Christmas, Hanukkah, and the Winter Solstice are a good time for reflection and renewal as well as celebration. This year, I invite you to take time to consider the way that you view the world, and how you might shift your thinking to become happier, healthier, more compassionate, and more at peace.

In my work, I am acutely aware of the adverse effects of a pessimistic, negative view of life. Depression, anxiety, and loneliness continue to increase in our society. There is no doubt that these are challenging and unsettling times in our world. But the truth is that we have always faced the painful challenges of war, political strife, prejudice, and tragedies on a global and personal level.

I encourage you to not fall into the quagmire of pessimism, discouragement, negativity, or bitterness. I hear many people speak of their distress and their belief that the world is doomed. They see only tragedy, hatred, and destruction, and believe nothing good is happening in the world. Keep an open heart, my brothers and sisters. Take time for stillness, seek the truth, and devote yourself to acts of loving-kindness.

Devote yourself to acts of loving kindness”

Keep Your Focus on Responding, not Reacting

I find it helpful in life to focus on responding, not reacting. This is difficult when we are continually reacting to the barrage of information presented by technology. The more fast-paced and frenzied life becomes, the more we tend to react. Slowing down is a simple way of allowing the opportunity for thoughtful response.

We can begin to slow down by reducing our access to personal smart phones, computers, and electronics in general. Instead, take the time to meet a friend in the park or at a coffee shop. Relax, converse, and enjoy. This may sound radical, but occasionally leave your phone in the car or at home. You may be surprised at how much richer and more meaningful your interactions and life are when not lived through technology. We need to have fellowship, and we need to give love, receive love and feel a sense of belonging. This is spiritual nourishment, and without it we starve.


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Sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” oxytocin is a powerful natural biochemical with physical and psychological effects. Acting as both a hormone (affecting the endocrine system) and a neurotransmitter (affecting the nervous system), oxytocin is well known for enhancing sexual behavior, reproduction, childbirth, breastfeeding, and maternal bonding. Perhaps less well known is the role that oxytocin plays in generating compassion, empathy, trust, relationship building, and social bonding.

Oxytocin (Oxt; /ˌɒksɪˈtoʊsɪn/) is a peptide hormone and neuropeptide.

The Whole-Body Effects of Oxytocin

Produced by large neuroendocrine cells in the hypothalamus, oxytocin is transported to and secreted by the pituitary gland, where it is released into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body and brain.1 When oxytocin enters the bloodstream, it affects the uterus and lactation, but when it is released into the brain, it affects emotional, cognitive, and social behavior, and enhances relaxation and psychological stability.

By helping the body adapt to highly emotional situations, oxytocin reduces stress and helps us respond appropriately to our social environment. Research shows that oxytocin benefits a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Oxytocin also regulates nonhomeostatic, reward-related energy intake, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, and the glucoregulatory response to food intake in humans. For these reasons, oxytocin may be helpful in the treatment of metabolic disorders, as well as helping to manage food cravings and weight.2-5


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I’m often asked what I consider to be the healthiest diet. Through decades of nutritional research and experimentation, I’m convinced that a diet of primarily organic, plant-based Mediterranean foods—including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, eggs, dairy products (cow, goat and sheep milk derived) and healthy fats (mostly olive oil), with fish and seafood playing a key role as a main protein source—is by far the best diet for long term health. The term “pesca-flexa-vegetarian” comes closest to describing the diet that my family and I eat.

salmon-salad

 

 

 


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Closely related to the culinary herb sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a plant with a rich history of use as a healing herb. Because this venerable herb has so many applications, it has become one of my favorites. I often include holy basil in adaptogenic tonics, and also find it useful for specific conditions, ranging from support for cancer and cardiovascular disease to improving skin health.

Native to India, holy basil is also known as tulsi, which means “the incomparable one.” Considered as sacred in the Hindu faith, most traditional homes and temples in India have at least one tulsi plant, which is used in prayers to insure personal health, spiritual purity, and family well-being. In Ayurvedic medicine, tulsi is classified as a rasayana, an herb that nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and enlightenment and promotes long life.


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In my two previous posts on thyroid health, I discussed the potential problems associated with diagnosing and treating thyroid issues. As I stated in my first post, thyroid problems are frequently under diagnosed, primarily because of inadequate testing and incomplete understanding of the complexities of thyroid function. At the same time, thyroid problems are often treated in ways that further compromise function.


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In my post last week, I discussed at length the use of kava (Piper mythesticum) for the treatment of anxiety. Kava is one of my favorite herbs—not only for its beneficial effects on the nervous system, but also because it appears to have unique anti-cancer properties. However, as with any herb, I recommend using it in combination with other herbs and nutrients. In my practice, I’ve found that combining herbs and nutrients enables me to create formulas that are far more effective than relying on a single herb. This is the traditional manner of practicing herbalism, and it is as much an art as it is a science.


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