In Defense of European Integrative Hospitals

Posted 21 CommentsPosted in Anthroposophic Medicine, Covid-19

Mark Hancock MD, MPH, January 10, 2021

The publication in The Guardian by Philip Oltermann today of the article attacking the integrative treatment of hospitalized patients in Germany is biased, closed-minded and uninformed. He attempts to make the case that because there exist (due to the will of the German people who have a strong support for integrative medicine) public hospitals whose physicians and nurses use integrative modalities, and that these modalities are delivered in the care of sometimes severely ill patients infected with Covid, and that some of these patients cannot directly indicate if they would prefer not to be treated with these modalities, therefore there is gross quackery going on foisted on unconsenting patients. Because of the implications of these statements in such a widely read news source it is important to go through each of these points carefully.

The inside of the Integrative Hospital I studied at for 3 years in Germany. Please carefully note there are at least a few right angles!

It is absolutely correct that Germany boasts multiple public hospitals practicing an integrative medicine going back over 100 years called Anthroposophic Medicine. Over 1000 scientific papers have been published on this system of medicine- which is practiced all over the world in over 60 countries. That these facilities exist is a testament to the public support of integrative medicine in Germany. A nursing school, medical school and residency training system exist that teach both conventional medicine side by side with the integrative system of Anthroposophic Medicine (AM). These therapies are covered by insurance companies- because they work. In one case comparison was made between inpatient depression treatment conventionally versus in an Anthroposophic hospital. The integrative approach took longer and was more expensive in the short run as it integrated artistic modalities and other remedies to try to address the heart of the issue. However, these treatments are now covered in Europe because the patients treated with them had far less recurrence and readmissions for the same issue, saving thousands of dollars in the long run. Pediatric inpatient departments in AM hospitals has been found to treat a similar case mix of patients compared with conventional hospitals and do so efficiently. One personal communication between myself and the head of an eating disorders inpatient unit related that in the integrative treatment the children had 20% less recurrence.

Anthroposophic medicine has decades of experience treating infectious diseases (including respiratory infections) often not finding it necessary to use antibiotics.

A prospective study of over 1000 individuals with ear infection or upper respiratory infection showed that AM was superior, giving nearly twice the improvement in 24hours as conventional care. AM providers prescribed antibiotics 10% of the time, conventional 97%. One small study showed comparable results in a group of patients with bacterial pneumonia treated with only AM (no antibiotics) to general outcomes of patients with similar severity of pneumonia when treated with antibiotics. In another study 96% of parents were happy with the AM care for pneumonia and respiratory illness and reported learning skills they could use at home. This large study of 252 children with pediatric pneumonia, which may be viral or bacterial, treated in an integrative AM hospital found good outcomes though only 32% were given antibiotics with their care. Standard prescribing of antibiotics is 88-98%. Integrative care hospital systems were well prepared for Covid- another viral illness often attacking the lungs with initially no conventional treatment and currently very little evidence based treatments in the conventional realm. It is clear that addressing the human being as a whole can and does shift outcomes in infectious disease processes. It is reasonable to think that in Covid infection the same would be true.

Oltermann raises the ethical dilemma that patients are transported to these hospitals as they are part of the public sector and may be too sick to voice that they do not want these modalities. He does clarify that the staff did these therapies to augment other conventional care modalities (they were not replacing oxygen with a ginger compress). And they did when possible verbally consent the patient or their family about these care decisions. It is important to note that the modalities in question are external herbal compresses and homeopathic remedies. Homeopathic remedies are not considered harmful by most conventional practitioners (unless replacing or delaying a conventional care modality). As a physician that has worked with patients in the intensive care unit, there are some interventions (like a heating pad) that we can use with little more than verbal consent or even gesture (such as putting out one’s arm for a blood draw). These integrative modalities are not akin to a blood transfusion or surgery. Oltermann’s attempt to label these innovative integrative hospitals as unethical carries no water.

