Sunday, March 25, 2012

The AIDS Alphabet: V is for Venus Fly Trap (VFT) Plant

The AIDS Alphabet: V is for Venus Fly Trap, the only carnivore plant in the world

What would you be willing to do to stay alive? In a previous post I mentioned amaroli, or auto-urine therapy (aka drinking your own urine). Another therapy involves injecting oneself--IV (intravenous) or IM (intramuscular)--with an enzyme extracted from Venus Fly Trap plant. VFT is the only carnivore plant on our planet. Here's an excerpt from Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS, which deals with VFT and its use among AIDS patients before the advent of HAART medications. What are the benefits of VFT for an individual living with HIV/AIDS? Find out from a story told to me by AIDS warrior and award-winning photographer Kurt Weston.

Hope you'll enjoy reading about Kurt's experience with VFT. As always, thanks for visiting me here, and also thanks for stopping by to say 'Hi" yesterday, at 2012 NYC Rainbow Book Fair.

Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS

Excerpt from Chapter Four:Self-Reflections:

Another alternative treatment SWAN [Surviving With AIDS Network] members tried involved a substance called Carnivore, extracted from the Venus Fly Trap, or VFT, the only carnivore plant in the world.
    Like humans, the many varieties of VFT plants are genetically different from each other. VFT has very thick, fleshy leaves, or petals, with traps (or “teeth”) at their end. The plant can create a red pigment in its tissue, which is supposed to attract the insects (some experts believe that it is also used to protect the plant from sunburn). When a fly lands on it, the petal closes and kills the fly with its “teeth,” and then digests the fly with the help of an enzyme within the VFT plant.
Killer Flower on the Big Island of Hawaii
    The theory was that this particular enzyme, the juice within the plant, could help treat HIV. The enzyme would digest (or disintegrate) the protein in the HIV, and therefore destroy the virus. Patients could buy it from a company in Germany and they could give themselves Carnivore shots intramuscular or intravenous… so Kurt did both.
    Another treatment he also tried required injecting himself with a substance called Iscador. Ten injections cost eighty dollars. Iscador was a therapeutic homeopathic preparation created from mistletoe, a very poisonous plant, which is fatal if ingested.
    But the mistletoe story doesn’t start with AIDS or with Christmas. In ancient times, pagans in Northern Europe held orgies before mistletoe altars. This reverence translated into the Christian ritual of hanging mistletoe over doorways at Christmas time. The pagan orgies became, through the years, the custom of kissing under the mistletoe.


A Kind of Venus Fly Trap (VFT) carnivore plant. Photo by Alina Oswald


    Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows in the bark of trees and does not obey many of the laws of the plant kingdom—it stores up chlorophyll and stays green throughout the year, indifferent to light. The name “mistletoe” comes from a Celtic word meaning “all-heal,” thus its historical use as remedy for pretty much everything from nervous complaints to bleeding wounds and tumors. Many years later, traditional Chinese and Korean medicine discovered a variety of uses for mistletoe.
    In the early twentieth century, Rudolf Steiner, the creator of anthroposophy (a human oriented spiritual philosophy) introduced the plant to modern medicine. He used medical mistletoe, called Iscador, as a potential cancer treatment and mistletoe extract injections as immune system stimulants.

    While at SWAN [Surviving With AIDS Network], Weston hasn’t tried only the extreme treatments, the Iscador and Carnivore, but also therapies like acupuncture, yoga, meditation and massage, which enhanced his inner strength and gave him new hope that he would survive the disease. Through this kind of gentle treatments, the photographer met wonderful people who offered him the spiritual support he needed to get through that stage in his life. They stood by his side when the PCP, KS and CMV were ravaging his body and they helped him come through.
    These alternative therapy practitioners did not dress like regular doctors. The photographer remembers his Chinese acupuncturist looking like a witch doctor, a Bohemian, wearing wild clothes and carrying with him various herbal preparations. He used to put needles in different parts of Kurt’s body… like the voodoo with his voodoo dolls.
    During his first visit, the acupuncturist did an analysis on Kurt, placing three fingers on his wrist to take his pulse—that was the photographer’s energy pulse or “chi”—which measured the essence of life flowing through his body. The acupuncturist then told Kurt that his chi was really strong, thus making Kurt feel that he had enough life force to survive the disease.
    Most of the volunteers donating their time and kindness to organizations like Test Positive Aware were not infected, yet they were not afraid to work with infected people, to talk to them and comfort them, to touch and hug them, give them massages and embrace them with their bodies and their spirits. To this day Weston thinks of these volunteers as being “the best of humanity.”
    One particular lesbian woman, called Hannah, was what Weston considers his first “warrior.” She took her philosophy from the Native American culture. She was teaching tai chi and yoga classes at TPA because she believed in the power and benefits of moving energy. Hannah believed that one’s physical body can be controlled by one’s mental attitude, and that by combining the power of one’s mind with the power of one’s will, a patient could affect the outcome of the disease process.
    Hannah would end her yoga class by doing a relaxation exercise where she would team up students and have them massage each other so that they could be relaxed and meditative. One time she teamed up with a man whose face and body were covered in very severe KS lesions. Anybody else would have used rubber gloves before touching the poor guy, but not Hannah. She did not hesitate massaging and relaxing him, and was not afraid to touch his lesions. She was completely fearless, inspirational, and motivational.
    And for Kurt she was a tremendous inspiration in strengthening his survival instinct. It was through Hannah that the photographer realized that there were people who could create an inspirational energy in others, and who could give others hope.