Ryan Drum

Island Herbs

P O Box 25, Waldron, WA 98297-0025

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Community Herbalist: Case Studies from an Island Herbalist

Southwest Conference on Botanical Medicine April 13-14 2013


There are no resident physicians on the remote island where I have lived for 32 of the past 35 years. The full time population is ca. 50, with up to 250 summerfolk, July-August each summer. Often in the dark six months (October-March) rough weather prevents the possibility for leaving the island for medical emergencies. We are blocked by wind and waves, in which case we are on our own. When asked, I provide care and advice and some health/human biology education, for acute and chronic trauma and pathology. I use first aid, herbs and behaviour change suggestions. Any herbs used are provided w/o cost to my neighbors. Below is a sampling of cases and remedies used.


Not only w/o physicians or physician's assistants or a clinic, our island, not connected by bridge nor ferry to other islands nor the US mainland, has no pharmacy or other retail general merchandise shop selling either prescription or OTC medicines. Consequently, not only must we diagnose and treat our respective health problems, we often need to make our own medicines. I try to use simple herbal preparations, in descending order of preferences: teas, soaks, compresses, poultices, oils, salves, tinctures for single-issue injuries and pathologies. I promote herbal medicines which can be prepared from local, readily available plants, many all year-around.

When possible, I teach the person involved how to make their own medicines, asking, nay, insisting, they write out the medicine-making instructions. I also show them where to harvest the herbs. In each case I encourage the person to keep a detailed personal case history diary, recording all observed changes in symptoms, and rating on a scale 1-10, any improvements, setbacks, progressions, and resolution. The readily available ringbound daily/weekly Dayminder appointment books are especially handy for personal case histories. I strongly advise against digital recording, due to systems fragility.


For cases beyond my probable competence (compound bone fractures, serious head injuries, deep chainsaw wound, large area deep burns, rapidly-growing tumours, renal cardiac failure) I usually urge Medivac by boat or helicopter, weather permitting. Otherwise, we do whatever we can to help.


  1. Vibrio from raw summer oysters - Herb Robert (Geranium Robertianum)
  2. Acute Blood poisoning - Oregon Grape Root Tea/Poultices, Topical Soaks
  3. Postpartum maternal bleeding - Shepard's Purse Tea, Cayenne/Cinnamon powders in 00 capsules
  4. Hornet stings - Yarrow spit poultice(s) Self Heal poultices
  5. Deep soft-tissue lacerations - Butterfly bandages
  6. Early Flu onset - Strong Yarrow Tea, chewed Lomatium nudicale seeds
  7. Aged male dysuria - Strong Goldenrod (S. odora) tea, fresh leaves
  8. Non-resolving enlarging open dermal lesions - Fresh Plantain spit poultices
  9. Compound chronic Pneumonia - Chapparal (Larrea tridentate) tea, oil, tincture, vinegar, fresh leaves
  10. Insomnia - Indian Pipe TX (Monotropa uniflora)
  11. Benign solid tumour - Fig leaf/Celandine salve
  12. Cystic hemorrhoid - Pacific Silverweed poultices (Potentilla pacifica)
  13. Solid Hemorrhoid - Yarrow & Dalmatian Toadflax salve (Linaria genistifolia)
  14. Pseudomeasles - Stop drinking Lomatium Root tincture (L. dissectum)
  15. Enlarging post-impact trauma large bruise - Hawthorn TX, Indian Pipe TX with intense pain and insomnia
  16. Burning urination - Eat less black pepper sauce
  17. Juvenile dry cough - Grindelia, Butterbur, Populous TX
  18. Juvenile earaches - Mullein tops/Garlic oil
  19. Soft tissue Sarcoma - Sargassum Seaweed,Fresh Sheep sorrel
  20. Hives - Selfheal, Plantain, Yarrow spit poultices
  21. Bee stings same as above
  22. Recurring raw bleeding mouth sores - Thorough Sleuthing
  23. Male frequent nighttime urinary urgency events- strong Couch Grass Tea
  24. Graves Disease - Melissa slurry, Quell Iodine intake, increase daily consumption of raw Brassicas, eliminate dairy, stop eating red meat
  25. Genital Herpes- daily consumption of powdered Prionitis red seaweed


Cystic postpartum hemorrhoid:

At the County dock one day, a neighbor woman asked if we could take a little walk along the beach for a private talk. I said of course.

As we walked along she said she had a troublesome recurring solitary postpartum hemorrhoid of 8 years' duration, that was finally too large and painful to tolerate. Could I suggest some herbal cure? Remembering the story of L.'s solid hemorrhoid successfully resolving with herbal salve, A. wondered if the same treatment would work for her hemorrhoid. I asked if A.'s hemorrhoid was solid or mostly fluid-filled she said it was pliable, and seemed fluid-filled, cystic. I explained to her that the solid growth on L. was a benign tumor, whereas A.'s was a bag of fluid in expanded vascular tissue.

So, we would use the traditional Coast Salish treatment. These coastal Natives spent a lot of long hours sitting/kneeling/squatting in big cedar canoes and anal hemorrhoids were apparently a common affliction, especially postpartum. The treatment was to use a topical wash/poultice made with a strongly astringent native plant, a seamarsh plant, Pacific Silverweed, Potentilla pacifica, a type of cinquefoil, in the rose family. In addition to being medicinal, it was cultivated by the Natives for thousands of years in large flat saltmarsh areas and dug for its "edible" roots, called biscuit roots after the plump enlargements of the long deep roots, which were long-term storage organs for the plants, down as much as 18 inches in dense soils.

