The Greek lyrical poet Archilochus said, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

This quote suggests that the ability to succeed is not based on chance, nor can someone expect to succeed based solely on his or her innate abilities. Success instead is the result of training in a focused manner, so that when faced with a critical situation, a reaction occurs without conscious thought—essentially, it has become an instinctual response born of dedicated practice.

The saying can also be interpreted in a broader fashion, reflecting one’s ability to change and to “push the envelope,” as great jazz musicians do. Basketball, my favorite sport, shares some similarities in approach. The combination of talent and training, with some scripted aspects of play and the freedom for spontaneous improvisation is the ultimate in team synergy. When played in this way, basketball is beautiful. The unscripted nature of the game is similar to the improvisational nature of jazz, in which the notes are often unknown in advance, and rely on the combination of thought (intelligence) and feeling response (heart).

Jazz musicians practice for thousands of hours honing their craft, but when they improvise it is the dance between the heart and the mind that creates the magic. A strong foundation is essential, and that is built by mental skills sharpened by diligent practice. It is only then that the heart (feeling) aspect can be given free rein, accessing the practiced knowledge of the mind while allowing for the emergence of brilliant, innovative approaches.

In my passions for jazz and for healing, I practice daily to hone my skills, and I continually push the envelope of possibilities to gather clues and come up with creative approaches to keep people healthy and well.

What I have found is that the more music I play, compose, and listen to, the better I get at medicine.  Just as I study medicine and science for hours each day, I try to do the same with music. Interestingly, over the past decade an abundance of studies have found cognitive and overall health benefits for all who study and play music, from toddlers to retirees.

“One of the things I like about Jazz, kid, is I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Do you?” Bix Beiderbecke

In jazz there is some predictability and familiarity, but also the quest of the “unknown.”  I find strong parallels between jazz and a complex medical model such as the Eclectic Triphasic Medical System (ETMS). Learning jazz may be the ultimate in training minds to think both critically and creatively.

Studying, listening, and playing jazz has trained my brain in a unique way that includes hand-eye coordination, the ability to listen inwardly and outwardly, the skills of memorization, discipline, patience, critical and creative thinking, and the high-speed intellectual engagement that involves the convergence of my ideas and feelings with the ideas and feelings of others.

What does jazz music have in common with the ETMS?

  • the primacy of improvisation, within a frame-work, which demands creativity
  • the ability to retain large amounts of information from various sources
  • the melody
  • the complexity of the harmonic theory
  • the flexibility of rhythm
  • the variety of formats (duet, trio, small group, medium group, orchestra)

Creating jazz music requires the interplay of abilities, just as the ETMS does, which are reflected in unique development within the brain. Scientists have discovered that the brain activity of jazz musicians differs from those of classical musicians, even when playing the same piece of music.

Creative thinking is central to the arts, music, sciences, and everyday life. How exactly, though, does the brain produce creative thought? A series of recently published papers has begun to provide insight into this question, reporting a strikingly similar pattern of brain activity and connectivity across a range of creative tasks and domains, from divergent thinking to poetry composition to musical improvisation. 1

Many research scientists now believe that creativity relies on real-time combinations of known neural and cognitive processes. One useful model of creativity comes from musical improvisation, such as in jazz, in which musicians spontaneously create novel sound sequences.2

Jazz musicians differ from classical musicians, just as holistic traditional practitioners differ from mainstream allopathic physicians. For example, a recent scientific study found that jazz pianists revised incongruent harmonies more quickly while classical pianists experienced more conflict during incongruent harmony.

Jazz musicians are more frequently engaged in extracurricular musical activities, and also complete a higher number of creative musical achievements. Additionally, jazz musicians show higher ideational creativity as measured by divergent thinking tasks, and tend to be more open to new experiences than classical musicians.

Jazz musicians show particularly high creativity with respect to specific musical accomplishments but also in terms of general indicators of divergent thinking ability that may be relevant for musical improvisation.3 I find this to be true for medicine and healing, as well.

What this means is that classical pianists focus on playing pieces perfectly according to the written music. Jazz pianists, on the other hand, improvise and adapt their playing to create unexpected harmonies and melodies, and free themselves from the obsession of the perfection of the written notations.4

One approach is not necessarily superior; I am merely noting the differences. I firmly believe to be a good jazz musician, one must practice, be skillful, and be attuned to the composition. But I also believe the classical musician needs to find self-expression with the limitations of the written music to make the music come alive. Concepts from both classical and jazz music can be found within the ETMS, but it is clearly built upon a jazz paradigm.

Within the ETMS the concepts of jazz bring a vitality and freshness to integrative medicine. I see the ETMS as a poetic vitalistic traditional medicinal system (such as traditional Chinese medicine), harmonizing with more heroic modern scientific medicine.

