As a passionate home chef, I can’t imagine cooking without a full array of herbs and spices. And as an herbalist, I can’t imagine creating a health protocol without the use of herbs and spices. Fortunately, culinary and medicinal herbs are often one and the same. As Hippocrates said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
As an herbalist, nutritionist, jazz musician, and chef, I find that food preparation and cooking is similar to combining herbs for medicine or composing music. Home cooking is a creative endeavor, and the reward is a delicious and healthy meal that can be savored with family and friends.
The vibrant colors we observe in plants serve a
different role depending on the organism being considered. For the plant itself, the pigments may aid in
the absorption of light and photosynthesis, as well as contribute to metabolism
and reproduction. For birds and insects,
the pigments provide a signal to the availability of food, such as nectar or
pollen. For humans, the pigments may
provide a clue of the type of health benefits we are likely to incur upon
In my observation, far too many people today are merely surviving instead of thriving. I attribute most of the erosion of well being and resilience—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. Continue reading “Adaptogens – Essential Support for Restoration, Protection, Resilience, and Longevity”
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 (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. Continue reading “Myths and Truths About Coconut: And Two Delicious Recipes”
We hear so much about the negative effects of sugar—from obesity to tooth decay to cancer—it might surprise you to learn that sugar has some unique beneficial properties. It’s important to understand that not all sugars are created equal. If you want to reap the health benefits of sugar, it must be truly unrefined raw sugar.
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.