Pharmaceutical Plants and Human Health; thoughts on indigenous health during Indigenous People's Day
pharmakeus (fem. pharmakis) "a preparer of drugs, a poisoner, a sorcerer" from pharmakon "a drug, a poison, philter, charm, spell, enchantment."
What follows are my thoughts on supplements, plants, and pharmaceuticals in the context of our individual health journeys.
Sometimes we need to intervene and augment systems, sometimes we must holistically support the macro system through supplementing the sub systems operating in harmony.
With our advances in technology and industrial production, our foods and lifestyles have accelerated. Therefore, our western methods of triaging harm are needed to decelerate and even stop processes, turn them back on, and fully control the body’s healing sequence. This looks like augmenting receptors, numbing responses, and surgically removing or disconnecting systems. These are invasive measures and quite extreme. However, we must never forget our body’s ability to heal itself, especially from intentionally induced harm in the goal of overall healing.
Yes, I advocate primarily for integrative and osteopathic modalities of aligning and supporting our system to do what it does best, within the biorhythms that have served our system to this point in the evolutionary journey. And still, I value the invasive intervention of our western paradigm.
Now to the problem of incentives. Namely, within our western profit driven model, we have corporate incentives to fund the training and supply of medical professionals by the manufacturers of various interventions. This leads to a bias incentive to deploy interventions from these funding sources where other, less invasive treatments are available, yet simply not known or ‘trusted’ by the medical professionals. The problem is treated more fully in “Life Force” by Peter Diamandis and Tony Robbins. Herein they discuss the halflife of a Medical Doctorate license and the nature of continuing education to deepen the siloed knowledge base of providers within the trusted and accredited inventory of the funding ecosystem. This self perpetuating cycle deeply biases options and has an end effect on client awareness.
Here lies the rub: we must become the executive authority of our own care. As patients and sovereign individuals, it falls to the individual to hold authority, up-skill with the collaboration of professionals, and preserve our right to the best options available in service of our health. If we assume that each being deserves access to the epigenetic potential of their body, then we must reclaim our authority as the executives of our health. We know there is much we do not know and have not encountered in the world of medicine. And we know now that many ancient modalities are gaining credibility in western medical review processes. Therefore, we have much to gain in adopting the paradigm that informs researchers in therapeutic discovery pipelines.
Essentially, ethnobotanical usages inform prioritization in scientific validation initiatives.
“Ethnocognition and its peculiarities, in pharmacodynamic terms, can lead to the identification of therapeutic or toxic properties of many vegetal species.[5,6] Therefore, ethnopharmacology permeates the formulation of valuable and promising hypotheses in developing new drugs “
Herein, we see researchers following the lead of indigenous elders to verify and reproduce results of their protocols in healing. Where generally indigenous epistemologies do not centralize authority on outcomes in preference to ‘collaborate’ with the wisdom of nature as primary authority. However, as the west generally seeks to distill authority across various biospheres in pursuit of deeper ontological truth, mathematical proof, and objectivity, we can rest in the likelihood that ‘western medical authority will catch up’ to many of the insights of these ancient relationally driven healing modalities. And simultaneously some of these insights will be proven to have highly localized positive outcomes that do not extend their efficacy to patients operating in other ecosystems and lifestyles. These insights will be critical to illuminate which sources of authority apply to which set of patient needs.
Remember the root of the word Pharmacy lies in magic as there was no centralized authority in ancient civilization as a factor of scale; ie, there was less need to standardize healing modalities across a large population. Instead, the respected elder had relational capital within the community and this was the foundation of trust. This root word later speciated into healer, preparer of medicines, and even sorcerer as these distinctions became necessary. So then, we must know our provider’s worldview and understand where ours overlaps and does not. Are we dealing with a healer, a preparer of medicines, or a sorcerer? Those are quite large distinctions!
A relevant application of these distinctions would be in epidemiology. Specifically, what method of mitigating harm falls to the realm of the individual vs the realm of the collective? And what defines the collective? I chose to adhere to occam's razor. Whereby, interventions such as traditional vaccinations and mRNA therapeutics fell well within the minimum effort, minimum harm ranking for taking action. A deconstructed aspect of the virus itself can be introduced to the immune system to spur the body’s defensive mechanisms into developing the immunity in the traditional vaccination process. And an mRNA script to teach the body one maneuver to resist the virus is another valid intervention. Though both of these methods only accelerate immunity in the current expression of the virus, not in the future mutations. Therefore, future upgrades will continue to be necessary if this is to be the method of immuno-development.
