Podcast 047: Tinnitus & Headaches

Ryn leads off this week with a variety of herbs to try reducing the ringing in the ears called tinnitus. Herbs to drain stuck fluids, quell nervous irritation, and increase cerebral circulation can all help out with this distracting problem.

Katja has some great ideas for you headache sufferers out there – starting with some practical considerations about food and water, sleep, and stress – and then moving on to some herbs you can match to your particular triggers and symptoms.

Mentioned in this podcast:

  • The Whole30 Program
  • ConcenTrace from Trace Mineral Research – a liquid multimineral & trace element supplement
  • If you’d like to help out and transcribe a portion of our video program for our incarcerated student, contact us! Ditto if you’d like to sponsor a book donation!

Herbs discussed include: ground ivy, goldenseal, black cohosh, feverfew, skullcap, passionflower, ginkgo, marshmallow, linden, lemon balm, willow, meadowsweet, wood betony, ginger, chamomile, calamus, peppermint.


If you like our podcast, you might like learning from us in a more intentional way – like with our Family Herbalist program! It’s a great way to start incorporating herbs into your daily life, to keep you and your loved ones healthy and resilient all year round!

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Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.


Episode Transcript

Katja: 00:00:10 Hi, I’m Katja.

Ryn: 00:00:13 And I’m Ryn.

Katja: 00:00:13 We’re here at the Common Wealth Center for Holistic Herbalism, in Boston, Mass.

Ryn: 00:00:17 And on the Internet everywhere ! Thanks to the power of the podcast!

Katja: 00:00:18 Woo Hoo!

Ryn: 00:00:21 OK. We are not doctors, we are herbalists and holistic health educators.

Katja: 00:00:27 The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice.

Katja: 00:00:30 No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States, so these discussions are for educational purposes only. Everybody’s body is different. So the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you, but hopefully they’ll give you some information to think about and research more.

Ryn: 00:00:46 We want to remind you, just like every week, that good health is your own personal responsibility. The final decision in considering any course of therapy, whether discussed on the Internet or prescribed by your physician, is always yours.

Katja: 00:00:58 Yes!

Ryn: 00:00:58 So there!

Katja: 00:00:58 (Laughter)

Ryn: 00:01:02 All right. What shall we begin with this week?

Katja: 00:01:05 Oh I have some shout outs this week. We’ve got shout outs to Bernadette in Ohio who wants us to talk about headaches. So I’m going to.

Ryn: 00:01:17 Julian who wants to hear about tinnitus, so I’m going to talk about that one.

Katja: 00:01:20 Yay. And also she just finished her master’s degree. Go you!. And to Elli Perry Music on Instagram who wants a deck of our herb cards. We just had the herb card giveaway on Instagram. And if you missed your chance or didn’t win, you can find our herb cards on the website at commonwealthherbs.com/shop. And who else? A bond seven who does skin care and lat dash Joe also on Instagram who met us at Herb stock and is a new listener of the podcast. Hi. Welcome.

Ryn: 00:02:03 Thank you for listening, everybody!

Katja: 00:02:06 Thank you so much! Thank you guys for reviewing us on iTunes. If you have not done that yet we would so appreciate if you would because the more reviews that we get, the more that that iTunes will show it to other people. I don’t understand how those algorithms work, but what I do understand is that more people learning more things about herbalism is more better.

Ryn: 00:02:32 So yeah it’s probably true on the other services also – if you get your podcasts through Spotify or Stitcher or wherever else then just click the stars and …

Ryn: 00:02:44 Thank you!

Katja: 00:02:45 Thank you!

Ryn: 00:02:45 All right, well, let’s give you some actual podcasts so you’ve got something to rate.

Katja: 00:02:53 Yeah. All right. What do you want to go first this week?

Ryn: 00:02:56 Oh yeah. OK. So I’m going to talk about tinnitus, and that’s ringing in the ears.

Katja: 00:03:03 You know it is surprisingly common.

Ryn: 00:03:06 Yeah, right? And you know I was about to leap directly into the herbs, but, it can come from a variety of different things. For a lot of people, it’s just because you got exposed to too much loud noise, whether that was recreational or occupational or somewhere in between. It could be that the ear drum itself has thickened in response to the loud noise and so now it’s not as sensitive to minor vibrations. A lot of other issues with tinnitus though have more to do with inflammation of the nerves in the ears. And so when they’re inflamed, it’s kind of like if you were going to plug your phone…

Katja: 00:03:55 I was just gonna say that!

Ryn: 00:03:57 Yeah! You’re going to plug the jack into your phone, but maybe you’ve got one of those cases that’s really puffy and rubbery around the outside and then the jack you want to use is a little bigger than normal and it doesn’t quite fit. And it sort of goes in but not quite all the way and there’s a little buzz.

Katja: 00:04:11 Or like when we get in the car and we have an older car and it has an auxiliary input but it doesn’t have Bluetooth for the phone so we have a little cord that we plug our phone into to get it into the to the car speakers. But before you plug it in if the radio is turned on and that cord is just dangling…

Ryn: 00:04:34 There’s just this terrible buzzing sound!

Katja: 00:04:36 There is just like a terrible ringy, buzzy sound because there’s weird input coming but it’s not real. That always feels like nerve issue to me. Like there’s weird input but it isn’t actually real.

Ryn: 00:04:51 So yeah we have to think about inflamation affecting the nerves in the head near the brain in the ears. OK. And then I guess the other source that we run into over and over again is fluid stagnation in the head, in the ears themselves or in the sinuses. The pressure there kinda bleeds over sideways.

Katja: 00:05:12 That’s a real factor for me and I would say that tinnitus is always defined as a ringing in the ears. But I just want to take a minute to kind of expand, basically everything that you’re going to say even though you haven’t said it yet, to noises that aren’t actually ringing. So I get a lot of fluid movement or fluid not-movement noises in my ears and that doesn’t meet the strict definition of tinnitus, but it’s still wicked annoying.

Ryn: 00:05:49 And people are very likely to use the word tinnitus to describe a variety of different sensations, not all coming from the same cause.

Katja: 00:05:58 So as I’m looking over the list of herbs that you’re going to talk about, I just want to preface that with even if you have weird stuff going on in your ears that isn’t exactly ringing but it’s still an obnoxious noise, a lot of these herbs are still super, super useful and they work really great for me.

