Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Dealing with Diverticulitis

Up next:  Metric-Standard-Drops Conversions for Herbal Remedies

Disclaimer.  I am not a licensed health practitioner.  This is just another post on knowledge and understanding you might wish to acquire in advance of a disaster in case no higher care is available.  As long as our society is functioning, you should leave anything more substantial than applying a Band-Aid to the professionals.  No medication, including those available over the counter, should be taken without consulting a physician.  Information shared here is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  It is not medical advice nor a substitute for licensed medical care. 

As was mentioned last month in the post on appendicitis, that disease is most common between the ages of 10 and 30.  As we age, the risk of appendicitis decreases, and the chances increase for another disease with similar symptoms and similar risks for complications and death.  It's called diverticular disease and encompasses diverticulosis and diverticulitis.  It's kind of like appendicitis for the older generation.

Diverticulosis is the formation of sacs or pouches in the colon.  It affects about 10% of Americans over the age of 40.  It causes no symptoms nor pain, so most are quite blissfully aware they have the condition.  Which is just great.  However, between 10 and 25% of those with diverticulosis will eventually develop diverticulitis, and that is a problem.  Still, it only affects 1 to 2.5% of all people over the age of 40.  Diverticulitis is what happens when those asymptomatic diverticulosis pouches become inflamed or infected.  At best, most cases of diverticulitis are painful, but they only require bed rest and gradual dietary changes.  Severe diverticulitis may necessitate hospitalization, intravenous antibiotics, and surgery, none of which may be available post-collapse.

The inflamed/infected diverticula can perforate or burst just like the appendix, spilling the contents into the abdominal cavity, and can be just as deadly as a perforated appendix.  The symptoms of the two diseases are very similar. Appendicitis patients generally have pain on the lower right side; diverticulitis usually presents with pain on the lower left side.  This pain is also very sudden and severe.  Other symptoms include abdominal tenderness, fever, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and rectal bleeding.

The risk factors for developing diverticular disease, as far as diet is concerned, are high animal protein/high fat diets that are very low in fiber.  Obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, age, genetics, smoking, steroids, and opiates may also contribute.

However, Metamucil is not the answer.  After the body has rested and recovered from its bout with diverticulitis, gradual changes to the diet should be made to reduce the number of flare-ups and opportunities for recurrence.  Because if a person has had diverticulitis once, he's at greater risk for having it again.  The best diet for preventing diverticulitis includes a lot of fiber and probiotics like yogurt.  In addition, exercise is very beneficial to maintaining gut flow, as is going when you've got to go, rather than holding it in.

Conventional therapy for diverticulitis is complete bed rest.  Physicians will sometimes prescribe antibiotics, with levofloxacin being the drug of choice.  Ciprofloxacin and metronidazole are other options.  Each is taken for 10 to 21 days.  None of these is without the risk of side effects.  Do not consume alcohol while taking metronidazole.  With levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin there is a risk of tendinitis and/or tendon rupture during treatment and for several months afterwards.  This risk is greatest in men over the age of sixty.  Tylenol may be used for pain.  NSAIDs are to be avoided due to the risk of bleeding.

Alternative therapy for diverticulitis has a whole host of options.  In addition to bed rest, the patient may find relief with one or more of the following:
  • licorice tea (1/2 teaspoon boiled for a few minutes in 1 cup water, strained, and taken 30 minutes before meals, two to three times per day)
  • mallow tea (5 grams, about 1 teaspoon, dried and powdered mallow root in one cup boiling water, steeped for five minutes, and then strained, three times per day)
  • grapefruit seed extract (12 drops in a glass of water, 3-4 times per day.  After four days and as symptoms subside, decrease the number of times per day taking grapefruit seed extract.)
  • raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and cayenne (1 tablespoon ACV and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper in one cup of warm water, twice per day.  Symptoms should resolve within three days; relief should begin within a few hours.)
  • slippery elm (1 teaspoon slippery elm tincture in 1 cup water, 2-3 times per day; takes 3-4 days to start feeling better.  Continue until symptoms entirely resolve.)
  • colloidal silver
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt in 1 cup hot water
  • oil of oregano
  • papaya pills
  • yarrow or goldenseal tea
Unfortunately, for the last several items I could not locate any specific directions for treatment, only that these items had been used with success by people with diverticulitis.  I chose to include them just in case you have these but not the others with more specific information.

