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If This Sounds Like You, You Might be Undermethylated

MTHFR mutation discussions can quickly turn into Greek and the topic of overmethylated vs undermethylated MTHFR is one of the Greekest. It seems like no two resources on the internet are talking about the same thing when they talk about it and so overmethylation and undermethylation are strange, kind of meaningless words because at the end of the day it feels like nailing jello to a wall. So let’s see if we can sort some of this out.

Whose Idea Is This? I’m Following The Walsh Research Institute

The terms overmethylation and undermethylation make the most sense to me as the Walsh Research Institute uses them.  These are general physical tendencies based on the sum of your genetics, nutritional status and body burden. There isn’t one gene or genetic defect alone that can account for them – so just because you have an MTHFR C677T mutation doesn’t actually mean you’re over or under methylated (although it would be one factor that might push the balance to undermethylation).  Dr. Walsh describes one’s methylation status as being like a tug of war between opposing factors. Many of those are genetic and some are nutritional or environmental.

Undermethylation MTHFR

This is the most common state. According to Dr. Walsh’s research, 70% of the population are normal methylators, 22% are undermethylators and 8% are overmethylators. Undermethylation indicates that the methylation cycle as a whole is slowed down enough that the end product, SAMe, is typically inadequate and thus causes symptoms.

  • Clinically undermethylators are more commonly autism spectrum (98% of autism spectrum clients at the Walsh Research Institute), antisocial disorder (95% of antisocial clients at WRI were undermethylators), schizoaffective disorder (90%), oppositional defiant disorder (85%), anorexia (82%), and depression (which can occur in under, normal or over methylators but 38% of depressed clients for Dr. Walsh are undermethylators).
  • Mutations most likely to contribute to undermethylation are MTHFR (C677T especially, but also A1298C), MS, BHMT, MAT and SAHH. Remember that the presence of one or more of these mutations isn’t enough to say if you’re an over or under methylator. The combination of all of your genetic factors as well as your nutritional state must be taken into account. The best way to determine is through symptoms and traits.
  • Other contributing factors are histamine overload and protein deficiency, as well as frank deficiency of folate.
Highly competitive? You might be undermethylated

Highly competitive? You might be undermethylated




  • Symptoms and traits of undermethylation include:
    • Strong willed
    • Highly competitive at sports or whatever matters to them
    • Obsessive/compulsive tendencies
    • Addictive tendencies (more likely to be addicted with less exposure than a normal methylator)
    • High sex drive
    • Tend towards high accomplishment and usually a high achieving family
    • Appear calm and well controlled (possibly over-controlled) but inner tension is high
    • Greater likelihood of seasonal allergies
    • Higher fluidity of tears, saliva, etc…
    • Perfectionist
    • Less likely to be compliant with therapies
Addictive behaviour? You could be undermethylated. © Francesco Bisignani | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Addictive behaviour? You could be undermethylated. © Francesco Bisignani | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Is Undermethylated the Same as Under-supplemented?

No! Although it seems that in a lot of popular literature on the subject people use the term interchangeably. So often you’ll see someone say that you might still be “undermethylated” if you aren’t taking enough 5-MTHF.  I feel that these are different things entirely.  If you have a tendency to be undermethylated then certainly you will probably need to take 5-MTHF, but even once you’re taking enough you are still an undermethylator (in my opinion), you’re just taking the right protocol.  Likewise taking too much 5-MTHF, doesn’t make you suddenly “overmethylated” it just means you’re taking too much.

Okay! I’m Undermethylated. Now What?

Absolutely the best way to enhance the methylation cycle is by taking 5-MTHF, or 5-L methyltetrahydrofolate.  This is the active form of folic acid, and you can also get it from foods, especially if you have some trouble taking the supplement.  Trouble taking the supplement is surprisingly common, typically it is an adjustment reaction to actually enhancing the methylation cycle because this changes neurotransmitter levels, encourages detoxification and encourages more than 80 reactions in the body that are methylation dependent. So some adjustment reaction when you’re first taking 5-MTHF is normal and actually a good sign that things are changing in your body.   There is one BIG EXCEPTION TO THIS, and that is if you are undermethylated and have depression.

I Want to Start Taking 5-MTHF. How Do I Make This Easy?

