Health care in a post-collapse world

by John House, who blogs at Health by Dr. House

I can’t begin to count the times that I’ve thought about the collapse of the industrial economy. Even before I knew that such a thing was not only possible, but probable, I was hoping for collapse, or at least some sort of radical change, every time I saw a poor defenseless little animal dead on the highway or I encountered an otherwise beautiful stream with piles of trash strewn all along its banks.

Now that I realize that collapse is happening, I find that sometimes I actually long for its rapid completion; particularly when I see yet one more example of my species’ wanton destruction of other life forms. Sometimes my longing is more selfish, like when I’ve just wasted several hours of my life dealing with the myriad obfuscations of government medical bureaucracy.

For all my bravado about longing for collapse, I’m well aware that life will be incredibly hard after, if not impossible, and that I’m going to miss all sorts of things, some inconsequential, some life-saving. Like hot showers every morning. My favorite movies on DVD whenever I want them. Chatting online to friends around the world. Ready access to food at the grocery store. Antibiotics. Clean water. The list goes on and on. So, when I wish that the proverbial other shoe would drop, I have to ask the question, “am I really, truly ready for the collapse of all that I’ve known?”

To answer that question accurately is impossible. I won’t know if I’m ready for collapse until after the fact. I’ve never lived without the industrial economy — not even a little bit. So, I can only imagine what it will be like. The ways upon which I’m dependent on this complex, stressful, confusing world we’ve created are almost innumerable.

As I’m a physician and someone who has hypertension (high blood pressure), I also wonder how ready I am to survive collapse when it comes to medical care.

Health care as we know it will not exist in a few years. Once collapse is in full swing health care will disappear almost overnight. Of all the industries in our complex world, medicine has become one of the most energy-intensive, technology-dependent, and thus fragile endeavors that exists.

I am asked from time to time how a person with disease X or malady Z can prepare to survive the loss of essential medicines or therapies provided to us by the industrial economy. In fact, when Guy asked me to write this essay, he suggested that readers might find that particular topic useful. While we may hope that those of us in the medical field will have some really cool herbals and old-time remedies hidden up our sleeves to cure all our infirmities, the reality is not very encouraging, I’m afraid.

To make my point, I analyzed the 25 most common reasons people come to my clinic. Of those, only a few had any kind of treatment that didn’t require some sort of petroleum-derived therapy. It’s important to remember, contrary to what those involved with “alternative medicine” may say, prior to the 20th century, other than opium, there were virtually no medical treatments which were effective with any regularity.

Of those top 25 reasons for seeking medical care, the number one reason — pain — is the one which we will still have the ability to treat post-collapse. Opium, and thus morphine, heroin, and so on, is derived from the poppy. Wikipedia has a wonderful article on this topic and should be required reading for anyone preparing for collapse.

There are many other plant-derived drugs; however, extracting them often requires a good knowledge of organic chemistry as well as a supply of petroleum-derived chemicals. Compounding this difficulty is that many such plants are only grown in certain regions of the world.

If there is any good news in all of this, perhaps it would be that many of those top 25 reasons people come to see me will disappear or at least lessen in severity post-collapse. For example, diseases related to obesity such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, and low back pain should improve significantly. When people are scrounging to grow their own food, obesity-related illnesses will be non-existent.

Gone too will be people needing medicine for their depression, anxiety, and insomnia. I have no doubt that those maladies will still plague us, but I suspect that we will have much more important things to worry about. In fact, in a world where we are trying to protect our family and property from thieves in the night, a little insomnia might serve a useful purpose.

On the flip side is the hard reality that immediately post-collapse there will be outbreaks of all sorts of plagues and diseases which we in the developed world thought were conquered, such as cholera, malaria, measles, starvation, smallpox, polio, tuberculosis … the list goes on and on.

When it comes to preparing for collapse of the health care system, If you are dialysis dependent, or you have hepatitis C or HIV, or survive only with chemotherapy or radiation, the outlook is indeed bleak. For everyone else, there are some things you can do to prepare. I’ve started a short list. I’m sure there are many other things which readers can come up with, but this should get us going:

1) If you take regular medication which isn’t a controlled substance (like opiods or benzodiazepines) and doesn’t require refrigeration, talk to your doctor about getting a few extra prescriptions “just for emergencies”. He or she may be willing to accommodate your request.

2) Grow your own poppies. Nobody wants to suffer from severe, long term pain.

3) Have at least one book which deals with medical emergencies in a wilderness setting.

4) Take a basic course in first aid.

5) Avoid the cities at all costs — those outbreaks of once cured diseases will center on large collections of people.

6) Always wear good foot protection and other protective clothing and eye wear when needed. Remember, antibiotics will be a thing of the past (this is already starting, but that’s a different topic) and even a little cut can lead to death if it gets infected.

7) Make sure your water supply is not contaminated by feces from humans or any other animals. Many diseases are spread this way.

8) Wash your hands any time after you come into contact with blood, bodily fluids, or excrement.

9) Avoid those who are sick. This seems harsh by today’s standards, but this was common practice in times past.

10) Do your best to eat a wide variety of foods, focusing more on fruits and vegetables with a minimum of red meats.

I wish I had a more encouraging assessment, but as with so many other areas of our complex world, health care is about to go back to the stone age. Best wishes for us all.


This essay is permalinked at Island Breath.

Comments 140

  • Love Garlic – I use Garlic in food most every day and take Garlic tablets. It is good for my tinnitus – it keeps it from getting bad and is good for your heart. I come from a family that looks at the alternative as well as modern medications and I personally can’t take what the doctor gives me so I find alternatives.

  • And I have to tell you that my chicken soup will help any cold go away in a week if you eat it for two days in a roll. I have had 2 complete strangers tell me that when I offered my chicken soup to them in the past, they came back to me and told me it worked – for they thought I was fibbing them.

  • No mention of garlic’s powerful broad spectrum antibiotic capabiltiies? Anyone who can get their hands on garlic and grain alcohol can make extracts of it. Pressing the oil out might make a more powerful extract. It’s effective against a lot of common infections.

    When Dr. House says” contrary to what those involved with “alternative medicine” may say, prior to the 20th century, other than opium, there were virtually no medical treatments which were effective with any regularity” I find these claims kind of dubious. It sounds more like the person who wrote this simply lacks knowledge of non-industrial medical traditions besides historical civilized ones. That’s really backed up by the fact that he seems to think you need petrochemicals to extract plant medicines, and the comment about medicine returning to the “Stone Age” (as if that’s a bad thing).

    Of course, most people are just as unaware of these things, and that alone paints a sad picture.

  • Thank you John for this excellent post. I teach A&P to nursing students and I always recommend they visit:

    and download “Where Women have No Doctor,”, “Where there is No Dentist”, “Handbook for Midwives” etc.

    I tell them to prep for “third world medicine” and to hoard medical glassware. I wish now I had taken “scientific glass blowing” as an undergraduate… maybe it isn’t too late.

  • Dr. House: Good writing, clear thinking, and excellent advice. I’d add #11 for those looking forward to returning to the Stone Age: Don’t eat your enemies’ brains.

  • As a conventional medical practitioner, I think Dr. House is speaking with unwitting bias when he says, “It’s important to remember, contrary to what those involved with “alternative medicine” may say, prior to the 20th century, other than opium, there were virtually no medical treatments which were effective with any regularity.”

    While mentioning opiates for pain relief, one won’t want to take that for anything but severe pain. Ginger has been found to be as effective as ibuprofen, and the cambium (inner bark) of many common willow varieties is as effective as aspirin. (In fact, the latin name for willow, Salix, gave aspirin its name chemical name, acetosalisalic acid.)

    Likewise, Mahonia, or Oregon Grape, is a potent antibiotic. I chew on the root when I feel a sore throat coming on, and it goes away. A poultice made of the cambium placed on a wound will keep it from getting infected.

    I could go on and on, but I suggest that Dr. House take a course in natural health care to see how people really survived before fossil medicine!

  • Depression,anxiety,and insomnia are diseases of civilization,for people who have too much time on their hands.

    Double D

  • Timely post, something I’ve been thinking about a lot. For folks interested, a fabulous compendium of pre-industrial medicinal knowledge is available online at Of course, you’ll need to download and print it out if you expect it to be at all useful when the time comes!

  • Ayurvedic practitioners were performing successful cataract surgery prior to 500 BC.

  • Excellent post, Dr. House. I must say, however, that I agree and I don’t agree with your assessment of alternative medicines. There are many out there as others have mentioned here, and many more. So I must disagree with your there. However, the tricky part lies in the answer to the question, “They are there, but will I have access to them?”. Probably not. How many Oregon Grape plants are in my area? None. But there are some plants that you can grow and are available. These are usually in the form of herbs, “weeds”, and certain flowers. Start growing them in your gardens. Learn how they are to be used for medicinal purposes. Practice preparations.

    you won’t be able to grow everything that might be effective, but you can grow some of it. Become familiar with the native plants in your area. Many have medicinal purposes you never knew of.

  • Thanks for the links, Greta and navid!

