Read on for my latest updates on botanical research, stress management practices that have been successful for me, and my favorite way to make tea. 
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Greetings in the new year wonderful people!

How is your winter progressing? Here, just after Imbolc, spring is starting to stir. The first alder buds are starting to appear. There are more warmer days. Birds are returning to the branches. We can all feel it. Very-early spring is a truly special time for all of us. 

I've been busy with my pre medicine program at the University of Washington, and closing on my first home! It's a very exciting time. I've also stepped up as R&D Coordinator at Fungi Perfecti, where we're advancing some really incredible research with mushrooms for health. 

Read below for:
  • herb research news
  • stress management practices for crazy times
  • what it's like to be an herbalist in a premed program
  • industry happenings
  • my favorite way to brew tea
  • the best news stories and links from around the web
  • what I'm reading this month

Herbal research news

A paper was just released described the activity of whole leaf stevia extract against Borrelia spirochetes, persister cells, and biofilms. I'd love to know where the idea to screen stevia against Borrelia came from. Borrelia, the pathogen that causes Lyme disease, is notoriously difficult to study in a lab setting because it's very difficult to culture (difficulture?).

Several stevia products were tested, and each had different results. Overall, one of the products showed great efficacy against this organism, and even matched those of several tetracycline antibiotics and combinations thereof. It is an in vitro study, so we're not sure how this affects real-life people. But it is a very well-conducted study, engaging methods like SYBR Green I/PI assay and direct counting of live and dead cells. A recommended read, and available as a free full text. 


The triterpene esters in Calendula officialis were protected epithelial intestinal barrier in an in vitro model. Kudos to you who include calendula flowers in your gut-healing teas!

We all know Rhodiola rosea as a adaptogen. It's being investigated as a SERM (selective estrogen receptor modulator) due to a clinical case where a woman's menopausal symptoms were alleviated by it. 

An aquo-ethanolic extract of Camellia sinensis significantly improved the efficacy of last-resort antibiotics in carbapenem-resistant Escherichia coli. I expect more research on this type of herb-drug synergy to emerge over the next few years, especially concerning drug-resistant bacteria. 

The road to resilience: my favorite stress management techniques

This January, I've taken on a lot: a new position at my company, purchasing a home, beginning my premedical program at the University of Washington. I can deal with a high volume of mental stress and stimulus, but only because I have effective stress management practices. 
Years ago, I was very ill with chronic infections, adrenal fatigue, and hypothyroidism. There were days where getting out of bed would make me dizzy. My stress response was completely decimated. With great motivation, dedication, and FAITH that I could become well again, I made a full recovery from my ailments. Do I ever want to go back there? Absolutely not. I now understand how to manage stress in my life and cultivate mind/body resilience. Stress is certainly a driver of many disease processes.
It's my belief that we can strengthen our stress response without withdrawing from our lives and dampening our activities. It's called increasing our resilience. Here are some ways that I find balance in busy and stressful times.
  1. Eating well
  2. Moving my body 
  3. Meditating - it's as formal, casual, short, long as I want it to be on a given day
  4. Using adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms - ashwaganda, schizandra, oatstraw (ok, it's a nervine), and reishi are my go-to's.
  5. Engaging your social network - reaching out for emotional support or play
  6. Spending time in nature - When I go for a walk in a forested area, I relax instantly.
  7. Embracing positive self-talk - I truly believe that our mental framework of a specific situation affects our response to it. We can use that wisely.
Managing stress doesn't have to mean withdrawing from the world. We can be our bright, energetic, high-impact beaming selves and keep our perfect balance. 
An herbalist goes to school

Returning to premed studies has been a personal goal of mine for several years. The obstacles that I encountered were so great in number that I've lost count. But I had a drive, a fire, a conviction to continue trying.

You know those times when you build something up to be amazing, and reality falls short of expectations? Once I was accepted into UW's premed program, this hit me. What if this isn't all it's cracked up to be? What if I absolutely hate this course of study after a few years, and has invested all of these resources in it? What if I fail, horribly? The fear washed over me like a tsunami. 

Now that I'm in the program and in the academic system again, I am so glad that I am doing this. I'm having the absolute time of my life. I love learning chemistry, biology, and all of the prerequisite subject matter for medical studies. Lab is fun, lectures are awesome. I revel in these teachings of life and matter. 

Someone (I forget her name) once said that it's important to swing big in life. You can hit a home run, but you can also shit the bed trying to do so. But that's OK. What's important is that you took a swing. 

That's my approach. I risk failure, embarrassment, and financial loss (if I don't pursue a degree). Regardless of what unfolds, I'm proud of myself for trying; for showing up to what I know is a significant part of my journey as a healer. It's easy to withdraw, but it's satisfying to show up to life and all of its challenges and rewards. Whatever happens, I'm proud for trying. Because if I didn't, I'd regret it for the rest of my life. 