Ryn: 00:06:17 Well the first one I want to lead with is really our favorite.

Katja: 00:06:22 It is! It’s my favorite!

Ryn: 00:06:22 And this is one that we do find helpful, have found helpful for a number of clients by now. I think a variety of different base ideologies to the problem.

Katja: 00:06:34 Everything from autoimmune tinnitus like with Meniere’s Syndrome’s even to rock shows…the whole nine yards…any kind. Ground Ivy really…

Ryn: 00:06:45 Yeah it’s been very helpful. So if you start with ground ivy and it doesn’t immediately cure your tinnitus overnight don’t send us nasty e-mails. Just recognize that there may be other factors going on and there might be more digging that has to be done and OK. But that said, this is a really effective herb for this problem and it’s one that we turn to over and over again for it. Any time I’m working with tinnitus I’m probably going to include gound ivy in the formula even if there are other elements to what’s going on that I want to address with different plants

Katja: 00:07:19 And you’ve just said “don’t write us nasty e-mails if it doesn’t cure your tinnitus”. And I wanted to expand on that because of course, we’re not doctors so we don’t cure anything because legally we’re not allowed to use that word and also we don’t want to use that word. But we can help with things and herbs can help with things.

Ryn: 00:07:39 You can write us friendly Emails.

Katja: 00:07:42 You can! And I also want to be clear that I’ve always had success with ground ivy, but success is not always defined as 100 percent back to baseline. “Everything is silent unless I want there to be noise” kind of a situation. Sucess has been defined as “hey this is a big improvement” all the way through to “Hey that went away” But it doesn’t always have to be PERFECT in order to be great.

Ryn: 00:08:20 Yeah. Anyway so the herb ground ivy It’s Glechoma hederacea. This one we know very well because there’s a lot of it here in New England. And it grows in a pretty weedy way. Find it in a lot of parks here in the city…green spaces, open pastures and fields and things like that so it’s pretty abundant.

Katja: 00:08:41 If you’re a gardening kind of person you might know this plant as creeping charlie or gill-over-the-ground. In different regions the country has different common names.

Ryn: 00:08:52 Right. Yeah. Well so the primary reason is this is so helpful for Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is that it’s very efficient at draining stagnant fluids out of the ear canals themselves and out of the lymphatic structures that are close to the ear and the nose and the throat. There in that whole whole area of the body. So that’s the kind of super power that this particular herb has. The thing that it’s really good at, above and beyond other herbs. Whenever we’re dealing with swelling in the lymph nodes or stagnation there in the ear, nose or throat, the ground ivy is the first thing that we think of. And again when there is that ringing in the ears it’s often coming from a kind of stagnant fluid issue. So. Yes so we turn to this. We primarily work with ground ivy in the form of tincture. Usually we’re taking it in relatively high doses for acute problems. Like if you have a cold coming on and you get an earache, we’ll work with ground ivy there as wel,l with the idea that if you keep the fluids moving you’re less likely to allow an infection to really proliferate or to make it easier for your body to fight it off. And that works really well. Doses in that case are a dropperful or two of ground ivy every half hour or every hour for a couple of days while you are working your way through that part of the process. When it’s tinnitus, we’d be more inclined to have a kind of more standard schedule. A dropperful of tincture maybe three times a day, maybe two droppersful three times a day. This is a very, very safe herb. It doesn’t have harsh effects, it doesn’t have you potent chemistry, it’s not bursting with alkaloids or something like that.

Katja: 00:10:48 Yeah. It’s really just a mover.

Ryn: 00:10:53 Yeah, it’s mild. So yes it’s an herb you can take in relatively high doses and through the course of the day and also for relatively extended periods of time. Generally we’d be recommending that you work with this herb in that dosing schedule for a month or so and we’ll see where you are at the end of that time, with the idea that there should be improvement over the course of it. Ok, so that’s ground ivy. You know you can make tea with it if you’ve got a lot around. This is not one that we’ve harvested and then dried and saved for making tea. We’ve made fresh plant tea a number of times. It’s mild in flavor. It’s relatively tasty, kind of like plantain in some ways.

Katja: 00:11:35 You know it’s the mint family so it has a little…

Ryn: 00:11:39 A little bit of aromatics and pretty mild. But anyway we’ve mainly done it with tincture. When it comes to tincturing this one, we’ve done simpler’s method, stuff a jar full of leaves pour in some vodka.

Katja: 00:11:50 You know brandy…I like it better with brandy especially because I give ground ivy to kids a lot. Because kids are so prone to ear infection and it’s so helpful for ear infection. And kids like tinctures out of brandy way better than they do out of vodka. They just taste a little better.

Ryn: 00:12:12 Yeah. Ok. Let’s actually talk about a couple of herbs that are going to be related in terms of their action here. So the next one I wanted to discuss actually is going to be feverfew, oh wait no, let me leave feverfew for a minute because it’ll be like a pivot point between this group and the next group. OK. So let’s actually talk for just a very brief moment about two herbs that I came across when I was doing a little bit of extra digging preparing for this podcast. Some herbs that I’ve seen other herbalists reference when they’re talking about coping with tinnitus and especially these two having a relation or being relative to that fluid stagnation issue. So the first one is golden seal and this is an herb that I work with occasionally. Usually for very specific purposes, it’s not an herb that I recommend broadly to people. Usually we’re trying to counter the sort of commercial narrative around golden seal which is “herbal antibiotic” and “take it when you feel sick” and that kind of thing, very generic, not targeted and in a lot of cases counterproductive. But the reason this could be relevant here, especially if there were that issue of stagnant fluids in the sinuses in particular, is that golden seal is really good at drying up excess fluid in the sinuses, at astringing the mucus membranes and tightening them up. So if there were leakiness to those membranes, then golden seal is a really effective herb for that. I’ve seen older references in books from the eighteen hundreds and even, in fact, in some translations of like Asclepius and some of these ancient authors references to golden seal and herbs like it being helpful for what they called catarrhal deafness and tinnitus.

Katja: 00:14:15 Catarrhal deafness, is that when people get giant wads of ear wax?

Ryn: 00:14:22 You have, well, maybe the Ear wax. Could be potentially that. I’m thinking more like your sinuses are all stuffed and full and boggy and it’s kind of like your ears feel like…kind of like that feeling you describe when you had fluid stuck in your ears or like you got water in your ear and you couldn’t get it out.

