The Best of Natural Medicine

The body’s harp gets handed to the soul to play.


It is winter time. About a foot-and-a-half of snow remains on the ground, and it is raining and cold, the roads treacherous. Such weather calls for a cup of tea, a fire burning in the wood stove, and a stack of books to keep me company. I read everyday but more in the winter time, which means I pick up magazine articles which might not otherwise get my attention.

This is how I came across an article in Outside Magazine, 11/12/22, about natural medicine, specifically vaginal steaming. No, I did not make this up. I could not have possibly done so, and if you are wondering how I will relate this to hiking, read on. The process was popularized by the wellness advocate, Gwyneth Paltrow, who describes it as “the real golden ticket.” To cash in this golden ticket, owner of said vagina sits on a wooden “throne,” which is a chair with a hole in the seat. Of course we hikers know this to be the seat in an outhouse, and we would not usually associate it with cleansing. Therein the resemblance ends, for in addition to a toilet, you get jade walls and a jet of mugwort infused steam. If you are male, you will have to find another “golden ticket.” I have a suggestion.

As hikers we have all sat on various versions of “thrones,” most of them not particularly pleasant, but upon reading the article I was immediately reminded of an outside version once located in Glacier Peak Wilderness on the Pacific Crest Trail. I do not usually wax rhapsodic about toilets, but this one was special. It consisted simply of an open stool with a hole beneath it and was located a few feet above a view point on the trail, no outhouse, just the stool and its magnificent view of the western Cascades on the slopes of Glacier Peak. Not only was the view extraordinary, but a gentle breeze coming up from the valley swept under and around one’s private parts. I sat there for what seemed like a very long time, and though I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this, it lingers in my memory as one of those precious mountain moments to be savored.

If cleansing is necessary, and I am not at all sure that it is, surely a mountain breeze is more effective than mugwort infused steam and jade walls. Hikers often describe their time on the trail as healing, and I have always been convinced that dust and sweat are good for the soul as well as for the body. For a few days there is no shower gel in my life, no shampoo and conditioner, no scrubbing at all, just living with this raw self. The natural world is my “golden ticket.” I will skip the jade walls in favor of no walls at all.

I am grateful to Taffy Brodesser-Akner for the article referenced above: “We Have found a Cure! (Sort Of. . .).” The reader may also be interested in the book, Clean: The New Science of Skin and the Beauty of Doing Less by James Hamblen, who explores our culture’s obsession with cleanliness and boasts not having showered for many years.

Published by Colleen Drake

Colleen Drake (AKA Teacup) has over sixty years of hiking exerience (yes, I'm really old) and has seen some pretty big changes over those many years. Join her on the Solitude Trail & share some of these adventures while exploring with her the value of solitude in the wilderness.

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