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A Guide to Winter Beauty and Self-Care

With winter comes the holiday season, snow, frigid temperatures, and less daylight. To battle the cold winter months, many of us reach for an extra layer or two to keep warm, while also cranking the thermostat up. However, studies show that seasonal shifts, and what we do to combat them, can affect our skin, emotions, sleep cycles, and more. In this blog, we’ll cover how winter can change your skin and mental health, along with tips to help you lean into self-care given these changes.

Winter and Your Skin

Your skin loves consistency, so when the weather changes, it’s basically like a shock to the system. “Rapid fluctuations in weather can take its toll on our skin as it adjusts to the new environment,” explains dermatologist Joshua Zeichner. “For example, as we shift to winter, temperatures and humidity will drop quickly, so the skin will have to work harder to maintain adequate hydration as cold weather and wind start to kick in.”1

Zeichner also says, “This can lead to cracks in the outer skin layer, loss of hydration, and inflammation — all of which can seriously impact the overall state of your skin health. These symptoms commonly occur due to the skin barrier becoming disturbed during the winter months, which may make your skin more susceptible to irritation and inflammation.”2

Shari Marchbein, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine, mentions that, “It’s the sudden switch in weather, coupled with subsequent lifestyle changes people make as it gets cooler, such as taking hot showers and using central heat in homes, that contributes to the aforementioned dryness and inflammation associated with this transitional period.”3

Winter and Your Well-Being

Considering that there’s less daylight during winter, your circadian rhythm may be affected. Your circadian rhythm moderates your sleep and is affected by light. “Typically, it’s easier for people to ‘fall back’ than ‘spring forward’ as we gain an extra hour of sleep. However, that doesn’t mean that the end of daylight savings time is harmless. It can take a week or more for the body to adjust,” says Dr. Camelia Musleh, a neurologist at Sleep Medicine.4

Winter can also cause a sense of dread for many, which could be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). “Almost a fourth of the population deals with an increase in depression during the colder and darker months,” mentions Dr. Matt VanDusen, a clinical director for Delphi Behavioral Health Group. He notes that SAD has been linked to decreases in exposure to natural light and lower levels of vitamin D due to shorter days.5

SAD is commonly characterized by recurrent episodes of depression that mostly occur during the fall and winter months. A few documented symptoms of SAD may include oversleeping, daytime fatigue, carbohydrate craving, weight gain, and difficulty concentrating.6 It’s recommended that people who experience SAD talk with their healthcare provider to figure out their next steps.

SAD Information

Pictured: Symptoms and causes of SAD    Source: Priory

Tips to Keep You Looking and Feeling Your Best During Winter

The winter months can be tough on both your skin and mental health. Cold temperatures and low humidity levels result in dry air that draws moisture away from the skin, while harsh winter winds and dry indoor heat can lead to cracked and even bleeding skin. Disruptions in your circadian rhythm and symptoms of SAD can make the cold months even more complicated. Here are some tips to keep you looking and feeling your best during winter:

Avoid Hot Showers

A nice steamy shower in cold temperatures sounds like a great idea on the surface, but it can come at a cost. “Taking a long, hot shower can dry out our skin and lead to itchiness,” says Deanne Mraz Robinson, a board-certified dermatologist. “Try to limit your shower time to five to seven minutes and keep the temperature below 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything higher can strip the skin of its essential moisture and deplete the natural protective barrier of your skin.”7

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SPF Is Your BFF (Even In the Winter)

While you likely associate the sun’s damaging rays with summer, the sun comes out even when it’s winter. Beyond that, the sun can also damage your skin when it’s snowing. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s UV light, meaning that those rays have the potential for double the damage.8

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Add Moisturizing and Anti-Inflammatory Skincare Products to Your Routine

Cooler temperatures can zap the moisture right out of your skin, but eye creams and facial oils are a fantastic remedy to this common cold weather issue. The delicate area under your eyes can suffer during this time of year. Since this area doesn’t contain oil glands, we need eye creams, which are made with vitamins, peptides, and other rescuers; these all help penetrate this thin layer, hydrating and soothing the skin underneath.

Facial oils are a huge help during the colder months, too. “Hydration is really a function of water balance; oils help hold water in and prevent the environment from stripping water out,” Tyler Hollmig, a dermatologist at Stanford Health Care, says. “Oils have also been shown to exhibit significant anti-inflammatory properties which help to soothe irritated skin during winter.”9

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Get Plenty of Rest

While you can’t crawl into a den and hibernate the winter away like a bear, it’s vitally important to get plenty of rest to keep you feeling rejuvenated during the winter months, and it’ll help keep your circadian rhythm in check. Sleep is also the best way to repair and reset the mind.10 You can learn more about better sleep hygiene here.

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Try Aromatherapy

If you’re dealing with symptoms of SAD or having trouble sleeping, aromatherapy may help. Essential oils can influence the area of the brain that’s responsible for controlling moods and the body’s internal clock that influences sleep and appetite. You can also combine aromatherapy with other complementary therapies, such as massage and meditation, for extra relaxation and a feeling of serenity.11 

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In Conclusion

With colder weather comes changes to your skin and mental health. Symptoms like eczema flare-ups and reddened skin are the tell-tale signs that your skin microbiome is being affected by the winter weather, while feeling anxious, depressed, and fatigued can mean that you may be suffering from SAD or a change in your circadian rhythm. If you’re having trouble with your skin and/or well-being during the winter months, it’s always recommended to try seeing a dermatologist or your local healthcare provider.

Do you have any winter self-care tips and tricks? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

References:

https://www.allure.com/story/how-seasons-weather-affect-skin [1][2][3]

https://www.northshore.org/healthy-you/is-the-winter-weather-negatively-affecting-your-mood-and-sleep/ [4]

https://www.bustle.com/p/how-cold-weather-affects-your-brain-according-to-experts-19367014 [5]

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651 [6]

https://www.thehealthy.com/beauty/face-body-care/winter-shower-tips/  [7]

https://www.skincancer.org/press/winter-sun-safety/#:~:text=However%2C%20UVB%20rays%20can%20burn,skin%20cancer%20and%20premature%20aging.[8]

https://www.drwangskincare.com/blogs/news/3-reasons-to-start-using-facial-oils-in-the-fall-winter#:~:text=They’re%20Hydrating&text=Oils%20are%20a%20great%20remedy,skin%20looking%20nice%20and%20hydrated. [9]

https://www.thegoodnightco.com.au/blogs/the-journal/why-a-winter-sleep-routine-is-important [10]

https://www.northshore.org/healthy-you/is-the-winter-weather-negatively-affecting-your-mood-and-sleep/ [11]

Managing Stress During The Holiday Season

The holidays can be a time to take a breath, recharge, and reflect on the past twelve months. Ironically, though, the season can be the exact opposite for many people. According to a Healthline survey, 44% of people say that they are stressed during the holidays, with more than 18% reporting that they’re “very stressed.”1 Thankfully, there are ways to ease your stress through the holiday season. In this blog, we’ll explore how and why stress peaks during the holidays and some mindful ways you can reduce stress to be able to enjoy the season with calm and joy.

Exploring Holiday Stress

The American Psychological Association found that more people in the United States find their stress increases rather than decreases during the holiday season for a variety of reasons. Lack of money for gifts, lack of time to shop and cook, and the overwhelming commercialism and hype of the holiday season can all increase the amount of stress felt during the holidays.2

According to a recent survey of 2,000 adults that set out to explore stress and the holiday season, 77% of respondents said they have a hard time relaxing during the holidays and usually end up feeling more stressed and worn down than ever. 56% said that the extra financial strain brought on by the holidays is their biggest source of anxiety.3 

Others frequently mentioned that finding gifts for everyone (48%), stressful family events (35%), and putting up decorations (29%) led to their anxiety. All in all, 88% of respondents believe the holidays are the most stressful time of the year with 84% saying excessive feelings of stress start as early as November.4

Two in five respondents say they would rather stand in line at the DMV than deal with holiday stress. Similarly, one in five would rather sit beside a crying child on a long plane ride. Unfortunately, that stress makes it very difficult for many Americans to enjoy the holidays (49%); so much so that a third of respondents said they just don’t find happiness in the holidays anymore.5

Holiday Stress

Pictured: Holiday stress statistics    Source: SWNS Digital

Symptoms of Holiday Stress

For many individuals, the most common symptom of holiday stress is a persistent feeling of sadness that begins during or before the season. This recurring feeling may vary in duration and intensity with some feeling down periodically, but many claim they get small boosts of upbeat emotions throughout the season.

More signs of holiday stress may include:

  • Depressed or irritable mood
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feeling tense, worried, or anxious
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Feeling more tired than usual

Holiday Stress vs. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Feeling stressed or upset during the holidays can also be a sign of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depressive disorder that occurs in seasonal patterns during certain months of the year. Holiday depression and SAD can be difficult to distinguish from one another, but the duration and severity of the symptoms are usually the clues.

Holiday Stress vs. SAD

Pictured: Holiday depression vs. SAD    source: Very Well Mind

If the holiday season passes and you’re still feeling depressed or anxious, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to determine if what you are experiencing is a more significant mood disorder. Your doctor can assess your symptoms and determine a treatment that’s right for you.

Mindful Tips to Beat Holiday Stress

It’s absolutely possible to not only survive the holiday season but to even thrive and connect to your particular observance in a deeper and more profound way. Here are some of the most common stressors that present themselves this time of the year, along with mindful antidotes to help you enjoy the season:

Overwhelming Time Demands

Around the holidays, your schedule most likely fills up quickly with work and personal get-togethers. These back-to-back parties can often feel overwhelming as you try to juggle them with all of your other commitments. Additionally, you may feel pressed for time as you try to plan a holiday experience your family and friends will love. After all, a lot goes into a party.

Antidote: Treat yourself. You don’t have to say yes to everything. In reality, giving and giving without stopping is not an altruistic notion. Becoming aware of when you need to refuel allows time to re-energize and re-center. Self-care matters; you can treat yourself to a simple bath and a night of delicious takeout to let the holiday stress fade away. 

Expectations of Holiday Perfection

While it’s nice to take the time to create an aesthetically pleasing holiday experience, it’s easy to get caught up in a trap of perfection. Not only does this mindset make the holidays less joyful, but it also can set you up to experience disappointment. It’s important to remember that nothing is perfect; coming to this realization, along with finding your way to deal with it, can determine your well-being.

Antidote: Reflect on the meaning of the holidays. It’s easy to get caught up in the commercial version of what the holiday season means in modern times, but taking the time to reflect on what matters, whether it be tradition, spirituality, or religion, can help you keep your perspective as the year draws to a close. 

Holiday Loneliness

The pressure to please the people you love with gifts during the holiday season is ever-present. Instead of a joyful endeavor, gift-giving can easily become a chore causing many to feel down if they don’t receive something equally meaningful. Additionally, pressure can also manifest as you long to spend the holidays with those you love, creating feelings of loneliness.

Antidote: Donate your time to help those less fortunate. The holidays are a great time to practice the art of compassion and to think of others’ needs ahead of your own. You can use the time to give to and establish meaningful connections with those who may not have as much as you. Giving doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical or monetary gift; it can come in many forms like spending quality time or even a heartfelt message saying ‘I’m thinking of you.’

Stress and Family Anxiety

Family stress shows up in many ways. While there might be real difficulties surrounding the interpersonal dynamics of your family, it’s easy to get caught up in fuelling the fire rather than abating it. Most of the stress and anxiety around family is often anticipatory and based on not-so-pleasant past experiences, combined with the upcoming mix of different personalities. 

Antidote: Engage in gratitude. Take the time to step back and regard all that you have. Gratitude goes a long way when it comes to overall wellness, so, while in the midst of the holiday season tumult, try to re-center by consciously being grateful for the multiple aspects of this season, along with the loved ones that you’re blessed with.

Destress With The Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil

With the holidays coming up, a lot of us are feeling more stress and sensitivity, and of course, the emotions we feel have a way of showing up on our skin. That’s why we handcrafted the Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil to feel like a soothing sanctuary for weary, worried, vulnerable skin. Just a few drops incorporated into your self-caring ritual helps visibly recharge skin to appear calm and balanced. Here’s to feeling better and holiday cheer! 

 

How do you practice mindfulness during the holidays? Let us know in the comments.

 

References:

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/what-stresses-us-most-at-the-holidays-113015#2 [1]

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/holiday-stress.pdf [2]

https://studyfinds.org/jingle-bell-crock-88-of-americans-feel-the-holiday-season-is-most-stressful-time-of-year/ [3][4][5]

Achieving Balance With Taoism

Taoism, also spelled Daoism, is a religion and a philosophy from ancient China that has influenced folk and national belief for millennia. Taoism has been connected to the philosopher Lao-Tzu who around 500 B.C.E. is thought to have written the main book of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching. Taoism holds that humans and animals should live in balance with the Tao, or the way of the universe, and that spiritual immortality is where the spirit of the body joins the universe after death. In this blog, we will explore the origins of Taoism and its main concepts, along with the eight immortals of Taoism and a few teachings that can help you navigate life.

Lao-Tzu and the Origins of Taoism

Lao-Tzu

Pictured: Lao-Tzu    Source: Famous Philosophers

The historian Sima Qian (145-86 BCE) told the story of Lao-Tzu, a curator at the Royal Library in the state of Chu, who was a philosopher. Lao-Tzu believed in the harmony of all things and that people could live easily together if they only considered each other’s feelings and recognized that their self-interest was not always in the interest of others. 

Lao-Tzu grew impatient with the corruption he saw within people and in the government, so he decided to go into exile. As Lao-Tzu was leaving China, a gatekeeper, Yin Hsi, recognized him and asked him to write a book before he left. Lao-Tzu sat down on a rock beside the gatekeeper and wrote the Tao Te Ching, which translates to The Book of the Way.

