Lessons Learned from Catastrophe’s Aftermath: Serving with Acupuncturists Without Borders inspired me to create my own disaster preparedness kit using natural remedies.
Having the right supplies on hand in the event of a major disaster can make a difference. Clean water and packaged food for survival is a must, but there are natural remedies for traumatic experiences that should be included. Serving with Acupuncturists Without Borders on June 10, 2011 inspired me to create my own disaster preparedness kit.
On the evening of May 22, 2011 a powerful EF5 tornado destroyed approximately a third of Joplin, Missouri. It tore through the center of the town leaving in its wake homelessness, injury, and great loss of life. The survivors experienced trauma due to stress from the storm and some injury as well. But that was only the beginning. Having survived the torrent, they now had the challenges of accounting for everyone; rescuing those trapped; housing and feeding the now homeless; recovering the dead; identifying loved ones who did not survive; removing the rubble.
School on South Wall St. in Joplin. MO
Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB) sprang to action to be one of the first aid organizations to respond. My affiliation with the Institute of American Acupuncture and Life Medicine as a board member put me in contact with the AWB who quickly trained Missouri qualified practitioners in disaster response and in using the NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) protocol.
The NADA Protocol uses five acupuncture points in each ear. Either micro-filament acupuncture needles or tiny beads (often tiny stainless steel balls coated with gold or silver held in place with tape) are placed at these points. In the case of needles, they are left from twenty to sixty minutes while the recipient relaxes fully clothed and seated in a chair. With the beads (also known as “ear seeds”), they are placed in the same points and left for up to five days. The recipient can sit with the group for however long they feel the need. And the ear seeds can be rubbed periodically on a daily basis. Typically the ear seeds are used with children. However, many adults who are “needle phobic” opt for the ear seeds.
This protocol has been used by the AWB in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and in Haiti after the earthquake, as well as other places around the world. The military is studying it for post traumatic stress disorder and trauma in the field. I can tell you by the repeaters we have seen in Joplin that the effects are well received. And the “circle of healing”, which is the configuration of chairs for recipients to sit in, offers a group the opportunity to express their experiences in a safe and compassionate environment. They all have been through similar things and can help each other to cope.
All the above actions are quick response methods to deal with disaster’s aftermath. They are triage remedies that afford time to get to a qualified health practitioner who can further assess the situation and offer longer term solutions. One of the main complaints I heard was that people could not get to a doctor. There weren’t enough to go around. So what we offered with AWB was a method that helps the healing response of the autonomic nervous system to re-engage. People sleep better, feel less anxious, and simply have better coping mechanisms.
Being in the Salvation Army tent at 26th and S. Main (graciously the Salvation Army allowed AWB space in their mess tent), I saw many survivors and responders with musculoskeletal pain. Some pains are pre-existing chronic issues exacerbated by the stress and trauma of the storm. Some pains may have been acquired from the storm directly and some from the efforts to remove the rubble.
My suggestion to those I served was to use ginger compresses and soaks to relieve pain and swelling. Those with back pain can greatly be helped by a ginger bath. A twenty minute soak can help an individual minimize the pain for a better nights sleep. As sleep is the real restorative, sleeping more soundly and comfortably can offer incredible healing benefits.
Also evident in the tent and with all the people I saw milling about and working in the disaster zone was the deep sadness and anxiety that left a dazed look of exhaustion on their persona. The compassion of the many organizations that have come to the town’s aid helps somewhat to buoy their spirits. The tears of gratitude are evident in most of the eyes I encountered.
The fungal infection that the CDC is now studying in Joplin, MO has taken at least three lives to date. So far the CDC does not see evidence that it is spread human to human through contact or by the breeze that blows with such prevalence. But there is concern among those who were treated in the AWB’s “healing circle”.
What more can be done – natural remedies
Through my practice I have experience with natural remedies that may be helpful. Some may no longer have access to a bathtub or may not be able to cook up the ginger solution due to housing issues. In those cases, having “Traumeel” Ointment applied up to eight times a day would work wonders. “Traumeel” Ointment by Heel Inc. is a homeopathic arnica based topical preparation that relieves swelling and reduces pain.
To facilitate lifting of the spirit, BHI/Heel’s “Calming” tablets can take off the edge off despair and offer an ability to better deal with the challenges at hand. It can be taken up to eight times in a day and is simply dissolved under the tongue.
I too had concern being in that toxic environment. I know from clinical experience that Ume Concentrate has great anti-fungal properties. So I began using Ume Concentrate regularly to be proactive. I took it internally as a tea once a day. If I were to manifest a rash, I would use diluted Ume on the rash until I could get to a dermatologist to further assess the situation. Simply adding a little water to Ume, causing it to be more spreadable, and painting it onto the affected area has worked wonders for other fungal infections. In addition, take it internally to work from the inside out.
Natural Remedies Emergency Preparedness Kit
Catastrophic change can come quickly and unexpectedly. Keep food, clean drinking water and basic necessities in a backpack in a secure but quickly accessible area. A plan of action needs to be determined and reviewed regularly. And, as doctors may not be readily available, a standard first aid kit with the following additions should be ready:
• Traumeel oral tablets or drops and ointment – internal preparations to help with aches and pains and reduce swelling overall and topical preparation for local application.
• BHI Heel “Calming” tablets to help calm the mind and spirit.
• Ume Concentrate – works for fungal application when used topically and internally. Ume also helps ease nausea, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, and enhances the immune system by acting on the meridian of purification which is integral to the protective energy.
• Powdered bulk ginger for application in a compress, soak, or plaster.
• Albi plaster – not mentioned in this article, it is useful for non-compound bone fractures, joint and muscle sprains and strains.
• Moxa – also not mentioned above, artemesia vulgaris stops bleeding – thoroughly wet the moxa, squeeze out the excess water and bandage in place, changing every four hours. Use the best grade yellow moxa. This kit is not just for emergencies, it is also indispensable for daily life. Use and replenish it regularly for simple aches and pains and stress events.
Acupuncturists Without Borders – http://acuwithoutborders.org/
The Institute of American Acupuncture and Life Medicine – http://www.iaalm.org/
Article by Mary Wallis – Easing Aches and Pains Using Ginger
Article by Mary Wallis – How Traumeel® Eases Pain and How to Use It
Article by Mary Wallis – Ume Concentrate: “Medicinal Food”