Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Lotions, potions, tinctures, infusions and balms

One advantage of being next to a bus stop is that the riders often donate empty 375ml flasks to The Curator's efforts.
There is a tidy garden on the west side of Lansing, Michigan where a bewildering range of plants are grown in raised beds.

The garden is next to a bus stop and is 700 feet downwind from a brown-field industrial site that formerly engaged in heavy metal fab, painting and plating operations.

Tidy is not the same as quaint.  This is not a Thomas Kinkade cottage garden.  This is a working pilot project.

Third World Cities
Most western health professionals swoon when contemplating the public health challenges of third world cities.  A partial recounting of those challenges include:
  • Stupendous population growth rates
  • Tottering infrastructure
  • Absence of local productive capabilities
  • Logistical chains crippled by tribal and religious animus as well as "friction" created by mordida
  • Chronic shortages of hard currency needed to buy modern medical supplies
  • Cosmic populations of ectoparasites like mosquitoes, flies and rodents
  • An endemic knowledge-base that is the functional equivalent of America in 1865
The owner of this garden is in the field of public health.  She is intimately familiar with the challenges of third-world cities as she has done volunteer work in ten developing countries in the last decade.

This garden is a pilot project where she is putting some of her concepts to the test.

Pending her permission to use her name, she will be called "The Curator".  The Curator did not go catatonic when dropped into those developing countries.  Rather, an idea started to come together for her.  This garden is the pilot for that idea.

No Silver Bullets
Modern health professionals are very scientific in how they define "efficacy".  For example, they don't consider a sanitizing agent to be effective if it does not kill 99.999% of the organisms of interest.  That is called a "log-five" standard.

To make that number seem real, the city of Lansing has about 115,000 residents.  A log-five reduction means there would only be one survivor.  It is debatable if even a medium yield nuclear device would be sufficient to meet that standard.
A shelf of medicinals in their "whole" form.  Many medicinals store better if they are not ground up.
More medicinals.  Many of these are ground up and ready for use.

The Curator's vision is to increase the efficacy of the system by stacking locally producible components.

Consider three, independent components with 99% efficiency.  If they are "stacked" or "pyramided" then they will have a log-six system efficiency.

The typical western approach is to beef up nutrition as the foundation for improving health.
The core areas of third world cities are almost totally roofed over.  This image was taken in central Monrovia.

Unfortunately, the land-base in most third world cities is not sufficient to make a material difference in nutrition if one focuses on the production of gross calories.  That is not a change that residents can activate on their own.
This image was taken six miles east of the upper image and shows about 80 dwellings in a space of 1000 feet square.  That is 12,500 square-feet per dwelling.

The land-base, even in outlying areas is marginal, especially considering the degraded, tropical soils and the very large family sizes.

Another issue with growing foodstuffs is that they are vulnerable to theft.  Anybody can tell when the maize and melons are about to ripen just by looking.

Nutrition, Part II
A second approach to nutrition is to focus on those components that are most likely to be in lowest supply.  In much of the world that would be a garden that grew plants that were high in fat-soluble vitamins and rich in lysine and tryptophan amino acids that are likely to be deficient in grain-rich diets.

The Curator's approach
Two different non-hybrid tomato plants in this photo.  The variety on the right is notable for its 'potato shaped' leaves while the variety on the left has leaves that are more traditionally shaped tomato plant leaves.

The Curator's garden has a very modest number of food plants.  Her primary focus is on medicinals.

OK, I know some of you want to roll your eyes.  Few medicinal plants are effective by modern measures.  The "magic" of The Curator's approach is how she combines them.

Consider ectoparasites.  Traditional third-world cultures spend a lot of time grooming.  Guess works.  Grooming should be encouraged rather than being discouraged as "backwards".  Grooming can be encouraged with lotions and potions.  If those lotions and potions have log-two effectiveness at knocking back nits and much the better.

The Curator's garden is also notable for having several species of toxic plants.  Some of them are used therapeutically.  Others are there solely to provide the means to eradicate rodents and other disease vectors...and that is the third 99% factor.

Anxiety and placebos
Anxiety makes pain twice as acute.

Placebos are effective but little studied.  Even if The Curator's medicinals pushed all of the buttons that activate placebos, then they would still be incredibly worthwhile.

If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck and quacks like a is a duck.

If it tastes like medicine and smells like medicine and tingles like is medicine.

Tinctures, infusions and balms
Image shows some of The Curator's grape vines, her trellis and some rhubarb plants.  The Curator is a great believer in rhubarb for northern climates.  It produces in early spring just when we are most in need of a vitamin C rich tonic.

Many of the active ingredients in herbals are best extracted with alcohol.  To that end, The Curator has a small vineyard on the site.
A crock for fermenting and distilled spirits for tinctures

Many active ingredients are best applied as lotions and balms that can remain in contact with the skin.  The Curator has a bee hive on the site to supply bee's wax.

Fertility control
The greenhouse is absolutely essential to propagating tropical plants in Michigan.
The consequences of unbridled population growth are inescapable.  Malthusian disaster can only be deferred.  That is probably Public Health official's primary nightmare: Ebola (or some other vicious disease) causing ports and cities to shutdown, thereby inducing a logistical death-spiral.

Countermeasures can negate the effects of crowding but even the most rigorous set of countermeasures can be overpowered given enough time and insufficient distance between potential carriers.

One of The Curator's special interests are plants that can be used to control fertility.  Seen through the feminist prism, this might even be the hub of her vision.

Her vision is to reinvigorate the "medicine woman" arch-type by reinforcing all that touchy-feely stuff with solid science.

For example, many plants produce phytoestrogens, that is, plant synthesized chemicals that mimic estrogen's effects.

However, the phytoestrogen production is triggered by drought, browsing or other mechanical attacks on the plant.  Not understanding that variable made PE producing plants something of a crap-shoot for contraception.

The Curator envisions a day when every medicinal garden will contain fertility controlling plants and the 'crone' will know exactly how to manipulate the plant to produce the optimum levels and balance of the required phytoestrogens.

Another factor, also seen through the feminist prism is that rowdy, young men are unlikely to steal materials from this kind of garden.  Messing around with these plants can get you killed if you don't know what you are doing.  That fact empowers the grower.

And now, for fun...
Another reason that the boyz won't mess with medicinal gardens.  They hold powerful juju


  1. I hope she can succeed! They need all the help they can get!

  2. Invest in Ripple on eToro the World’s Top Social Trading Network...

    Join millions who have already found smarter methods for investing in Ripple.

    Learn from experienced eToro traders or copy their orders automatically.


Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.