Nonetheless, in my opinion, the best intervention is far more holistic up-regulation of resiliency through lifestyle, social interaction, and education. This means precisely that we must be outside, be in communities, and be in conversation and physical touch. These actions build resiliency. Building natural resiliency is the most important component of any immuno-development strategy; and in my opinion, must be a value in society. Resiliency is derived from diversity and exposure. In domains as disparate as ideologies, ethnicities, and economies; diversity breeds resilience through cultivating interdependent bonds. Metaphorically, the roots of a passively cultivated permaculture farm will out perform and out live a mono-cropped, engineered corn patch any day, while requiring zero of the engineered nutrients and pesticides. This metaphor hopefully illustrates the strategic diversity in our health by analogy to the strategic diversity in agriculture. Masanobu Fukuoka treats these concepts well in “Natural Farming.”
For outliers with compromised immune systems, the decision is affected by these realities. Still, the force of law must not design for outliers; outliers must design for their participation. When compassion is forced, it becomes compulsion and control. I see compassion necessarily as a value within cultural groups with which we can choose to align, and not as single set of actions that each individual must take. This distinction deserves an entire article to treat fully.
Further, outside the western globalized communities, I spent time during the pandemic in the jungles of Amazonia. Here, communities relied on plants to thin the blood, strengthen immunity, and process the virus effectively with their ancient plant allies. These deeper and holistic methods worked extremely well for me; though they required full ontological flexibility to enable my body to do what I know I do not understand–and potentially cannot understand. Primarily, these ontologies are relationally driven in general. This looks like the diagnostic frame for individual wellness is how integrated one is in the community. Inversely, when one is displaying symptoms of “disease” in a western sense, this is viewed as an expression of an unwell relationship within the community of humans and/or plants that is requesting attention. When balanced, these relationships reconcile and symptoms recede.
As we integrate these modalities of decentralized plant and ceremonial intelligence in our institutional knowledge base, we would do well to continue to apply occam’s razor and not lose our foundation to these worldviews that operate at the scale they do. We are visitors in these worlds and most westerners are not meant to renounce the western project of civilization for the village of earth. We are in a discernment of scale and ethics that must remain for each individual to navigate. As I deepen my experience with ancient lineages of breath, ethnobotanicals, and expansive cosmologies, I stay grounded in my humility as a visitor from my own fractured lineage of post colonial imperialism. And I look at this vein of western thought, I focus on those still intact strands of sacred geometric truth. We are in the lineage of the pythagoreans worshiping the triangle, square, and circle. And these deities are no less mystic than the grandmother ayahuasca or grandfather tobacco, and their deep dogmas of relationship. To betray our roots in sacred geometry is just as erroneous as an Amazonian tribesmen denying their faith in their master plants or the paje of their village.
I see a world where both co-exist, we exchange with one another, and we evolve the consciousness of our civilization to deepen our pursuit of scientific knowledge of the sacred without discrediting the epistemologies of the ancients.
We all are walking home to our health.
And today, more than ever before, we are connected to our siblings walking along their unique paths.
The celebration of these diversities and the curiosity regarding the unique actions of each one of us is critical to collaboration as we fly around the cosmos on this beautiful rock we call Earth.
So remember to be civil as we discuss how to walk.
Respect others who choose differently.
And align with travelers refining their tools together.
Pharmaceuticals have a place in our world.
Industry has a role to play in our future.
Plants are always a key contributor to our journey.
Let’s remember to love it all with kindness.
Photos: Midjourney showcase
Etymonline.com: late 14c., farmacie, "a medicine that rids the body of an excess of humors (except blood);" also "treatment with medicine; theory of treatment with medicine," from Old French farmacie "a purgative" (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin pharmacia, from Greek pharmakeia "a healing or harmful medicine, a healing or poisonous herb; a drug, poisonous potion; magic (potion), dye, raw material for physical or chemical processing."
This is from pharmakeus (fem. pharmakis) "a preparer of drugs, a poisoner, a sorcerer" from pharmakon "a drug, a poison, philter, charm, spell, enchantment." Beekes writes that the original meaning cannot be clearly established, and "The word is clearly Pre-Greek." The ph- was restored 16c. in French, 17c. in English (see ph).
Buck ["Selected Indo-European Synonyms"] notes that "Words for 'poison', apart from an inherited group, are in some cases the same as those for 'drug' ...." In addition to the Greek word he has Latin venenum "poison," earlier "drug, medical potion" (source of Spanish veneno, French venin, English venom), and Old English lybb.
Meaning "the use or administration of drugs" is from c. 1400; the sense of "art or practice of preparing, preserving, and compounding medicines and dispensing them according to prescriptions" is from 1650s; that of "place where drugs are prepared and dispensed" is recorded by 1833.
(LINK) Bauhinia guianensis Aubl., a Plant from Amazon Biome with Promising Biologically Active Properties: A Systematic Review
Rosemary de Carvalho Rocha Koga, Abrahão Victor Tavares de Lima Teixeira dos Santos, Rosângela do Socorro Ferreira Rodrigues Sarquis, José Carlos Tavares Carvalho*
One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka