BackgroundAccording to sustainer.org, yew has been used medicinally since time immemorial. In Chinese medicine it's used for arthritis; in Indian, rheumatism. Native Canadians use it for kidneys, sinuses, rheumatism, uterus and the digestive tract. A fungus that grows on the bark is currently used in pharmaceutical cancer treatments. Companies are now offering tablets and tinctures as food supplements, for example VitalYew. This is generally offered as "immune support".
Chemistry student Cynthia Ann Evans found that yew tincture protects trout eggs from mercury poisoning. Since mercury poisoning in particular, and other toxins in general, are often implicated in Lyme and other chronic disease, this paper may be of interest. Perhaps yew offers cellular protection from mercury and other toxins.
TheoryIn addition to the historical use and possible protection from mercury mentioned above, there is another theory. Lyme disease is essentially infection by a variety of micro-organisms. One aspect of treating the condition is to kill off these micro-organisms. One way of achieving this is to take something that is poisonous, enough to kill the micro-organisms, but not so much that you will poison yourself.
According to tryptophanserotonin.com, the yew promotes normal cellular function by using taxanes, which destroy abnormal cells. In addition, the yew has developed compounds which resist disease from moulds, viruses, bacteria, fungi and pollution.
The foliage grows all the way to the ground, unlike pine trees, which have a bare trunk. However, yews may have been clipped, and may have a bare trunk for that reason. Yew is a popular hedging plant, and often used in topiary.
CollectionI have thus far favoured collecting the flowering male yew tips. These can be picked from the tree by hand.
PreparationChop finely. If making a smoking mixture or tea, dry in warm air and store in a cool, dark place. If making tincture, place in a jar and cover with alcohol. I use ordinary shop bought 40% vodka, which seems to work fine. Shake the jar a few times a day. After a fortnight, filter through a muslin cloth and store in a cool, dark place. The leftover chopped yew tips can be used as a herbal bath.
DosagePrior to making yew tincture, I bought the commercially available VitalYew tincture. This recommends 10-15 drops 3 times a day. Bear in mind that the VitalYew tincture is 1:3. If you make the tincture by covering the chopped tips in alcohol, the ratio is likely to be closer to 1:1, so you may need fewer drops.
I noticed that the yew tincture had exactly the same effect on me as Banderol, and also high dose, short term anti-malarial Plaquenil. If you follow the Banderol link and visit the site, you can see that Banderol is used in the treatment and eradication of a wide variety of micro-organisms. It's an established Lyme disease treatment. I used it for 11 months and felt I benefited greatly, but it was eventually a little expensive, and I wished to replace it with something else, something I could make myself. I was also interested in finding out what our ancestors may have treated these conditions with.
The suggested dosage for Banderol, which I implement for yew dosage, is as follows. On Day One, take one drop three times a day. Day Two, two drops three times a day. Day Three, three drops three times a day. And so on, up to a maximum of fifteen drops three times a day. If at any point you start to feel worse (possibly a herx, a Herxheimer response, because many micro-organisms are being killed off, and producing toxins), go back to the amount you were taking before you felt so bad. Stick to that until you've stabilised again, then try increasing by one drop a day again. Treatment is very much a marathon rather than a sprint, and it's best to retain what quality of life you are able to.
WARNINGSDO NOT TAKE IF PREGNANT. Yew has historically been used in abortions and in expelling the afterbirth.
VERY POISONOUS. Do not exceed the recommended dose. Many people have died of yew poisoning. Amongst the ancient Celts, it was the preferred suicide method to escape capture by the Romans.
My ExperienceI've mentioned above that I experience the same effects on yew as on Banderol, and acute malaria dose Plaquenil. These effects consist of:
- sharp, acute agonising pain (seemingly in the muscles, though I believe it to be a result of the breakdown of hard deposits in and/or around the lymphatic system)
Some of these effects aren't dissimilar from the description of yew poisoning, and very great care must be taken. I experienced these effects on even a minimal dose, which satisfied me that it was due to micro-organism die-off rather than poisoning. I was happy to take this risk, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone else.