Oltermann commits the logical fallacy of hasty generalization at the end of his article where he infers that the entirety of Anthroposophic medicine is anti-vaccination due to some supporters of AM marching “alongside anti-vaxxers”. However, this is contraindicated by looking at statements from the leadership of AM: “In overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, the vaccination issue is essential. It is to be recognized as an exceptional achievement that we have succeeded in developing an impressive variety of COVID-19 vaccines in a very short time.” In this well balanced document the authors attempt to forge a path that both protects a country’s population from the pandemic while preserving the personal autonomy of its peoples.

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Human Qualities in Biochemistry

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Starting Point for a Humanized Medical Science

Staying faithful to the phenomena that present themselves to us when we study medical science is the key to humanizing medical science (and all science). The Louis Bolk Institute has made a wonderful foundation for the study of medicine. Their books are well worth purchasing though they are all available as free downloads for debt-encumbered medical students. I wanted to briefly touch on the qualities present in biochemistry from this point of view. This approach will help us understand nutrition, metabolism, and more complicated medical phenomena. 

Carbohydrates: the Vegetative Quality

Carbohydrates can be seen linked with the plant-like when we look with a wide view of them in nature. Photosynthesis uses water to produce carbohydrates and respiration frees water as a result of breaking down carbohydrates. There is a reason they are named carbo-hydrates. We can see that as an energy source in the human body carbohydrates are closely related to the liver with its glycogen creating and glycogen breaking down functions. Glycogen, made of branches of glucose, serves the body when it needs to quickly bring glucose into the metabolism. Glycogen and starch have somewhat similar forms (glycogen is more branched allowing faster access to the glucose) and it becomes clear the liver’s relationship to the plant processes. There is even a dual phase to the process typically starting at 3am and 3pm. From 3pm to 3am there is an upbuilding process (eating here tends to increase weight more) while there is a breaking down process from 3am to 3pm (eating here leads to increased metabolism). It is also important to note that the heart and brain have no glycogen storage. The heart enjoys a diet of ketones (the significance of this we will address later as we consider the heart an organ of warmth). 

Protein: the Interactive Quality

Proteins have several functions in the living organism- in fact you could say they are all about function. They form connecive tissue allowing for a cohesive organism that both physically connects and in the case of muscle protein allows for interaction with the environment. Organisms can act on their environments. The formation of protein allows for extremely complicated specific enzymes to be built out of relatively simple amino acid building blocks. The effect is that one enzyme has a specific function and their can be a variety of these specific “actors” in the organism. Antibody structure is another good example of how very specific these protein actors are- just by varying the amino acids on the “sticky” end of the antibody, their affinity for a certain antigen is changed. All amino acids are based on nitrogen which has its origin in air. It is apparent that protein is related to movement and air.

Fat: the Integrative Quality

Fat (lipids) allows for compartments to exist in the organism and this is key to having multiple different processes happen in one place- without them imposing on each other. The lipid bilayer is essential to separating functions such as storage from the power house function of mitochondria. These membranes also separate cells from each other to allow further functional specialization. Fats relate to warmth in several ways. They are good insulators. Certain fat cells have the job of generating warmth. Fat is also the highest density nutrient with 9 calories per gram versus only 4 for carbohydrates and protein. The insulating quality is also essential for higher neurologic function- they form the myelin sheath. Networking with nerve impulses is essential to integrating an organism as a whole. 

These inherent qualities of living organisms can be taken further. The organ systems can be seen as embodying one or another of these processes. Later we will explore this relationship:

 Physical Mineral Lung Physical 
 Vegatative Water Liver + Digestive tract Etheric (Life)
 Interactive Air  Kidneys + Reproductive system Astral (Soul, Regulation)
 Integrative Warmth Heart + Circulatory system I (Piloting)

Basic Concepts in Plant and Animal

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Growing and Dying- How to Make a Form

Plant and animal processes- also described as life and soul or etheric and astral, are essentially different. Understanding the more complicated concepts starts with grasping the more basic principles. The plant and animal way of making similar forms shows us essential inherent facts about where the etheric is working and where the astral is working. In the beauty of nature we can find leaf forms that are shaped somewhat like a human hand with more or less differentiation. How does a leaf make this form and how do we see this form arise in an animal? It is actually quite different.