Some patients have found relief applying lavender essential oil to the abdomen and massaging it in, as well as using it for aromatherapy.

Links to related posts:

For further reading:
Armageddon Medicine, pp 373-379.
The Survival Medicine Handbook, p 398.
Survival and Austere Medicine, 3rd Edition, p 142.

© 2019,

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Assessing a Patient

Disclaimer.  I am not a licensed health practitioner.  This is just another post on knowledge and understanding you might wish to acquire in advance of a disaster in case no higher care is available.  As long as our society is functioning, you should leave anything more substantial than applying a Band-Aid to the professionals.  No medication, including those available over the counter, should be taken without consulting a physician.  Information shared here is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  It is not medical advice nor a substitute for licensed medical care. 

So let's say we're a few weeks into TEOTWAWKI and you're happily situated at your BOL.  And all is well, until some child drops out of the sky into your front yard.  Yeah, that's not really likely, but it avoids having to discuss the wisdom of treating an adult who stumbles into your area, whether there are threats following him or observing you, whether he's faking and you're putting yourself in danger, etc.  Also, imagining that it is your child you are treating may not work so well, either, for other reasons.  Keeping this as someone else's child helps keep you detached and rational in your approach.

Before rushing to the child's side, take a look around and above, just to make sure no one else is dropping out of the sky and on top of you.  As you approach the child, put on your gloves and make a mental note of your initial impressions and the time.  In other situations you might also note the location and number of other patients.

There are a number of different initial mnemonics for this as well, to help you remember everything.  Some use DR ABCDE, or ABCDE, or ABC.  You can Google the first two; both doctors my husband, daughter, and I took classes from taught us to use ABC.  This is to stop and fix immediate threats to life:
  • A--airway
  • B--breathing
  • C--circulation

There is some debate among medical personnel about the order in which these threats are addressed, and you may disagree as well.  That's ok.  We probably won't be working on each other or each other's family members.  Lots will say to go in alphabetical order here:  first, airway; then, breathing; finally, circulation.

The American Heart Association changed the order in 2010 to CAB, because, as both doctors teaching our classes also pointed out, a body can survive a blocked airway and/or no respiration for three to five minutes without permanent damage.  But a person can bleed out in less than 60 seconds, and there's no comeback from that.  Bleeding (circulation) gets controlled first.

The next part of this is chest compressions, part of CPR.  Except that most times when CPR is being performed, it has to be continued until the patient arrives at the hospital.  We're talking about a time when there is no hospital, no advanced care, no diagnosis or treatment for whatever has caused the cardiac arrest.  As both docs teaching our off-grid medicine courses shared, you don't do CPR post-collapse.  Those people have underlying medical conditions that are not going to be fixed without advanced care.  Yes, it's hard to accept.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, all for people who were otherwise healthy before needing resuscitation--those who have drowned, or been electrocuted (lightning strike--yeah, it's possible to survive that), or choked.  CPR may bring those people back without the need for additional hospital support. 


If the patient is conscious, one way to judge the airway is by how much the patient can speak.  Can he say a sentence, a phrase, a word, or nothing?  Is the patient able to make any sound?  The absence of any breathing sounds indicates total obstruction of the airway.  Gurgling or snoring sounds suggest partial airway obstruction.

In an unconscious person, the head is tilted and the jaw thrust forward so that the tongue can't block the airway.  Look, listen, and feel for air movement.  Does the chest rise and fall?

In both groups of patients, vomit and foreign objects need to be scooped out of the mouth so that they cannot block the airway or be aspirated.
  • Turn the patient to the right or left before scooping out the mouth so that gravity can help.
  • Make sure to scoop carefully so that you do not further impact material into the airway.  
  • Semi-conscious patients may bite down on your fingers.  A bite block may help prevent injury to the caregiver.
  • Be prepared for the patient to unexpectedly vomit.
In a survival situation, if necessary, you can safety pin the tongue to the lower lip to keep it out of the airway.

