Medicinal Herbs – Farm To Fork Wyoming

(mysterious instrumental music) – [Reporter] Up until a
couple of generations ago, our ancestors relied
upon both specialized and common medicinal
plant knowledge. – Oregon grape is more
commonly used name and it’s all in the roots. The berberine in here kills both gram-positive and
gram-negative bacteria. – [Reporter] Some of us
today, are lucky enough to have been introduced
to herbal traditions in our upbringing. – So you have
Shigella and E.coli Campylobacter, quite
a list of them. This kills all of
those organisms without hurting your
intestinal flora, so it’s kind of
magical in that sense. – [Reporter] In North
America, we’ve largely lost that generation of knowledge. – [Woman] Stinging nettle. – [Reporter] But the
World Health Organization estimates that 80% of
the world’s population uses herbal medicine
for some aspect of their primary care today. – Take these roots after
you peel the outer bark off about a three inch
section of root. – [Woman] Mmh hmm. – [Man] In a cup of water. – [Reporter] Across the country, ethnobotanists and
herbalists are stewarding these ancient connections. – [Woman With hat]
Oh, this is celandine, and it’s good for digestion. It’s also good for
skin cancer things. – You know, I kind of
came by this naturally, I didn’t grow up and
then seek information on herbal medicine. I spent a good number of
my summers as a little kid with my grandfather. He grew up in southern
Poland in the mountains and it was just
traditional there. I’d hold the bag and
he’d pull up plants and throw them in there. And I saw him using and
it was just what he did. I interviewed a lot
of Native Americans, they talk about that a lot. Grandparents teaching things. – [Reporter] Herbal medicine
on this Farm to Fork Wyoming. – [Announcer] Production
of Farm to Fork Wyoming is made possible with
the generous support of the Wyoming Business Council, Agribusiness Division
and viewers like you. Thank you. – [Reporter] In the
archeological record, knowledge of powerful
plant medicines goes back as far
as 60,000 years. Ancient cuneiforms have
revealed farmacopias, some listing over
250 medicinal plants. Many of which are still
traditionally used today. Yet, in the context of
conventional medicine, herbalism seems
an imperfect relic from a superstitious past. But is it really? – I think regardless
of where you come from around the world, you
want your stuff to work. And so I think for any medicine
to stand the test of time, it has to work a certain amount, it has to solve the majority of what that culture’s
problems are. – What’s interesting thing is populations with old traditions on every face of the planet
were using similar plants in the same plant families for the same
chemical components. They knew exactly
how these plants work and they knew how
to prevent disease if it was a disease
they were exposed to over a period of time. – [Reporter] Having started out in biochemistry, John’s
work as a biologist has led him in a life-long study of animal and plant
relationships. – I have a special
interest in how humans came to know medicines
and how they work, really. Because it has something to do with how we evolved over time. But I was always
collecting plants since I was a little kid. – [Reporter] John’s
interest in plants led him to the first
of many conversations with tribal healers. – The first healer I studied
with was a Jamez pueblo woman, who was quite old. But she really knew plants. This was when I was
young, I was in my 20s and I’d go out and see her on
my days off and take notes. Then I came out to
Wyoming in the ’60s, I think ’64, and was fascinated with the Indian cultures here. It was so tied to this
land that is so diverse. – [Reporter] John was
drawing from a deep well of plant knowledge
in the Americas. – It was as technically
sophisticated, I think, as the medicine we have today. – [Reporter] The
first herbal record out of the new world,
recorded in 1552, described nearly 200 plants
used by the Aztecs alone. – [John] Europe
had a tremendous, a very old respected tradition of using medicinal plants,
but they also learned a lot from the native people. – [Reporter] Each following
century of exploration revealed more Native
American plant wisdom possessed by tribes
throughout the Americas. – Malaria was a huge problem
with the first settlers that came here, you
don’t hear much about it. The current drug for
Malaria is Artemisinin. Well, that was the
active principle in the sage brush
that the Indians used for pretty much all of
the Indians knew about it and used it to prevent the
sickness that we call Malaria and other parasitic diseases. They were doing the
same thing in China. The plant that looks
