“The greater the suffering, the greater God’s love is bestowed onto you.” Padre Pio

People have been increasingly distancing themselves from each other, even before this horrific pandemic hit. Years ago, in an interview with Self magazine, I was asked what I thought the number one contributor was to our poor health. My answer then was the same as it is now—a lack of intimacy. We’re losing the quality and ability to relate, not just to each other, but to our environment and Nature. For example, people go for walks, but instead of quietly connecting with nature, many are focused on their phones. People at my gym walk around with earbuds in and don’t make eye contact with each other. We are lonely, and most of us don’t even know it. With the sudden onset of COVID-19, we’ve isolated even more. Meanwhile, the opportunity to be present and in tune with our surroundings and each other exists every day. Even if we are physically distant, our deep presence can make even the briefest or seemingly small encounters more lasting and meaningful.


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This nourishing soup is a delicious way to naturally boost your immunity. Traditionally prepared in cultures throughout the world, bone broth is easily digested and provides a wealth of nutritional and immune support factors. I myself do not eat meat and promote a 85/15 ratio diet of plant foods to animal foods. When people have lost blood from surgery or other causes and/or are undergoing chemotherapy, the blood nourishment from the addition of the animal bones is specifically helpful for recovery. I have no vegetarian alternative, but you can make the soup without the animal  bones and it will still be extremely beneficial and immune boosting, but less helpful for those with iron anemia. For beef alternatives, many people use elk or lamb. I understand and respect anyone that chooses not to consume this for ethical reasons,  but as Ben Franklin so eloquently wrote, “A place for everything, everything in its place.” 


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“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

~ Dr. Martin Luther King

Our brains have the remarkable capacity to adapt and change throughout our lives. This ability to form and reorganize neural pathways in response to learning, experience, injury, disease, or aging is called neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity helps the brain process sensory input along with creating suitable adaptive responses to stimuli. Neurons must have purpose to survive, and those with weak or ineffective connections are pruned. Through a variety of structural and molecular mechanisms, neurons compensate for injury or disease.


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More people are reaching a ripe old age than ever before in history. In the early 1800s, life expectancy was a mere 45 years. But today, in Australia, Canada, Japan, and most European countries, people can expect to live to 80 and beyond. If the trend continues, a majority of babies born in these countries will live past their 100th birthday. But this increase in longevity comes with some bad news. Although we manage to survive longer than preceding generations, we often gain time without being healthier in those extra years.

The Difference Between Thriving and Surviving as We Age

Studies worldwide indicate that after age 60, most people have at least one chronic disorder, such as heart disease or diabetes. A recent population-based study in Sweden found that at age 80, only one of 10 individuals were living well and not suffering from either a chronic disease or Frailty Syndrome.

In the U.S. almost one-third of people older than 85 have received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, often combined with other types of dementia such as that caused by vascular disease.1

What’s Wrong with Our Modern Medicine Healthcare Model?

Modern Medicine faces fundamental challenges in that we are removing the human element and attempting to reduce everything to a single cause and effect.  Given the functional interdependencies between the molecular components in a human cell, disease is rarely a consequence of an abnormality in a single gene, but reflects the perturbations of the complex intracellular and intercellular network that links tissue and organ systems.2


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In my observation, far too many people today are merely surviving instead of thriving. I attribute most of the erosion of well being—including the growing prevalence of chronic, degenerative diseases—to the increased stressors of contemporary society. Although the role of stress in disease has long been recognized, it is now more fully understood through the advances of scientific research.

Perhaps the biggest breakthrough in cancer has been the discovery of the relationship between the sympathetic nervous system and cancer growth and reoccurrence. This was first detected though observational research showing a strong association between cancer patients on beta-blockers and a reduction in reoccurrence rates, a slowing of cancer growth, and decreased angiogenesis. 1-6 Researchers studying the relationship of vagal nerve activity (measured through heart rate variability) and the neuro-modulation of tumors found improved overall survival rate in cancer patients when the parasympathetic nervous system (the system responsible for calming the body) is activated.7

These are exciting discoveries, and support my life’s work on the importance of using herbal adaptogens and nervines to help the body adapt to physical and emotional stressors. Neither disease nor treatment of disease, including natural approaches through health optimization, can be described in a linear reductionist model, which is what almost everyone attempts to do. It is the collective effect of the perturbations in multiple underlying networks that result in the symptoms of disease, thus effective treatment should be directed at strengthening and harmonizing all systems of the organism.


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In my last post, I broadly discussed the exciting field of epigenetics, which is radically changing the landscape of what we’ve long believed about genetics and biological destiny. Emerging research shows that food and herbs may be the most important factors in our genetic well-being, directly affecting our health, disease risk, and longevity.

As a clinical herbalist, I find the relationship between herbs and epigenetics particularly compelling. A large body of research shows that a wide array of botanical compounds work in a variety of ways to maintain health at the cellular level, and offer great promise in improving our molecular expression, protecting against cellular stressors and aging by normalizing gene behavior. We cannot change the genes we have, but we can positively alter the fate and behavior of our genes by supplying them with beneficial herbal and dietary compounds.

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