Oral and nasal airways are a simple way of maintaining the airway in an unconscious patient.  They're really cheap on Amazon, like $6-12, and each set has a wide variety of sizes to accommodate infants to adults.  It doesn't require any particular training to use them.  They aren't perfect; there is no protection from aspiration of foreign objects or vomit.  However, all the other methods of keeping an airway open--supra-glottic airways, intubation, and a surgical airway--require skill and training.


After the airway is open, check to see that the patient is breathing.  If not, you have to do it for him.  This is done either by mouth-to-mouth (or face mask) or using a bag-valve mask.  Neither of these are long-term solutions.  A patient requiring prolonged ventilation in a remote situation or societal collapse is unlikely to survive.

After, and perhaps even during, taking care of the ABCs above, it's also important to assess the patient's level of consciousness (LOC).  Most providers use the following AVPU scale:

A--alert and oriented to:
  • person, place, time, and events (AOx4)
  • person, place, and time (AOx3)
  • person and place (AOx2)
  • person (AOx1)
V--verbally responsive--responds to questions
P--painfully responsive--responds to pain like pinching fingers or toes 
U--unresponsive--no response to any stimulus

Care providers usually conduct the AVPU assessment while doing other things, like you see on TV.  You know, the questions you might find annoying.  "Do you remember what happened?  Do you know what day it is?  Do you know where you are?  Do you know who I am?"  Stuff like that.

In all likelihood, you'll never be faced with any of this.  Even trained physicians, other than those in the working in the ER or trauma departments, rarely see anyone in a life-threatening situation.  But things like this are always good to know.

For further reading:
Survival and Austere Medicine, 3rd Edition, pp 88-93.
(Articles accessed 16 September 2019)

© 2019,  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Patriots--675; Redskins--0. The Medicinal Use of Lomatium

Disclaimer.  I am not a licensed health practitioner.  This is just another post on an item you might wish to have available if needed so that a physician can treat you and your family as best as possible.  No medication, including those available over the counter, should be taken without consulting a physician.  Information shared here is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  It is not medical advice nor a substitute for licensed medical care.  A qualified, licensed physician or other medical provider should be consulted before beginning any herbal or conventional treatment.
Patriots--675; Redskins--0.  That looks like the scoreboard for one heck of a football game.  And if that were actually the case, I sure wouldn't want to be the Redskins.  Fortunately for the Redskins, it never happened, but something kind of like it did.

Let's change the team names to Other Americans and Washoe Indians.  And while we're at it, let's multiply each side's score by 1,000, so the Other Americans have 675,000 points and the Washoe Indians (still) have 0.  And for good measure, let's change the name of the game from football to life.  That looks like the scoreboard for most of American history, doesn't it?  The whites usually won.

But not always, and in this game, the low score is the winner.  So this time, the Washoe Indians absolutely killed it.

The game edition was influenza.  The years 1918-1920.  The Washoe Indians were living in poverty on the reservations allocated to them.  They lacked money for trained doctors and medical care.  They definitely lacked good nutrition at times.

And yet, they lost not a single person to influenza.  The rest of America, with all their advantages, lost 675,000.  What did the Washoe Indians know?

They knew lomatium.

The Washoe Indians used Lomatium dissectum, commonly known as fernleaf biscuit root, a species indigenous to the Great Basin of North America.  It is also called desert parsley.  Other species, including Lomatium ambiguum, L. bicolor, L. cous, L. foeniculaceum, L. grayi, L. macrocarpum, L. nudicaule, L. orientale, L. simplex, and L. triternatum, can be used identically.

When local doctor Ernst Krebs noticed that the Indians, with all the strikes they had against them, were not dying of influenza, but the whites, with all their advantages were regularly succumbing, he went to the Indians for help.  And they taught him how to use lomatium.  With that little bit of knowledge, even the patients he felt were beyond hope fully recovered.

Parts used.  Most herbalists use just the roots, but the seeds are actually more powerful. 