The plant is quite common on my island in the abandoned native marsh gardens, including the marsh in front of A's cabin. All parts of the plant are medicinally effective as an astringent, leaves and roots. Since it was November, there were a few remaining vital leaves, but we managed to pick about 4-6 ounces of leaves and several ounces of fresh roots. I told her to wear a diaper analog with smashed Silverweed material directly on the hemorrhoid and proximal tissue until the hemorrhoid resolved. If no improvement by two weeks, please call me. The topical treatment should be able to completely shrink the hemorrhoid and heal the surrounding tissue and help strengthen the vein from which it erupted. Fortunately, all of the hoped for results occurred by about 2-3 months. There was no lesion examination on my part, since I am loath to be examining hemorrhoids on other men's wives, and trusted A explicitly. Two years later, the hemorrhoid had not recurred, a first in 10 years.

Vibrio Acute Diarrhea

A near relative of Vibrio Cholera, the bacterium responsible for Cholera and thousands of human deaths yearly, V. vulnificus can grow in oysters, crabs and some other shellfish in warmer marine waters over circa 65oF, mostly in the summer months. The symptoms are severe abdominal cramping, violent uncontrollable diarrhea, dizziness, great thirst. Death can result from dehydration and loss of electrolytes. We usually eat the oysters year around since we think our waters remain too cold to support V. vulnificus growth in our shellfish.

In a protected special bay, with southern midday sun exposure, oysters grow abundantly and big. A casual shore walker, one fine July day, got an irrepressible urge to eat a plump oyster or two so big and appealing. Popped them open did he and popped them down in a quick poach.
And, feeling real good, he meandered inland towards his cabin slowly. Some 2-3 hours later he called me in a great dither and described the classic symptoms of shellfish vibrio. I knew nothing at that time about shellfish vibrio but decided to deal with the awful symptoms, namely quelling the explosive diarrhea. I went to him where his woodland cabin was surrounded by lots of lush invasive Herb Robert (Geranium Robertianum) and pulled up dozens of big plants with tiny reddish brown taproots. I clipped off the roots and gave a bunch for him to chew up and swallow. He did. And more, and more, and more.

The diarrhea stopped in about an hour and did not resume. I also gave him a kelp sandwich, about 15 gm (½ oz.) of powdered Nereo Kelp spread on a piece of toast drenched in olive oil to hold the kelp powder on the toast, to replace his electrolytes. (Nereo Kelp is 25-30% dry weight minerals in the summer months.) Especially Potassium, Sodium, Calcium, and Magnesium.

No more symptoms remained nor returned. Soiled clothing lurked awhile as lessons material. A distinct loss of enthusiasm for raw oysters still obtains and jokes by neighbors are not appreciated.

Non-resolving enlarging open dermal lesions

It was our habit after a long day out on the water harvesting Bull Kelp Fronds, and hanging them one by one in the late afternoon on almost a mile of recycled stainless steel trolling wire, to sit by my cabin , eating grains and greens and drinking homebrew, especially Oregon grape root ale, recounting our various adventures in three separate little harvesting skiffs and just simple talk. There were 5 female apprentices that particular lovely long evening when we heard a loud crashing and roaring of a truck engine in seeming desperation to get as close to us a possible (no road goes to my cabin). From previous decades of similar truck noises, I suspected some sort of medical emergency and alerted the crew to that probability. Eventually two handsome somewhat disheveled neighbor lads teetered up the hill and jovially joined us. They seemed alright to me…maybe a bit inebriated perhaps. After introductions and small talk all around, some obvious nervous flirting (single young men had a habit of appearing spontaneously when I had young single female helpers), one fellow pointed at the other and said, L. wants to buy your truck. With three trucks, all decrepit and in intensive care, I was incredulous. (Later I did learn that this was a ploy to justify the sudden visit). L looked surprised. Which truck, I asked. The orange one, replied L. after some nervous hesitation. It doesn't run anymore, I said.

That's no problem, said L. (Dreamer, I thought to myself). An aspiring logger and sawyer, he had admired my 1960 International Cherokee 4WD Scout as I drove up steep logging roads and down to the water's edge to get loads of fresh seaweeds for garden fertilizer. Apparently in his less lucid moments he actually lusted after that hussy of a truck. Well, I said, that will be $500. The apprentices glanced amongst themselves in disbelief $500. for a truck that didn't run and probably would not ever do so again, seemed cruel. Plus, I said, you will have to pay cash for it. D. promptly pulled out a dirty roll of bills and peeled off 5 $100 bills and handed them to me. I hardly saw the bills; instead I was fascinated by the three bleeding open nearly circular deep wounds on the backs of D.'s fingers and hand. Don't you want the money now, demanded D.? Oh, yeah, sure, thanks. I could hardly talk. Go get the title and sign it over to L. said D. Of course, I said. I knew they would not leave without the title, and they would chat up the fems in my absence. I was thinking about those angry lesions on D.'s hand. What had caused them?
Eventually I located the title and registration and signed them over and took them outside to see the crew all laughing and counter-flirting. Ah, youth.

D. took the documents with his left hand, the lesioned hand, and I asked him what had happened to his hand. Amazingly, he held out his left index finger and pointed to a long just-healed linear fresh line of scar from fingertip to the bottom knuckle. I had not even noticed the scar. That, said D., was where I ran a tile knife into my finger whilst cutting some very tough flooring material about a month ago. (D. was a tile setter and sheet flooring installer.) It was bleeding a lot and wide open, so my helper took me to the clinic and the woman doctor sewed it up. Nice job, eh? Oh, very nice I said. But, D., what about those four open sores weeping and bleeding on the back of your left hand? Oh, those, he said. That was where the Doc held my hand while she stitched the cut. Those sores started a few days after the stitching. After two weeks they were getting bigger and so I went back to the clinic and asked the Doctor what they were. She asked me if I was allergic to Latex. I said, a little bit sometimes I get sores like that from tile mastic splashed onto my legs or arms. They usually go away after awhile. She said that those sores seemed to correspond to the contact points of the latex glove she was wearing when D.'s finger was stitched up.

