The Keys to Transitioning Healthcare: Empowerment, Education, & Prevention

A few months ago, I developed red spots on my face and neck that were kind of itchy.  After another day or so, the spots had progressed down my torso and onto my thighs, so I decided to go to a doctor.  Although I have health insurance, at the time I did not have a primary care physician, so seeing a doctor quickly proved to be difficult.  Most everyone I called told me to go the emergency room, a ridiculously expensive suggestion, given that my situation was certainly not a life-threatening emergency.  I finally got an appointment with a nurse practitioner at a local clinic.  She hurriedly looked at the red spots, pronounced that I had hives, and immediately decided to give me a steroid injection and to prescribe a week-long dose of Prednisone.  There was no discussion of reasoning for her prescription, likely symptom progression, or treatment options.

I know that steroids significantly impact my body through increased anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and suppressed immune response, and I was about to leave on a month long trip, so I really didn’t want any of these side effects.  I slowed her down long enough to get her to tell me what I could expect if I didn’t take the shot or the Prednisone.  She told me the hives would likely progress through the rest of my body, enter my lungs and then cause difficulty breathing, and that I definitely needed both the injection and the Prednisone.  By this point, I internally questioned her judgment due to her extreme prognosis and lack of willingness to engage with me, so I accepted the shot and decided to mull over whether or not to fill the Prednisone prescription.  That afternoon I spoke with a friend of mine who is an MD (I should have called him first), and he said that I likely would not need the Prednisone and that I should see how it goes for a couple of days.  I did not need the Prednisone and the hives disappeared in a week or so.

So why am I sharing this story? In my opinion, health care remains one of the thorniest problems that we face, because even with relatively abundant cheap oil, our current system serves us poorly.  My experience illustrates several shortcomings of our current system:

  • Those without health insurance are severely limited in their ability to receive prompt, quality care when they need it.  They often wait until they have a life threatening emergency to seek care, because only then will medical professionals see them without first considering their ability to pay. This pattern disempowers the client to address early stage health issues and puts a tremendous financial strain on the system through avoidable emergency room visits.
  • Many people with health insurance have limited flexibility in health care choices due to the system’s constraints.  They can only see certain doctors, and they can experience significant delays if they need to see a specialist.
  • Primary health care providers working within the system can spend only a short time with their clients, limiting their ability to take holistic data about the client (diet, lifestyle, etc), explain diagnoses, and offer options. My MD friend told me that on average a client talks for about 29 seconds before the doctor interrupts. How could the practitioner possibly know enough after 29 seconds to make a good decision?!
  • The system focuses providers towards offering pharmaceutical solutions to health challenges.  Many pharmaceuticals have significant unwanted effects.  I know if I had taken the Prednisone, I would have needed to rebuild my digestive and immune systems afterwards.  Doctors often do not tell clients about such side effects and do not suggest how to restore systemic health after taking a strong drug.  Pharmaceuticals are often synthetic substances that our body must digest and eliminate by way of the kidneys and/or the liver, straining these organ systems.  Additionally, because of their strength, they often impact more than just the intended target.  When we take an antibiotic, for example, the antibiotic kills beneficial bacteria in our gut, creating unwanted gastrointestinal problems.
  • Health care providers often over-prescribe pharmaceuticals because they feel they must address the worst-case scenario.  If my nurse practitioner had time to follow up with me built into her clinic’s practice, she might not have prescribed the Prednisone.  However, she at no time suggested any other option other than her initial one.

I bet my story resonates with many CM readers.  In my opinion, great medical professionals are hamstrung from offering quality care due to time constraints and lack of “billable” options.  This reality will worsen as budget cuts drain funds from government-sponsored healthcare plans.

Underlying all of this, of course, is cost.  Due to Obama’s proposed health care reform bill my insurance may become unaffordable for me.  I may resort to paying the new fine ($750/year) for not carrying health insurance.   In my opinion this fine amounts to another tax, since I suspect very few people will be able to purchase health insurance under the new plan, doing absolutely nothing to increase health care access in this country.  Unless we work for the government or a large corporation, we are unlikely to have health insurance. 

Given that it costs about $1 billion to develop a drug and only 2 of 10 marketed drugs ever return sales revenues that exceed their initial R&D costs, those costs have to be recovered somehow.  I believe it is quite unlikely that this instrumentation and these pharmaceuticals, which all require quite energy-intensive resources and manufacturing processes, will actually still be available as energy resources decline. 