Katja: 00:14:38 Yeah, I hate that.

Ryn: 00:14:40 So goldenseal could be helpful there. I would definitely be combining that with ground ivy and I would be looking at that as a small part of the formula. You know maybe 10 percent, just to give a little bit more toned a little astringency to squeeze out some of those fluids, but only if that was part of the picture. Right? Like if you had that feeling of your head being all wrapped in mucus on the inside I guess, that kind of like swampy, gurgly sound in the ears then golden seal could make sense there. But again to keep it at a relatively small portion, don’t overdo it with this. And I would recommend taking it in formula.

Katja: 00:15:26 Yeah. So that what you’re really going for is that out of your dropperful, only like one or two drops is actually going to be the golden seal.

Ryn: 00:15:34 Yeah. Cool. Ok good. So then another herb that I don’t work with super frequently but which could be helpful and again which I have seen a number of other herbalists refer to about working within the range of tinnitus and ear issues like this is the herb black cohosh.

Katja: 00:16:02 It is so funny that you mention this.

Ryn: 00:16:04 Yeah?

Katja: 00:16:04 Well yeah, because a client asked me about black cohosh this week. And I’m going to give it away. You have a note written there about cerebro-spinal decongestant and this client was asking me about it for menopause things and I was like “no” that’s really not the way that… it’s very… it’s commercialized that way but that’s really not what’s going on there. It’s really for whiplash. And she was like “Are you kidding me. That’s fascinating and also holy cow!” I have had black cohosh in my whiplash bucket for a really long time and I just don’t work with black cohosh very often, so it’s just been in that bucket. But I’ve also never really dived in to find out why is it good at whiplash and just the word cerebrospinal decongestant are like blowing my mind wide open right now.

Ryn: 00:17:12 Yes.

Katja: 00:17:12 So of course like oh my goodness! And of course then that makes sense for tonight. And now I’m so inspired to do a formula of ground ivy with a little golden seal & a little black cohosh.

Ryn: 00:17:25 Yeah I think it can be really useful in some of these cases.

Katja: 00:17:28 I guess separate your notes because I’m like totally stealing or whatever but literally my mind is just like… there’s fireworks going off inside there right now! It’s so…

Ryn: 00:17:38 Yeah that’s great. Black cohosh is one of these herbs that I feel like I haven’t spent almost any time with. And you know part of that has been that we were never particularly impressed with the whole menopause herb uses of it or that kind of thing and it’s hard to decide.

Katja: 00:18:00 We certainly spent a lot more time myth busting around black cohosh.

Ryn: 00:18:07 But as a relaxant it is kind of unique from a number of other herbs that have that quality, not least of which because of this affinity it has for the spine and the cerebrospinal fluid. So anyway this would be in that same range of “okay there there’s some stuck fluid that we need to to drain or at least to get it flowing again and moving.” So you can see how that fits in with those two previous herbs there. It also does have that relaxant quality so that could also make it fit in pretty well with the next group of herbs that I want to come to which is more on the the relaxant and sedative side. But before we get to them… Oh let me just say you know black cohosh again if I was going to work with that, I would I would do it just like you said I get a formula going I’d have maybe 10 percent golden seal, maybe 20 percent black cohosh and then the rest of the space in there with the ground ivy. And I would start with that.

Katja: 00:19:10 I am totally making that this week. I’m absolutely going to do that. I’m so excited.

Ryn: 00:19:17 It could be a good one for you in particular. I think the sort of tension patterns that you tend to have in a body that’s otherwise more prone to laxity.

Katja: 00:19:25 Yeah but a lot of attention right up around in the head and in the neck. And with a lot of that fluid retention in the ears. Literally, you guys, I like want to do cartwheels I’m so excited about this! If anybody else is feeling that way then go ahead and get blend up this formula also and then write to me and tell me how it is and in a couple of weeks then we’ll come back around to this on the podcast and I’ll let you know what my experience is.

Ryn: 00:19:58 All right next herb I want to address here was feverfew. So feverfew is an herb that has a lot of fame as a headache herb so maybe one that you were about to talk about in your part of the podcast here.

Katja: 00:20:13 I was actually not going to bring up feverfew at all!

Ryn: 00:20:16 No feverfew?!

Katja: 00:20:16 Because it has a lot of fame as a headache herb.

Ryn: 00:20:16 No meadowsweet? Maybe a little meadowsweet?

Katja: 00:20:22 Maybe a little meadowsweet.

Ryn: 00:20:24 Anyway so the reason for considering feverfew here and the reason that it is sometimes helpful for headaches of a certain type is that it’s a draining herb and a cooling herb. So again this could be helpful if there were signs of fluid stagnation in the head. In the case of feverfew though, this is more about draining blood than about lymph or mucus or sinus fluids. So with this one you would definitely be looking for there to be a pattern of excessive blood stuck in the head and this would be somebody I would expect to have not just the tinnitus, not just the ringing in the ears but also a headache. And if feverfew worked for one of those that would likely work for both. This is one that you can take in tincture and it’s probably the easiest way to go about it. You can mix it into tea blends. If that appeals to you that’s fine.

Katja: 00:21:21 I had a client who found that the most effective way to work with feverfew was to tincture it in white wine, that the tincture in vodka was too intense for the type of headache that this person had and the tea was not sufficient and tincturing it in white wine was like the Goldilocks for this person’s headache. This was a person with really hot, stabby headaches.

