I was determined to be fashionable in the jungle.

Why should a kazillion mosquitoes, 95% humidity, and a week without hot water reduce me to slovenliness?

From the comfort of my home in Philadelphia, I carefully considered my options.

Skorts, I decided, were just the thing.

Fast-forward to Day 2 in the Rain Forest.

Did I mention that it was 90 degrees and 95% humidity?  Add that to the little lycra bottoms under the skirt of a skort and you get the perfect breeding ground for a Urinary Tract Infection.

I don’t usually get U.T.I.s.  They’re not my thing.  So I was prepared for hives, food allergies, migraines, sprained ankles, and colds… but not a U.T.I.

No matter, I thought, this is the perfect excuse to try out some jungle medicine.

It was a smidge embarrassing to approach our (male) translator to ask him to explain the situation to Antonio, the shaman we were traveling with, and Juan Louis, the Peruvian botanist in the group.

It took about a half a minute for the two men to begin debating.  Juan wanted me to use the roots of a particular species of palm tree that are anti-microbial to the kidneys.  Antonio was against this plan.  Palm roots are heating and, since a U.T.I. is a hot condition, adding more heat was ill-advised.

This is the difference between an energetic system of medicine, like herbalism, and a scientific system, like chemical medicine.

An energetic system asks if a condition is hot or cold, wet or dry.  Is it moving or is it stagnant?

Addressing the energy is the key to rebalancing the body.

It’s pretty easy to become enamored of the mystical aspects of shamanism.  But the plant medicine practiced by shamans is remarkably similar to the medicine handed down from the Chinese (TCM), the Indians (Ayurveda), and the Greeks (Humoral medicine).

It’s all about balance, harmony, and coming back to center.

How would I have dealt with a U.T.I. in the urban jungle?

My favorite formula is Avena Botanicals U.T.I. Relief.  I have seen it turn things around pretty quickly.  It contains uva-ursi so should not be used with cranberry.

Why?  Cranberry creates an acidic environment and uva-ursi works in an alkaline environment.

If cranberry works for you, stick with that.  Just be sure to use unsweetened cranberry products.

Cranberry can be replaced with blueberry (juice or paste) or with hibiscus tea.

Also, avoid synthetic materials on your lower body (they don’t breath, so build heat and dampness).

Don’t mess around with a U.T.I.: the infection can spread to your kidneys.

In the end, I took an anti-biotic for my Amazonian infection.  I wasn’t happy about it (and will spend the next 6 months rebuilding my gut flora) but it seemed like the smartest thing to do at the time.

The shaman, Antonio, agreed with me.  He took the antibiotic tablet and held it in his hand.  After a few moments he nodded and handed it to me. “You take,” he instructed.

I smiled, thinking of all the times I had told a client that sometimes you have to take a pharmaceutical.  Be thankful it exists, bless it, and take it.

The following morning Antonio showed up at my room bright and early.  He gave me a large glass of cucumber juice with a twist of lemon.  Cucumber to cool.  Lemon to astringe.

The best of both worlds.

Herbs, pharmaceuticals, or both?  How do you navigate an illness?