Today I made an essence from the flowers of the tenacious Japanese Knotweed in the woods behind my house. I can see this grove of green from my window and this week, I noticed it has fountains of frothy white flowers like an art deco painting gone wild. It's a huge thing- it towers over the goldenrod and yarrow and roses that bend over themselves with the weight of a bumblebee. It's woody stems are thick and stiff, like bamboo, and because it takes over completely, people talk trash about this plant, to the point of having parties to eradicate it.
I may really upset native plant societies here, but it's hard for me to get worked up about invasive plant species without talking about colonialism and stolen land. I deeply believe in habitat restoration and protection for native plants, and I also want the complexity of the issue to be on the table- why are we so excited about plant restoration but can't talk about colonialism and land rights for First Nations people? Anyway, these invasive plants are often good medicine and some people believe that they show up, ready for action, in response to imbalances on the planet.
Japanese knotweed, for example, is one of the primary anti-viral remedies used in treating Lyme disease and coincidentally has been spreading north up the Eastern Seaboard at the same rate, in the same areas as the spread of lyme-carrying ticks. The land has her own wisdom and sometimes we have to trust it.
Here are some of the medicinal properties of this plant, which is going wild in a patch of land behind my house: An anti-inflammatory, it helps the immune system to combat various infections, since inflammation helps blind the immune system to Borrelia and the activity of other infections in the body. The anti-inflammatory actions are exceptionally useful for Bartonella, which relies upon inflammation for its proliferation. And, as an anti-inflammatory, japanese knotweed relieves symptoms of arthritis.
Japanese Knotweed also modulates and enhances immune function in a number of ways, and is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral. It is known to kill some varieties of spirochetes, and that may even include Borrelia (though data on its effectiveness as a Borrelia killer is unknown to me).
Japanese knotweed protects the body against neurotoxin damage, so that central nervous system symptoms are reduced, at the same time that it increases blood flow and transport of Lyme treatments to hard-to-reach areas of the body, such as the eye, heart, skin and joints.
It is an antioxidant that also helps to reduce Herxheimer reactions. Finally (but not, since it does so much more) it protects the heart and helps reduce symptoms of Lyme carditis.
I have been thinking of my friend Colby, who has been battling late diagnosed Lyme disease and it's co-infections for a while. Colby is an amazing and inspiring human with a huge heart and a fierce commitment to justice. While I was making this essence, she was on my mind and in my heart big time.
The existence of Lyme disease makes a lot of people, including me, afraid of the woods and freaked out by being in nature. I come home from my daily walks and strip down, examine every nook and cranny, and take a fine tooth comb to my wooly dog. Last week, after pulling 5 deer ticks off Rainbow, I held one in my hand. I tried to look at it with eyes of love and forgiveness, to pour compassion on this creature, who was possibly carrying spirochetes in it's tiny body that destroy so many people's lives. It was work, I tell ya. Instead, I felt such a geyser of anger rise in me- a very specific anger at this sesame seed sized being, for Colby and for Judith, my friends whose lives are completely changed by this. So, as it crawled around the piece of paper on my hand, I screamed at it about consipiracy, health insurance, misdiagnosis, ketamine drips, brain inflammation, the prison industrial complex, chronic pain, not being able to relax and lay down in the grass ever again, migraines, medical bills, and babeseosis.
I ended up crying on the floor. No one, not even me, loves the ticks. I mean really, what is it like to be a being who everyone hates/fears, like a tick or an invasive plant that people organize to eradicate? And what about my commitment to "all of us or none" and non-violence? It's there, but so is my anger. I realize that the ticks are suffering too. It seems like no coincidence that the plant that is rising up to help us heal from this disease is an invasive plant, encouraging us to bow to what we fear and find the remedy in what we are taught to hate.
I said a prayer for healing, healing for the deer and the mice, for the ticks and the bacteria, for the people struggling daily with lyme disease and other chronic conditions, and for all of us.
Then I flushed it down the toilet.