I was in my local public library, looking through the health section for anything on herbals, when a book called Healing Lyme Disease the Natural Way, by Wolf-Dieter Storl, caught my attention. I had Lyme disease in the late summer and fall of 2008, while I was working for a Fortune 100 at their world headquarters. I had terrible rashes, my neck and shoulders were so tight I could hardly turn my head or lift my arms above my shoulders; I blacked out three times, once on the freeway while passing a semi, once in the shower where I was out long enough for the water to go cold, and a third time in my living room, when I woke up in the middle of a seizure, my face bouncing off the hardwood floor. I was given a broad spectrum antibiotic for three weeks and the problem went away.
I looked at the book, and the name Wolf, and I thought, 'He's probably a clean shaven guy who wears makeup, with feathers in his hair every day and lives in Santa Barbara.' As I'm interested in the healing properties of plants, however, and there being nothing else comparable on the shelf, I found a chair and started reading, regardless of my suspicions. What I found in that book instead, was a true healer speaking directly to the core of my being.
Wolf-Dieter Storl is a German born, American and Swiss educated anthropologist, who has traveled the world studying with native healers who work with plants in traditional ways. Author of 28 books, he has the intellect of a true academic, without the pompous superiority so common in the West, one of the few I've encountered who sees western Health Care for what it is mostly, a method of social control and a means to generate economic growth. A bulbous man with a great beard, who lives close to the earth, and cares deeply for people.
According to Storl, the Lyme bacteria is a biological marvel. It is of the genus Borellia, a spiral shaped spirochete like a cork screw, which can actually contract it's form into a sphere, as if you took a rubberband, stretched it out and released it, it would take the shape of a marble – so that it will be “featureless” and so unrecognizable to the host immune system. It can barrel it's way into a host cell, killing the cell and wearing it like a costume. Like a chameleon it can take on the appearance of a host cell, such that if the immune system recognizes it as an invader, it attacks the spirochete as well as the native tissue. It can insinuate itself into tissue so that it can't be found by the immune system, antibiotics, or tested for accurately by any modern method. It has 150 genes in the outer of its three cell walls (most bacteria have three), which can communicate to the bacteria information about the immune defenses of the host, and of any antibiotic, allowing the bacteria to change it's appearance in response. It can encapsulate and go dormant in a matter of minutes, for up to ten months, that neither the immune defenses of the host, or antibiotics can effect it. It can swim so fast through the system that it will colonize the entire body including passing the blood-brain barrier, in as little as ten days.
Yet, so many people have Borellia spirochetes in their body, some scientists are not even convinced Lyme is a real disease. The symptoms of it are so similar to so many other diseases including MS, that doctors often claim one when it's the other. No one knows if the disease even existed before 1975. Some people are debilitated by it, and yet others never know they have it.
Lyme has reached epidemic proportions the last several decades, particularly in the upper Midwest, and the Northeast, spread by the tiny deer tick, Ixodes scapularis. Many doctors are convinced, that antibiotics have no effect on it, even as some doctors go so far as to proffer antibiotics intravenously. It is a true mystery disease, tweaking Western assumptions about what disease even is, and what science is capable of doing about it.
Wolf Storl contracted Lyme, but having had a terrible experience prior with antibiotics, nearly dying not from the sickness he contracted, but the cure, and believing the old shamanic saying that there's a plant to heal every sickness, he chose instead to focus on strengthening his immune system, and searching in the records for a plant that might be of use. Antibiotics of course, act to suppress and weaken the immune system. Here was his plan, in the basics:
- Plenty of sleep
- Fresh air and sunshine
- Healthy eating habits
- Immune system strengthening herbs
- Joy of life and sense of purpose
- Setting time aside for himself
In addition, he took daily hot baths and saunas, and also, for three weeks, a tincture of the root of Dipsacus sativa (D. fullonum, D. sylvestris), Teasel.