almost identical, in the same family, same
genus, different species, both have the same
chemical in them. It’s a lactone glycoside
that kills parasites. – [Reporter] Studies today,
they’re pointing out some of the benefits of our
ancestor’s wild plant diets. – Into the sugar part
and the cyanide part, hydrogen cyanide. But not to worry,
every cell of your body produces an enzyme called
rhodanese that neutralizes the hydrogen cyanide
so you don’t die. And all of that
chemistry is there to tell us that these
plants, these seeds in the rhodes family were
part of human evolution on this planet, and
we’re already producing the enzymes we need
to eat this stuff and deal with it as a nutrient. Most of the flavonoids and the
things we can antioxidants, we’re just learning
now about those and how critical they are. They were normally
in high levels in the primitive diets of
all people around the world. With sustained high yield
agriculture, they disappeared. All of a sudden people
turned up with diseases that seemed to be cured by
medicines we call antioxidants. Really, the philosophy I
endorse with medicinal plants is mostly food is medicine
and when you take a medicine, you’re either
supplementing a food source you weren’t getting, or
you’re getting around the condition that was caused
by a lack of food source that would have been in
primitive human diet. – I think it’s sort of important for all of us to understand
that plant medicine is a spectrum. And so you have a spectrum
of very food like substances. I mean, as much as think of
garlic, which we add to food, but it also has lots of
antimicrobial properties. To plants that are
very drug like, like kava-kava or even foxglove, which is where
Digitalis is dried from. And Digitalis is a
heart medication. Along the spectrum, I
think we need to re-learn as a society, have that
more nutritive side of plant medicine. How do you support a
body to heal itself. Because there are
plants that do all that. There’s even a plant
that historically, that will actually heal
and repair a heart valve. So I think plants offer a
unique opportunity for that. – Most of the medicines
are in the roots, some are in berries. – You shouldn’t
eat juniper berries if you have kidney disease,
but it’s a treatment. Juniper berries are a
treatment for kidney infections because juniperin
is an oil in here that kills bacteria and persists through the digestive process
and comes out in urine. – [Reporter] Herbal
traditions, even employed preventative plant medicines. – Standard herb for treating
calcium recycling issues is this plant,
Equisetum, or horsetail. Looks like a horse’s
tail, so it’s a treatment for osteoporosis and
injuries where you need to build back bone tissue. – [Reporter] Native
North Americans look to the hawthorn berry to
help with the aging process. – Virtually all of the problems
associated with old age are treated with
hawthorn berries. And now we know that there’s
this magic antioxidant in hawthorn berries called OPC that oligomeric
and that strengthens the capillaries, it
prevents the capillaries from becoming weak and leaking. Macular degeneration has
to do with a failing heart. It has to do with blood flow
no longer at optimal level. OPC is used to treat arrhythmias and strengthen the heart
after myocardial infarction, where you have a
weakness in the heart that needs to be built back up. Capillary fragility’s
involved in all sorts of aging symptoms. They knew that for old people we have to have
hawthorn (mumbling). I think is also
unique about plants is that you’re not talking about
a single isolated chemical. So like, in most medications
is a single compound that has one effect versus like, you’re thinking
about with plant medicine you have multiple compounds,
so it may actually be the effect of multiple
compounds acting in unison is why you have the
effect that the plant has. – So we call them spin offs. So Salacyn is more than
just salicylic acid, has many different
variations in the plant and different willows have
different types of variations. – And I also can
sometimes allow that plant to have more than
one health benefit. You may be able to use
it for two or three what seem like completely
different uses. The other thing I like
about plant medicine, is that it has things in there that will help reduce the
effect of something else. So for example,
white willow bark, which is basically
natural aspirin. And aspirin is known for
causing stomach ulcers. if you over do it. So the white willow
bark actually has a little bit of that copper,
which will actually help heal, lining of the GI tract and prevent ulcers from forming. – We are always in
Western medicine looking for the
active ingredient, the thing that makes
that plant powerful and we take it out