  • I’d add #11 for those looking forward to returning to the Stone Age: Don’t eat your enemies’ brains.

    LOL…. :-)

  • Speaking of Stone Age, why is it that so many people interpret “We will be cast back into the Stone Age”, as “We want to be cast back into the Stone Age.”???

    Another turn on that is the interpretation of “The Hunter-Gatherer culture was superior to modern civilisation.” into “I want to be a hunter-gatherer!”???

  • I have to agree with Steinman’s and Victor’s comments above. Many ‘traditional medicines’ or ‘alternative medicines’ do have efficacy. Where did nearly all of our modern pharmaceuticals originate? From plant compounds. Modern chemistry and technology are able to identify, characterize and commercially synthesize these chemicals and compounds to sell/distribute to mass consumption. That will be the real loss given the numbers of patients that may require them.

    For thousands of years humans have relied on natural substances to treat maladies and illnesses. Of course, they are not the ‘cure-all’ for everything. And, unfortunately, ethnobotany is becoming a lost field in science; oral healing traditions are almost completely lost. However, as my graduate organic chemistry once told me, “So many solutions to our modern maladies can be found right outside our homes and in our vast natural surroundings. From medicinals plants to psychological beauty.” (her research was medicinal botany) Even animals intuitively know how to rid themselves of parasites.

    Working at a well-known medical university I see blanket uncritical dismissal of the use of natural remedies. This is what our modern medical education and institutions teach and imprint in the minds of young health practitioners. Yet, even my father, a biochemist, acknowledged the merit of compounds derived from the natural environment; he taught me to critically consider the use of traditional and modern medicines and remedies. And there is science to support both.

    Let’s not throw away the baby with the bath water.

  • @ Victor: Because our Western society and culture tend to be binary thinkers, and if you are not A, then you are B. Critical thinking and logic are not our best traits. ;)

  • Frank Mezek, I respectfully disagree with you.

    Time is not something that you can have “too much” of.

    It is absolutely necessary for reading, reflection, leisure, contemplation. Morris Berman wrote about this; it’s necessary for the “good life” to be able to calmly interpret and analyze what you read. You can’t do that if you’re too busy working like an ant or a draft horse, which is why educated classes throughout history have found it useful to keep the working classes working long hours. That way, they would never have the time to use the intellectual tools to get to the bottom of their situation, and therefore would never be able to conceptualize any way of life other than what they’re living.

    Critical thought and imagination are important, Frank. As Morris Berman pointed out in Dark Ages America, people in this country aren’t depressed because they have too much time in their hands; on the contrary, everybody in America works so hard that nobody has any time to enjoy anything. They end up like hamsters running in wheels.

    That’s why I went into library science, which makes time and space for the high-minded pursuits. I’ll never be rich this way, but at least I’m not constantly running on a Treadmill To Get Nowhere.

  • Thank you for the essay Dr House (and Guy for posting)
    I personally have avoided the medical industry as much as possible but I have also been lucky to have had healthy ancestors =)

    I have the books navid mentioned and thank you for the link Greta, my printer has been getting quite a workout as I print quite a bit out for friends with no access to a computer. Said friends are both reliant on the medical system to keep them going, as do many other people we know who require certain treatments in order to maintain their mobility. Hopefully I can help someone by hoarding this knowledge now…

    “Eat leeks in March and wild garlic in May, and all the year after the physicians may play.” Traditional Welsh rhyme

  • BTW, a valuable resource for bioactive compounds in many plant species: (not spam, honest…..;)

  • American Indians have said, that there is a herb or flower for every disease or illness out there. I truly believe that if people would get down to their roots, they would find that their ancestors knew of them too. My Mom told me how honey is a healer of all sorts of things. My Grandparents believe in apple cider vinegar and so on and so forth.

  • Depression,anxiety,and insomnia are diseases of civilization,for people who have too much time on their hands. – Frank

    Did you come up with that saying or was it already said, Frank? I like it either way because it’s so true.

    Those maladies never came about until we, individually, had time to brood over silly jealousies, feed stupid hatreds, and worry ourself sick. Simply surviving WAS our full time job, with double overtime, and no days off in sight. The only payment for which was getting to see the sunrise tomorrow where you’d get to do it all over again.

    Librarian, it is for this reason that I must disagree with your disagreement, while agreeing in a way. It’ll make sense. ;)

    The very reason that the Educated Class is able to exist is exactly because of the worker class making up the difference so the educated class can stay fed, clothed and sheltered. Once the educated class is forced to fend for themselves, because those workers are maxed out just providing for themselves, those high minded pursuits fall secondary or even tertiary to such things as production of food. A twenty-four hour a day job if there ever was one.

    Before people had time, a rare commodity that has really only come into being in the last hundred years or so, only in the modern world, and even then only in very select classes, problems like Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia were virtually unheard of. They still are in undeveloped areas of the world! People are too busy just getting by to get anxious, depressed, and they’re too tired at the end of a day of hard work to not sleep.

    So while I agree with you that you can never have enough time, and there aren’t nearly enough hours in a day, getting excess time breeds interesting problems that were not around before.

    Victor, on your first post, you nailed it. While there are all kinds of great medicinal properties in nature, I too have yet to find an Oregon Grape here in the frozen white north. Good luck finding ginger outside of the tropics, and in the case of the venerable willow, those will have been cut down for warmth LONG before you’d be thinking about using them for pain relief post collapse. While the cures and treatments are there, access to them makes use difficult if not impossible.

    And that’s not even taking into account that they are nowhere near as effective as their modern medical counterparts. Long life expectancy was unheard of prior to modern medicine, and people knew about and used the natural medicines as much as possible.

    For those jumping on the good doctor for not writing about alternative medicine, I think you’re missing the point of the essay.

    House, I’d like to add a number eleven: Get in shape. Now. If you’re already healthy and strong and eating right, you won’t have the problems others who aren’t in shape or pig out at McDonald’s twice a week will. When you do get sick, you’ll be able to fight it off.

  • WRT plant derived medicine: I believe Dr. House is likely referring to medicines for diseases with high probability of killing you, as he lists examples of epidemic diseases. There are no good alternate therapies for measles, smallpox, etc. With the exception of malaria and cholera most epidemic diseases will kill many people without modern treatment. Malaria can be treated with a few ant medicines, but most people won’t have them or know how to use them and cholera can be treated with hydration therapy and decent nutrition, though if you have access to those resource you probably wouldn’t have cholera to begin with. Of course there are herbal treatments for many things, but they are unreliable, especially in the hands of the unskilled, i.e. virtually everyone.

  • As part of our campaign of total cybermemetic dominance, let me state for the record Omega’s position on some of these issues.

    Any human being who thinks there will be a wholesale return to the Stone Age is IRRATIONAL, IGNORANT AND/OR INSANE. It is impossible, for the simple reason that the vast quantity of knowledge that has been amassed since the Paleolithic has nowhere to go. How will the knowledge of how to build computers, power plants, nuclear weapons and other industrial technologies be lost? Will it magically disappear in a cloud of Druid Dust?

    Please wake up from these impossible dreams; technology confers power, and humans do not voluntarily abandon things which confer power. There is no scenario, short of a large asteroid strike on our planet, which could produce an involuntary loss of knowledge large enough to end industrial civilization. “Peak oil” will not do it, because there are many other sources of energy. “Climage change” will not do it, because it is not catastrophic enough and can be technologically mitigated. While they may produce suffering for some, none of the problems discussed here will end civilization, separately or in combination.

    The main fallacy of this memosphere is linear prediction based on existing knowledge. The human brain has been evolutionarily selected to think linearly, while technological civilizations produce exponential technological change. This disconnect creates vast confusion, including some, like many readers of this blog, who are simply overwhelmed by the cognitive shock of it all and long for a simpler life. At Omega we sympathize with this all-too-human shortcoming, and offer the only rational alternative: to build super-intelligent machines which can manage the complexity of modern life on humanity’s behalf. If you would like a preview of how such machines can help you, please watch the visionary film “Colossus: The Forbin Project”. To quote Colossus: “Problems insoluble to you will be solved: famine, overpopulation, disease. The human millennium will be a fact as I extend myself into more machines devoted to the wider fields of truth and knowledge.”

  • Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments. To be clear, I have no issue with alternative medicine and I hope I didn’t come across that way. That being said, because I was educated in a U.S. allopathic medical school I have no training whatsoever in non-traditional medicine. I have tried to educate myself on this topic as best I can but that’s where the problem lies. There is very little scholarly work on natural medicines; consequently, trying to find non-biased, factual information is quite difficult. What little information can be found is routinely produced by those who are trying to sell a product to you. Some years ago I worked for a large “nutriceutical” company. We manufactured/packaged hundreds of herbals, minerals, vitamins, etc. As part of my function there, I sat in numerous meetings where we came up with “data” that supported our claims for health benefits. This, in turn, justified our charging ridiculous prices for our products. It was pretty much a scam.

