The Search for Holistic Health

“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos – the trees, the clouds, everything.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

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This is the first actual excerpt that I have submitted regarding what I think constitutes a holistic lifestyle; in terms of foods, supplements, and herbs. The reason why, is due to the fact that true Holism is not based on pure physicality, as we prevalently see today within the parameter of the words ‘holistic  health’. Through Sattva Holistic, my approach has been to focus much more on the actual paradigm of what constitutes a truly holistic approach to living. Thus, most of my articles focus on the underlying political, social, and moral issues surrounding the type of choices we should make regarding our choice of food and water, rather than just focusing on what one should eat. I choose to point out the deeper context of using one’s discrimination, rational, and intuition when it comes to focusing on what propels us into a much more peaceful, joyous, and harmonious life, through living holistically.

The basis of my dietary approach is focused on social awareness, thus I believe in supporting the small local organic farmers as much as possible, over larger corporate owned  businesses. My interest and quest for following a holistic lifestyle has been prevalent throughout my entire life, therefore eating an all organic vegetarian, whole foods diet is ubiquitous to who I am, rather than an interest that I have had for a duration of my lifetime. I often refer to my diet as being ‘whole foods’ based, rather than demarcating myself into some system of classification such as ‘raw’, ‘vegan’, or ‘vegetarian’. Over more than two decades I have experimented with numerous dietary paradigms, first by becoming a vegan vegetarian at age 17 after reading John Robins, “Diet for a New America’. Shortly following this I tried an all raw food diet almost 20 years ago, then macrobiotic diet, followed by eating an Ayurvedic based diet. However, at this point in my life I practice what I call a fusion diet, where my food is of a high raw percentage with a small portion of pre-soaked and cooked grains, such as quinoa, or black, red and pink rice. I consume very little processed food and eat a completely gluten free diet.

I am also almost vegan only using a very small amount of organic butter and once in a while some raw organic cheese produced locally where the cows are treated well and roam free. However, the main reason I don’t consume many animal products and certainly no animal flesh is due to the moral and ethical issues of eating an animal that has been tortured its entire life, then killed in a state of complete fear. I disagree with consuming anything that causes suffering to another sentient being on this planet. I could go on to list a number of other reasons, like health, environment, social or economic reasons, yet such reasons all pale in comparison to the brutality inflicted on animals for their meat and milk, its unconscionable, to say the least.

A day in the life of my holistic lifestyle starts with consuming fresh filtered spring water with added Oxygen Supreme from Health Force. Today, the spring water is still cold from being sourced from the original spring in North Vancouver, Lynn Valley yesterday afternoon. I have this water with 1 tbsp of Green Sage Protein from Health Force as the first product of the morning. Next I heat up a few cups of a tea mix I brew with predominately a chaga component.Today is my chaga brewing day, simmering the actual chaga for a little over 3 hours in filtered spring water. I then added the following all organic herbs: red reishi, eleuthro, holy basil, ashwagandha, schisandra, rhodiola, licorice, sarsaparilla, foti, guduchi, and olive leaf. I leave the herbs to infuse until my large brewing pot cools down completely.

After drinking the herbal brew, my husband and I have a breakfast smoothie with freshly made all organic almond milk, raw cacao, mesquite, lucuma, maca, vanilla, some coconut oil, banana, raw unpasteurized honey if needed, and Health Force Warrior Protein. This particular smoothie is very cacao rich and functions as the best breakfast option I have ever consumed to maintain my blood sugar until lunch. I also make a green smoothie that varies depending on what my husband and I feel like. Today we made one with all organic: blueberries (wild variety), wild purslane (large amount), large avocado, sunflower sprouts, and filtered spring water. This smoothie may be consumed before lunch, as a super healthy mineral rich snack.

For lunch and dinner we consume pre-soak and cooked grains as mentioned above blended with a variation of some steamed veggies (depending) with a large amount of mixed seasonal salad greens (mizuna, tatsoi, purslane, arugula, baby kale), fresh herbs (sage or basil), heirloom tomato’s, avocado, sprouts, etc. We consume varying omega 3 rich oils like chia, hemp, and flax seed oils. The most important aspect of this type of whole foods diet is that we are very flexible with what we eat, other than very little processed foods or gluten based foods.

