-217). Inner Traditions/Bear & Company. Kindle Edition.)
As we face a changing climate, multiple chemical components in both the environment and in consumer products that impact indoor air quality—and virtually every aspect of our lives—shouldn’t we be incorporating these kinds of protective, non-harmful substances on a regular basis? It’s time to think holistically, preventively, and to make use of the valuable gifts all around us, in plants, fungi, growing wild, and often unnoticed in our own back yards. Japanese knotweed, when harvested away from heavily-travelled and salted roads, is invasive in many parts of the U.S.
I’ll be teaching a class on how to use these components daily in brewing tonifying, probiotic no-to-low alcohol kefir-ales. This is information more and more of us need to learn. The same information can be used to make beverages with higher alcoholic content, even stocks used as a backbone in daily soups and sauces.
NEW!! Here's a link to the class...scroll to the bottom of the page.