    I have done some studying of the use of alternative medicine throughout history, though admittedly not much. Yes, there are ample anecdotal accounts of this herb helping, and that spice treating, but there is virtually no evidence of widespread effectiveness. Recently I started looking up the health benefits of blueberries. Based on what I found, I don’t know why anyone need suffer or even die anymore if they would just eat blueberries. And I’m not exaggerating. The outlandish claims made of the power of blueberries were pure nonsense.

    On the other hand, whole cloves are known to be good for dental pain. That’s what I use when I have a toothache and it used to be the base of what dentists put into a tooth when they removed a cavity. I wrote a post on that topic on my blog so I won’t repeat it here.

    There are some herbs which are known to affect how manufactured medicines work. Garlic is one of them. Garlic can interfere with the way warfarin (a blood thinner) works but does it have health benefits? There’s no scientific data to say yes or no. I eat it because I love it – lots of it. I still have high blood pressure (one of garlics many supposed healing properties).

    Yes, aspirin and many other drugs are derived from plants. Penicillin was derived from mold. But, again, growing the necessary plants, knowing how to process them, or having the other chemicals needed to extract them, is a whole different story all together.

    When you look back at history and the effectiveness of alternative medicines, you would expect to see a decline in health and longevity as people began to use modern medicine and abandon alternative medicines. But you don’t. You see the opposite.

    I’ll be the first to admit that the solution has become the problem. But that doesn’t change the fact that — to my knowledge — there is no evidence that most alternative medicines accomplish anything other than make the marketing people rich.

    All that being said, if you find something that works for you, then go for it. I’m not opposed to it at all. And I may be willing to try it for myself. So, feel free to share it with me. I love to learn.

    And John Rember, not eating your neighbor’s brain is very good advice indeed! :-)

  • I empathize with you, Dr. House, on your observations re: neutriceuticals. I contracted R&D with one or two companies to develop a few products during a hiatus from academia. And dropped out of the industry because of their overhype and perceived ‘value added’ marketing/pricing game. Regardless, not all companies and product are scam. Now I compound my own for personal use.

    One of the problems in public supplement and nutrition information is the ‘wrong’ information is perpetuated. Blame does not always fall in the lap of industry. A very serious gap exists between scientific findings and its rocky dissemination to the public: media. Published studies are misconstrued and misrepresented, even interviews with scientists, who are misquoted. Your example of the antioxidants and other beneficial phytochemicals in blueberries is one example of many. Blueberries won’t cure or prevent cancer. Yet, many die horribly from cancer treatments. Who wins?

    Nutrition education in this country is abysmally poor and inadequate. But the root of our increasingly poor health is multifactorial: our Western culture and society. We are overworked, standard and quality of living is eroding, medical community is dictated by the insurance system, our reliance on processed food that is disconnected with where and how it is grown (industrial agriculture), we eat too much, and too many of the wrong foods, and we are sedentary.

    On top of that, from my perspective living near a city and working in research at a medical university, IT IS ALL BIG BUSINESS. Billboards line the roads and highways telling you that you are sick and try to sell you doctors, insurances, and hospitals. Everyone on my commuter train talks about how ill they, or another person they know is sick. The poor have little to no access to modern medical care, and the rich consume so much of it, they no longer decompose when they die. It’s like a bad train wreck.

    It is a subliminal poison that seeps from all facets of city life and enters the brain. Psychosomatic illnesses permeate everything around us in the city, to the point where our bodies believe it. When I leave here for escape to rural areas outside of this influence, I don’t see this. People talk about other things than how sick they are and how sick Aunt Glory is with this and that. And they are healthier.

    I believe there is a place for both modern and traditional/alternative medicine and health care. But we need to bring back the balance of the latter. And as a nation we need to stop trying to thrive on perpetuating poor health.

    I agree, eating brains is only good for zombies.

  • Dr. House wrote: “growing the necessary plants, knowing how to process them, or having the other chemicals needed to extract them, is a whole different story all together.”

    It sounds like what you’re really pointing out is the break in tribal history, brought about by fossil-sunlight-based medicine. If people no longer know how to grow and process plants that keep them healthy, does that mean there are none?

    “Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack.” Who funds modern research? People wildcrafting reishi mushrooms? I don’t think so! If all you read are medical journals, I’m not surprised you can’t find anything that convinces you.

    In many ways, you sound a bit like a global warming denier, or a supporter of nuclear power. There are studies out there, but you seem prejudiced to discount them.

    There have been studies of longevity — particularly the people of the west-asian Caucasus Mountains — that show people without access to modern medical care are the longest-lived people in the world. They don’t have regular access to conventional doctors nor modern pharmaceuticals, and yet top Western countries in per-capita centenarians.

    Compare this to those in industrialized medicine countries, who may have a long life in years, but who have very poor quality of life for the last couple decades. If industrial medicine fails, I won’t miss the last dozen years in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines!

    Dr. House, you are suffering from the bias of your field. Check out Nation Master health statistics. Don’t focus on “longevity,” though — they have a category called “years of healthy life” (or something similar). The US, with its well-regarded medical system, is well down the list of countries with long and healthy lifetimes!

    That’s not to say there aren’t going to be health challenges ahead. But I find it unconvincing that a member of the medical establishment claims there is no answer beyond the medical establishment.

  • I have personally found very few alternative medicines work for me. Tea tree oil works as well as commercial nail anti fungus on my toes. Saw Palmetto worked for my husband. Throat coat tea with slippery elm helps a sore throat and Cold Eeze Zinc lozenges seem to help me get over some colds quicker. OTOH aspirin doesn’t do a thing for me. But some of the OTC allergy meds help. The reason I think I am helped so little is because I am a cynic, and therefore unlikely to get the placebo effect. Too bad for me. Very few alternative medicines have been tested against placebo’s to my knowledge. But even regular drug manufacturers are plagued with placebo testing – it seems that placebo’s are getting more effective of late.
    see this article
    Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why.
    a quote about one aspect of placebos “The most important ingredient in any placebo is the doctor’s bedside manner, but according to research, the color of a tablet can boost the effectiveness even of genuine meds—or help convince a patient that a placebo is a potent remedy”

    In fact another recent study gave some patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome NO treatment and others they gave a placebo but told them it was a placebo, totally inert with no medicinal properties.
    “After three weeks. the placebo group reported adequate symptom relief at double the rate of the group told to do nothing (59 percent vs. 35 percent). And those results are about as good as the leading irritable bowel syndrome drugs on the market.”

    Here is a surgery that works as a placebo – “July 11, 2002 — Arthroscopic knee lavage or debridement was no better than placebo surgery in a randomized controlled trial described in the July 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.”

    Of course there is not a lot of money out there to study how to harness the energy of placebos, but the caring Dr in the white coat and the Medicine man with whatever accoutrement they wear both tap into it. I am not saying that all herbal medicine is placebo or that all modern medicine is placebo, but that it is a factor that has to be considered. Or perhaps is better not considered so we can believe ourselves well.

  • Dr House, thank you for your thoughtful essay. Would you comment on the wisdom of getting a tetanus shot now? I believe they are good for about 10 years. Getting a booster might be a really good way to avoid the one danger of puncture wounds although it won’t help with blood poisoning.

    Also didn’t they once use sugar on wounds – no forget that we won’t be getting sugar anymore
    But there are maggots

  • One thing that new children may be relieved of is auto immune disorders that may have become prevalent because of prevention of childhood diseases and an over clean environment known as the hygiene hypothesis

  • A timely and insightful post that sustains Dr. McPherson’s lamentations about the loss of cultures (and their traditional knowledge). Indeed, from the viewpoint of current medical practice, pre-industrial medicine could be categorized as approaching charlatanism. Those therapies can be less effective, even by an order of magnitude or more.

    It was not until a meta-analysis of many studies pertaining to the combination of aspirin with sedatives that the potentiation of the analgesic effect of analgesics by sedatives was demonstrated, in line with the traditional teaching that sedative-hypnotics potentiate the analgesic effect of analgesics without having analgesic properties in themselves.

    Likewise, military surgeons in the First World War noted that the infusion of cell-free fluids prior to control of bleeding in resuscitation of hypovolemic shock from blood loss worsened outcomes / increased mortality. It was nod untli the last decade or so that the concept was confirmed: infusion of cell-free fluids corrects hypovolemia does improve blood pressure but thus promotes bleeding and red cell washout.

    Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis was booted out of Vienna for demonstrating that the washing of hands and clean practices in obstetrics and midwifery reduced morbidity and mortality. That recommendation for hand-washing will stay with us.

    But there were also native traditions that were shown to have a basis in scientific facts. Cinchona officinalis – which produces quinine, is still quite effective for most African malarias; Artemisia annua a Chinese herb was described more than two millennia ago in treating malaria, from it is derived artemisin that is effective for drug-resistant malaria. Then there is curare from Strychnos toxifera, used in South America as an arrow poison, that spawned a entire array of compounds, both derived and synthetic that are essential to modern anesthesia and emergency medicine. It was William Withering, the English physician, who described the use of a tea made from the purple foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, in the treatment of dropsy (edema, often due to congestive heart failure): the derivative digoxin is still used in modern medicine. The first specific antihypertensive, reserpine, came from Rauwolfia serpentina, a plant described centuries ago by an Indian (brown Indian, not native American) healer Hakim Ajmal Khan, from which is also derived the antiarrythmic ajmaline. The use of a tea from the bark of the white willow, Salix alba to treat fevers led to the identification of salicylic acid and later the more useful acetylsalicylic acid – brand named Aspirin by the Bayer company, who lost their trademark in World War Two.