Ryn: 00:21:47 Right I remember. Cool. Okay, so feverfew could be one worth considering here and then crossing over a little bit into another category here we’re looking at some relaxant and sedative herbs So the feverfew’s got some of that, the black cohosh has the relaxing quality, but the two that I would want to highlight here are skullcap and passion flower. So of the two I’d say that skullcap is the stronger relaxant and it’s like a mild sedative whereas passionflower is a little bit more of a sedative and it’s a mild relaxant. But I almost always think of the two of them together because they work very effectively for anxiety and for many types of insomnia as a pair. They work really nicely to stop racing thoughts and allow you to rest and settle in and be present in the moment or drift off to sleep. So those are some of the mental emotional effects you observe with these plants. But on the physical level they ar,e to varying degrees, working to release tension and to calm or quiet nervous activity. And then probably as as a result of both those effects together they tend to have anti-inflammatory effects that are mostly taking place in the head. So you can see where if we’re looking at again a matter of excess tension or a matter of nervous over excitation or inflammation then you can see where these herbs would make a lot of sense for that. These two tinctures work fine. Tinctured blends work fine. You could put these two together and have some ground ivy in there as well or maybe a little feverfew if you want to include that aspect of things. Tincture blends are going to be a great way to work with skullcap and passionflower, but you can also take them in tea. And that works just fine as well. About passionflower in particular, there’s a quote from the herbalist Michael Moore he specifically regarded passionflower as useful for headaches that occurred in a hypertensive state along with tinnitus. And so what you’re seeing there the overall pattern is excess tension in the body leading to an increase in blood pressure and especially that’s happening up there in the head, there’s too much blood and too much pressure in the head and so you want to release the valves and let it drain out. The tinnitus there is really coming from the fact that there’s all this kind of rushing around in the head and not draining out the way you might prefer for it to happen. So passionflower can be particularly helpful there. And I think that again having the ground ivy as the grounding herb in that formula would make a lot of sense.

Katja: 00:24:38 You know speaking of passionflower, you guys might have seen on Instagram this week that I was posting about our winter garden indoors. This year we’ve added some new plants and one of them is passionflower. So, we have three baby passionflower vines that we got from Strictly Medicinal which is Rico Cech’s business and they are growing so much already it’s really really exciting. We have one in one in our office and two in our bedroom and they are beautiful already – I’m so excited about them!

Ryn: 00:25:18 Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I’m looking forward to if they flower next year because those flowers! If you haven’t seen a passionflower in flower…

Katja: 00:25:27 Stop what you are doing right now and google it!

Ryn: 00:25:28 You really want to. They are the coolest thing. All right one more herb for tinnitus and this is ginkgo. Ginkgo is one of the herbs that if you were to just google herbs for tinnitus it would probably pop up right away and you would see a mix of things you would see some people saying “this herb is totally fantastic for tinnitus for everybody and this is the only answer you’re ever going to need”. And then you’ll see other people saying “well, I don’t know, maybe it sort of helps but maybe not really.” If you look at the randomized controlled trials and the meta-analysis and they are uninspiring. So that is true. This has been studied quite extensively, as far as herbs go, and the pooled results you get when you put all of the different trials and protocols together, they may be a little better than placebo but we’re not sure, right? That said, and the ones that I looked at, placebo was no slouch. You always have to kind of calibrate your “not better than placebo” because for instance in some of those old St. John’s Wort trials “not better than placebo” still meant “at least as good as” the drugs they were comparing it against. So whatever. But what I would argue here is that the major problem is that they’re not doing syndrome differentiation, or constitutional differentiation, or tissue state differentiations which we would always do before giving ginkgo to someone. So the thing about ginkgo that I find really fascinating, is that it’s a cerebral circulatory stimulant, but it’s not a hot and fiery herb, right? It increases the movement of blood through the head, but it’s not an herb that generally like you give it to somebody and they drink it for a week and now they’re running around red faced with hot-type headaches all the time, you know? It’s not like if you were to give them a cayenne or something. So it has this nice balance between getting the blood moving but also delivering anti-inflammatory effects to the brain and to the other nerves in your head, so that would include the ones in your ears. So ginkgo I think would be most helpful and somebody who had poor circulation to the head. And this is going to be quite different from our feverfew type person or even in most cases our skullcap and passionflower type person where we’re seeing a red face, we’re seeing maybe some mental or physical agitation, we’re seeing signs of that excessive blood caught up in the head. For your ginkgo person, it’s going to be more of a pale face, deficient circulation, maybe fuzzy muggy kind of thoughts. “I’m just not quite able to get it moving very well.” So yeah. So between getting that blood moving and having that anti-inflammatory effect on the nerves, ginkgo makes a lot of sense for tinnitus. It does seem to be especially helpful in cases where the tinnitus is accompanied by vertigo. Dizziness. You know that feeling like the world is spinning underneath you. In cases where it’s been tinnitus together with the vertigo, the results for ginkgo have been a lot more impressive than for tinnitus on its own or for other kinds of combinations. And also in cases where it’s tinnitus happening in an elder and oftentimes this accompanies a state of dementia especially in the early phases. Again ginkgo has been found helpful for both sides of that problem, and I think the reality is that it’s just a matter of poor circulation to the brain. And just not enough blood, enough oxygen, enough heat and light and fire. So yes. So this herb is really handy there. OK! With ginkgo, you can you can drink tea. You’re going to get a stronger effect from ginkgo if you do work with a modern standardized product because they do tend to bump up the concentration of the ginkgolides which seem to have the majority of this effect. But honestly, I’ve made simple tinctures of ginkgo in a jar on the counter and if I found them to work just fine. I’m not saying it’s a necessity, but if you are looking for a rapid turnaround or if you’re recommending herbs to someone who isn’t going to be patient enough to wait a few weeks and all of that, then you might want to go with a standardized product. Maybe.

Katja: 00:30:09 I was going to say, you really had a phase there of ginkgo tea. And found it very effective.

Ryn: 00:30:17 I did like the ginkgo tea.

Katja: 00:30:18 In that “getting circulation going in the head” aspect.

Ryn: 00:30:22 Yeah I liked that. I liked it paired with Tulsi for that. That would be good. A little peppermint can make sense there. You’ve got options. Yeah. Ok. Real quick. A couple of other thoughts around tinnitus. There are some supplements that seem to make a difference here. Calcium, magnesium, zinc. You know for us, calcium we primarily prefer to get it through food sources – bone broth, meat from healthy animals, green leafy veggies. It’s not very difficult to get adequate calcium if you’re eating real food. So as long as eating real food is an actual option for you, or an attainable possibility, then that’s the way to go there. Magnesium is one that we generally do have to supplement with, especially when people are deficient. If magnesium was a problem, you might have other things along with the tinnitus. You might have restless leg, you might have cramping. There could be other issues going on with that, but you’d be more likely to have a tension pattern because magnesium deficiency leads to accumulations of tension throughout the body. And zinc is one that you can supplement with it for a little while or, I don’t know, if you eat oysters a bunch, and there’s a ton of it in there.

Katja: 00:31:36 That sounds like a much nicer way.

Ryn: 00:31:38 Zinc supplements… whenever it’s a mineral supplement we prefer to use the liquid versions, mostly from Trace Mineral Research, those just work really well. Zinc is a little heavier on the flavor than the other ones.

