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Archive for the ‘Roots’ Category

Pain happens. Headaches, backaches, wounds, broken bones, bumps and bruises. It is almost second nature for us to grab an aspirin, acetaminophen, an ibuprofen, or, for some, something a bit stronger. Unfortunately, even the safest of these options come with serious negative side effects. Liver and kidney damage, stomach or digestive issues, neurological damage. In extreme cases, even death.

The last few decades have conditioned us to believe that our options are not just limited, but non-existent. We either take the options on the market (or at the pharmacy), or we deal with the pain. Under no circumstances should we consider taking natural alternatives. Not only are they extremely dangerous, but they are quite ineffective. I’m still trying to work out the incompatibility of that last statement.

I gotta wonder, though…if natural alternatives are so ineffective, why did the medical world develop some of their best medicines from them? Aspirin from willow bark. Opium, morphine, codeine and laudanum from poppies. Digitalis from foxglove. The list is long and impressive, and pretty interesting, if you are into that kind of thing.

The point is, there is an abundance of exceptionally effective, natural alternatives for dealing with pain of all types. In truth, some of them work faster, more effectively and, well…better. These are a few of my favorites:

Castor oil packs

Most of us have heard horror stories of grandmothers forcing a spoonful of castor oil on reluctant children when they had belly aches. I simply cannot condone that level of torture, but castor oil is not without powerful medicinal benefits.

Of course, the above scenario is not without it’s benefit, either. Castor oil is a highly effective, exceptionally safe laxative for all ages. The biggest problem with this method is actually choking it down. The good news is, it only takes 4-6 hours in most cases for a dose of castor oil to completely cleanse the bowels. A little more good news, a single dose is only 1-2 tablespoons for adults, and 1 tsp for children. Mix it with a bit of fresh fruit juice and it really isn’t so bad.

Castor oil is a strong fungicidal due to its high content of undecylenic acid. Ringworm, athlete’s foot, jock itch…castor oil applied topically daily for a week will help tremendously in any of these situations.

Castor oil is exceptionally moisturizing. It attracts and holds in moisture, so it is the perfect addition to any beauty routine. Acne, dry hair, dry scalp, age spots, warts, and skin tags are just a few of the issues that can be improved with regular use of castor oil.

However, one of the very best ways to administer castor oil is through the use of a castor oil pack. I don’t know all the science behind castor oil and how it does what it does. What I do know is that I have seen it work over and over again to help the body heal, to provide relief from pain of every kind, in every part of the body. I have seen it help people who were in liver failure to detox. I have seen it help shrink cysts and tumors. I have seen it perform nearly miraculous things. But, that’s just MY experience with it. Sore muscles? Use a castor oil pack on them. Arthritis? Try a castor oil pack. Painful period? Use a castor oil pack. Seriously. You gotta try this!

Castor oil packs can be a bit messy, but are relatively simple to use.  All you need is:

  • a bottle of castor oil
  • 2 pieces of natural cloth like wool or cotton. One should be large enough to completely cover the area you intend to apply it to. The second piece should be larger by about 4 inches in both directions.
  • a piece of plastic
  • a towel that you don’t mind getting stained
  • a hot pack or heating pad

Here’s what you do with all of that:

  • Thoroughly coat the smaller piece of the cloth with castor oil. You want it wet, but not dripping. The piece of cloth should be large enough to completely cover whatever area of the body you are treating.
  • Cover the castor oil soaked cloth with a piece of plastic.
  • Cover the plastic with the larger piece of dry cloth. This piece is going to help hold in the warmth so it should be something heavy and natural like wool, cotton or flannel.
  • Place a heating pad on top of your cloth. That’s it. Now just kick back and relax for a spell. Leave the pack on for at least 20 minutes, but I like to leave it on overnight. You will want to put an old towel or sheet under you, because castor oil will stain whatever it touches.

You can use an ace bandage or strip of fabric to secure the castor oil pack in place.

Don’t throw out your castor oil pack after one use, either. The same castor oil pack can be used 10-15 times. Just store it in the fridge between uses and add a bit more castor oil if it begins to dry out.