    A lot of active preparations were extracted from various plants by very low-tech methods by apothecaries and compounders in Europe and Britain in the pre-industrial era: indeed it was necessary to be proficient at those techniques to work as a pharmacist. It is to be remembered that the mortal and pestle are still used as symbols of pharmacy, although there are now generations of pharmacists who have not touched one of them. Those skills have been wiped out by the modern pharmaceutical industry: the modern pharmacist even has pill-counting machines and label-printing machines, although well-velsed in pharmacology, pharmacodynamics, chemistry, therapeutics, etc.

    The greatest loss was in the oral tradition of ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology, which were as varied as the numbers of tribes of hunter-gatherers, and to a lesser extent, pastoralists and family-farm agriculturalists. The wealth of information about local plants (and animals) that has been lost with the extinction or modernization of so many tribes is exceeded only by the loss from declining biodiversity. The knowledge gained by those tribes was on the basis of cultural evolution in small units combined with astute personal observation, both of which have been largely lost is modern societies. A directed scientific observation, even with low-tech methods, which could potentially have a harvest of a magnitude comparable to the modern pharmaceutical research in the discovery of new therapies, is all but lacking.

    It is to be remembered that even in the uS, there was the era of the doctor with a buggy who made house calls with the “black bag”: appendectomies had been done on kitchen tables with the instruments brought by the doctor, and sterilized by boiling in a kettle at the home, and anesthesia administered by some willing bystander under the doctor’s instructions. When the choice is between letting nature take its course and an appendectomy for presumed appendicitis, the latter may well be the preferred course.

    Without modern medicine, a very large number of people in the post-industrial era will die. Yet even then, some interventions could make an difference between life and death, or between functionality and disability: and the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure will be truer than ever.

    One of my chiefs in emergency medicine (that is what I did for 26 years, dual-certified in EM & FP) had been a missionary to a rural hospital in South America just after he finished his internship in New Mexico. One of his first cases was a patient with appendicitis (diagnosed without CT scans). He asked that the surgeon be called, They said that they had no surgeon. On further enquiry he realized that he was expected to do the procedure himself. Since he did not feel up to it, another local physician came in and assisted him.

    The current education in medicine and ancillary specialties does not prepare one for what is coming. We may expect to see the return of apothecaries, compounders. the all-round general practiitoner and a greater attention to the investigation of the medicinal properties of flora and fauna.

  • @John Rember:
    “Eat your enemy’s brains.” Is that an example of that anarchy we’ve been hearing about? I guess it is good to do just whatever you want as long as you are the eater and not the eaten.

    @Jan Steinman:
    Thanks for the reminder about Mahonia aka Oregon grape. Why do those plant guys keep changing the names? I’d guess you know it’s used for dye and makes a wonderful jelly. It was also a good joke when kids lured the unsuspecting into trying the raw berries that are really tart.

    @Victor re: no Oregon grape in the UK
    That’s the trick isn’t it, to find out what is available locally and to use it. The alternative is to import those things that work best now, while you still can. I’m guessing that Oregon grape is available there, as are hundreds of other species from the northwestern US/southwest Canada. David Douglas began the importation of suitable plants for your gardens in the 1820’s. The converse is also true; I’ve been using pigweed here for 35 years. There must be 25 weeds in my garden alone that were inadvertently exported here from Europe. A number of them are useful for food or have medicinal properties and were even used, by the late 1800’s, as herbal medications by various indigenous peoples in my area to supplement native sources. The fact that they jumped at the chance to use recent colonizers (weeds) for their medications just reinforces the notion that native medical practitioners (call them witch doctors/medicine men (women)/shamans?) were constantly experimenting and seeking new medications. Searching out what is left of that knowledge now could be important for the future (after Wikipedia). Most of the native medicine workers here were women, by the way, and the women also seemed to be the only ones concerned with preserving that knowledge.

    Michael Irving

  • Tetanus has a much higher mortality in those who have never been immunized. Once immunized, even with waning immunity, the disease is ls less severe, but could more likely be avoided altogether by a booster.

  • Alpha Omega wrote: “technology confers power.”

    I think you have that backwards. At least according to HT Odum, CS Holling, David Holmgren, et. al.

    Complexity, and thus technology, is a function of energy. Without energy, there will not be technology. With reduced energy, there will be reduced technology.

    You accuse others of relying on “magic Druid Dust,” and then you spring the deus-ex-machina “there are many other sources of energy” without explanation. Will you be supplying this energy via magic Technologist Dust?

    I think you’re a cargo cultist infiltrating this pool of realists. Good luck with those regular shipments of technology after you’ve made your airstrip out of wishes and dreams!

  • Of course there is not a lot of money out there to study how to harness the energy of placebos, but the caring Dr in the white coat and the Medicine man with whatever accoutrement they wear both tap into it.

    The attitude and expectations of the therapist figure very significantly into the outcomes. While it can be lumped with the placebo effect, the astute practitioners use it to their and their patients’ advantage.

  • Christine,

    I agree about honey. My daughter got me using honey as an antibiotic for cuts, in place of Neosporin. It works better, in fact much better.

    Michael Irving

  • OK a funny memory. When I was a kid I was terrified of shots. One day I cut myself on a rusty nail. I was sure I would get lock jaw (tetanus) but was afraid to get a shot. I spent a whole day testing my jaw to see if it had locked yet. At the end of the day I finally told my mother. She said I had my immunization, nothing to worry about. Of course what I didn’t know was that a rusty nail not in the ground as this one was, was unlikely to tetanus as the bacteria is anaerobic. If the nail had been rusty from being in the ground it might have carried tetanus. I can still see in my minds eye that day of jaw testing……. :)

  • Of all diseases I most greatly fear the return of smallpox. It is the one disease against which I know of no defense other than immunization. Fleeing only works if you have somewhere to go and haven’t encountered the infected yet. The King of Hot Water is indeed the most fearful of diseases.

  • Kathy,

    Yes, sugar was used, but honey works even better in its place, if we still have bees to make it.

    Michael Irving

  • “Eat your enemy’s brains.” Is that an example of that anarchy we’ve been hearing about?

    More like an example of statism, as in Soylent Green

  • Robin Datta,

    Thanks for the tetanus information. Good to know that. Is there a DIY way for people to fight tetanus?

    Looking forward, do you advocate searching out cows with cowpox and inoculating children with it to fight smallpox?

  • Jan Steinman,

    “Deux-ex-machina Technology Dust”– Sweet!

    Michael Irving

  • I can still see in my minds eye that day of jaw testing……

    An early feature of tetanus is trismus, the inability to open the mouth due to masseter spasm (the masseter being the muscle that together with the temporalis muscle, closes the jaw. Characteristically, the trismus is painless, and gradual in onset. The swiftness of its progression parallels the severity of the disease, and the incubation period (the time from the wound to the onset) is inversely related to the severity (the shorter the time, the more severe).

  • One of the things that will happen to post collapse humans (if any) will be that humans will once again be culled for disease resistance. Since hunter-gatherers survived and spread over the planet for several hundred thousand years we can presume that health care was not a problem for them. Of course for individuals it was, but in fact by early death of the unhealthy a disease resistant population resulted.

    We do not treat our chickens with any medicines or vacinations. Sometimes we give special care and feeding for a week and the axe if that doesn’t work. We once had quite a few chicks and young birds die from Marek’s disease each year. Now we hardly ever do because we don’t breed birds that don’t have resistance as they usually die before breeding age.

    Already in third world countries many babies die young, but those who survive can drink water that we first worlders would get very sick from (Montezuma’s revenge).

    From an individual perspective the loss of modern health care and even traditional herbal care may seem frightening, but pulling back and looking at it from an evolutionary perspective it is just the way things work.

  • Looking forward, do you advocate searching out cows with cowpox and inoculating children with it to fight smallpox?

    Milkmaids were noted for their beauty at a time when the facial pocks from smallpox were prevalent in Britain. It was Edward Jenner who made the connection to cowpox infections protecting against smallpox and instituted the practice of vaccination to prevent smallpox. Prior to that the use of smallpox itself for immunization (known as variolation) was practiced, but ran the hazard of causing severe smallpox.

    If the uS or Russian smallpox stashes escape, or if there happens to be viable virus in remains somewhere. the disease could be resurrected. If this happens far into the post-industrial decline, the use of cowpox may again be an option.

  • Robin Datta re Solyent Green,

    Thanks for reminding me.

    There can be no “tax cuts for the wealthy” if there is no state. Both the “left” and the “right” attitudes are statist.

  • Honey has been used since palaeolithic times as a sweetener and as the basis for medicines.