Growth and More Growth

The leaf has a basic way of making complex shapes. It grows. And it can vary growth differently over place and time to develop complicated structure. In the above Sweetgum leaves there are five centers of growth that divide faster than the leaf material in the indentations. This differentiated growth is how plants make their “hands” and other even more complicated shapes. This perpetual growth typifies the etheric life process. This article describes very scientifically how plants differentiate growth centers.

The Duck Tells Us a Secret

What happens in the animal (and human) realm? Clearly we need to grow in order to have a form. This part happens as we develop in the embryo. What if this growing happens without another process? The duck tells us the answer. What is normal in one animal may not be normal in another. Our fingers are freed to do more individualized tasks by a death process. Apoptosis is coordinated cell death. The astral, regulating forces work in from the periphery and form the organism. It is a delicate interplay that we can see in the entire later stage of embryology. The astral is working to ensoul- it makes hollow organs and shapes by coordinating death in specific parts of the organism’s structure. 


A Miraculous Interplay

Too much working inwards by the astral during development can cause deformities we actually see in real life. The hand can be split too deeply causing congenital hand defects. The etheric may be hindered at an early point in the development of the extremity. Thalidomide was a tragic example of this. Life and death processes must work in a musical way to form the human body and all the animal forms in nature. 

Ensouling Forms

The first intervention of the astral body is the process of gastrulation– this starts in the second week of development as a hollowing out of the sphere of cells that makes up the embryo. Tom van Gelder makes a humanized approach with Anthroposophic methodology into understanding embryology. For now it is important to note that these hollow forms are made ready by and for our soul process. We can understand how the flowers express “soul language” as the forms that are the closest to this hollowed ensouled form. Most musical instruments are “ensouled” in this way- they are capable of making music by having a hollow element. Architecture gives us a space to ensoul and can easily invoke emotions when constructed according to humanized principles. One group exercise with clay can help deepen these concepts. Each person can form a ball in their hands as perfect as possible. After each stage they can be passed around with eyes closed to emphasize the tactile element. Next, the ball is “gastrulized” -an indent is formed and deepened to hollow this clay form out. There is a clearly sensed difference between these stages and it is a wonderful exercise to artistically and humanly understand this phase of embryology. The development of inside and outside is essential for soul processes.

Victim and Tyrant- the Eye and the Stomach

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 Polarity as a Key to Understanding

Often knowledge clicks when we are able to juxtapose two opposites. Medically we see many polarities in the human body. Can our knowledge gain a more human understanding of these processes? After all they relate intricately to our “house” on earth where we are able to have life, feelings, and self-consciousness. A monoccular black and white materialistic view of the human body will necessarily overlook the deeper human significance of scientific facts, including medical facts. A Goethean (humanized) science will take an artistic approach and find life, soul and thus morality in science. I owe the following thoughts to both Otto Wolff MD and Armin Husemann MD- both brilliant Anthroposophic physicians.

The Eye as Perpetual Victim

If we look at the eye and attempt to grasp the gesture of its function it is obvious that it opens itself to the outer world. When open (assuming some level of light) it is contiinuously penetrated by the light. In fact, looking deeper, we see an interesting process of the world actually trying to dissolve the human being. Light hits the sensitive part of the eye called the retina. The retina has light sensitive cells called rods and cones. Interestingly, these are actually facing inwards (but the significance of this will be explored later). The rods and cones have light sensitive substance called opsin and retinal. In a process called “Wald’s Visual Cycle” the retinal and opsin which are normally joined together are broken apart when a light photon excites the retinal. The metabolism is later able to re-charge the process- rebuilding the opsin-retinal bridge. So we have a Prometheus gesture where the world comes 


and tears a piece from the eye- only later to be repaired by the etheric life building process (light independent). One can sympathize with the eye as being placed in a vulnerable position to be perpetually broken down by the world. This breaking down process can exacerbate migraines– and migraines have a typical relationship to the stomach as well. Both processes are closed down in self defense. The eye shuts out the form-breaking impulses from the world while the stomach shuts out any new metabolic demands. 

