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 Non dairy sources of calcium

When most of us think of foods high in calcium, dairy products come to mind. But for those who are lactose-intolerant, vegan, or just don’t like dairy, what are your alternatives? There are many non-dairy sources of calcium to choose from to make sure you are getting enough of this vital nutrient. And you likely don’t need to take a supplement; too much calcium can do more harm than good.

Non-Dairy Diets and Calcium Intake

Calcium is one of the many nutrients necessary to promoting bone health. While dairy is not necessary for adequate nutrition, there is some evidence that vegetarianism and veganism can lead to lower intakes of calcium, along with vitamin D and vitamin B-12, both of which are also important for bone health.[1]

Some studies have shown that vegan diets, which do not include dairy, may increase the risk of bone fractures; however, fracture rates are no higher in vegetarians and vegans who have adequate calcium intake (and adequate protein intake) in their diet.[1] Clearly, diets that do not include dairy can include enough calcium to keep your bones healthy. The trick is to be aware of non-dairy sources of calcium that are absorbed well by the body.

Factors That Affect Calcium Absorption

Not all sources of calcium are absorbed well. Vitamin D is vital to bone health, mainly because it helps calcium to be better absorbed. For this reason, vitamin D intake is also important when trying to get enough calcium. 8 percent of vegans show low concentrations of calcium (enough to increase the risk of bone-related disease) in the winter, when vitamin D levels are lower. Calcium concentration tends to rise in the summer as vitamin D levels also rise.[1]

Other compounds in certain foods can affect the absorption of calcium, such as oxalic and phytic acid. Foods high in calcium that also contain a lot of these compounds, like spinach, rhubarb, and beet greens, are not good sources of calcium; the absorption of calcium from these foods can be as low as 5 percent. On the other hand, broccoli and bok choy, which have low oxalic and phytic acid content, have absorptions of greater than 50 percent.[1]

Foods High in Calcium

In order to get enough calcium from your non-dairy diet, it is important to choose calcium-rich foods that are easily absorbed. There are a number of plant-based foods to choose from, including many green leafy vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, and kale. In fact, 1 cup of bok choy or 1-1/2 cups of kale can give you about the same amount of absorbable calcium as 1 cup of cow’s milk.[1] Almonds, white beans, and canned salmon or sardines (with the bones) are also great sources. Some foods like tofu, orange juice, and soy milk are often fortified with calcium to provide adequate amounts.

You also need to watch your vitamin D levels, as calcium is not much good without it. Plant-based sources of vitamin D include many types of mushrooms, like chanterelle and portabella.[1] A vitamin D supplement might also help if you have a vitamin D deficiency.

Calcium Supplementation – Helpful or Hurtful?

You may have considered taking a supplement to make sure you are getting enough calcium on a non-dairy diet. While older women who are at high risk for fractures might benefit by a calcium supplement, studies show that most people do not need a calcium supplement, and probably shouldn’t take one. Calcium supplementation can cause side effects like constipation and digestive issues, but there are far more serious risks to take into account.[2]

Cardiovascular disease and stroke are of the biggest concern. Large meta-analyses have shown that calcium supplements (that also contain vitamin D) increase the risk of myocardial infarction by 24 percent to 31 percent, and stoke by 15 percent to 19 percent.[2] In most cases, the benefits of taking a calcium supplement rarely outweigh the risks. One study estimates that if 1,000 people were to supplement with calcium/vitamin D for five years, only three fractures would be prevented, while six people would have a heart attack caused by the supplement.[2]

Luckily, the increased cardiovascular risk does not appear to relate to dietary calcium intake as well, only supplementation.[2] Researchers suggest that a diet with adequate calcium, vitamin D, protein, and vitamin B-12, with a lot of fruits and vegetables, can support proper bone health, whether or not it contains dairy.[1] Just be sure to make foods like kale, bok choy, and even sardines a more regular part of your diet.


[1] Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jun 4;100(Supplement 1):469S-475S. [Epub ahead of print]

[2] Ther Adv Drug Saf. 2013 Oct;4(5):199-210.

Contributing editor Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.

Photo by Dreamstime.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


When I sent out an email last week to family and friends announcing my latest blog post, I noted that it had been a year since I had completed and published my book, The Invisible Parenting Handbook.

