Big Island VOG — A Thermostat That Bites
Jan D. Ellison, Doctor of Oriental Medicine

Volcanic activity around the globe is a continual process which not only forms new land masses, science has now learned that the expulsion of 'volcanic smog', also known as vog, may also be the Earth's internal thermostatic control mechanism which this living planet is using to cool the atmosphere.

Several years ago atmospheric scientists, in their attempts to better understand the devastating effects of global warming, began limited experiments with sulfur dioxide and heavy metals on the upper atmosphere. Deployed from rockets or high-altitude drone aircraft, scientists 'seeded' these high-level air currents with basically the same gaseous contents as our Big Island vog plumes. What they found was that once these elements reached a certain altitude, they acted as a 'deflection screen' reflecting back into outer space the tremendous heat generated from the sun's rays.

Coincidentally, as scientists began their atmospheric studies, Earth began a tremendous increase in global volcanic activity. From deep-ocean rifts in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea to above-ground massive explosions, calderas, fissures and lava streams throughout the Pacific Ring of Fire, plumes of volcanic smog during these past five years have began to rise into the upper atmosphere at unprecedented levels. Unfortunately, where mankind's activity is now believed to be at the heart of the dangerous levels of global warming, the planet's thermostatic control mechanism may present very dangerous health hazards to many species of life.

Vog is a combination of sulfur dioxide gas, hydrogen, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and a vast array of heavy metals and other volatile and not-so-healthful elements. As vog moves through the air, and mixes with moisture droplets, the sulfur dioxide gas transforms to the very dangerous sulfuric acid, and this 'acid rain', as it comes in contact with buildings, plants, animals and, as you inhale it deeply into your lungs, causes many problems. In buildings and catchment systems, it can cause harmful leaching of lead from roofing materials, pipes and metal fittings thereby directly contaminating water systems. In plants, vog particulates accumulate on fruits and vegetables, and in some cases, are taken into 'heavy metal aggregators' or plants which pull heavy metals from the air or soils (tobacco and marijuana are examples of heavy metal aggregators). In humans, vog's negative affects range from headaches, nausea, sinus infections, severe skin rashes, ulcers and lesions to respiratory infections and systemic toxicity. In animals, we are seeing low birth weights and weak offspring to spontaneous abortions, digestive disorders and eye and skin infections.

So, okay, this all sounds like a really bad thing for those of us who live on the Big Island of Hawai'i. And, while it's been no 'picnic in paradise' these past 15 months of dramatically-increased vog emissions, there are ways in which we can limit our exposure and mitigate or reduce the toxic side-effects of this temporary situation.

First of all, we can avoid strenuous outdoor physical activity when vog is most heavy and tradewinds are absent. Reducing outside air flow into homes and offices by closing doors and windows and utilizing air purifiers which reduce both particulates as well as gaseous forms of contamination. We can take steps to place protective covering over catchment systems to keep vog from running off exposed surfaces or settling on catchment system components. And, as importantly, we can take the necessary diet and supplement steps to improve our body's ability to fight off the negative effects of vog.

What Foods To Avoid

During heavy vog periods people should pay particular attention to removing excess sulfur content from their daily routines. This includes all foods which contain various forms of sulfur:

•Processed foods with sulfur additives as preservatives

•Sulfur Dioxide, Sodium Sulfite, Sodium Bisulfate, Potassium Bisulfate

•Alcoholic beverages containing sulfites

•Dried (non-organic) fruits

What Foods To Include Or Increase Intake

Choose foods for the protective and purifying qualities for the lungs, liver, kidney and spleen. Pungent foods are known for their 'purifying/detoxing' effects, while protective foods rich in antioxidant and beta-carotene contents protect the surfaces and mucous membranes of the body while bolstering the body's immune system.

Pungent Foods

•Cabbage, Hot Peppers and Chiles, Daikon Radish, Onion, Garlic, Radish, Ginger, Turnip, Horseradish, White Peppercorn

Protective Foods

•Apple, Pear, Broccoli, Parsley, Carrot, Pumpkin, Watercress, Kale, Wheat or Barley Grass, Winter Squash, Mustard Greens, Green, Blue-Green or Golden Micro Algae

In addition to proactive and protective changes to our diet, there are also some very important daily additions in terms of supplementation that are vital for reducing and/or eliminating the negative side effects of exposure to vog:

•Vitamin B Complex - Reduces oxidative stress and inflammatory response

•Cissus Quadrangularis - Encourages healing and aids in circulation

•Loquat Leaf - Clears lung heat and assists in respiratory function and clearance of mucous

•Pine Bark Extract - 600x more antioxidant benefits than Vitamin C; helps to boost immune function and improves peripheral blood circulation

One dietary supplement which contains therapeutic levels of these vital nutrients and more is called WellCapAM™ Activation Complex by Wellcorps International. Several integrative medical practitioners on the Big Island of Hawai'i carry this very valuable formulation for assisting with vog complications and I highly recommend it to my patients.


Opening and increasing the flow of energy or qi through the various meridians in the body is vital to releasing and flushing out the toxins associated with vog contamination. Boosting the kidney, liver, spleen and lung functions all assist in the natural detoxification processes of the human body. Simple acupuncture and acupressure therapies can provide dramatic relief in as little as 30 minutes.

Chinese Herbs

In ancient Chinese medicine, we utilize five, distinct botanicals which relate to toxic influences:
Xia Ku Cao - Clears heat from red, swollen and painful eyes, clears swollen glands in neck, alleviates headache.

•Lu Xian Cao - Alleviates scratchy, dry, irritated throat and improves vocal functions

•Fang Feng - Alleviates headache and improves respiration while reducing mucous in sinuses and lungs

•Jing Jie - Alleviates heat in lungs and provides exit transport of impurities throughout respiratory system

•Chai Hu - Relieves liver burden in toxicity processing and relieves headache and chest pain due to congestion

Essential Oils

Chinese medicine has utilized specific, essential oils either as direct applications to skin or through the inhalation of their aromatic essence by applying a small amount to the palms of the hands, and cupping the hands gently around the mouth and nose while inhaling these beneficial aromas. I recommend two, specific formulations to my patients for vog assistance.

Flight Angel

This proprietary formulation supports upper respiratory activity and helps to boost overall immune function. Applied lightly to the palms of the hands and inhaled through mouth and nose, this combination of Eucalyptus, Hyssop, Lavender and Ravensara provides immediate and lasting relief throughout the day. Additionally, this formulation, used every two hours, is a vital component of airline travels and while being confined in close quarters with large numbers of people as a preventative against viruses and bacteria.

Dry Cough Formulation

•3 Drops of Eucalyptus Oil
•2 Drops of Lemon Oil
•2 Tablespoons Organic, Pure Honey

One teaspoon of this concentrated formula is best used in hot water as a tea and sipped regularly throughout the day to assist with congestion and respiratory difficulties.

Let's remember to keep in mind that volcanic activity is a fact of life in Polynesia and that ancient Hawaiians endured many such episodes of vog and lava flows over the millennia. Being smart about our physical activities as well as our dietary, alcohol and supplement intake, especially during the most vigorous outbreaks, is our best bet toward positively influencing our health and reducing the negative effects of volcanic smog in our daily lives.


About The Author:

Dr. Jan Ellison is a renowned Chinese medicine physician, acupuncturist, and NeuroLink practitioner whose private practice in Hawi for the past 23 years has earned her the respect of fellow healthcare practitioners and thousands of patients from around the world. Janice Dale Ellison, Doctor of Oriental Medicine; 808.889.6900