Looking back, I now realize how important it is to learn about healing with herbs. I wish, even, that I’d known about the power of certain herbs and foods earlier in my life.
My health declined at age 11. I became very sick. Though I felt fine, blood kept appearing in the toilet. I finally told my mom. She brought me to the hospital. There were many hospital visits, and eventually, I began meeting with a gastroenterologist (GI).
My GI was a small, friendly man. I remember the sorry look he had while diagnosing me with ulcerative colitis (UC) after numerous stool and blood samples. Then, he told me about the mysterious nature of UC. He mentioned how the cause is still unknown to specialists. All he offered was the term “autoimmune” which meant my immune system was malfunctioning while causing inflammation and bleeding in my colon.
My GI suggested I begin a course of antibiotics for the slight chance that it’s an infection. In the meantime, he prescribed me powerful anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids. Before leaving his office for the pharmacy, my mom asked him how I should be eating. He looked at us and said diet doesn’t make much of a difference. “Just avoid spicy foods.”
How I began my journey healing with herbs
From age 11 to 20, I took various forms of medications and bled off and on. I remember being 14 and leaving class for the bathroom at least 6 times a day. One day, the bleeding intensified. My mom saw my pale face and brought me to the ER. This type of bleeding continued sporadically throughout my teens.
I finally gained some stability around age 18. My GI prescribed me an immunosuppressant that is often used in chemotherapy. I took the pills and they worked. They worked better than anything I had taken previously. But I couldn’t stop getting infections. The first year I took them, I got an upper respiratory tract infection and coughed up blood. In the following years, I kept getting strep throat and horrible cases of the flu.
I was also old enough to do my own research. The side effects of the immunosuppressors alarmed me and included a dangerous form of lymphoma, bone loss, and possible liver damage.
After 3 years, a great surge of clarity and courage reminded me of how urgent it was to stop taking the immunosuppressant and begin healing with herbs and other holistic protocols. At age 21, I stopped taking medications for the first time in 10 years and began a journey healing with herbs and diet. I was no longer willing to harm the rest of my body with the medications in order to protect a single area: my colon.
At the time, I was lucky to have a friend who had schooling in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian cooking and healing philosophy. My friend taught me a great deal about how to prepare healing food, about healing with herbs, and even helped me see my UC in a new way.
Here are a few key things I realized during my transition to holistic healing:
- There is a cause for everything. Just because conventional medicine doesn’t know the cause, doesn’t mean healing is impossible.
- Disease is the body asking for ease. Before my bleeding began at age 11, I ate a standard American diet, drank a lot of soda, and ignored healthy foods. I also grew up in an area with a lot of air pollution.
- We can bring ease to the body. Through healing with herbs, eating the right foods, drinking the right drinks, and by moving and cleansing the body, healing can occur..
- Conventional medicine is very powerful. Conventional medicine is excellent at stopping symptoms and keeping people alive, but it doesn’t always focus on cause and prevention.
My protocol, including the herbs I use
I fasted for three days around the time I stopped taking my medications. In the meantime, I cleansed my body with fresh celery, apple, and cucumber juice.
A friend joined me for this cleanse and while it was easy and symptomless for him, I struggled. I experienced nausea, chills, and flu-like symptoms. One night I left my bed and paced around the bathroom for an hour with nausea. I recall looking in the mirror and telling myself of the long journey ahead, a journey of detoxing years of poor choices and medications.
After the 3 days ended, I stuck to eating a plant-based diet and began healing with herbs. Here are some of the herbs and other tonics I used and still use to this day.
Licorice root is a cooling herb by nature and according to my Ayurveda friend, I need all the coolness I can get.
Licorice root works by soothing the digestive tract while simultaneously eliminating any problematic pathogens. Further, it strengthens the adrenals and reduces stress. Stress reduction is promising for UC patients since professionals believe stress can be problematic.
Slippery Elm Bark
A common symptom in UC is ulcers. As the name implies, slippery elm bark works wonders for soothing wounds, including ulcers. It works similarly to aloe vera (more on that later) in the way that it seals wounds with its slippery texture.
I began taking ashwagandha after reading that psychological factors potentially play a role in the pathophysiological development of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), of which UC is part.
Ashwagandha is great for digestion, but I primarily use it for psychological reasons. It’s very powerful for anxiety and depression. Keeping stress at bay also keeps inflammation at bay.
Aloe vera has been an important tool for keeping my UC symptoms away.
Back when I took medications, my GI would prescribe a powerful dosage of steroids to calm any sudden flares. Now when my flaring worsens, I turn to aloe vera to calm things quickly. It works wonders by hydrating the body very deeply and by soothing bleeding ulcers.
I’d be doing my healing journey a big injustice by leaving out celery. Did you know that celery is technically an herb in the Apiaceae family with parsley, cumin, and cilantro?
Celery, especially in juice form, has given my entire digestion a make-over. I used it every morning for a few months and my digestion hasn’t been the same since (in a good way).
Final thoughts on ulcerative colitis and holistic healing
I didn’t stop taking medications blindly. I read and watched other people talk about their journeys healing ulcerative colitis holistically. There’s always a recurring theme among UC healers that gives me hope: their healing took time. Healing this disease can’t be compared to healing a cold or flu. It’s more like going into remission from Lyme disease, which can take a long time. I understand that after many years of eating a standard American diet and taking toxic medications, this disease can take years to fully reverse.
There’s something else that gives me hope. As of now, my colitis is very mild. When I was on medications, it would fluctuate between severe and mild/non-symptomatic. Based on how I’m doing now, I have full faith in healing with herbs.
The information in this article should not replace the advice of a medical professional. Always speak with a medical professional about your medications and alternative treatment options. This will ensure your safety and wellness.
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