Lao-Tzu stopped writing when he felt he was finished, handed the book to Yin Hsi, and vanished, never to be seen again. The Tao Te Ching is not looked at as scripture in Taoism; instead, it’s seen as a book of poetry presenting the simple way of living life at peace with one’s self, others, and the world of changes. 

While the author is traditionally believed to be Lao-Tzu, some question his hand in the book as there is little evidence that Lao-Tzu existed. Some believe instead that the Tao Te Ching is a gathering of earlier sayings from many authors. However, Lao-Tzu is sometimes understood as the image of the Tao and given legendary status.

Tao Te ChingPictured: Tao Te Ching    Source: The Flerlage Twins

A Breakdown of Taoism

Taoism is a Chinese philosophy that developed from the folk religion of the people primarily in the rural areas of China; it became the official religion of the country under the Tang Dynasty. Taoism is therefore both a philosophy and a religion.

Taoism has provided an alternative to the Confucian tradition in China, coexisting in the country, regions, and even within the same individual. In Taoism, Confucian gods are seen as manifestations of the one Tao, which is not represented as an image or a particular thing.

The concept of a personified deity who created the universe is foreign to Taoists. This results in their form of prayer being different than Christian religions. Instead, they seek answers to life’s problems through inner meditation and outer observation.

Some of the basic tenets of Taoism are the following:

  • Time is cyclical, not linear as in Western thinking.
  • One should plan in advance and consider carefully each action before making it.
  • Taoists follow the art of “wu wei,” which is to let nature take its course. For example, one should allow a river to flow towards the sea unimpeded; do not erect a dam that would interfere with its natural flow.
  • Taoists strongly promote health and vitality.
  • The five main organs and orifices of the body correspond to the five elements: water, fire, wood, metal, and earth.
  • Development of virtue is one’s chief task. The Three Jewels to be sought are compassion, moderation, and humility.

A Look at Wu Wei in Taoism

In Chinese, wu wei translates to “non-doing or doing nothing;” this concept is key to the noblest kind of action, according to the philosophy of Taoism, and is at the heart of what it means to follow the Tao.

According to the Tao Te Ching: “The Tao never acts yet nothing is left undone.” This is the paradox of wu wei; it doesn’t mean not acting, it means “effortless action” or “actionless action.” Simply put, this means being in a state of peace while engaged in even the most frantic task can allow one to carry it out with maximum skill and efficiency.

The meaning of wu wei is captured when we talk of being “in the zone,” or at one with what we are doing and in a state of flow. It’s also closely connected to the Taoist reverence for the natural world, for it means striving to make our behavior as spontaneous and inevitable as certain natural processes. 

Wu wei involves letting go of thoughts or ideals that we may otherwise try to force too violently onto things. Instead, it invites us to respond to the true demands of situations by putting our ego-driven plans aside. What can follow is a loss of self-consciousness; a new unity between the self and its environment. This change in state unleashes energy that’s normally held back by an overly aggressive, willful style of thinking.

The Tao Te Ching points out that to achieve wu wei we should be like water, which is “submissive and weak and yet which can’t be surpassed for attacking what is hard and strong.” Through gentle persistence and compliance with the specific shape of a problem, an obstacle can be worked around and gradually eroded.

Yin and Yang in Taoism

Taoism’s purpose is to assist individuals in experiencing their essential nature as inseparable from that of the cosmos and to be part of the flow of life. An important first step toward attaining this experience of interconnectedness is by learning to recognize and align ourselves with the movement of life itself, which can be achieved through an understanding of Yin and Yang. 

Yin and Yang, the two essential and interdependent energies of life, describe the underlying unity of life through the interplay of two primal forces. Though opposite in nature, Yin and Yang are not diametrically opposed, but rather complementary and relative to one another. 

Yang is characterized as creative, assertive, and light, while Yin is receptive, yielding, and dark. It’s important to note that these attributes are only descriptive and do not carry any moral value. The interaction between Yin and Yang creates all manifestations, and it’s through them that the Tao reveals itself.

Our entire physical reality is based on the interplay of both Yin and Yang energies. Whether it’s the structure of DNA, with its positive and negative strands, the transmission of neurons in our brains, or the makeup of electricity with its positive and negative currents — all of these processes take place because of these two opposing energies. 

The original meaning of the term “Yin-Yang” signified the dark (Yin) and light (Yang) sides of a mountain. Early in the day, the sun would illuminate one part of the mountain while the other side would remain dark. As the sun moved across the sky, it gradually began to light the opposite side while the earlier sunlit face became dark. Light and dark were not static but interacted with one another, defined one another, and actually assumed each other’s roles in the process of change. This describes the interplay of Yin and Yang within Taoism.

YinAndYang

Pictured: Yin and Yang characteristics    Source: The Lazy Taoist

The Eight Immortals Of Taoism

For devout believers, a central tenet of Taoism is the idea that adhering to certain beliefs and practices can potentially lead to immortality. It’s unknown just how many Taoist practitioners have achieved immortality, but the founder of Taoism, Lao-Tzu, is thought to be immortal.

The religious tradition of Taoism venerates a group of eight xian, or immortals, who offer a concrete symbol of this ability to transcend the limitations of ordinary human life through the beliefs and practices of Taoism. They serve as mythological archetypes of immortality achieved through practice.

Here’s a breakdown of the eight immortals of Taoism:

  • He Xian Gu: Often considered the only woman among the Immortals. He Xian Gu is usually depicted carrying a lotus flower, which is said to improve one’s mental and physical health.
  • Cao Guo Jiu: As a member of the royal family in the Song Dynasty, Cao Guo Jiu is often shown dressed in official robes and holding a jade tablet. He’s commonly regarded as the patron of actors and the theater.
  • Lan Caihe: Sometimes depicted as a male but other times as a female. Lan Caihe is often shown carrying a bamboo flower basket and a pair of bamboo castanets. They’re known to be eccentric, serving to symbolize a carefree life devoid of the concerns and responsibilities of ordinary life.
  • Lu Dongbin (also spelled Lu Tung Pin): Believed to be a scholar and poet that lived during the Tang Dynasty. Lu Dongbin’s symbol is a magic sword that dispels evil spirits and provides him with invisibility. He’s regarded as a patron deity for highly literate people; some also see him as a champion of the medical profession.
  • Han Xiang Zi: Thought to be related to a Confucian scholar. Han Xiang Zi is often depicted carrying a flute and is regarded as a patron deity of musicians. 
  • Zhang Guo Lao: Lived from approximately the middle of the 7th century into the 8th century, practicing as a Taoist hermit in the mountains of east-central China. Zhang Guo Lao is typically shown seated on a white mule, often facing backward. For Taoists, he is regarded as a protector of children and a patron of wine and the good life.
  • Zhongli Quan: Usually shown with his chest exposed and holding a fan with which he can resurrect the dead and transform stones into precious metals. Zhongli Quan is usually featured with a long beard and a glass of wine.

Left; Zhongli Quan , Top Right; He Xian Gu , Bottom Right; Lan Caihe

Pictured: Left; Zhongli Quan (Three Stars), Top Right; He Xian Gu (Tsingtao), Bottom Right; Lan Caihe (Ferre Beekeeper)

Teachings of Taoism to Help You Navigate Life

In a modern world that never sleeps, anyone could benefit from the simplicity found in Taoism. You can grasp some of its key concepts with a few quotes from Taoism’s most important book, the Tao Te Ching. This wisdom lays a simple framework for achieving harmony, which may help you navigate life with ease.

Simplicity, Compassion, and Patience

“Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”

The Lesson: Life can get complicated, but sometimes all we need to do is get back to the basics. When feeling overwhelmed, these guidelines present essential rules on how to manage actions, relationships, and self-worth in a few concise sentences.

Letting Go

“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”

The Lesson: Many Eastern philosophies remind us of the only true constants in life: change and death. While not an easy thing to do, accepting these facts of life can release you from suffering and bring greater freedom into your life. We must remember to let go, and allow life to take its course.

Harmony

“Tao engenders One; One engenders Two; Two engenders Three; Three engenders all things. All things carry the Yin (femininity) while embracing the Yang (masculinity). Neutralizing energy brings them into harmony.”

The Lesson: The Chinese concept of Yin and Yang describes nature in dualities with two opposite, complementary, and interdependent forces. In other words, two halves balancing together to make a whole; one aspect increases as the other decreases, and this balance continues as a pattern in nature.

Examining and understanding these patterns in ourselves and around us brings more balance in life. For example, a person that becomes too rigid may break under pressure. Instead, they should try to become softer and more flexible to restore the balance of Yin to Yang.

Going With the Flow

“When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.”

The Lesson: This quote explains the concept of wu wei, uncontrived action or natural non-intervention. In life, rather than fighting against the conditions in our lives, we can allow things to take their natural course. This can also mean that when you don’t know what to do, do nothing. Instead, look inward and outward in your life, ponder the potential courses of action, and only jump at opportunities when you feel ready.

In Conclusion

The Tao Te Ching, a two and half thousand-year text credited to Lao-Tzu and the second most translated book in world literature, forms the basis of Taoism. Gaining knowledge of the main principles of Taoism allows us to cultivate and strengthen our own process of self-exploration, growth, and transformation, and it helps to connect us deeply to our inner nature and to the world around us. 

Which teaching of Taoism resonated the most with you? Let us know in the comments!

An Intro to Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete medical system that has been used to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses for more than 2,000 years. Its basic concept is that a vital force of life, called Qi, surges through the body, and any imbalance to Qi can cause disease and illness. TCM practitioners use treatments that are specific to the individual, such as acupuncture, cupping, or moxibustion, to restore this balance. In this blog, we will explore the great practitioners of TCM, along with Qi and the meridians of the body, and TCM’s use in herbal medicine, food, genetics research, and drug development. 

A Look At Traditional Chinese Medicine

China has one of the world’s oldest medical systems with acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies dating back at least 2,200 years. The earliest known written record of Chinese medicine is the Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) from the 3rd century BCE, which provided the theoretical concepts for TCM that remain the basis of its practice today.

In essence, TCM healers seek to restore a dynamic balance between two complementary forces, Yin (passive) and Yang (active), which pervade the human body as they do the universe as a whole. According to TCM, a person is healthy when harmony exists between these two forces; illness, on the other hand, results from a breakdown in the equilibrium of Yin and Yang.

Treatments to regain a Yin and Yang balance may include:

  • Acupuncture, which involves the insertion of very thin needles through the skin at strategic points on the body.
  • Moxibustion, which consists of burning dried mugwort on particular points on the body.
  • Cupping, which is a form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin with the application of heated cups.
  • Massage, which can help to regulate the flow of energy and blood, increase blood circulation, and relieve body pain and stress.
  • Herbal remedies, which can strengthen organ function and support good health.
  • Movement and concentration exercises, such as tai chi, which include specifically-designed movements to help an individual regain balance.

Cupping, Acupuncture, Moxibustion, Tai Chi Pictured: Cupping; top left (The Thirty), Acupuncture; top right (Forbes), Moxibustion; bottom left (American institute of Alternative Medicine), Tai Chi; bottom right (Britannica)

The Great Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine

The hard work and dedication of various practitioners in ancient China have made an impact on not just Traditional Chinese Medicine, but also Western Medicine. A few great practitioners of TCM to take note of are:

Zhang Zhongjing

Zhang Zhongjing

Pictured: Zhang Zhongjing   Source: The Wandering Cloud ACM

Zhang Zhongjing (150-219 CE), the most famous of China’s physicians, lived during the Eastern Han dynasty and was known for his remarkable medical skill and significant contribution to Traditional Chinese Medicine. He wrote a medical masterpiece entitled Shanghan Lun (Treatise on Cold Damage Diseases). Zhang Zhongjing’s theory and prescriptions, such as moxibustion, acupuncture, and herbal medicine, are still of great medical value and are the standard reference work for TCM.

Hua Tuo

Hua Tuo

Pictured: Hua Tuo    Source: The Epoch Times

Another famous physician of Traditional Chinese Medicine was Hua Tuo (145-208 CE). Hua Tuo developed the use of anesthesia in surgery and further advanced the Chinese’s knowledge of anatomy. He was also the first person to use narcotic drugs in the world, preceding the West by about 1600 to 1700 years.1

Wang Shuhe 

Wang Shuhe

Pictured: Wang Shuhe   Source: The Coltons Point Times

Wang Shuhe (180-270 CE) was a Chinese physician who wrote the Maijing (The Pulse Classics), which is an influential work describing the pulse and its importance in the diagnosis of disease. Wang Shuhe’s contributions to medical science were not limited to sphygmology, though; he also made outstanding contributions to the collation of ancient literature. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qi, and the Meridians

A main aspect of TCM is an understanding of the body’s Qi, which is known as life force and literally translates to “vital breath.” Qi is universal and embraces all manifestations of energy, from the most material aspects of energy, such as the earth beneath your feet, to the most immaterial aspects, such as light and emotion.

Life, it’s said in the Chinese medical classics, is a gathering of Qi. A healthy and happy human being is a dynamic but harmonious mixture of all the aspects of Qi that make up who we are. Qi is in a state of continuous flux, transforming endlessly from one aspect of Qi into another. It’s neither created nor is it ever destroyed; it simply changes in its manifestation.2

Qi flows through invisible meridians, or channels, of the body that connects organs, tissues, veins, nerves, cells, atoms, and consciousness itself. There are 12 major meridians with each connecting to one of the 12 major organs in TCM theory. The meridians are also related to circadian rhythms, seasons, and planetary movements, which create additional invisible networks.

The Meridians

Pictured: The Meridians    Source: Dr. Huong

In acupuncture, for example, very thin needles are inserted into specific areas along the meridians. The needles stimulate the meridians and readjust the flow of Qi to balance the body’s Yin and Yang. While the meridian network can be used to alleviate symptoms, it’s also said that TCM can endow individuals with the ability to change consciousness after treatments.