The challenge is to integrate the artistic, adaptable, multi-faceted system of an approach such as the ETMS with the single-minded, narrow approach of the current medical paradigm. In my opinion, this remains the most significant obstacle in the medical dialogue, and can only happen when the scientific community becomes more open and more creative—essentially, integrating the principles of the art of jazz into the art of medicine and healing.5

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein


  • Przysinda EZeng T1Maves KArkin CLoui P. Jazz musicians reveal role of expectancy in human creativity, Brain Cogn.2017 Dec;119:45-53. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2017.09.008. Epub 2017 Oct 11.
  • Benedek M, Borovnjak B, Neubauer AC, Kruse-Weber S.Pers Creativity and personality in classical, jazz and folk musicians. Individ Dif. 2014 Jun; 63(100):117-121.
  • Bianco, R. Novembre, G., Keller, P.E. Villringer, A. Sammler., Musical genre-dependent behavioural and EEG signatures of action planning. A comparison between classical and jazz pianists. NeuroImage, 2018; 169: 383 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.12.058
  • Beaty RE, Benedek M, Silvia PJ, Schacter DL. Creative Cognition and Brain Network Dynamics. Trends Cogn Sci. 2016 Feb;20(2):87-95. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2015.10.004. Epub 2015 Nov 6. Review.
  • Johnson DR. Playing off the beat: Applying the jazzparadigm to psychotherapy. J Clin Psychol. 2018 Feb;74(2):249-260. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22579. Epub 2018 Jan 10.

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Almost daily, we are warned of the dangers of exposure to toxins from pollutants in our air, water, food, home, and workplace. The reality of modern life is that no matter how careful we may be, we are inevitably exposed to a variety of toxins. For many people, knowing that toxins are linked to cancer, cardiovascular, neurological, and other diseases creates a great deal of anxiety.

What most people don’t realize is that virtually any substance can be toxic—even pure water. We’re constantly encouraged to drink plenty of water, but drinking too much water in a short period of time can cause hyponatremia (basically, water intoxication). In severe cases, water intoxication can lead to seizures, coma, and even death.

The example of water as a potential toxin makes it obvious that not all potential toxins are toxic at any level. And it raises the question: Should we take extreme measures to aggressively detoxify and rid our bodies of substances deemed toxic?

Fear and Misunderstanding Concerning Toxins

The reality is that it is impossible to avoid toxins in our modern world (and in truth, there have always been toxic substances in our environment). A vast industry has arisen that plays into the fear and misunderstanding of toxins. Many companies promote products that claim heavy duty “cleansing” of our organ systems, encouraging extreme approaches that can actually cause more harm to the body than the exposure itself.

Blog 1

The first rule of toxicology is that the dose makes the poison. As I described with the example of water, substances that may be harmful at high dosages may be completely harmless or even beneficial at low doses. Certainly, it is best to avoid altogether certain types of chemicals such as persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, since our body stores them in fat cells as a way of protecting our vital organs. Unfortunately, avoiding POPs is extremely difficult. Not only are these chemicals widely used in pest control, crop production, and industry, but POPs also persist in our environment and in our bodies.

Fortunately, the body has myriad ways of dealing with harmful compounds, including redox-anti-oxidant enzymes that break down large harmful chemical compounds into smaller compounds that are less damaging. These secondary oxidative compounds are then transported out of the body through the organs of elimination. However, our bodies were not designed for the large number of toxins we now encounter on a daily basis. Providing support for the organs of elimination through natural compounds such as those found in adaptogenic formulations aid in toxin removal without stressing the body.1


A Scientific, Cellular Look at How our Bodies Deal with Toxins

To understand how adaptogens support our bodies in dealing with toxins, let’s take a look at detoxification on a cellular level. The phenomenon of hormesis provides a novel way of viewing the effects of toxins on the body.

The mechanism of hormesis demonstrates that high levels of toxins cause damage resulting in death of the cell and eventually the corresponding organism, whereas low levels are capable of activating transcription factors that mediate the adaptive stress response, culminating in increased lifespan, improved health, and improved stress tolerance. Mitochondrial hormesis (mitohormesis) is a significant adaptive-response signaling pathway.

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As you can see from the illustration above, low levels of toxins activate different transcription factors (shown here in green) leading to downstream effects that increase the expression of important genes known to strengthen systemic defense mechanisms, including antioxidant enzymes, phase I and phase II detoxifying enzymes, heat shock proteins that act as important chaperones, and the unfolded protein response that is a major signal controlling cellular metabolism.

This general phenomenon is called conditioning, which means the overall effect of mitohormesis is to support and prepare the mitochondrial system for future challenges by increasing the global cell defenses. The cumulative effect of this overall support for the adaptive stress response is to increase lifespan.2

On the one hand, ROS (reactive oxygen species) induces oxidative damage to proteins, DNA and lipids. On the other hand, they also trigger the organism’s adaptive responses, including antioxidant and heat shock responses, fatty acid deacylation-reacylation, cell cycle regulation, DNA repair and apoptosis, unfolded protein responses, and autophagy stimulation.

