Healing Salve for Chronic Pain / the language of ‘autoimmune’


Each one of us has the right to heal.‘ – astrologer Chani Nicholas on the March 2016 Solar Eclipse in Pisces

I open with the quote from Chani because I started this salve on the Solar Eclipse in Pisces, and so much of what I wanted for it and how I came to make it resonates through the language of her post – although, like most medicines I make, I am not aware of the significance of the transits I am making them under until after the fact (fact: my double lunar eclipse Cleavers Succus was an accident). I often feel called to make things without knowing exactly why, and then find out that it was the stars or the plants themselves that led me to the final product (Mugwort knows when it wants to be harvested, for example). These are not coincidences – they are part of the two-way communication that goes from us to the plants and stars and back again.

With regard to this salve–I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about so-called autoimmune conditions and chronic pain this year. Something in the language of ‘auto-immune disease’ has always disturbed me: the notion that our immune systems, which are our primary line of defense and ALWAYS working on our side to help us heal and defend against pathogens could somehow turn against us – has never seemed right to me.  I think we are especially vulnerable to this notion due to the currently common perception of our health as a binary of sick vs well – or, as Johanna Hedva puts it in her excellent essay ‘Sick Woman Theory‘, we are one or the other – either ‘well’, as in, well enough to go to work, or ‘sick’ – too unwell to work.

The binary of sick-well encourages us to see the transition into sickness as somewhat immediate / you are well until you are not. Within this perception is a kind of magical thinking, which suggests that such a change happens immediately, when in fact our bodies are always in a state of flux and re-balancing, constantly clearing viruses, infections, and dysplasias. The human papilloma virus (HPV), for example, can get quite far along the scale of dysplasia towards the tipping point of cancer, but typically resolves on its own. Even up to the point of high-grade pre-cancerous dysplasia, the body can clear it. This is true of viruses also: many of us have viruses that live dormant inside our bodies (like herpes simplex or Epstein Barr/mononucleosis/EBV). When we rest, when we eat well, when we nourish and care for ourselves, our bodies have the chance to clear some of these viruses, some of the dysplasias, and begin to restore balance.

The problem with the perception of the sick-well binary, beyond the fact of its inaccuracy, is the alienation it creates between ourselves and our bodies. When the healthy person ‘suddenly’ becomes unwell—this is not only seen as the body’s betrayal, its infidelity; it also creates a mystery. When we don’t know what’s going on or why we feel so awful, we feel afraid. Fear changes the electromagnetics of the body, changes the flow of energy, creates tightness, sadness, and a feeling of being ill-at-ease, which is separate from and compounding to the existing symptoms of the condition (Plumeria Essence is a wonderful ally for reversing fear-based patterns of thinking/feeling/living). If we understand our bodies as constantly in flux, constantly changing, constantly working to heal us, part of this fearful aspect is diminished. (Although there’s nothing like information to kill it for good: see Anthony William’s beautiful and super important book Medical Medium for tons of gorgeous advice about diet, herbs, and supplements for the gamut of autoimmune conditions, as well as their causes and the mechanisms that create their symptoms: it’s the best book I’ve read in years – with the important caveat that the 28-day cleanse recommended in the book is a terrible idea.)

The larger, political aspect of the notion that our bodies are mysterious is that the US medical industry relies on it. If you believe that you cannot manage your own health, or that your body is a mystery that only a doctor can solve, then you are in their hands, for better or for worse. This is never more potent than in the context of ‘autoimmune’ disease – a disease named for the theory that the body’s own immune system is attacking itself. The fact is, a lot of the time, when a patient presents with symptoms of what are currently termed ‘autoimmune’ conditions, doctors in fact have absolutely no idea what is wrong with the body. They may not be able to give a diagnosis, and in the event that they do feel secure in a diagnosis, they will be unable to explain the mechanism by which the body has come to turn on itself. Often those who have an autoimmune diagnosis will have been given several other autoimmune diagnoses by different doctors.

This is all incredibly outdated thinking. Scientific developments in recent years have brought us into holistic thinking (which is also, in fact, a return to the past. Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine practitioners always have and always do treat the body, mind, and spirit as an indivisible entity, which is why we take such a long time asking you about your symptoms: the pain in your leg is absolutely related to your digestive problems; your depression is absolutely related to your skin rash, etc).  You are your body. Your immune system is not an army of employees who are in revolt; it is your body. It is on your side, and it is doing its best to help you heal, all of the time.

One of the ways that we can support our bodies in their daily healing practice is with plants. Beautiful, practical, delicious, versatile, powerful plants.  This salve contains an infusion of three antiviral and anti-inflammatory plants – motherwort, calendula, and frankincense – blended in a mix of olive, grapeseed, and almond oil, with local beeswax. It is safe to use all over your body. $24 + shipping


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