Unfortunately, she said, we don't know how to treat those latex allergy lesions that keep enlarging. BINGO!! In 1980 or thereabouts, Michael Moore on one of his famous herbal adventure trips had encountered similar non-healing lesions (a student, perhaps?) and immediately got the crew to chewing up Plantain spit poultices which were applied live and wet directly to those lesions. They resolved.
Molly Webb from Georgia was in that class (and later managed Michael's store, Herbs, Etc for awhile), and was amazed by what seemed a miraculous herbal cure.

A few years later, back in Athens, Georgia, she had opened her own Herbal Shop, Turtle Island Herbs. I was visiting her shop (on the top floor of the same building with the legendary "Blue Bell Café" on the ground floor, alleged site of the founding of both REM and the B-52'S Outstanding rock groups) in summer of 1984, and discussing cases when she mentioned that she had been treating several men with severe sores who were workers at a local fiberglas fabrication plant in Athens.

Several of them had presented with deep open hand and arm lesions that did not heal and seemed to be enlarging. She had started treating them with continuous Plantain Spit Poultices, including teaching them to chew up the Plantain and pack the spit plus Plantain wad loosely into neoprene rubber gloves for long-term poultice-lesion contact. For those who were persistent and compliant, the lesions healed completely in several weeks. She also suggested that the workers might consider seeking alternative employment.

She later learned that the workers at the Fiberglas plant were required to wear protective gear, including gloves. Molly also learned that sharp fiberglas fibers would get into the gloves and dig into the webbing between the workers' fingers. That was where the lesions were most likely to start.

Ten years later I was observing similar sores on D.'s hand. Immediately I recounted the situation in Athens and the use of Plantain spit poultices to my merry crew who were lounging in the midst of scores of robust Plantago lanceolata plants with big succulent leaves. All began to chew up big spit wads of Plantain leaves whilst I tried to explain to D. that we were going to put his left hand into a large-sized black neoprene rubber glove loosely packed with the copious Plantain spit balls. I dashed into my cabin and returned with the glove and we all packed in the Plantain and helped D. insert his hand.

I then told him that he should change the glove out every 4-8 hrs and repeat the filling with fresh Plantain spit poultice wads of his own making/chewing. I explained to all that P.lanceolata contains epidermal growth factor, as do each of our respective salivas. A spit poultice of P. lanceolata thus carries a double whammy of epidermal growth factor, presumably skin repair supportive and perhaps stimulative.

About 6-8 weeks later, D. showed up at my place with scarred patches where his 4 lesions had been. L. was able to get the old Scout going, and used it in his work until it refused to cooperate and was pastured out.

Compound Chronic Pneumonia

Each winter when my sons were in grades 1-8 in our local all-grades one-room school house and there were few herbs and seaweeds to harvest we would take 1-3 month adventure trips. In 1990 we went to the deserts of SW US and NW Mexico for 5-6 weeks.

Several weeks later snow was falling lightly when we were on Orcas Island waiting to catch a boat ride back to Waldron Island. We went to the local healthy food store, Orcas Homegrown, to get some fresh fruit and say hello to the owners, our dear friends. As I came up to the counter the woman owner exclaimed "Ryan Drum!! You are just the person we need. Oliver here is dying from some strange lung/ chest illness. He has been given two courses of very strong broad-spectrum antibiotics and keeps getting worse. He has lost a lot of weight and is very weak. He can't even pick up his new young son. I told Oliver you might be able to help him, and here you are. Where did you get that fine tan?"

I was a bit overwhelmed. We had several hours before our boat ride was ready to take us across to our island.

I looked seriously at Oliver, a famous local actor of great talent and formerly a robust handsome lad now, a pale feverish shrunken ghastly picture of sickness heavily bundled in a heavy overcoat and several sweaters and thick wool scarf, and wool hat, shivering in the overheated store. He was not acting this time. Just before we began our departure from the Sonora desert, the boys and I had harvested a large quantity of Larrea tridentata to bring home to dry and make oil, vinegar, tincture, and to eat fresh on kelp sandwiches, and to preserve lard if we could get some to render out.

Some obscure entries in Sam Hicks' Of Desert Plants and Peoples had referred to native use of Chaparral steams and tea to cure severe respiratory ailments. I decided to give the strongest herb I knew, El Gobonador, a chance to help poor sick Oliver.

Oliver, I said, I might be able to help you. I have just harvested a very powerful healing herb in the Sonoran desert and it may save you. You must do everything I tell you.

Jeanne answered for him, "he will, he has no other option except death".

We drove out into the snowstorm to Oliver's place, following him in our burly Suburban full of Chaparral. I brought in a huge paper shopping bag of Larrea. On the way to Oliver's I had stopped at the state liquor shop and purchased a fifth of good brandy for a tincture of Chaparral he and Irene already had vinegar, bread, salad dressing. I started the tincture and told him to drink 15cc (1/2 oz) each day with food. I showed him how to make a chaparral open face sandwich with nut butter or olive oil as a dressing and a complete layer of fresh chaparral leaves and small twigs on top of the oil or butter. He was to eat at least one half such sandwich every day. We made Chaparral vinegar (stuffed about 4oz of leaves and very resinous twigs into the partially emptied quart of apple cider vinegar) and told him to use 1-2 ounces each day on fresh leafy salads.

Then, we placed some 4-6 ounces of larger branches of Larrea into a 5-gallon bucket and poured hot water over them and had Oliver breath in as much of the steam as he could. Do this twice daily. Do not put Chaparral in the tub and soak I sternly warned him.