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Are Low Levels of Stress Beneficial?

Interestingly, this seems to indicate that low levels of stress, instead of being harmful, may have positive effects on health and longevity.

Research suggests that the extent of the immediate hormetic effects after each individual exposure may only be moderate, but lead to biologically amplified effects that could have much larger, synergistic and pleotropic effects. The consequence of this hormetic amplification is an increase in the homeodynamic space of a living system, including increased defense capacity and a reduced load of damaged molecules.

The general effect is that hormetic strengthening of the homeodynamic space provides wider margins for metabolic fluctuation, stress tolerance, adaptation and survival. Wider margins enhance hermetic strengthening and increase flexibility and the ability to adapt. Couple this with adaptogenic formulas and you have a powerful “dynamic duo” for improving health and lifespan.

The takeaway message is that hormesis may promote healthy aging through mild and periodic, but not severe or chronic physical and mental challenges, and by the use of nutritional hormesis incorporating mild stress-inducing molecules called hormetins.

“A consequence of hormetic amplification is an increase in the homeodynamic space of a living system in terms of increased defense capacity and reduced load of damaged macromolecules. Hormetic strengthening of the homeodynamic space provides wider margins for metabolic fluctuation, stress tolerance, adaptation and survival.”4

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As shown on this curve above as healthspan (or lifespan), exposure to low doses of otherwise harmful agents appears to be beneficial.

How Stress Increases “Survival of the Fittest”  

Herbert Spencer first used the phrase “survival of the fittest” in his Principles of Biology (1864) after reading Charles Darwin‘s On the Origin of Species. Spencer drew parallels between his own economic theories and Darwin’s biological ones: “This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called ‘natural selection’, or the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life.” 5

How do we put the phenomenon of hormesis and the observations of Darwin and Spencer into practice? How do we become more “fit” in order to withstand multiple stressors and increase our chances of survival in an increasingly toxic world?

Blog 5

The answer is simple: Adaptogens.

Adaptogens, and particularly adaptogenic formulas, are complex and pleotropic in nature. They are the ultimate multi-taskers, enhancing our ability to respond, adapt, and efficiently remove wastes. Adaptogens are the key to long lasting, systemic overall health benefits, as opposed to a short-term “honeymoon” effect.

If the system on the whole is sick, and you only change one of the parts, it might be okay for a short period of time but will inevitably return to being the same sick system. To make a lasting change in a sick system, you have to address more than just one of the components, and substantially change the context or environment of the system. This is what adaptogens are beautifully suited to do and why they are so effective for improving our general resistance to stress.

The following illustration is an example of herbal compounding for improving digestive health, targeting diverse contributing factors while providing strengthening on all levels:

Blog 6

A Simple Plan for Dealing with Toxins

Your body is well designed to recognize and eliminate toxins. Your job is to minimize your exposure to toxins as much as possible, while providing your body with the support that it needs to do its cleansing and healing tasks. Consistently making healthy food and lifestyle choices goes a long way toward reducing your toxic burden.

As I mentioned earlier, radical cleansing programs often do more harm than good, and can overload and weaken the organs of elimination. Our bodies need support, not radical “housecleaning.” Providing your body with adaptogenic support gives your body what it needs to do its job efficiently.

Adaptogens have also demonstrated they can extend lifespan in flies, worms, and yeast. Adaptogens have been extensively used to improve physical and mental performance and to protect against stress. Adaptogens improve human health and lifespan, and are potentially a viable candidate to treat aging and age-related diseases in humans.6,7,8

It is unlikely that the pharmacological activity of any phytochemical is specific and associated only with one type of receptor, particularly adaptogenic compounds which affect key mediators of the adaptive stress response at intracellular and extracellular levels of communication.

Adding adaptogens to a healthy diet and lifestyle can mean the difference between optimal health and a body burdened by toxic overload. For this reason, adaptogenic formulations are the foundation of all protocols I create, both for people in good health and those suffering from illness.