This is one of those great treatments that work immediately. By the time you remove the castor oil pack you will be feeling better. When dealing with long-term and/or chronic conditions,  I have used this treatment daily for two weeks with absolutely no negative effects. For things like menstrual cramps, arthritis flare-ups, and muscle aches/spasms, we use it as often as we need to. In most cases, we are back up and moving comfortably after an hour or so.

Sometimes we need something that works a bit faster, right? And,  maybe more convenient? After all, I doubt the boss is going to approve of you taking a break to apply a castor oil pack that you will need to wear around the office for a while.

It’s cool. I have this one covered. Herbs. The answer is herbs.

Quit rolling your eyes. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. Let me try to impress upon you the unbelievable power of herbs to help control pain when used properly.

I live on a farm. I do yoga. I garden. I paint. I write. I bead and sew and crochet and knit. I spend HOURS in the kitchen. I make soap. I build fires. I play with grandsons. I spend unfathomable amounts of time staring at a computer screen.  None of these activities seem especially dangerous, right? Look a little deeper.

Yoga and gardening are the source of many muscle aches, strains and sprains. Crafting, writing and gardening require the use of my hands, which are prone to attacks of arthritis, small cuts, big cuts, cuts from stems and tools (because, you know, why wear gloves like any rational person?). Hours in the kitchen can occasionally produce burns, cuts and other injuries that we need not name, as can building and maintaining fires in the wood stove. Computer screens give me massive headaches. Living on a farm covers everything from shins bashed into trailer hitches to broken limbs. Playing with grandsons…well…the danger potential there is unlimited. So, you see all of the levels of pain that my family may experience at any given moment. Keep that in mind when I make my next statement.

We have not needed a ‘conventional’ pain reliever since we started using herbal pain-relieving options. No aspirin. No acetaminophen. No prescription pain killers.

What is this miracle herbal pain-reliever, you ask? Well, it isn’t one herb. Or even two. It is a combination of herbs. While each of the herbs we are about to discuss work reasonably well for minor pain all by themselves, combining some of them can be far more effective than many of the dangerous synthetic pain pills flooding the market and killing people by the millions. Unlike prescription or OTC pain relievers, there is no risk of organ failure, heart issues, digestive issues, neurological issues…no negative side effects for a normal, healthy person. Did you catch that? These alternatives should not be used if you have some pre-existing conditions. Some of these herbs can interfere with medications, which can cause big problems. Some of these herbs should not be taken long-term. If you are not trained in the use of herbs, don’t just go taking these herbs willy-nilly. Consult a Certified Herbalist. Really. Don’t be stupid.

Okay, you’ve been warned. Now, let’s move on. I have found a beautiful blend of herbs that works fast (it has never taken more than 10 minutes to feel relief) on every kind of pain we have thrown at it. I’m going to tell you the herbs. Not the formula. The formula, Nerve-Ease, took me a long time to perfect, and is easy for an amateur to mess up.

