by Dhanesvara Das
It’s a dirty world. There’s dirt everywhere that requires constant cleaning. Many people become obsessed with cleaning. For this purpose modern man has invented so many chemicals to clean that dirt away. In recent years we have added handiwipes to the list of essentials that we previously did without.
It’s a dirty world. There’s dirt everywhere that requires constant cleaning. Many people become obsessed with cleaning. For this purpose modern man has invented so many chemicals to clean that dirt away. In recent years we have added handiwipes to the list of essentials that we previously did without. These are little pre-moistened towelettes that we can use to clean our hands and face anywhere where there is no water. These are especially nice for babies and children who are always getting themselves dirty through their natural curiosity of investigating the world they live in. People seem to like these to disinfect the many things that they come into contact with in modern life that have been touched by untold numbers, such as: door and toilet handles, the handles of gasoline pumps and grocery carts, public telephones, as well as computer keyboards, and even money (the dirtiest of all).
The disinfecting fever caught on a few years ago with a consumer assault on germs and bacteria. Those nasty germs, lurking anywhere and everywhere, became the enemy, especially on your hands! It became the business of almost every soap product to rid your hands of germs and bacteria using anti-bacterial disinfectants, typically alcohol, never mind the fact that simple hand washing with normal soap accomplished the very same thing. Later doctors were writing to warn us against this.
While the concern about cleanliness in order to avoid communicable diseases is valid, much of the paranoia and phobia about bacteria is misplaced. Actually, the bacteria colonies found on human skin are essential to proper health. The National Human Genome Research Institute reports that healthy human epidermis is colonized by roughly 1,000 species of bacteria, which thrive on the eyelids, the forearms, the groin and the armpit. Everywhere actually. Their presence, far from being harmful, is essential to the proper functioning of the body. Our bodies are actually ecosystems, home to bacteria, fungi, and other microbes. They live on our skin and in the digestive tract from the mouth, through the intestines and colon. They help digest our food, synthesize vitamins, and are necessary for the healthy function of our immune system.
From this we can understand that the idea that bacteria are boogeymen is actually quite bogus. Only about 5% of bacteria are pathogenic—the other 95% are beneficial. Bacteria are also the foundation of the planet’s garbage disposal system that breaks down dead plant and animal tissue returning it to the soil. And the humus that the bacteria make is the food for plants. Incredibly, just one single gram of healthy soil contains some 600 million microorganisms including thousands of species of bacteria and fungi. This process is destroyed when farmers spray their fields with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. In the process they kill the microorganisms leaving the soil dead, requiring the help of chemical fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers result in unhealthy plants.
When we eat these dead processed, denatured, sugar and chemically laden foods that came from dead soil, what to speak of putting chlorine and fluoride in the water we drink, caffeine, birth control pills and other drugs into our bodies, the beneficial bacteria in our gut becomes 85% pathogenic and only 15% of the good bacteria remain. Actually, the ratio should be the other way around. Symptoms of poor quality bacteria in the gut include an inability to lose weight, carbohydrate cravings, recurrent candida or yeast problems, frequent constipation or diarrhea, digestion or acid reflux problems, joint pain and stiffness, frequent colds or flu, and skin problems like acne or eczema. Interestingly researchers have found that the makeup of the community of microbes in the intestines changes in people with disease. Unhealthy soil results in unhealthy plants, which results in unhealthy people.
What is nature’s way of curing such problems? Would you be surprised if I said “eating dirt?” That’s right—in certain parts of the world, plain old dirt is sold as a therapeutic agent. This is due to the bacteria present called probiotics, which is defined as live microbial food ingredients that have beneficial health effects. Certain bacteria and yeasts have been used for this purpose in many cultures around the world. Probiotics may prevent or shorten the duration of some contagious illnesses. One study of healthy working adults found that those who took probiotics had half the number of sick days as those receiving a placebo.