  1. Reinagel, Monica, September 7, 2017, Does Losing Weight Release Toxins? – Scientific American,
  2. Ristow M, Schmeisser K. Mitohormesis: Promoting Health and Lifespan By Increased Levels of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). Dose-Response. 2014;13:288-341
  3. Mao, Jacqueline Franke , Hormesis in Aging and Neurodegeneration—A Prodigy Awaiting Dissection, Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2013, 14, 13109-13128; doi:10.3390/ijms140713109
  4. Rattan S. Hormesis in aging. Ageing Res Rev. 2008; 7:63-78
  5. “Letter 5140 – Wallace, A. R. to Darwin, C. R., 2 July 1866”Darwin Correspondence Project. Retrieved 12 January2010.
  6. Schriner SE, Lee K, Truong S, Salvadora KT, Maler S, Nam A, et al. (2013) Extension of DrosophilaLifespan by Rhodiola rosea through a Mechanism Independent from Dietary Restriction. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63886.
  7. Anisimov VN. Lifespan extension and cancer risk: myths and reality. Exp Gerontol. 2001 Jul;36(7):1101-36. Review.
  8. Levin O. Phyto-adaptogens–protection against stress? Harefuah. 2015 Mar; 154(3):183-6, 211.
  9. Panossian A. Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogensand other phytochemicals. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2017 Aug;1401(1):49-64. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13399. Epub 2017 Jun 22. Review.

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Pursuit of Truth requires being and listening, rather than doing and assuming; and slowing down rather than speeding up. You must cultivate Truth. The great Eclectic School of Medicine of the early 1900’s had a Motto, which I stand by today. It read: “To Love the Truth, To Prove the Truth, To Apply the Truth, and To Promote the Truth.”

In today’s times, the term “evidence based medicine” is often used and in the past decade has been readily adopted largely by the naturopathic field when speaking in the context of plant-based medicines (the primary “toolbox” of wholistic practitioners) in an effort to gain more acceptance through applying equally high standards of “safety and validity” to those of conventional medicine. However, this is often far from what can be called “truth” since the motive behind clinical research is not to prove “truth” but to have a drug or device approved by the FDA. The problem with using “evidence based medicine” exclusively, rather than “evidence informed medicine”, which I prefer, is that the term originated from the randomized controlled trial research paradigm used to study drugs. Such clinical studies are set up specifically in a reductionist method, removing all variables, which is essential for a drug.

Unfortunately, this method is not applicable to a whole-systems approach where we are constantly personalizing and adapting treatment protocols to the individual, altering that protocol as the circumstances change, as well as using plants, which are pleotropic in their effects. Therefore, while there is a tremendous scientific basis for the therapeutic benefits of plants and nutrients in healing, they tend to not be studied in the most widely-accepted, gold standard, rigorous method designed for drugs, yet that does not make them any less valid or “evidence based” in my opinion. In other words, “evidence based medicine” doesn’t always mean it is the right medicine or the best medicine and we need to look beyond and apply a multitude of lenses to discover this (ie; truth).

Over the past two decades I have spent an average of two hours a day compiling research data on botanical and nutritional medicines. I combine this valuable, credible data with my vast knowledge of historical uses and indications, coupled with three decades of clinical experience, to develop safe, effective, and therapeutic protocols that produce results.

Second, much of what is approved as “truth” in the medical arena—including pharmaceutical drugs and various treatments—actually has little validity and can be more detrimental than doing nothing. The attempt to gain approval of a drug, device, or treatment method is not a pursuit of truth, but unfortunately, is often driven by self -interest, and lacks the necessary ingredient of wisdom.

When it comes to postulating truths about herbal and dietary medicine, the medical establishment is not only frequently incorrect and dogmatic, but often maintains a position that is opposite to the truth, especially when it comes to herbs. Examples of this include “Don’t take herbs prior to surgery, because they are blood thinners and will inhibit clotting,” or “Don’t take echinacea if you have a blood cancer, such as leukemia, because it could stimulate the growth of leukemia cells.” Misinformation is rampant, and the internet has exacerbated the problem. For this reason, I recommend against searching for information on the internet about herbs and cancer or diet and cancer. There is an abundance of bad information and a lack of wisdom and integrity to guide you towards the truth.

What is Wisdom?
“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge” – Daniel Boorstein

Wisdom involves an understanding of the nature, source, and limits of knowledge, together with the degree to which we are able to “teotl” (to understand with the Divine Spirit, taken from the Aztec religion).

1 “The greatest scientists are artists as well,” said Albert Einstein. For Einstein, insight did not come from logic or mathematics. It came, as it does for artists, from intuition and inspiration. Einstein also said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” – Albert Einstein

Truth involves a willingness to accept that the natural and the supernatural coexist. But this is not the way of modern conventional medicine. As a result, the medical profession is painfully shortsighted and makes egregious errors, including making proclamations about health that prove to be incorrect.

The Dangerous Assumptions of Modern Medicine
“It seemed to me that a careful examination of the room and the lawn might possibly reveal some traces of this mysterious individual. You know my methods, Watson. There was not one of them, which I did not apply to the inquiry. And it ended by my discovering traces, but very different ones from those which I had expected.” – The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1893)

When I was five years old, my mother was told, if they removed my tonsils, it would improve my health and reduce the incidence of sore throats and infections. It wasn’t too many years later that the standard-of-care regarding prophylactic removal of the tonsils was stopped, and the tonsils were recognized as an important part of the immune system. But it was too late for me, and for millions of other children who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s.