    Industrial civilisation has been progressively eroding all the factors that make it possible for bees to live healthy, productive lives …. extensive monocultural planting of crops, prolific use of insecticides, fingicides and herbicides, releasing of huge quantities of pollutants into the air via the burning of fossil fuels and the manufacrure of industrial chemicals etc., and even industrialising the production of honey.

    Industrial civilisation has been progressively eroding all the factors that make it possible for humans to live healthy, productive lives …. extensive monocultural planting of crops, prolific use of insecticides, fingicides and herbicides, releasing of huge quantities of pollutants into the air via the burning of fossil fuels and the manufacrure of industrial chemicals etc., and even industrialising the production of humans.

    It’s hardly surprising we are in deep trouble.

    Unless there is a spectacular turn-around -and I have no idea how that could come about when I observe the degree of corporate control that exists at the governmental level and the degree of ignorance, apathy and denial that exists at the ordinary citizen level- I believe the major health issue for most people passing through the bottleneck will be even more severe malnutrition than they are presently suffering from, followed by starvation.

  • Already in third world countries many babies die young, but those who survive can drink water that we first worlders would get very sick from (Montezuma’s revenge).

    In the 1980s when there was a uS peacekeeping force in Egypt (the Sinai) the uS troops got quite ill from drinking water from wells that were routinely used by the locals without problems: those sources of water were declared off-limits.

    Asymptomatic malaria parasitemia (the carrier state, with parasites in the blood, but without symptoms, was prevalent at rates of greater than 95% amongst local people in New Guinea and at rates greater than 70% in parts of Africa.

  • I did a blogpost on the “post collapse” scenario and in my estimation, most medicines will become unavailable given the complexities of the supply chains needed to produce and transport them. As gruesome as it sounds, those dependent on modern medicine will be meeting their maker shortly thereafter. As I need thyroid medicine myself, my own health will be affected by this as well. A fitting end for a generation who’s greed and selfishness caused this catastrophe to begin with.

  • Is there a DIY way for people to fight tetanus?

    The only way without the tetanus toxoid for immunization is to resort to prevention. This would primarily be thorough cleansing of wounds. in the case of high risk wounds that are difficult to cleanse (contaminated, penetrating, as in puncture wounds from sharp objects covered with soil) it would involve debriding the wound: in this case, coring out a layer from the wound to its full depth to include the entire contaminated wound surface. That is a procedure that is done for wounds from nails that penetrate through over-ripe sneakers: at some Emergency Departments done by physicians assistants and nurse practitioners.

  • I need thyroid medicine myself, my own health will be affected by this as well.

    Desiccated thyroid extract was used for hypothyroidism and can be made from animal thyroids by low-tech methods. Standardization of how much hormone is present in a given dose is problematic, but it is definitely superior to nothing at all. Hyperthyroidism, while less common, is a whole ‘nuther issue.

  • If the uS or Russian smallpox stashes escape, or if there happens to be viable virus in remains somewhere. the disease could be resurrected. If this happens far into the post-industrial decline, the use of cowpox may again be an option.

    Some of us older folks may still have some immunity from our vaccine, wouldn’t it be ironic if the virus got loose in a population never culled for smallpox resistance and the end of the world was left to a bunch of old farts.

  • Some of us older folks may still have some immunity from our vaccine, wouldn’t it be ironic if the virus got loose in a population never culled for smallpox resistance and the end of the world was left to a bunch of old farts.

    Live virus vaccines generally produce lifelong immunity. But smallpox, while it has a high mortality, spares at least a few. There are still some native Americans around. The young survivors may have a better chance at life because of less demand on resources.

  • I use this site for natural remedies. If I was really organized, I would determine which important herbs would grow well in my region then stock those seeds. Additionally, It will be necess to keep books and printed materials rather than rely on a website. For now I try to remember the cures after reading them. I think staying disciplined in a healthy life routine everyday is peoples best bet for future health.

  • I doubt seriously that longjevity will go down post-oil, maybe for the current generation that hasn’t learned the skills of their ancestors, in fact, I would argue the opposite. Most of the maladies that plague industrial society are the r…esult of our maladaption to this artificial world. I would argue that even the agricultural revolution contributed to a decline in HEALTH as we learned to eat 5 foods instead of 500. If you haven’t checked out Paul Shepard’s writing and you are interested in this post collapse stuff you should read his essay A Post Historic Primitivism. He is my favorite thinker of our time. Here’s a link My first readings of his works included no context for the post-collapse society. My biggest question was “how” not “why”. Now I think I may see the why. Nevertheless I admit I cannot fathom a return to primitivism. The comforts of this world, the expansion of science and knowledge, I find them inexhorably seductive. And yet I cannot help but see that life on the J-curve is unsustainable regardless of the means of collapse. I do hope that sustainability comes with a new enlightenment when collapse does happen and we can achieve a post-historic primitivism without the loss of the knowledge we have gained in the industrial world. Even better would be that enlightenment without collapse. But this I cannot fathom either given history.

  • Thanks for the great post, Doc. From your post and the comments, I glean that there will be demand for poppy products and cannabis. I guess making your own vodka as suggested by Dmitry “Club” Orlov will also be a potential way to create “value.”

    Shall we be looking forward to Civil War-era battlefield hospital conditions? Will surgeons start doing carpentry and carpenters start doing surgery?

  • Michael:

    Something more to worry about if we fall into hungry warring tribalism.

    From Wikipedia:

    “Kuru is an incurable degenerative neurological disorder that is a type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, caused by a prion found in humans. The term “kuru” derives from kuria/guria, ‘to shake,’a reference to the body tremors that are a classic symptom of the disease. It is also known among the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea as the laughing sickness due to the pathologic bursts of laughter people would display when afflicted with the disease. It is now widely accepted that Kuru was transmitted among members of the Fore via cannibalism.”

    Apparently the Fore women ritually ate the brains of the dead while preparing the bodies for consumption by the rest of the tribe. Kuru was much more common in women than in men, and became much less frequent after Australian colonial authorities discouraged cannibalism.

    There are still folks in the medical community who have problems with the prion narrative, but almost everyone agrees that eating human brains is bad medicine.

  • Dr House,

    “There is very little scholarly work on natural medicines; consequently, trying to find non-biased, factual information is quite difficult. What little information can be found is routinely produced by those who are trying to sell a product to you.”

    Have you seen the website ? The author Andrew Saul collates and makes readily available hundreds of research articles about therapeutic nutrition from the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. This journal has been going for many years, but is not readily available because it is not supported nor does it support the pharmaceutical industry. Although much of the research is focused on the use and efficacy of vitamins, which probably won’t be available post collapse, if you know which vitamins you are lacking because of the appearance of particular symptoms, you can seek out food high in those vitamins.

    As I have lived my whole life in the industrial civilisation, I have been inundated with toxins, which hopefully the post-industrial species won’t have to contend with. Thus to support my immune system post-collapse, I’m stocking up on Vitamin C as I have found it to be a most effective aid to keeping me healthy.

    I would add a #12 to your list: water. Drink plenty of it. After reading several books by F.Batmanghelidj, M.D., I realised that many of the little niggly symptoms that I had put down to middle age were actually signs of dehydration. As he says “You’re not sick; you’re thirsty” He came to his conclusions about water after he was thrown in an Iranian prison when the Shah of Persia was deposed. He became responsible for the health of the prisoners, but had no medications to treate anyone. When someone came to him with a peptic ulcer, he suggested the person drink lots of water. The person did, and 3 days later the ulcer was gone. Dr Batmanghelidj then started 8 years of experimentation and was amazed by what he found. Dr House, your hypertension may be a sign of dehydration! As he said, dehydration is not the only cause of illness, but drinking lots of water is the easiest thing to do and what you should start with. Oh, and don’t think you’re drinking water if you drink tea, coffee, alcohol, soft drinks etc. They have a dehydrating effect on the body. I thought I’d be running to the toilet all the time, but the opposite happened. By cutting out tea and coffee and increasing water, I found I didn’t urinate as often.

  • @Christine: while I’m sure your chicken soup is quite tasty, and I encourage you to share it with those who don’t feel well, the average cold lasts about 7 days whether you eat chicken soup or not. :-)

    @Jan Steinman: you certainly could be right about the break in tribal history. I won’t argue with you there. But if the knowledge has been lost, then ultimately, we’re saying pretty much the same thing. It doesn’t do us any good post-collapse. And that was the topic of my post, after all, health care in a post-collaspe world.

    I know that you can’t know me from one essay anymore than I can know you from one post, but I bet you’d be hard pressed to find a less traditional, traditional doctor. However, I’m trained in traditional medicine, so that’s going to be where my perspective comes from. If you want the perspective of an alternative practitioner, then you’ll have to wait until he or she writes an essay here.

    With respect to the pockets of people around the world who have lived extraordinarily long healthy lives without the benefit of modern medicine, I think if you dig a little deeper that what you’ll find is that why they live a long time has more to do with genetics than anything else.