Katja: 00:31:51 Yeah, it’s not very delicious.

Ryn: 00:31:53 It’s a little like pennies or something. But anyway, whatever, there’s different ways to take supplements. But that may be worth investigating especially if the diet hasn’t been fantastic. I saw some references to melatonin supplementation being helpful for people with tinnitus. I wasn’t able to dig into it too much further and see what is the proposed mechanism of action there. We’re often skeptical around working with melatonin in supplement form. We prefer you to make your own, out of your brain.

Katja: 00:32:27 Haha!

Ryn: 00:32:27 So I wonder if more consistent high quality sleep would also solve the problem in those folks.

Katja: 00:32:35 I really think that’s a huge factor. And it’s funny because we did not write our notes together. I didn’t even know what you were going to talk about until we sat down. But I’m going to reiterate some of the things that you’re saying and one of those things is sleep. And in every case, sleep has been a factor in tinnitus that I’ve worked with.

Ryn: 00:33:00 If we think about it energetically, sleep is a cooling process. It’s the place where we do our inflammatory cleanup and our detox work. And, you know, relative to this I’m thinking primarily of giving the nerves a chance to rest and to recover and to not have new input coming in or not to be processing it in the same way while you’re in the state of sleep. And, you know, maybe a lack of that kind of recovery time. I mean so many of our all of our lives are totally overstimulated from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed.

Katja: 00:33:34 It’s really a factor in life today, and I think it’s a factor even if we are the kind of people who say “Wow! The way humans live life today is unsustainable.” Even people who are thinking about this, you can’t overstate how important it is.

Ryn: 00:33:57 Yeah. OK. One other comment here, there are a number of pharmaceuticals that can induce tinnitus as a side effect. So if you have pharmaceuticals in your life, you definitely want to go down the list of side effects and see if that’s included and then you know maybe have a chat with your pharmacist or your M.D. or whatever to see what your options might be to work around that. But there are some over-the-counter drugs to do this as well. And if somebody has ringing in the ears and they also take aspirin regularly, then that is something that you should look at. Excessive consumption of aspirin can lead to tinnitus. And this is coming out of salicylate content there, so the salicylic acid. It’s conceivably possible to induce that through giving herbs that contain salicylates. In fact if you look back to the Eclectics, they would sometimes say “the dose of willow bark for this condition is as much as it takes to give the person ringing in the ears, and then you stop”.

Katja: 00:35:05 Oh my goodness!

Ryn: 00:35:06 That’s… not a great plan. You don’t really want to generate that sensation. But anyway my main point here was if somebody has an aspirin habit that’s extensive and consistent then that could be causing tinnitus. If it’s doing that though, it’s probably also causing ulcers and other problems and you have more than one reason to try to step away from that. I don’t want to minimize the fact that people take these drugs, because they’re in pain and they don’t want to be and you can’t just decide to stop. Or you could, but now you’ve got the pain to deal with. And so it’s a balancing act. But there are definite herbal options for coping with the pain and getting away from the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. So maybe we’ll cover that in a future episode. But yeah but it can be done. So anyway just be aware that excessive salicylate intake, including aspirin especially, can cause tinnitus. And then a couple of other things, aside from the herbal here, in at least a couple of cases of clients that have come in with ringing in the ears, where it seems to definitely be an issue of the fluid stagnation in the ear, nose, throat, head and neck, neck rolling exercises have actually been quite helpful. So first you want to get yourself settled and have a nice long spine, all the way up through the crown of your head and then maintaining that length in the neck, you can make circles, you can roll from one shoulder to the other. You can roll backward, be careful make sure you keep that neck extension as you do it. You can go all the way around in one direction and then swing back the other way. You can just be turning your head from side to side. You can bring the ear toward the shoulder. Bring the ear toward the shoulder and then turn your head a bit. Just basically trying to get through all the different range of motion in the neck, as many different angles of flexion and extension as you can work through slowly, gently in a kind of rhythmic way. It really does help to get those fluids moving again.

Katja: 00:37:17 So many people spend their workday looking at a computer and that’s a very frozen physical state. So just adding some movement in that way…It’s funny because I’m going to talk about that. This was so perfectly…we could not plan it this way. Funny.

Ryn: 00:37:40 So yeah, neck rolling movements and stretching and things like that are really helpful, and the last thing I would recommend would be acupuncture and this more on the side of the inflammation and the nerves leading to that sort of buzzing, that “slightly unplugged audio input jack” situation going on. Acupuncture could be really helpful there. Again I’ve had a couple of clients who, between the herbs we were working with and the acupuncture they got, they were getting to a really comfortable place. So look into that also. All right. Those are my tinnitus thoughts. Anything that I left out?

Katja: 00:38:20 No. That was awesome. And like I said I can’t wait to…seriously can’t wait to make that tincture. It’s going to be really, really exciting. So feel free to experiment with me you guys! O.K. Well I want to talk about headaches, both because Bernadette suggested it and then right after she suggested it I got this major, terrible, crappy headache at the beginning of the week. And so I was like “Well clearly I need to talk about this this week”. So the thing about headaches though is that well, actually just like everything else about herbs, it is not like pharmaceuticals. So there isn’t one herb for headaches. Even though you’ve probably heard that feverfew is “the herb for headaches.” There’s not just one. There are herbs, and there are headaches and we have to match them up right. Which, on one hand, makes the whole process a little bit harder. But on the other hand, I think that that’s a lot better, because you’re not supposed to get headaches. If you’re getting headaches there’s a problem. So if you have to take a little bit of thought to get the right herb for your kind of headache, that means that you’re also getting a little bit of thought about why you’re having those headaches in the first place, so you can start to work on that part of the problem too. So in other words, there’s a little bit more effort upfront than if you just pop an Advil, but the end result is a much more thorough solution. So, as usual, I prefer the hard way which is what I’m basically trying to say. Yes.