I am fascinated with how quickly time passes, and how our goals evolve and age, with or without us. My book had been in my head and heart for years. I started and stopped writing it several times. Finally, two cheerleaders inspired me to finish by holding my feet to the fire with deadlines, editing my submissions to them, and encouraging me throughout the process. Without Lacey Hill and Susan Breitenstein, I might never have gotten this book to a place where I could hand it over to the other twelve editors who made my book come to life. Writing with dyslexia made 14 editors essential. A year ago, these 14 editors and I finished a book, my physical goal actualized.

Girl with Back pack 

With a continued passion for intentional parenting, the book has been just a part of a personal process to reach out to parents and share stories about setting road maps for raising responsible adults. The sub-goal status the book assumed mirrored my own parenting process, always fueled by further sub-goals: instilling healthy habits, fostering a responsibility for personal achievements and set-backs, and methodically releasing the reins of personhood into my daughter’s own hands.

The goal of writing a parenting book started me thinking about the idea of nature versus nurture, which I continue to consider today. Over the course of my life, I have seen a wonderful timid soul moved to destruction in the “wrong” environment, just as I have seen a soul bordering on sociopathy moved to goodness in the “right” environment. I know you can squeeze the life from a delicate soul through harshness, or tame a destructive soul with love. Sharing parenting experiences has taught me the vastness of parenting possibilities, and led me to a stronger belief in the potential of conscious and deliberate decisions.

Through the process of writing a parenting book, I have come to conclude that most every parenting style has a seat at the parenting table as long as it is intentional in love and forethought. I have been reminded continuously of the necessity of others, like my 14 generous editors, while pursuing seemingly personal paths. A year after publishing my book, my hope remains that The Invisible Parenting Handbook will find its way into many thoughtful hands, and that those reading the book will work toward their own goals with the intention it takes to raise responsible adults, and the humility to do so more richly, with the camaraderie of others.

What goals have you accomplished in your last year? Do you have a book or big goal that you want to accomplish next year? Who can you turn to for help to meet or beat your goals or deadlines?


The Invisible Parenting Handbook on Facebook
The Invisible Parenting Handbook website
The Invisible Parenting Handbook on Amazon
There’s Always Something Going Right
Giving The Love That Heals: A Guide for Parents

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Women have gathered since the dawn of humanity. For thousands and thousands of years, women have gathered throughout civilizations, ethnic groups and cultures around the world.

Women gather for specific purposes; women gather to share in the responsibility of the children of the village; women gather to sow seeds, women gather to harvest; women gather to cook and preserve food for their tribes; women gather to sing and dance and pray; women gather to make baskets, haul water, and to create beautiful functional art. Women today are busier than ever before. Villages have become sparse and women have become isolated in this modern world.  Women tend to lose sight of self care because we are the caregivers. When women gather, we renew the inner fire in our hearts, we brainstorm solutions to global problems, we connect to the earth in a profound and beautiful way. When women gather, they offer their hearts to the world. Women in my community have been gathering with the changing seasons, with the new moon, and with the equinox and solstice.


Women's circles hold the space for releasing and renewing, for broadening perspectives and for dreaming big. They offer a safe, gentle and nurturing space to grow and evolve through personal struggles. Women's circles honor Mother Earth, the elements, all life and the magnificence within all living things.

When women gather, boundaries are erased and vulnerabilities surface in order for growth to occur. Honoring the potential within all women, following our hearts throughout the journey and tapping into our innate intuition and ability to love and nurture are just fragments of the magic that occurs when women gather.


I began a Luna Circle in our town a few years back as a sacred support circle for a dear friend who was diagnosed with cancer. The healing space allowed her to release anger, frustration, anxiety, fears, and isolation associated with the battle with cancer. She fought hard. She was a warrior; she was still shining light on the world even with just months to live. Our friendship with her was one of gratitude and reverence. Our dear friend passed away in the spring of this year and she is sorely missed. She gave us a gift of clarity... to see the world through grateful eyes and to live every second as if it were your last. She has been an inspiration to everyone she has ever known. Read Legacy of Jaimie Hines to learn more about her.

Women's Circles are especially helpful for women working toward positive change for the environment within their communities. Most of the women in the circles I have attended work for Sierra Club, grow gardens or farm, teach children, create art or are in the field of nurturing modalities. Women who dedicate their lives to making the world a better place need each other to uplift, inspire and encourage one another through the process. Women thrive when they are given the opportunity to express their creativity.

