As someone with a long history of dry, itchy scalp, believe me, I’ve tried it all — shampoos, ointments, pills, anything that offered a vague promise of a life with “normal” hair.
Physiologically, what’s happening to your body is a combination of one or more of these things:
- Fungus – usually non-contagious, but it can infect the skin on certain individuals, especially if you live in a damp climate
- Allergic reactions – typically a histamine response impacting the Liver, could be a food-based allergy
- Vitamin deficiency (A, B, C, D, E, iron, zinc) – deficiencies make your body more vulnerable to fungus, allergies, toxins, and just overall dryness and poor elasticity of the skin
- Toxic overload – all these perfumed, chemically-based lab experiments that call themselves “beauty care items” do your body no long-term favors
- Stress – will make all the symptoms worse
The best solutions that I’ve found are natural and topical treatments with oil and clay.
Internal treatments, for example, taking herbal anti-fungals or a food-based vitamin supplement, do help, but it’s limited to how healthy your whole body is. If your body’s health is compromised in some way, the absorption of the internal supplements will not be as good. For the cells of your scalp to receive the optimal benefit, it’s best to just put the healing stuff right up on there.
So what do we need to heal the scalp? It depends, but for most people, you’ll need to alternate between clay and oil. Clay has been used in indigenous cultures across the world for who knows how long for different purposes: to heal skin wounds, to take internally for digestive issues, and even to perform ceremonies. Bentonite clay has been shown to be anti-bacterial, and to absorb heavy metals and toxins.
Hair oiling is a technique used for over 4,000 years (another site says 5,000, so who knows) in India and Africa for promoting healthy hair and scalp. The oils flush the scalp with vitamins E and F for moisture and resilience, and some are even anti-microbial.
Here’s what I do:
I use the lunar hair calendar to see what days of the month are more beneficial for oil (water element) and what are more beneficial for clay (fire element). This is not an essential step; you can also just alternate them whenever you feel like it.
Using the Oil:
Before you wash your hair, put a little oil in the palm of your hand. The amount should be the size of a large coin. You can use this oil that I recommend, or just some olive, almond, coconut, grapeseed, jojoba, or sesame oil. Massage it for a few minutes into your whole scalp. Then, brush your hair so you massage the roots of the hair and extend the oil through the entire strand. You can leave the oil in for a few minutes, hours, or overnight with a cap on to protect your sheets. When you’re ready, wash your hair as usual. You will find your need for conditioner is much less if not altogether gone.
Using the clay:
I use this brand for clay as well. I also use their shampoos and conditioners. It’s all very natural and organic. If there’s another brand of bentonite clay or healing clay you prefer, go ahead and use it.
Mix 1-2 Tablespoons of clay with some water until you have a paste. In the shower, after shampooing, rinse your hair, then apply the paste by massaging it into your scalp. Leave it in for at least 3 minutes, and up to 10 minutes. Rinse out. You don’t need to use conditioner after this, but you can if you like. Surprisingly, the clay makes your hair very soft.
Another way I use clay to calm my scalp is with henna. Henna can be like a natural hair dye or it can also be just a non-coloring conditioning treatment. If you’re trying to get away from toxic hair care and beauty products, using a natural hair dye as opposed to a toxic, chemical-laden one is a good step.
A nice side-effect to all this natural stuff is that I think over time, as the health of your scalp and hair improve, you spend a lot less money on expensive beauty store and salon quick-fixes that leave you not-so-fixed after all.
If you’re feeling exhausted or stressed, or if you’re a health optimizer, I have a little breathing exercise you can do anytime, anywhere. Yogis will recognize it’s similarity to Pranayama, but we don’t need to name names.
Do this while you’re working; when your kids have you at your limit; when you feel your blood pressure rising; when you go for a walk; or just have a daily practice and do it as part of a meditation. Eventually you can try to breathe like this all the time!
The benefits include: * reduced blood pressure * improved circulation to the digestive tract * stimulation of the autonomic nervous system * stress reduction
Breathe in for a count of 6. Feel your lower abdomen expand in all 6 directions: 1. the space between your anus and genitals goes downward 2. pubic bone and naval move forward 3. lower lumbar and sacrum press backward 4. and 5. hips and lower ribs expand out and 6. top of diaphragm (stomach area) expands up.
Don’t worry too much about expanding just right or focusing too hard on the directions. Just feel overall expansion in your lower body as you breathe slowly. Then slowly exhale for a count of 6. Gradually, you can increase this to a count of 30. As you exhale, you feel the expanded areas relax and naturally contract. Repeat as many times as you like.
