Dear Mark: Alternative Therapies Follow-up

Inline_AdobeStock_104944619For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering four questions from last week’s “Alternative Therapies” comment board. I asked you for questions and comments about other potential therapies, and you all put in good work. First, I address that oldest of home remedies: chicken soup. Does it actually cure? Next, I discuss supplementing with humic and fulvic acid. Can the byproducts of rotting plants and mud improve your health? After that, I quickly address a question about the psychiatric merits of psychedelic therapy. I end with a discussion of the merits (or lack thereof) of pet-assisted therapy.

Let’s go:

Hi what happened to the Mother Fix of All Ailments:
Chicken Soup

Oh, definitely. The main reason I didn’t include it is that it’s become quite mainstream.

  • In vitro research shows that chicken soup can inhibit the neutrophil migration that triggers the onset of common cold symptoms.
  • If your chicken soup is made from real bones and joints and chicken feet (the secret to broth that gels), it’ll be loaded with glycine. That’s the primary amino acid present in gelatin which promotes more restorative sleep and counters the inflammatory load from excessive amounts of methionine in muscle meat.
  • Most chicken soup contains garlic, which can also improve a person’s recovery from the common cold. Just make sure to wait five to ten minutes after chopping or crushing the garlic, as this maximizes formation of anti-inflammatory compounds.
  • Chicken fat is a good source of oleic acida precursor to the sleep-inducing oleamide. You need to sleep to recover.

My go-to cold-buster is a pint of bone broth (any animal, but chicken probably tastes best) with an entire head of garlic (crushed ten minutes before adding to broth), simmered until the garlic starts losing its bite. Drink that twice a day at the first hint of anything untoward occurring in your upper respiratory tract.

Has anyone tried supplementing with fulvic acid or humic acid? I just recently have started hearing about it being a great source of trace minerals. Would love to hear anyone’s experience with it if they’ve tried it or even better a full post on it by Mark.

Humic substances, which include humic acid and fulvic acid, are byproducts of plant decomposition. Peat, natural bodies of water, and soil are full of humic substances. They make up a lot of the “bulk” of the stuff we tramp around on whenever we escape the concrete. Brown coal, which is semi-soft rock made of compressed peat, is the densest source of humic and fulvic acid.

Mud bathing is an indirect way to apply topical humic acid with thousands of years of history and decent clinical support. Applying mud, peat, or other humic substances to various body parts really does seem to help, particularly the knee.

Applying a mud pack to the knee improved function and quality of life in osteoarthritis patients. An earlier study also found benefits. In another pair of studies it even lowered CRP, slowed the progression of osteoarthritis, and beat applying heat. The benefits last for at least a year.

That said, studies on oral intake are very scant, with two showing that potassium humate can improve seasonal allergy symptoms and knee osteoarthritis symptoms. It certainly appears to be safe up to about 1.8 grams per day.

Rats who take either fulvic acid or humic acid see lymph node hypertrophy (an indication of immune stimulation; cancer or infection for example stimulate lymph node growth) and become mildly hypothyroid. Other rat research suggests that humic acid increases hypothyroid only in the presence of low iodine intake.

You probably don’t want to mix humic or fulvic acids into your tap water. They interact with chlorine to form toxic disinfectant byproducts.

The jury’s still out on whether it helps as an oral supplement.

Hi Mark, a friend of mine has recently started trying out different alternative therapies for childhood trauma and to improve his relationships with key people in his life, as well as to boost immunity. I’m specifically referring to use of ayahuasca, San Pedro, and Kambo (frog poison). What are your thoughts on the efficacy and safety of these natural medicines?

Psychedelics may represent the next frontier in psychiatric medicine. There’s a ton of research coming down the pipeline, most of it positive/successful. Read my post from last year for my full take on it.

Pet therapy is supposed to work wonders too ???

Pets are built-in best friends. They don’t judge. They can read your emotions, at least if they’re dogs. They can recognize facial expressions. They truly care. Maybe not the same way a human cares, but they’re not some meat computer responding to inputs of liver treats and chin scratches. They really do love.

But the results of actual studies into animal-assisted psychotherapy have been disappointing. While many of the studies report benefits for patients with autism, depression, poor quality of life due to aging, most are highly flawed:

  • Small sample sizes.
  • Inadequate control groups.
  • Failure to control for the initial effect of a novel experience (is it an enduring effect of the dolphin or a temporary change because the kid has never swam with a large marine mammal before and his mind is completely blown?).

Furthermore, it seems the animal therapy field is plagued with the same issues seen in pharmaceutical research: unsuccessful studies tend to go unpublished. The average effect size reported in published studies is almost 3x that of the effect size from unpublished studies.

Still, everything I said in the first paragraph stands. Having a pet can have powerful health and wellness effects, but it’s not therapy per se. It’s more of a vitamin—restoration of something we evolved to require and “expect.” I don’t know if I’d rely on dog visits to cure cancer or anything like that, but it certainly can’t hurt to own a dog (or cat).

That’s it for today, everyone. Thanks for reading. Take care and, as always, leave any comments, questions, or concerns down below.


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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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