Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Pulse testing is essentially a way to read the body, and it works quite simply but does involve intuition as much as anything.
My typical client consultation involves first the client discussing their concerns and what they'd like to heal with herbs. I ask them about physical and emotional stresses, and we go through their various organ systems to determine if there's anything going on with, for example, the bowels or anywhere else in the body. During this discussion, I'm mainly listening and taking notes and often writing down herbs I think might apply to the client's situation.
I use mostly herbal tinctures in my practice. Most of them I've made from local plants, many wild but some cultivated. A typical dose of tincture in my practice is 1-3 drops, as I was taught by my teachers who use the same dosage.
After the client is done telling me their situation, I start pulling out my little tincture dropper bottles and line them up for pulse testing. For the sake of efficiency, I usually line them up by what I think best applies, but often that doesn't matter at all. It's the client's own body, in the long run, that gives me more information than the discussion we've had or my own intellectual approach to the situation. Here's how it's done:
I have my tincture bottles with the dropper part unscrewed but sitting in the bottle, and waiting; I have tissues available; and then I feel the client's pulse. We use three fingers to feel the pulse at the wrist, and there is something in Chinese medicine that says there are actually three pulses present here that correspond to different organ systems. I don't really pay much mind to that, but you can look it up in TCM manuals if you're interested.
After getting a feel for the pulse, I then use my other hand to take a dropper of tincture (and I use simples only, one herb at a time in a tincture). I then drop a drop of the tincture on the client's arm or hand or anywhere between the wrist and elbow. I feel the pulse's response.
There are many possible pulse responses to the drop of tincture, such as:
1. No response--the herb is likely not helpful or harmful.
2. A quickening of the pulse, or what might feel like an irritation--the herb is probably not helpful
3. An electrical feeling--could be good
4. A relaxing of the pulse, sometimes even a dissapearance for a moment, sometimes the client will report it feels "cold"--this is what I look for
But here's where intuition comes in. What feeling do you want the herb to give? I usually want to relax the client, since a relaxed body can more easily overcome illness or stress. My teacher Lise Wolff looks for the pulse to "blossom" or feel really good, but that's strictly an intuitive response from what I can tell. The herbalist has to use intuition to "get" the right remedy from the pulse. In many ways, you are testing on an energetic level here. However, the simple relaxing of the pulse can also be felt physically and can be a good indication of the right remedy. And when a remedy feels "cold" to the client's touch, that is often an indication of a relaxing response as well.
I also test dosage using this method. If one drop of the tincture feels good, then I'll drop on another. If that feels good, I'll try a third. Often the 2nd or 3rd drop feels irritating so then I leave the dosage at one or two. I can think of one case where up to 5 drops (of Red Clover this time) felt good, so I told the client he could take 3-5 drops. Usually we do not go above 3 drops! But, his was such a clear case for Red Clover (Trifolium praetense) that I felt certain in my mind he needed it. And Matt Wood in his Book of Herbal Wisdom says sometimes more Trifolium is needed, and for longer periods, than usual.
Often the client ends up with from 1-4 different tinctures that felt good on the pulse. I then test which remedies can be taken together, by dropping them on together (oh, and drops get wiped off with tissue after being tested...). Usually 2 at a time go together. Each remedy combination is taken twice a day, eight hours apart. Here's what it looks like for remedies that need to be alternated, with timing approximate:
8 a.m. Red Clover with Cleavers
Noon Chamomile alone
4 p.m. Red Clover and Cleavers again
8 p.m. Chamomile again
Do you get the idea? It sounds complicated when I type it out. The main thing to do is practice it as much as possible, using family or friends as "guinea pigs" and then clients who are okay with it. It can take a long time to get the hang of it, but then again you might find it a breeze.
You can also test supplements, homeopathic remedies, foods, anything one ingests in this way. Simply place the item in the person's hand while feeling the pulse before and after. If testing homeopathic remedies or flower essences, you can leave the remedy in the bottle and place the entire bottle in their hand as these remedies are more energy-based than physical and their effect can be felt through their container.
Some advantages to this method:
1. You get really superb remedies geared exactly to your client (in many cases--as there is still margin for error)
2. It teaches the herbalist to listen to the client's body and "read" things that have not been said in the consultation. It also gives great clues to what the client's body REALLY wants to work on, sometimes despite what they say
3. This method uses less plant and alcohol material since it's possible to use tiny doses of 1-3 drops when the remedy is targeted so perfectly.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Sweet Leaf (aka Monarda fistulosa aka Bee Balm) for toes that burn and sting in the winter, with a history of past frostbite.
White Oak Bark (Quercus alba) for a feeling of "looseness" in the pelvis, with history of uterine prolapse.
Wormwood (Artemesia--one drop under the tongue, once a week only!) for two boys with Aspergers. Matt Wood describes Sagebrush/Artemesia flower essence in Seven Herbs: Plants as Teachers as being for persons who have a hard time reflecting on their thoughts. I pulse tested it on one boy, it tested. I then had Lise Wolff test it on my son, and it tested well. I immediately noticed an improvement in his responsiveness to us, and less angry outbursts. Be careful with this herb, it is extremely potent and bitter. I would perhaps use the flower essence if I were you...
