Marvin Warren

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since Jan 03, 2013
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Recent posts by Marvin Warren

Welcome, doctor!

A question that's been on my mind lately is the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in several of our favorite herbs: Eupatorium, Tussilago, and Symphytum.

We know that some PA's are toxic, but not all; we know(?) that some of the toxic ones are in Eupatoreum perfoliatum. We also know that people have been using these plants as medicine for at least centuries. How do you balance your use of these plants with the risks associated with toxic alkaloids? Is there a safe level of consumption, such that one could use them short-term without long-term buildup in the liver?

Thanks for offering to do this Q & A and for all of your previous work!
2 years ago

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:

Sober, a farmer in the early 1900s, grafted onto oak and had a thriving chestnut business until the blight hit.

Hey, the link is broken, and I'm not seeing any posts about this having actually been done successfully; Dominic, any successes to report? Anyone else ever seen this work? We sure do have a lot of oaks here!
Hey, I'd like to be considered as well, if there are still spots. It's a long way to travel, but I've been wanting to get out to your area and visit Wheaton Labs, so what better chance, right?

DIY cred:
-work for a small natural home design/build company; currently building a post-and-beam strawbale house  
-this sweet little camping rig for my truck is a personal project - oh weird, I don't seem to have any pics for that one. It's a sleeping platform with hinged panels for accessing gear in lower storage. I can get a pic once I clean it out...
-most of the way done with a tincture press. Got stymied by the number of broken drill bits from drilling out a stainless steel bowl. Talked to a few pros who said that's just part of the drill, um, territory, with stainless.
-never led a cob project, but have contributed to my fair share of cottages, benches, and ovens.
-I made my bed once. No really, mostly from recycled wood:

Anyway, thanks for considering me, happy to answer any questions, and I understand if there are more qualified folks ahead of me (not an autoCAD tech yet!)
2 years ago
Hey Joylynn,

There are some great responses here from the 'not-herbalists' - the wonderful kitchen-witches I so appreciate. I'd consider myself somewhere in the 'journeyman' stage of herbalist at this point, with some serious study and a few months of clinical practice under my belt. What follows is off-the-cuff, and if you were my patient I'd want to ask questions like: What medicines will the surgeon be prescribing for pain/inflammation post-op? What's his history with this injury? How tolerant is he of nasty-tasting things? Can he have alcohol tinctures? Without any of those answers, here's my tuppence:

Comfrey: As someone said, root externally, leaves internally. I'd add: only Symphytum officinale; other species have different, less well-studied allantoin and pyrrolizidine alkaloids contents. Traditionally the leaves are only eaten in the spring, so I'd recommend limiting length of consumption time, maybe 6 six weeks.

Pre-op: Everything for building the body up: Bone broth, nettles, oatstraw, alfalfa, clover, chickweed. Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng, which is non-stimulating), licorice root, astragalus; reishi mushroom and other medicinal mushrooms such as turkeytail and shiitake. Possibly ashwagandha.

Avoid St. John's Wort internally. Notify anaesthetist of anything you're using beforehand, and be prepared to stop a week beforehand.
Great article here: the (it's for trans* folks having surgery, but it covers all the same bases)

After surgery: echinacea (internal and external, promotes wound-healing as well as preventing infection), turmeric with ~5% black pepper, can be mixed in honey and taken straight or in hot water, milk, etc (tasty!)
Topically: Add yarrow and if you can get it goldenseal powder (or barberry or oregon grape - Mahonia spp.) to the comfrey to prevent infection. Arnica is a great anti-inflammatory that doesn't slow wound-healing. Calendula helps heal tissue and prevent scarring.

Let me know if you have any more questions!
3 years ago
Hey Cassie,

I'd say the article, like many of its kind, is a bit over-the-top, but I'm glad to hear people are having good results with its bug-repellant properties; I'm curious to hear whether anyone's had any luck with poison ivy or oak, I've never heard that use and am a bit skeptical.

That said, I've heard lots of stories of lots of vivid dreams related to its use as an incense (I don't use the word 'smudge' as several American Indian people have told me that they find the word offensive) and dream sachets. Personally, after a month or two of vivid nightmares involving lots of violence, I composted the incense bundle I had gathered and kept by my bed; don't know why it took me so long, heh. One other person I've met has had night terrors from keeping it as a dream sachet under her pillow--this can be a surprisingly strong plant!

I've heard clinical herbalists express skepticism about wormwood's use as an antiparasitic, let alone mugwort; I wouldn't count on it. Great digestive bitter, though, and I love the idea of brewing beer with it and possibly yarrow and some other pre-purity-law bitters.

Does it grow wild out by you? It's quite weedy here, and forms large stands, kind of like its aster-family cousin goldenrod. I've considered harvesting it to sell in incense bundles. I love the smell, but would feel bad if anyone had my experience with it! If you don't have it in abundance, I'd guess you have plenty of Artemesia tridentata (sagebrush) out in Montana, and that's got many of the same qualities, maybe a bit more strongly antiseptic, probably not so much for dreaming, but you could certainly try it.

Also super-curious what those mugwort cakes are like! They sound intense!

5 years ago
I tried downloading it again a few more times, including after clearing my cookies. Corrupted once, failed twice. Now it's directing me to the plans--an old giveaway which I'm super grateful for--rather than the manual, which I never managed to get. Any word on that?
I think I'm going to have to try this. Does anyone know if oiling the fabric has been tried? That the first thing that comes to mind, since one oils leather to make it water-resistant.
5 years ago
Hey all,

I've been doing some research on this today, and can't find anything like a comprehensive resource or calculator for thermal retention in masses, so I'll put it to y'all: Which is it, and where's the science? I've worked with Steve Breyer of Tripple Brook Farm and Jonathan Bates of Food Forest Farm, and they have a multi-walled plastic south face, insulated north face with water for thermal mass at FFF. Jonathan told me it never got below 27F last winter, with nights as low as -17F, if I remember correctly. I like the aesthetic of pit- or earth-bermed greenhouses, but don't know if that much extra mass has much benefit, especially in cloudier New England winters.

I'd be grateful for any resources for calculating mass storage as well.

6 years ago
Allen Lumley: Thanks! I posted specifically because I'd heard Erica and Ernie would be passing through, and I guess I wanted to know in part what attracted them to RMH's rather than masonry stoves. I'm a little short on specific questions because I feel like a lot of the particulars depend on the design/er. Limitations of RMH's and where they might be inappropriate might be an interesting topic too--if there are any such situations
7 years ago
Not to pick a once-and-for-all who's the best, but to get a sense of how they compare to each other; I got really into masonry heaters a while back, but have thus far found little one can do about the cost (though I'm more than open to ideas!) because of the material itself. How do rocket stoves compare for efficiency? I can see how they're much more accessible, so much so that I wonder if it's not entirely an aesthetic thing to get a masonry stove installed instead. In a pre-industrial situation it would just be a matter of whether you've got clay or stone nearby, I'd imagine, but in modern times, if either has to be shipped to the site...

7 years ago