Any time you start taking 5-MTHF, or increase your dose, there will be an adjustment period.  Here’s a whole post on it.  Just remember, start with a low dose and increase really slowly. This is changing the way your neurotransmitters work and doing some heavy detox work, so it’s vital not to overdo it because that is crazy-making. Start low and go slow.

HELP! I’m An Undermethylator and I Have Depression.

My next post is going to be all about this because UNDERMETHYLATORS WITH DEPRESSION DUE TO LOW SEROTONIN CAN’T TOLERATE 5-MTHF, FOOD SOURCES OF FOLATE OR FOLIC ACID AT ALL. That’s a really big deal! Depression is typically characterized by low serotonin states and unfortunately 5-MTHF (or any folate or folic acid). The short explanation for this is that folate, 5-MTHF and folic acid all increase the activity of the transport protein that re-uptakes serotonin into the cell. Essentially this is the opposite of a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (like prozac), it’s a serotonin reuptake promotor – meaning it makes the serotonin you have far less effective because it clears it out more quickly. There will be a whole post on this – I promise!



The Benefits of Being Sick – Audio!

The folks at the Diabetes Research Council were kind enough to turn a previous post, The Benefits of Being Sick, into an audio file.

That silky smooth voice isn’t mine (sadly), the post is being read by Holly Houston so please enjoy! The audio version will be in the original post as well, but I wanted to make sure that everyone sees it (or hears it, as the case may be.)

The Benefits of Being Sick, read by Holly Houston:




 

This is a good post to come back to occasionally, because it’s so easy to forget that black and white aren’t all there are.  That sometimes even “bad” things like being sick, brings you some “good” things. It’s a big deal to think about it. Thanks for listening!



Fiber for Gallbladder Sludge and Detoxification

Fiber is about the least sexy thing I could choose to talk about, but in terms of helping your body to eliminate toxins it’s at the top of the list and fiber for gallbladder sludge is essential. Especially helping to eliminate fat soluble toxins like hormones, bile salts and cholesterol residues that often make up gallbladder sludge. In fact, fiber is one of the key ways to help your body eliminate sludge from the gallbladder as long as it’s used correctly.

The Basics about Fiber:

Fiber comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and  forms a gooey sponge in the gut that grabs toxins and also feeds gut bacteria.  Insoluble fiber is unchanged by water and acts as an irritant to the gut wall, helping it to move correctly. Insoluble fiber can also ferment in the gut and act as a food source for your good bacteria. In terms of fiber supplements that means if you mix it with your drink and can’t tell it’s there, it’s soluble.  If you mix it with your drink and it adds some texture or grit, then it’s insoluble.

Soluble and insoluble fiber have slightly different uses and functions in the body, but for the purpose of this article I’m not going to differentiate.  I just want you to get fiber and lots of it.




General Benefits from Dietary Fiber:

  1. Detoxification – As your body eliminates toxins in the liver they are excreted into your intestines in order to pass out in your stool.  Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen.  Often we reabsorb these toxins, sometimes on purpose as is often the case with hormones and bile salts (both frequent components of gallbladder sludge) and sometimes by accident. If there is fiber in your intestines the fiber binds to the toxin and will not let your body reabsorb it. This means fiber for gallbladder sludge, detox or weight loss (which is a kind of detox) is absolutely essential.
  2. Regularity – This is the part of fiber that most people know about.  It keeps your bowels regular and easy. This also is important for detoxification, simply because the more effective your bowels are, the more of the toxins from your liver are able to be released.  The slower your bowels are moving the more likely it is that toxins will be reabsorbed. Fight your constipation the simplest way, with fiber. Just make sure you drink lots of water every time you take a fiber supplement because without enough water they can cause constipation instead of relieving it.
  3. Hormone Balancing – Most people don’t know that one of the most important mechanisms of hormone balancing is elimination.  Hormones are just signals and in order to end that signal when we don’t need it any more, you eliminate those hormones just like you would a toxin.  If fiber isn’t there to catch the hormones in your intestine then often you will pull them back in to your blood stream in a misguided attempt at being thrifty – we are the ultimate hormone hoarders.  Fiber binds to hormones just like it does to bile salts and pulls them out of your body, helping to maintain your natural hormone balance.
  4. Blood Sugar Stability – This is tragically overlooked.  The simple act of adding fiber to a meal helps your body to more effectively regulate and moderate the sugars that are coming in with that meal.  Given that diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions, this simple step seems worth it.  Fiber supplements or fiber-rich foods like flax seeds can also be added to foods like mashed potatoes that have a high glycemic index to help to moderate their effect on your blood sugar.