  • Black cohosh – this root is most often used for female complaints related to the menstrual cycle, menopause, and female organs. This is because of the fact that it has many natural estrogens. What many don’t realize is that is also has a mild sedative effect, is anti-inflammatory, and acts as a mild anti-depressant, just to name a few of its benefits.
  • Catnip – yeah, the same herb your cat flips out over. Catnip is a fabulous pain reliever, and one of the safest option available for all ages, including small children. It is a mild relaxant, it settles the stomach, it calms the nerves, it reduces pain, and it promotes relaxation and sleep without any drowsiness.
  • Cayenne – there is a lot of science behind this herb, and how it works is a whole lesson in itself. We will just leave it at this: cayenne is a powerful pain reliever, and it boost the ability of any herb it is working with. One of the many additional benefits of cayenne is its ability to stop bleeding. There are very few of my formulas that don’t contain a bit of cayenne for very good reason. It is safe for all ages and requires only a small amount to be effective.
  • Chamomile – this is a wonderful sedative herb that works powerfully, but mildly, on the body and mind. It, like catnip, promotes relaxation without making  you drowsy, so you can go to sleep easier without waking up feeling foggy or disoriented. It soothes the nerves, so it is good for anxiety and depression. It is anti-inflammatory. It soothes muscles and joints. Chamomile is safe for any age and can help control just about any type of pain or discomfort you may be having. It is pretty tasty, too!
  • Hops – while best known for its use in beer making, hops has a long history of medicinal use. As with many herbs, hops has a variety of uses. Herbalists often use it for its ability to calm the nerves and promote sleep without causing drowsiness or brain fog. It is an anti-inflammatory, so it also helps with nerve pain, or pain caused from internal inflammation.
  • Mistletoe – the same plant that we stand under for a chance at a free smooch is a most excellent nervine. That means that it helps soothe frazzled nerves and helps rebuild damaged nerves. It is an anti-inflammatory, as well as an immune system builder.  Mistletoe has so many healing benefits that we can’t cover even a fraction of them here, but it also has some warnings attached to it. It is a fantastic pain reliever, but must be properly prepared and used only under the supervision of a Certified Herbalist or natural health practitioner.
  • Mullein – one of my all time favorite herbs, I could spend hours extolling it’s many virtues, not the least of which is it’s pain-relieving capabilities. It doesn’t matter what the pain stems from; Mullein will help soothe it. This is an especially useful herb for dealing with pain from broken bones, sprains and strains, as well as pain from inflamed, irritated mucous membranes in the lungs and respiratory system.
  • Skullcap – if you are looking for power and performance, this is the herb to go to. It’s pain-relieving properties are well known among herbalists, and this is one of the first choices for helping promote sleep, calm anxiety, reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being. It is not an easy herb to work with, though, and is best used fresh, as it loses much of it’s ability with drying.
  • Turmeric – If you have been on the internet in the last couple of years, you have heard of turmeric and all of it’s health benefits. It is used for everything from cancer treatment to dental care. More than 6,000 peer-reviewed studies have been done on this herb, and more are being done daily in an effort to understand it’s range of healing. Even among standard medical groups, turmeric is gaining popularity because they are finding that it is more effective than many prescription drugs for treating a variety of health issues. Pain, depression, heart issues, inflammation, stomach issues, cancer, diabetes and cholesterol are just some of the issues that turmeric is having a profound effect on, all without a single negative side effect.
  • Valerian root – this is easily one of the smelliest herbs known to mankind. Fortunately, it is also one of the best pain-relievers ever. It is a mild, but highly effective nervine that helps calm anxiety, promotes relaxation and sleep, soothes pain and promotes a general sense of well-being.
  • Willow – this is where aspirin comes from, in case you didn’t know. A long time ago, some scientist got the bright idea to extract what they believed was the active pain-relieving constituent in willow bark, then called it medicine. If they would have just left the herb alone they would have gotten much farther. Willow bark has all the phenomenal characteristics of aspirin, but it also has built-in protectors that keep it from harming the liver and other organs. It is not without dangers of its own, though, and should only be used under the supervision of a Certified Herbalist or alternative medical practitioner.

The world of herbal medicine contains a vast array of other effective pain-relievers, but these are the ones I prefer. When used together, they have the ability to fight pain stemming from nearly every source imaginable. They can replace anti-depressants, sleeping pills, nerve pills, stomach pills….pills, pills, pills. They can even help you wean off many of those pills without suffering the symptoms often seen from withdrawals.

This is by no means a complete list of the many ways natural health practitioners approach pain management, especially long-term. However, reaching for a more natural option for every day aches and pains seems like a no-lose situation. If it doesn’t work for you, there is always the option of running to the drug store for a bottle of acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but why start there if you don’t have to? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Zombie Juice. Tell me that phrase isn’t just a bit disturbing… Makes you wonder why I would name one of my products something like that, huh?

zombie juice

Well, you see, it started out as a bit of a joke. Then, we decided it tasted something like one would imagine a zombie might taste like, should you ever find yourself in a position to taste one.

That isn’t really a good selling point, though, so, after much consideration, I decided to tell people that I named it that because it will prevent one from turning into a zombie should we ever actually experience a Zombie Apocalypse. That sounds like a much better marketing strategy, right?

Fortunately, it is kind of a mostly true statement. At least, I believe it to be, though I haven’t actually had the opportunity to test out our hypothesis. Yet.

