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Monday 5 November 2012

Ash Tree Die-Back. Can Homeopathy Help?

It would appear that our woodlands, indeed our entire countryside, is going to be devastated by a new disease facing our Ash trees. Just how devastating 'Chalara Die-Back' is going to be can only be imagined. I am part of a 'Friends' group to an area of Ancient Woodland close to where I live, and walking through the wood in recent days, I have taken noted the number of Ash Trees making up this wood, and they must make up well over 50% of it.

Dutch Elm disease has already destroyed most of our Elm trees, an estimated 25 million trees in the UK alone. The Elm was once one of our most distinctive trees, a single tree growing to almost 50 metres tall. Since a virulent form of the disease hit the UK in the late 1960s, they are now, mostly, gone. Is this now about to happen to our Ash Trees? And do I hear reports of similar diseases threatening our Oaks?

Is this a medical issue? It certainly is! Trees and plants generally are living organisms, and they live in the same environment as we do. And their health is probably as important to our health as the food we eat, and the exercise we do. Indeed, whilst we are busy polluting our environment, it is our trees that are working hard to undo the damage we cause.

Our response to Ash Die-Back, just as our response to Dutch Elm disease was several decades ago, appears to be little more than a 'scorched-earth' policy.

At the first sight of the disease, cut them down, destroy them, and then burn them.

This is certainly the policy of the Government. The discussion, at present, appears to revolve around the culpability of the Government (in not acting sooner), and whether, in view of this, Tree Nurseries need to be compensated. So is this all we know? Is this all we can do? Certainly, if it is than our Ash Trees are doomed, even now.

This is not an unfamiliar story for Conventional Medicine (ConMed). For instance, 'Foot and Mouth' disease was 'treated' in exactly the same way. In the UK outbreak of 2001 it is estimated that about 7 million sheep and cattle were killed, not just those with the disease, but those who may have come into contact with them (thought to be about 80% of the culled animals). In total the outbreak is said to  have cost the UK about £8 million.

This is surely the medicine of the mad-house? Indeed, should it really be called 'medicine' at all?

As usual, ConMed is good when it comes to diagnosing disease, and its cause (we apparently know what is causing Chalara Die-Back) - but short of destroying what we want to save it seems to have little or no effective treatment. I wonder if we would be happy to be told, when we are diagnosed with an 'infectious' disease, that we would have to be killed in order to save other people? Yet the failure of ConMed can be seen in medical treatment of humans. For instance, BBC News today has featured a report that a celebrity has, by choice, had a double mastectomy "as a precaution against further cancer".

This kind of response is the response of a medical system that has few successful, or effective treatments to disease, in either its prevention, cure, or transmission.

To cut down and burn a tree is not treatment - it is just a last-ditch attempt to stop the disease spreading. Ultimately, what this is going to means for our Ash Trees is that the prospect of their total destruction.

Vaikunthanath Das Kaviraj (Kav for short) is a Homeopath who has been leading developments in our knowledge and understanding of the homeopathic treatment of plants. In his book, "Homeopathy for Farm and Garden: toward a homeopathic agriculture" he has identified several remedies that can treat Die-Back in trees, notably Silicea (also known as Silica). This is a remedy made from flint, and I have taken parts of the description of this remedy straight from this book.

Clinical (what the remedy is used for). 
Die back. Premature flowering, herbicide, germination aid, general tonic, transplant shock, soil remedy, weak straggly plants, puny growth, bark and sheath diseases, chlorosis, aphids, bud worm, citrus mite, dried fruit beetle.

....... A large proportion of the Earth's crust is composed of Silica...... Silica is taken up by plants and is deposited on the interior of the stems as well as forming the sheath or bark that holds the plant upright .......Silicic acid is a constituent of the cells of the connective tissue. The epidermis forms the protective sheath around the cambium where silica gives strength to the long molecules of the bibre.  Silica will cripple bark in health trees causing death (remember, Homeopathy = 'Curing Like with Like')........... Its indication in dieback has been confirmed in practice with remarkable results. A sapling with dieback, which had only one quarter of the bark left, which was loose asnd drying out, was given one dose of Silica 6x and ther next day the bark was reattached to the cambium, and after one week, the top branches were growing new shoots and leaves.

I have absolutely no experience of using Silicea for Ash Die-Back but it seems, from what Kav, is saying here, is something the Government, the Forestry Commission, and the various Environmental Charities who manage woodland, and tree nurseries, should be examining seriously. It is certainly a much less destructive treatment. And if we can prove its value, perhaps initially in small pockets, it is something well worth considering.

I have asked Kav for guidance in this matter, especially as it relates to the 70 plus acres of Ancient Woodland close to where I live. He has recommended that Silicea, in aqueous form, is applied to the ground around each tree - about 1 litre of liquid for each tree. I am currently in the process of seeing whether we can get together sufficient people together to treat the Ash trees in this wood.

But more focused, and comprehensive trials need to be undertaken as a matter of urgency to see if Chalara Die Back can be successfully treated with Homeopathy, and I would certainly urge the Government, DEFRA, the Forestry Commission, and other Environmental Agencies to get involved in this process.