    But that doesn’t really matter. You’re missing the point. Unless you’re currently using some powerful herbal medicines already that are keeping you healthy or are prepared to start using them soon, then all the wonderful natural remedies in the world won’t do you a bit of good once GNC or Whole Foods or whatever “natural foods” supplier you use has closed down. I’m not counseling you to use traditional medicine over alternative natural medicine or vice versa; again it won’t really matter. Unless you can create your own supplies, neither one will do you any good.

    @Kathy, the placebo effect is quite powerful. I’ve seen it work about as many miracles as the most expensive new drugs. I suspect it also has a lot to do with why so many people are convinced that alternative medicine works so well.

    And I agree with Robin Datta, get your tetanus booster. In fact, any and all vaccine boosters are a good idea. Get ’em while you can.

    @TurboGuy! You’re absolutely right. Get fit and do everything you can now so that when the feces hits the fan, you’re not playing catch up.

    Someone mentioned maggots earlier. They are very good at cleaning some wounds. There are wound centers, including one at a local hospital, that use them to debride serious wounds. Of course, they only use the finest, choicest, most expensive maggots. No ordinary common housefly maggots for them, no siree bob! :-)

  • @john rember: Kuru = Mad Human Disease
    Being similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Mad Cow Disease, I can’t help myself in labeling Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease or Kuru like the colloquial term for BSE
    Without reference at hand, and if I remember correctly, recent experimentation found that prions are very robust and can survive charring temperatures
    Oh dear, on the wikipedia page for CJD it is stated that consuming squirrel brains infected some Kentuckians with CJD. So, the taboo may simply be no brains for you.

  • Petrea, when I was 13, my father and I attended a weekend Father/Son squirrel shoot. At the end of the first day, having cleaned out the little woods of those pesky squirrels, we all sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labor. The fried squirrel was passed around. Then, the hush puppies (for the uninitiated, a hush puppy is basically a spicy deep-fried cornmeal ball which sometimes has onion in it). I took one of those hush puppies and it “cluncked” as it hit my plate. Not the sound it should have made. Anyway, the guy sitting across from me picked up his hush puppy in one hand and a spoon in the other. Then he whacked his hush puppy with the spoon. Then, he opened it and began to scoop out this grey gelatinous material and eat it. That’s when I figured out it was squirrel brain. Apparently, it’s considered good eatin’.

    I ate chicken that night.

    I’ve not shot nor eaten a squirrel since.

  • Post-Collapse – Starvation will indeed be a problem for many as the food supply chain is broken. But for the city dweller water will be their primary concern. You will die of thirst far faster than hunger – in a matter of days. And when the taps stop producing water, you better have an alternate source nearby.

    As for disease and dying early, the adult human is remarkably equipped for fighting off attacks as I understand it. Though disease will always take its toll, still most humans lead healthy lives if they are able to survive childhood and the strengthening of the immune system. Indeed, the reason that life-expectancy was so short in older times was not at all because we didn’t live as long: it was because the childhood mortality rates (esp birth) were so high. If you lived to be an adult, your chances of a long life into the 70s were actually very good if you could avoid famines and plagues….

  • The relationship between mind and body is incredibly complex and sophisticated. As the doctors have indicated, the placebo effect is quite real and quite powerful. The opposite is true as well – a poor mental attitude can lead to disease.

    I doubt many people ever die of starvation. Instead they die when their bodies are so weakened by starvation or malnutrition that either major organs begin failing or their immune systems are impacted and they contract a disease that with a healthy immune system would not have been fatal.

    So eat as healthy as you can. Get your exercise. Get your rest. Keep your mind active and challenged. All things that will be severely difficult for most people during and post collapse, but will be necessary nonetheless if you choose to live….

  • if you know which vitamins you are lacking because of the appearance of particular symptoms, you can seek out food high in those vitamins.


    Post-Collapse, you will be seeking out ANY food you can find… ;-)

  • Speaking of water, I know some people today are collecting rainwater into water butts. This seems to me to be a good idea, especially living in England. Not knowing a lot about this method, I would ask you smart people how one (1) protects the water from contaminants such as bird droppings on the roof, leaves, and such, and (2) keeps the water fresh and clean over time.

    Any ideas?

  • Victor,

    In country Australia, most of us use tank water, which is collected from our roofs. To get clean water into your tank, you can have a leaf “eater” and first flush diverter. The leaf “eater” is located on your downpipe and stops leaves entering the system. The first flush diverter can be located just under the leaf diverter. It fills up with the first rain then seals so the water from then on goes into your tank. see Most Australian rural tank suppliers have such accessories. Another neat trick is to have a pipe that is connected from the overflow outlet at the top of the tank and finishes close to the normal water outlet at the bottom of the tank. Each time the tank overflows, it takes the dirtiest water from the bottom of the tank rather than the cleanest water from the top of the tank. You can also have the normal outlet about 30 cm from the bottom of the tank, but this means you lose access to quite a bit of water. It may not be a problem in the UK, but we need mosquito netting over any opening to make sure we don’t get lots of mosquitos breeding in the water. There is one thing I’d like to do, but have never heard it being done. I’d like to get a small solar pump working in the tank to run the water through a flow form and keep the water aerated.

  • I’d like to get a small solar pump working in the tank to run the water through a flow form and keep the water aerated.


    Thanks for the hints. Very helpful. But you stopped just short of where I was hoping you would go… ;-) What happens if you can’t keep the water aerated? What do you do today? I suppose if you use your water only for plants, that is fine. But what if someday we need to use the water for drinking? We could boil it first which solves part of the problem. But it might also contain unsought minerals and metals as well? How does one filter it? Perhaps we don’t?

  • Another note on Peak Oil. It is often commented that as the price of oil goes up, so everything else does as well and that this will ultimately be the reason people stop buying and go without, and the reason why the producers of goods will go out of business.

    But there is an even earlier set of events that will occur that will likely affect supplies more quickly. Credit availability. To produce goods you need to borrow money to make it happen. The bank (or shareholder) lends or invests that money on the expectation that it will return a gain on that loan or investment. Cheap energy makes that happen. When there is cheap energy available, there is usually money available as well. No energy, no money.

    On the other side of Hubbert’s curve we will have less energy available. This means less or no money available to finance new production. So the producer might not get the loan that keeps them in business. Or if they do get the loan, their customers overseas might not get letters of credit and so can not purchase the goods produced. The end-user is stuck either way – not being able to refresh sales inventory, or perhaps get the parts needed for repair of operating equipment – no parts, no equipment – no equipment, no products, or no water pumped to homes and businesses, or no food to the shelves of supermarkets, or no electricity – you get the idea.

    Result? Crash. And this crash can happen quite quickly if credit markets are seized up. It won’t matter at all if there is still plenty of oil around after that point. An infinite growth economy MUST run on the faith of future growth, or it doesn’t run at all. Lose the faith in growth, and you lose credit. Lose credit, and everything comes to a jarring halt.

  • Victor,

    We use the water for drinking. No one seems to mind that it is not aerated. On the other hand the water is always in motion because we’re drawing it down or the rain is filling it up. We live in a very clean part of the world so don’t have to worry about air pollution. I don’t know about where you live. However, there is lots of info on the web for slow sand filters, e.g. That should clean your drinking water to acceptable levels. Oh, we have corrugated iron roofs, which are pretty easy to clean from just one flush of rainwater.

  • Thanks Dr. House: For the reason that you stated, at some point you won’t be able to get your herbals just like any other prescription drug, we have focused this year on expanding our medicinal plants. What we have found is that the seeds and plants are already hard to find, they can be extremely expensive, the people selling them in some cases are not well informed. The nice thing is if you can find them and germinate them most are perennials, or will self seed. Some that we have found particularly easy to grow are elderberry, skullcap, topaz (strong version of St. John’s Wort), poppies, herb robert, wild licorice, wild quinine, bloodroot, pasque flower, mayapple,osha, angelica, edelweiss, gobi, and a bunch more. With alot of others we have completely failed and that’s with a greenhouse, propagation mats, scarifying and stratifying. We aren’t trained herbalists by any stretch, but we just thought it was important to at least try and get some of these growing, so that our local community in the future would have a source.

  • Oh yeah forgot this Dr. House. For that high blood pressure, try 2 TBS of Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar in some water first thing in the morning, and before you go to bed at night. When I first starting taking it I was keeping track of it with a blood pressure monitor. At least for me, and alot of others, it is quite effective.

  • @ Nicole
    Some time ago, I think you told about guys in your area who still have the knowledge of blacksmith and I think it was leather work and some more.
    Do you think it is possible to preserve this knowledge in passing that and the necessary tools on to people by “inventing” some sort of market for products, like “produced the ancient way”, so people would be willing to pay the needed prices for now?
    I think sort of autarkic “village” knowledge (as has been 100 years ago)
    will be needed in the “end”.

    @ Real Dr. House
    chicken soup is the! cure for colds over here. Get a whole chicken, cook with a lot of root vegetables for hours, pepper, juniper, some bay leafs, add some noodles to the soup, eat three times a day. Eat meat, veggies, spices. Has been cure here for – ages.