The Stomach as the Tyrant


It is important that our digestion has an organ that performs opposite to the eye. In fact, when the stomach becomes a victim we have a pathology- an ulcer! The stomach is able to take material from the outer world and “conquer” it. It performs the same process as light in the eye- freeing the etheric life forces to nourish us. What happens when we have subjects that resist being conquered? We can have inflammatory triggers as the outer world pushes through our boundaries. Migraines, food allergies, autoimmune disorders and even cancer can occur as the body is forced to try to perform a “digestive” process elsewhere. So we require a good tyrant in our belly but should be cautious that we don’t stress this good conquerer with substance from the outer world that is not meant for our digestion. Biodynamic and organic food raised as naturally as possible are ideal for digestion. 


Coffee, Fioricet, Chocolate: The Silver Lining of Gout?

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Uric Acid in Human Life

Humans and a few primates are unique in that we lack an enzyme called uricase to to change uric acid into a compound we can excrete easily in urine. Uric acid is generated as a breakdown product of nucleic acids (specifically purine) and there is evidence of the trend that structural compounds when broken down exert effects at the level of consciousness. Humans actually have the gene for uricase- it is just permanently silent. The inhibition of this powerful enzyme points to a greater wisdom- that there is a reason for uric acid in the human.


In animals we find that birds and reptiles are able to excrete uric acid alone. Fish excrete ammonia (aquarium keepers must always be on guard about keeping the levels of ammonia in check). Mammals produce the intermediate urea for urinary excretion of protein byproducts. From fish to mammal to reptiles and birds we see that ammonia, urea, and uric acid has more and more a water to solid tendency. Uric acid forms crystals in gout and kidney stones. Birds (formed from mainly head forces) occupy the air element but their bodies are far more earthly than mammals. The crystal-leaning substance of uric acid exemplifies these head-forces. Rudolf Steiner pointed to thinking as a finely distributed crystallizing process of uric acid in the brain. He indicated that an imbalance of uric acid in the urine versus the blood would be associated with sleep disturbances. The graph from a study linking these variables is a modern confirmation. 


In gout we see the process of excretion of uric acid happen inappropriately into joints. Gout can occur because of too much uric acid being produced or because of too little being excreted in the urine. The I activity is not able to fully take hold of the process and the astral body attempts to compensate. The astral forces are inward working forces and we see uric acid crystallize in the joints- typically cooler peripheral joints away from the warmth of the I activity. The kidney (the astral body’s seat in the organism) also bears these uric acid crystals. Interestingly we see gout associated with too much astrality in our foods (rich, meaty foods) and with alcohol (a dampener of the I activity).

Lesch Nyhan Syndrome points to the head and nerve focus of uric acid as well. In this genetic disorder, uric acid accumulates to extremely high levels. Behavioral disturbances occur, the most typical being a compulsion to lip biting that can cause tragic disfigurement. 

Some Powerful Relatives

Uric acid caffeine

We can see that uric acid ties itself to thinking and consciousness by looking at some relatives. Caffeine is present in coffee, tea and chocolate. Steiner commented on the differing quality of effect from consuming coffee versus tea. There is now genetic evidence that caffeine production by plants occured by different pathways in tea and coffee. Theobromine is the compound in coccoa which acts on the heart and kidneys (but not on consciousness directly). 


 Theophylline is an asthma medication that relaxes the smooth muscle of the airways. It also has effects on the heart and kidneys. It commonly causes anxiety and insomnia. Coccoa is one of the best natural sources of theophylline. 


The barbiturates are a clear example of how uric acid can move the other direction in affecting consciousness. 

Pigs, Chimps, and Humans

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Animals and Humans

The idea of evolution has been readily taken up by most of modern civilization. This idea can nourish science but there is a danger in a materialistic interpretation. The common interpretation is that we are descended from one or another of a prehistoric species. A humanized understanding will see the need to account for the question of “where did the spiritual in humans live then?” Animals bear human qualities- one could say they bear them to an extreme. When we humans act to an extreme we are called animal names. Looking at human and animal development we can observe ths more precisely. Humans stay unspecialized, undeveloped through their entire lives. Animals develop early and specialize early. 