In honor of every woman who has ever inspired you along the journey of life, hold a women's gathering to facilitate growth, to be uplifted and inspired and to cultivate lasting friendships within your community.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Hands at our Table

During the season of Thanksgiving, I continue to reflect on all that I have to be thankful for through a daily practice of giving thanks. I do my best to intentionally practice thanksgiving as least twice a day.

I begin my day with a practice of gratitude as I wake up in the early morning. Before I open my eyes, I recount a list of appreciation for foundational elements and moments in my life, such as my heath, family, friends, job, work team, our home, and the beautiful city we get to live in. This list varies from day to day, but just a little bit of time is enough to remember the list is ever growing. My days always go more smoothly when I acknowledge all that I have to be grateful for before getting out of my warm and cozy bed.

Often during my day I will go back to that space of gratitude in response to things that I witness. Whether it is seeing kindness between living beings, a stunning sunset, or experiencing good fortune that lands in my path, I try my best to continue to be mindful and give thanks.

In the evenings, sitting down to dinner, I share with my family another daily practice of giving thanks. Our foster son started this tradition 19 years ago, a tradition he’d learned while living with another foster family. Before dinner, they held hands, while each person appreciated something that had happened in their day. This simple act that we do before dinner each night has been an amazing gift. There have been nights when it has brought our family or our guests to tears. The touching moments of sharing in our abundance adds immeasurably to each member of our family’s lives. For the art of appreciation, and the many fortunes I have to appreciate, I am truly grateful.

What are your practices of giving thanks? Do you have a tradition you can share with others? What are you thankful for?


The Act of Giving Thanks
Giving Thanks: Can Gratitude Make Us Nicer?
Powerful Lessons in Gratitude
A Practical Guide to Gratitude

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Alex and I understand all too well how challenging life changes can be and this is why we've decided to post this insightful blog for you. I believe that there are life changes and challenges that can cause us to fall off track at times in our lives but it is how we pick up and move forward that matters most.

We want to encourage you with some practical and simple ways you can move forward in a positive and healthy direction. Before we begin however, I want to share a snippet of our story with you. I believe it will encourage you to continue to pursue health despite the challenges.

Alex and I have been in the Health & Wellness field combined for over 25 years and together for 10. It is amazing the growth we have both experienced and all that we have learned (primarily from our clients). We reached what we thought was the "pinnacle" of physical health and established ourselves as Experts in our little community. We were "all" about health.

In 2012 however, our entire world as we knew it changed. We faced challenges together as a couple that we had not yet faced and it left us emotionally "weak" and honestly, feeling pretty beat up. I found myself engaging in emotional eating as well. The stress of our situation left me tired and I slowly started gaining a little bit of weight. Nothing our clients really noticed, but I noticed! I knew I was not at my best and that our situation was getting the best of me.

After much reflection and running a very successful business in Florida for almost a decade, Alex and I made the decision to start fresh. We knew that doors were not opening and in fact, all doors seemed to be slamming shut in our faces. It was tiring, frustrating and I at times felt like I was losing that sense of "health" that I so boldly promoted for many years.

We packed up and moved our family to Atlanta, Ga. We literally made the decision to start all over again. We came to a new place, new community and started everything from the ground up (including our business). While this was a humbling experience that taught us both SO much, it was also challenging on every level. It forced us to reevaluate what mattered most and despite the tough times, to continue to press forward boldly (and positively!) as well as to pursue health.

Personally, it forced me to look at myself and realize that I needed to take my own words and example to get myself back on track. It wasn't like we moved here and everything was great overnight. It was a process to rebuild, rebrand, refocus and it was alot of work but every bit of it was worth it.

For the first time in almost a decade, I had to look in the mirror and be brutally honest with myself. I knew that I was not practicing on every level what I was preaching so I diligently refocused myself to getting back to where I knew I could be! I gained close to 20 pounds over what I was used to and did not like this at all. While I knew it was the stress, I also knew I had to do something.

For me, it was a process of setting goals and staying diligent and focused in my Faith. We all have different things that can reignite our fire but these are just a few that worked for me. I am going to share our gained knowledge from this experience that Alex and I endured with ways to transition through life's changes.

