One nice thing about winter is that it signals the beginning of the flu and cold season, which, if left alone to develop, can turn your schedule upside down. Hacking out one’s lungs in the middle of an intense snowstorm with flash cold temperatures in the minus 40s should do the trick. However, despite all the hullabaloo of recent flu scares – SARS, H1N1, H1N2 – this season seems to be a little light on dire warnings from the authorities.


Nonetheless, it’s still the season of flu shots and, for some, an intense reaction to those immunity boosters that can leave one with a sore arm and a curious itch. I say, to heck with all those expensive band aids. Let’s take a look at mother nature and see how she delivers her antidotes to life in general.


One of my favourites is the beaver. Now, how the heck does that animal do it, swimming all year long, under the ice in winter. Sure, the beaver does have fur and fat and evolution on its side, but doesn’t it ever catch a cold or flu? Let’s take the scientific approach to all of this and analyze the not so obvious. For example, what does it eat? It eats a lot of bark from willows and other fine snacking conifers and softwoods. In fact, this may be the most obvious answer to the overall question: the willow bark is the cure.


It seems that this fact, well known to us First Peoples, that chewing on the inner bark or even on a scraped twig is the miraculous cure for many of life’s ailments. And it’s been in everyone’s back yard all along. This didn’t go un-noticed, because if my memory doesn’t fail me, Hitler and his Nazi minions were after the holy grail of miraculous cures so their storm troopers could last a little longer on the battlefield and eventually take over the world. Being mainly a pain reliever and not a life reviver, however, the poor little bark eventually took on the form of aspirin. Jokingly prescribed among the medicine crowds, taking two a day will keep the doctor at bay.


Aside from intense cabin fever, the other thing that horrifies nearly everyone is the deadly skin rash. Once, way back when I had hair and didn’t need glasses, an old lady dropped by to check up on her mail. She didn’t know how to read, so my mother would translate the letters and write back. It just so happens that little sister had her usual skin rash, and the old lady noticed. The next day, she showed up with a cure: yes, more tree stuff. This time, it was rotten, dried-out cedar wood that she had crumbled to a fine dust. This was used after a bath and just like baby talcum, used to dry out the skin. Et voila, the rash disappeared.


So, if you are wondering the next time you chop down a sapling or towering fir tree, think about how many cures there are in this single piece of live wood. From the roots to the needles, to the dying remains lying on the forest floor, the tree does have its way when it comes to helping mankind fight its way along the time line of our existence in this place we like to call this earth. Remember, we are slowly ridding the earth of the answers to our well being by clear cutting the cures to what ails us. I say, save a tree, eat a beaver.