The Mold Saga, Part I

Posted to Subscribers on 23 November 2011


Dear Subscribers,

In a few hours, when countless millions of people will be commuting in order to connect with family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, Mercury will station and then retrograde. This is happening at 20 degrees of Sagittarius and the retrograding will go back to three degrees, turning direct on another holiday, Santa Lucia Day. To return to where it is now will take until the end of the year, another special date.

Meanwhile, I am going to repeat some concepts and information from previous posts because, to tell you the truth, I have been reliving my mold experience, not the exposure, just the memories. This is due in part to many, many emails from others who are suffering as well as remediation of my place which was never really completely finished.

For those who missed the story, the short version is that a few days after moving into the house, the appliance company delivered a washing machine and installed it, but there was a flood on the first load. This was a classic "O" Ring drama because the moment I had one-on-one contact with the people at the appliance company, they said, "Oh, it must have been a Whirlpool" — which loosely translated meant that installing a clamp on the hose and taking 10-15 seconds longer with the installation could have spared the lives of several of my pets, eliminated years of suffering in my life, and well, I'd be on a different road if this had not happened.

Let's therefore start with important issues. Mold is very dangerous. It is dangerous whether one is allergic or not because the problem is not that some people are immune-compromised or allergic, the problem is that mold is vegetative, viable, and voracious. On top of this, many molds are highly, highly toxic.

Let's start with what mold is. It is neither a vegetable or animal but rather part of the relatively newly created Fifth Kingdom of Fungi. There are other kinds of fungi, such as mushrooms, yeast, and rust; but the reason mold is not considered to be a vegetable is that it does not derive energy through photosynthesis but rather by consuming matter. In theory, mold only consumes organic matter, but I wonder when that line in the textbooks will be changed? Mold has been found on the outer windows of the Mir Space Station and inside the Chernobyl Reactor. Growth might be inhibited by lower temperatures but mold itself remains viable. It is protected by a casing, like oyster shells, and is really durable.

Mold colonizes — by which we mean that sporulation or reproduction results in clusters of mold which become visible when the feeding tubes, hyphae, are interconnected enough to form a mycelium. Since mold is not an animal, it has no means of self-propulsion. It depends on air circulation and attaching to footwear and clothing to relocate and establish new colonies. Digestion occurs inside the hyphae which are, in turn, filled with acids, some of which are crystallized and blindingly bright when light is reflected off the crystals. If mold in inhaled or ingested, it can behave the same way inside the body as it does in Nature or on space stations. It can plunge its hyphae into virtually any tissue of the body, including the lungs and brain, and begin feasting. Eventually, this results in loss of parts of the original anatomical parts and replacement with colonies of mold that happen also to secrete sometimes very dangerous mycotoxins. All of this can occur whether the person exhibits classic allergic reactions or not.

The Flood

When the flood happened, I was completely innocent. If anyone had told me what was ahead, I would surely have opted out, but here is where our different areas of expertise exhibit themselves in critical ways. Though I moved here with the purpose of hibernating for a while in order to write a couple of books, I was immediately caught up in the emergency of rescuing everything on the floor from water, then with drying out, then with absolutely contemptible insurance adjustors and the lawyers retained by insurance companies. In my entire life, I had never seen such a lowly species as crawled forth at that time. There were also builders and remediation contractors, realtors wanting their commissions, and mortgage "professionals" wanting their piece of the pie. I was threatened left and right by all these people while at the same time confronted with figuring out why I had suddenly started slurring, why I couldn't remember my best friend's name, and why there were so many typos in my emails. Then, it became harder and harder to stay awake. I was dizzy and felt disoriented, like I would fall down the stairs and end up with my head cracked and blood all over the floor. I did not know why this was happening. One contractor mentioned mold in passing and suggested I call the American Lung Association. They had volunteers who would come to a home and inspect it but when I called a few people on the list, it became clear: they would use potato agar and see if mold grew. I said, "If I bring bread home, it gets moldy immediately. I thought it was a quality control issue at the market."

At the time, I was a member of a professional e-list and was given a lot of advice but people were functioning from very naive bases. They had no idea what mold is really all about. For right now, I am going to skip way ahead to when I finally attended a mold remediation seminar. It was in Las Vegas and provided quite a bit of useful information on correct methods to use in property remediation but fell way short of the advertised mark in terms of health hazards and risks. Eventually, I was more or less bankrupted by the remediation costs, but I might have the safest house in the Northwest at this time, if I can make the mortgage payments which is a big IF. If not, someone else will one day have a safe place.

