The Kidney-Adrenal System


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Dear Subscribers,

A suggestion was made to post something I wrote privately so that more people can share the information; the comments were prompted by some advice from Belarus about how to deal with radiation toxicity.

One of the recommendations was to use demulcents, in this case apple pectin, and lymphatic cleansing teas along with diuretics. A few hours later, I received an email from Paris saying there is such a run on apple pectin that it's hard to find in stores. This suggests that a lot of people are planning on doing canning this summer or a radiation remedy has gone viral.

Many of the symptoms of radiation poisoning are similar to those of metal toxicity which, in turn, are similar to vata disorders in Ayurveda. That might be a mouthful for some people but loosely interpreted it means that some symptoms will appear to come and go — which does not mean that they are psychosomatic much less unreal. The rule for vata conditions is that they are inconsistent. Once you accept that a medical condition can be inconsistent, you will not be quite as worried by the blank look on your doctor's face when he fails to diagnose your reported symptoms. In addition to being inconsistent, vata problems can move around because they are sensitive to the air element which facilitates motion. If there were no air element, everything would be stagnant. I suspect that would make many matters easier to study but assuming away reality in order to keep things simple is not very sophisticated so let's not go that direction.

Let's start with the adrenals, repetition for some, reminder for others, brand new for a few. The first thing to keep in mind about the adrenals is that they operate below the threshold of consciousness and are therefore not responsive to sermons on mind over matter. They are governed by instinct and memory, some of it primordial and some probably from past lives and some from preverbal childhood and some from memories you are able to recall. The fact that you do not know the origin of the instincts and the patterns they generate does not mean they are irrelevant. Pause for a moment. Have you ever stopped to consider why you prefer certain colors to other colors, why you are afraid of birds or snakes, why your muscles tighten with certain inflexions of the voice, or even why you don't want to learn to swim or hike or whatever? If we choose to remain ignorant, we can close the door of curiosity and just say that instincts are irrational, idiosyncratic, or baseless. However, if we choose to honor them, we might avoid some allergic reactions, appreciate our capacity to respond quickly in emergencies, and perhaps even entertain the possibility of exploring what lurks beneath the surface so that we come to understand a few of the chapters in our history that got us where we are today. In reality, your choices are not important in the present context because, as mentioned, the adrenals flip out over whatever makes them flip and when that happens, the kidneys quiver and the blood stream is flooded with an emergency dose of hormones that sets countless other processes in motion (and inhibits some that are not urgently needed.)

When the kidneys tremble, we usually have to excuse ourselves for a moment. If this happens too often, we become dehydrated and mineral deficient. As if this were not bad enough, the insulation provided by water is lost so nerves come closer together which makes it harder and harder to feel calm. Most of us have been there, for longer or shorter periods of time, but some people live in this state most of their lives. Eventually, the kidneys are weakened by the tremors and they fail to respond efficiently and then not enough water is passed out of the system and swelling occurs. This is one explanation for how thin people do not necessarily stay that way.

So, let's say that squeezing water through the kidneys is a critical part of the detoxification process but you don't really want to rely on diuretics to make this happen. If one were to do so, the risk is that the fluid loss would upset electrolyte balance and all sorts of secondary problems could occur. There are better ways to deal with "reactions" and the first is to identify the problem and try to do something about it. For instance, if worried about radiation, move to a safer place or resign yourself to developing a chronic illness in time . . . or perhaps worse yet watching someone you love succumb to such an illness. If this is completely "impossible", then take measures to mitigate the effects of the radiation. If this seems like something only a hypochondriac would do, then take something to strengthen the adrenals and improve coping margins. In fact, this is good choice regardless of how the other options are handled because by increasing the ability to handle stress, the kidneys are permitted to function somewhat normally, maybe even normally. The herbs that support this strategy are nourishing to the kidney-adrenal system. In Chinese medicine, they are called kidney yin because they help those who take them to develop more resilience by strengthening weaknesses rather than adding to strength (as with kidney yang approaches). Because we each have a breaking point, I prefer to think of elasticity. We want to move that breaking point point a bit further "out there" and this takes a mixture of strength and flexibility. So, one wants really strong root herbs and vegetables plus high quality oils and demulcents to ease wear and tear on tissues. With any luck, there will be a bit left over to help regenerate some worn out tissues.

Over the years and particularly recently, I have been writing about herbs that support stamina, preferably in subtle ways rather than ways that dull consciousness. A few days ago, I said that the ideological basis of most social revolutions is airy and that air depends on information and exchange of information in order for egalitarian systems to work. The moment the channels are flooded with dreaded banalities, two things happen. The first is that the blaring of banalities dulls our wits but secondly, it triggers fear. To stay grounded, we have to stay rational and this means the facts cannot be distortions of truth and the truth must set us free, not chain up our psyches and tighten the muscles throughout our bodies. One reader wrote recently that a conspiracy should be defined as any effort to undermine the truth. In reality, a conspiracy is not something that deviates in the story telling from the official line but rather anything masquerading as what it is not.

In any event, because air loves information and the stimulation of sharing ideas and interests, it doesn't really want to be bogged down with grounding food or herbs. In short, it likes being who and what it is but some sane management can make life less precarious. This is why I haven't put as much emphasis on garlic and asafoetida but rather Solomon's seal and rhodiola and other more elegantly grounding herbs. This said, we should not neglect the primary herbs in major ethnobotanical traditions such as maca from the Andes, shatavari and ashwagandha from India, rehmannia and schisandra from China, marshmallow and fennel from Western traditions, and licorice, something found in many, many formulas because of its primary action as well as ability to reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions to other ingredients in a formula. However, my all time favorite is jatoba because when our systems are in crisis, there is a much higher risk of fungal colonies establishing themselves and this herb combines support for energy levels with antifungal expertise.

All I am doing here is weighing in on the side of strengthening the weakest and most vulnerable systems of the body before attacking the problems directly. I.e., save the diuretics for emergencies and try to solve the problems with herbs that support the kidney-adrenal system so it can do its job smoothly instead of using aggressive interventions. This said, I support the use of lymphatic teas, including my own cleavers and violet teas. These are gently stimulating but overall calming, just what is needed when the air is deranged and there is risk of system failure. However, all these measures are greatly supported by high quality oils. Most people cannot even find these in supermarkets because more than 90% of all readily available oils are chemically damaged or otherwise compromised due to how the source plant materials were grown or how the oils were pressed or bottled. So, to remind you, cooking oils should be cold pressed and bottled in containers that do not permit light to pass through. Usually, this means brown or black plastic bottles that are chemically stable. Clear glass is simply not appropriate. However, I believe everyone who is exposed to radiation needs to look hard at black seed oil and perhaps other oils taken as supplements rather than used for cooking. I also think we should be learning to make medicated ghee and oils that have been infused with herbs.

These suggestions are not complete, they simply address two of the items on the Belarus protocol. Perhaps I will tackle some of the other recommendations in another post, including the value of taking a holiday in the Southern hemisphere and spending time in the ocean!

Many blessings,



Herbs for Adrenal Exhaustion


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