and we concentrate it. A lot of our medicines are based on things that originally
may have come with plants. What we fail to realize is that where there were probably
non-active substances in that plant that may have made that active
ingredient less toxic. We have not mastered that. So we concentrate that
active ingredient, make it really
powerful, but with that we can get more adverse
effects, I believe. I think that that plant balance, what’s in that plant, nature’s
pretty good at figuring out. – To take medicine
when you’re sick is like digging the well
only when you’re thirsty. Is it not already too late. – [Reporter] Today,
there’s a movement to bridge our modern disconnect from traditional
methods of healing and re-connect with what the
plant world has to offer. – Modern medicine, a
lot of, it was derived from what we now consider
alternative medicine. I mean, you think about
100-150 years ago, your credential medical
doctor was an herbalist or a homeopath. And so, even currently,
a lot of drug companies are looking through
old historic texts trying to see what might be
the next drug breakthrough. – What I would say
about Western medicine, which is what I’m
trained in, as an M.D. I think we have lots to
offer in acute settings, with acute infections,
like a bad car accident. We can fix that like no other, we can put people back together. So for acute interventions,
we’re the best. I think it’s a good system, and for people that
are really sick, rebalancing them, bringing
back from death’s doorstep, if you like with
fluids and intensive and measurings closely. But then, the chronic problems,
whether it’s from smoking or alcohol or being
overweight, or arthritisis, we’re not so good because some
of the things that we use, they are symptom
suppressors, but they’re not really addressing
the disease process. – it’s this chronic
illness burden that is sabotaging
the healthcare system. The medications, the expense. So I’m not anti-medication,
I’m not anti-vaccine, I’m not only using
natural medicines. I think it’s really finding
the right combination. And medications are very
useful when they’re needed in acute care, but
really for the chronic, long-term management issues, they really have a
lot of weaknesses. For example, the diabetes
drug causes B-12 deficiency in about 60% of the people. The statin drugs cause a
coenzime Q10 deficiency, which can lead to
depression, dementia, muscle breakdown, and diabetes. So there’s a real give and take to know when these medications but ones that support the body. – Being that we’re
a country very much into this idea of
progression and new stuff always being better,
I think at some point we kind of forgot the old stuff and perhaps value
of the old stuff. And so I think in a way you’re
sort of having a conflict between kind of the
old and the new. And I think we forget that
both of them can have value. Penicillin, I mean, there
used to be an old wives trick where you just take moldy bread and put it on a festering wound and that would get
rid of the infection. And so I think we sort
of forget that history. And I think we
start to look at it as two separate distinct groups rather than understanding
that these two groups are actually quite
related to each other. – [Reporter] As we begin to
confront antibiotic resistance, herbal medicine’s arsenal
of antimicrobial plants have been offering
solutions for some of our vaccine modern diseases,
such as Lyme disease. – I think that one
of the biggest things that people need to
remember about Lyme, is first of all,
it’s everywhere. I think we have to
take it seriously. It is everywhere,
including in Wyoming. – And I had to find
that out the hard way by having Lyme disease myself and being told that it doesn’t
exist, I couldn’t have it because I would have
had to have gone to an Eastern state in
order to get Lyme disease, or northern California. – I think it’s gonna come out, probably within a year or two that this is major,
it’s an epidemic, and oh now, what are we going
to do about it in Wyoming? – As far as I know, I was
the first case in Wyoming and I used that
to learn about it ’cause I really didn’t know
anything about Lyme disease. – It’s related to the
microbe that causes Syphilis, it can change shapes out
of those spirochete shapes into different forms. – It has to do with
the type of organism, and as it hides, it’s not
a normal, ordinary bacteria that you run into in first
year of microbiology. It’s a spirochete and by nature they lose their protein
coat on the outside. – The immune system
can’t find it then, if it was looking for
that protein before. So that’s Lyme disease, it’s
very, very strange borreliosis. Is about as cryptic
