Have you ever wondered what you would do if there were no pharmacy? What if access to health care were suddenly cut off? Are you concerned about the rise of drug-resistant bacteria? Do you have a backup plan? Prepper’s Natural Medicine can help you put your plan in place.
Natural medicine is everywhere, even growing up through the cracks of sidewalks and occupying vacant lots. The addition of a medicinal herb garden at home and some simple stored items can provide you and your family with a wealth of effective remedies as well as valuable barter items in the event our current systems fail.
This guidebook teaches the basics of crafting natural medicines, gives detailed information on the therapeutic properties of 50 different herbs (plus a few extras), and shares some time-tested remedies for emergencies, first aid, and common complaints. Everything you need to learn how to make your own formulas for your specific needs is in this book. I’ve also provided a list of books, suppliers, and other resources for your further study.
As an herbalist who is also a prepper, I am concerned about antibiotic resistance, emerging viruses, and the risks posed by chronic disease. I am concerned that the United States currently ranks #60 in maternal mortality in spite of (or because of) the many interventions now considered part of normal birth in our hospitals. I am concerned about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one of every two adults in the United States has a chronic illness. I am concerned about the political shenanigans over health coverage and the suppression of natural medicine and nutrient-dense foods by our government’s regulatory agencies in favor of corporate food. I am also concerned that we are moving to a system in which access to health care and type of treatment are determined by our government rather than health care professionals.
I wrote this book to help others get ready for a number of scenarios. During a crisis, pharmacies and hospitals will be among the first places raided. Millions of people on maintenance drugs will suddenly be without medicines that their bodies depend on for normal functioning. Even now, before a crisis, antibiotics that once easily treated common infections are no longer working, and pharmaceutical companies are not interested in developing newer generations of antibiotics because they make more profit by investing research and development funds in maintenance drugs instead. Antibiotics are typically taken for a mere 10 to 14 days. In contrast, maintenance drugs like blood pressure medication and cholesterol-lowering drugs tend to be taken for the rest of the patient’s life. This provides a far greater return on their invested research and development dollars.
Most important, I wanted to share my love of herbalism and natural medicine. My hope is that this love and appreciation for plant-based medicines will translate easily through this book and inspire you to learn more. Get outside, go on a “weed walk,” identify the vegetation in your area, plant some herbs, and begin to take a new, more active role in creating your own traditional medicine:
Traditional medicine refers to health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being.1
China has maintained its more than 5,000-year-old traditional healing practices alongside a modern biomedical system. The two are not in competition. Instead, the Chinese use modern science to explore how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) works from a biomedical perspective. The Chinese have done much to study and document the antiviral properties of TCM herbs. This information may prove lifesaving given the emerging viruses for which biomedicine currently has no treatment. India has also retained its traditional medicine, known as Ayurveda, alongside modern biomedical practices. In fact, traditional medicine has been practiced all over the world.
In the West, traditional medicine is often referred to as alternative medicine or sometimes complementary medicine. Alternative medicine implies “instead of” orthodox medicine. Complementary medicine conveys a sense of “in support of” or “in conjunction with” orthodox medicine. Within alternative and complementary medicine are modalities like reflexology, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and herbalism. Germany has led the way in both research and an evidence-based health care system that incorporates natural, herbal, and other alternative or complementary therapies with pharmaceutical options.
Although it might seem that we in the West have no traditional form of medicine comparable to TCM or Ayurveda, herbalist Matthew Wood has pieced together what he terms “traditional Western herbalism” from nearly forgotten folk traditions and drawn correlations between the worldviews of various Western cultures regarding health and medicine. His book on the subject, The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism: Basic Doctrine, Energetics, and Classification, is an interesting and worthy read.
WHY USE NATURAL MEDICINE?
If you’re a prepper, you understand the value in planning ahead and having backups for vulnerable systems. You grasp the importance of growing a garden, storing food, and saving seeds for the following year. You have multiple ways of heating and powering your home if utilities fail. You are ready for almost anything—a layoff, severe weather, economic collapse, and maybe even an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
One area that does not always get the attention it deserves, however, is the medical side of preparedness. What if you were to get sick or injured when professional medical help is not an option? If our medical system were overwhelmed or cut off from resupply, could you care for your own and your loved ones’ health needs?
Frequently, preppers approach medical preparedness by assembling a quality first aid kit, then go on to add some bulk non-prescription medicines, such as pain relievers, cough syrups, and antibiotic ointments. Many take it to the next level by adding fish antibiotics. While these items are all beneficial, and I have them on hand myself, there are a few vulnerabilities in relying solely on orthodox biomedical supplies:
•Supplies will eventually be used up or exceed their shelf life with no way to resupply.
•Selection is limited to non-prescription drugs, with no plan for chronic illness or severe pain.
•Antibiotics, fish or otherwise, are losing ground against drug-resistant bacteria.
As part of a well-rounded survival plan, preppers need a renewable source of effective medicines that they can produce and reproduce themselves. Preppers also require a way to assess illness and injury in situations where labs and diagnostics are unavailable.