I personally find a diet rich in raw foods much more energizing than a diet based on cooked food. My Ayurvedic practitioner recommended that I consume mostly cooked food, due to having a high Vata. However, after attempting to follow this dietary approach it never actually helped the underlying health issues that I was having. Once I took control of my own health and started to consume foods that gave me energy and allowed my body to detoxifying and balance, this brought my constitution back into full balance. In this case, I am not a staunch advocate of any rigid dietary paradigm, no matter how long it has been functioning historically.

I truly believe that the human body is bombarded by endless toxins, stress, and other unforeseen factors contributing to greater overall stress that most of the holistic systems that were formulated thousands of years ago did not take into consideration. Having said that, I still feel such systems are beneficial to understand the nature of one’s imbalance, yet there may need to be other factors taken into consideration for overall therapeutic treatment. Moreover, I strongly follow the theoretical premise of both seasonal eating and constitution when it comes to the choices made on a daily and seasonal basis. 

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Finding The Sacred Through Tea

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” Thich Nhat Hanh 

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Finding a serene moment to enjoy a delectable cup of tea is the mantra of my life, through mindfully enjoying the experience in all its nuances, delights, and contemplative intrigues; that naturally follow such a ritual of consumption. 

I purchase most of my tea from a local company, O5  Tea that sources all of their product directly from very small organic farmers, mostly in Korea. The owner of the business travels to each farm and has a personal relationship with the farmers, honoring them and the tea that they produce. One of my favourites from O5 Tea is a white tea called, White Moonlight which has a taste experience of, “nose of wild orchid and apricot, notes of berries, honey clover sensation on the palate”. 

The following quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, summarizes my own personal experience of enjoying a cup of tea, through transforming an often unconscious experience into something very sacred that allows one to be in the present moment, even if just for a few minutes.

“You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.

 Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.

 Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy.

 If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.

 You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone.

 Life is like that.

 If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone.

 You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life.

 It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished.

 Learn from it and let it go.

 The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it.

 Worrying is worthless.”

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The Magic Alchemy of Tonic Herbal Elixirs

“A wise man ought to realize that health is his most valuable possession.” Hippocrates

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Throughout the majority of my life I have been using herbs, as an adjunct to eating an all organic, mostly locally sourced, whole foods, vegetarian, mostly vegan diet. My initial use of herbs was for their general tonic properties, which began over 20 years ago when I was still a teenager. As my knowledge base grew I then prepared all of my herbal remedies with concise focus on supplementing any physical weakness and treating specific imbalances. Today, my use of herbs is once again for their constitutionally strengthening and longevity promoting properties. The formula that I brew is one that most people will find great benefit from regardless of one’s constitution, as the therapeutic qualities of the herbs are very balanced; creating a powerful elixir of vitality, longevity, and health giving properties. The herbs are mainly focused on the adrenal glands, liver, nervous system, brain, and overall strengthening the entire physical body.

I only use all organic or wildcrafted herbs for my formula, with the main component being Chaga. The other herbs are added in varying amounts depending on their therapeutic properties. I do change certain herbs according to the specific season, hence the following herbs are adapted to more of a spring tonic herbal formula with extra liver support. 

Chaga, is considered the king of medicinal mushrooms according to David Wolfe’s book on Chaga. From reading much of this book it is my understanding that Chaga is a full body longevity tonic, strengthening the immune system with huge emphasis on preventing and treating cancer, cleanses and assists the liver to function better to detoxify the body, extremely rich with the highest amount of antioxidants out of all other medicinal mushrooms including red reishi. Chaga is also extremely nutrient dense with a huge array of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients such as polysaccharides, polyphenols, sterols, inotodiols, triterpenoidal saponins, melanin, betulin/betulinic acid, lupeol, trance minerals of a vast array including germanium, and major minerals, vitamins such as B2, D2, dietary fiber, and amino acid complexes.

Due to Chaga’s extensive use throughout the world numerous countries have conducted scientific studies on Chaga’s medicinal properties. A study from Korea found that a few of Chaga’s therapeutic properties are: increases the immune system, stimulates metabolism in brain tissue, anti-inflammatory effects both external and internal, antioxidant, delays growth of some tumors, lowers arterial and venous blood pressure, regulates heartbeat, decreases sugar levels in blood. Chaga has been widely used and studied in Russia for its anticancer properties, both curative and preventative: positive effect on lung and liver cancer, calms the nervous system, positively affects stomach diseases and ulcers, and stimulates the immune system.