As I said in the beginning, I believe transitioning healthcare remains one of the most difficult challenges we face as things unravel.  The complexity of our current healthcare delivery model and our personal disempowerment and significant reliance on outside experts and pharmaceuticals creates quite a tangle, with difficulty finding a good thread to pull. 

Given the world’s current economic situation, I believe we must begin our healthcare transition by recognizing that our current system is not financially sustainable and that therefore entitlement programs, like state-sponsored healthcare, will eventually disappear as our debt laden governments collapse under their own weight.  We are not entitled to government healthcare any more than we are entitled to cheap oil.  We have lived in an era of remarkable energy abundance, and that era is now ending. 

How can we respond individually?  I believe we can empower ourselves by taking the following steps:

  • Conduct a healthcare assessment for you and your family members.  Make a list of each medical, dental, mental, and/or vision condition present and what medicines and medical devices you and your family rely on, including over-the-counter medications.  Include your vision needs.
  • Educate yourself thoroughly about any chronic conditions you or your family members have and any pharmaceuticals you depend on.  Understand any side effects and drug interactions that may be present.  Create a family library of information in printed form that you can use as a reference.  If you have trouble understanding any of the information you collect, find a healthcare professional willing to help you.
  • Assess and educate yourself about alternatives to the pharmaceuticals that you use regularly and for any ongoing medical care.  Herbal medicine is the oldest form of medicine and was widely used in the United States until technology began to dominate the pharmaceutical industry in the nineteenth century.  Until then, every family knew how to treat basic illnesses with herbs.  Just like growing some of our own food, I believe we will have to be responsible for our basic medical care.  We must reclaim this knowledge.
  • When possible, work with practitioners who take the time to develop a relationship with you and listen to your concerns.  They exist even within the mainstream structure.  I had a wonderful primary care physician who somehow remembered all of the details of my life even though I only saw her once or twice a year.
  • Undergo any recommended medical, vision, or dental procedures now that you may have been putting off.  Costs are quite likely to rise and availability may become an issue.
  • Stock up on any items that you can reasonably store.  Pharmaceuticals have limited shelf life before efficacy declines.  Be wary of low-cost pharmaceuticals from unknown sources.  They can be counterfeit.
  • Take a CPR/first aid course, and then buy a well-stocked first aid kit for your home and your car. 
  • Connect with the healthcare professionals in your extended family, and if possible, enlist them in this process.  The more, the merrier.

I believe prevention will become even more important as access to health care deteriorates.  As an herbalist, I recommend the following: 

  • Improve your diet.  Food is the fuel we burn.  If we eat food of little nutritional value, our bodies will eventually break down, leading to chronic illnesses that decrease quality of life and will become more difficult to address as resources disappear.  Reduce the amount of processed foods you eat by learning to cook with basic ingredients.  Eat more meals at home where you can choose your ingredients.  More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates said:  "Our food should be our medicine.  Our medicine should be our food."  This still applies.
  • Reduce your toxicity intake.  Moderate your cigarette, drug, and alcohol consumption.  Incorporate organic food to the extent you can afford to.  I prefer the taste of organic fruits and vegetables, and they are healthier for the environment.  Assess the cleanliness of the cosmetics that you use and switch to cleaner products.  Stop drinking water from plastic water bottles.  Replace your TeflonTM cookware.  Use glass dishes in the microwave instead of plastic, and better yet, stop using the microwave altogether.  Filter your tap water unless you know exactly where it comes from.
  • Assess the cleanliness of your home environment.  We all bear a certain toxicity burden due to the environment we live in.  While some exposures are out of our control, we can control our immediate environment.  Keep your home environment clean to reduce exposure to molds and dust.  Unlike products made from natural materials, many new plastic products emit odors that are from volatile organic materials.  Choose a cloth tablecloth over a plastic one, for example.  Reduce exposure to secondhand smoke by negotiating with the smoker in your household to smoke outside.
  • Research your family’s medical history to understand if you and your family members have a genetic predisposition to certain medical conditions.  Learn what can prevent and exacerbate those conditions, and make the appropriate adjustments in lifestyle.
  • Take good care of your teeth.  No one likes dental procedures, anyway.
  • Incorporate more physical activity into your life.  Notice I did not say exercise.  For some people, exercise works.  They love it.  I find moving for the sake of moving to be utter drudgery, so I try to find ways to incorporate activity into my life like walking or biking instead of jumping in the car.  Frequent gardening gets my body moving, creates food security, and results in healthy, yummy food. Take the stairs instead of the elevator when you are in a multi-story building.  Carry your groceries instead of using a cart.  If you use a cart, take it all the way back to the store rather than leaving it near your car.  The little changes add up.