Katja: 00:39:42 So let’s break it out like this. Let’s talk about some root causes and then I’ll talk about some types of headaches and then I’ll talk about the herbs that we match up with each type. OK. So the most common causes of headaches is reactions to things that you’re eating, dehydration, lack of sleep and stress. And there are definitely others like “I’m giving up coffee and the lack of caffeine is giving me headaches.” But these kinds are really specific and we usually know right away what those are. So I’m just going to set those aside for now. But these other four are really big categories that play a role for most people. And sometimes they’re a little bit mysterious. So they’re worth talking about. The most common food causes, to start with that one, are gluten, dairy, MSG and artificial additives. That’s not the only causes. So for you, if you have a food trigger, it might be different. But these are the most common ones. Some people when they hear that food can be a cause, they say “yeah, I thought it might be that” and they’re really excited to figure out how they should go about figuring out which food it is and other people say “there’s no way I’m changing my diet. Just give me an herb. All that gluten nonsense is just a fad.” My feeling is science is the answer. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a fad or not. If making a change means that you don’t get headaches, I say you should go with it. And the only way you are going to know that is to do some experimentation. So whether you’re totally into the idea of experimenting with food or whether you are totally not, don’t knock it till you try it. You’ve got to try it. The Whole30 is my favorite way of figuring out food sensitivities and that is Whole30, W H O L E, like “entire”, whole30.com. That’s my favorite method for figuring out food sensitivities. It’s an elimination diet where you just take out basically all of the most common inflammatory foods and you just do it for a month and then you start putting them back in. And it’s it’s really a methodical approach. And so yeah it kind of stinks for a month because no pizza but you guys, we are gluten free and dairy free and we’ve been that way for 15 years and there is life after Domino’s. I promise. I promise. So it’s not easy but it’s just a month. We can we can do it. And frankly when you’re doing it for a headache, sometimes you don’t even need the entire month, sometimes a week or two is totally sufficient to find the culprit. So anyway, what I’m trying to say is that it is definitely worth trying. And also if you feel like giving up a food for the rest of your life is too hard, then don’t give it up for the rest of your life. This is an experiment, it’s an experiment for a few weeks so that you can get some data. And once you figure out your particular triggers like “oh whenever I eat gluten or whenever I eat dairy I get a migraine” whatever it is. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll never eat those things again. It just means that you’re not going to do it the night before your big presentation at work when you have to be your best. If you know that a particular type of food is your headache trigger, then you’re the one in control of your headaches – and that’s power. A lot of people feel like “well I don’t want to have to give up something for life because then what if I travel and it’s hard” Well what if you do? Then just eat it then if you want to. You’re still the one in control. But now you have knowledge that puts you in the driver’s seat for your headaches instead of your headaches being in control of your life. OK, so that’s food.

Katja: 00:44:17 Dehydration is a super common headache trigger. So common that basically I tell everyone “if you get a headache the first thing to do is drink water.” It’s actually better to drink water with something in it. So either some minerals, and for that I like Concentrace from Trace Minerals Research. They don’t pay me to say that, I just really like their stuff, and it’s just like liquid mineral drops that you put into water, just a couple drops. But tea is also a great answer. Especially something super hydrating like a cold infusion of marshmallow root or linden that can be really, really good. And a bath is a good answer too because you rehydrate faster in a bath than you do by drinking water. In fact actually taking a bath is the fastest method of rehydration short of an I.V. So that is really important information to stick in your memory banks because if somebody has a fever, for example, the time when a fever gets dangerous is when there’s dehydration. So just remember a bathtub. It’s the fastest way. The one thing to stay away from though is bottled water unless you add minerals to it because so much bottled water is reverse-osmosis filtered and there aren’t any minerals left in that or, even worse, they’re using distilled water and you can’t actually drink distilled water. Distilled water is for putting into your clothes iron so that you don’t get calcium deposits or like mineral deposits on the metal of the iron. But you can’t put that in your body, it’s actually not safe to drink. If you drink distilled water, it will leach minerals out of you because of molecular reasons… I don’t want to get sidetracked… but you need the minerals to be in you. So what I’m saying here is that I’m not a fan of Gatorade, but they’re totally right about the electrolytes thing. You’ve got to put something in your water. And you have to drink water, just do it!

Katja: 00:46:23 The next big thing is lack of sleep. And. You guys. I can’t even…sleep plays such a huge role in every single aspect of health. And the thing is that a lot of people today think “oh but I’m getting seven hours of sleep and that’s more than most of my friends get”. No. Human Adults require 8 1/2 to 12 hours of sleep every single night. And as the weather gets cooler and darker we need like 11 to 12 hours. At the height of summer we get away maybe with eight. But seriously you guys you’ve got to be thinking in terms not of eight hours of sleep but of nine hours of sleep as really being the minimum requirement and it’s actually the real minimum requirement. People think “well eight hours of sleep is the minimum requirement and I got sick so I’m going to be fine”. No! Nine hours! nine hours! You have to. You’ve got to sleep. If there is one single intervention that you make for your health this year, please let it be to get more sleep. I know how hard it is because there’s so much to do. But listen, if you sleep five hours a night consistently, you’re at a 300 percent increased risk of heart attack, even if you’re eating vegetables and whatever else! So. Even if all you can do is get 30 minutes more sleep a night, that’s better. So do that. But it does…it plays such a huge role in headaches and all right…whatever…that’s sleep. I’m going to get off my soapbox now.

Ryn: 00:47:57 I just got a new book about chrono-types… And I think it’s going to make you so mad. Haha!

Katja: 00:48:04 You just really want to be a person who doesn’t need to sleep.

Ryn: 00:48:08 Hahaha!

Katja: 00:48:08 And the thing is you do need to sleep, you just like to sleep on a shifted schedule but you actually do sleep nine or 10 hours a night. You just start at a later point.

Ryn: 00:48:19 Right. I think that’s more what this is about actually. It’s like there can these little offsets that people have.

Katja: 00:48:27 It isn’t that you don’t need the sleep. You actually do. You just want it to come much later.

Ryn: 00:48:36 Slightly later, maybe three or four hours after you went to bed.

Katja: 00:48:42 Yeah!. This is a thing that we talk about a lot. It’s pretty fun being married to people like… when your job is to take care of the health of people including you and you’re married to a person who’s that’s also their job…

Ryn: 00:49:03 It’s very revealing in the way of how, you know, the “shoemaker doesn’t have great shoes for his family” and all of that kind of thing.

Katja: 00:49:11 Yeah that, cross-referenced with “you can’t fix your spouse”, those two things put together… (laughter) Yeah it’s pretty fun. But it is actually pretty fun.

Ryn: 00:49:23 And we take care of each other.

Katja: 00:49:24 Yes.