When I look back at my experience with Lyme, I'm no longer convinced that the antibiotics did anything to fix the problem. I think my body healed itself, adapted. Because at the time, not only was I taking the antibiotic, I quit my corporate job, I hoped in a 1979 Dasher running on waste vegetable oil, with the woman I loved, took a rambling, two week tour across the northern half of the Western states (in the fall), and then convalesced among the redwoods of Mendcino for two months, eating organic all the while, and berries and mushrooms I gathered myself. That's what healed me.
And I'm not even convinced that the spirochete isn't still active in my body, though an ally now somehow, rather than a threat. Consider, that spirals are fundamental constructs of universal processes. Our DNA is spiraled, the earth spirals through the galaxy as it revolves around the sun and the sun around the center of the galaxy, the galaxy is spiraled. Now consider what I have accomplished in the four years since I had Lyme – I wrote two books, I'm working on two others, I have danced like a whirling dervish in front of tens of thousands of people, I've maintained this blog, I managed a Halloween store twice, I've sung in a way I had no idea that I could. I no longer think of Lyme as a disease, I think of it as a kind of shamanic initiation.*
Consider too, when I woke up in my tent, in the middle of that meadow, and discovered that strange bite on the inside of my left thigh, I was camped next to a stand of teasel, which despite that I am an inveterate observer of plants, I had not seen before, and have not seen since (I didn't use the plant to heal, but the synchronicity is significant to me.) Consider too, that I haven't been in that library but once before, there are only two copies of Wolf's book in the whole 42 library Hennepin County system, and I happened to be looking for information that might spur myself to rededicate myself to healing, and a more earnest study of plants.
All of this fits nicely into the context of the current Health Care debate. All of the criticism and support I've heard misses the point entirely, about the Affordable Care Act. Western Health Care encourages us to think that we need not take any responsibility for our own health, that a technological, magic fix will be there for whatever problems we have, when we need it, no matter how we treat ourselves. In addition, everything about Western civilization is about separating us from nature, from plants and their gifts, from the rhythms and cycles of the biosphere, from each other. Industrial culture in fact, assures that most of us remain unhealthy. I'm convinced, most of what we know of disease is not endemic to the human condition at all, it is a result of the stress, the pace, the disconnection, and the myriad pollutants inherent to industrialism.
This nation is already insolvent, spending about 35% more than we generate. And now we are going to expand Health Care, when it is already 20% of the economy? While doing nothing to address the roots of ill health. It is a recipe for bankruptcy. And this argument does not even yet address the degree to which this Affordable Care Act is a massive boon to insurance and pharmaceutical companies, or the fact that it forces someone who knows how to heal themselves and keep themselves healthy naturally, to pay the same as someone of comparable income who subsists on industrial junk food and sits on their fat ass all day. This is not a health care act as much as it is a broad expansion in social control. You will pay to feed the system, whether you like it or not. Nor have I yet addressed the possibility that all this is just a political ploy to distract us from the very real steps the architects of national health care are taking toward martial law. There may not even be much of a functioning economy by the time the mandate, er, tax takes effect. If there's little in the way of a functioning economy, those institutions aren't going to be there for you.
The point of this essay is to encourage you not to depend on institutions for your heath care. Institutions cannot and do not care for your health, they function mostly to encourage your ill health and apply temporary remedies to the symptoms, for profit. Good for setting broken bones, and invasive surgery if needed, but not much else. Consider that encouraging health is in fact contrary, nay, antithetical, to a profit driven economic health care model. Agricultural subsidies to the most polluting players, making the most unhealthy food the cheapest, being a fine case in point. Keep em sick, and keep the money rolling in.
Well, there comes a time when the people are just too plain ill to sustain economic growth. We're about there, I'm guessing. More on this theme, to come.
* That is not to say, go out and get Lyme disease so you can have a shamanic initiation. I'm just speculating, and besides, there is nothing pleasant about Lyme disease. It's not like it has been a financial boon either. I'm broke, in an untenable situation with this house, and I'm feeling more weak and run down than I've felt in a long time. So as always, I'm just reporting my experience in this life.