I recognize that many of my suggestions represent significant lifestyle changes.  I also recognize that some of my suggestions involve incurring costs that you may not otherwise have incurred right now.  Very few of us have the means to prepare for collapse as thoroughly as we would like.  Consider these suggestions a smorgasbord.  Take what you like and leave the rest behind.  Set goals and prioritize them, then do what you can in baby steps.  Or start with the suggestion you are most drawn to, and once you are done with it, look at the list again and see what calls you next.  I have found that, especially with dietary changes, making small incremental changes increases the likelihood that the changes become part of a new lifestyle rather than a burden.  I have included a resource list at the end of this article to get you started on your journey. 

Since I believe that we have to significantly localize our healthcare system, I also offer some suggestions for what we can do in community:

  • Create a directory of local health care providers, both allopathic and alternative, for acute and chronic care across all demographics.  Does your community have stable emergency room services?  Do you have elder care offerings?  Creating this directory will help your community assess its current health care resources and identify missing pieces.
  • Create networking opportunities for diverse providers and educate them about what is coming.  This can be tricky, of course, and you may be surprised by who wakes up right away and who in your community already knows what we are facing.  Talk about how you might offer services in new ways as the old structures disintegrate.
  • Investigate integrative health care offerings in your area.
  • Find healthcare professionals in your area who have worked in third world countries.  Interview them to learn about offering health care with limited resources.  This information may provide clues about how to create resilience in your community health care system.

Although these suggestions are meaningful, they do not begin to fully address the healthcare challenges we are facing.  Together with a couple of colleagues, I have struggled locally for a year trying to decide where to begin as we launch our Transition Healthcare group.  I now believe that the destination is far less important than actually beginning the journey somewhere, and I trust that additional options and wisdom will unfold along the way. 

I really want to hear your experiences with preparing to meet your healthcare needs in the face of the crash.  Let’s have a dialogue about it.

  • Beers, M. H., “The Merck Manual of Medical Information,”  Also in print.  This great resource describes medical conditions in language most people can understand.
  • Chevalier, A., (1996), “The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants,” Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd.  This book, full of color photos of the plants, provides an excellent resource for those new to herbalism.
  • Doyle, G.S., (2010), “Where There Is No Doctor: Preventive and Emergency Healthcare in Uncertain Times," Process Publishers.
  • Free or Low Cost Clinic Finder -
  • Hoffmann, D., (2003), “Holistic Herbal,” Thorsons. This book discusses in detail each body system and associated medical conditions and also offers a traditional herbal describing usages of many herbs as well as medicine making instructions.
  • The Mayo Clinic - - online information about medical conditions, tests & procedures, and drugs
  • Medline Plus, - online information about medical conditions and drugs.
  • Pitchford, P., (2003), “Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions & Modern Nutrition,” North Atlantic Books.
  • Spratto, G., (2009), “The Nurses Drug Handbook,” Delmar Cengage Learning - somewhat technical but quite useful book listing each drug, its indications and contraindications, possible side effects, and drug interactions.
  • Partnership for Prescription Assistance, A resource to help qualifying patients get free or low cost prescription medicines.
  • Post Peak Medicine, - A website that describes potential responses to peak oil by medical specialty.
  • “Rx List: the Internet Drug Index”, - online information about pharmaceuticals.
  • Skin Deep: Cosmetics Safety Database, This website assesses cosmetic products for ingredient safety.

All information and materials presented here is for informational and educational purposes only. Please consult a qualified healthcare professional before undertaking or changing any treatment. 


This What Should I Do? blog series is intended to surface knowledge and perspective useful to preparing for a future defined by Peak Oil.  The content is written by readers and is based in their own experiences in putting into practice many of the ideas exchanged on this site.  If there are topics you'd like to see featured here, or if you have interest in contributing a post in a relevant area of your expertise, please indicate so in our What Should I Do? series feedback forum.

If you have not yet seen the other articles in this series, you can find them here:

1 Like

I’m not a doctor and could easily be wrong in this, but I’ve gotten poison ivy in 8 of the last 9 years and the treatment is similar.  My understanding is that the shot (guessing cortisone) is by far the higher steriod dose of the two, so much so that the reason its a shot and not taken orally is that the dose is strong enough to cause vomitting or realated problems.  The prednisone is the much less damaging and weaker of the two and prescribed to help prevent you coming back and needing a second shot (insurance if you will).  So the cortisone shot would need you to rebuild your immune system afterwards as well, but that is the reason that it works.  I’ve had to go back numerous times to the doctor because they prescribed too small of a dose and it was ineffective.  Lately when I go in I pretty much need to tell the doctor what I need for a prescription.
I would love to find a herbal remedy to get rid of poison ivy that works but as yet I haven’t found one.