The medical issues took a long time to master and there are details still falling into place. The first goal was simply to stabilize, recover lost memory, stop coughing, and recover my equilibrium. There were steps on the path and now, of course, I have the hindsight I did not have twelve years ago. I have written high praises for Jatobá, an herb from Brazil that therefore has a hard "j" as in Portuguese, not the "h" sound of Spanish. Many of you might know it better as Brazilian cherry, a flooring material that has become very popular. A Chilean herbalist gave me a two ounce bottle at a dinner party after a conference in which Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt had invited me as a guest speaker. It helped enormously with stamina and with that 20-20 hindsight, I am tempted to classify jatobá as an adaptogen which supports mainly the adrenals. It is regarded as antifungal, but according to what I was still experiencing and what I could see in my own blood, it did not eliminate the mold. However, it seemed to move me from the 25% of people who exhibit profound allergic reactions to mold to the 75% percentile that is oblivious to the risks because they are not suffering as much.

What I am saying in my own convoluted way is that while I have the highest imaginable regard for jatobá, I do not think it is a cure, but if one can afford to do everything, it belongs in the protocol. If limited by budgetary constraints — which many people are — jatobá is not bang for the buck. Let's therefore call it important but not essential. I owe it more than hymns of praise. Because of what it taught me, I developed new insights into the rain forest and why we must protect our environment, and I was, of course, prodded to keep looking and looking and looking.

Then, there was a mystical event, a tearjerker in a way, but it happened in a poignant way. The seminar in Seattle brought a new person into my life and we spent a lot of time together until he succumbed. We had had a lovely relationship, warm, supportive, uncomplicated, and very harmonious. Bob had given me gifts I had never experienced before so while the deficits in my life experience were being filled by his presence, his own needs clearly were not being met. After he died, there was an immense emptiness all around and I was acutely aware of the void. One night when I was looking at my own blood in the microscope, I heard his voice clear as day saying, "Look a little more to the right." Just then, I saw the mold in my own blood. It was unforgettable and truly a milestone in my odyssey. I managed to take a picture very fast. The blood is, as I have been saying, sentient. It is terrified of mold and moves very, very fast if there is mold in the sample. It moves so fast that sometimes it sneaks off the slide onto the stage holding the slide.

So, if the mold was originally in the center of the sample, it may be on the edge already by the time the sample is in focus and if one is two or three seconds slower, it may be outside the sample and appear as an artifact on the slide. However, this phenomenon is caused by movement, not by contamination of the slide. I was pretty sick at the time this happened. I had been coughing blood, sometimes quite a bit and the stress was getting to me. On top of this, I had been flying back and forth to Europe where I could, of course, use darkfield. Anyway, as fate would have it, another piece of the puzzle was gifted me. A Russian patient had been going from one clinic to another for 20 years. Her official diagnosis was, of course, hypochondria since no one ever found anything wrong with her. I was lucky because I saw a complex hyphal structure very much like what had been described in the mold seminar except that the context was completely different. What they had actually said in the seminar was that the hyphae could be up to two miles long so that poor attention to mold on one property could have repercussions for entire neighborhoods. I tried to imagine this but the Internet was a fraction as informative then as now. Still, I found some mighty big mycelia and this is totally mind-boggling.

With the Russian, what I saw was very clear segments of the hyphae. It's hard to put words to pictures but these hyphae have what look like joints, similar to the rings in bamboo, and there are branches as well. There would seem to be more acid at these junctions because they are really, really bright in darkfield. The patient was tired because she had just completed a battery of inconclusive tests but I urged her to try one of the herbal formulas and return in the morning. It was amazing: the hyphae were broken at the junctions and white blood cells were attacking right where the fractures were. They had been afraid to approach just hours earlier (the first appointment was late in the afternoon and she returned about 16-18 hours later). This was my first insight into how the herbs accomplish their missions. It was fascinating but the bad news was that though the feeding system had been disrupted, the mold was still viable. This means that though the patient will start to feel better, the problem will recur when the hyphal structures are rebuilt. Once more, this led to the unfortunate conclusion that while this formula is also superb, it falls somewhat short of the ideal. Again, if one can afford it, it is certainly worth taking the formula, but if not, one has to concentrate on the most important remedies.