A look at our brothers the chimpanzee can be insightful. As babies they have the most human-like features to their faces. As they age these quickly change as the jaw thrusts forward. The head is also carried forward and the forehead slants backwards. 


The chimpanzee fetus has hair growth that resembles the human up to a month prior to its birth (at 8 months). We humans retain this feature (unless we go bald) our entire lives. This is true of many anatomical features. Animals descend into matter deeper than humans. They are better adapted to the physical world. Humans stretch out our life phases as long as possible. We have a very long development in the womb. We have a longer childhood and reproductive years. Most species will die directly after reproduction but we have a long post-reproduction phase. 

The animals bear within them a part of the human spirit showing us a side to ourselves. The chimpanzee and pig both have a special relation to humans. We see this medically as the two closest studied creatures to us (rodents are most often studied due to their ease of containment and low cost). In the pig and the chimpanzee we see two animal brothers that relate very closely to our “I am” nature. The chimpanzee bears the closest part of our physical form. The pig has many of the soul features and physiologic features that relate to our unique being. The geneticist Eugene McCarthy is a keen observer of the traits in pig, chimp, and human. He hypothesizes that pigs and chimpanzees hybridized long ago in order to spawn human ancestors. Though this is possible, I feel it is again a materialistic search for the human in animals- we can more readily find the animals as spiritually pre-descended (descended too early) from the human. It is interesting that we see in cultures who live close to these creatures a cultural or religious ban against eating the flesh of both of these creatures.

Low Dose Naltrexone Associated With Reduced Medication Use In Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease

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Evidence is emerging that Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) has a valid place in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. Naltrexone is pain receptor blocker. I use high doses of its relative Narcan to revive people with overdoses from pain killers in the hospital. In very low doses it has multiple interesting beneficial effects on the body including anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, anti-cancer and more. 

This study was creatively undertaken with prescription data from over 500 patients with ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory gut condition that causes pain, bleeding and often necessitates the use of potent steroids and anti-inflammatories and immunotherapies (with all their potential side effects). About half of the patients were on LDN and the other half were not treated with LDN. The researchers could see the prescriptions filled by both groups and noted some distinct differences.

The LDN group filled about half the amount of steroids (44% and 53% reductions in Crohn’s and Ulcerative colitis patients). Overall there was a 12% reduction of their filling (and presumed need) of all medications. This study is done in Norway where access to health care and prescriptions are not a potential confounding issue. LDN was associated with less use of anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressants. There are several helpful lifestyle modifications and natural medications to help manage Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease and now there is even more exciting evidence that LDN is a cornerstone of treatment. 

Natural Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

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Bryophyllum has abundant life forces, even sprouting new plants from its leaf edges

Bryophyllum- Natural Mood Stabilizer

Bryophyllum, known commonly as Leaf of life, is a multiple use medicine used commonly for natural treatment of mental health conditions and insomnia. Especially for acute conditions there remains a place for conventional antipsychotics like risperidone, haldol, geodon and others but the fact remains that there are multiple side effects from these especially in chronic use. Neurologic effects can be permanent and especially with the newer antipsychotics there is a high tendency to diabetes. Bryophyllum does not have these side effects and is not toxic if dosed appropriately. 


Natural treatment of sleep disorders

Bryophyllum is most commonly used in Anthroposophic medicine (which I call Humanized medicine) for sleep disorders. One study showed its excellent effect in patients with cancer- who often suffer from difficult to treat insomnia. Patients noted significantly improved sleep, decrease in use of other sleeping medications, and improvement in the sleep quality scores used by researchers. Dose was 3 to 8 tablets of 175mg bryophyllum per day. It was well tolerated in all dosages in this study. In the United States Bryophyllum is available as a powder in herbal form from Uriel Pharmacy. One dose equivalent of this powder is 1/8th of a teaspoon. Typically doses are taken after dinner and if needed again at bedtime.