Feel free to modify and adjust accordingly to your life, just let the end result be a successful, happy and healthy you! You are worth it and your health is certainly worth it.

Ways to transition through life's changes:

1. Be honest with yourself and your situation - I start with this because it is the foundation. If you are not honestly looking at where you are, you won't be able to focus on where you want to be. For me, it was facing the fact that we needed to rebuild and move on. Knowing when to fight fires and when to walk away is a key component to life.

2. Faith - this looks different to everyone. For me, my faith is what got me through. It helped me keep my sanity and focus on the plan and path ahead. It gave me the strength I needed to press forward. This may look different to you and that is OK. The key is to hold onto faith and let go of the fears in your life.

3. Be Bold - it takes a certain boldness in your life to know that it is OK to move forward and transition through life changes. If you feel weak (I know I did!) just dig deep and find some alone time to reflect on where you are as well as the desires for your life. Make this your motivation!

4. Set goals - this is huge! No matter where your situation takes you, you can always set goals! Alex and I built a mini empire yet found ourselves starting all over. This was ok! Together, we started to set fresh new (reasonable) goals that motivated us through each stage of our journey. I also set a personal goal to compete again in a Figure competition. I ended up taking 9 short weeks of my life and dropped 22 pounds to step on stage in the best shape of my life. This got me back to where I knew I could be and it felt amazing to reach that goal. It brought back that spark and fire that I knew I had within me.

5. Be humble and know that your life and health is a journey. What I went through taught me that no matter how much I knew, how much experience I had or how much I had built in my life, that it all could go. There will always come a time where you have to sit and face the situation and take your own advice.

Above all, know this, if you do not take risks and if you aren't willing to fight for your life and your health, than what else gives? You are valuable and worth it and sometimes life will knock you on your tush! Keep pressing forward anyhow. Good will eventually come of it.

Today, only 17 short months after moving to Atlanta, Alex and I are thriving again. I am once again in the best shape of my life. We have an amazing new flourishing business and amazing clients. We have a very strong church family and we are stronger in our marriage than ever before. We have a rich new Community and we have had local articles published, filmed several healthy eating segments here in Atlanta as well as we teach classes in our Community and Church. We are growing day by day and I believe that this growth would not have taken place without the storm.

Be bold, be you and do not be afraid of life changes. Good can always come from the struggles if you allow it. This includes with your health as well! Here is to a happy and healthy you. We look forward to posting again soon!

Until next time,


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Lawn Mower

At a garage sale recently, my daughter and I bought some records to add to our dusty collection. While we compiled the new purchases with our old records, my family had a heck of a time controlling their laughter as we counted how many Barbra Streisand albums I own. I don’t care. I have listened to Barbra Streisand for at least 45 years. I have always enjoyed her voice, her sentiments are clear, and her songs inspiring.

I can't remember exactly when I first heard Barbra Streisand’s “Carefully Taught/Children Will Listen”— a mash-up of Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s “Carefully Taught” from South Pacific and Stephen Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods — but I know it was when our daughter was a little girl. I’d totally forgotten about “Children Will Listen” until recently when I was listening to Barbra's album Barbra Streisand Live in Concert 2006 while push-mowing our lawn — hopefully for the last time before winter sets in. Slight digression: I enjoy the sound of the blades swishing in and out of the music I’m listening to. And the physical energy and connection with the earth while push-mowing is lovely. In its outdated simplicity, such mowing reminds me that progress (gas mower) isn't always so progressive.

Anyhow, I put in my earbuds and started to listen to Barbra Streisand Live in Concert 2006. On the second track of the album, in “Jason’s Theme,” she speaks about the importance of actively parenting children over her son Jason’s instrumentals. The music is gentle and her sentiments about parenting are rich and full of wisdom. Then seamlessly, the track turns over to “Carefully Taught/Children Will Listen.” The words in this song are exactly what I look for in my music — wise, encouraging, and uplifting.

The points of the song that stand out for me are that children are sponges as well as lie detectors; they will watch your actions while they listen to your words. If there is a disconnect between thought and action, they will believe action over thought, and their memories of us long after we are gone will be the combination of both thought and action.

Here are my favorite lines: “What do you leave to your child when you're dead? Only whatever you put in its head.” And "Guide them but step away. Children will glisten." (Not a typo.)