He or Irene could send messages with the mailboat as needed. YOU MUST BE COMPLIANT TO SURVIVE I insisted. My sons and I each ate a Chaparral-peanut butter sandwich before leaving.

We wondered about what happened to Oliver when we did not get any news for 2-3 months Eventually a happy note arrived exclaiming that Oliver was still alive and all well.

Thank you very much.

Circa ten years later in that same healthy food store, a strange man came up to me and asked if I was Ryan Drum? I allowed as how I was. "Thank you for saving my life!!!"

Who are you, I asked. Its me, Oliver, who took the Chaparral cure, he excitedly exclaimed. This is my son…… Greetings and hugs galore "I still remember the horrible taste and smell of that Chaparral and never want to taste or smell it again". OK.

Seven years later I got a frantic call from his then current wife who said he, Oliver, was in a terrible state of sickness, could I possibly help?

I asked her to elaborate before agreeing to anything. "Oliver had a hankering to just try a little of the remaining Chaparral tincture a few days ago and within about 24 hours, many of the symptoms of his illness from almost 20 years ago returned". Amazing.

I told her to have him walk a lot, drink excessive amounts of plain water and discard any and all bits and fluids remaining from his earlier Chaparral Blitzkrieg and to avoid Chaparral ever after. He has apparently and no further pathology echoes.

Thank goodness.

Male Painful Burning Urination

One glorious gloomy island day near the dock, whilst I was bailing out about 100 gallons of fresh rainwater from my kelping skiff, a comely female neighbor snuck up and surprised me, as she exclaimed in an agitated rush, “I must talk to you!! PLEASE!!. She was obviously distraught*. I calmly put down my well-used bleach bottle baler (strong material, solar and saltwater resistant) and sat down on a nearby piece of cedar driftwood. “What is it?” I asked slowly, hoping to trank out any nascent developing hysteria. (Hysteria, of course, is a potentially important self-healing modality.) ”IT’S B!! “ (Her male partner), she exclaimed. “He’s experiencing terrible painful burning in his penis whenever he urinates”. I suspected there might be some other downstream consequences in addition to burning urination. I delicately inquired about: when began? (sudden onset, 2-3 days previous hematuria? (pink or red urine, possibly indicating UTI, passing one or more kidney stones), not noticeably, lower abdomen/crotch trauma? No. I also inquired about any accompanying anal burning, as from hot red chilis. None. Was she experiencing painful/burning urination? No.

What about dietary changes, especially harsh spices such as horseradish, Wasabi paste, black pepper in days just prior to onset of painful urination? Silence.

Well, she said, when we were just offisland, we got some wonderful super strong black pepper (Piper nigrum) sauce at Trader Joe’s. B. loves it and has been eating a lot of it on most of his food at every meal: on eggs, beans, oatmeal, rice, stirfry, burgers. He says it makes the food really exciting. BINGO!!

I carefully explained that black pepper is in some cases a stimulating libido booster, circulation stimulant, strong diuretic and known male urinary tract irritant, especially when taken in an extracted form, such as Hot Pepper Sauce. I told her to have B. stop using any pepper sauce for 2-3 days and get back to me , especially if the burning painful sensations during urination continue after stopping ingesting the pepper sauce phone is ok.

Three days later she sent me a short enthusiastic note of thanks via intra-island mail, saying all symptoms resolved, thank you very much, and no lingering negative side affects.

Case: Male Graves Hyperthyroid Disease

A 50 yr old male from another island called me one fine summer day, inquiring if he could arrange a consultation with me regarding his physician-diagnosed Graves Hyperthyroidism. I was agreeable, especially since I was already planning to visit his island in a few days. We quickly arranged a time and place.

On a warm summer day we met outside and he described his case with minimal questions from me.

He had been diagnosed with Graves’ Disease after consulting a physician about the following symptoms: heart palpitations, sleeplessness, a burden of anxiety, some weight loss, loss of joy from formerly happy activities some modest swelling of his thyroid gland but, no overt goiter, no proptosis. Thyroid panel bloodwork seemed to confirm the diagnosis: very low TSH, very high T4, and T3, and tshAB.

The physician prescribed PTU, 100mg/day.

The PTU helped his blood thyroid panel numbers improve to near normal ranges, symptom severity mostly resolved, but not his increasingly persistent sense of joylessness.

After about 18 months on PTU, he decided out of a certain desperation to stop taking PTU. Within 6 weeks all of his Graves’ symptoms returned and his TSH was less than 0.1, basically undetectable. His primary physician put him back on the 100mg/day PTU and explained to him that medical remission after recurring Graves was unlikely with just medication. Radioactive Ablation with radioactive Iodine (frying the thyroid gland out of existence) or thyroidectomy surgery were his only realistic longterm therapeutic possibilities for curing his Graves’ disease. He was alarmed by the prospect of either treatment and decided to stay on PTU whilst he thought it over for up to a year.

Whilst complaining about this to a friend, the friend (who had attended one of my local Thyroid Health Maintenance workshops) suggested he contact me and try to arrange a consultation.

So. There we were.

What should I do, he asked.