To learn more about Qi, the meridians, and acupuncture, click here

Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Five Element Theory

Philosophers have questioned the origins of life and the makeup of the universe since prehistory, the time before written records existed. According to some traditions, including TCM, everything in the universe comes from the five elements: wood, fire, earth, water, and metal.

“The five elements are used in pretty much every different style of TCM to some extent to diagnose and differentiate between different illnesses, dysfunctions, and people,” says Tiffany Cruikshank, licensed acupuncturist, experienced registered yoga teacher, and founder of Yoga Medicine.

The elements are all connected; wood feeds fire, fire makes earth, earth creates metal, metal holds water, and water nourishes wood. Each element both controls and is controlled by another element. One element may manifest heavier within us than others, which is where we are strongest, yet most vulnerable.

Each element has unique characteristics and becoming aware of your elemental dominance can help explain the physiology and pathology within your body. Here’s a breakdown of the five elemental types in TCM:

  • A “Wood Personality” is someone who is athletic, energetic, and adventurous. Wood personalities tend to be anxious and angry, and may suffer from orthopedic issues, migraines, or ADD.
  • A “Fire Personality” is someone who is passionate, creative, and authoritative. Fire personalities tend to be impulsive and irritable, and may suffer from insomnia, high blood pressure, chest pains, or headaches.
  • An “Earth Personality” is someone who is nurturing, generous, and caregiving. Earth personalities tend to be worrisome and pensive, and may suffer from abdominal issues or hormonal problems.
  • A “Metal Personality” is someone who is meticulous, honest, and responsible. Metal personalities tend to be melancholy and may suffer from constipation, lung and skin issues, or allergies.
  • A “Water Personality” is an old soul that is known to be wise, reflective, and private. Water personalities tend to be indecisive, fearful, and paranoid, and may suffer from back pain, knee pain, and kidney and bladder infections.

TCM's Five Element TheoryPictured: The Five Element Theory traits and characteristics    Source: Scottsdale Acupuncture

If you want to find out your element type, you can take this quiz

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Herbal Therapy

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbs and herbal formulas are used to strengthen organ function and support good health. TCM practitioners have an understanding of the essence of various herbal components to create a healing effect that goes beyond the chemical composition and physical properties of the herbs to correctly stimulate or adjust the body’s own energy vibration.

Many TCM herbal formulas have been in use for more than 2,200 years, and are composed of ingredients chosen to function in combination with each other. In Western Medicine, medications are commonly prescribed for a specific effect, while in TCM, each herb in a formula has a different purpose or role to help the body achieve harmony. 

For a plant to be included in TCM herbal therapy, each of its parts has to be identified for a different healing purpose. The following are a few of the most used Traditional Chinese Medicinal herbs, along with their benefits:

  • ‌‌‌‌Ginkgo Biloba: Promotes Brain Health and Improved Memory
  • ‌‌‌‌Ginseng (Ren Shen): Offers Immune Support and Improved Bone Strength
  • Turmeric: Possesses Anti-inflammatory, Anti-oxidant, and Digestive Health Properties
  • Astragalus (Huang Qi): Offers Immune Support and Brain Protection
  • Cinnamon: Regulates Blood Sugar and Promotes Dental HealthGinseng; top left. Astragalus; top right (, Turmeric‌‌‌‌; bottom left (Homestead and Chill), Ginkgo Biloba; bottom right

Pictured: Ginseng; top left (Me & Qi), Astragalus; top right (EBAY), Turmeric‌‌‌‌; bottom left (Homestead and Chill), Ginkgo Biloba; bottom right (Indiamart)

Herbs can have effects on the body as powerful as pharmaceutical drugs, which is why you should consult with your doctor before taking part in herbal therapy. Additionally, you should never abandon your regular medication or alter the dose without the knowledge and approval of your doctor.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Food

Much like herbs, TCM views the healing properties of foods in the same way; different foods carry different energies that can go directly to specific organs to help them heal. Food is divided into five natures, called “siQi”: cold, cool, neutral, warm, and hot. The nature of food is not determined by its actual temperature, but rather by what effects it will have on an individual’s body after consumption. 

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, when a person continually eats one type of food, it creates an imbalance in their body and affects their immune system. Thus, one of the keys in Traditional Chinese Medicine is to keep our body “neutral.” Traditional Chinese Medicine also tells us that having food at a moderate temperature is ideal to avoid overstraining the digestive organs.3

TCM Food Chart

Pictured: Traditional Chinese Medicine Food Chart    Source: Pinterest

There’s a saying in TCM: “The five grains provide nourishment. The five vegetables provide filling. The five domestic animals provide enrichment. The five fruits provide support.” This means that a balanced diet, where foods are consumed in appropriate combinations according to their natures and flavors, serves to supplement the essence that the human body needs.4

Traditional Chinese Medicine, Genetic Research, and Drug Development

Considering the fact that Traditional Chinese Medicine is now an academic discipline in the field of medicine, there are modern developments that are worth taking note of, such as the use of TCM in genetics research.

The Yin and Yang principle can be applied to a genetic disease such as inherited breast cancer and its associated genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. According to this principle of natural law, if either of these genes is activated, somewhere in another part of the genetic code there also exists a gene to fix this action. There must be complementary programs running — one for developing the disease and one for healing it.5

In addition to genetics research, nearly 200 modern medicines have been developed either directly or indirectly from the 7,300 species of plants used in TCM. For example, ephedrine, an alkaloid used to treat asthma, was first isolated from the Chinese herb Ma Huang. Another alkaloid known as huperzine A was isolated from a widely used ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine known as Huperzia serrata, which is a type of fir moss.

Ma Huang; top, Huperzia serrata, bottomPictured: Ma Huang; top (The Plant Attraction), Huperzia serrata, bottom (HSN)

In Conclusion

Even if you aren’t familiar with all of the fundamentals of Traditional Chinese Medicine, you’re probably familiar with some of its practices. Maybe you’ve had an acupuncture session, taken turmeric for arthritis pain, or signed up at the local tai chi studio. Either way, TCM’s popularity has remained consistent throughout the centuries for improving health and wellness when used alongside conventional medical therapies.

What is your TCM elemental type? Have you ever tried a TCM treatment? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hua_Tuo [1]

https://magazine.circledna.com/what-does-traditional-chinese-medicine-say-about-qi/ [2]

https://www.pingminghealth.com/article/581/warming-and-cooling-characteristics-of-common-foods/ [3]

https://qiblog.emperors.edu/2015/10/the-role-of-healthy-eating-in-traditional-chinese-medicine/ [4]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3814386/ [5]

 

The Ancient Practice of Gua Sha

Gua Sha (pronounced gwa-shah) is a tool, or tools, used to scrape the skin to promote circulation. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) utilized Gua Sha tools thousands of years ago to increase blood circulation and heal the body. Today, the practice continues to evolve into a sought-after addition to people’s beauty regimen to tone and tighten skin. In this blog, we will explore the origins of Gua Sha, its benefits, and the tools and techniques used for this ancient skin practice.

What Is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha is a traditional Eastern and Southeast Asian healing technique in which a smooth, credit-card-sized “board” is pressed along the body’s skin; however, in more recent years, it’s been adapted for the face and neck, as well. The idea behind Gua Sha is that light pressure releases fascial and muscular tension and moves sluggish lymph fluid to tone the face.

Originally, Gua Sha was used to release different aches and pains in the body. For example, in TCM, it was commonly used on the upper back to invigorate blood flow, release heat toxins, stimulate lymphatic drainage, activate various acupressure points of the body, and stimulate an immune response bringing beneficial cells to the area.

Gua Sha works by promoting blood circulation. When you scrape the skin gently on the face or body, you’re stimulating a certain meridian point, which corresponds to an organ in the body that’s responsible for your skin’s overall health. In turn, you’re sending a signal to your body that this area needs more circulation.

The Origins of Gua Sha

Back-view illustration of Gua Sha treatment from Fangyi chuyan (A Modest Proposal for Epidemic Prevention)

Pictured: Back-view illustration of Gua Sha treatment from Fangyi chuyan (A Modest Proposal for Epidemic Prevention)    Source: Gua Sha Massage

With its origins in the treatment of abscesses in the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) of ancient China, Gua Sha has been a mainstay as a folk medicine since antiquity. 

Theories of “sha” disease gradually developed based on the premise that a pathogen was to be cleared and dispersed from the body and this was combined with a scraping technique, initially involving a hemp rope rubbing method using water or sesame oil in the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368 CE).

By the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 CE), the method of scraping had become more precise and expanded towards the entire body. A working framework for the treatment of sha was also developed at this time which enabled a wider application of scraping and included instructions for headaches, numbness of the face, and head shaking.

It was not until the Song dynasty (960-1279 CE) that anything resembling the practice of cosmetic scraping appeared, which was in the form of jade rubbing to treat facial scars. Many of the ideas behind facial Gua Sha have been influenced by traditional Chinese cosmetology, which from the Warring States and Qin and Han Dynasties, came ideas of how the human body and skin color changes are directly related to changes in people’s temperament, age, health, and qi.

Ancient doctors rarely recorded the specific methods, time, and treatment of Gua Sha but in the 20th century with the work of Jiang Jingbo and later Lu Jiru, Gua Sha was reinvigorated and an adapted, modernized style of Gua Sha therapy was promoted.1

The Benefits of Gua Sha

Implementing Gua Sha into your self-care routine may offer these potential benefits:

Gua Sha May Help Reduce Inflammation and Puffiness

Similar to other types of massages, gliding a Gua Sha tool across your face or body can promote microcirculation in your soft tissues, aka blood flow in small blood vessels. This increase in blood flow might help physical symptoms of inflammation like puffiness and swelling.2 The practice may also help lymphatic drainage by moving fluid away from swollen areas.3

Gua Sha May Boost Your Skin’s Collagen Production

Every year, our skin produces 1% less collagen; collagen keeps our skin strong and elastic.. Giving yourself regular Gua Sha facials can help ramp up your skin’s collagen production, thereby reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.4

Gua Sha May Increase the Efficacy of Skincare Topicals

Gua Sha can increase the efficacy of the skincare you’re already using. If you apply your moisturizer or serum and then give yourself a massage, the Gua Sha tools helps push the product deeper into your skin. This can help your serum absorb better and allow you to experience the full benefits of the formula.

Gua Sha Can Alleviate Tech Neck and Other Pains

If you feel the aches and pains from uncomfortable work posture or constant scrolling, a Gua Sha body massage might help. In a small 2014 study involving 60 regular computer users with neck and shoulder pain, researchers found that Gua Sha helped reduce pain and improve range of motion.5 Individuals in a small 2011 study also reported that Gua Sha helped reduce neck pain when compared with people who used heating pads.6

Gua Sha Can Improve Headache and Migraine Symptoms

If you’re dealing with migraines or headaches, Gua Sha might help relieve pain and tension in your head and neck. A 2007 case study of a 72-year-old woman reported that Gua Sha helped relieve migraine symptoms over a 14-day period.7

Gua Sha Can Aid in Muscle Recovery

Gua Sha’s ability to promote blood circulation might also help move the buildup of lactic acid that accumulates from your workouts. In a small 2017 study involving 65 male weightlifters, people who had Gua Sha treatments reported that lifting weights was easier post-treatment. Researchers concluded that Gua Sha might also help speed up muscle recovery and be a potential alternative to other sports recovery methods.8

Gua Sha May Help Tourette Symptoms

Tourette syndrome is a condition that affects the nervous system and causes sudden involuntary movements or sounds. While Gua Sha is not a miracle cure, limited research shows it might help reduce symptoms when combined with other treatments.

A 2017 case study of a 33-year-old man found that a combination of Gua Sha and other therapies appeared to reduce his Tourette syndrome symptoms. 9 

Gua Sha May Help Perimenopausal Symptoms

A small 2017 study involving 80 perimenopausal women found that people who had Gua Sha treatments for 8 weeks experienced fewer symptoms compared with the control group receiving only traditional therapy. 10

Gua Sha Tools

Some of the most common Gua Sha tool shapes are:

The Wand-Shaped Tool

Gua Sha S Shaped Tool

Pictured: Wand Gua Sha tool  Source: Eastern Currents

This long, slender tool has 2 pointy ends that are best to use for specific areas where you want to apply pressure and relieve tension in the body. These areas are primarily in the hands, feet, laterals, back, neck, and shoulders. The challenge with this shape is the limited maneuverability around the face and smaller areas of the body.

If you’re interested in adding this tool to your regime, check out the LEOSENSE Gua Sha Bian Stone Wand Tool.

The Dolphin

Gua Sha Wing or Fin Tool

Pictured: Dolphin Gua Sha tool    Source: DH Gate

This tool shape is one of the most popular and commonly purchased Gua Sha tools available on the market. It’s easy to hold due to its small size and is perfect for contouring different areas of the face including the jawline, nose bridge, chin, and under-eye area.

While the heart-shaped tool is great for the face, neck, and hands, it might be less effective to use in other parts of the body as its edges are not long enough to hold onto, and therefore less workable for applying firmer pressure.

If you’re interested in adding this tool to your regime, check out the MEEKU Gua Sha Stainless Steel Dolphin Tool.

The Spoon Tool

Gua Sha Spoon Tool

Pictured: Spoon Gua Sha tool    Source: Amazon

A Gua Sha spoon is a sculpting tool that helps you target acupressure points along your face and neck to gently release any muscle tension. Its spoon-like shape helps to target smaller areas as well as harder-to-reach areas like those around the nose and eyes.

If you’re interested in adding this tool to your regime, check out the Top Sewing Gua Sha 100% Jade Spoon Tool

The Comb Tool

Gua Sha Comb Tool

Pictured: Comb Gua Sha tool    Source: Amazon

This shape is exactly what it sounds like: a Gua Sha scraper equipped with comb-like prongs. On one side of this tool, you have the classic curved edge, perfect for a facial treatment. On the opposite side, the stone is shaped into a comb so you can give your scalp a nice, deep massage.