When I am gone, I know my daughter will continue to glisten in her own light, and that light will be reflected in the memories of our intentional conversations, our laughter, and the love we shared. I also trust that she will remember me in the strength and integrity of consistent thoughts and character.

The song is most definitely worth a listen — I trust you might find a line or two that will resonate with you.

What song and music will inspire you and the children around you? What will you put in your children’s head by way of your example? And how will you guide them and step away?


Finale: Children Will Listen - Into The Woods
Modeling Behavior For Children Has Long Lasting Effects
Role Model the Behavior You Want to See From Your Kids
Getting Along Together: Developing Social Competence in Young Children

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Ebola virus

The Ebola virus is inherently a gloomy topic; it’s not cheerful, not fun. Ebola is an incredibly serious disease. Nevertheless, despite its terrible impact on people, it has a lot to teach us about our relationship with the world. More importantly, it can be treated — and not only with pharmaceuticals. Natural medicines can, in fact, be quite useful in helping prevent and treat not only Ebola, but other infections emerging from our impact on the planet.

In the fall of 2014, for the first time, Ebola virus disease (EVD — commonly called "Ebola" now) broke out of the African nations and reached (via airplane, as epidemiologists had long predicted it would) the United States, which caused, inevitably, a great deal of fear and subsequent panic.

One thing that became clear early on is that the United States and its legions of medical professionals were woefully unprepared — they just did not handle the arrival of the virus well. From improper sterile procedures and quarantines in the hospitals to the Centers for Disease Control allowing an infected nurse to fly on a plane with 140 other people (the worst-case scenario) the system immediately showed how unsuited it is to handling the emergence of a deadly, invasive pathogen.

Despite its fearsome nature, Ebola is only one of scores of emerging pathogens that the human species now faces. The problem, at root, is environmental — inextricably interwoven into our burgeoning population numbers and resultant impacts on the Earth’s ecosystems. Unfortunately the problems are only going to worsen as our numbers continue to rise and more landscape is altered for our use.

To get an idea of just how much impact our population increases are having, in 1950 the United States population was 150 million. In 1980 it was 226 million. In 2010 it was 308 million. Currently it is near 321 million. When I was born in 1952, the United States was structured around 170 million fewer people than it is now. All those additional people have needed houses and food and clothing and cars and jobs — and that need has put tremendous pressure on the Earth’s ecosystems. So, more forests are cut, more houses are then built in formerly undisturbed ecosystems. More land is turned to agricultural use, again disturbing habitat, in a process that is occurring across the globe.

The infectious pathogens that spring into our consciousness as the Ebola epidemic has done do so because they are jumping species. When their habitat and natural hosts are disturbed, they jump into new hosts, specifically humans, and we experience an epidemic. As population continues to increase (U.S. population is estimated to increase by another 100 million by 2060), more pressure will be put on formerly undisturbed habitat and more pathogens will jump species. Population problems, unfortunately, have a horrible way of correcting themselves; when we are the only large mammal species left, the pathogens have little option left except us for a host.

Viruses and bacteria have been around for some 4 billion years, we have been around perhaps 100,000. They have a lot more experience surviving than we do. It is an inescapable problem, a grim one that we are going to have to grapple with one way or another. The world is not, as many in the West have come to think it, a vast parkland existing for our amusement. It is a living, highly interactive ecological scenario, filled with highly intelligent organisms that respond when we disturb their world. The emergence of new pathogens is now happening with some regularity, as the emergence of Enterovirus D68 — also in 2014 — demonstrates.

As with many newly emerging pathogens, Ebola is fairly new to science. It was only discovered in 1976 during an outbreak in the Republic of Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Four species of Ebola subsequently were determined to cause human disease; the virus responsible for the 2014 outbreak is the Zaire variant which causes anywhere from a 40 to a 90 percent mortality rate. As with most in this genus, this variant is highly virulent and actively subverts both the innate and adaptive immune responses. The subversion of the immune response is a hallmark of many emerging stealth pathogens; it is one of the reasons they are so hard to treat. Although up to half of those infected are able to successfully mount an immune defense, in the rest, the virus so subverts the immune response that the disease quickly progresses to an acute hemorrhagic fever, which is often fatal.