Other examples of non-truths we have been led to believe are, “Eggs and butter contain cholesterol, so to avoid heart disease don’t eat them, but instead eat vegetable margarine.” “Foods that contain natural vitamin K such as fruits and vegetables should be avoided when taking Coumadin (warfarin).” “Nonfat milk products, such as yogurt, milk and cheese, are healthier for you than whole dairy products.” “Avoid all soy foods including traditional soy foods if you have or have had breast cancer.” The list goes on and on.

I am continually appalled by how much of modern medicine is not based in truth, and worse, is accepted without any evidence. For example, not so long ago, if you had a small hormonal positive breast cancer, the standard-of-care was a mastectomy with lymph node dissection, with a full course of high dose chemotherapy that included three agents, followed by tamoxifen therapy, regardless of your age. No one questioned this practice, or asked for evidence demonstrating that the protocol significantly enhanced life or improved quality-of-life. The sad truth is that the accepted protocol did not benefit the vast majority of women. A small percentage of women were helped, but many others were irreparably damaged by the treatment, and would have been better off with no treatment except for hormone inhibition.

Yet herbal medicine, used for thousands of years and documented in countless historical medical textbooks, folklore, and in many cases re-validated by modern medicine, is falsely accused of not being “evidence based.”

An Alternative View: Logical Positivism
One of my dissatisfactions with conventional medicine and traditional alternative medicine is the closed-mindedness of both. In the pursuit of truth, we must seek open-mindedness. Conventional medicine encompasses an inherently restricted set of categories and paradigms for understanding patients and diseases. But given that no single method is suitable for all patients, problems, and situations, this approach is far from optimal.

I propose logical positivism as an alternative to the current dogmatic, narrow view of modern conventional medicine. Logical positivism is spiritual-rationality in the most pristine form. It is considered culturally universal in traditional healing systems, and incorporates traditional wisdom, scientific knowledge, logic, intuition, and prayer, making it applicable to all modalities and situations.

Logical positivism is something I fully embrace and have incorporated into the foundation of my approach. Mederi Care, more formally known as the Eclectic Triphasic Medical System (ETMS), is not a combination of “bits and pieces” from different systems trying to find synergy or integration, but rather a unified approach driven by extensive research and clinical application.

Embracing the Eclectic: The ETMS
The word eclectic implies a philosophical integration of several distinct styles or approaches to form the most favorable perspective. A central characteristic of the ETMS is the commitment to examining whatever techniques work in therapy, regardless of the different theories that spawned them. Eclecticism, the root word of ETMS, is the opposite of closed-mindedness, because it pulls together a number of theories and systems, old and new, into a harmonious model of health and healing. The ETMS offers a much more comprehensive approach than any single theory alone.

The ETMS is unique in that it applies medical scientific rigor, creativity, intuition, and prayer to the practice of medicine and individual patient care. In developing the paradigm of the ETMS, I have been greatly influenced by Albert Einstein as well as the great jazz saxophonist, John Coltrane (who was also fascinated by Einstein).


Coltrane and Einstein both honed their gifts of intuition; the first, to create unequalled jazz; the second, to transform our understanding of the universe by transcending mathematical limitations with intuition. Einstein improvised using what he called gedankenexperiments (German for thought experiments), which provided him with a mental picture of the outcome of experiments no one could perform. On the one hand, Einstein used mathematical rigor; on the other, creativity and intuition. Similarly, Coltrane merged his brilliant musicianship with creativity and intuition to take jazz in an entirely new direction.

Mederi Care: Strategies and Challenges
A cornerstone of the ETMS is the focus of gentle health-promoting herbal and dietary medicine that assists the innate healing capacity of the body and enhances all auto-regulatory systems. The ETMS proposes that a healthy system is one that self-regulates in the face of network perturbations. This type of humble medicine is as important as the highly selective targeted molecular therapies that are widely promoted as the pinnacle of modern medicine. In fact, the ETMS approach integrates well with targeted molecular therapies. Unfortunately, many conventional medical practitioners fail to recognize the value of supporting the body’s intrinsic healing ability.

For example, confronting cancer requires combining multiple influences and interrelationship dynamics into a comprehensive strategy. Instead of focusing on a single root cause, the ETMS addresses the spectrum of root causes to create a unified, multi-focused protocol that combines ‘gentle-macro’ medicine with appropriate ‘strong-micro’ medicine, all tailored to the individual. Success is measured by outcome, quality of life, and health care costs, which are the most important parameters.

The Unique Intelligence of the Plant Kingdom
One of the cornerstones of the ETMS is botanical medicine. In contrast, modern conventional medicine often overlooks the plant world. We take plants for granted, and yet, they nourish us, purify our air, and offer remedies for our ills.