Research scientist Peter Smith spent years investigating soil-based organisms and developed a proprietary formulation whose use healed wounds faster, and cleared up numerous ill health conditions. Smith found that soil-based organisms aggressively attack and kill human parasites. And Dr. Hulda Clark’s book “A Cure for All Diseases” explains how human parasites could be the fundamental cause of cancer, Aids, MS, and many more dreadful illnesses. By eating soil the beneficial bacteria break down the fungi and kill the parasites that can cause health problems
Actually, eating soil is age-old and widespread among animals on all continents. It’s also widespread among people, especially traditional tribal societies. Scientists term the practice of eating dirt geophagy (from the Greek roots geo for earth and phagein for eat). Geophagy has been widespread in peasant communities on all continents, with descriptions going back to Roman times. In such communities, pregnant and lactating women especially crave soil, typically consuming one-and-a-half ounces or more per day. In Zambia and Zimbabwe the main sources of soil, which 90 percent of rural women consume while pregnant, are giant termite mounds. (Indeed, the soil produced from such ant mounds is considered pure and is preferred for use as tilak). The Ottomac Indians of South America made soil balls six inches in diameter and reportedly ate more than one pound per day during the flood season, when it was difficult to find food. Geophagy has also been reported in Western Europe during famines.
One researcher asked soil-eating people about their motives, but they just typically gave replies like: I feel good when I eat it, or I like the taste. If pressed they say they think it cures stomach problems or worms or diarrhea or aids, or that it is good for them during pregnancy, or that it adds a good taste to food or masks bitter tastes, or that it is useful as a pacifier in a baby’s mouth.
Scientists also reported in the journal Neuroscience that soil can actually be a mood enhancer. A bacteria found in soil, called Mycobacterium vaccae was shown to boost serotonin production in the part of the brain that regulates mood. Serotonin is the brain chemical that antidepressants boost. When cancer patients were treated with this bacteria almost all of them reported an increased satisfaction with their quality of life. Serotonin levels are also closely linked to immune function. Researchers have known for years that people with an imbalance in their immune system are more prone to depression, and other mood disorders. So there is precedent to consider serotonin levels and immune functions as tightly linked.
The cleaning power of earth was not lost on the ancients. One of the seven types of bath is called parthiva-snana—using earth. The Manu Samhita thus instructs that a person must purify himself by cleansing the body with earth and water after he contacts the following six impurities: fat, semen, blood, marrow, urine, or stool; although water alone can purify a person after he contacts the second six impurities: nose mucus, phlegm, tears, perspiration, ear wax, and exudations from the eyes. In the Pancaratra-Pradipa we are instructed that upon waking, a devotee should cleanse his body with water and earth (although soap is acceptable).
Now we com back to the title of this article—the good ol’ dirt at Gitagrad. Ukraine is renowned around the world for having wonderfully rich, black earth that is tremendously productive, making it a prime agricultural country and the breadbasket for all of Europe. In other parts of the world there is normally 50 to 300 cm of topsoil with lots of humus, below which there is a significant change to much more sand or clay. Not here. Our boys dug a pit in the back for a privy, about a meter and a half deep. I was amazed upon seeing that hole that it was all topsoil! Unbelievable if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes! Not only that but there are no pebbles or rocks, very little sand, and only a modest amount of clay in small balls.
Earlier I wrote how one can smear a clay mixture on the bottom of the pots to make it easier to clean them when they are used over an open fire. Actually I don’t use clay alone, but simply make a paste with the soil from out back. Well, what if you forget to put such a covering on your pot? The best thing to remove the resultant carbon smudges again, is soil. Indeed, we not only use it to wash the outside of the pot, but the inside as well. It cuts through the grease like magic (better than scouring powder), and makes everything very clean.
I explained some of the benefits to carrying water earlier. But here is another one: when you don’t have plumbing and have to carry clean water in and dirty water out you can use dirt to clean your pots, pans and dishware without having to worry about clogged pipes. Now some people conditioned by artificial modern life might object that using dirt to clean what you eat from is, well, dirty. Just see the cultural conditioning! That is why I prefaced this part of the article with all of the advantages of soil bacteria. If a little stays on the pots or plates, not only is it not going to hurt, but it will probably help. Wouldn’t you know it, it is well documented that children who grow up in rural areas and on farms with close, daily exposure to soil have fewer allergies and autoimmune diseases than their city counterparts. These are some of the advantages to living (literally) close to the land.