Just when you thought it was safe to skip a cycle of your dog's costly Advantix treatments, the bubonic plague stages a comeback --- at least in New Mexico. On Friday, a Santa Fe man became the first person to be diagnosed with the plague in 2011.
Thought the disease died in the 16th century? Ask a New Mexican if that's true. The state has seen 262 cases of the bubonic plague since 1949, six in 2009 alone, one of them fatal.
How does this happen? Just like a half a millennium ago, fleas hop off wild rodents carrying the plague bacterium, Yersinia Pestis, and onto humans, where they sink in their parasitic jaws and transmit the disease. Even your cat or dog can give you the plague if it carries plague-infected fleas into your home, or if it contracts the disease itself by eating some mangy plague-ridden animal and then scratches or bites you.
Think you already have the plague? Well, if you live in Miami, you're probably wrong. These little outbreaks are usually confined to the American Southwest, as far as we know. But if you do contract a case of "the bube," here are some things to suck on, courtesy of Michel de Nostradame, better known as Nostradamus, the prophet and doctor credited with curing countless sufferers of the Black Death in France. These were the ingredients in the "rose pills" he gave his patients, along with advice to get plenty of fresh air and clean water. Even plague-free people can reap benefits from consuming them, as Ayurvedic Physician Dr. Zide Mooni, founder of and practitioner at the Acupuncture and Ayurveda Wellness Center & Spa (10621 SW 88th St., Miami) clarifies.
1. Rose Hips: High in vitamin C, these were the main ingredient in Nostradamus' tablets. "Rose has a very cooling and calming nature," says Dr. Zide. "It helps reduce heat and detoxifies the body as well as having a cleansing effect on the spleen, liver and kidney system. Hence it calms the nervous system, and in doing so aids in supporting a healthy respiratory system."
2. Sawdust from green cypress: "Cypress is one of the best diuretic herbs used in Asia as well as western herbalism," Dr. Zide explains. "Its diuretic properties aid in the detoxification of the body through the filtration system of the kidneys and urination. As we detoxify the body, we allow for the immune system to flourish. Cypress also has anti-spasmodic properties, especially for the muscular and respiratory systems."
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3. Cloves: Whether a garnish for your hot toddy or ingested in capsule form, herbalists seem to agree that cloves are still as important for health as they were when Nostradamus was doling them out to plague victims. Okay, well, nearly as important. "Called lavanga in Ayurveda, clove has anti-spasmodic as well as expectorating benefits when taken internally," Dr. Zide says. "Clove is also used for harmonizing the digestive and intestinal systems. It is very commonly used in India as a combination with sugar in promoting expectoration from the lungs and respiratory system." Various internet sources also tout cloves as an oral pain reliever and an aphrodisiac.
4. Calamus Root: Used in many cultures in a variety of ways, calamus is called vacha in Ayurvedic medicine, Dr. Zide explains."Very good for the digestive system in stimulating the digestion as well as enhancing the immune system," the doctor says. "It is also used for transforming phlegm in the respiratory tract, benefiting the bronchioles as well as the sinuses. Vacha also plays a role in calming the nervous system and treating neuralgic disorders."
If you really contract the plague, chances are you won't have time to run to the herbal medicine shop before panicked western doctors begin pumping you full of antibiotics and ransacking your home for rat tracks and bloated flea carcasses. But if you're a believer in natural medicine, it wouldn't hurt to add these extracts and oils to your collection. I mean, come on, Nostradamus said so!