The search for a COVID-19 cure — ideally a pill or a vaccination — seems to be the most uplifting thing in the news these days. For mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, treatments that allopathic medicine can provide include acetaminophen to reduce the fever, cough suppressants, and inhalers for the shortness of breath. There are currently no medications to assist the body in fighting off the offenders, although some doctors in Wu-Han started using intravenous vitamin C with some success. Another thing China used in their fight against COVID-19 were herbal medications.
Even a senior scientist of the CDC, Dr. William Thompson, said in 2014, “I shoulder that the CDC has put the research 10 years behind. Because the CDC has not been transparent, we’ve missed ten years of research.”
There are no tools in allopathic medicine that help you get healthier. The best they can do is prevent you from dying. And lately, I’m sorry to say that’s not going too well either. For the whole to survive, and even to thrive, we can’t think of killing just one organism, but of strengthening the whole. This is how a body can fight it off. Viruses are not going away any time soon, so we had better learn how to outsmart them.
Why are elderly people more susceptible to COVID-19? Chances are, as the average American ages, they’ll find themselves on one or more pharmaceutical medication. The typical medication for hypertension, for example, lists more than 10 possible side-effects. And the average elderly American is on 15 separate medications.
Of course, hypertension, and other serious illnesses need to be addressed, but is more medication the answer? The problem is not just that the blood pressure number is too high, it’s a problem of the whole organism: lifestyle, stress levels, food and water intake, and exposure to toxins, and possibly other complicating illnesses.
Even among people who advocate natural methods of health, there’s some hesitation.
“I’ve used an essential oil before and I liked it…” “I like to drink mint/ginger tea…” But when it comes to a serious illness, or sometimes even just a really bad headache, and all the natural rhetoric gets the boot. “Time for some real medicine!”
Surely herbs couldn’t be strong enough to combat a disease that is ravaging our entire earth? A simple plant? It’s just not sexy enough. Discovering something new – novel – that could net billions of dollars – now that’s sexy.
What if we’re looking at this all wrong, though? What if we adapted the natural methods to work better for us? Or adapt our healthcare system to take into account how people are eating; how they’re managing stress; and if they’re exercising, and make this a covered benefit by our insurance?
One herb that I’d like to highlight, arteminsia annua, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine from 168 BCE, or perhaps earlier, it’s hard to say. Traditionally used for periodic fever and malaria, the new research found that it also has unique molecules with unique killing activities. The head researcher, Tu Youyou, won the 2015 Nobel Prize. Arteminsia is able to effectively combat viruses, fungi, and even several varieties of parasites. (HO We, Peh HY, Chan TK, et al, Pharmacol Ther, 2014).
Because of the amazing abilities of this herb, pharmaceutical companies isolated the ART, chemically reproduced it, and patented it. This is your anti-malarial drug, like chloroquine. The problem with this approach is that the use of the whole herb vs the chemical isolate of the herb is twice as effective and less likely to develop into drug resistance. (Elfawal MA, Towler MJ, Reich NG et al, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2015 / PLoS One, 2012 / Weathers PJ, Elfawal MA, Towler MJ, J Enthopharmacol, 2014.)
New research shows that in one case with 18 patients who were unresponsive to the anti-malarial drug therapy, just taking a regular dose of the whole herb for 5 days, all of the patients fully recovered (Daddy NB, Kalisya LM, Bagire PG, et al, Phytomedicine 2017).
59 million Americans use some type of alternative medicine at a cost of approximately $30 billion per year. Americans spend around $300 billion per year just on prescription drugs. With the total medical costs in the US being over $900 billion, you can see that alternative medicine is a very small portion of that pie, around 3%.
You may read that experts warn against herbal remedies because they give patients a false sense of security, leading them to neglect proven medications or therapies. This is what most articles on natural anti-viral treatments say, quoted by experts, who are usually medical doctors who have never studied herbology.
Herbal knowledge that acupuncturists, for example, study include: combinations of herbs that work the best (we like to use a chief herb and a guiding herb and other herbs to assist the formula to work better); what dose of which herbs is right for your constitution; how long to take an herb (artemisia for example, you don’t want to take daily); and what results or side-effects you can expect from the herb. It’s more complicated than just popping over to Walgreen’s and picking up a bottle of turmeric to try out.
Self-prescribing herbs works just as well as self-prescribing oneself pharmaceuticals. There’s a reason why we can’t do that! It’s not as effective and sometimes it could even be dangerous. This is why we need licensed herbalists to lead their patients in the right direction. A licensed herbalist is presumably also doing the due-diligence of ordering herbs from an herbal company that tests the quality and purity of the herbs.