You may wonder what would cause me to come to this conclusion. Well, I will tell you.

When I set about creating my Zombie Juice, I was going for an end result that was good for the whole body. A tonic. Something that would boost the immune system, strengthen the organs, regulate digestion, cleanse toxins, and provide lots of vitamins and minerals to the body. I wanted it to have all the ‘anti’ properties…antibiotic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-radiation, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory…I wanted it to be strong enough to knock out any stray bit of illness or disease that might find its way into our system, but gentle enough to be able to take daily to prevent any illness or disease from finding its way into our system in the first place.

There are a couple of tonics out there that came very close to what I wanted, like Dr. Christopher’s Anti plague tonic, but nothing that hit the exact target I was aiming for. So, I turned all mad-scientist and came up with my own formula.

To date, we have had lots and lots of opportunities to test out our Zombie Juice. Colds, coughs, bronchitis, flu, strep throat, dental infections…all those little illnesses that run rampant through the work-place and schools. What we have found has been pretty amazing. It doesn’t just work…it works spectacularly!

It gets rid of infections of all types in about 48-72 hours. It helped clear up colds and sinus infections. It helped with constipation. And, while we can’t scientifically prove it, we all believe its preventative properties have allowed us to slide right through the flu epidemics that swarmed the country. While our friends and family that refused to swallow this ‘awful brew’ hacked and puked their way through, we smiled and choked down the Zombie Juice, germ-free.

I gotta tell you, though, it is some unusual-tasting stuff. Imagine extra-vinegary Worcestershire sauce. With a little dirt added for flavor. Yeah, that’s a pretty close comparison. I have contemplated adding it to salad dressing, though. Maybe in place of balsamic vinegar, cause that might be kind of good and still effective…

My advice to those who let the…unusual…flavor deter them would be this; Suck it up, buttercup! A spoonful of nasty will not kill you. Pansy.

This is one of those times when I am going to share my recipe with you. Generous of me, isn’t it? I will admit, my reasons aren’t entirely altruistic. For the most part, few people will go through the time and expense of tracking down all the ingredients, then properly preparing them. This stuff takes 6 weeks to make and it is a real pain in the ass. So, only the truly adventurous will bother to make this.

Also, I can’t seem to make enough and I keep running out.

So, here goes:

Zombie Juice Recipe

In a half gallon jug, combine:

½ lb organic garlic (minced, smashed or pulverized)

Apple Cider Vinegar (enough to fill the jug ½” from the brim)

garlic vinegar

Let this sit in a dark, slightly warm space for 5-6 weeks. Shake the mixture daily. Strain, squeezing as much of the liquid from the garlic as possible.

Gather up these herbs:

2 pts burdock root, red clover blossoms

1 pt alfalfa leaf, amla root, horsetail, black walnut hull, peppermint leaf, dandelion root, nettle root

½ pt milk thistle see, kelp

¼ pt cayenne, golden seal root

Get a couple of gallons of distilled water. Not tap water, well water or any other type of water. Only distilled water should be used.

Place each herb in its own separate glass container. I prefer glass Pyrex measuring cups.

Add enough water to equal 8 oz.

Place the herb/water container in a pot of water and place on medium low heat. This needs to be simmered down until it reaches 4 oz.

You do not want your herb/water to boil, just a very low simmer. This will take several hours and should be stirred occasionally.

Each herb is going to be brewed separately. This is an important part of the process. Don’t just throw the herbs in together. They must be done individually. Yes, I realize that this may take a couple of days. Do you?

As each tea is done, strain and add the liquid to your vinegar.

When all of the herbs have been extracted, add

2 oz of vegetable glycerin  and 5 oz of raw honey to the mixture.

Mix well.

Bottle and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Here is how the adults take it:

When we are feeling run down, tired or sick, or if we know there is an outbreak of some type going around, or should we hear of a possible zombie attack headed our way, we take 2 Tbsp twice a day.

When we aren’t trying to get rid of an issue, we take 1 Tbsp per day…you know, just for general good health…

You can take it straight or add it to a little fresh juice…however you have to get it down is fine.