From my personal experience of only consuming Chaga tea daily, it has a deeply grounding property to it, not only strengthening the physical body but also the energy body, specifically the lower chakras, mainly the first chakra of feeling rooted and grounded. I like to experience herbs not only for their ‘scientific’ properties, or even folklore uses, but also the energetic properties each herb imbues within its therapeutic holism. 

Ashwagandha, this herb is both a tonic and sedative herb strengthening an exhausted nervous system. This herb is renowned to assist in increasing strength, intellect, ojas, promote sleep, sexual potency, prevents consumption and wasting diseases, rejuvenative, reduces Kapha and Vata, reduces pain, and benefits breathing. This herb is specific for those with more of a deficient constitution, although most people can benefit from ashwagandha in small doses mixed with other herbs.

Guduchi, is one of my favorite herbs, also known as Amrita or ‘divine nectar’ and is described as, ‘the one who protects the body’. Its therapeutic properties lie in its rejuvenating capacity while also detoxifying and cleansing the entire body, specifically the liver. Guduchi’s main actions are, increasing appetite, quenches thirst, rejuvenate, increases strength, promotes life, nerve tonic, reduces fevers, reduces burning sensation, destroys toxins, alleviates skin disorders, relieves gout/arthritis, cleans the blood, increases sexual potency, increases lifespan, and reduces all three doshas. It also regulates blood sugar levels, heals the bowels with all imbalances.

The only recommendation I would provide is not to use too much, as Guduchi is a very strong herb and if you use too much the detox symptoms will be very strong.   

Schisandra berries, I specifically supplemented these due to the fact it is spring and the liver needs a little more assistance than normal. These berries are a herbal treasure, they work to purify the blood, sharpen the mind, improve memory, rejuvenate the kidney energy (especially sexual energy and functions for men and women) and causes the skin to become radiantly beautiful. In traditional Chinese medicine, schizandra is highly esteemed because it tonifies all three treasures (Jing, Qi and Shen, which sustain the essential energies for human life). It also tonifies and regulates all five elements and tonifies and regulates all twelve organ-meridian systems.

Olive leaf, is another of my all time favorite medicinal herbs that functions to kill a broad range of viruses, bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and other parasites in your system without harming the beneficial bacteria. Correctly used, just this property alone could eliminate the discomfort of most illnesses strengthens the immune system. Olive leaf additionally, has a tremendous amount of antioxidants, strengthens and cleanses the liver, strengthens the heart, and can be used for arthritis, and protects against radiation damage. I personally love this herb as an all round gentle herb that works for such a broad spectrum of prevalent health issues.

Brahmi, the name of this herb literally means the energy or Shakti of Brahman through its mind enhancing and nervous system calming benefits. Additional benefits include, calming Vata through re-directing the flow of Vata downward, reduces mental illness, increases intellectual power, heart tonic, rejuvenates the nervous system, increases longevity, strengthens the mind, promotes energy, promotes sleep, and alleviates skin conditions.

My personal recommendation is to use a very small amount of this herb as it does have a very calming and sedating effect that may be far too strong for many people who want to feel more energized. 

Preparation, I brew my herbal formula in a large soup pot that holds 16 cups of water. I begin by putting 4Tbsp of Chaga, then 1Tbsp of each, Ashwagandha and Schisandra berries, which I bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer on my smallest burner. I usually simmer the brew for up to 3 hours, yet for those who really don’t feel like they have the time, you can brew everything up to 1 hour and  re-brew the combo later. After the duration of time I turn the stove off and add 1Tbsp of each of the additional herbs that are better infused than brewed in a decoction.

I have greatly benefited from this herbal remedy, therefore I felt the need to share it with others. I also feel that to take herbs in extract form through capsules or even tincture may be convenient, yet you are not getting the full medicinal benefit of the herb. In my experience the MOST benefit I have ever received from herbs is through either decocting them (brewing for a duration of time), or infusing them in the form of a tea that you pour boiling water over and steep. In addition, I mostly use all organic herbs found within the lexicon of Chinese Medicine due to my training (only plant based) and Ayurveda, as I find these two systems of medicine to be very complex and therapeutic rather other herbal systems. I also strongly believe that all herbs should be consumed in a formula, rather than as a single herb, due to the energetic, regulating, and balancing effect a formula has when used long term. 

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