Get a goat, they love it.


1 Like

This story absolutely resonates with me. One thing that I try to keep in mind is that we must be our own healthcare advocates. I think most healthcare practitioners do the best they can within our broken system, but there is no one making sure all the dots get connected along the path to recovery. The internet is a huge asset in this respect, so research your problem. Also know that your doctor has probably been allotted less than 5 minutes to see you, so ask questions wisely.
Around 100,000 people die due to medical errors each year. Here’s a graph showing you are more likely to die from a medical error than from getting drunk as a skunk. This is not meant to encourage drunken behavior :wink:

1 Like

I think of “modern” health care as “Illness” care. Most "educated physicians are taught with books written by big pharma.
Here’s my brief experience-

I found out in 2000 I have Grave’s disease. The doctor ordered radio-active iodine as the “cure”, in which case I would have to be on synthyroid the rest of my life. When I simply stated “I’ll think about it” - the doctor became irrate and started yelling at me that it “was the standard” treatment. I said I wanted to read up on it while he continued his rant. He later had to take a “sensitivity” course. . =)

Hyper-thyroidism runs in families. An older brother of mine did take the radio-active iodine and it has not turned to the ideal situation as he gained over 50LBs in months.  And I came to find that in order for a facility to handle radio-active materials, they need a license costing them over $250K a yr. This means they need to have a certain number of patients treated and paid for to cover the minimum costs. Health care IS A BUSINESS. They aslo have a permenant patient as my brother is now also Type 2 diabetic. . .which he is happy about since he “feels” he is getting the best treatment available for his “conditions”.

I now live on tapazole that costs me about $75 a year after finding a doctor who uses “European” type of treatments. I also found diet makes a huge difference and have been working with another fmaily member to reverse herType 1 diabetes with Raw Food Dieting. Our preliminary results on raw food diets for her have already reduced her insulin intake by 50% and we plan on designing her garden space around this diet. 

My experience can go on indefinately as we had custody of a child with a disability. I have learned that when she walks in the door of a clinic, dollar signs light up in a doctor’s eyes - (KA-CHiNG!) and I can not express how many un-neccessary treatments she has been given over the last 12 years - from $12K surgeries to long-term facilities making over $8K a MONTH! when all she needs is occational supervision. 

In all you under-take - care for your health first by eating healthy food & getting exercise. Then question every treatment before engaging in it or your health may end sooner than you expect.

EGP   Google poison ivy tinctures or remedies. 

Seriously Mr. Martenson, move to Canada. If you don’t have a family doctor (because you just moved to a new city), you could go to a walk in clinic and be seen in 15 minutes. Yes free (if you have a health card)
If you don’t like his or her assessment, you can ask for a second or just go to another walk in clinic, which in Toronto exists approximately every 1km. Do a yellow pages search and see for yourself.


I’ve tried numerous herbal remedies(though I’ve never tried using posion ivy to fix something else, but I would definately fear any such use for myself) but haven’t found any that worked for me yet.  I usually try a new one each time I get it before it gets bad enough that I have to go in to the doctor.

Hi jkrimer-
The article wasn’t written by Dr Martenson. And, from what I hear from Canadians - they can be made to wait for hours. The point of the article is to be pro-active in your health (as well as your ilness). Its good advice wherever in the world you live.

And, the more I research my own health and how to maintain it, the more I find the term “raw food” and healthy eating coming up - this is not witchcraft . . . rather crafty wisdom.

I started looking into cancer when my faithful companion died of canine cancer a few years ago. That’s when I found the site and have seen numberous sites which also claim the same raw and healthy food lifestyle, not just to maintain health but when caught early, raw foods can heal many conditions. Movies like “Food Matters” are being shown around the country to help people understand how important un-adulterated food is to health. “Miracle” foods like Xango and such abound because they provide the body with nutrition in a basic form so people claim to feel better. I now grow fresh food for my self, my family and my animals. Its worth the effort as I get a lot of pleasure from watching my hens clean the orchard of bugs or see my goats grazing happlily in the raspberry patch.

Which brings about the other aspect of good health - keep stress down to a low scream. You’ll never get rid of all of it but learning to manage it is paramount for good health. When has a doctor ever ask you- “what’s stressing you and causing this illness?” They don’t because they do not treat people - they treat illnesses and get paid for it. (Not that getting paid is bad - but people have faith that a doctor knows something special.)