Treatment of patients with bipolar, schizophrenia, and psychosis

It is not always possible to entirely eliminate the need to use conventional medications for patients suffering from psychiatric disorders. No one should be weaned without supervision by a physician. In Europe psychiatrists are using bryophyllum to reduce or eliminate the need for conventional mood stabilizors and antipsychotics. My direct correspondence with them reveals quite positive results. One child psychiatrist only uses conventional antipsychotics in exceptional cases and in acute flare ups of psychosis. He is using bryophyllum and other natural medications as the main treatment of the youth under his care. The treatment centers are amazing places- I have personally visited them. The youth live in community with adult coworkers on a working farm. They do many activities together socially including perform in a band, make pottery and paintings. They also participate in school or higher education. This social form and the artistic activities are also therapies that cannot be taken for granted. 

Leaf of Life

Other uses

Bryophyllum has been used in several other areas with success. It is used as a natural tocolytic (it helps stop contractions of the uterus and prevents preterm labor). Medical trials have found it to be at least equally effective to conventional drugs used for preterm labor- but again without the side effects. Many conventional drugs for preterm labor cause anxiety in the mother, palpitations, nausea and tremors. These side effects come at an already very stressful time. Bryophyllum tends to cause relaxaton. Bryophyllum is used intravenously in these preterm labor cases. Certain hospitals in Europe are more progressive and use these treatments routinely. After the initial infusion is given then the bryophyllum can be given by mouth. 

More recently, bryophyllum has been found to be effective in overactive bladder. Again the common medications used for overactive bladder have common negative side effects. Both Detrol and Ditropan are commonly used conventional medicines and these are effective. Most of the time the people taking these medicines are older and this class of medication (anticholinergics) can cause worsening dementia in the elderly. I have often seen this as a reason for hospitalization. The typical story is a well functioning older person with early dementia getting progressively worsening confusion after this medicine was started. Fortunately this is typically reversible but I wonder how many people have worsening dementia and this was overlooked! Bryophyllum may be a safer alternative. 

Bryophyllum has also been investigated as a treatment for cancer. It directly causes apoptosis (programmed cell death) to cancer cells. Investigators have seen this with cervical cancer, lung cancer and other cancers. To my knowledge the research in this field is relatively new.

This wonderful herb has anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties. These have not been studied extensively in medical trials.

Active components

Flavonoid glycosides and bufadienolides are the active compounds found in bryophyllum. These are unique chemical compounds that have anti-oxidant effects and specific effects on oxytocin (involved in uterine contraction and also human bonding). 

Side effects

At recommended doses bryophyllum has consistently been well tolerated in humans. One side effect is drowsiness. In very high doses it can be a heart poison and dosing should be done with attention to detail and only according to directions. 

Humanized medicine perspective

Bryophyllum is a succulent plant with thick leaves. It has the peculiar property of being able to reproduce by making new plants at the edges of its leaves. This property is shared by other plants in its family. One relative is called Mules Ears and only makes new baby plants at the very tips of its leaves. Another is called “Mother of Millions” and will make the babies earlier and they will drop off the plant easily. Bryophyllum clearly has strong life forces. It has a leaf with reproductive properties that is reminiscent of the womb. Bryophyllum brings the life body in harmony with the regulatory body (we can also say the etheric body is brought closer together with the astral body). This is actually the opposite of cannabis which tends to separate the higher members of the human being from the physical and life body. Sometimes this has therapeutic potential but it also is known to have at least an unmasking effect, if not a promoting effect towards psychosis in which this separation has gone too far.

The etheric forces themselves are given over to the lower half in the treatment of overactve bladder and preterm labor. 


Fr, Cs, and L. Rich. Ryo-a d Z, n.d. Fürer, Karin, Ana Paula Simões-Wüst, Ursula von Mandach, Matthias Hamburger, and Olivier Potterat. “Bryophyllum Pinnatum and Related Species Used in Anthroposophic Medicine: Constituents, Pharmacological Activities, and Clinical Efficacy.” Planta Medica 82, no. 11/12 (July 2016): 930–41.
Mahata, Sutapa, Saurabh Maru, Shirish Shukla, Arvind Pandey, G. Mugesh, Bhudev C. Das, and Alok C. Bharti. “Anticancer Property of Bryophyllum Pinnata (Lam.) Oken. Leaf on Human Cervical Cancer Cells.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 12 (March 10, 2012): 15.