Time to harvest.  The roots can be harvested at any time of year.  However, it is easier to identify the plants in the spring and easier to dig them after a good spring rain.  The root must be strongly aromatic, bitter, and oily if it is to be used as an antiviral.  Roots from younger plants are not as medicinal as roots from older plants.  However, the seeds are medicinal no matter how old the plant is.  Keep in mind that if the root tastes good, it's good for food, but not medicine.  And younger roots are more likely to taste better.  Dry the roots for just a few days and then cut them up.  Once dried and well sealed in the dark, they will last several years.

  • Tincture
    • fresh root or seeds 1:2 herb to alcohol.  Chop the wilted root as finely as possible.  Add alcohol/water--70% grain alcohol, 30% water.  Let macerate (soak) in cool dark place for 2 weeks.  
    • dried root powder, 1:5 herb to alcohol/water.  Then same as above.
    • dried seeds, 1:3 herb to alcohol ratio, 50% alcohol.
    • dosage is 10-30 drops up to 4-5x per day.  In acute conditions, 10-30 drops per hour.
  • Infusion
    • This is what the Washoe Indians used.  It worked pretty well for them, just going by the numbers.  The problem is being able to find the root when you need it, especially if you don't know what it looks like in the winter, under the snow.  That's why you want a tincture on hand, just in case.
    • Use 1 teaspoon powder in 6 ounces boiling water.  Cover and let steep 10-15 minutes.  Use 3-4 times per day, or more often in acute conditions.
    • The above is what herbalist Stephen Buhner recommends.  The following is how the Washoe Indians actually used it.
    • Peel one pound of lomatium root.  Boil it in water (no mention as to how long) and skim the oil off the top.  A large dose of the broth was given to those afflicted with the flu over the course of three days.  Within a week, each patient was completely recovered. 
  • Wound powder
    • Use in conjunction with other herbs, like Usnea, juniper leaf, Oregon grape root, and echinacea root or seed, in equal amounts, to make a powder for treating wounds, diaper rash, and athlete's foot.  
  • Cough syrups
    • Lomatium is often combined with several other herbs to produce a very effective cough syrup.  According to Ernst Krebs, this cough syrup was more effective than the opiates in use at the time and the effects lasted longer.
The Washoe Indians also used lomatium for treating rheumatism, arthritis, the common cold, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. 
For those who do not have lomatium growing locally (it's only found west of the Mississippi), lomatium is pretty widely available in commercial preparations online.

Contraindications.  Not for use by pregnant women.

Side effects:  About 1 percent of people who use Lomatium dissectum will develop a significant allergic rash.  (Other species do not cause the rash.)  This occurs only with the fresh root tincture, and only if it is taken alone, rather than in conjunction with other herbs.  There is no itching or discomfort with this rash, but it looks bad.  The rash begins within eight hours of taking the tincture.  It covers the whole body and is deep red to purple.  Nothing will make this rash go away, except time, about a week.  To avoid the rash, use the dried root for making your tinctures. 

Links to related posts:
Book review--Herbal Antibiotics
Book review--Herbal Antivirals

For further reading:
Herbal Antibiotics, p 373

© 2019,

Sunday, September 15, 2019

When To Use Imodium (Loperamide)--And When Not To

(Disclaimer.  This is not medical advice.  I am not a licensed health practitioner.  This is just another post on an item you might wish to have available if needed so that a physician can treat you and your family as best as possible.  No medication, including those available over the counter, should be taken without consulting a physician.

(This post first appeared 1 January 2019.)

Loperamide, generally known better by its trade name of Imodium, is one of those handy little tools to have in the medicinal toolbox.  But it's not so critical as to merit discussion right up there with antibiotics and OTC pain relievers.  I don't know that I've ever taken loperamide in my life, but my husband does occasionally and very much likes to have it on hand. 

So why discuss it now?  Why not wait until much later and cover more essential medications now?  Because loperamide could soon go the way of Sudafed.  If you recall, Sudafed used to be available over-the-counter right next to all the other cold remedies.  However, due to its use by meth-heads in manufacturing methamphetamine, you now have to go to the pharmacy counter, show your driver's license, and sign for it.  And you are limited in how much you can purchase each month.