If you’re interested in adding this tool to your regime, check out the FORUHEALTH Gua Sha Jade Comb Tool.

Gua Sha Materials

Here’s a look at the most common materials used in Gua Sha:

  • Rose quartz is one of the most popular stones for Gua Sha tools. It’s said to be the stone of compassion, love, and emotional healing. Likewise, it supposedly has calming properties, which makes it ideal for people with sensitive skin and those who suffer from acne, rosacea, or other skin issues. According to some, rose quartz is also the best material for reducing signs of aging. In addition, as a healing stone, it’s used to drain toxins and negativity from the body.
  • Jade is a widely-used stone in the world of Gua Sha. Jade is known for its cooling effect, as well as its ability to balance the body and our inner energies. Similarly, some people claim that it helps relax the nervous system. If you’re looking for a tool that will reduce facial puffiness, jade might be your best bet. Plus, it’s known to promote lymphatic function. 
  • The Bian stone is also lauded for its healing properties. It’s an ancient stone with a wide range of uses, and one of those happens to be Gua Sha. According to certain studies, the Bian stone may help regulate blood pressure. Also, when used in a full-body Gua Sha treatment, it’s ideal for treating lower back pain.
  • Amethyst may help reduce stress and negative energy. Like jade, amethyst is perfect for cooling down the skin. Moreover, some people claim that it fights bacteria and targets the pores. 
  • Clear Quartz is among the rarest of these materials. It’s often referred to as a “master healer.” Many fans believe that it balances the mind, body, and spirit, providing a feeling of calm and clarity. Clear quartz is great for all skin types.

DIY Gua Sha

Once you choose the perfect shape and material, you can start using your Gua Sha tool every day or at least two to three times a week. To prevent any rashes or irritation when doing a Gua Sha massage, make sure to always use a facial oil first.

After using your Gua Sha tool, be sure to clean it with soap and warm water.

Facial Gua Sha: A Step-by-Step Guide

Always begin with your neck to release tension and assist with lymph drainage. Repeat each step three to five times. For a more detailed look at this technique, you can check out this video.

  1. Hold the skin at the base of your neck with your hand that isn’t holding the tool. Using the divot in your tool, use upward strokes, and glide up the cervical spine (the middle of your neck) from the base of your neck to the base of the skull and give it a wiggle. 
  2. Turn your Gua Sha tool to use the long flat edg. Gently glide down the side of your neck next to your shoulder. Hold your skin taut a few inches down from where you are gliding the Gua Sha.
  3. Repeat on the other side of your neck.
  4. Using the divot on your tool, glide up from the center of your collarbone to your chin. Use feather-light pressure.
  5. Choose the side of your face you would like to work on first. Use the divot of the tool to go from the middle of your chin towards the ear along the jawline.
  6. Use the long side of your Gua Sha and hook the tool under the cheekbone drawing out and up towards the ear.
  7. Using light pressure, slowly sweep from the side of your nose, under the eye, out towards the temple
  8. Next, using lighter pressure, going along the brow bone, use the long side of the tool to sweep from the center of the forehead to the temples.
  9. Starting at the space between the eyebrows, stroke up to your hairline. Move over to the right eyebrow and repeat.
  10. Finally, you can scrape from the center of your forehead towards the earlobe and down to your collarbone using a downward motion to help flush your lymphatic system.

The Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil Is Perfect For Gua Sha

The Herban Wisdom Facial Oil

The golden rule of Gua Sha is to always apply facial oil before using your stone. You need enough slip so that the tool can easily glide across the contours of your face — without it, you can pull or tug at your delicate skin.

The Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil is a high-vibrational facial oil that will compliment your Gua Sha routine perfectly. This exceptional formula is a powerful skin treatment fusing clean plant nutrients rich in antioxidant, adaptogenic, rejuvenating, and moisturizing properties.

Just a few drops incorporated into your own Gua Sha ritual can help visibly recharge skin to appear calm and balanced, radiating with a gorgeous natural glow. 

You can shop the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil here

References:

http://en.chinaculture.org/info/2013-04/25/content_456628.htm [1]

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1550830707001772?via%3Dihub [2]

https://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/9/11/3678/htm [3]

https://blog.sidekicktool.com/gua-sha-wrinkles/ [4]

https://he01.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/ams/article/view/66337 [5]

https://academic.oup.com/painmedicine/article/12/3/362/1829149?login=false [6]

https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/107731 [7]

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0254627217300262 [8]

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S200529011630125X?via%3Dihub [9]

https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Abstract/2017/03000/Effect_of_Gua_sha_therapy_on_perimenopausal.10.aspx [10]

Exploring Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with several forms; its main role is to act as an antioxidant, scavenging free radicals that can damage cells. Vitamin E came to public attention in the 1980s when scientists began to understand that free radical damage was involved in the early stages of artery-clogging atherosclerosis, and might also contribute to cancer, vision loss, and a host of other chronic conditions. In this blog, we will explore the types of Vitamin E and its antioxidant properties, along with foods rich in Vitamin E and the health benefits they provide in both skincare and through consumption.

What is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is an antioxidant compound obtained from plant sources in the diet. Vitamin E is not a singular substance; it’s a collective term for a family of eight homologous molecules that are synthesized naturally by plants from homogentisic acid.

Vitamin E is a series of organic compounds consisting of various methylated phenols. These compounds can act as an antioxidant by donating a hydrogen atom to reduce free radicals and have a hydrophobic side chain, which allows for penetration into biological membranes.

The eight homologs are split into two groups: tocopherols and tocotrienols. The tocopherols and tocotrienols have four homologs: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. Each form has a slightly different biological activity. However, all of these various derivatives are referred to simply as “Vitamin E.”

Historically, only one out of the eight has appeared to have the most nutritional importance: the d-alpha-tocopherol isomer form. The d-alpha-tocopherol isomer form is commonly called Vitamin E on nutrition/supplement labels and is also the only form that can be referred to as the RDA, or Recommended Daily Allowance, for Vitamin E.

The alpha form of tocopherol was originally designated d-alpha-tocopherol on the basis of its optical activity. This means that you can “see” more of this specific compound in your body’s chemical signature. It makes up about 90% of the tocopherol found in humans. Even in your blood plasma, around 83% of the Vitamin E found is d-alpha-tocopherol.

It’s been found that long-term supplementation with just a d-alpha-tocopherol Vitamin E supplement results in blood plasma levels of d-gamma-tocopherols being lowered by 30 to 50%. Since your body still needs this other form, some researchers now recommend to select one with mixed tocopherols.1

Types of Vitamin E

Commercially available sources of Vitamin E can be classified into several distinct categories or types, such as 2, 3:

Natural Vitamin E

This is what most people refer to as Vitamin E; it’s the non-esterified form of d-alpha-tocopherol and occurs in nature, primarily in vegetable oils like soy and sunflower oil.

Semi-Synthetic, Esters

Manufacturers commonly convert the phenol form of the vitamin, with a free hydroxyl group, to esters, using acetic or succinic acid. An ester is a salt formed by a carboxylic acid and an alcohol (tocopherol is the alcohol in this case). These esters are more stable as they are less susceptible to oxidation during storage. In their stored form, they are not classified as antioxidants.

You have to consume these ester forms to “activate” them and unlock their antioxidant properties. Your gut produces an enzyme called esterase that de-esterfies the compound and allows your body to absorb the compound as free tocopherol. Several studies indicate the rate of absorption of these forms of tocopheryl esters and free tocopherol have similar bioavailability.

Alpha-tocopherol

Current literature suggests the primary role in the body of Vitamin E is to function as a major lipid antioxidant for free radicals formed from normal cellular metabolism. Free radicals are destructive to the cell membrane and other body components.

Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules, which makes the free radicals unable to damage your cells. Other antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, are capable of regenerating the antioxidant capacity of alpha-tocopherol. Additionally, alpha-tocopherol also protects the fats in low-density lipoproteins (LDL) from oxidation, possibly reducing risk of cardiovascular disease in the process.

Gamma-Tocopherol

Gamma-tocopherol is the major form of Vitamin E ingested in the U.S. diet. It was previously assumed that this form was not important as the body naturally has much higher concentrations of the alpha form. The blood levels of gamma-tocopherol are generally 10-times lower than those of alpha-tocopherol.

However, more recent studies suggest that gamma-tocopherol picks up the slack left by the alpha form. It appears to scavenge different types of free radicals which can damage proteins, lipids, and even your DNA.

Additionally, gamma-tocopherol can inhibit inflammation by reducing cyclooxygenase activity. Studies have also shown higher plasma concentrations of gamma-tocopherol are associated with reduced incidences of prostate cancer.

Tocotrienols

Studies on on tocotrienols indicate they may have significant antioxidant and anti-cancer effects. Tocotrienols appear to act on a specific enzyme called HMG-CoA (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase) that’s involved in cholesterol production in the liver. Tocotrienols suppress the production of this enzyme, which may result in less cholesterol being manufactured by liver cells.

The Benefits of Vitamin E in Skincare

Some potential skin benefits of Vitamin E include:

Vitamin E is Moisturizing

Researchers have found that products containing Vitamin E can very effectively moisturize the skin. A few studies have shown that the topical application of Vitamin E can improve the skin’s water-binding capacity after two to four weeks of use.4,5  The research also found that Vitamin E can be more moisturizing than other common ingredients used in skincare.

Vitamin E Can Help Fight UV-Related Skin Damage

Oregan State University highlights several studies suggesting that Vitamin E could fight skin damage from sun exposure. Though it’s been shown that it’s possible that adding Vitamin E to sunscreen provides some additional skin benefits, it is important to note that Vitamin E itself is not an effective sunscreen.

Multiple studies have found that the combination of Vitamin C and Vitamin E protects the skin against UV damage.6 Human subjects orally co-supplemented with Vitamins C and E show increased Minimal Erythemal Dose (MED), which is a measure of photoprotection from UV light on the skin.7

Vitamin E Can Promote Wound Healing

The author of a review article in the International Wound Journal suggests that Vitamin E can promote wound healing. The theory is that because Vitamin E deficiencies can slow wound healing, a good amount of this nutrient could have the opposite effect.8

Vitamin E Possesses Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Inflammation is the body’s reaction to an injury or infection; it can cause pain, discoloration, and swelling. Many common skin conditions cause inflammation, including acne. A 2020 study reviewed 26 clinical trials and found evidence that Vitamin E can reduce inflammation in adults.9

Vitamin E May Reduce Hyperpigmentation

Dark patches on your skin can be caused by too much melanin, which is triggered by hormones or other causes. Called Melasma, this condition is believed to be treatable through the use of topical Vitamin E. Studies show that hyperpigmentation may be only moderately affected by using topical Vitamin E oil, but the most effective way to use Vitamin E to treat hyperpigmentation is to pair it with Vitamin C.10

Vitamin E May Prevent Aging And Wrinkles 

Vitamin E affects blood circulation, which is why many people notice a difference in the firmness and structure of their skin after the topical use of Vitamin E. A 2013 review tells us that Vitamin E and other natural ingredients rich in antioxidants are generally accepted as a treatment for delaying wrinkles due to photoaging.11

Foods Vitamin E Is Found In

Numerous foods provide Vitamin E. Nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils are among the best sources of alpha-tocopherol, and significant amounts are available in green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals. 

Here are 10 foods that contain large amounts of Vitamin E: 

Sunflower Seeds (Vitamin E per 1 oz handful:( 7.4 mg or 49% DV), Vitamin E per 100g (26.1 mg or 178% DV) Vitamin E per 200 calories (9 mg or 60% DV)

 

Almonds (Vitamin E per 1 oz handful:( 7.3 mg or 49% DV), Vitamin E per 100g (25.6 mg or 171% DV) Vitamin E per 200 calories (8.9 mg or 59% DV)

 

Avocados (Vitamin E per 1 oz avodaco):( 4.2 mg or 28% DV), Vitamin E per 100g (2.1 mg or 14% DV) Vitamin E per 200 calories (2.7 mg or 17% DV)

 

Spinach (Vitamin E per cup cooked):( 3.7 mg or 25% DV), Vitamin E per 100g (2.1 mg or 14% DV) Vitamin E per 200 calories (18.1 mg or 121% DV)

 

Butternut Squash (Vitamin E per 1 cup cooked)l:( 2.6 mg or 18% DV), Vitamin E per 100g (1.3 mg or 9% DV) Vitamin E per 200 calories (6.5 mg or 43% DV)

 

Kiwifruit (Vitamin E per cup:( 2.6 mg or 18% DV), Vitamin E per 100g (1.5 mg or 10% DV) Vitamin E per 200 calories (4.8 mg or 32% DV)

 

Broccoli (Vitamin E per cup cookedl:( 2.3 mg or 15% DV), Vitamin E per 100g (1.5 mg or 10% DV) Vitamin E per 200 calories (8.3 mg or 55% DV)

 

Trout (Vitamin E per fillet:( 2 mg or 13% DV), Vitamin E per 100g (2.8 mg or 19% DV) Vitamin E per 200 calories (3.3 mg or 22% DV)

 

Olive Oil (Vitamin E per tablespoon:( 1.9 mg or 13% DV), Vitamin E per 100g (14.4 mg or 96% DV) Vitamin E per 200 calories (3.2 mg or 22% DV)

 

Shrimp (Vitamin E per 3 oz:( 1.9 mg or 12% DV), Vitamin E per 100g (2.2 mg or 15% DV) Vitamin E per 200 calories (3.7 mg or 25% DV)

The Health Benefits of Vitamin E

Vitamin E plays many roles in your body. While it’s best known for its antioxidant effects, Vitamin E is also needed for proper immune function and cellular signaling. Here are a few potential health benefits of Vitamin E:

Vitamin E May Reduce Markers Of Oxidative Stress And Improve Antioxidant Defenses

Oxidative stress is a condition that occurs when there’s an imbalance between your body’s antioxidant defenses and the production and accumulation of compounds called reactive oxygen species (ROS). This can lead to cellular damage and increased disease risk.12

Because Vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body, studies have shown that supplementing with high doses of it can reduce markers of oxidative stress and boost antioxidant defenses in some populations.13

For example, a 2018 study in 54 people with diabetic nephropathy — kidney damage caused by high blood sugar — found that supplementing with 800 IU of Vitamin E per day for 12 weeks significantly increased levels of glutathione peroxidase (GPx) compared with a placebo.14 GPx is a group of antioxidant enzymes that protect your cells from oxidative damage.