We don’t suggest giving this to any children under 2, but 2-10 years old, we suggest 1 Tbsp twice a day to fight off illness and ½ Tsp daily to help fend off illness. Nobody wants a child zombie running around town, cause that’s just…well…disturbing!

Of course, we are not licensed medical doctors around here, so you could just chalk all of this up to quackery. I don’t mind and I get it…I know, the zombies and all are a bit much to contemplate. I would never consider handing out any type of medical advice or diagnosis, and I most certainly can’t tell you that herbs and other ‘natural’ ingredients can make you better if you are sick. I’m simply handing out some friendly advice that we believe has helped my family and friends stay a little healthier. And not zombies. What you choose to do with the info is your own business.

So, there you have it. Sounds tasty, huh?

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It always makes me a little sad when spring rolls around and I hear everyone talking about the best way to kill the dandelions popping up in their yard.  I love dandelions!  They’re all soft and yellow and pretty and girlie, but then you see the leaves and realize this sweet little flower is growing out of this bad-ass patch of spikey-looking  leaves and it has a tap root that reaches deeper than I have ever been able to dig. Then, it fades out into this soft little puff-ball that is totally capable of making all of your wishes come true if you can get all the fluffies off with a single blow…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And, of course, there is the valuable medicinal properties of the plant, too.  All of this together makes the thought of trying to destroy the dandelions leaves me a little misty-eyed.

So, in an effort to do my part in saving this valiant, noble plant from extinction, I collect it.  Seeds, leaves, roots…I have a purpose for them all!  I guess, since I like you all so very much, I will share my dandelion secrets with you.

I love to gather the leaves when they are young and small to add to our dinner table.  They taste amazing when you throw them in with some fresh lettuce and spinach, maybe a few nuts and raisins, then drizzle a bit of lemon juice and Bragg amino acids over them. OMG!!! Delicious!  There is so much more to this awesome weed, though.  They are packed with vitamins and nutrients!  In a serving of dandelion greens, you get more beta-carotene than you would from a serving of carrots, more iron and calcium than a serving of spinach, vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. Who needs a multi-vitamin when you have these babies growing right there in your yard?

Then, you have the flowers.  Those charming yellow spots of happiness that pop up, seemingly from nowhere, to decorate your otherwise drab landscape.  These, too, are wonderfully delicious.  Sprinkle the petals over your next salad for a striking spot of tasty nutrition…batter and deep fry them for a scrumptious snack…make some wine and forget all of your ills!  Bonus…they are an incredible source of lecithin, which raises the level of acetylcholine in the brain.  Acetylcholine is a nutrient that helps maintain brain function and, recent studies show that may be very beneficial to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Finally, we have the root.  I’ll be the first to admit this part doesn’t taste so good. Imagine, if you will, bitter dirt.  Yeah, it’s kinda like that.  But, the benefits are so great that that doesn’t seem to matter so much in light of the fact that dandelion root is one of the greatest liver cleansers ever.  It also helps relieve inflammation of the eliminative organs, helps promote bile and improves circulation.  It contains calcium and silicon, which aid the development and repair of bones, hair and teeth. It boosts the metabolism and helps calm the craving for sweets.  What more could you want?

Freshly picked dandelion root

Freshly picked dandelion root

Dandelion has been used to treat cancer, rheumatism, liver and kidney disorders, bed wetting, constipation, skin diseases, scurvy, blood diseases, and even diabetes. It contains 28 parts sodium and helps to neutralize acids in, and purify, the blood. It is a mild, effective laxative.  Lets not forget their anti-oxidant properties, too!

All this being said, don’t you feel a little silly for going to such great lengths to eradicate it from your yard?  My suggestion is to set down the herbicide and take a minute to appreciate the beauty and benefits of this delightful little weed. Gather a few flowers while they are bright yellow and fully opened.  Pick a few leaves for dinner, then let yourself regress back to your childhood long enough to pick a fuzzy flower, wish with all your might and scatter the seeds into the wind…

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I love autumn!  It is my absolute favorite time of year, hands down.  Maybe it is the cooler temperatures that make working outdoors invigorating and make it perfect for those evening bonfires.  Maybe it is the beautiful autumn colors that transform the Ozarks into a feast for the eyes and the soul.  Truth is, both of those reasons are a big part of it, but it also has something to do with all the planting and  harvesting I get to do this time of year!