Loperamide may follow suit at any time. That's because it's also known as "poor man's methadone."  Loperamide is actually an opioid, and abusers have turned to taking it in extremely large doses, like 200+ pills at once, to treat withdrawal symptoms.  So now the FDA is considering limiting our access to larger quantities.  They've asked manufacturers to package the tablets in blister packs of eight tablets.  And you really shouldn't need more than that to treat a simple case of diarrhea.  But, we're preppers, and we like to stock up.  As recently as April 2018 one could buy 400 tablets at Sam's Club for about $4.00.  I can't find any now at Sam's online.  Walmart's largest package contains 24 pills, for about twice what I paid for 400 tablets a year ago.  The cheapest I see on Amazon today (14 September 2019) is $6.20 for 96 tablets.  Still, when you need it, you need it. 

Loperamide, used medicinally since 1976, is on WHO's List of Essential Medicines for its use in treating diarrhea due to gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and mild traveler's diarrhea.  It is NOT used for treating cholera, salmonella, typhoid, or Clostridium difficile; you want to get the bacteria causing these conditions OUT of the body ASAP.  Loperamide's job is to slow down intestinal motility and keep fluids IN the body.

Loperamide should not be used by pregnant or nursing women or in children under the age of five years.

For further reading:

Copyright 2018,

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Magic Mix Soups: Creamy Chicken Noodle and Cheesy Potato and Broccoli

Magic Mix is really pretty versatile stuff.  We've already covered how it makes a fabulous substitute for cream of whatever in a can.  (Actually, I think it's way better, so it's not fair to call it a substitute.  That suggests it's not as good as the original.)  However, you can also just skip the part of making the soup substitute and go straight to making a creamy soup.  And you can do it really quickly.   

Cheesy Potato and Broccoli Soup

1 cup Magic Mix
2 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sour cream
2-3 baked potatoes, diced
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups chopped, cooked broccoli
1 teaspoon salt
Garnishes--bacon bits, green onions, additional shredded cheese

Combine Magic Mix and water in saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until it begins to thicken.  Stir in remaining ingredients and heat through.  Ladle into soup bowls and garnish, if desired.

Family reviews:  Husband thought it was a bit on the rich side.  I loved it and had seconds.  And I really loved that it was very quick to make.  The kids weren't around to try it.

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

8 cups water, divided
3/4 cup Magic Mix
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon
1 pint canned chicken
2 cups sliced fresh carrots (or 1 cup dehydrated + 1 1/2 cups water)
2 cups chopped celery (or 3/4 cup dehydrated + 1 1/2 cups water)
3/4 cup chopped onion (or 3 tablespoons dehydrated + 2/3 cup water)
4 cups uncooked noodles

In a large pot over medium-low, whisk Magic Mix into 2 cups water until smooth, stirring until thickened.  Add remaining water, bouillon, chicken, vegetables, and noodles.  Cook until vegetables are tender.

Links to related posts:
Dry Milk
Magic Mix 
Banana Cream Pie with Magic Mix
Magic Mix Beef Stroganoff and Cheeseburger Mac
Magic Mix Fudgesicles
Coconut Oil for Butter in Magic Mix 

 © 2019,

Friday, September 13, 2019

More Breakfast Cereal--Muesli

Up next:  More Magic Mix Soups

As for breakfast cereal that I like to eat, now we're getting somewhere.  Once you've got the homemade Grape-Nuts and the homemade Wheaties, it's a cinch to put your own muesli together.

Apocalyptic Muesli
4 cups quick cooking rolled oats
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup crunchy wheat cereal
1 cup wheat flakes
1 cup dried apples, apricots, raisins, or other fruit

Mix together and put in covered container.  Most recipes I've come across say to add the fruit when you're ready to serve.  The cereal manufacturers don't seem to do that, so I don't know why we need to.  But if you want to keep your grains really dry, add the fruit when you're ready to serve.

Yeah, that was easy, too.