I basically explained Thyroid Biology 101 to him and made the following suggestions:

  1. Try to understand and/or eliminate the chronic unresolvable stressors in his everyday life. Graves’ Hyperthyroidism can be initiated or exacerbated by ongoing unresolvable stressor burdens. To help facilitate this, Learn Yoga body, breath, and meditation techniques, practice healing visualizations.
  2. Reduce to a minimum dietary Iodine intake: = eliminate all dairy, all seafood (especially seaweeds), all red meat, flour products, inorganic fruits and vegetables.
  3. Eat large quantities of RAW GREEN BRASSICAS: Kale, Cabbage, Cress, Collards, Arugala.
  4. Use Melissa (Lemon Balm) or Bugleweed (Lycopus) tinctures to block TSH receptor sites on thyroid gland follicular cell surfaces.
  5. Cultivate fresh Melissa and replace the tinctures with 5-8 gm FRESHLY CHOPPED Melissa leaves daily.
  6. Reduce (with physician’s approval) PTU dosage to 50mg/day after 6-9 months.
  7. Continue to get tested for thyroid numbers every 3-6 months thru regular primary physician.
  8. When TSH, T4, T3, and TSHAB are within mid-normal range, stop PTU.

He immediately began doing healing visualizations, studied stress-reduction Yoga and breathing technique.

He took Melissa tincture for 3 years whilst his Melissa patch developed. He then took the Melissa leaves for four years.

When he was tested just previous to speaking with me, his TSH was undetectable. Within 6 months, it was 2.15, midrange

Within a year of speaking with me, and following my advice, he contacted me to let me know he was feeling better than he had in his entire previous adult life.

He stopped taking PTU 18 months after we spoke with no return of Graves’ symptoms. Eight years after we spoke, he remains Graves’ free and is in excellent health.

Male Frequent nocturnal urination episodes (Nocturia)

One fine sunny Autumn day whilst I was meandering uphill from our seaside log cabin Post Office building, a male agrarian neighbor, fit, early 60’s, tidy, came alongside and asked if he could talk to me. I was completely agreeable, and we wandered to a quiet roadside spot. “What is it”, I asked.

“I need to get up several times every night to piss. It is exhausting me because of the sleep interruption. It has been getting worse for over 5 years. I have been to a urologist who said my PSA was slowly rising, my prostate gland was slightly enlarged, and said I should come back in a year to have it all checked and maybe have a biopsy. He prescribed some medication (forgotten what, but that did not relieve the nocturia). The next year he suggested Saw Palmetto extract, mentioned the PSA was higher, and did a biopsy (horrible experience). The results of the biopsy were not definitive/uncertain. Come back next year.

He took the Saw Palmetto for 2 years and noticed no improvement. He had 3 more biopsies which showed some abnormal cells, but nothing clearly malignant. Did I have some herb(s) he could take to lesson or quell the nocturia? I said, “maybe”, and asked him some questions about water intake, possible cystitis bladder infection, stds, cryptic evening diuretic consumption (coffee, green tea, herbal teas, apple cider, alcoholic beverages, especially beer) to ascertain if actual water consumption was promoting/exacerbating regular nocturia. No. I advised him to stop the Saw Palmetto, stop all daytime methyl xanthines, and evening alcoholic beverage consumption.

“But, what about any herbs?” He asked.

I asked him if he was familiar with the invasive field weed, “Couch Grass” (Agropyron repens). He wasn’t sure until I described the abundant runner grass I knew grew in most of his commercial vegetable plantings and pastures: an invasive , also called “crab grass”, aggressively-spreading rhizatomous runner grass.”Oh!!” He exclaimed, “I have tons of the damn stuff! What a pestiferous vile weed!”

“Free medicine”, I replied.

I instructed him to carefully dig up a lot of the gorgeous rhizomes, gently wash off any attached soil, cut those beautiful white runners into short, 0.5-1.0 cm) pieces, amassing about 30 gm (l oz.) of live pieces, place them in a wide mouth (easier to use) quart canning jar, and pour in enough boiling water to fill the jar, and quickly screw on the lid. Drink l 250cc (8 oz, l cup) cup of the infusion daily before 4 pm. The quart volume of infusion will be enough for four days. Refrigerate/chill the unused portion of the Couch Grass infusion. Do not reuse the same cut grass pieces for a second batch of infusion.

If freezing temperatures/prolonged frozen ground are forecast, dig a lot of runners and freeze or dry them after washing off dirt. Store in an airtight/moisture-proof container until used. I told him that my experiences indicate that freshly-gathered rhizomes are more reliably effective than dried Couch Grass runners. Dried Couch Grass runners can be stored and used for up to 6 months with minimal loss of effectiveness, to facilitate travel use.

I advised him to please continue drinking the tea daily for at least 60 days, two months, two lunar cycles.
I asked him to please let me know what transpires, if anything.

Several months later he sat down beside me during a marvelous late night party bonfire romp. We chatted a bit. (greeting ritual). Then he said, smiling "this may not be the best time to mention this, but...that herb tea really worked!! THANK YOU!!” I thanked him for the excellent good news and suggested we talk more sometime about unnecessary invasive prostate gland biopsies and got up to join the manic fireside dancers.

Male Genital Herpes

There is no road nor ferry boat connecting my little 5 mi. sq. island to any other land mass. Unfortunately, most of us living here have become dependent upon gasoline to power many of our machines. There are no gasoline stations nor stores on my island. Therefore, we must import gasoline in legally appropriate containers. These have varied from steel 55-gallon barrels to 1-gallon plastic cans. All my early gasoline containers were galvanized steel cans. All of them, except the boat motor fuel tanks rusted thru from the metal-corrosive salt air and briny bilge water. As I discarded my last rusted-out metal gas can, I set out towards a neighboring island where there was a hardware and marine supply store in my reliable inboard little 22’ cruiser, one relatively calm seas day.

Once in the store, whilst facing a back wall with a floor to ceiling display of various gas can styles and sizes, I heard my name called out: "Ryan, Ryan Drum, is that you?" I turned slowly around, to see a man I knew from his previous enthusiastic participation on some of my local herb walks and seaweed safaris. "Hi, T., howya doon?", I said as I noticed his red face and probable agitation. "Ryan, can you harvest some Dumontia red seaweed for me or tell me where I might harvest some myself?", he asked rather loudly.