Infection generally occurs from direct contact with infected bodily fluids such as the blood, vomit and diarrhea that accompany the disease. Infection through direct skin contact with an infected person (often through their sweat) or through contact with blankets infected people have used has also been documented, but is much less common. There is some concern among virologists that the disease could mutate to an infectious airborne type, but this has not been documented so far. And, of course, this mutation is the major problem with emerging pathogens, especially viruses.

Many of the stealth pathogens, such as the Lyme spirochetes and Ebola, are capable of extremely fast alterations of their genomic structure. It is more accurate to think of them as a genomic swarm rather than a collection of individual viruses and bacteria. Once they enter the body they immediately create multitudes of genetic variants which excel at hiding from the immune system. And, of course, at the same time they carefully modulate the host’s immune responses, altering it from the type of response specifically designed to deal with intracellular pathogens like Ebola (a Th1 response) into one that is not (a Th2 response).

Blood sample

As with most viruses, onset is flu-like with the usual fever, chills and so on, generally after a 4- to 10-day incubation period. A rash often appears around Day 5  — which is the only way to differentiate Ebola in its early stages from the flu. Generally, the liver, spleen, kidneys, adrenal glands and endothelial structures are heavily infected, often leading to organ failure and necrosis. During fatal infections, the endothelial structures that line the vascular system fail. They become porous and the blood begins to flow into the body cavities and out of every opening in the body. This is the essential nature of fatal hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola. These latter stages of the infection are caused by what is called a cytokine storm, which produces septic shock. Cytokines are small messenger molecules the body uses during infections and in response to cellular tissue damage — many cytokines are involved in inflammation processes. Once they are over-stimulated, septic shock and hemorrhagic blood loss can occur. This is the dynamic that occurred during the 1918 flu epidemic that infected some 500 million people and killed perhaps 50 million worldwide.

Although technological medicine can sometimes successfully treat emerging pathogens such as Ebola, doing so is often difficult. In general, hospitals deal with these diseases through intravenous fluid replacement, balancing and replacing electrolytes, keeping blood pressure up — in essence, palliative care. Massive transfusions can sometimes help, as well as the use of antibodies from someone who has survived the disease. Outcome is generally dependent on the health of the individual's immune system. In other words, the poorer your immune health, the worse your outcome is likely to be.

Many people who are working with stealth and emerging pathogens are focusing on interrupting the cytokine cascade that these pathogens initiate in the body. If the viruses or bacteria are stopped from initiating inflammation, symptoms decrease and, quite often, the disease progression is interrupted and the infection's impacts on the immune system are modulated. In addition, protecting the affected organs is crucial, specifically again: the liver, spleen, endothelial cells, kidneys and adrenals.

Pharmaceuticals are generally ineffective in accomplishing this; it just never has been the orientation of that approach to work with that kind of sophistication. Technological medicine has, with bacteria, focused primarily on killing the bacteria through the use of antibiotics. With viruses, the focus has been on the use of vaccines which, in some instances such as polio, have been very effective. Still, very few pharmaceutical antivirals exist. And there are few pharmaceuticals (though there are some) that can modulate cytokine profiles. Plant medicines, on the other hand, are capable of that kind of sophistication and can be extremely effective in treating stealth pathogens, protecting organs from damage, and directly killing viral pathogens.

A fairly wide range of plants has been found useful for interfering with viral penetration of host cells, as well as stopping the ability of viruses to replicate inside cells. Some of the better broad-spectrum antivirals are Chinese skullcap root (Scutellaria baicalensis), isatis (Isatis tinctoria), houttuynia (Houttuynina cordata), and licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp). Elder (Sambucus spp) is also good as an antiviral for this pathogen as it is directly active against Ebola viruses (though it has to be prepared differently from nearly all commercially available forms).

Here is a protocol to deal with Ebola infections, it can also be used prophylactically to help prevent infection. (Please note the following dosage guidelines are, at the lower end, protective; at the higher end, for use during early infection. Long-term use of these amounts is contraindicated.)

General antiviral formulation: Isatis, Chinese skullcap root, and licorice, equal parts of the tinctures, 1 tablespoon 3 to 6 times daily. The skullcap and licorice are also synergists, which will help increase the effectiveness of other herbs, supplements and pharmaceuticals that are being used. Licorice and skullcap root modulate IFN-gamma production and help move the body back to a Th1 immune response. Licorice helps protect the adrenals and kidneys. All the herbs in this formulation help reduce or reverse Ebola cytokines.