For herbs to work optimally, we also need a functioning immune system. For deep infections, say, in the lungs, the herbs need to be able to access the tissues. From a holistic standpoint, causes of pathogen susceptibility include toxicity of the internal organs (liver, intestines, etc); nutritional status (ability to absorb calcium in the gut; zinc or vitamin D or C deficiencies, etc.); stress, distress, and cortisol imbalances; and sleep or lack thereof. We can’t isolate one part away from the whole organism.
Florence Nightingale, in 1860 is quoted saying, “Wise and humane management of the patient is the best safeguard against infection…Cleanliness and fresh air from open windows, with unremitting attention to the patient, are the only defense a true nurse either asks or needs.”
Even the father of the modern vaccine, Louis Pasteur, his last purported words were, “the pathogen is nothing. The terrain is everything.” The germ theory is that microorganisms cause certain illnesses. Which is true, but doesn’t answer the question which is why are some people not getting the dis-ease from the coronavirus, and others are dying. The answer is the terrain; the health of the body. Unless they have a genetic problem, children are born healthy and perfect. The dis-eases take place over time, slowly.
The current model of healthcare is this: imagine a fish swimming around in a dirty fishbowl. The fish is beginning to get sick so we give it medicines to not die. Does the fish get better? Of course not; it continues to slowly deteriorate. Instead, why not focus on the environment of the fish? Clean water to breathe and ideally, good quality nutrition should equal a healthy fish. We need to be focusing on getting a healthier environment – in and out of our bodies – and not on more medications.
Pharmaceutical medications are doing nothing to correct those underlying issues; in this case, they can’t even target the virus. Which is why people are scared and dying. What we need now is a radical new approach, which is actually an ancient approach. With modern technology that can ascertain the quality of the herbs, find qualified herbalists around the country, and use tele-medicine to avoid group contamination; we may have an actual solution on our hands.
Luckily, or maybe not so much, we live in a time where antibiotics are a phone call away.
But what about viruses?
We’re told there’s no cure for viruses, and are even given antibiotics (like a “Z-pack,” which sounds like something a hip millennial wears while going on a hike, but it’s really azithromyacin, an antibiotic) for the flu or other short-term infections.
The problem with using antibiotics for every type of infection, even fungal or viral, is that they weaken your immune system, and promote antibiotic resistance. They really should used only if absolutely necessary, after all else has failed.
So if there’s a new, deadly virus on the loose, what do we do? First: don’t panic.
Second: do what you can to protect your immune system. Rest, drink water, and avoid sugar. Get fresh air and sunshine. Play and have fun. Stress is the worst thing, next to sugar, for your immune system. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Third: stock up your natural medicine cabinet.
Lots of herbs have antiviral and immune-enhancing properties.
When you’re taking herbal medicines, keep in mind that traditionally, herbs are not taken in solitude. They’re normally taken in a formula that balances the nature of the main herb. For example, if one herb is very cold-natured, we use hot herbs like ginger to balance it. Some herbs are contra-indicated for pregnancy or if you’re on certain medications as well. Always consult with a licensed herbalist before self-prescribing herbs.
But I also believe that plants are here to help us, and we have the power to choose how we address our own health. So here’s some useful info on plants that can help you treat, or even better, AVOID, the plague.
Helps with bacterial and viral upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). It can help prevent URTI and the common cold. It can treat bowel infections.
CAUTIONS – Not recommended during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. High doses may cause vomiting or diarrhea, but it’s not toxic. Very high doses in HIV patients in one trial reported adverse affects.
The normal dose for andrographis is 3-6 ml of a 1:2 tincture per day during the infection. It’s not recommended for long-term use. It’s also a cold-natured herb, so it’s good to take with warm herbs like Ginger, Astragalus, or Holy Basil.
My favorite! You can use echinacea to treat upper respiratory tract infections, or any type of infection. It enhances the immune response in healthy individuals. It’s OK to use long-term and it’s unlikely that someone is allergic to it, if the root is used instead of the aerial (pollen-generating) part of the flower. It’s safe for pregnancy, even.
CAUTIONS – It’s not recommended if you’re on immune-suppressant drugs. It may reduce the efficacy of those drugs.
The normal dose per day is 3-6 ml of a 1:2 liquid extract. 8 of 9 clinical trials found echinacea reduced the severity and duration of acute URTIs.
The 3 wise men knew what was up. Myrrh stimulates uterine contractions and is antimicrobial, so for a post-partum Mary, it was the perfect herb. You can use it as a mouth rinse for ulcers or a sore throat. It’s great for treating urinary tract infections and some herbalists have even used it to reduce tumors.