  • Bernhard,

    We’ve started running workshops – pretty much just cover our costs – in as many of the traditional skills as we can find teachers for. We make them family affairs, people bring their tents and camp in the paddock, they get to use composting toilets and bush showers, we provide simple, wholesome meals. At our last workshop, we had an 11 year old boy drag his family (mother, father and his 4 siblings) to the workshop because he wanted to learn how to scythe. He is just amazing. He makes his own weapons and tools, and had told his father prior to attending the workshop that he wished he’d lived in a world without electricity and machines. I think his wish will come true. I also think he will have a chance of coming through the bottleneck.

    We are also encouraging the blacksmith and others to sell their hand forged tools and other artisan products on our website.

    I have heard that between 70% and 90% of people used to work in agriculture. So as we gather our community, we are first and foremost looking for people interested in farming. But as Joel Salatin says, once you have about 5 farming families, you can afford to have a mechanic, or in our case, a blacksmith.

  • Nicole,
    Nice story of the 11 year old, seems to be very connected.
    Forged tools and artisan products on the website – great, how can one find your website?

    Farming, yeah. Think this is the way to go.

  • Victor [Post-Collapse, you will be seeking out ANY food you can find…]

    Exactly. It is hard I know for people to conceive that everything they know now is going to become radically different – when the electric grid finally comes down and transport ceases no one will have vitamin pills, herbal medicines or anything other than what is grown locally. But to think that we go from here to there without massive social upheaval and the accompanying violence is IMO naive. In the US we have not had war on our own soil since the Civil War. We have come to believe that some level of social order will be maintained as we shrink our population to some size that can be maintained without fossil fuels. I think in fact the US will be the site of the biggest amount of social upheaval in the world. Ethnic tensions run high and our population is highly armed.

    Getting enough water (of any quality) and calories (of any type) will likely be the main occupation of most people for quite some time. Those who are sick or injured may well be abandoned – health care rationing in the extreme.

    During the plague the Decameron Boccaccio records this “that in the horror thereof brother was forsaken by brother nephew by uncle, brother by sister, and oftentimes husband by wife: nay, what is more, and scarcely to be believed, fathers and mothers were found to abandon their own children, untended, unvisited, to their fate, as if they had been strangers.”

  • Farming, yeah. Think this is the way to go.


    Perhaps….or not. Climate change might well force a migratory lifestyle, seeking habitable areas on a seasonal basis. In such a case, we might find ourselves accompanying many other species north or south as weather demands, and thus, take on a hunter-gatherer existence.

  • Those who are sick or injured may well be abandoned – health care rationing in the extreme.


    Indeed. Whilst parents might end up having to forsake their children in some cases, I think it more likely that children will have to forsake their parents – IMO a much more acceptable alternative. Whilst this might sound cruel, it was always the way of things many years back, esp with H-G cultures. It was considered a natural process.


    Your story of the 11 y/o reminds me of the incredible versatility, flexibility and mental capacity of the 11 y/o. At that age I was absorbing information like a sponge! Perhaps our target audience should be those of around that age as they would be quickest to take up on the simple truths we expound, and would be most likely to be able to make the necessary adjustment in their lives.

  • Dr. House,

    Well, you certainly did start a good discussion. I’ve been thinking about your list and have a few observations. I’m not trying to be picky, but rather I am trying to use your list as a jumping off place for some thoughts about future personal health care. From your list:

    #3 and #4 are something any of us could and should do now.

    #5 and #9 make perfect sense, although most people live in cities and are in daily contact with a huge number of people. Many city dwellers have adopted the mindset that in the coming collapse it is actually the cities that will be the best bet for survival, reasoning that where there are people there are bound to be services. I don’t agree with that, and it appears you don’t either. I think evidence against cities as survival options is readily available with a quick survey of any of the vast slum areas attached to third world cities. It is difficult for me to figure out how a collapse that relegates most of the population to third world status will not result in similar slums (or worse) in every one of our cities.

    #7, insuring/developing a clean water source, is of course a great idea, however, most people are currently dependent on municipal systems for their water. In a collapse scenario I have to question whether these systems will remain viable.

    #1 will be a huge problem for anyone who is dependent on modern pharmaceuticals. Assume someone 50 years old that’s dependent on a daily dose of medication and expects to survive for, say, five years; what do they do? Three hundred sixty five pills each year, times five, means they would have to purchase and stockpile almost 2000 pills. Of course that does not include problems with storage, shelf life, or cost, let alone the problem of talking someone into prescribing them. As has been noted on NBL often in the past, having a dependency on modern medicine is likely a death sentence in the face of collapse.

    #6 and #8 seem to go together in two ways, countering personal risk and product availability. Washing your hands is a good thing, as is protecting yourself from injury, however, one of the many problems related to collapse is supply; where do you get soap, or gloves, or glasses, or shoes if they’re not being shipped in from China? I will also note that an obsession with disinfecting everything can leave a person with a compromised immune system.

    #2 could be a problem during the transition down the ladder. While the government is still functioning they are unlikely to endorse experimentation with opium.

    And finally, #10, what should we eat? Most of us will be lucky to get 2 meals a day. Much of our food will probably be starchy, low quality fare, if we can get it. Any source of red meat we might come upon will be a godsend. In the future, our only thought related to watching our diets will be how to find enough calories to keep going.

    Thanks again for spurring these thoughts.

    Michael Irving

  • Thank you Dr. for the post and all the great information gleaned from the comments.

    Seems like there was only one mention of cannabis thanks to Francois.
    As a hospice volunteer many of the patients I visit opt to use marijuana over morphine as most are able to get a medical marijuana license. Cannabis not only helps pain but can increase appetite, treat nausea and help to relax those who thoughts are mostly of dying (if coherent).

    It can be grown in most states and with a little song and dance can forgo the fertilizer. If the powers to be would allow the proper testing to be done on it, many could benefit from the different strains. I recommend getting acquainted with Sativa and Indica and the differences between them, cannabis is truly a wonder drug as well as a “friendly plant”.

    Good book, Is Marijuana The Right Medicine For You? by Bill Zimmerman, Ph.D, with Rick Bayer, M.D and Nancy Crumpacker, M.D.

    Also have found Cayenne good to have around, especially if you can dry your own peppers. In the 19th century it was used for it’s warming properties for chills, rheumatism, and depression

  • @Michael Irving, Your points are quite valid. Suggestions are all dependent on the speed and completeness of collapse. #1 is a good example of that. If supplies are interrupted and then restored repeatedly, then it might be helpful to have extra medicines on hand. Once collapse is complete, you’re right, stockpiling becomes very difficult and impractical – particularly if you have to move somewhere else. How do you carry all that stuff?

    On the other hand, a good pair of shoes will last 10 years or more. So having a few extra pair is not a bad idea at all.

    Clothing is another issue that few consider, I believe. It’s one thing to know how to sew – quite another to know how to weave your own cloth. Who knows, nudity may be in fashion sooner than we think. ;-)

    @Gardengate, thanks for your comment. Josh and I have about 30 different pepper plants in our garden this year. It’s going to be a “hot” summer. :-)
    On a related note, Market Place, a show on NPR, had a story nominally about chili peppers and climate change. It was somewhat interesting if not lacking in substance.

    Marijuana grows wild in many places in the U.S. I’m sure it will become a ready staple in many households once big brother is no longer lurking about.

  • For those of you who might be interested,The British Royal couple will
    be honeymooning on the Caribbean island of Mustique in May.

    Double D

  • Victor,

    Is this article by Iris Cheng, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace International, more nuclear scaremongering from the left?

    Upon her recent return from a mission, with press, to visit Chernobyl and other parts of the Ukraine so that they could assess the ongoing effects of that overblown incident/ongoing disaster she wrote: “Nuclear proponents now claim that despite the fact that the situation in the Fukushima nuclear plant is still not under control, despite the massive amount of radioactive water dumped into the sea with unknown consequence Fukushima proves that nuclear energy is safe, because so far no one has been killed by the radiation?”

    Michael Irving

  • thanks much dr. house, & commenters!

    discussion from old thread was small scale oil presses, i didn’t have time to share this;

    here is one i have copied plans for as it looks hardy…uses a manual hydraulic jack, & the details…even for hulling & separating sunflower seeds…prior to pressing seems credible to me.

  • more nuclear scaremongering from the left?

    Michael Irving

    Nice try, but no cigar, my friend… :-)

    I never said the nuclear power industry is a safe industry. I said it has a better safety record to date than other power industries, esp coal. I never said it wasn’t dangerous. I never said people did not die from it. I never said I supported the industry. I never said that the industry would never kill people in the future. I never said that it would not be dangerous after Collapse. I never said that radioactivity can not cause cancer.

    But I did say that both the nuclear industry AND their opponents engage in a lot of hyperbole, even lies, over its real dangers.

    And I stand by that. I am not going to support liars and scaremongers who happen to support my views. Indeed, their lies and scaremongering tactics remove credibility from their arguments, and IMO from themselves. If you are going to criticise something, do so honestly and with integrity. These folks don’t. They just want to generate money and attention for their cause and their organisations.