    Lentils are great sources of dietary fiber and fiber for gallbladder sludge and other detox is absolutely essential. Picture from wikimedia commons, by Hohum.

    Lentils are great sources of dietary fiber. Fiber for gallbladder sludge and other detox is absolutely essential. Picture from wikimedia commons, by Hohum.

Fiber for Gallbladder Sludge

Fiber for gallbladder sludge is almost essential.  When you’re working on eliminating the sludge it’s always a coordinated effort of liquefying bile, increasing bile flow through the gallbladder to flush the sludge out, and fiber to grab the toxins from the sludge and pull them out of the body so you don’t end up having to detoxify them back through the gallbladder. For more about the other steps of eliminating gallbladder sludge see this article as well as these helpful steps towards boosting liver performance. Fiber is essentially a large floppy molecule that acts like a sponge, catching the toxins that are released and holding on to them so that your body can’t reabsorb them.  Fiber itself isn’t absorbed into your blood, it stays in your gut so it’s only available for use if you’ve eaten it recently – you can’t stock up the way you can with some vitamins and nutrients.  For that reason fiber with every meal is important.

The average American eating the “standard american diet” (or SAD diet) gets between 12 and 15 g of fiber daily.  The recommended daily allowance is 25 g and if you’re working on detoxification, weight loss or gallbladder sludge then it may be  a good idea to get even more than that. Spreading fiber out through out the day so that there is always some in your gut to bind to toxins is extremely helpful. Also as you’re increasing the fiber in your diet it’s extremely important to increase slowly and to add water proportionally because otherwise fiber can be constipating, which is pretty much the opposite of what we want.

For the next week try to count the grams of fiber you take in on a daily basis just to see where you are starting from.  If your fiber intake is too low then one of the best things you can do is add more high fiber foods into your diet or even a fiber supplement if you can’t add the foods.  I try to shoot for anything between 30-50 grams daily.  I don’t always make it, but I always try. Foods like nuts, beans, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and dark chocolate (woohoo!!!) are all high in fiber. Fiber for gallbladder sludge and any other kind of detoxification is absolutely essential.



Natural Remedies for Liver Health and Support

In preparing for the new year I’d like to talk about natural remedies for liver health and support because let’s face it – livers don’t get a lot of love. It’s really easy to take your liver for granted, never really realizing how much it does for you on a day to day basis. But just in case you aren’t liver-savvy, this organ has got a lot going for it.

What Makes Your Liver so Special:

Your liver is the primary organ of detoxification and it deals with the burden of chemical and toxin exposure from normal everyday living. Let’s learn a little bit about it:

  • Your liver lives on the right side of your body at the bottom of your ribcage, right below your diaphragm.
  • It’s the only organ in the human body that can regenerate.
  • It regulates and stores glycogen (which is your storage form of sugar to protect you when your blood sugar levels fall).
  • It produces bile to help you emulsify and digest fatty foods – this bile then goes to the gallbladder to be stored and concentrated for use.
  • Your liver manufactures cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoproteins.
  • Your liver makes coagulation factors so that your blood can clot when needed.
  • Your liver stores basic nutrients for your body to use in emergencies. These include a 1-2 year supply of vitamin A, a 1-4 month supply of vitamin D, a 1-3 year supply of vitamin B12, and also vitamin K, iron and copper.
  • It helps break down old worn-out or damaged red blood cells.
  • Guesses as to the number of functions your liver is responsible for vary slightly, but most sources say around 500 (!!)

Needless to say your liver is absolutely essential to health, vitality and life itself so it’s important to learn to take care of it adequately.

Signs Your Liver Needs a Little Love

Livers are big organs, and vital so they have a lot of flexibility before there will be real problems and often liver enzymes, which is the quick measure for liver function on your blood work, will be normal even when the liver is mildly compromised. Some signs, symptoms and indications that your liver needs some support include:

  • Nausea or low-grade stomach ickiness for no reason.
  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade headaches (like a very minor hangover)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching for no reason – just general skin itching
  • Jaundice – this is yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes and if you see anything so serious as this please go see your doctor right away
  • Clotting or extremely dark blood in a woman’s menstrual flow
  • History of moderate to heavy alcohol use (>14-21 drinks per week for a woman or >21 drinks per week for a man)
  • History of smoking
  • History of drug use
  • More than 3 prescription drugs
  • Liver enzymes out of balance or evidence of a fatty liver (always work with your doctor if this is the case).