That's what I know for sure, right now.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
There's even a picture of me gathering nettles in my blue rain coat on the "Classes" page! That was taken during the Three Seasons of Herbal Wisdom class I took with Lise in 2005, which was my primary herbal learning experience, covering an entire year of learning and making medicines with plants.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
We first heard about the Wet Socks Treatment from a local naturopath. Our son Elijah had a lot of ear infections (monthly) in his first and second years of life. We tried everything we knew to try, including seeing this naturopath. When she recommended the wet socks, however, I think we tried it one night but I had the feeling I was torturing my child with cold wet socks so I never followed through on subsequent nights or tried it again.
But then last month, when I had that cough I referred to in the last post, I decided to try it on myself after reading about it in a book on my shelf, An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants by Mary Bove, N.D. She recommended the wet socks treatment as one possible treatment for bronchitis, which I felt I had and which I was desperate to heal without antibiotics. And you know, the treatment wasn't bad at all. It felt pretty good, in fact, and certainly not uncomfortable. And in the morning when I woke up with dry and warm feet, I did feel much less congested and my cough was easier.
You must follow the steps exactly, though. Here is what you do, and then I'll explain the thinking behind this simple home remedy:
Cotton Socks (wet)
Wool Socks (dry)
Sinkful or bucket of very cold water
Tub or bucket of very warm water
A warm bed
1. Put cotton socks (they don't need to be 100% cotton, just mostly) in a sink of cold, even iced if you want, water. Another option: Mary Bove, in the book above, uses yarrow flower tea to soak the socks in, but I just used water. Yarrow flowers would get the circulation moving even better though. Let the socks soak till they're saturated.
2. Place your feet in a tub or bucket of very warm water, to warm the feet. Soak your feet as long as you want, but make sure the water stays warm and so do your feet.
3. After feet are warm, ring out the cotton socks and put them on your feet.
4. Have the dry wool socks right near you so you can them immediately put them on over and completely covering the wet socks.
5. Go right to bed, making sure the feet stay warm.
6. Do this for three nights in a row. You should feel relief from congestion, as well as dry and warm feet, in the morning.
What Herbalist and Naturopath Mary Bove says in the book is that "this will lessen congestion as the child sleeps." When I googled "wet socks treatment" I found the Bastyr Center for Natural Health site recommending it. It's very much a naturopath thing, as far as I can tell! The Bastyr Center says this:
(Or, in my case, skip the supplements and use herbal remedies. I'm not a big believer in vitamins.)
A natural method of stimulating the immune system and zapping a cold or flu
is called the “wet sock treatment.” The treatment, which is commonly prescribed
by physicians at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, involves putting
on ice-cold socks and … are you ready for this? … sleeping in them!
It may sound strange, but it works because it rallies the body’s
defenses, according to Jamey Wallace, ND, clinic medical director at Bastyr Center for Natural
Health. And the best part about it is that it uses the healing power of nature
and doesn’t cost
The treatment is known as a "heating compress,” meaning that it's up to the
body to heat the cold, wet socks, says Dr. Wallace. “The body reacts to the cold
socks by increasing blood circulation, which also stimulates the immune system.
You have to ‘rev up’ the immune system, so it’s ready for battle against the
affliction or condition.”
This treatment acts to reflexively increase the circulation and
decrease congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head and throat. It also
has a sedating action, and many patients report that they sleep much better
during the treatment. The treatment is also effective for pain relief and
increases the healing response during acute infections.
The wet sock treatment is used in conjunction with other modalities to
treat inflammation, infection or soreness of the throat, headaches, migraines,
nasal congestion, upper respiratory infections, coughs, bronchitis and sinus
It’s best to start the wet sock treatment on first day of an illness,
ideally repeating it for three nights in a row. People with chronic conditions
or a compromised immunity should consult with a doctor before starting the wet
sock treatment. Dr. Wallace also points out, “The wet sock treatment is only one
component of an integrated treatment plan that includes hydration, proper
nutrition and immunity-boosting supplements.”
Do you remember the scene in the latest movie version of Little Women--the one that stars Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon--in which sister Beth is almost dead from scarlet fever and Marmee whisks in from traveling and immediately feels Beth's feet? Her feet are ice cold while her head is burning with fever. Marmee immediately uses a remedy which is similar to this wet socks treatment, though I can't say for sure if it's exactly the same thing. Cold water and vinegar on the feet bring the fever down and out, and in the case of Beth it broke the fever and she was healed.
I think the wet socks treatment is an important home remedy for people to know about. It's simple, cheap and can be very effective in easing respiratory congestion and fever. In my case of bronchitis, it really seemed to help. The next morning, I was much less congested. I repeated the treatment for three nights, as recommended, and each morning I was a little better than the day before.
A person with very little herbal or medical knowledge could try this treatment and it might just provide deep healing!