Links to related posts:
Homemade Grape Nuts
Homemade Wheaties  

© 2019,

Thursday, September 12, 2019

DIY Apple Cider Vinegar

Up next:  More Breakfast Cereal--Muesli

'Tis the season... for all things apple-related.

When the children were younger, our family often visited Apple Hill, California, in the fall.  We made it a point to bring home a few boxes of different varieties of apples to make our own apple sauce and apple cider.  And one year I decided to add apple cider vinegar to the mix.  The directions I had then included filling the bucket with apples and topping off with water, and then letting it brew for a long time.

The first year everything worked well and we had a nice batch of our own DIY apple cider vinegar.  I don't know what went wrong the second year, but it didn't smell right.  It was also kind of a bother to have a five gallon bucket taking up floor space for a couple of months.

And besides, I didn't need gallons of apple cider vinegar.  A few quarts would be much more reasonable.

So I was pretty happy to come across a few recipes for making smaller batches, faster.  Delighted, in fact.  Assuming you use apple peels and cores that are going to be discarded anyway, it's super cheap, and it takes very little hands-on time.

So let's begin!

Here's what you'll need:
  • A glass canning jar, somewhere between one quart to one gallon, preferably wide mouth
  • Enough apple cores, peels and/or chopped apples to fill your jar 3/4 full (fall apples seem to make the best vinegar)
  • 1/8-1/2 cup sugar
  • 2-8 cups boiled and cooled water
  • coffee filter or cheesecloth
  • canning band to fit your jar
  • regular mouth 1/2 pint jar or other item to weigh apples down in jar
Begin by filling your canning jar 3/4 full with apple cores and peels (or coarsely chopped apples).  Your apple parts may be bruised or brown, but they should not be moldy or rotten.  Don't pack the apple parts in.  You want to allow enough room for the apples to expand in the liquid and also for them to be completely submerged.

Dissolve two tablespoons of sugar in two cups of boiled and cooled water per 3/4 quart of apples.  Pour the sugar solution over the apple scraps until they are completely submerged, making more sugar water in the same ratio if necessary so that the apples are completely submerged in the solution.  Mold will grow on any apple pieces that are not submerged, and this will ruin your vinegar.  If necessary, use a regular mouth half-pint jar or other item to weigh down the apples in solution.   There should be at least an inch of space between the top of the apples and the surface of the sugar solution.

Cover the jar loosely with a coffee filter or scrap of fabric and secure this in place with a wide mouth canning band.  Set jar in a warm, dark place for two weeks.  This will allow fermentation to occur and release gases while protecting your vinegar-in-the-making from fruit flies.

Stir every few days.  If any white, brown, or gray scum develops on the top, skim it off.   This is perfectly normal.  Mold, however, sometimes happens.  This is not good.  It will spoil your vinegar.  To prevent mold from forming, make sure the apples remain submerged under the solution. 

After two weeks, strain the scraps from the liquid and discard the scraps. Replace the lid and coffee filter or fabric.  Again let the vinegar sit in a warm, dark place for two weeks.

After two more weeks, if it smells and tastes like vinegar, you're good to go!  If not, let it sit a little while longer, checking every week.  Once the vinegar is to your liking, replace the coffee filter with a regular canning lid and store the vinegar in a cool, dark place.

If a gelatinous blob develops, you've created a vinegar "mother," or starter.

You can use your DIY ACV just as you would any other ACV in cooking or cleaning, with the exception of canning.  DIY ACV should not be used for canning, because unless you have pH test strips, you have no idea of how strong your vinegar is, and canning recipes are formulated using exact pH values.

You may substitute the sugar with honey, but honey is more expensive and it does not work as well or as quickly.

To hasten the vinegar-making process, you may begin with a starter.  Use 1 1/2 tablespoons of vinegar from your previous batch for every two cups of water, when you add the sugar.  Strain the apples after just one week, and taste test each week thereafter.

Make sure your jar and all your equipment are very clean.  You want to be certain you are making only vinegar, not something scary.

For further reading:

© 2019, 

Dealing with Diverticulitis