as borreliosis can be as far as symptoms go. And by the time I went
through treatment, I had already gone to stage two. If you catch stage one of
Lyme disease early enough, you can treat with
Doxycycline very efficiently, but once it goes to stage two, it’s not treatable
with Doxycycline. – [Reporter] Doxycycline
is an antibiotic like many of the other standard
drugs for treating Lyme. But with the growing threat
of antibiotic resistance, the need for
alternatives is growing. – I’m not completely
opposed to antibiotics, I just really don’t
think that’s the answer. The CDC’s been so
clear to tell us it’s the twilight of antibiotics and I do want them to work
when we really need them and so I don’t want
to overuse them. – [Reporter] Many see
the anti-microbial and anti-parasitic
plants of our ancestors as a more dynamic solution. – There’s just not
resistance with these herbs because there are so many
different compounds in the herbs that the microbes
can’t work around them. Especially if we have a
protocol with more than one. And the other thing
that herbs have in them are different compounds
that are supportive instead of causing
cardiac arrhythmia, which some of the
antibiotics do, you know, if we’re not careful
and using it incorrectly. They might support
the heart health. – [Reporter] In John’s
struggle to overcome Lyme, the conventional
pharmaceuticals didn’t work. – It continued to get worse
over a period of six years until I ran into an alternative
Chinese practitioner who gave me some Chinese herbs
and it went away in a day. I went from unemployable,
I could hardly walk, to a day later being
completely recovered. I had tremendous enthusiasm
for spreading the word and I knew of a
couple of other people with the same symptoms
that were also diagnosed as not having Lyme disease. I mean, their doctor
diagnosis was, we don’t know what you have. And they also
recovered very quickly. And it turns out
that the chemistry of the Chinese
medicine I was taking, also occur here in
Native American medicine, medicinal plants. So I started asking people
when they would call up and say, I hear you’ve
dealt with Lyme disease, how many clues? Usually the first
ones I got were people who were actually
diagnosed with Berylliosis. They responded very quickly to the Chinese herbs, but then I asked a few that
were up for experimenting if they would go with
some experimental herbs that we could try,
because I was able to suppress my symptoms
with Osha root, which is a very, very
popular Native American herb, popular in sense of
all of the tribes know about it and use
it for lots of things. We used Osha root on
a couple of people and it seemed to
work right away. So that’s what I use now
because it’s cheaper, it’s easier to find,
and it’s native, even if imported. Osha root combined
with fringed sage, which is equivalent chemically
to the Chinese herb, the Latin name is
artemisia annua. The one we have is
artemisia frigida, it has the same lacto and
gloxide which kill parasites. But all of them disappear,
they actually kill the organism using Osha root, it’s well known for killing cryptic organisms. It kills pathogenic
bacteria and viruses. Very few things
that kill viruses. – [Reporter] But
Osha is a sacred and very long-lived,
slow growing wild plant in need of protection
from over harvest. – The Osha was
always popular among the Hispanic community here
and the Indians knew about it and they use that. And then the Anglos
found out about it. Mr. Smith in New
York wants some. And that was collected
mostly like in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and
was over harvested. So there were problem reports that went out with
the Forest Service. Hey, we see these
huge holes here because if a plant grows,
it can grow from, you know, from several feet
that will be one batch and unscrupulous people
would dig that out and then sell the root. Now the plant is
even more popular and that is not
getting any better, so a few years ago, we said,
let’s see if we can grow this Osha here. And there were other
voices that said, no, you can’t do this,
impossible, blah, blah, blah. But we just collected the seeds, put them in the ground
and lo and behold, the stuff grows, you know. Although germination rate was 20 to 30% the first year. Now this is a smart plant. Then the next year, more would
come up in the same spot, so it has a staggered
germination of
behavior if you will. So you can grow that
really well here. – and these are the babies. – [Reporter] These
potent plant medicines come with their own risks. – Oh, she’s been used for a lot of pathogenic infections. But this was a new
one, there’s nothing in the literature about it. So I went to high with one woman and she’s killed off