To me, this was a very informative question.” Why do you want some?”, I asked. I wanted him to tell me, rather than risk my assumptive guess. “Well, he said, I'm in a new relationship with a wonderful woman from back east”, he blurted. “Congratulations”, I replied. "What is your interest in Dumontia?”.

"Well, after she departed and went back east a few weeks ago, some horrible painful oozing red blisters and sores erupted on my penis. When I called the woman she said it was just genital herpes, and she was very sorry to have infected me. She claimed to think she was not infectious whilst we were intimates. She hoped I would forgive her and continue our wonderful love relationship”. T. was talking fast and loudly, and his excited voice was booming off the gas can display wall and out into the hardware store where several summerfolk, islanders, and construction workers, and the checkout lady had all stopped whatever they had been doing to look our way. T. continued, "I went online and read that eating dried Dumontia red seaweed powder could prevent more genital herpes outbreaks, or at least reduce the frequency and severity of future outbreaks. Can you get me some Dumontia red seaweed locally?” He waited. The small crowd waited. I waited, whilst I assessed the scene.

This I realized was a complex opportunity. There we were engaging in a serious clinical moment, a medical intake. I experienced a shameful urge to respond to him as loudly as he had spoken to me about Dumontia red seaweed. Here was a real theatrical teaching moment. I learned from the past, much to the apparent disappointment of the dozen or so audience, and I beckoned him closer and guided him towards a more private corner by the rubber boots and gloves.

“T., Dumontia red seaweed does occur in our local intertidal zones, but not in sufficient abundance to harvest. I suspect we can substitute a much more plentiful red seaweed, Prionitis Lyalli, which I know has been used as a successful genital herpes suppressant.

I can and will harvest a bunch during tomorrow’s low tide, dry for 2-3 days, powder, and load into 250 00 gelatin capsules for you and your new sweetie. And, I will also show you how and where to harvest Prionitis on your island. You will need to follow my instructions for use exactly, to achieve your desired results in quelling your herpes. I will return in 5-6 days when I need to ship some UPS boxes. Let's arrange a rendevous”.

Next day, during the low tide, I harvested circa 10# of the briskly clumping Prionitis Lyalli, took it up to my hot drying room after washing it thoroughly to remove most of the snails, worms, amphipods, isopods, and assorted other invertebrates that regularly inhabit Prionitis clumps followed by a rainwater pressure wash, and hung it in smallish clumps from 4”-spaced 20d box brite nails in the ceiling for about 48 hours to dry at 80-110oF dry wood heat. After the Prionitis was crispy dry, I again tried to shake or pick out any remaining invertebrates. Then I ground it to a powder in an old hand-cranked Corona Flour Mill with stainless steel grinding burs. Next I used the infamous Cap N Kwik capsule loading board to fill 250 '00' capsules with Prionitis Lyalli powder.

I did show T. how and where to harvest the Prionitis. And, how to process it. He and his new sweetie did experience a significant lessening of both frequency and severity of Herpes eruptions, to nearly zero. The relationship did not last. But, Herpes infections always do.

Directions for Use of Prionitis Red Seaweed Encapsulated Powder

  1. Take 1 '00' capsule 2x daily, with 8-12 oz. room temperature water before morning and evening meal.
  2. Continue for 60 days/two months/twolunar cycles.

This regimen has helped both male and female patients. Dietary modifications are essential for successful comprehensive control of genital herpes.

Bernie Siegal MD, noted author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles, noticed that his female genital herpes patients were all basically extremely angry. He connected the red, raised, angry genital herpes lesions to that anger. Instead of prescribing antiherpetic medications, he counseled dedicated anger management and resolution. He claimed great success, better than actual chemical medications alone.
I have been counseling the same for almost 30 years with mixed success.

  1. Prionitis Lyalli is very abundant in tide pools from Alaska to Baja California, available at low tides. It does not ride well taken in food
  2. Other antiherpetic red seaweed products are available online as “Alaska Dulse”, a mixture of three different red seaweeds.
  3. Blue Moon Botanicals from Alaska has been experimenting with various red seaweeds to quell genital herpes, oral herpes, shingles. Some trial runs have been conducted at Bastyr Univ.
  4. Ricardo Scipio, Canadian Herbalist and author of Making Peace with Herpes, uses various red seaweeds therapeutically.

Elderly Male: Chronic Aching Feet

One persistently cold damp Memorial Day Sunday morning, a bunch of my neighbors and I were lounging inside a cozy log cabin staring at an old TV watching some spectacular moves by the lovely Danica Patrick racing in her first Indy 500 motor car race. Our host was soaking his feet in a 5-gallon bucket of some hot fluid. He looked decidedly uncomfortable.

I inquired cautiously as to what he was doing. His wife replied that his feet had been hurting a lot lately, most of the time, and Dr. Stan had suggested he soak his feet in hot Epsom Salts infusion (Magnesium Sulfate) whenever M. was just sitting around watching TV or playing on the computer. How long had M.’s feet been hurting? About ten years.

I had a small tongue sandwich.

Finally, after a few more amazing Danica Patrick moves (I seem to recall she finished 4th in the race), I asked if there had been any obvious overt trauma episode which might have initiated the persistent pain. “Nope”, he answered, none could be recalled. Well, does the Epsom Salts soaking help relieve the pain. Nope...maybe a little bit, the warmth feels good until the solution cools down and then it is uncomfortably chilly. But, the pain persists, especially at night.

Of note, M was a devoted tobacco cigarette smoker and beer/wine drinker. He also did not walk much, but was quite lean nonetheless he had been a frontline medic in the Korean War, and prior to that he had been contemplating attending Med School.