According to the criteria of Aristotle, plants actually might have a soul.

3 Plants eat, drink, sleep, communicate, sense, heal, respond, move (albeit slowly), adapt, protect, and not only survive, but thrive even in the harshest of environments.
Plants have a Life Force, just as we do. Traditional herbal medicine and the ETMS are directed towards gentle enhancement of the Life Force, and plants are our companions in this journey.

The Eclectic Physicians referred to the Life Force as the “Vis conservatrix” which was described as vitality, vital powers, and conservative power. They believed the most effective therapeutic change is one that accesses and supports the individual’s innate capacity to heal, and practiced according to their motto, “Sustain the Life Force.”

The foundation of the ETMS is to support and enhance the Life Force. Through various toolboxes, the ETMS not only addresses the molecular complexity of a particular disease, leading to the identification of disease characteristics and pathways, but also the molecular relationships among apparently distinct (patho) phenotypes, the microenvironment, and of utmost importance, the host.

Purity of Heart and the Pursuit of Truth
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” – John Wooden

John Wooden is perhaps the greatest basketball coach ever. He was also a great wise teacher and guru to many of us. He exuded intelligence and class, and he is an inspiration for many of us who try hard to instill the concept of teamwork, honesty and fairness in our work and in our life.

In seeking Truth, we must have Purity of Heart, which enables Clear Thinking (Wisdom), Capacity to Reason (Intelligence), the Insight of Truth (Understanding), and the Harvest of Good. The greater our purity of heart, the greater is our ability to find truth.

To understand means to find harmony between the idea (arising from above, in communion with the Divine), and the reflection below, the manifestation of the idea. In other words “as above, so below.” There must be a connecting link between the object and the subject, the knowing (what can be explained and understood) and the unknowing (what cannot be entirely explained or understood). We must be not only willing to be open to this concept, but see it as essential to understanding truth and the ultimate pursuit of healing.

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I rarely question any food that much of the world has been using for thousands of years. Eventually, science confirms the health benefits of foods and medicines of traditional cultures, and I believe that holds true for coconut. However, a food that is used liberally in one culture does not necessarily mean that the health benefits transfer to other cultures—we must take into consideration climate, other dietary factors, genetics, and lifestyle.

Coconut halves with shell on a dark background. Top view with copyspace

Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) grows near the equator, and is a staple for people who live in areas that are hot and sunny all year round. All parts of the coconut tree are used in the daily life of people in traditional coconut growing areas, and the coconut itself (which is actually a fruit, nut, and seed) is especially valued for its nutritional and medicinal benefits. Coconuts offer coconut water, coconut flesh, coconut milk, and coconut oil produced from the kernel. The shell, husk, and leaves are also used for creating a variety of household and decorative items.

As beneficial as coconuts and coconut oil appear to be for people living in a hot, tropical climate, coconut is not appropriate as a dietary staple for someone living in a cold climate. Coconut oil is 92 percent saturated, and is liquid in the tropics but a solid fat in northern climes. (There’s a botanical reason—the increased saturation of the oil helps to maintain stiffness in the plant leaves. Foods in different climate zones have different fatty acid profiles to help them adapt and thrive.) Because coconut oil is so highly saturated, it is very stable in hot weather and when used for cooking at higher temperatures, unlike polyunsaturated fats, which oxidize at high temperatures.

I do not recommend heavy use of coconut oil or other coconut foods for daily use or as a “health supplement”, unless you live in the tropics and adopt the traditional lifestyle of the cultures that live there. Nature is our best teacher, and the healthiest approach is to eat foods that grow in our climate because those best meet our needs. At the same time, I believe that it is beneficial to vary our diets according to the season, as well as eating in accordance with our genetic heritage, locale, and climate. For example, I recommend coconut in the summer, and walnuts in the fall—but always, I advise moderation.

Why is Coconut Controversial?

Much of the confusion and negative press about coconut relates to its saturated fat content. It’s true that coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fats—almost 90 percent of its fatty acids are saturated. But as I have stated on many occasions, it is refined oxidative polyunsaturated trans-fats that are problematic, not saturated fats.

In the 1950’s, coconut oil was frequently used in America for frying and baking. It was excellent for both purposes (and highly stable), but the popularity of coconut oil came to a sudden halt when studies reported that saturated fats cause high triglyceride levels. The conclusion was that saturated fats raise cholesterol levels, and the U.S. Government adopted new dietary guidelines stating that all saturated fats, including coconut oil, contribute to heart disease and strongly recommended that these fats be avoided.

Unfortunately, partially hydrogenated vegetable shortenings took the place of coconut oil, with disastrous health effects that have come to light in recent years. The trans fats contained in partially hydrogenated fats have been clearly linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases, and the government now recommends that we avoid trans fats—a recommendation that I wholeheartedly agree with.