Vitamin E May Reduce Heart Disease Risk Factors

Having high blood pressure and high levels of blood lipids such as LDL cholesterol and triglycerides may increase your risk of developing heart disease. Promisingly, research suggests that Vitamin E supplements may help reduce heart disease risk factors such as these in some people.

A 2019 review of 18 studies found that, compared with placebo treatments, Vitamin E supplements significantly reduced systolic but not diastolic blood pressure — the top and bottom numbers of blood pressure readings, respectively.15

Some studies also show that taking Vitamin E with omega-3 supplements may reduce LDL and triglyceride levels in people with metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions, including high blood fat levels, that increases the risk of heart disease and other health conditions.16

Vitamin E May Benefit Those With Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

NAFLD includes a number of conditions that cause an accumulation of fat in the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol. According to research findings, Vitamin E may improve some aspects of health in people with NAFLD.

A 2021 review of eight studies found that supplementing with Vitamin E reduced levels of the liver enzymes alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), decreased blood lipid levels, and improved liver health in people with NAFLD.17

Elevated AST and ALT levels can indicate liver inflammation and damage in people with NAFLD, so lower levels are favorable.

Vitamin E May Help Manage Dysmenorrhea 

Dysmenorrhea is a condition characterized by severe and frequent menstrual pain, such as cramps and pelvic pain. Promisingly, research suggests Vitamin E rich foods and supplements may reduce pain in women with this condition.

In a 2018 study of 100 women with dysmenorrhea, taking 200 IU of Vitamin E daily relieved menstrual pain more than a placebo. The effects were even better when the vitamin was combined with an omega-3 supplement containing 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA.18

Additionally, a 2021 study showed that supplementing with a combination of Vitamin E and Vitamin C daily for 8 weeks helped reduce the severity of pelvic pain and dysmenorrhea in women with endometriosis.19

Vitamin E’s Other Potential Health Benefits

Vitamin E had also been linked to several other health benefits:

  • Vitamin E may improve lung function. Studies have shown that Vitamin E supplements could improve lung function and certain symptoms of asthma in children and adults.20
  • Vitamin E may benefit older adults. Because Vitamin E plays an important role in health, such as reducing inflammation and improving immune function, supplements may benefit people who have increased needs or don’t get enough in their diets, such as some older adults. 21
  • Vitamin E may benefit cognitive health. Maintaining optimal Vitamin E levels and taking supplements may help protect against cognitive decline, but it’s still unclear whether the supplements benefit people with cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.22

The Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil Features Vitamin E

The Herban Wisdom Facial Oil

Tocopherol plus Vitamin E rich plant extracts are integrated into the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, photo-protecting, and moisturizing properties. Cranberry, Coriander Seed, Cucumber Seed, and Rosehip Oil combine to defend skin from oxidative damage and bind moisture to the skin.

The Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil is non-irritating and well tolerated; it’s suitable for all skin types. It supports overall skin wellness and may assist with its healing.

You can shop the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil here.

 

References:

https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-E [1] [3]

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/#:~:text=Naturally%20occurring%20vitamin%20E%20exists,recognized%20to%20meet%20human%20requirements [2]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9706379/?dopt=Citation [4]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17256076/?dopt=Citation [5]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9448204/?dopt=Citation [6]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15675947/?dopt=Citation [7]

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/iwj.12295 [8]

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73741-6 [9]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4976416/ [10]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3789494/ [11]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551541/ [12]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29891745/ [13]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29891745/ [14]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30846828/ [15]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31405672/ [16]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32810309/ [17]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29542390/ [18]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34122682/ [19]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24338254/ [20]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6140432/ [21]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6645610/ [22]

All About Psychedelics

Psychedelics, also known as hallucinogens, are a group of substances that are commonly used to change and enhance sensory perceptions, thought processes, and energy levels, and to facilitate spiritual experiences. They include chemicals, such as LSD, and plants, such as peyote. The use of psychedelics goes back centuries in many cultures with some still being used today in religious ceremonies to experience spiritual or heightened states of awareness. In this blog, we’ll dive into what psychedelics are, how they work on the brain, and why the page is turning on using psychedelics for medical conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Types of Psychedelics

While psychedelics are loosely described under a general rubric, there are big differences between them. The following are some of the most commonly used psychedelic substances:

Acid (LSD)

LSD and Acid Sheets

Pictured: Acid and LSD sheets     Source: FRANK 

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a chemically synthesized hallucinogen, developed from ergot, a kind of mold that grows on the rye grain. Also known simply as acid, LSD was widely used in the 1960s until it was made illegal in 1968.1 The use of LSD has continued, despite being a controlled substance, although its use has gone through phases of greater or lesser popularity.

Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)

DMT

Pictured: DMT    Source: Elephantos

N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a simple and potent psychedelic molecule found in many plants, such as psychotria viridis (chacruna) and diplopterys cabrerana (chaliponga), as well as animals. While DMT is naturally produced in the human brain, researchers are still working to understand the purpose of the molecule.

DMT can cause intense perceptual, cognitive, and emotional changes.2 However, the effects of DMT are much shorter than those of other psychedelics, typically lasting only an hour. This has led to DMT trips being referred to as the “businessman’s trip” or “businessman’s lunch.”

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca

Pictured: Ayahuasca    Source: The Guardian

Ayahuasca is a brew of two plants, one of which contains DMT, while the ayahuasca vine contains harmala alkaloids or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Therefore, ayahuasca may be chemically reduced to DMT + MAOIs taken by mouth, while DMT is typically used via inhalation without MAOIs.3

Indigenous people in countries like Colombia and Peru have been using ayahuasca for hundreds of years as medicine and for religious worship. Compared to the intense and short-lived experience of pure DMT, an ayahuasca trip lasts for a few hours. 

Many Westerners seeking psychedelic medicine travel to countries such as Brazil or Peru where ayahuasca is legally available. In this setting, ritual experiences are often embedded within a longer retreat. For example, the tea is often consumed on multiple nights with healing and integration work done during the day.

Ketamine

Ketamine

Pictured: Ketamine    Source: Drug Target Review

Ketamine is a well-known medication that was originally used as an anesthetic during minor surgical procedures. Over time, ketamine has grown in popularity recreationally due to its sedative and muscle-relaxing properties. Ketamine is a dissociative substance, which means it acts on different chemicals in the brain to produce visual and auditory distortion and a detachment from reality.

Mescaline

Mescaline

Pictured: Peyote    Source: NZ Drug Foundation

Mescaline is a naturally occurring psychedelic substance found in certain species of cactus, the most well-known being the peyote cactus. The effects of mescaline, which are similar to those of LSD, were well documented in the classic text on hallucinogens, The Door of Perception by Aldous Huxley.

Although peyote is a Schedule I drug and is therefore illegal, the listing of peyote as a controlled substance does not apply to the use of peyote in bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church. Any person who manufactures peyote for or distributes peyote to the Native American Church, however, is required to obtain registration annually and to comply with all other requirements of law.4

Ololiuqui

Ololiuque

Pictured: Ololiuqui seeds    Source: Magic Mushrooms Shop

Ololiuqui is a naturally occurring psychedelic that is found in the seeds of the morning glory flower, which grows in Central and South America. Like mescaline, ololiuqui has a long history of use in spiritual rituals among indigenous groups where the plant grows but unlike mescaline, it’s not a controlled substance in the U.S. leading some to consider it a free “herbal high.”

Psilocybin

Magic Mushrooms

Pictured: Magic mushrooms     Source: Healthline

Magic mushrooms contain a naturally occurring type of hallucinogen called psilocybin, which is found in certain fungi. There is a wide variety of hallucinogenic mushrooms, and their legal status is somewhat ambiguous, as they can be found growing wild in many parts of the world.

Their natural origins can make them appealing to young people, keen to experiment with these “free drugs.” But mushrooms carry particularly high risks given the toxicity of some varieties, which can even be lethal.5 

MDMA

MDMA

Pictured: MDMA   Source: La Hacienda Treatment Center

MDMA, also referred to as ecstasy or molly, is more difficult to categorize as a psychedelic as the hallucinogenic effects are less pronounced, and the mood-enhancing and stimulant effects are more noticeable to the user than some other psychedelics. However, it can induce hallucinations and delusions.

It’s possible to have a bad trip on ecstasy, although this is not as common as bad trips on LSD or mushrooms. Ecstasy has also been associated with increased risks of health problems arising from overheating, dehydration, and water intoxication.6

How Psychedelics Work On the Brain

Psychedelics, such as LSD and psilocybin, are chemically similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin produced by the brain. Serotonin is involved in many neural functions including mood and perception. By mimicking this chemical’s effects, the substances exert their profound effects on subjective experience.

DMT too acts via serotonergic pathways, but also through other routes – for instance, DMT binds with sigma-1 receptors that are involved in the communication between neurons.7 Meanwhile, ketamine – among many other effects – blocks NMDA receptors that are involved in the functioning of the neurotransmitter glutamate.8

A key brain area for the effects of psychedelic substances appears to be the temporal lobe, the location of much of the emotional and memory functioning. For instance, removal of the front part of the temporal lobe as a radical treatment for epilepsy has been shown to prevent the psychological effects of taking LSD.9

Interestingly, abnormal activity in the temporal lobe, such as during seizures, can lead to events similar to near-death experiences. An effect shared by different psychedelic substances is that they increase the amount of disorganized activity across the brain – a state that neuroscientists describe as being “higher in entropy.”10

A consequence of this is a reduction in the activation of a group of brain structures known collectively as the “default mode network,” which is associated with self-conscious and self-focused thought. One theory, then, is that psychedelics provoke a spiritual state of oneness with the world by increasing the brain’s entropy and suppressing the ego-sustaining activity of the default mode network.11

Psychedelics For Medical Conditions

Psychedelics were used in psychotherapy in the 1960s, but this was halted for mainly political reasons until quite recently. Psychological research has since revived the use of psychedelics in experimental psychological treatment.

However, regulated treatments are currently experimental and not accessible to many people. While the research on psychedelic medicine for mental illness is still considered new and emerging, some studies have shown compelling results:

Psilocybin

A 2021 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that high-dose psilocybin improved symptoms and quality of life when given with psychological support. After six months, about 80% of participants continued to show clinically significant decreases in anxiety and depressed mood.12

Another 2021 study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that patients with moderate to severe major depressive disorder who received two doses of psilocybin did just as well — if not better — at six weeks than patients who received daily doses of escitalopram, which is an antidepressant medication.13

Psilocybin may also be an effective addition to current treatments for quitting smoking, according to a pilot study.14

Brain on Magic Mushrooms

Pictured: An fMRI of patients undergoing psilocybin treatment for depression with their brain regions appearing to be more interconnected than before the treatment   Source: DW

LSD

LSD-assisted psychotherapy — meaning a combined intervention of therapy and medication — may lessen feelings of anxiety among people with life-threatening illnesses who are anxious about their illnesses, according to a small study with 12 participants. Follow-up research with participants one year after treatment found that those decreases in anxiety had lasted.15

A review of six clinical trials with 536 participants linked a single dose of LSD administered within treatment programs for alcohol use disorder to a decrease in alcohol misuse.16

Brain on LSD

Pictured: The brain on LSD shows higher resting-state functional connectivity between the visual cortex and the rest of the brain   Source: Inverse

MDMA

Some of the most compelling results for MDMA as a treatment for mental illness have come from clinical trials involving people with PTSD. In a study with 90 participants, investigators found that 67% of people treated with MDMA-assisted therapy no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD 18 weeks after starting treatment.

The authors of the study concluded that “MDMA-assisted therapy represents a potential breakthrough treatment that merits expedited clinical evaluation.”17

Brain on MDMA

Pictured: MDMA amps up the good feelings of happy memories and dulls the pain of bad ones as shown in brain scans    Source: Inverse

Ketamine and Esketamine

Intranasal esketamine, also known as-ketamine or S-ketamine, is the S enantiomer of ketamine. Administered together with standard antidepressant treatment, it was found to significantly reduce depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts among patients with depression and high suicide risk, a small 2018 study found.18, 19

And in a March 2022 study, researchers found that among 537 people who received intravenous ketamine therapy in a clinical setting between 2016 and 2020, more than half of the patients experienced an improvement in their symptoms, and nearly 30% achieved remission.20

Ketamine Pre and Post Usage

Pictured: Ketamine appears to strengthen connections between neural networks in people with severe depression. In a study comparing neural activity prior to a ketamine infusion (left) and six to nine hours after an infusion (right), a single dose made the brain more responsive to a simple sensory stimulus, the light stroking of a finger.    Source: Brain Facts

A Nod to Ram Dass

Ram Dass

Pictured: Ram Dass   Source: GQ

Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert on April 6, 1931, to a successful Jewish family in Newton, Massachusetts. Though he was Bar Mitzvahed and grew up in a traditional house, he considered himself an atheist. “I didn’t have one whiff of God until I took psychedelics,” he said. 

On March 5, 1961, Alpert had his first psychedelic experience with psilocybin. As the layers of his identity melted away, he went into a panic. The young professor was now able to see a wider vision of his place in the universe. 

Interested in exploring consciousness, this expansive experience ignited his curiosity and would color his brief but memorable tenure at Harvard. Realizing the enormous potential of psychedelics, Alpert and Timothy Leary, a fellow Harvard professor, launched the Harvard Psilocybin Project in 1960. 

