“Live in the sunshine, swim the
sea, drink the wild air”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
plenty of good reasons to be outdoors this summer, and now we can add ‘safe
haven’ to the list. As we all know, strict isolation strategies have been
employed since mid-March to curb the spread of the pandemic. The resulting
isolation, combined with fear of contagion and misinformation overload
(“infodemic”) is creating a great deal of confusion and stress.
no question that reducing the contact rate of latent individuals, and interventions
such as quarantine and isolation, can effectively reduce the potential peak
number of infections and delay the time of peak infection. However, as much as
I believe this to be true as it applies to being indoors, I question whether
being outdoors—even in groups—poses much risk at all. While there is still so
much we don’t know about the virus transmission, we have yet to see proof or a
strong likelihood that the outdoors poses a significant risk. In fact, research suggests it may be safer
compared to indoors.
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.
can be great, because everybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace,
a soul generated by love.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King
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.
The science of epigenetics is turning what we’ve long held true about biological destiny upside down. Although it remains true that our DNA—our genetic code—provides the blueprint for our physiological makeup, researchers have discovered that there’s something extra controlling our genes—and food and herbs may in fact be the most important factors in our genetic well-being.
That extra “something” controlling our genes is the epigenome, the cellular material that sits on top of the genome (the complete set of genetic material present in a cell or organism). While epigenomes do not alter the genetic code, they direct genes to switch on (becoming active) or off (becoming dormant) through a variety of biological mechanisms. This intriguing finding means that your genetic heritage is not the primary determinant of your health, disease risk, or longevity.
Bacopa (Bacopa monniera) has long been revered in Ayurvedic medicine as a tonic for improving memory—the plant is so highly valued that it’s called “Brahmi,” referring to Brahma, the creator of the universe in the Hindu tradition. Ayurvedic practitioners regard bacopa as a rasayana (restorative adaptogenic tonic), and for thousands of years have prescribed it for relieving debility (particularly mental debility), mental chatter, insomnia, depression, chronic fatigue, as a brain tonic to enhance memory development, learning, and concentration1 and to provide relief from anxiety and epileptic disorders.2 Bacopa is also recommended as a general tonic to slow the aging process. In India and Pakistan, bacopa is prescribed as a cardiac tonic, digestive aid, and to improve respiratory function in cases of bronchoconstriction.3
Not so long ago, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was routinely prescribed for menopausal women to alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and insomnia, as well as to protect against osteoporosis, heart disease, dementia and aging. Even women who were content to age naturally were sometimes pushed into taking hormones. For example, my mother decided against hormones, and was told by her doctor, “All right then, you can just let your skin sag and watch your body age quickly.” Unfortunately for women, hormone replacement turned out to have unexpected negative consequences, as long-term clinical studies showed that HRT increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, blood clots, and hormone-related cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer—even with short-term use. HRT is also associated with a significant increase in lung cancer and death from lung cancer. It’s almost unthinkable, but HRT has even been prescribed for women with breast cancer, with the result being double the reoccurrence rate of cancer (J Natl Cancer Inst 2008; 100: 475-482).
This may seem to be a radical stance, but I believe it is mistake to think that illness and disease are an inevitable part of the normal aging process. Although we may think of aging in relation to outward appearance, the way we look reflects only certain aspects of age, some of which are superficial–such as gray hair and laugh lines. How we think and feel inwardly–including our energy and zest for life–and the way our brain, bones, digestion, immune system, and the rest of our body functions is a much more accurate indication of our aging status.