Ever since I found out our well water is sky high in manganese, I've been seeing manganese toxicity symptoms in people all over town. This is how my mind works sometimes, snoopy and judgy, but in reality it can't be without an effect. So now I'm thinking about food and medicine traditions that are neuroprotective in mountains with high manganese in the water. The prudent thing to do would be to do a surface water test--just because ground water is high, doesn't mean surface water is high in manganese. But wells are what we are mostly dealing with now, so here is my evil plan to encourage less manganese toxicity in our neighborhood:
Iron, calcium, and phosphorus can reduce absorption of manganese from food. For some reason, more manganese is absorbed from water than from food. Assuming that Fe, Ca, and P can reduce absorption from water, too, you still wouldn't want to increase iron. Most people suffering from manganese toxicity are having a synergistic effect with some other metallic toxicity. Mn is included in some livestock supplements and people who work with livestock can be badly exposed, but with well water, iron isn't going to work for people who are affected. It increases oxidation effects of manganese and other metals. (Somewhere in The Grass Farmer there is a fascinating article about manganese and neurological disease in livestock, but it is behind a paywall.) So on the mineral front, that leaves phosphorus and calcium to potentially reduce absorption, so I'm thinking fish-head soup needs to make a comeback. Fish also provide EFAs, which are necessary to heal manganese-damaged nerve tissue. Anti-oxidants are abundant and people are really into elderberries and huckleberries up here. If they could be equally jazzed about rosehips, that would be three families of bioflavonoid rich berries to keep their oxidation rates under control. The wild roses here are tall and the hips are fat, but I'm going to try a weather-tolerant variety of Rosa rugosa on my sunny border. Manganese elimination is primarily through the bile, but I don't know what the local bile herbs are! The lowly thistle, some variety must live here, and all thistles make good pot-herbs, simple bitters most of them, if de-prickled. I'm also hoping to encounter bogbean--I've never met this plant but I have a feeling it may be nearby. I've read that it is made into bitters in Northern Europe, and schnapps. There is an elevated tendency towards alcoholism associated with manganese toxicity, so care needed in that direction. I do have a boggy corner, though, and nothing better to do with it. The thyroid can also be affected, due to interference with iodine absorption, and there is no seaweed in the inland Northwest. There are river and lake prawn, and organ meat from game and livestock will have a good amount. Iodine is also found in salt from the sea and fossilized salt, from deposits in rock left by ancient seas, so I will have to find out whether there are any salt mines nearby. There is also sometimes a local plant that collects regionally rare salts, the ashes of which are added to traditional foods, so I will keep my ears out for that as well. Finally there is frank neurological damage somewhat resembling Parkinson disease, in fact manganese toxicity is sometimes misdiagnosed as Parkinson disease. I don't know if well water alone could do it, but if someone had been working with leaded fuel and sleeping on flame retardants and had a mouth full of metal teeth, it might go there. For that extremity and less serious amounts of damage, I will be hunting for a healthy stand of Stachys to seed my backyard shaded herb plot. It is a lovely mild minty nervine and does not care one hoot about shade, and I think it would make a nice local firefly blend with a few other things. The last herb to mention, because it introduced itself and I think it is feeling overlooked, is hawthorn, which grows abundantly by the water, outnumbering willows--I have no idea if it is here from the dawn of time or only recently transplanted, but it is here and would like to be useful. Hawthorn berries have antioxidants and a special affinity for the heart, which may be broken when you learn that your beautiful well water needs filtering. (It has really high silica, too, and I hope we don't lose that with the inevitable ion exchangers!) Does anyone have a link to that article in the Grass Farmer last year? It was really interesting.