CAUTIONS – Since it stimulates movement of the uterus (if you have one), it should definitely NOT be used during pregnancy. Myrrh is an herb that should only be used for a short-term.
It’s usually “pulse-dosed,” meaning you take it for 1 week, then take a break for 1 week and repeat if necessary.
A normal dose is 1.5-4.5 ml of a 1:5 tincture per day.
Another antimicrobial herb is neem leaf. It can be used to enhance immunity, reduce a fever, treat a cough, or topically for eczema or scabies.
CAUTIONS – It’s best avoided during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, and for both sexes during fertility treatments. It should also not be taken for a long-term and not at a high dose. It is slightly toxic over time.
The recommended dose is 1.5-3.5 ml of a 1:2 extract.
Do you remember back in ’98 when St. John’s was all the rage? Whole Foods stocked it in huge bins and it would still sell out. I guess a lot of people were/are depressed. It’s not as popular now, but it still works just as good.
It’s traditionally prescribed for depression, alcohol addiction, anxiety, nervousness, herpes, SAD, psychological symptoms of menopause, PMS, aerobic endurance enhancement for athletes (!), sleep disorders, and chronic or acute viruses.
CAUTIONS – Not advisable in cases of known photosensitivity (sun sensitivity). It also may interact with a number of drugs: immune suppressants, digoxin, HIV drugs, a chemo drug called Camptosar, warfarin, and phenprocoumon (blood thinners). Caution should be taken if you’re on a SSRI (anti-depressant) because of potential effects on serotonin levels. Women on birth control may experience break-through bleeding or unwanted pregnancies. But if you’re not on any drugs, you should be fine to try it!
The recommended dose is 2-6 ml of a 1:2 liquid extract per day.
Another antimicrobial and antiviral to try for URTIs, especially in combination with echinacea root.
CAUTIONS – Not for use during pregnancy or lactation. Thujone is slightly toxic.
Dose is 1.5-3 ml of a 1:5 tincture.
If taking herbs is not your jam, essential oils (EOs) come in handy:
- Bergamot oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Red thyme
- Cinnamon leaf
- Tea tree oil
- Lemon balm
All of these oils have been shown in studies to have antiviral properties. You can diffuse EOs in your house with a diffuser or putting 10-12 drops of oil in your humidifier. You can also make hand soap or lotions infused with these oils.
The best defense for viruses are your daily habits. Eating healthy, exercising, and staying calm make the biggest difference.
Nutrition to optimize for your immune system:
1. VITAMIN C – Not to be confused with “ascorbic acid.” Eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies.
2. CALCIUM – Calcium is more than bone food. It’s an essential part of your immune system.
3. ZINC – Zinc is essential for the health of your immune system, digestive system, and for your hormones.
4. VITAMIN D – Go out in the sun and take a good quality fish oil.
Was this helpful? What do you do to stay healthy when there’s viruses all around you?
A few Saturday evenings ago, I was driving on a quiet neighborhood road and a small, waddling, Texas animal (armadillo/possum?) was slowly crossing the street ahead of me. So I slowed down. WAY down. It’s Saturday night! I’m doing nothing truly important. Just hanging out.
The truck behind me was not happy about it. They flashed their lights and honked, and sped around me as soon as they could.
Don’t worry, the animal made it to the side of the road OK.
Thousands of years ago, as Chinese medicine was evolving, skilled practitioners noticed the fluctuations of nature, the cyclical changes of plants, animals, weather, and people.
Winter is a time of rest and slowing down. The seeds are in the ground; animals are hibernating; and even the water can freeze and stop.
But here in the “modernized” world, we’re in a freakin’ hurry. Get all the presents! Go to all the parties! Travel! Get out of my way!
Let’s not save all our resting for just the 25th and January 1st. Let’s slow it down.
Test yourself: see how slow you can breathe. See how slow you can walk down the hallway when you stand up from your computer or phone. See how slow you can drive (!) without endangering yourself or others.
One thing I remember from years of martial arts training: in a drill where you and a partner square off and one person punches while the other person blocks, if you try to block in a hurry, your arm tightens up.
Tight muscles are less responsive. You lose the connection between your eyes and your hands. You’re flailing around with no purpose.
Paradoxically, being relaxed and not being in a hurry, makes you more responsive and alert.
Most importantly – you won’t miss any punches!
The people trying to hurry, on the other hand, miss quite a few.
Hurrying causes stress. Stress causes tension. Tension causes mistakes and accidents.
If you want to move things along, and make it to the next season (spring, where things speed up and move more, slow down.