The Indy 500 droned on. I suspected M was exhibiting chronic nicotine and ethanol poisoning and chronic gout. Dr. Stan had encouraged a cessation of smoking and a lessening of ethanol consumption. Some alcohol was considered advisable to stimulate appendicular peripheral blood circulation. The race was under a yellow flag. M’s wife asked me if I had any herbs that might stop or lessen the pains in M’s poor old feet. I was at first reluctant to compete with Dr. Stan, a part-time neighbor and good friend. But, since the Epsom Salts soaking had not resolved the pains, I figured I would suggest the traditional Celtic/Roman/Greek/Coast Salish treatment for aching feet, possibly gouty.

Of course, I said. I have just the perfect herb and will bring some over as soon as the race is finished. “Dried Stinging Nettle Stalks (Local nettle, Urtica Lyalli)”. I was mostly finished with the dried nettle leaf harvest. I strip the dried leaves off the stalks to sell, and save the dried nettle stalks as 3-6 inch pieces in airtight plastic square 4-gallon buckets for use as my personal tea, or for soaking feet. I had at least 12 gallons in stock. M had saved my feet previously and I registered the irony. As a good neighbor, I donated the nettle stalk pieces.

The directions for use were/are:

Take 4-5 oz (100-150 gm) dried local nettle stalks (Urtica Lyalli, a monecious variant of U. dioica, which does not experience winter dormancy in our mild climate) and place in 2-3 gallons of very hot non-chemicalized water (rainwater, spring water, well water) use a metal pot so the infusion can be reheated to facilitate at least an hour of soaking daily, preferably in the early evening. A stainless 5-gal stock pot or 3-gallon milking pail work well. The same infusion batch can be reheated in the soaking vessel to sterilize it and prevent microbial decay=nettle infusion is a rich nutrient soup, and the same batch reused for 3-4 more days’ soakings, then discard nettles and fluid to garden.

I gave them about 5 pounds of the pretty green dried stalks as a starter supply. I was still harvesting and drying nettles, so more dried stalks would likely be available if needed. In some June-mowed Nettle patches, young nettle growth would be available thru Autumn.

M. was reluctantly agreeable. After two weeks of daily Nettle Infusion soaks, his feet hurt a lot less. After two months of daily soaking his feet no longer hurt daily as they had for the previous 10 years. He had a large Nettle patch of his own and was able to self-medicate thereafter as needed, successfully until just prior to his passing. Over the years, his wife thanked me occasionally, usually exclaiming, "That Herbal Stuff really worked for M's poor old feet!!" M. did reduce his tobacco and ethanol consumption concurrently with the soaks.

I had suspected that the nettle soaks might resolve his appendicular pain based on successful resolution of similar cases on island over the decades.

Acute Reaction to Multiple Honeybee Stings

A renowned poet once proclaimed "April is the cruelest month". In my PNW coastal climate culture, we who live here fulltime often claim, "April is the coldest month". This is a response to observing the welcomed lengthening of the daylight hours, yet the days often have a deep sense of chill. The weather seems dismayingly ambivalent: cold, windy, cloudy drizzly one moment and sunny, warm, breezy the next.

One such stimulating day in mid-April, Heidi and I were cheerfully shuffling along a forest trail bare-armed, each of us carrying two 15# carefully-composed, girdle-wrapped bundles of freshly-cut lush green monoecious NW Spring nettle stalks (Urtica Lyalli), 2-4 ft. long. We each had one bundle slung over a shoulder and a second hung from one hand by our side. We were laughing a bit, seemingly at nothing special, neurojangly from multiple inadvertent injections of exhilarating nettle venom into our respective bare arms as we walked through the mixed alder/conifer forest.

Suddenly, a spooky tiny voice came into my head. Nettle hallucinations? A simple word was being repeated, "Ryan, Ryan, Ryan, then: help me, help me". There was no one other than Heidi and me. I looked over at Heidi, hoping for a smile, or a laugh, a joke?

But no, her normally rosy Danish cheeks were bloodless, white. Softly, I asked her "did you hear anything just now? A little voice?" She nodded, terrified.

The little voice sounded just like Vincent Price, when he was perched on a leaf at the climax of the horror movie, The Fly. He was crying, "Help me, help me" in a tiny hi-pitched voice.

Heidi and I stopped and listened. The tiny desperate voice cried out again,"Ryan, Ryan, help me, help me." Real or just a rush of nettlations? As we pondered in silence transfixed, an apparition appeared from behind a Western Red Cedar grove up ahead in the direction we were intending to go to return to my old 1966 mangled Dodge Crewcab PU. The apparition kept saying, "Ryan, Ryan, help me, help me". It was R., a big Norwegian neighbor who normally spoke in a deep strong voice. What a shock! What a relief! Heidi teared up.

R.'s face was all puffy and very swollen his eyes were nearly swollen shut. His hands and lower arms were massively swollen as was the back of his neck. I dropped my nettle bundles and hurried to him. "What happened?" I shouted, whilst I reached into a side pocket to ascertain if my small lockback knife was within easy reach.

In his weird hi-pitched tiny voice (I almost laughed because he sounded just like helium balloon birthday party kids) he briefly described how he had been carrying a beehive super full of bees when he stepped on an unseen roller-bearing fir cone and instinctively flung the bee box out in front of himself as he fell forward, arms outstretched. This had exposed his lower arms as his gloves moved down and his sleeves moved upwards his beekeeper's hat and veil were lifted off the back of his neck and face. Immediately all exposed skin was covered with angry stinging bees as a dark cloud passed in front of the warm April sun, which seemed to further infuriate the bees. (According to authorities, his big dark form was similar to an archtypical hive-robbing bear). R. had received hundreds, perhaps thousands of honey bee stings.