Ryn: 00:49:24 Yes. That’s the way it really works.

Katja: 00:49:27 I was going to talk about stress.

Ryn: 00:49:28 Right.

Katja: 00:49:28 So stress is the last big headache trigger that I want to talk about here. And the thing is that sometimes we can change our stress levels and sometimes we can’t. And I kind of think that especially these days more often we kind of can’t. But there are a lot of actions that we can take around stress. Obviously sleep more, eat more vegetables, even if you still eat pizza and steak and cheese and whatever, just add more vegetables to your food, even just that is going to be a huge benefit. Take five minutes stretch breaks, do whatever. Really. I actually think that the most important thing you can do, if your life is really seriously stressful, is find a way to take a sick day, sleep late on that day and then spend the rest of the day making a plan for managing your stress better. If all you ever do is react to the things in your life because that’s all you have time for, then you will never get ahead. But the reality is, you do have time to stretch, even if you’re busy and even if you’re working multiple jobs and even if you have two kids… and yes, my brother, I am talking to you… my brother is amazing. He is an extremely talented person and he’s just like… every part of my brother is such an amazing person, but he’s so stressed! So, Billy. Take a minute. Stretch. It’s so important.

Katja: 00:51:08 And taking a minute to do these things, I keep harping on stretching because I do think it’s a really good way to manage stress and because it’s a really integrate-able thing in your life. It doesn’t mean you have to spend an hour going to yoga class. Instead it could literally be in-between e-mails just stand up, wiggle, touch your toes, twist side to side, roll your head and go back to work. It doesn’t need to take more than a couple minutes. Or every time you go to the bathroom, just build a habit of stretching for a few seconds. No one is going to know! Stretch for a few minutes, take some deep breaths. You already got up from your work to go to the bathroom. Nobody is timing how long you’re in the bathroom. So take 45 extra seconds, give your body a little shake, get everything kind of realigned, recenter yourself and then go back out to work intentionally. Having had a minute to yourself and having intentionally taken a minute for yourself, even if it is literally 60 seconds. You did that. And the thing is that every time you do, it it’s really empowering because it’s not just about helping your body to function better and getting the blood moving better and whatever else. But it’s also a reminder to you that you are the one in control and that even though you’re really busy you are actually taking time for self care. Your work is really important. Or maybe just your boss thinks your work is important, but your body is also really important and even just really little things can make a huge difference in the way that you respond to stress and a huge difference in the way that you feel about your stress load. O.K. Whatever. So that’s the end of that rant.

Katja: 00:52:58 So those are four super common things. And I could talk about any one of those for like a kabillion jillion hours. But I’m going to leave it at that. But hopefully those are some inspiring things.

Katja: 00:53:14 Now let’s talk about some types of headaches. So this is going to get into energetics a little bit which also, when you were talking about tinnitus, you were there too, listen energetics is not hard. It is unfamiliar to a lot of herbalists but it’s super important. It’s just a weird old word that means the way we describe the state of the body. And if we pay attention to it, it makes our practice of herbalism so much more successful. So it is really, really important.

Katja: 00:53:48 You can get more information about energetics in our free video course, which is called Four Keys to Holistic Herbalism. It’s right on our home page right at the top. It’s commonwealthherbs.com. You just click the green button right at the top and sign up for the class. It’s totally free, it’s by video, it’s short. We do have a longer class that teaches integrating energetics and the understanding of herbalism because it is really so important to get this stuff right. But sign up for the free course. It’ll give you a really good foundation and and hopefully it’ll take away some of the intimidation factor around energetics because it’s unfamiliar at first but then we start to realize that it’s not actually that unfamiliar.

Katja: 00:54:35 Let me give you some examples while I’m talking about headaches. The terms we’re going to focus on for what I’m going to talk about and, obviously there’s more types of headaches, but these are the big important ones. They are factors that are going to play at least a partial role for most people so that’s why I want to bring these up. We’re going to focus on hot or cold headaches. And you might be like “I have no idea if my headache is hot or cold” but you might be describing your headache as “stabby.” Stabby is hot, like who stabs things? Really angry, irritated people, you know, hot tempered people. A cold, depressed lethargic laying on the couch person does not get up and stab you. Right? That’s not what they do. Stabby is hot and then you can think of cold headaches as being “dull pain.” Right? Stabby and dull are words that we commonly use to describe headaches and we just didn’t realize that they are also words that describe temperature. But they are. The other one that I’m going to talk about today is “tense” and that one you definitely already know. The idea of tension is an idea that you probably have felt many times in your body. The other factors that would come up would be damp or dry. And laxity. Laxity Is the opposite of tension, too much relaxation. But I’m not going to talk about those three because they’re a little less common, and the other three are super common. So that’s what I’m going to focus on for headaches right now. In those “Four Keys to Holistic Herbalism” and in the “Energetics and the Practice of Holistic Herbalism” video courses we talk a lot about all of them. OK if you want to know more about them but OK so let’s talk about…

Ryn: 00:56:35 Yes. Oh yes we do. We totally do.

Katja: 00:56:40 But I’m on a tangent. I’m tangenting so much. I’m so sorry you guys. So let’s talk about a hot headache. A hot headache feels like an ice pick. If you’ve ever said “I have an ice pick being jabbed into my brain” that is a hot headache. And if you’ve had that kind of headache you know exactly what I’m talking about. So what are we looking for for this kind of a headache? Is herbs that will cool it off. Which makes sense, right? Because if you burn your hand while you’re cooking, you go a sink and you run cold water on it. So if you have a hot stabby, jabby headache we’re going to essentially run cold water on it, except we’re going to do that with herbs. Some herbs here that are super favorites for me are linden, lemon balm, willow bark, meadowsweet, even wood betony. Linden, we’re going to do as a cold infusion, is going to be ideal. A hot infusion will be fine but a cold infusion is really ideal. A cold infusion is just making tea with room temperature water, not boiling water, and letting it sit for several hours. There’s a lot more detail on how to make the different types of infusion in the Medicine-Making course online. But Linden, it’s great to do as a cold infusion because it’s going to be so moistening and soothing and cooling. Lemon balm is cooling also. Really all of these are very cooling plants. So with the linden and the lemon balm we’re really looking at cooling off the nerves, the nervous system specifically. Whereas willow bark and meadowsweet have more of a kind of like pain relieving action, like an actual analgesic action in a cooling manner. Those are two plants that have salicylates in them and so they are kind of more in the aspirin direction just a little.