Natural Remedies for Liver – Foods and Nutrition

Your liver is one of the first places that break-down products from foods go once they’re absorbed into your blood stream so it is very vulnerable to foods and can easily be helped or hurt by foods. Here’s a healthy liver eating guide:

Artichokes are one of the great natural remedies for liver health. This picture was found on the California Artichoke Advisory Board website - who knew there was such a thing? If you're curious you can find them at artichokes.org

Artichokes are a great natural remedy for liver health. This picture was found on the California Artichoke Advisory Board website – who knew there was such a thing? If you’re curious you can find them at artichokes.org

  • Eat organic – pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics in your foods have to be processed by your liver. There are some foods that actually accumulate pestices – for those check the dirty dozen and clean fifteen.
  • Filter your tap water – if you don’t filter it, or get purified water, then your liver will have to. Tap water is fine for survival but not optimal for health because it countains small amounts of many pharmaceutical drugs, tiny amounts of metals and small amounts of industrial and agricultural chemicals.
  • Drink lots of water – like any other filtration system, your liver works best if there is lots of water flushing through the system helping to keep things clean, so to speak.
  • Add lemon juice or apple cider vinegar – adding lemon or lime juice or a little bit of apple cider vinegar to your water can encourage gentle detoxification and the acidity helps to clear bile and sludge from the ducts and gallbladder. It’s gentle but helpful.
  • Eat beets – your liver loves beets and they encourage and support liver function.
  • Eat dark green leafy vegetables – again, your liver loves these. Especially when there is a hint of bitterness to them like dandelion greens.
  • Eat artichokes – you know the weird feeling artichokes give your salivary glands? They do that to your liver too. It’s called a “secretagogue” and it increases saliva and bile production which also helps to flush toxins through the liver and ducts.
  • Avoid GMO foods – we don’t really know what the body has to do to detoxify these foods, so they may be just fine but the point is that we don’t really know – in situations like that, it’s best to just avoid as much as possible.
  • Avoid processed foods – the more chemicals you can’t pronounce that are in your food, the more chemicals you can’t pronounce that your liver has to figure out how to deal with.
  • Don’t eat artificial sweeteners – no matter what anyone says these are chemicals and all chemicals have to be processed by your liver. It increases the burden on your liver (not to mention the neurological reasons not to eat them!)
  • Drink coffee – nobody believes me because it sounds too good to be true, but 1-2 cups (6 oz cups – coffee cups are supposed to be small) of coffee per day can protect your liver from damage and even help to protect it from cancer. Here’s a link for more information.
  • DeTox Tea – many companies make detox teas that are gentle herbal formulas to support liver function. My favorites are Dandelion tea from Traditional Medicinals and DeTox Tea from Yogi Teas.
  • Cook at home – I know it’s not easy – I also live in the modern world where nobody has time and cooking is kind of a pain, but this is the best way to make sure you and your family are eating real food made of real ingredients.
  • Moderate your sugar and starch intake – too much sugar is obviously a risk for diabetes, but it also adds to the work your liver has to do – especially when blood sugar levels start getting out of control. This means your liver has to store more glycogen and adapt to ever-rising blood sugar levels.
  • Get at least one fruit or veggie with each meal
  • Eat enough fiber – the US RDA is 25 grams but the average intake is about 12.5 grams.  Make sure you’re getting at least 25 grams of fiber every day to help your bowels move effectively and carry toxins out of your system.  If your bowels are slow or there isn’t enough fiber in your digestive tract then toxins can be reabsorbed, which doubles the work your liver has to do.




Natural Remedies for Liver – Supplements

If you’re already eating a liver healthy diet but still having some difficulty then it’s time to support your liver a little bit more strongly. There are some great herbs and nutrients for liver support as well as some great combination products.