His body had begun reacting immediately, perhaps heading for anaphylactic shock: increased heartbeat, trouble breathing, swelling, terror/panic. He had seen our big old blue truck on the old logging road and hoped I was nearby. Calmly, I asked him for permission to do whatever seemed necessary to help. He nodded his swollen head in assent.

I commanded Heidi to drop her nettle bundles and hurry to her fortunately nearby cabin and get some warm blankets, a big stainless mixing bowl, and a 5-gallon bucket take all this stuff to a sheltered dip in a sunny spot in the middle of the field above her cabin, and once there, start picking as much fresh green young basal rosette Yarrow leaves and beginning flowering stalks as possible and stuff them into the bucket, and that R. and I would get there asap. She hurried off.

I asked R. if he was having trouble breathing and he nodded a bit. I quickly grabbed a bunch of young tender nettle leaves and shredded them into small pieces and asked R. to please try and put them into his mouth and chew them up and try to swallow them. He did. He could. Good, I said, as long as you can swallow, you can probably breathe. When you can apparently do neither, I am willing (but totally inexperienced) to attempt a tracheotomy to enable you to continue breathing and hopefully survive this. He did not smile. The fresh, live nettles you chewed and swallowed are anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiallergenic, and may help stop the progressive swelling. Nettle-sourced molecules moved from your mouth through your soft palate and into your hypothalamus. I will tear up more so you can keep chewing and swallowing. He nodded solemnly.

Fortunately he was in good physical shape and the swelling did not seem to have progressed to his feet, so he could walk slowly with some guidance.

(In my conscious mind, a little Midwest health ditty sang through my mind, from my wasp and hornet nest-bashing youth: "any stings below the neck, OKAY, any stings above the shoulders, see the doctor RIGHT AWAY" Ah, the 'Forties': before Epipens.)

R. and I walked slowly to the protected low spot where Heidi had laid out the blankets. Heidi and I quickly wrapped R. to keep him warm and then we started chewing up the Yarrow from the seemingly massive pile in the bucket, eventually producing about 3 quarts of Yarrow Spit Poultice. Keeping our bodies close to R. to help keep him warm, we generously applied the barely warm spit poultice first to the back of his neck, then to his face and shoulders, then his arms and hands. Heidi went back to her cabin to get water so we could drink it and replenish our salivary glands, saliva production and flow. R. could only whisper and his eyes remained swollen shut. The fickle sun came and went in the passing gray clouds. I was glad that the honey bees had not trailed R.

Heidi and I were sweating, R. was shivering. I had him drinking water every few minutes in little sips and swallows alternating with some nettle chewing and swallowing. The sun played cloud tag I sent Heidi for more blankets.

Throughout I was carefully observing the time, temperature, and R.'s pulse, speaking, swallowing, his swollen hands and face. As the sun slipped below the treetops to the West, the air chilled harshly. I was concerned about possible hypothermic damage to R.'s kidneys. Heidi and I, bathed in sweat, reacted negatively to the new chill. I sent her to the truck to get our emergency warmer clothing. She returned quickly and we dressed up immediately.

Shortly thereafter as we were watching the backs of R.'s hands, we observd that the puffy swelling had subsided enough on one hand to reveal some nice bluish veins. The other hand's swelling soon diminished also. Certain that we needed to get out of the cold and get R. to someplace warm, I asked him where he would like us to take him. He whispered for us to take him to his place, and tell his mom. He could speak a bit better, but his face and neck were still swollen. I asked him if he thought he could walk the 50m to the road so I could get him with the truck. He said maybe. I asked Heidi to return all of the blankets to her cabin, but please leave the remainder of the Yarrow and the spit poultice so I could take it to the truck, just in case. I told her I would drive down to her cabin and pick her up once I got R. into the back seat of the truck.

I ran up the road and got the truck, and drove to where R. sat on a log. Heidi was already there. We helped R. into the truck, he laid out a bit and we drove to his place. Heidi asked about the Nettles. I told her they could wait, but R. could not.

About three miles up the road we drove R. almost to his cabin door, helped him inside, and built up the fire in his wood heater. There is/was no cell phone service in the middle of the island, so how to contact his mom? Fortunately his younger brother came by to borrow some tools and was sent off to get their mom. They returned in about 30 minutes.

By then most of the swelling in R.'s hands and face had subsided. I asked him to name the colours of 5-6 differently-coloured household objects. He was easily able to distinguish red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple items correctly. (Multiple bee/wasp/hornet stings to head and face can induce temporary loss of colour vision.)

When I thought he was safely stable, I asked him if he felt okay about Heidi and I leaving. He did.

Then he asked his brother to please return to the exposed bees and replace the cover on the bee box so the bees would not die from exposure that cold night. His brother said he would.

Heidi and I drove back and rescued the 4 Nettle bundles, drove to her cabin, where she got out. I asked her to be up at my place to hang the Nettles by 8 AM.

The bees did not die of exposure, but did not thrive nor survive the next winter. R. did and still thrives 20 years later.

The Yarrow Spit Poultices were used as a treatment for R. because:

  1. We had no epipens. A few days afterwards, R. was thanking me and mentioned that he was somewhat allergic to bee, wasp, and hornet stings.
  2. Yarrow is powerful and usually not toxic.
  3. Yarrow dilates and opens the peripheral blood circulation
  4. It is an effective topical analgesic
  5. It can act as a mild mood enhancer to hopefully quell post-traumatic hysteria
  6. Fresh green Yarrow leaves are usually available year around in the Maritime PNW
  7. The PNW Tribes used Yarrow Spit Poultices on Yellowjacket and Hornet stings effectively for thousands of years.

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Updated 04-10-2021

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