Experiments ranged from scientifically rigorous to personal use and exploration. The Concord Prison Experiment (1961-1963) is an example of a more academically sound study and helped set the stage for psychedelic clinical trials today. 

Another famous experiment, the 1962 Good Friday Experiment, was the first controlled double-blind study of psychedelics. The goal was to assess whether ingesting psilocybin could induce a mystical experience in the religiously predisposed. 

Ten divinity students were given psilocybin, and ten took a placebo. The results were immediately clear.  “It was absurd,” Alpert said, “because, in a short time, it was obvious who had taken the psilocybin. . . . They would stagger out of the chapel and say, ‘I see God! I see God!’”21

In 1963, Alpert was formally dismissed from Harvard. Along with Leary and other colleagues, he moved to the Millbrook Estate in New York where they continued to experiment with psychedelics. Their goal was to uncover a permanent path to higher consciousness. 

During his four-year stay at Millbrook, he maintained professional relationships with those in the medical, psychiatric, and academic fields. He co-authored a number of books, including The Psychedelic Experience with Ralph Metzner.

After traveling to India and spending eight months with the guru, Neem Karoli Baba, at a temple in the Himalayas, the newly-named Ram Dass returned to America. In an effort to reach more people, he started many foundations, the most famous of which is the Living/Dying Project.

To Ram Dass, conscious living includes conscious dying. This is a major theme in today’s renaissance of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Compassionate use of psychedelics for terminal patients focuses on accepting one’s own mortality and living each day to the fullest.

He was involved in countless other foundations and movements, all aimed at improving people’s spiritual wellbeing. Ram Dass passed peacefully on December 22, 2019, and his powerful legacy continues to shape the world of psychedelic medicine.

To learn more about Ram Dass, click here.

Which Psychedelics Are FDA-Approved for Use?

Currently, Spravato (esketamine) is FDA-approved for treatment-resistant depression. It’s administered as a nasal spray by a health professional.22 Though esketamine is a psychedelic medicine, its prescribing information lists hallucinogenic experiences as a side effect rather than a mechanism of action, or how the substance works.

“With the typical way esketamine is used, folks are told to ignore the psychedelic effects as a side effect, which is the opposite of true psychedelic therapy where one is encouraged to pay attention to the altered state of consciousness and try to learn from it,” says Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., a professor of psychedelics and consciousness research in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.23

Some doctors prescribe ketamine — which is FDA-approved as a general anesthetic — “off-label” for depression. This means it’s not yet FDA-approved for depression, but some health professionals deem the medication appropriate for certain patients. Some physicians provide ketamine for depression at specialized clinics throughout the United States.24

Additionally, the FDA has granted breakthrough therapy designations to psilocybin for depression and MDMA for PTSD. This designation accelerates their pathway to FDA approval.25 But these medicines aren’t legally available to the public yet and can only be used as part of a clinical trial.26

In Conclusion

Considering the most recent scientific and clinical developments in understanding the actions of psychedelics, a statement made in 1980 by Dr. Stanislav Grof seems particularly relevant today: 

“It does not seem to be an exaggeration to say that psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy. These tools make it possible to study important processes that under normal circumstances are not available for direct observation.”

Although studies are showing positive results, there are still many unknowns, such as the ways these drugs will be administered if they become FDA-approved. However, the popularity surge in psychedelics research will likely continue gaining steam.

What are your thoughts on psychedelics being used medicinally? Let us know in the comments!

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysergic_acid_diethylamide#:~:text=On%20October%2024%2C%201968%2C%20possession,continued%20in%20Switzerland%20until%201993. [1]

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/306889 [2]

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ayahuasca [3]

https://www.britannica.com/plant/Lophophora-williamsii [4]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psilocybin_mushroom [5]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5008716/ [6]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2947205/#:~:text=The%20sigma%2D1%20receptor%20is,currently%20considered%20an%20orphan%20receptor. [7]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5148235/ [8]

http://9.g00gleweb.com/heiwu.php [9]

https://www.payam.com/s/Psychedelic-Assisted-Psychotherapy-for-Trauma-and-Chronic-Pain.pdf [10]

https://www.payam.com/s/Psychedelic-Assisted-Psychotherapy-for-Trauma-and-Chronic-Pain.pdf [11]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5367557/ [12]

https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2032994 [13]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25213996/ [14]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24594678/ [15]

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0269881112439253 [16]

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-021-01336-3 [17]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29656663/ [18]

https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17060647 [19]

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032721014142?via%3Dihub [20]

https://news.tufts.edu/magazine/fall2006/features/ultimate-trip.html [21]

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/esketamine-for-treatment-resistant-depression [22]

https://www.janssenlabels.com/package-insert/product-monograph/prescribing-information/SPRAVATO-pi.pdf [23]

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/from-street-drug-to-depression-therapy [24]

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20191122005452/en/FDA-grants-Breakthrough-Therapy-Designation-Usona-Institutes [25]

https://maps.org/news/media/press-release-fda-grants-breakthrough-therapy-designation-for-mdma-assisted-psychotherapy-for-ptsd-agrees-on-special-protocol-assessment-for-phase-3-trials/ [26]

How Skin Heals

It’s safe to say that our bodies are truly magical; however, we often take the intricacy of wound healing for granted. If you get a small cut, you may clean and cover it with a bandage, and move on with your life. Yet under that bandage, the body orchestrates a complex cascade of events designed to heal wounds big and small. In this blog, we will dive into the four stages of wound healing, along with how you can help your skin heal, ingredients to look for in skincare to promote healing, and supplementation.

The Four Stages of Wound Healing

Wound healing is the process by which the skin, or any injured organ, repairs itself after injury. The main aim of wound healing is to prevent or limit further damage, clean and seal the wound against infection, and restore tissue strength.

The wound healing process can be characterized by four overlapping phases:

Homoeostasis Phase

Upon wounding, the first phase of the wound response is concerned with maintaining homoeostasis within the body, which is any self-regulating process by which biological systems tend to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are optimal for survival.

Most wounds, even superficial wounds, result in damage to the circulatory system. To prevent blood loss and reduce the chance of an infection spreading throughout the body, platelets within the blood begin to form a fibrin clot to seal the wound site. 

Additionally, vasoconstriction, the narrowing of blood vessels by small muscles in their walls, occurs around the wound as a means of isolating the wound site. However, this is soon followed by vasodilation, the widening of blood vessels as a result of the relaxation of the blood vessel’s muscular walls, so the required cells are able to be recruited to the wound site. 

Inflammatory Phase

Once the wound is closed with a clot, the blood vessels can open a bit to allow fresh nutrients and oxygen into the wound for healing. Blood-borne oxygen is essential for healing. The right balance of oxygen is also important— too much or too little and the wound won’t heal correctly. 

White blood cells, called macrophages, take on the role of wound protector by fighting infection and overseeing the repair process. You might see some clear fluid on or around the cut at this time, which is helping clean out the wound. Macrophages also produce chemical messengers, called growth factors, which help repair the wound.

Proliferative Phase

The proliferative phase itself can be divided into four phases; in the case of shallow wounds the first two steps may not occur:

  • Re-vascularization: New blood vessels are formed around the wound site in order to supply the cells and nutrients required to remodel the wound.
  • Granulation: Fibroblasts, a type of cell that contributes to the formation of connective tissue, are attracted to the wound site and quickly lay down a temporary extracellular matrix (ECM), comprised of collagen and fibronectin, upon which the epidermis can be reconstituted.
  • Re-epithelialization: The exact mechanism of re-epithelialization is poorly understood. It’s thought that surviving epithelial cells around the wound edge become more motile and stretch to cover the wound site. Once a continuous epidermis is formed, they lose this motility and begin to divide.
  • Contraction: Re-epithelization is thought to occur simultaneously with contraction, where myofibroblasts, a predominant cell type that’s present in granulation tissue of contracting wounds, are recruited around the wound site and pull against each other to contract the size of the wound.

Essentially, during this phase, blood cells of all types arrive to help build new tissue. Chemical signals instruct cells to create collagen, which serves as a type of scaffolding, and other tissues to begin the repair process. Occasionally, you see the result of this process as a scar that starts out red and eventually dulls.

Remodeling Phase

Following the closure of the wound, remodeling can occur. The epidermis proliferates and returns to its normal character; fibroblasts and immune cells which were recruited to the site are degraded; and the temporary extracellular matrix that was laid down is remodeled into a stronger, more permanent structure.

Over time, the new tissue gets stronger. You might notice stretching, itching, and even puckering of the wound as this happens. Within three months, the wound is almost as strong in its repair as it was before the trauma, but the entire healing process may take a couple of years to complete.

Stages of wound healing

Pictured: Stages of wound healing     Source: VCU

Epidermal Wound Healing

Epidermal wound healing refers to the repair of the epidermis in response to wounding. Epidermal only wounds are typically less severe than those affecting the dermis and so stages of the wound healing response may be missed.

As the epidermis itself is not vascularized — it’s receiving blood from the dermis — a clotting and vasoconstrictive response are often not necessary. Immune cells may still be recruited to the wound site since the removal of the epidermal barrier makes the wound susceptible to infection.

Since the dermis is intact, local fibroblasts are able to contribute to the formation of a new basement membrane, upon which the epidermis sits. In very minor wounds, even the basement membrane might remain intact, allowing for rapid re-epithelialization. 

Keratinocytes — epidermal epithelial cells — around the wound site migrate across the wound and close it. Additionally, epidermal cells from dermal appendages, such as hair follicles, can contribute to wound closure.

Since the dermis and underlying tissue have not been damaged, very little remodeling is required. As such, small wounds only in the epidermis typically heal rapidly and are often not observable via the formation of scar tissue within a period of months.

Skin layers

Source: Skin layers    Source: Urgo Medical

Deep Wound Healing

A deep wound involves the inner, deeper layers of the skin, known as the dermis. Deep wounds that damage the dermis are more difficult to heal than shallow, epidermal-only wounds. The wound healing processes may be extended and scar tissue is likely to form due to improper re-epithelialization.

Additionally, deep wounds are more susceptible to infection, and also to the development of systemic infection through the circulatory system, as well as dysregulation that results in chronic wounds such as ulcers.

The wound healing process for deep wounds is similar to that of shallow wounds. However, with the removal of the dermis and its associated skin appendages, re-epithelialization can only occur from the wound edge, with no contribution from the dermal compartment. 

Therefore, proper reconstitution of the epidermis is often only seen at the edge of the wound, with fibrous scar tissue — formed from the ECM deposited during the proliferative phase — covering the rest of the wound site.

With the formation of a scar, the original physiological properties of the tissue are lost. For example, scars are less flexible than the original skin and do not feature sweat glands or hair follicles. The ECM formed during wound healing may also be weaker in deep wounds, making the site susceptible to additional later wounding. 

How You Can Help Your Skin Heal

A wound describes an injury that cuts, breaks, or impacts the skin. As a result, the body’s internal tissues become exposed to the external environment and bacteria. Most minor wounds won’t require medical treatment; however, while the majority of cuts heal naturally over time, there are ways to speed up the healing process:

Care for the Wound

Throughout the healing process be sure to clean and dress the wound. Even if you feel that you are healing fine and can skip this step, make sure to keep tending to your wound unless approved by a medical professional. Cleaning the wound and covering it ensures that no outside bacteria can get to the wound and infect it, while also encouraging skin tissue growth for healing.

To learn how to properly clean a wound, click here

How to clean a wound

Pictured: How to clean a wound      Source: St. John Ambulance Victoria

Get Some Rest

Getting a good night’s rest is crucial to wounds healing properly. As you sleep, your body works to repair tissue and fight off infections. A study conducted by the Journal of Applied Psychology studied two groups to see how healing was impacted by sleep.1

The first group who slept for three hours a night had high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and in comparison to the group who slept for eight hours a night, the sleep-deprived participants had a delayed wound healing time by a full day.

Add Healing Foods to Your Diet

There are an abundance of healing foods that can speed your recovery process, including:

  • Clean, Lean Protein: The body cannot rebuild lost tissue without protein. Try to get at least four to five ounces of organic, lean protein, such as grass-fed beef, per meal.
  • Wild-Caught Fish: Essential fatty acids found in foods like wild-caught fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are critical to helping rapidly heal wounds.
  • Green Leafy Vegetables: Broccoli, kale, spinach, and other greens are high in vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting.

Avoid Foods That Slow Healing

There are also some foods and beverages that you’ll want to try and avoid to encourage healing, including:

  • Alcohol can increase inflammation, which is counterproductive to healing.
  • Sugar and refined grains can promote inflammation, slowing the healing process.
  • Hydrogenated oils can promote inflammation and decrease the ability of your body to heal.
  • Processed foods contain hydrogenated oils, chemicals, dyes, and other additives that can slow wound healing.

Get Moving

Research has continually shown that physical activity can help accelerate the healing process in wounds. In fact, researchers at the Ohio State University found that exercise can speed wound healing rates by as much as 25%.2

Activities like strength training and yoga provide an excellent source of movement without the risk of agitating a wound. Basic lunges, planks, crunches, or jumping jacks offer another source of exercise where the risk of injury is low. Any low-impact activity can help draw oxygen to the wounds to accelerate the healing process.

Ingredients in Skincare to Use For Healing

Skincare ingredients can be complicated, but the fact of the matter is that people are now, more than ever, wanting to know what ingredients are in their favorite products and what they do. It’s important to know what you’re putting on your skin, especially when you have wounds.