Plant Based Cough Medicine

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Natural Cough Medicine

Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) is a common weed with overlooked medical potential. Many people wonder what natural medicine can be given for a difficult cough, bronchitis, asthma, or lung congestion. One of my favorite remedies is made by Uriel pharmacy in Wisconsin and contains plantain. This handy herb has been studied in medical journals and found to have three important properties for the respiratory tract.

It is anti-inflammatory– the lung passageways can become inflamed from infection, allergy or autoimmune processes. These cause production of mucous and bronchoconstriction- tightening of the smooth muscle in the smaller air passages. Bronchoconstriction is what happens in asthma, bronchitis and COPD and typically causes air trapping. So the anti-inflammatory properties of plantain are welcome in the lung.

It is spasmolytic. This simply means it relieves spasm in the lung- in particular the bronchospasm mentioned above that is key to the wheezing heard in asthma and bronchiolitis as well as COPD. 

It is immunostimulatory. Plantain has immune boosting properties so that lung infections- both viral and bacterial can be cleaned up and resolved faster by your body. 

Let’s compare the plantain trifecta with the three key treatments we use in conventional mediicne for a COPD exacerbation, COPD is a chronic lung condition that people often get through cigarrette smoke exposure or other chronic lung scarring. Often an acute worsening of COPD will occur that results in wheezing and severe shortness of breath. In acute case we try to treat three things: 

  • We give an antibiotic as often there are bacteria worsening the breathing
  • We give a steroid to decrease inflammation in the lungs
  • We give breathing treatments to open up the airways

Unfortunately these treatments, though highly effective in the short term, don’t address any of the causes of COPD. Many times I witness patients with a dependence on steroids which also depress the immune system and cause other system-wide effects on the body. Can we do better for this condition? I will explore COPD in another post as it is a big topic.

I give plantain for most lung conditions with phlegm and mucous as well as wheezing. 

Bibliography Beer, André-Michael, and Dieter Loew. “[Medicinal plants for infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract: practical recommendations].” MMW Fortschritte der Medizin 150, no. 41 (October 9, 2008): 29–33. Vigo, E., A. Cepeda, O. Gualillo, and R. Perez-Fernandez. “In-Vitro Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Pinus Sylvestris and Plantago Lanceolata Extracts: Effect on Inducible NOS, COX-1, COX-2 and Their Products in J774A.1 Murine Macrophages.” The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 57, no. 3 (March 2005): 383–91. “WC500123351.Pdf.” Accessed February 15, 2018. Wegener, T., and K. Kraft. “[Plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.): anti-inflammatory action in upper respiratory tract infections].” Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift (1946) 149, no. 8–10 (1999): 211–16.

Treating Ear Infection Without Antibiotics or NSAIDs

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Natural Treatment of Otitis Media- A How To Guide

Ear infections are a very common occurrence among young children that cause parents  to scramble to resolve the acutely painful symptoms. A Humanized Pediatrics asks “How can we respect the fever gesture of the child while at the same time relieve pain and suffering safely?” The incarnating “I am” is seeking through the formative childhood years to make the human body its own place. This spiritual aspect is not entirely fuzzy- it is expressed in warmth. Thus we suppress every fever at a cost to the self-piloting and future individuality of our children. I have mentioned the lack of childhood fever noted frequently in patients with cancer– and supported by scientific studies. Dr David Martin is an internationally renowned pediatric endocrinologist working out of Anthroposophic insights- he sees one of his missions as shifting our culture’s views on fever to a more positive one. Check out his website here, it is a true resource for parents.