There's also the strange twilight world that the herbalist-premed (or med) student inhabits. Medical folks are estranged from the herbal community, and vice versa. These are vastly different realms, each with their merits as well as pitfalls. At first, I was reticent to discuss my medical aspirations with herbalists. I've observed several friends grow noticeably distant when I've voiced my interest in medicine. Most, luckily, have been supportive.

On the other end, I am careful in medical settings in the way that I discuss herbal medicine. The medical establishment has a constellation of wicked and systemic problems. But the criticism it applies to herbal medicine is, I think, well-founded. Herbal medicine is sometimes clinical but more often an artistic endeavor. Herbalists are not organized as a community of clinicians to learn from one another in a clinical capacity. There are some serious QA problems with *some* companies. The times where I have shared my background, it's been well received, with great curiosity.

There is bias, ignorance, and unfair characterization of medicine and herbalism towards each other. And there are blind spots in both areas. I have always believed that in order to see a system, you need to step outside of it every once in a while to get a better look. 

This is a wild way, and my goal is to be a positive contribution and bridge-builder. Stay tuned, as there will be much to share. And thank you for your support...I couldn't do this without you and this marvelous, colorful, dynamic community. 
Industry opinions

A recent Frontline documentary did a great job in presenting a hilariously one-sided view of quality issues in the supplement industry. Namely, they handpick some admittedly awful examples of adulteration with no mention of GMPs or any other quality standards in the industry. Oh, Nature's Way got a 30-second plug about how they do DNA validation. Whoopee. This seems to be yet another push to revoke DSHEA. The reporter notes that "unlike supplements, pharmaceuticals are proven to be safe and effective before they go to market." Face palm, face palm, forever. 

That said, boy does this industry look awful sometimes. The most recent debacle, sadly, owes its genesis to Embrace Pangaea, who sells herbal womb detox pearls. It is not my intention to put down an herbalist or anyone who is seeking to help people. However, this product is irresponsible. Herbs are NOT meant to be placed in the vaginal for several days. This can cause bacterial growth and even TSS. Also: your vagina does not need to detox. Repeat until we're all clear about this. I can only surmise that the people behind this were not trained herbalists- their website is conspicuously absent of any biographical information. 

There's a lesson here: know who's selling your herbs. And be responsible, please. As herbalists, our actions affect the entire community. 

Also, if you'll be at Natural Products ExpoWest, come say hello! 

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

I've always had a special place in my heart for chemistry, the study of matter. Many of us have had our curiosity and awe beaten out of us by disenchanted teachers and professors. But there is much to savor and appreciate about the building blocks of matter. Sam Kean does a beautiful job of guiding the reader in a tour of the periodic table. From him I become acquainted with the development of the table, as well as the discovery of new elements and stories about the elements themselves. If you're looking to revisit chemistry, or are currently studying it, you're going to love this joyful book. 
How I make my tea

There seems to be as many ways to make loose tea as there are stars in the sky. You can use a tea ball, an infuser basket, tea bags, french press, those odd Teavana brewers, a teapot and strainer. And more. 

I have a lot of these tea gadgets, but I keep coming back to my tried and true system: 1c pyrex measuring cup and mesh strainer. In it, I place 1-2T of loose herb (approximate- I never measure herbs for tea). I pour near-boiling water over it and steep for 5 (or so) minutes. Then I strain the tea into a mug.

I like using the pyrex cup because it pours well and is easy to clean. And I like providing a lot of room for the herbs to mix and infuse into the hot water. When it's stuffed into an infuser, the tea doesn't have room to thoroughly infuse in the water. Thus, I have found the best infusion and taste with this particular method. 

How do you like to make your tea? 
Elsewhere on the Web
  • Rethinking the Placebo Effect: How Our Minds Actually Affect Our Bodies
  • Antibiotic history and the winning bacteria [infographic]
  • Medicine in the Fourth Dimension: "In light of circadian research, prescriptions like “Take Once Daily” are terrifyingly vague. Set to rival the personalized medicine “revolution” in the breadth of its implications, the incorporation of circadian rhythms into our health care systems will require re-orientation on a paradigmatic scale".
  • I confronted the doctor who missed my cancer
  • How Government Killed the Medical Profession "I am a general surgeon with more than three decades in private clinical practice. And I am fed up."
  • Why Does Everyone Hate Martin Shkreli? "I am less interested in Shkreli’s mendacious psychology than I am in starting to pry open the logics of the milieu in which he committed his crimes: the intersection of biomedicine, biotechnology, and venture investing...what fascinates me about the promise of biotechnology at this moment is the dense net of social relations, the markers of distinction and accomplishment, and the emergent standards for scientific knowledge that animate networks of actors to make promises about future value to each other and to the public." This is an important essay. Read it. 
  • Doctors Tell All—and It’s Bad "Any patient in a hospital, when we take their clothes away and lay them in a bed, starts to lose identity; after a few days, they all start to merge into a single passive body, distinguishable … only by the illnesses that brought them there."
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