Ryn: 00:58:49 There’s a lot more going on in there…

Katja: 00:58:53 A little more complex…

Ryn: 00:58:54 With aspirin you get actylsalicylic acid, and that’s it. With willow you get some salicylate compounds of various types. You get some flavonoids, you get some other various anti-inflammatory things

Katja: 00:59:06 A lot of various… and with meadowsweet too, tons of anti-inflammatory stuff there. All right, good. If your headache is cold, you might be using words like “dull ache” to describe it. And I get these a lot. Often for me, if I put some pressure on my forehead it actually feels better. It’s often behind my eyes. And my very favorite herb for this kind of headache is ginger-chamomile. And you’re like “that’s two herbs, Katja.” Yes it is.

Ryn: 00:59:40 Not to her, it’s not!

Katja: 00:59:42 But I mush them together like those big long German words. It’s just one big herb for me! I prefer it as tea and I prefer it warm because then I’m getting the warming action going as well. But I will use a tincture of ginger and chamomile if I don’t have time for tea or if I just don’t feel good enough to make it. It is ridiculously effective, I can’t even tell you. Ginger stimulates circulation and gets fresh blood moving to the, well I was going to say to the head but actually it gets fresh blood moving everywhere which for me is usually part of the problem. For me the headache is just a symptom of everything else stagnating. Also it’s not just in my head. Ginger is also super anti-spasmodic, super anti-inflammatory and those play big factors for me as well. If you have any kind of auto immune issues going on and you have a tendency towards headaches, then that doesn’t necessarily mean that your headaches are auto-immune in nature. But, it does imply that there’s some inflammatory crossover going on with your headaches. So that is a place where ginger is going to be really appropriate. Chamomile is a nervous system relaxant and it’s also really anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory and this is going to come up again when we talk about tension headaches. But it is a combination that just works for me every time.

Katja: 01:01:18 I also really like calamus tincture in this case and especially if maybe I ate something that’s sitting a little heavy in my stomach, along with my headache. Calamus is warming. It’s relaxing. It really improves digestion and really helps the body move very effectively into the parasympathetic state, which I find super helpful when there’s a headache going on, because a headache is stressful and it’s… even if you didn’t have tension before the headache, once you get the headache you’re building tension. So something that will move you out of that place is really important.

Katja: 01:01:59 All right. If your headache is a tension headache, then you’re going to want relaxing herbs, which makes sense, and I’m thinking here about headaches where there is also tension in the neck or tension in between the shoulder blades but also tension of spinning thoughts like your to do list is running through your head, running through the same negative storyline over and over again, like whatever is happening in your head, but that that same kind of tension. So herbs here are going to be ones like skullcap, who can really release the muscles between the shoulder blades and at the base of the neck, as well that spinning hamster wheel in your head when you’re just like running your to do list over and over again. Wood betony is another one here that can help bring that energy out of the cerebral space and back into the body. It’s almost like if you imagine that that your brain is just amped up on overdrive, and you need to divert some of that energy so that your brain can slow down. That is an action that wood betony can really help with. Even peppermint can be really excellent, especially if you’re a person who has a tension headache and you’re feeling kind of hot. Because peppermint is both going to get stuff relaxing and moving, but it’s also going to help you to dispel some of that heat. Elderflower is another one that is really lovely in that particular situation. If you’re having a tension headache and you’re feeling cold or you’re you’re having a tension headache and you’re a person who typically runs cold then we’re back to ginger again because of that anti-spasmodic action that will release the tension in the muscles, but also in the brain, and it will warm you up. Right?

Katja: 01:04:09 So is this making sense with the energetics of “OK I’m feeling too cold” so I don’t just need to Google like herbs for headache and pick the first one. You might still google herbs for headaches, but then you’re going to choose a warm one off that list and then your chances of success are going to be so much higher. It’s OK if you have to try a few different herbs at first until you get the right one. Not only actually is that OK… Yeah it’s reasonable. Just like if you’re gonna start a new exercise routine, maybe the first workout class you go to is Zumba and you’re like “actually I don’t love it.” And then maybe you try volleyball and you’re like “oh I don’t love team sports” and then maybe you go to like Pilate’s and you’re like “Oh it’s perfect.” It’s exactly the same when you’re choosing herbs that are going to match your body, it’s OK if you try a couple of them to get just the perfect one. My pattern of headaches… it’s usually a cold tension headache and I think that’s why I love ginger chamomile so so much because it handles the cold aspects and it handles the tension aspect. But anyway hopefully you can see some patterns that you have in your head aches in the list that I’ve described here. We have a much longer class that we teach on headaches and I just realized that we have not filmed that. So I’m going to try in the next month, in the month of October. I’m going to try for us to film that for you and get that up on-line so that if you’re a person who deals with headaches a lot, either in your own head or in the heads of people you love, that you can get way more in-depth about this if you want to. But for now hopefully this gives you a good starting point of how to think about working with headaches and some some directions to experiment in.

Ryn: 01:06:12 Yeah cool. All right folks. I think that’s it for the week for our podcast. One thing that I do want to just refresh a mention of. We do have a crowdsourced project going on right now where we are trying to transcribe our video program for a student of ours who’s currently incarcerated, and doesn’t have access to any audio-visual technology of any kind.

Katja: 01:06:42 Yeah. He’s allowed to take the program only if it’s on paper.

Ryn: 01:06:47 So we have had a couple of volunteers already and I’ve been in communication with them, so thanks to both of you. If anybody else out there would like to get involved, just drop us an email! And basically what we’ll do is, we’ll be giving you access to one of the courses in our program and we’ll assign you a video to transcribe, and once you get that done…

Katja: 01:07:11 We’ll give you another one! We’ll give you that. Yeah! We would really love to have a team of like 10 people who want to work on this over the course of time and it’s also… it’s a great way for you to study because you’re taking notes for yourself and taking notes for someone else.

Ryn: 01:07:32 And while you’re working as a transcriber you”ll have access to the other materials in the course anyway. So if that sounds appealing to you then just drop us an email at info@commonwealthherbs.com

Katja: 01:07:46 That’s info@commonwealthherbs.com!

Ryn: 01:07:50 Thank you. And we will make it happen! All right. Have a good day. We’ll see you next week. Bye!


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