  • Milk Thistle – seems like everyone knows this one. It supports and nourishes liver detoxification and has been well researched. It’s an antioxidant and hepatoprotectant (meaning it protects liver cells). Milk thistle also boosts production of glutathione which is your body’s central antioxidant.
  • Choline – this amino acid acts as a methyl donor in detox reactions
  • Methionine – this amino acid also acts as a methyl donor
  • Vitamin B-6 – this vitamin is a co-factor in many detoxification reactions
  • Vitamin B-12 – this works with B-6. Make sure you’re getting the methylcobalamin or hydroxycobalamin form.
  • Folic acid – This vitamin is an important cofactor for detox as well and must be in a methylated form such as methyl-folate, 5-methyl tetrahydrofolate or metafolin.
  • NAC – helps your body to build more glutathione, the master antioxidant and protects liver cells from toxin damage.
  • Magnesium – helps to balance many detox reactions, including transmethylation.
  • Dandelion root – this also encourages bile production in the liver and helps detoxification pathways.
  • Cilantro – this detoxifier specifically helps to amplify detoxification of heavy metals.
  • Turmeric or curcumin extracts – this reduces inflammation and increases antioxidants and detoxification.
  • Chicory root – this aids in liver detoxification and will even help to elminate tiny stones and calcifications.

Just in Case you Want Supplement Names – Here Are My Favorite

  • Lipotrophic Factors by Integrative Therapeutics Inc. (ITI)
  • Livaplex by Standard Process
  • Liver Cleanse by Thorne Research
  • Liver Defend by NuMedica
  • Deep Liver Support by Gaia

With any liver support, start slowly and always make the dietary changes first to get your body ready for gentle detoxification.  Start with just one capsule or tablet daily and see how your body responds. If you’re not noticing anything then increase slowly and it’s always best to work with a practitioner.  Natural remedies for liver health are safe and highly effective, but if your liver symptoms get worse then please get checked out by a doctor because liver disease isn’t something to mess with.



This gorgeous tree could help your heart to stay healthy.

The biggest Reason to Be A Treehugger – The Health Benefits of Trees.

Anyone who knows me can tell you I love trees. LOVE trees. So it’s no surprise that I’m advocating tree-hugging, but I’m not actually talking about it here for the reasons I usually do (sanity check, beauty, air purity, etc…). I’m actually talking about your health.  As it turns out, the health benefits of trees are not all mental and emotional. Not that those aren’t important, but there tends to be some eye-rolling when doctors talk about “connecting with nature” and “getting out into the woods to relax.” I get it.

A recent study published in the journal Environmental Pollution  showed that trees (just trees!!) prevented 850 human deaths, averted $6.8 billion dollars in health care costs, and helped prevent 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in 2010 alone. That is all because of trees and all in just one year. But again – the respiratory part, we all knew about because trees are the natural filters for our air and trees and plants generally are our major natural air filters. This great pictograph shows precisely how much air pollution is removed by trees in your area:

The number of tonnes of air pollution removed per square km by trees. From Environmental Pollution and also The Atlantic Monthly

The number of tonnes of air pollution removed per square km by trees. From Environmental Pollution and also The Atlantic Monthly

More remarkably, there is a link between trees and your heart health. A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in 2013 took advantage of a natural crisis in the tree population to show how the number of trees affects human health. Between 1990 and 2007 the Emerald Ash Borer (a type of insect) killed hundreds of millions of Ash trees in the U.S. and this study looked at trends in heart disease and also lung disease during that time. The results showed a clear increase in heart disease and death from cardiac causes in areas that were losing trees – 15,080 heart-related deaths because of tree loss specifically.  In those areas there were also an additional 6113 deaths from lung disease.  This suggests that the link between trees and heart disease may even be stronger than the link between trees and lung disease.




Trees also help reduce stress levels, increase wound healing speed and generally make life more livable. In fact, Richard Louv proposed a series of problems, especially behavioral problems in children stemming from “Nature Deficit Disorder.” I don’t know about you, but for my heart, my stress levels and my overall happiness I’m going to do everything I can to spend more time with trees.

The Health Benefits of Trees - This gorgeous tree could help your heart to stay healthy.

This gorgeous tree could help your heart to stay healthy.



Save Your Ta-Tas! Add melatonin to prevent tamoxifen resistance. Spread the word!

If you Take Tamoxifen You Need To Read This! Prevent Tamoxifen Resistance

Breast cancer is a big deal, and if you have it then you want to do everything to make sure the treatments you’re taking are actually working, so here is a simple, effective way to prevent tamoxifen resistance – please tell every woman you know! Nobody knows if this will prevent resistance 100%, but according to this study published in the journal Cancer Research, not adding this one simple step can make the drug ineffective, and it’s something that seems harmless. Nobody would ever think this would make such a big difference for breast cancer, but it does so spread the word to your girlfriends – because the killer might be sleeping with your lights on, even a small amount of light under a doorway might cause tamoxifen resistance.