It’s important to note that the type of saturated fat contained in coconut oil is different from that found in meat or dairy products. Whereas most saturated fats are comprised of long-chain fatty acids, coconut oil is unusually rich in short and medium chain fatty acids. Shorter chain length allows fatty acids to be metabolized without use of the carnitine transport system. This means the fatty acids in coconut go directly to the liver, where they are used as an immediate source of energy, or are transformed into ketones, which may be beneficial in brain and nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Additional Health Benefits of Coconut

The coconut kernel and young coconut water have numerous medicinal properties, including antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, antidermatophytic, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, hepatoprotective, and immunostimulant. Coconut water and coconut kernel also contain numerous health supportive microminerals and nutrients. For these reasons, in Indian classics, the coconut palm is referred to as ‘Kalpavriksha’ (the all giving tree).1

Studies show that coconut has antioxidant properties; reduces inflammation; protects liver function during chemotherapy; and in certain forms, even improves lipid profiles (despite its high saturated fat content).

Lauric acid, the major fatty acid in coconut fat, has significant antiviral, antibacterial and antiprotozoal properties, while caprilic acid is widely known as an antifungal agent.

Drinking fresh coconut milk, particularly from the young green coconut, is an excellent way to prevent both dysentery and dehydration when traveling in tropical countries.

The health benefits of coconut are substantial. However, as with most things, I believe in practicing moderation when consuming coconut milk, coconut oil, and other coconut products.

I use (and recommend) extra virgin olive oil for low to medium heat cooking and for salad dressing. For high heat cooking, and often for baking, I use coconut oil. In my morning smoothies, I add 1-2 ounces of coconut milk or coconut milk powder, and coconut water. I occasionally use high-oleic sunflower oil in cooking if a light, neutral flavor is most appropriate.

Recent Published Scientific Studies Supporting the Health Benefits of Coconut

  • Antioxidant and Stress Protective Properties of Coconut Oil

Medium-chain fatty acids have been shown to have antidepressant effects. However, this effect had not been studied in virgin coconut oil (VCO), which is rich in polyphenols and medium-chain fatty acids. In a 2015 study, researchers found that laboratory mice treated with VCO exhibited higher levels of brain antioxidants and reduced physiological stress (measured by serum cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and corticosterone levels) when subjected to a forced swim test and cold temperatures. The results suggest the potential value of VCO as an antistress functional oil.2

  • VirginCoconut OilProtects Against Chemotherapy (Methotrexate)-Induced Liver Damage

Methotrexate (MTX) is a chemotherapy drug used to treat cancer of the breast, skin, head and neck, or lung. It is also used to treat severe psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. The drug can cause life-threatening side effects, including liver damage. In a laboratory study, researchers found that supplementing with virgin coconut oil (VCO) prior to methotrexate administration lessened liver injury and oxidative stress, evidenced by significant improvements in serum liver markers, hepatic antioxidant enzymes and malondialdehyde, a lipid peroxidation marker. The researchers suggest that the findings may have beneficial application in the management of hepatotoxicity associated with MTX cancer therapy.3

  • Coconut Oil: Body Composition, Lipids, and Inflammatory Markers in Postmenopausal Women

A number of studies indicate that including coconut oil in the diet can alter body composition in a beneficial way, helping people lose weight and particularly, aiding in reducing abdominal fat.

Researchers studied postmenopausal women who consumed either 30 mL of virgin coconut oil (VCO) or safflower oil (SO) to determine the effects on blood lipids. They found that although VCO raised total cholesterol, it also increased protective high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL). The researchers concluded that women who wish to use coconut oil in their diets can do so safely.4

  • Coconut Oil and Cardiovascular Health

Coconut oil has been heavily promoted in the popular press as being beneficial for cardiovascular health. The results of this scientific review support my assertion that the most healthful way to use coconut is in moderation.

Twenty-one research papers were identified for inclusion in the review: 8 clinical trials and 13 observational studies. The majority examined the effect of coconut oil or coconut products on serum lipid profiles. Coconut oil generally raised total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol to a greater extent than cis unsaturated plant oils, but to a lesser extent than butter. The effect of coconut consumption on the ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol was often not examined.

Observational evidence suggests that consumption of coconut flesh or squeezed coconut in the context of traditional dietary patterns does not lead to adverse cardiovascular outcomes. However, due to large differences in dietary and lifestyle patterns, these findings cannot be applied to a typical Western diet. Overall, the weight of the evidence from intervention studies to date suggests that replacing coconut oil with unsaturated fats would alter blood lipid profiles in a manner consistent with a reduction in risk factors for cardiovascular disease.5

  • Coconut Flakes Improve Lipid Profiles

In contrast to coconut oil, coconut flakes have been shown to improve serum cholesterol levels. In a clinical study, researchers investigated the effects of coconut flakes on 21 subjects with moderately raised serum cholesterol (ranging from 259 to 283 mg/dL).