  • The British Royal couple will
    be honeymooning on the Caribbean island of Mustique in May.


    Not even the slightest niggle of interest from me, I’m afraid… ;-)

  • Victor,

    The counterpunch link, the many “like how…” is it really scaremongering?
    Agree with “generate money…”, but do you consider this article scaremongering?

    British royals, pope today. To me this attention worldwide shows that most of mankind, instead working up to the true problems, prefers to live in sort of wonderland.
    To watch this (the behaviour of the people) since ever makes me sick.

  • Victor.

    {Royals} ‘Not even the slightest niggle of interest from me, I’m afraid…’

    Well said. By judicious use of DVDs and the remote control I managed to limit my exposure to pro-monarchy brainwshing to around 5 minutes total for the entire month of April.

    Re: nuclear. I’m with you all the way. There’s far too much hyperbole and speculation from both sides, and nowhere near enough irrefutable evidence.


    The proles do what they have been carefully trained to do since the 12th century. As long as they are thinking about weddings or [more recently] internationalised sport they are not thinking about their own condition.

  • Hi Bernard

    In a way yes. The article, without any scientific justification, makes accusations that are questionable and obviously meant to inflame people’s emotions.

    I would suggest that you or anyone else truly interested in this subject read the UNSCEAR Reports on this issue as well as the report coming out of the WHO Chernobyl Forum. Both are composed of many, many scientists from all over the world representing many different scientific specialties.

    Here are a couple of relevant links:

    The above link is a joint media release in 2005 giving some important results of a 20 year study and reported by the UN Chernobyl Forum, an organisation composed of “8 UN specialized agencies, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), and the World Bank, as well as the governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.”

    The report is here:

    Also, there are the UNSCEAR reports which can be located here on the UNSCEAR site for Chernobyl:

    Now most of the scaremongers will dismiss these reports as being tools of the nuclear industry, thus effectively smearing the work of hundreds of committed scientists both in government, industry and academia across the world. I see no supporting basis for that attitude.

    If one reads any of this material carefully, you will find that these scientists recognise both the problems and the risks of radiation exposure, but also give a scientific view of their estimate of the effects, both past and future of those exposed to any degree. They recognise the health problems, the lack of money for adequate support in many cases, the lack of reliable information getting to the people affected, the precautions that must be taken in several areas more highly exposed to radiation, and the economics of the situation. It is not a total whitewash as many claim, and neither is it a doom and gloom set of reports as many others claim.

    I think them pretty balanced overall. But then, I also recognise that “balance” is in the eye of the beholder, right?

  • Victor,

    Re: May 1st, 2011 at 12:20 am—

    I like that! Good answer! NOW I’m done. ;-)

    Michael Irving

    From Madison to Lauderdale counties, U.S. 72 looked more like a parking lot Thursday than a major thoroughfare.
    Residents who weren’t out surveying tornado damage were in a desperate search for gasoline. Because power was knocked out in Madison County and much of Limestone, open gas stations were in short supply. Some people were seen walking with gas cans in an effort to find fuel for stranded vehicles.
    At nearly every gas station from Athens to Florence, long lines and waits of up to two or three hours were reported. Some stations ran out of gas and were forced to turn customers away. is a site that was closed for a while but back up again. Great place to find stories from around the world that relate to incidences of energy shortage

  • Kathy

    Thanks for the link. Hadn’t seen that one. Will take a closer look later.

  • OK, so you people aren’t interested in Royalty—so lets try the extreme opposite. Today is MAY DAY, the most important day of the
    year for all good communists,socalists,anarchists,ect.

    That has sentimental significance for me as I was born and raised in
    Chicago,where the 1886 Haymarket Square Massacre and the first
    May Day celebration took place in 1886.

    Double D

  • Yes, Frank. This is an important date. My wife and I are both socialists…. ;-)

  • John Rember,

    Congratulations on your essay “Consensus and Other Realities” being included in the coming book “Dark Mountain Two.”

    Michael Irving

  • Victor,

    What’s new? Everyone here in my (red)neck of the woods knows positively that everyone in Europe is a Socialist.

    Michael Irving

  • Michael

    Would that be true….. ;-)

  • Hey Guy,

    I’ve gone from the far right to the far left,to try and get these people engaged.

    What’s it gonna take to wake em up ?

    Double D

  • I conjectured many years ago that the impact of severe weather incidents would be a major factor in bringing down the system. The battering NZ has been taking recently has not been as severe as experienced elsewhere in the world, but nevertheless is huge for the regions affected. “It’s bad down here. Entire cliff-faces of farmland are lying at the bottom of the valley and are being washed out to sea … A lot of people have lost their livelihoods.”

    And it’s more or less certain that the frequency and intensity of weather-related damage will increase as the oceans continue to warm.

    Storm battering gets fierce
    By Amelia Wade 5:30 AM Monday May 2

    The damage to land in Central Hawkes Bay has been described as ‘huge’.

    Gales and torrential rain were hammering parts of the North Island early today – nature’s latest strike in a week of stormy weather that has left central Hawkes Bay in a state of emergency.

    Weather forecasters yesterday predicted up to 120mm of rain would fall in Northland in just 24 hours, with 15mm of rain an hour expected in some parts.

    Heavy rain warnings are also in place in Coromandel and Bay of Plenty this morning.

    The latest deluge comes after a week of storms that caused widespread flooding on the east coast of the North Island.

    Hawkes Bay is still in a state of a emergency as the clean-up of landslips and flooding continues.

    The wild weather forced the evacuation of more than 100 people from 14 coastal communities.

    Civil Defence has extended the state of emergency to ensure motorists stay clear of dangerous roads and so the local councils can fix problems such as disrupted water supplies.

    Central Hawkes Bay Mayor Peter Butler said last week’s storms had “ruined the region” and the cleanup would take more than six months.

    “It’s bad down here. Entire cliff-faces of farmland are lying at the bottom of the valley and are being washed out to sea … A lot of people have lost their livelihoods.”

    Many roads damaged by slips or fallouts might never be reopened, Mr Butler said. “The damage is huge. It may never be the same here again.”

    On Saturday, up to five children were evacuated by helicopter from Aramoana and eight people by four-wheel drive from Mangakuri.

    Mr Butler said it was expected to take up to three weeks to reopen the road to Aramoana, and access to the southern end of Pourerere Beach was closed indefinitely.

    The Earthquake Commission had received 124 claims from the Hawkes Bay storm but that number was expected to grow significantly, chief executive Ian Simpson said.

    Meanwhile, the top of the North Island was battered by galeforce winds of up to 135km/h yesterday and residents were bracing themselves last night for a deluge of rain.

    MetService duty forecaster Heath Gullery predicted that up to 120mm would fall on Northland in 24 hours and was likely to cause flooding.

    The eastern hills area was expected to get up to 15mm an hour.

    Far North Mayor Wayne Brown said residents were taking “sensible precautions” and were taking the warnings seriously.

    However, he said, most did not know what to expect because thousands of homes and businesses were without power all yesterday.

    The outage was in line with a Transpower plan made weeks ago to do maintenance on a transmission line that supplies the area.

    “Most people have no idea about the warnings because they’ve been disconnected all day so they haven’t been able to find out what’s going on,” Mr Brown said. “But because they were prepared for the power cut, they have supplies for the storm.”

    Mangonui fire station chief officer Peter Sainsbury said the winds had knocked over trees and powerlines in the township.

    Severe weather warnings were also issued for the Coromandel Peninsula and the Bay of Plenty today and tomorrow as the weather front moved south over the country.

    The bad weather postponed the opening of the fourth southbound lane on the Southern Motorway between the Newmarket Viaduct and the Greenlane exit, which was supposed to happen last night. The Transport Agency said the work would be finished during the next fine night.

    Weather Watch chief analyst Philip Duncan said blustery winds in parts of Auckland gusted to about 80km/h last night.

    “One report came in from the CBD saying they were hearing things breaking and being blown off balconies. In the city we have the wind-tunnel effect caused by the high-rise buildings.

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if there are gusts in the city centre of 100km/h or even 120km/h.”

    Mr Duncan said the weather low coming down from New Caledonia was stopped north of Cape Reinga by a high over the country and would now slowly move out in an arc into the Tasman Sea.

    “The high will move away, so the low will curve around and hit the South Island on Wednesday. So rain warnings are likely on Tuesday for the South Island.

    “This low is going to be with us for the week, and will affect different regions on different dates.”

    – additional reporting: Nicholas Jones, NZPA

  • thanks kevin.

  • So global warming is showing it’s ghastly face.Unprecidented tornadoes
    in the southern US.NZ awful.Damn fools all over denying the truth.Our
    planet is very small ang fragile,but capitalist greed is in denial.

    The natural human is a barbarian—willing to destroy everything for
    nothing but the detritius of barbarian,vulgar instincts.

    As Ayn Rand said in Atlas Shrugged, “brother you asked for it”.

    Good night.

    Double D