If you know ANY woman with Breast cancer who is using Tamoxifen as a treatment make sure she knows this one simple step. You can help to save her from Tamoxifen resistance.  Tamoxifen resistance happens when melatonin levels are too low, and that can be triggered by tiny amounts of nighttime light.  Make sure women taking Tamoxifen are also taking melatonin at bedtime and sleeping in TOTAL dark.

It’s completely crazy that this might make such a huge difference, but the research is clear. Exposure to even small amounts of light at night can shut off melatonin production and if there isn’t enough melatonin then the breast cancer is rendered completely resistant to Tamoxifen. Researcher David Blask explains the mechanism this way:

“High melatonin levels at night put breast cancer cells to ‘sleep’ by turning off key growth mechanisms. These cells are vulnerable to tamoxifen. But when the lights are on and melatonin is suppressed, breast cancer cells ‘wake up’ and ignore tamoxifen,”

This has huge implications for women who work night shifts, women who sleep with a TV or computer on in their room or even women who have LED lights or even alarm clocks with lit faces. Also for women who have poorly regulated sleep to begin with or who may not produce adequate melatonin. To me, the simple solution is to include melatonin into the protocol for every woman undergoing breast cancer treatment.  Especially since melatonin has it’s own anti-cancer benefits. The standard starting dose for melatonin is 3 mg at bedtime, but in cancer research doses of 20 mg have been shown to have potent anti-cancer benefits, especially for solid tumors like those in breast cancer. If you currently have cancer please talk with your doctor about this and make sure your doctor is aware of the research because this is a new development. Make sure all your lady friends know too because we want to save the ta-tas.

Save Your Ta-Tas! Add melatonin to prevent tamoxifen resistance. Spread the word!

Save Your Ta-Tas! Add melatonin to prevent tamoxifen resistance. Spread the word!

This study was conducted at Tulane University School of Medicine.



Be an Urban Wildling: ReWilding YOUR Ecology!

So rarely do I find an idea that just zings with me like rewilding does, but ZING! Wow WOW am I ever excited about this. Let me back up and tell you what exactly I’m going on about before I go on any further…

I’ve been talking with the Urban Moonshine people, mostly because I love their bitters but partly because I wanted to make sure they weren’t going to be upset that I’m talking about them.  In any event, they were kind enough to send me this article, by their Chief Herbalist Guido Mase RH introducing the concept of rewilding our Urban spaces.  Not with big sweeping gestures, like knocking down buildings and tearing up pavement; but with the small gestures that gently nudge environments and ourselves back to health and balance.  The tiny things that will help our pollinators, help our soil health, help our internal health and maybe bring us all a little closer to wonderful.

A wild garden from ourhappyacres.com - rewilding at work.

A wild garden from ourhappyacres.com – rewilding at work.

Selected Rewilding Excerpts from Guido Mase, RH “Re-Wild Our Ecology This Spring”:

It’s always puzzled me that life and vitality even exist. After all, there is a vast amount of decay and destruction all around us. Many speculate that the universe will eventually end up a homogenous, barely warm field of force[i]. Yet somehow there is also this tendency everywhere for more and more complex beings to spring up, interact, and reproduce. These two trends seem to stand in opposition, two basic drives, somewhat of a paradox.




For us humans there is no escape from this basic fact. Some say we are becoming more and more separate from nature[iv], which of course is impossible (we are nature)

If you fail to recognize how important it is to fully interact and engage with the diversity of life, consequences inevitably follow. Less bees[vii], fewer flavonoids, more heart disease. Fewer monarch butterflies[viii], absent bitter compounds, more diabetes. That’s the thing: complexity works at all levels of the ecology, and our current culture has places where things aren’t as connected, aren’t as linked up. We may be fully jacked into the information stream, but our phytochemical stream has very low bandwidth. Maybe the best way to link up is simply to do as life does: increase the chaos, increase the diversity, open up access, re-wild within and without. It seems to me that the spring season is a good time for this. It’s when the ice cracks, and the seed breaks through the soil.