Elder tincture: Needs to be produced from stem, leaf, and berries as outlined in my book Herbal Antivirals (See The MOTHER EARTH NEWS store to purchase. — Mother). Elder is a strong emetic for some people so dose to your vomit tolerance, from 1/4 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon 3 to 6 times daily. (Meaning, if it makes you throw up, back off a bit.)

Genistein powder: 1 teaspoon 3 to 6 times daily. Inhibits both infection with the virus and transduction in infected cells.

Reishi (Ganoderma spp) tincture: 1 teaspoon 3 to 6 times daily. Directly increases IFN-a levels, increasing the killing power of the immune system toward the virus.

Milk Thistle Seed (Silybum marianum): standardized capsules, 2500 mg 3 to 6 times daily. Protects the liver and contains compounds that reduce viral replication and penetration of cells.

Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhizae) tincture: 1 tablespoon tincture 3 to 6 times daily. Protects the spleen, enhances immune function, reduces cytokine cascade.

Japanese knotweed root (Polygonum cuspidatum): 1 tablespoon of powder or tincture 3 to 6 times daily. Protects endothelial cell integrity, reduces cytokine cascade.

Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) can also be of use. The herb has been found to contain molecular compounds that are a perfect match for docking with the Ebola virus, specifically the part of the virus that docks with host cells. Since the herb’s molecule has a stronger affinity for the virus than host cells, it can potentially work to stop viral docking with host cells. The herb  also has some good antiviral actions and can modulate immune function. 1 tablespoon of the tincture 3 to 6 times daily. Caution: This herb can cause severe hives in about 1 percent of the people who take it.

Although technological medicine is not good at handling cytokine storms and septic shock, herbs are very good at helping reduce the condition. This is because plants are exceptionally good at modulating cytokine expression in the body and shutting down bacterial and viral cytokine production. (Plants can’t run, they can’t hide, they can’t call the doctor and they have been dealing with bacterial and viral infections for several hundred million years. In consequence, they make their own medicines. The following herbal regimen has been found successful (in vivo) to reduce, even eliminate, septic shock. Given the acute circumstances of septic shock, the doses need to be high and frequent.

To reduce cytokine storm/septic shock (all of the following are tinctures):

1. Angelica sinensis/Astragalus spp: equal parts, 1 tablespoon each hour

2. Salvia miltiorrhiza: 1 tablespoon each hour

3. Kudzu (Pueria lobata)/Cordyceps: equal parts, 1 tablespoon each hour

4. Licorice/Chinese skullcap root: equal parts, 1 tablespoon each hour

As time goes on, we will, unfortunately, keep experiencing these kinds of emerging disease complexes. Still, we can educate ourselves and begin to accumulate our own medicines for use when we need them. The system that is in place is, as the recent Ebola outbreak showed, not all that good at it. That does not mean we have to settle for it: We can take our health in our hands, empower ourselves, and prepare for the future. If we want to and are willing.

NOTE: Buhner's book, Herbal Antivirals, includes 51 pages of detailed chapter notes and scientific references and citations supporting this article. -- MOTHER

(Top) Photo by Fotolia/CedarchisCociredeF: The Ebola virus is fairly new to science, having been discovered as recently as 1976.

(Bottom) Photo by Fotolia/Giovanni Cancemi: Infection occurs with direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or vomit.


Most of the plant medicines Buhner mentions are available at health food stores, natural grocers or online. His books, Herbal Antibiotics and Herbal Antivirals, provide detailed information on how to make your own medicines. Here are some of his favorite sources for herbal products:

Elk Mountain Herbs
Healing Spirits Herb Farm
Mountain Rose Herbs
Pacific Botanicals
Sage Woman Herbs
Woodland Essence
Zack Woods Herbs

Stephen Harrod Buhner is a renowned herbalist and the author of 20 books on nature, indigenous cultures, the environment and herbal medicine. He lectures regularly throughout the United States, and advocates the reincorporation of the artist, independent scholar, amateur naturalist and citizen scientist in U.S. society as a counterweight to the influence of corporate science and technology. 

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