Here’s a look at a few ingredients that can potentially do wonders for the wound healing process:

  • Vitamin A: When it comes to tissue repair and cell regeneration, getting enough vitamin A in your diet is key. Besides being vital to promoting proper skin health, some evidence even suggests that this vitamin could aid in wound healing as well. A study published in Dermatologic Surgery, for instance, found that pre-treatment with retinoids improved wound healing after undergoing facial resurfacing procedures.3
  • Centella Asiatica Extract: This ingredient is a traditional Indian medicine extracted from the tropical plant Gotu Kola, which helps the wound healing process by reducing glycation processes and implicitly slowing the oxidative damage. It’s most effective in the proliferation and remodeling phases by boosting the local metabolism and speeding up the healing.4
  • Niacinamide: Also known as vitamin B3, this is one of the most popular ingredients in cosmetic treatments due to its multipurpose and potency. Several studies confirmed the anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin B3 that are efficient in aiding the immune response and speeding the recovery. Niacinamide is also an actor in increasing fibroblast migration and proliferation– thus speeding the wound closure.5
  • Grape Seed Extract: A study from researchers at Ohio State University found that this ingredient can help regenerate damaged blood vessels and also increase the number of free radicals in the wound site while reducing the chance of scarring.6
  • Tamanu Seed Oil: As an antibacterial oil, this ingredient is capable of healing wounds by promoting healthy cell growth. When its applied to wounds, it has the ability to promote the formation of new tissue.7
  • Frankincense Oil: This ingredient has been used by healers throughout history for its wound-healing abilities; it’s known to regenerate tissue and prevent infection.8
  • Avocado Oil: A 2013 study found that the oil derived from the avocado pulp reduces inflammation when applied to a wound site. This action ensures quick healing of wounds. Further, the application of the oil on wounds showed improved collagen synthesis and re-epithelialization. 

Supplementation for Wound Healing

Innumerable processes are involved in healing — from the production of platelets and macrophages to the rebuilding of the extracellular matrix and the formation of new blood vessels. But these healing processes can’t happen if the body doesn’t have the right vitamins and nutrients.

To maintain normal health, the human body needs a minimum of 20 vitamins and 16 minerals/trace elements. The following three play a role in recovery and healing at various physiological levels:

Zinc

A minimum of 70 major wound-healing enzyme systems — including DNA polymerase, RNA polymerase, protease, and carbonic anhydrase — rely on zinc as a cofactor. Zinc is also important in cell membrane stabilization, carbohydrate metabolism, and mobilization of vitamins A and C, among others. 

Because lower zinc levels have been associated with impaired wound healing, some researchers have suggested that zinc replenishment may increase healing rates. Furthermore, many topical agents include zinc due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which may be especially beneficial for skin wounds.9

Vitamin B Complex

The vitamin B complex comprises all essential water-soluble vitamins, with the exception of vitamin C, and includes thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), biotin, folic acid, and the cobalamins (vitamin B12). These B vitamins are found naturally in cereals, dairy, fish, and meats. 

The vitamin B complex aids with cell proliferation and the maintenance of muscle tone and healthy skin. It also increases metabolic rate and improves the function of the immune and nervous systems. In one study of the effects of vitamin B complex on periodontal wound healing, supplementation with vitamin B complex significantly increased wound repair compared to a placebo regimen.

Vitamin C

As with the B complex vitamins, vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin. It’s an electron donor for various enzymes, a mighty antioxidant, and a cofactor in collagen synthesis. Vitamin C contributes to enzyme processes important in lysine and proline hydroxylation necessary for the formation of the triple helix present in collagen.

It also contributes to enzyme processes necessary for carnitine synthesis, which is required to transport fatty acids into mitochondria that are used in ATP generation. Vitamin C also plays a role in immune response, iron uptake and metabolism, trace metal metabolism, and calcium metabolism for the homeostasis of epidermal gradients.

Vitamin E and Omega-3s and the Healing Process

When it comes to supplements, there’s so much hype about their potential benefits that it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. While it’s true that vitamins and minerals are essential to health and can be great for wound healing, it’s not true that taking them in pill, capsule, or powder form — especially in megadoses — is necessary, or without risks.

Vitamin E and omega-3s, for example, are both veritable powerhouses. The first, a fat-soluble vitamin, operates as a potent antioxidant and offers support to hair, eyes, cholesterol levels, hormone balance, and more. Omega-3s, meanwhile, support heart and brain health and may play a role in helping with the maintenance of a healthy inflammatory response in the body.

But one of the most serious side effects of both is the thinning of the blood. Fish oil — a common form of omega-3s — thins the blood in “similar ways to blood thinners,” medical writer Jack Challem claims in his book, The Inflammation Syndrome

“This effect happens through the prevention of the platelets found in blood from sticking together and forming clots.” It has been said that these “blood-thinning effects may be magnified if you are taking natural blood-thinners, such as vitamin E.”

To illustrate this further: “Since both fish oil and vitamin E thin your blood, taking them in combination might put you at risk of excessive bleeding, especially if you take them in large amounts,” SF Gate reports.10

Discuss with your doctor before taking either— they may determine that you don’t need a supplement, and, if you do, will help you ascertain the right dosage.

The Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil

Herban Wisdom Facial OilTamanu Seed Oil, Frankincense Oil, and Avocado Oil are integrated into the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil for an array of exceptional skin-wellness benefits, including their ability to help your skin heal and repair itself.

You can shop the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil here

References:

https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/sleep-helps-wounds-heal-faster [1]

https://news.osu.edu/study-exercise-helps-speed-wound-healing-in-older-adults/ [2]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17034370/ [3]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22817824/ [4]

https://www.apothecopharmacy.com/blog/how-to-speed-wound-healing/#:~:text=Niacinamide,to%20help%20speed%20up%20recovery. [5]

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/12/021204081709.htm#:~:text=Grape%2Dseed%20extract%20may%20help,radicals%20in%20the%20wound%20site. [6]

https://www.webmd.com/beauty/health-benefits-tamanu-oil [7]

https://earthwisebeauty.com/blogs/news/the-ancient-healing-power-of-frankincense#:~:text=Regardless%20of%20the%20species%20they,and%20for%20a%20wide%20range [8]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793244/ [9]

https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefits-taking-fish-oil-vitamin-e-together-10487.html [10]

All About World Health Day

World Health Day is celebrated every year on April 7th, the anniversary of the founding day of the World Health Organization (WHO). It’s a day to focus on and raise awareness around health and wellness issues that affect people all over the globe. Each year, a theme is selected to highlight a priority area of public health concern in the world. This year, the theme is “Our planet, Our health,” and will be focusing on the availability of clean water, air, and food for all. In this blog, we will explore global health and happiness, along with how you can celebrate World Health Day.

What Is Global Health?

While definitions vary, we are expressing ‘global health’ as the status of health, wellness, and healthcare for all populations worldwide.

There are six key factors most critical to the global health conversation today:

Pandemics

According to an article published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, pandemics are defined as global disease outbreaks. Examples of pandemics include certain influenza outbreaks, COVID-19, and other viral threats that reflect our vulnerability to widespread diseases. 

Every year, there are newly emerging pandemic threats. Vaccination efforts can help, but it’s critical to address issues at the source by focusing on important areas like health education and responsible agricultural practices. Researchers have also made recommendations on global risk mitigation measures that can help even after an outbreak occurs.

Climate Change

Storms, flooding, droughts, and air pollution make it easier for diseases to spread across large groups of people. The immediate solution is to provide resources like bottled water and sanitation technology, but global health must also focus on the prevention of environmental challenges in the first place.

Climate change is thought by many global health experts to be the greatest threat to human health. Global policies to mitigate mankind’s contribution to climate change are gaining traction with more countries regulating individual household energy consumption as well as encouraging large-scale industry progress toward environmentally-conscious practices.

Such changes will have profound health benefits for those who live in urban centers, which account for more than 50% of the world’s population. 

Access to Healthcare

Despite relentless progress in the field of medicine, communities across the world still lack access to basic health education and healthcare. This results in health disparities, such as high infant mortality rates, which are often related to geography. Other disparities may be the result of income inequality, with some individuals and families being left unable to afford proper health care.

To solve these economic challenges, global health professionals are exploring opportunities to uplift underrepresented communities in public health forums, encouraging physicians to practice in remote areas, and introducing policies that reduce barriers and increase access to healthcare.

Political Instability 

Inadequate access to healthcare is exacerbated when international politics enter the mix. As conflicts within or between nations destroy critical infrastructure, citizens become more vulnerable to diseases. This ultimately causes them to flee the dangerous situations that threaten their well-being.

Migration can allow illnesses to quickly spread, but the WHO stresses that solutions should aim to improve refugee and migrant health through efforts like organizing across borders to endorse policies that bridge short-term humanitarian crisis responses with long-term healthcare access improvements.

Noncommunicable Diseases

Heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) account for 70% of all deaths worldwide, according to the WHO.

Education plays a role in the prevention of NCDs, helping populations understand and change lifestyle factors, such as poor diets, inactivity, tobacco use, and alcohol consumption. However, there is also a correlation between income level and the prevalence of NCDs.

The WHO notes that 85% of premature NCD-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income regions. Reducing the number of NCDs globally means reducing the factors that disproportionately arise in lower-income communities.

Animal Health, Food Sourcing, and Supply

The study of veterinary public health makes it clear that animal wellness is naturally intertwined with that of humans. The clearest connection occurs within the food chain, but animals are also relied upon for transportation, draught power, and clothing in developing areas.

Agricultural practices, including irrigation, pesticide use, and waste management, can influence animal health, making disease transmission a concern at every stage of the food supply chain. With pathogens originating from animals or animal products playing such a significant role in disease transmission, veterinary medicine must be included in any effort to improve global health.

World Health Statistics

In May 2021, WHO released its annual “State of the World’s Health Assessment.” The report presents the latest data on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and “Triple Billion” target indicators. 

The 2021 edition includes preliminary estimates for global excess deaths attributable to COVID-19 for 2020 and the state of global and regional health trends from 2000 to 2019. It also focuses on persistent health inequalities and data gaps that have been accentuated by the pandemic.

Here are its key messages:

  • Every country is facing challenges to report COVID-19 deaths, and the WHO is working with all stakeholders to refine statistical models and obtain accurate counts.
  • As of December 31 2020, preliminary estimates suggest the total number of global deaths attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 is at least 3 million, representing 1.2 million more deaths than the 1.8 million officially reported.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic poses major threats to population health and well-being globally and hinders progress in meeting the SDGs and WHO’s “Triple Billion” targets. With 90% of countries reporting disruptions to essential health services and 3% of households spending more than 25% of their budget on healthcare in 2015, United Health Care is at great risk of falling behind.
  • COVID-19 disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations; those living in overcrowded settings are met with a higher risk. Lack of data disaggregation contributes to unequal health outcomes, with only 51% of countries including disaggregated data in national statistical reports.
  • Global life expectancy at birth is up from 66.8 years in 2000 to 73.3 years in 2019, with healthy life expectancy up from 58.3 to 63.7 years. The greatest gains are being made in low-income countries primarily due to rapid reductions in child mortality and communicable diseases.
  • Global tobacco use is down by 33% since 2000, but adult obesity is on the rise with up to a quarter of populations in high-income countries obese in 2016. Noncommunicable diseases made up 7 of 10 causes of death worldwide in 2019.
  • Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year.
  • The direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), is estimated to be between 2-4 billion USD/year by 2030.
  • The WHO has partnered with Microsoft and Avanade to develop a new, state-of-the-art World Health Data Hub to improve access to data, streamline data processes, and provide health data as a public good.

The 2022 World Happiness Report

Pictured: Least and Most Happy Countries   Source: Visual Capitalist 

Global health is directly linked to world happiness. The numbers shown in the graphic above, which are from the World Happiness Report 2022, represent the survey data from thousands of respondents for each country, who are asked to rate their subjective well-being or happiness score. 

Happiness levels are measured in this report by looking at:

  • Social support
  • Life expectancy
  • Freedom to make life choices
  • Generosity
  • GDP per capita
  • Perceptions of corruption
  • Positive and negative effects
  • The report takes special considerations to track how COVID-19 has impacted aspects of our daily lives, and how it’s affected global happiness levels.

Worldwide happiness comes in at an average score of 5.6, which is a slight improvement since 2021’s report. Here’s a more in-depth look at each region’s happiness levels:

North America

North American least and most happy countries

Source: Visual Capitalist 

Like last year, Canada ranks first as the happiest country in North America. However, it’s lost some ground on the global ranking, placing 15th this year, compared to 14th last year. In contrast, the United States climbed three places in this year’s report and ranked just under Canada with a happiness score of 6.97.

The Dominican Republic comes in last place in North America. While the Dominican Republic has experienced economic growth over the last 25 years, the country was hit hard by the global pandemic; during this time, approximately 270,000 people fell into poverty.

South America

South American least and most happy countries

Source: Visual Capitalist 

Uruguay is the happiest country in South America due to its high income per capita, low levels of poverty, and strong middle class. While Uruguay was not immune to the impacts of COVID-19, the country was able to transition smoothly to online learning and was the first country in the region to reopen schools.

In last year’s World Happiness Report, Colombia was the most improved country in South America; however, this year it’s dropped 14 places on the global ranking, making it the least improved country in this year’s report.

While Colombia has made significant strides toward elevating extreme poverty in the last few decades, it still has one of the highest levels of income inequality in Latin America. In 2020, its top 10% of workers took home more than 50% of national income.

Europe

Europe least and most happy countries

Source: Visual Capitalist 

Finland is not only the happiest country in Europe, but it also holds the top spot as the happiest country in the world for the fifth straight year. Finland is one of five Nordic countries to place in the top 10 with Denmark coming in second place and Iceland in third.

Romania was the most improved country in Europe, climbing 18 spots on the global ranking since last year’s report. Over the last decade, the country has seen some of the most significant economic growth in the European Union and was able to bounce back quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Middle East and Central Asia

Middle East least and most happy countries

Source: Visual Capitalist 

Turkmenistan is the most improved country in the region, rising 19 places on the global ranking since last year. The country’s boost could be explained by its rapid economic growth in recent years, where in 2021 alone, the country’s GDP grew by an estimated 6.3%.