I (IMHO) see many changes coming in the future of health care - like it being about health more than illness one day. I also see a move away from the pill to using more electronics for healing, therapy and stress as well as herbals.  The days of the “family doctor” are over (big pharm saw to that) and the new edge on “medicine” is staying healthy.

Here’s to your good health!  EGP


Oh I hear you about the poison ivy.  I am very senstive to poison oak which is quite abundant where I live.  I use a couple of herbal rememdies when I get it and I have found both effective personally.  One option is that I make a poultice out of fresh mugwort and put that on the affected area for about 20 minutes.  I repeat this application whenever the itch gets intolerable.  Alternatively, I use a myrrh, goldenseal, cayenne liniment.  You can find the recipe here:

You can also find this and other useful herbal recipes in Rosemary Gladstar’s wonderful book “Family Herbal.”  You can get good quality dried herbs here at  You can get great quality fresh and dried organically grown herbs at

I turn to the liniment when i get poison oak in multiple places on my body.  If it turns systemic, then I also will turn to allopathic medicine.  No fun!


My dad has killed poison ivy with boiling water. It takes a few times but it works.

Re: Diet - I’ve read The China Study. It preaches a Vegan diet and backs it up with quite a bit of scientific data. While I tried to go Vegan after reading the book, it’s been too difficult to do. I have lost quite a bit of weight though, way more than I expected to lose, but I feel great. Ultimately, I believe a diet with a lot less dairy and meat products and more plants is a healthier diet anyways.

Re: Pharmaceuticals…just my .02…I don’t mean to sound a conspiracy theory, but I’ve started to come to the conclusion that drug companies don’t want to find a cure for diseases, after all, that would put them out of business. I rarely, if ever, take any medicines, drugs, flu shots, etc.

What I do take is a natural solution called Miracle Mineral Solution, or MMS. My long time friend and personal chiropractor told me about this. He used it to cure his Lyme disease. I used to have colds that would linger for as much as 2 weeks. Since I started taking MMS 2 years ago, my colds have been very infrequent and very, very short lived.

Don’t have time to explain more … just one word … jewelweed.

I second ao’s call on jewelweed.  Once you can identify it, you’ll find it grows almost everywhere the soil is moist, especially near creek beds.  I got tangled up in a stinging nettle patch when I was a kid, and my grandmother used jewelweed to ease the pain and itch by rubbing the liquid from cut stalks on my arms and hand.

You can also make an easy treatment by boiling chopped leaves until it reduces to a dark orange liquid.  Strain the liquid and freeze it in an ice cube tray (I think they still make those things).  If you get poison ivy, poison sumac or poison oak, take one of the cubes and rub it on the affected area. 



I’ll third the jewelweed cure.  Best in the late spring when it is very succulent.  Crush the stems and rub the juice on the rash.  Making the tea works well at other times.  I would include the stems in the pot.

The old fellow that sold us our land did the good new/bad news thing.  Land has a lot of poison ivy, but a good growth of jewelweed in the ditch by the road.  Works for me.  I think I have seen a commercial preparation based on jewelweed as well.

  • Jim

4th on jewelweed.  I was the botanical expert in our boy scout troop, and always kept an eye out for jewelweed populations.  Also noticed a high correlation of poision ivy and jewelweed growing in close proximity.


I don’t want to rain on your parade but when a remedy is promoted in the following manner,

“The answer to AIDS, hepatitis A,B and C, malaria, herpes, TB, most cancer and many more of mankind’s worse diseases has been found.”

I’m a bit suspicious. to say the least.

I’ve been involved in holistic/complementary/alternative health for well over 30 years and I’m very open minded but not so open minded that my brains leak out.  Can you provide some published studies as to its efficacy rather than anecdotal and hearsay “evidence” of alleged “research”? 

  I have read that  to drink the milk, from the goat that eats the poison ivy, works  as well as anything  .
DIAP  … check out what you can do with some of those hot Cayenne peppers you have on hand .  I Sure would not hesitate to give this a whirl if need arises .  Got a batch of the tincture going now .

Good Article 

Sure, you can download Part I of his book here. There’s plenty of evidence from the field on what he has cured in that free part of the book.

I do agree, his website comes across as “suspicious” to the average person. But it’s not as if Mr. Humble has millions of dollars in research money like drug companies do to make his website and books look professional. His time is better spent in the field curing people.


Thanks all.  I’ll give the jewelweed a try, I’ve tried a cayenne receipe in the past to no avail.  I think part of my isssue is that I’ve had it so many times now that it goes systemic quite quickly.