Meanwhile, I had been trying all the air quality measures: clean the crawl space, remove contaminated material, create adequate vapor barriers, clean the ducts in the HVAC system, install HEPA filters, etc., etc. These are all important but air circulates so the efficiency of any filtration system depends on the amount of air it can effectively filter and there are a lot of variables to consider here. I used ozone, then UV lights, and ultimately essential oils. Each plays a role but only the essential oils establish a layer of inhibition. Let me give a few comparisons to competing ideas. There is a Dow Chemical product that can be sprayed on everything. It has microscopic lances and it was claimed that these would pierce the mold and make it impossible to colonize. It was also claimed to be non-toxic and perfectly safe for antiques and other belongings that would be permanently impregnated with this Dow mist. To his credit, the person with the franchise offered to contact some chemically sensitive clients to see if they concurred with the glossy handouts. They did not so he advised me against that radical route. It was radical because it would be a one-way street and if one hated it or could not live with it, the living strategies on the list would be shorter.

The essential oil experiments are also fascinating because I took mold and deliberately placed it on oatmeal and made comparisons between various probiotics, enzymes, commercial products, and essential oils. I long since threw away all the jars except the essential oil one which, to this day, still does not have a hint of mold. That excellent news is however relative. What it means is that one can diffuse oils, more or less for the same reasons one would use a commercial mist bomb or some other product, but the question is always how much can one safely inhale. I don't know the answer yet but the solution is to remove yourself and all pets from the property and let the diffuser really blast away. If you cannot vacate the premises, you can do one room at a time so long as the air is not circulating throughout the home or office while other rooms are occupied. Periodically, I do blast the duct system with oils, but I shut the registers in the room with the birds before doing this. The oil is not toxic but there are sane limits to what should be inhaled and what would amount to overexposure.

Since countless properties are not built properly, the threat of mold is almost omnipresent. Due to my own education in this subject, I am now acutely aware of deferred maintenance and other issues. For example, I gave a lecture at a public library and was standing directly under an air intake with fuzzy gray and black strands hanging from it. I was, of course, very ill afterwards. The same happens at concerts and in movie theatres. Once sensitized, it is very hard to be comfortable in public. Mold, of course, grows best wherever there is moisture. It also likes darkness but as we are seeing from mounting attention to its function, it can be inhibited but not vanquished. Were it otherwise, nothing would decompose and what a mess that would be.

As you can see, this is an ongoing study. A few weeks ago, one of my correspondents sent a link to a study on toxic residuals from mold exposure. These are chemical and similar to other toxins that can impair functioning of the liver and various other parts of the body. I decided the study was solid enough that I should have the formula produced. We have to import one of the missing ingredients. Then, today, I stumbled on a study of yucca flowers and realized that they are regarded as antifungal also. I would think they would be fabulous for radiation as well because I did some serious meditating years ago on a nuclear test site in Nevada and when I opened my eyes, I saw yucca everywhere, all gnarled as one would expect of random mutations.

This discussion needs to continue but the first lesson that was imparted to me was that to survive in the rain forest, a tree must be resistant to insects, bacteria, and mold. Even its root system requires protection so the chemicals one finds in the trees might be helpful in protecting people from similar threats. I applied this to my remediation. For instance, I used cork because the tree is not destroyed by the harvesting of cork every ten years but cork is naturally mold resistant.

What I would like to say in closing is that full recovery is possible but it takes commitment. However, it probably cannot be achieved without attention to the hazards in the spaces we occupy. Obviously, this is not just one's home but includes schools, offices, public buildings, trains, cars, and even soil amendments. For instance, I am completely unable to work with mushroom compost. I am not in a position to advise others but it makes me sick. However, as I have said, mold has a function so one of the beauties of no till agriculture is that the fungal structures in the soil are not disturbed by plowing, rototilling, or even digging. This has been a great solace for me because it would be impossible to enjoy gardening if allergic symptoms started the moment I opened a bag of compost or stuck a trowel in the soil.

A doctor might classify someone like me as hyper-sensitive or compromised but personally, I think my body is behaving correctly for someone with my history. It warns me when there is a specific risk. In my work with the animal communicator, I asked if Savika would help me and Savika was sort of non-responsive, almost complaining of her chores (which I found laughable since a dog's life looks remarkably simple to me). However, the next time we were walking, she made a huge scene by some ugly black, slimy mushrooms. She snorted and jumped backwards and showed me she understood the assignment perfectly and was 100% on board with me.

Now, I would like to sign off and wish all of you a very peaceful and congenial Thanksgiving.

Many blessings,


Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2011


Part II


Mold Herbs




Seventh Ray Press
Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2011

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