her intestinal flora, as you would with Flagyl, or
a lot of drugs for giardia. They’re very potent drugs. So we took her off of
that, and as it turns out, that was enough time. – And so it’s also
just a question of training and
background, you know, that we have to honor
the depth of knowledge that’s required
sometimes to have a healing effect and
do not cause harm. I think, you know,
the Hippocratic Oath that we say, “Do no harm first.” And if we go into places
where we’re not well trained without understanding
all the innuendo and nuance of plants,
we can cause harm. As can we with our medications if we don’t honor and
stay humble in the face of their side effects. – It was kind of a
bell-shaped curve with medications
and with botanicals, where little doesn’t do
much, too much can be toxic, then there’s that sweet spot, and that’s where the synergy. If you get three of those
sweet spots together, you get a one plus one
plus one equals ten. And I think finding that
is really important. – I don’t use an herb unless
I’ve really studied it and understand it’s mechanism, what are the contra indications, that means why you
shouldn’t use it and maybe if you’re
taking the medication, that it could increase the
amount of the medication in you or decrease the amount
of its effectiveness. You have to understand
all of that, so I’m pretty careful
with the herbs that I use and I want to make sure
that I don’t do any harm. – The problem is, we
only know how some of the botanicals and
medications play together. For example, St. John’s Wort, if the young woman
is on birth control, and she takes St. John’s Wort, St. John’s Wort decreases
the effectiveness of the birth control. And most doctors don’t know that and it doesn’t
say on the bottle. – [Reporter] And how
plants are sources, harvested and handled is
another important factor. – Timing is everything. Got to be there at the
right time of year. A plant that’s deadly poisonous at sometime may be
a good food source at a different time. And that’s very true
of medicinal plants and also the things
that are poisonous can turn out to be some
of the best medicinals, gotta know when to collect
it and what the dosage is. And that’s in a
lot of books now, but when I started
doing this is wasn’t. But now there are
lots of studies done by drug companies and by other people that make it their life’s work to analyze these
plants for glycosides and alkaloids and resins
and all of the things that make up what
we call medicines. Only they’re in the plants and knowing when they’re
at their peak production, what soil they have
to grow in order to produce those things,
what number of daylight hours are for production
to be optimum. It all plays in and it’s
very technical science now. And it’s in the literature
there, scientific publications on these plants that
I use a lot now. Because I have to
work in coordination with doctors who want to be
using some of these things. And I have to back up what
I say with peer review, published research,
and that’s available that wasn’t 30 years ago. (bright instrumental music) It’s one of the
deficiencies we have in our modern society
that we don’t know as a society, we don’t
know about the traditions that were very, very effective with treating disease and keeping people healthy. – So it’s a whole
generation coming behind me, that’s very conscious of
our environment ecosystem, particularly our food chain. I think you’re gonna
see that really apply to the botanical use. They’re gonna really
become less reliable on medications,
more self-reliant on lifestyle and nutrition. And supporting things
like botanicals. – And I guess that’s been
my goal for a long time now, is teach classes so
that it’s done right. Because there’s a
lot of mythology about how plants
work as medicines and a lot of it is
not only untrue, but it gets people in trouble. And these are very
potent medicines that can be toxic
taken the wrong way. – And so we talk about let’s
get rid of the bad stuff and give people the good stuff. At the end of the day, that’s
really what is the answer. And whether the good stuff
is the right medication, the right nutraceutical,
the right vitamin, the right botanical,
the right Chinese herb, the right Auyrvedic remedy, the right homeopathic remedy, they’re all speaking
the same language, they’re all approaching
the system in the same way, just from a different angle. – So, it’s that kind
of collaboration, that kind of openness
that I think we all need to find as healthcare
professionals. – So whether you believe
in a pylosophy or not, I think it’s
important to recognize the experiences, the
positive experiences that people have had over time. (bright guitar music)


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