Current Antibiotic Recommendations

The current guidelines for treating children with ear infections have an emphasis in avoiding antibiotics where possible. In very young children (under 6 months, or both ears under 2 years old) or severe cases typically antibiotics are given. The other cases, non-severe in somewhat older children may be given “watchful waiting” where the child’s clinical course is followed carefully and antibiotics can be started later if needed but not right way. This delay is because most ear infections are caused by viruses- these are not helped at all by antibiotics. Even bacterial infections can be totally overcome by the body’s immune system if not severe. Most importantly, researchers are recognizing that antibiotic use may have far reaching effects on problems such obesity, allergy, and chronic disease. Antibiotics also have risks of immediate allergies and it is widely recognized that microbial resistance is increasing. They are a life saving tool at times but we are using them without deserved caution. It is estimated that almost half of the antibiotics given to children are for the diagnosis of acute otitis media (ear infection). Many doctors assume (sometimes correctly) that patients expect antibiotics and pain killers for everything. So let your provider know up front that you are comfortable with watchful waiting if they are- this can really help them.

It is helpful to have quick access to a competent holistic medical doctor (which is why I have set up my practice model allowing consultation at all hours for subscribers).

How To Treat Ear Infections Naturally

I have six daughters. They have all dealt with ear infections during their childhood. So far we have never needed antibiotic treatment for any of them and only once given tylenol or motrin. Even in cases where conventional medicines are necessary I hope this natural treatment guide can be of use to parents. Please note none of this is medical advice– please consult your own healthcare provider for treatment of health conditions. Some conditions mimic others and it is important to have someone with a full picture in mind to avoid complications.

The soul (astral body) lives in the airy element. This soul process is evident in speech, music, and demonstrated pathologically in typical presentations of acute asthma and hyperventilation. The soul body continuously works to make certain organs airy and to expel substance from the body. Evidence shows that if we work against the body accomplishing this process through undue use of antipyretics (like motrin or tylenol) or antibiotics we can short circuit the process and see complications or chronic cases develop. Of course eliminating the risk factors we can such as smoking in the house is essential.

This study shows that children treated for ear infection with an Anthroposophic (Humanized) natural approach had faster pain reduction and parents were more satisfied than the conventional approach. 

Key Natural Remedies for Ear Infection

A compress of onion on the ear can bring relief to er infection naturally

Onion is one of the cornerstones of natural treatment. Almost always have I been able to achieve fast alleviation of ear pain. Once I substituted garlic when we were travelling and it worked well too. 

Either cut the onion in half or chop finely and warm in a some oil in a pan. Make a compress with a thin cloth or cheese cloth and make sure it is warm but not too hot. Place directly over the ear and leave in place as long as possible. Occasionally I have achieved therapeutic results with very uncooperative children by making an onion bath. Human soup! 

Ear oil (made by True Botanica) is another useful remedy. One must be certain the eardrum is not ruptured (by a doctor’s visual inspection). The oil is made from several healing plants. Lovage, chamomile, hops, oregano, basil, arnica, angelica, usnea, and St John’s wort work together to soothe and heal the ear infection.


Lovage (Apis Levisticum, by Uriel) is a remarkable healing plant. It has a strong connection to the warm and airy elements and is a support to the soul body in ear infection. The body’s inflammatory process can be supported and thus fulfilled (bringing resolution to the ear infection). The honey bee’s relation to this process of inflammation is supportive and thus combined in this excellent remedy.

Black Seed Oil or Black Cumin Oil is an age old remedy that helps with pain, inflammation while supportive of the body

 Black Cumin Oil is an ancient natural medicine- it was even found in King Tut’s chamber! It has natural pain-killing and immune boosting properties. This remedy is excellent and of course please ask your own health care provider for proper dosing. Not recommended in pregnancy or very young infants. Typically 1/8th of a teaspoon per day of the oil is generally accepted for younger children with 1/4 teaspoon per day for older children. Please be careful with any herbal remedy- while typically quite safe in low doses black seed oil can be toxic at very high doses and due to its anti-inflammatory properties it tends to thin the blood a small amount with typical doses. I like black seed oil as it naturally helps with pain but is fever supportive- so it supports the natural healing gesture (salutogenesis) of the body. 

More Remedies

Of course, many more remedies are used for ear infection depending on the presentation but these above are the most consistent with general use in day to day cases. Hopefully you can use this mini-guide to help direct your approach to the next ear infection.