One way to accomplish this is to incorporate natural medicine into an emergency preparedness plan.
While there are many reasons to choose natural medicine, preppers have unique concerns that make natural medicine of particular value. Here are my top five reasons why preppers need to learn about natural medicine:
1Natural medicine works.
2Natural medicine belongs to everyone.
3Natural medicine is easy to learn.
4Natural medicine is sustainable over the long term.
5Natural medicine provides valuable barter items.
NATURAL MEDICINE WORKS
The most important reason to use natural medicine, quite simply, is that it works. It is used the world over because it works and has been working for thousands of years. There are mountains of studies available for perusal at www.PubMed.gov, many of which are free, detailing the effectiveness of herbs and alternative therapies.
NATURAL MEDICINE BELONGS TO EVERYONE
Natural medicine is accessible to anyone. There is no licensing board, and certification courses are voluntary. You can be self-taught or take a herbalism course. You do not require anyone’s permission to use or to learn natural medicine.
NATURAL MEDICINE IS EASY TO LEARN
Natural medicine–making methods are elegantly simple, especially when compared with the requirements for manufacturing pharmaceuticals. I don’t know any preppers who would be able to whip up a batch of Tamiflu in their kitchens, but I know many who make flu-fighting elderberry syrup in their kitchens. To be clear, there is a lot to learn in order to practice natural medicine safely and effectively. The learning never stops, and there are no quick fixes. People study for many years, pouring long hours into their work. For the beginning herbalist, however, learning the foundational techniques is an easy and enjoyable process with the promise of lifelong benefit.
NATURAL MEDICINE IS SUSTAINABLE OVER THE LONG TERM
Natural medicine’s most obvious benefit to preppers is the ability to reproduce or wildcraft herbs, foods, fats, waxes, mushrooms, and lichens year after year. Having herbal remedies to address health care concerns after the pharmacy shelves are picked clean is smart survival strategy.
NATURAL MEDICINE PROVIDES VALUABLE BARTER ITEMS
At some point, people will begin to put a social structure and support system into place. They will rebuild out of a desire to improve the quality of their lives. We can only guess at what any new currency might be. Perhaps it will be gold or silver, but medicines and the knowledge of how to use them will always have market value. Skill sets—such as knowing which herbs can help bronchitis, how to make a prenatal nutritional supplement with common herbs, how to perform lymphatic drainage on a swollen, sprained ankle, and expertise in emergency field or “ditch” medicine—will be sought after.
MY VERSION OF NATURAL MEDICINE
While there are many forms of natural medicine, I have based the remedies in this book on the three with which I am most familiar: herbal medicine, massage therapy, and midwifery. I also include first aid intervention in natural medicine. At the very least, first aid skills are not outside of natural medicine. What is outside of natural medicine is anything created in a lab, anything synthetic, or any ingredient that has been through such processing that it cannot be duplicated at home.
A perfect example to illustrate this point is white willow bark versus aspirin. White willow bark has a long, well-documented, traditional use as an analgesic (pain reliever). It contains a chemical constituent known as salicin, which the body converts to salicylic acid. Aspirin’s active ingredient, acetylsalicylic acid, is a synthesized version of salicylic acid. Laboratory-produced acetylsalicylic acid is then administered in a quantity far greater than is available from natural salicin.
Alone, the amount of salicylic acid in white willow bark is not sufficient for pain relief. However, salicin is not the only chemical constituent in white willow bark; it is part of a complex and synergistic combination of chemicals including flavonoids and polyphenols, resulting in a substance whose sum is greater than its parts.
The unique composition of the bark provides the analgesic properties. In other words, you can’t simply strip out one chemical, like salicin, and expect it to work the same on its own as it did when it was part of a complex synergy. When taken as a whole remedy—for example, in tea or as a tincture—you feel less pain in much the same way as if you had taken aspirin, even though the actual amount of salicin in the bark is significantly less.
But what happens when you take a substance like salicin and synthesize it? Will such a concentrated amount, which is not found in nature and arguably not what our bodies have evolved to process, have any ill effects? Or will it be an analog, an easy swap between pharmaceutical and herbal medicines? How do they compare against each other?
Aspirin may be faster acting, but white willow bark has a reputation for being longer lasting. White willow bark offers a level of pain relief comparable to that of aspirin, and does so without distressing the inner layer of the gastrointestinal tract, called the mucosa.
Every form of medicine has its strengths and weaknesses. For example, biomedicine excels in lifesaving, heroic interventions and advanced, detailed diagnostics. However, our medical system is unprepared for drug-resistant bacteria, viral respiratory illnesses, and post-disaster sustainability.
I far prefer to see a medical system that allows for all options to remain available: natural, pharmaceutical, holistic, biomedical, and so on. However, when those options are limited by crisis or disaster, it will be natural medicine that is still available for those who know how to use it.
1“Traditional Medicine Fact Sheet,” World Health Organization (May 2003), http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/2003/fs134/en.