The last of the summer crops are trickling in, making room for the winter crops.  Straggler tomatoes, lettuce in full bloom, loofahs ready to peel…these are all some of my favorite things.

Loofah Gourds

Loofah Gourds

However, my very most favorite thing about autumn is the chance to head out to the pastures and forests that cover our land and dig up the medicinal roots that are all juiced up with healing properties!  This year, we have had a record-breaking harvest of wild herbs.  Burdock, dandelion, yellow dock, gravel root…all of them are giving up the most gorgeous roots ever, and they are doing it in a big way!

Root digging isn’t for everyone.  In fact, you really gotta want some of them bad.  Proper identification can often take an entire year of growth in order to see the entire life cycle of the plant before identification can be verified.  Some of them have taproots so long you feel like you’re digging your way through to China ~ unless you live in China.  Then you might feel like you are digging your way through to the United States…? Either way, its a lot of digging!

So, I wanted to make it a bit easier for those of you who are feeling froggy with all this nice weather.

One of my new favorite herbs is Rumex Crispus, aka Yellow Dock or Curly Dock.  I had heard of it before, of course, but it has never been an herb that I use on a regular basis.  Imagine…I’ve been walking on it for years and never knew what it was!  A friend of ours was out here one day and came into the house carrying a beautiful leaf that he handed to me.

“You ever have this?”  he asks me.

I look at the leaf and say, “Nope.  What is it?”

“Sour dock,”  he replies.  “My grandma used to eat it all the time!”

Of course, I have to taste it.  The name is fitting.  The dark green leaves spotted with purple have the texture of spinach and just the tiniest hint of sour when it hits the back of your tongue.

“Oh, that’s good!  Where’d  you find it?”  I ask.

“In your yard,”  he answers.

“Oh.”

He takes me outside.  Right out the front door, there it is.  Huge patches of it speckle my yard, my garden and my pasture.  I’ve walked past it a gazillion times and admired its beautiful color.  I couldn’t believe all the salads I’d missed out on!  And, a new obsession was born.  I went to work learning everything I could about it.

This is Rumex Crispus:

In the Spring and Summer season, the leaves are a shiny, deep green.  As the weather cools down and all those healing properties are draining back down into the roots, the leaves start turning stunning shades of burgundy and purple. No matter what color they are, they make a delicious addition to salads and stir-fry, though. Once the weather warms up they tend to get slightly bitter, but I sorta like the added bitterness in moderation. I’ve added the leaves to garden salads, fried potatoes, pasta salad, rice, stuffed zucchinni, black beans, and I’ve even eaten it all by itself with a dash of Bragg amino acids and lemon juice.  I read somewhere that you should wash the young leaves or it can irritate your tongue.  I’m really hoping that anything you eat of your yard gets washed first anyway, but I figured I oughtta add that…just in case…  The leaves also contain significant amounts of Vitamins A & C, beta carotene, protein, iron, potassium, calcium and phosphorous.  More than spinach.  Bonus…if you happen to find yourself stung by a patch of stinging nettles, rub some crushed yellow dock leaves on the welts to help ease the sting and itch.

The stalks are edible too, though I can’t speak for their flavor.  I think I’ll be trying those come spring.  It seems that you simply peel them and eat them raw, or you can boil them to soften them up. The seeds can be gathered and ground up into a flour-like powder that supposedly has a flavor similar to buckwheat.  Not really one of my favorite foods, but the process sounds interesting, so maybe I’ll give that a shot next year, too…?

The root is incredibly impressive!  This is one of the roots we got this year:

Yellow Dock Root

Its kinda hard to tell, but under all those little straggler roots like the one in my hand, there is a monstrous chunk of root that is easily the size of a sweet potato!  The root contains potassium, magnesium and loads of iron, which makes it valuable for treating anemia and other iron-deficiency related illnesses. It is also a powerful blood cleanser and liver detoxifier, and a mild but effective laxative. It is a tonic herb, which means that it helps to strengthen and tone the entire body. The root is also good for treating skin disorders of all types.

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