Researchers tested corn flakes as the control food, oat bran flakes as the reference food, and corn flakes containing 15% and 25% dietary fiber made from coconut flakes. Results showed a significant reduction in serum total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol for all test foods, with the exception of corn flakes.

Serum triglycerides were significantly reduced for all test foods.

Coconut flour is a good source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, and both types of fiber may have an important role in the reduction of serum cholesterol.6

  • Coconut Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease

Medium chain triglycerides are a direct source of cellular energy, and some studies indicate that coconut oil can be a nonpharmacological alternative to the neuronal death that occurs in Alzheimer patients.

In a recent study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of coconut oil in the development of Alzheimer’s dementia. Participants were given 40/ml day of extra virgin coconut oil, and results were evaluated using cognitive testing and compared to a control group. The findings indicated that subjects taking the coconut oil showed an improvement in cognitive status. Those benefiting the most were women, those without type-2 diabetes, and those with more severe disease.7

~Two of My Favorite Recipes Using Coconut~

Coconut-Lime Broiled Tempeh

unnamedI created this recipe several years ago, and our family enjoys it at least a couple of times a month. Toasted sesame oil adds a rich, nutty flavor, while   coconut oil, lime, and cilantro add and Indonesian flair to the dish. This is delicious served over steamed brown basmati or black rice. Serves 4.









  • Juice from 2 limes, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tsp. fresh grated lime peel
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seed oil
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1-2 tbsp. tamari
  • 2-3 minced cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp. fresh sliced ginger
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • Dash of ground pepper (black and/or crushed red pepper)
  • Optional: 1-2 tsp. Za’atar, 1 tsp. dried cumin powder
  • 1 12-ounce package tempeh


  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 2 cups shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large sliced onion
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • Garnish: fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Additional Seasoning Added at End of Baking Time:

  • 2-4 oz coconut milk
  • 1-2 tsp. red curry paste


  1. Combine all ingredients (through tempeh) in a glass baking dish, cover, and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Transfer tempeh, vegetables, and sauce to heavy broiling pan. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  4. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. At end of baking time, add coconut milk and curry paste and finish by broiling for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve over black or brown rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Easy Coconut Whipped Cream

An easy, dairy-free alternative to traditional whipped cream! Author:









  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled (cream only)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Chill the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Chill a pint glass canning jar for at least 10 minutes in the freezer. Remove the chilled can of coconut milk from the refrigerator.
  3. Open the can of coconut milk and scoop the thickened cream into the chilled canning jar. Reserve the remaining coconut liquid for a smoothie.
  4. Add the pure maple syrup and vanilla extract to the heavy coconut cream, then screw the lid onto the canning jar. Shake vigorously for 3-5 minutes, until the cream is thickened and fluffy in texture.
  5. Serve immediately over your favorite fruit or dessert.


  1. DebMandal M1Mandal S. Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.: Arecaceae): in healthpromotion and disease prevention. Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2011 Mar;4(3):241-7. doi: 10.1016/S1995-7645(11)60078-3. Epub 2011 Apr 12.
  2. Swee Keong Yeap, Boon Kee Beh, Norlaily Mohd Ali, etc. Antistress and antioxidant effects of virgin coconut oil in vivo, Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. 2015 9: 39-42.
  3. Famurewa AC, Ufebe OG, Egedigwe CA, et al. Virgin coconut oilsupplementation attenuates acute chemotherapy hepatotoxicity induced by anticancer drug methotrexate via inhibition of oxidative stress in rats. Biomed Pharmacother. 2017 Mar;87:437-442. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2016.12.123. Epub 2017 Jan 6.
  4. Harris M, Hutchins A, Fryda L. The Impact of Virgin Coconut Oiland High-Oleic Safflower Oil on Body Composition, Lipids, and Inflammatory Markers in Postmenopausal Women. J Med Food. 2017 Apr;20(4):345-351. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2016.0114. Epub 2017 Mar 9.
  5. Eyres L, Eyres M, Chisholm A, Brown R. Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans, Nutr Rev. 2016 Apr;74(4):267-80, doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuw002
  6. Trinidad TP, Loyola AS, Mallillin AC, et al. The cholesterol-lowering effect of coconut flakes in humans with moderately raised serum cholesterol. J Med Food.  2004 Summer;7(2):136-40.
  7. Hu Yang I, De la Rubia Ortí JE, Selvi Sabater P, et al. Coconut Oil: Non-Alternative Drug Treatment Against Alheimer’s Disease. Nutr Hosp. 2015 Dec 1;32(6):2822-7. doi: 10.3305/nh.2015.32.6.9707.

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