One strategy is to change the ecology, little by little. We can look to the parking lot, the lawn, the edge of the cornfield. Scatter seeds of resilient native plants – wild bee balm, dandelion, red clover. Leave some grass uncut – watch the trefoil, wild carrot, and asters grow. Leave thick buffer zones between your gardens, rich in weeds like St. John’s wort, mugwort, and chicory. These plants will attract pollinators, giving them a much needed source of safe food. They will change the chemical interactions of microbes in the soil[ix], affect patterns of bird nesting and reproduction[x], and speed the dissipation of contaminants[xi]. This will help our cities, gardens and fields link up.

In our bodies, herbal medicine is the best way to achieve similar diversity, and it may be the easiest as well (life, after all, appears to be the path of least resistance). While much of herbalism is devoted to specific constitutions, or well-defined patterns of imbalance, it also has a rich tradition of plants applied tonically, ritually, daily: planting a wild garden inside. The life-enhancing power of tonic herbalism is the exposure to an ever-changing cocktail of phytochemistry, enriching the internal ecology and helping us connect to seasons as they change.

This spring, try a simple version of the classic bitter tonic: gather dandelion leaves and roots and mix them with an aromatic plant like motherwort, mugwort, or mustard, the young leaves still fresh and vital. To these add something with a little hint of salt, like parsley or chickweed. Get your plants locally and, if you can’t find them, plant them. Chop the herbs up well and cover the mix with vodka, or even apple cider vinegar. After a few weeks, strain this mixture and take a little bit every day. Great on the tongue, this tonic wakes up and supports all the internal organs. It encourages vitality because it is vitality: life, diversity, complexity, efficiency. This will help our bodies link up.

Rewilding - The wild garden in the former churchyard of Saint Mary-at-Lambeth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Rewilding – The wild garden in the former churchyard of Saint Mary-at-Lambeth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

What Does It Mean – To Plant A Wild Garden Inside?

I *love* this imagery. I want to roll around in it and fill myself up with having a wild garden inside. Not a cultivated garden in neat little rows, but a wild, crazy, sprawling garden booming with life. My own internal rewilding. I imaging the idea of having a wild garden inside might be a little bit different for every person, but to me that feels free and alive and rich – like I would be filled to bursting with life and vitality and color. I agree we need a little more chaos and a little less cultivation – not only that we need to embrace the chaos more and to live into the changes rather than trying to avoid or control them.  There needs to be more native seed scattering and less lawn-mowing. I’m not just talking about the health of the earth here, I’m talking about for our own health, our own sanity.  I don’t think it’s normal to cultivate and tend and regiment everything down to well-oiled-machine status.  I think life is supposed to be a whole lot more than that.  It’s time to get out of those boxes and shake things up a bit. The wonderful thing is that rewilding can mean whatever you want it to mean – this can be your codeword for anything you want to make richer and more adventurous in your life. Any way you can nudge your own self back to balance.

Here’s a little list of ways I’m going to ReWild, and ways I’m going to nurture my wild garden:

  • Schedule fewer things so there’s time in the day to stop and smell the roses (or dandelions)
  • Appreciate more the richness and diversity of the “weeds” in my garden and worry less about keeping them out. I’m not just talking about the literal weeds – I’m also talking about the nuisances and hassles and personalities and minor chaos in life.  Sure – it’s there. it’s going to keep being there. That just adds depth and texture.
  • Make wishes and blow the dandelion tops when I see that they’re ready to re-seed, because bees and other pollinators need more dandelions, and I could use a little more child-like joy. I’m considering getting some kids bubble wands for the same reason.
  • Invest in some great native seeds from Native Seed Search and Native American Seed and scatter those in places that need to be made a little more beautiful. I’m also going to start to look at my home and see what there needs some metaphorical wild seed? Are there clothes I got because someone else thought they might look good (but don’t feel like me?) what about things in my home? Does my environment make me feel alive and wonderful or boxed-in and dreary? What about my living space can I rewild?
  • What about my routine is just routine? Where have I become stagnant and started doing the same things, not because they’re vibrant and wonderful but just because.  Am I in a rut with the foods I eat? With books I’m reading? Clothes I’m wearing?
  • Spontaneous road trips! Let’s have more of those. Just jump in the car and pick a direction. Why not?

I feel like rewilding is an idea that needs to pervade everyone’s life – we have become too domesticated and lost our fires and our sparks and our instincts.  Let’s work to rewild – to loosen and let go and shake things up. Life doesn’t need to feel like a cubicle job – it needs to feel alive and like a grand adventure that you look forward to every day.