For the last two years, Lebanon has been dealing with a slew of crises. In 2020, COVID-19 spurred an economic crisis that’s been ranked as one of the top 10 most severe economic crises since the mid-nineteenth century. And on August 4th, 2020, a massive ammonium nitrate explosion left the country’s capital city, Beirut, in shambles.

East Asia and Oceania

East Asia and Oceania least and most happy countries

Source: Visual Capitalist 

This year, China climbed 12 places on the global ranking, making it the most improved country in East Asia and Oceania. The Chinese government recently identified “common prosperity” as a top priority, leading them to make numerous policy shifts to combat inequality and eradicate poverty.

Thailand has improved the least in the region due to the significant toll that COVID-19 had on the country’s economy. In 2020, economic growth shrunk by 6.1% in Thailand and is not expected to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels until around 2023.

Africa

Africa least and most happy countries

Source: Visual Capitalist 

With a regional score of 4.5, Africa ranks as the unhappiest region worldwide. Zimbabwe remains the most unhappy country in the region, as it continues to struggle with high levels of poverty. In 2021, roughly 6.1 million people were living below the international poverty line.

Mauritius remains the happiest country in the region, which is most likely due to its higher levels of income. It became a high-income country in July 2020; however, Mauritius slipped back to its upper-middle-income status in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How You Can Celebrate World Health Day

Celebrating and observing World Health Day can be done by individuals, families, schools, churches, and other community organizations. It’s a notable time to connect with others over important themes and increase knowledge.

Here are a few ways you can celebrate World Health Day:

Reduce Health Inequalities 

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked awareness that our health is our biggest resource. Also, it highlighted that our world is fundamentally unequal. Put simply, differences in socioeconomic status mean differences in access to health services and healthier lives.

Vulnerable groups in the world were hit hardest during the pandemic, struggling for survival under poor living conditions and without access to necessities such as clean water and food security. 

Learn more about universal health inequalities here, then consider what you can do to lessen  the divide.

Support Global Health

Honor World Health Day by supporting needy people and giving them a better chance at good health. Consider donating nutritious food to a community food pantry or volunteering to help cook and serve healthy meals at a local soup kitchen. 

There are many non-profit organizations that provide food and health services on a global scale, such as these. Do some research, select a cause that resonates with you, and take action.

Get A Check-Up

With a focus on global health awareness, it’s a great time to turn your attention toward your own health. Try scheduling a doctor’s appointment for an annual checkup to learn more about your health and wellness. 

Your doctor will likely check your vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart rate, along with a physical examination. Laboratory tests, such as a complete metabolic panel, may be conducted to check your blood and vital organs. 

Always ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your health. While you’re there, thank your nurse for their hard work and the positive impact they’re making in people’s lives.

Run a 5K

The arrival of spring brings along warm weather and outdoor charity events and functions. Try using your fitness, physical health, and motivation to give back to others through a 5K charity run. 

Even if you’re not a runner, you may still be able to participate, considering that many 5Ks touted as fundraisers, fun runs, or community events are usually open to walkers. However, there is often a separate start time for walkers, so make sure to check the organization’s website before the run. 

Exercise and physical activity provide many health benefits, and when paired up with a charity, you’re also supporting a good cause. You can learn more about running or walking a 5K here.

 Set New Health Goals

If your New Year’s resolutions have taken the back burner since the start of the pandemic, now is a great time to revisit your health-oriented goals. Grab a pen and paper and take some time to jot down your thoughts and aspirations. 

Maybe you have a fitness goal, such as increasing your running or walking distance, adding an extra full-body workout day to your week, or trying out meditation. Or maybe you want to focus on your mental health by keeping a journal.

Whether you’re trying to add more fruits and vegetables into your diet or improve your hydration habits by drinking water or cutting out soda, focusing on your personal wellbeing and choosing small goals can make a big difference in your life. Here are a few tips to help you achieve your goals.

How Will You Celebrate?

Let us know how you plan to recognize World Health Day. If you’d like to read up on past World Health Day themes, you can read more about World Health Day here.

The Benefits of Journaling

From travel journals to dream and prayer journals, many people write down their thoughts to keep aspirations alive and moments concrete for manifestation and remembrance. Without diarists like Anne Frank and Samuel Pepys, we wouldn’t know much about the personal side of some great historical figures. Although people nowadays keep blogs or vlogs to record their lives on social media, very few of us jot in a journal or handwrite our experiences. Personal journals, which many believe to be a thing of the past, have a multitude of benefits for mental health and creativity. Let’s explore the reasons why keeping a journal can be beneficial for you and how you can begin your own journaling practice.

1.  Journaling Stretches Your IQ

While it’s a hot topic, there are strong cases to support journaling’s ability to increase your IQ. A report by the University of Victoria, for example, noted that “Writing as part of language learning has a positive correlation with intelligence.”1

Journaling is an exploration of language, so you’ll likely have the natural urge to search for new words and increase your vocabulary. The report from the University of Victoria goes on to say that one of the best single measures of overall IQ as measured by intelligence tests is vocabulary.2

A few tips to help stretch your IQ while journaling are:

  • Try exploring and writing about a new topic.
  • Challenge yourself to look up a new vocabulary word daily and use it in your writing.
  • Read a book or magazine you’ve never read and write about what you learned.

You can find out more about writing to boost your intelligence here.

2.  Journaling Reduces Stress

It’s been proven that an overabundance of stress can be damaging to your physical, mental, and emotional health.3 Journaling can be an incredible stress management tool by lessening the impact of the physical stressors you deal with daily.

A study administered by Cambridge found that expressive writing, such as journaling, was especially therapeutic and the participants who wrote about traumatic, stressful, or emotional events were significantly less likely to get sick and less seriously affected by trauma.4 Additionally, James W. Pennebaker, a lead researcher on expressive writing at the University of Texas and the author of Writing to Heal, has found that when we translate a stressful experience or secret into language by writing it down, we essentially make the experience graspable.5

A few journaling prompts to reduce stress are:

  • Right now, I feel challenged by ______. However, I feel supported by ______.
  • What can I do at this moment to bring more peace into my being?
  • What are some accomplishments and victories of today?
  • If you could choose any place or scenario (real or imaginary) to place yourself in right now for your comfort and relaxation, where would it be? Describe it in as much detail as possible.
  • What fears am I holding onto that are no longer serving me? How can I release these?

You can find more prompts to bring peace into your being here.

3.  Journaling Improves Communication Skills

Putting your thoughts to paper forces you to articulate your ideas and, in turn, find words that express those ideas accurately and concisely. Additionally, since journaling is more free-flowing than writing an essay or job report, it will allow you to better express your emotions, no matter what the emotion may be. Since you’re writing in a judgment-free zone with a less formal structure, you’ll most likely explore new areas of expressiveness.

According to a Stanford report, writing has critical connections to speaking.6 Journaling is a form of written communication, albeit to oneself. However, the subvocalization of tracing your written thoughts naturally translates into actual vocalization.

A few journaling prompts to improve your communication skills are:

  • List three people who you think have excellent communication skills. What about them do you admire?
  • How do you communicate?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your communication skills? What are your strengths? What are some areas that might need a little improvement?
  • How does your self-confidence impact your communication?
  • How can you improve your active listening skills?

You can find more tips and prompts to help you enhance your communication skills here.

4.  Journaling Promotes Healing

Science has proven that expressive writing is a route to healing emotionally, physically, and psychologically. James W. Pennebaker has seen improved immune function and a reduction of yearly doctor visits due to writing. Additionally, writing about trauma can be a potent and low-cost method of relieving pain and symptoms of chronic illnesses.7

In a study from 2013, researchers in New Zealand found that 76% of adults who spent 20 minutes writing about their thoughts and feelings for three consecutive days two weeks before a medically necessary biopsy were fully healed 11 days later. Plus, expressive writing for 15 to 20 minutes a day three to five times throughout a four-month period was enough to lower blood pressure and have better liver functionality.8

A few journaling prompts to promote the healing of your mind, body, and soul are:

  • What can I do to make a positive difference in my life?
  • Have a conversation with your body to understand any illnesses or pain you are currently experiencing.
  • What do you need to let go of that you have no control over?
  • Is there an experience inside your head that won’t seem to go away? What is it? Why does it haunt you?
  • If you are struggling, write a letter to a loved one.

You can find more tips and prompts for holistic healing here.

5.  Journaling Boosts Self-Confidence

Journaling is a powerful tool for reversing feelings of low self-worth. If you struggle with negative beliefs about yourself, reading about positive experiences that you previously journaled allows your brain to relive them and reaffirms your abilities when self-doubt appears. These reflections can become a catalog of personal achievements that you continue to go back to. Studies have shown that by reading happy entries, your body will naturally release endorphins and dopamine, which can boost your self-esteem and mood.9

It’s human nature to focus on our weaknesses while downplaying our strengths. It’s hard to be objective, which is why a journal is helpful. When journaling, try to remember that the small things matter. List your good qualities and try to use positive adjectives. Show yourself love and write about yourself in the same way you might describe a best friend or loved one.

A few journaling prompts to boost self-confidence are:

  • What is the best compliment you’ve been given?
  • Name 5 things you did right today, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
  • Write about a time you were recognized for your accomplishments at work or school.
  • CONFIDENCE: Write what this word means to you. How can you improve your confidence?
  • List 5 things you’re most grateful for in your life today.

You can find more prompts to promote self-confidence and self-love here.

6.  Journaling Sparks Creativity

The act of writing itself stimulates the imagination. When you formulate or express ideas on paper it automatically releases your proverbial creative juices. Writing regularly helps you learn to process and communicate complex information while at the same time allowing you to brainstorm new ideas.

You can journal about anything important to you without being judged or critiqued. It’s a stream-of-consciousness exercise that in itself is a form of creativity. Because you’re exploring your thoughts, feelings, and emotions in an unfiltered manner, you can sometimes find answers to very deep questions and then become inspired to explore those revelations further.

A few journaling prompts to spark your creativity are:

  • If you could invent something to make your life easier, how would it work and what would it do?
  • The next time you’re out, pay attention to the nametags of people working in stores or restaurants. Write an imagined life for one or more of them.
  • Write about a treasured memory and what makes it so special.
  • What does love look like? What does it feel like?
  • What question would you most like to know the answer to?

You can find more prompts to help stimulate your creativity here.

How to Start Your Journaling Practice

Starting a journal can seem intimidating at first. Like any other new ritual, it can take a while before it becomes a natural part of your life.

Here are some tips to help you start and keep a journal.

  • Find the journaling techniques that work for you. Many people recognize the additional benefits of physically hand-writing entries; however, if you feel more comfortable starting with a keyboard, you can type up your journal on your computer or phone, then transcribe to hand-written entries in smaller sessions.
  • Let go of judgments (write for your eyes only). When you’re writing, it’s important to feel the uninhibited freedom of whatever is on your mind. Practice self-compassion and leave your inner critic at the door. Journaling is a judgment-free zone. Be yourself and write what you feel.
  • Be realistic with your expectations. When you first begin journaling, don’t expect to write pages upon pages filled with insightful thoughts. Having unrealistic expectations can discourage you from continuing your journaling practice if you don’t immediately see progress. Like any other habit, set realistic goals and take baby steps toward results.
  • Create a writing routine. Creating a writing routine and scheduling journaling time can help you stay on track, even on days when you’re feeling uninspired. For example, you can set time aside every morning after breakfast or every evening before bed, even if it’s just for five to ten minutes. This time blocking method allows you to prioritize journaling and incorporate it into your schedule.
  • Journal about anything that comes to mind. When it comes to what you want to write about, the possibilities are limitless. You can write about your day, your thoughts and emotions, or something that inspired you. You can also use it as an outlet to release heavy emotions like anger, frustration, or sadness. Putting these feelings down on paper can free you from having them lingering in your mind.

Different Types of Journals to Consider

There are many different types of journals; for example, you could have a wine journal, a plant journal, or an anything-goes doodle journal. The key is that there is no right or wrong subject ma when it comes to journaling. You can have several journals going at one time, or you can have one for all subjects. Anything goes.

If you’re having trouble making a selection, here are a few types of journals you can start to begin your journey:

  • Gratitude Journal: Taking note of what you’re thankful for is a great journal to have. Each night before bed, try thinking of three things you’re thankful for instead of your stresses, worries, and concerns. Jotting down a few notes every night before bed is a great way to reflect on positivity, and it also enables you to revisit these thoughts later on.
  • Dream Journal: Dreams can be powerful, peculiar, happy, sad, and everything in between, but most people tend to forget them after a few hours. Getting in the habit of writing down your dreams each morning gives them significance and is a great way to start the day.
  • Hobby Journal: Try writing about a hobby that you’re passionate about. You can add in new projects, challenges, and things you’ve learned. If you have more than one hobby, try splitting the journal into different sections. You can write about what you’re working on that day and keep them in different tabs rather than worrying about chronology. Do what works for you.
  • Personal Journal: These types of journals are usually known as a diary. However, with a personal journal, the possibilities are endless. Try writing about your day, what made you happy, what made you sad, what made you angry, and anything else that’s on your mind. Journaling for a few minutes every night is a great way to reflect and release some of your inner monologues.
  • Travel Journal: A travel journal can be a collection of all sorts of things – photos, postcards, receipts, ticket stubs, and notes of where you’ve been and where you aspire to be. Traveling is a great way to experience new cities, sights, sounds, and cultures, and by documenting these new experiences, you’ll remember them in greater detail later on.

Do you have a journal or a topic you enjoy writing about? Let us know in the comments!

 

References:

https://journals.uvic.ca/index.php/WPLC/article/download/5160/2132 [1][2]

https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body#1 [3]

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/advances-in-psychiatric-treatment/article/emotional-and-physical-health-benefits-of-expressive-writing/ED2976A61F5DE56B46F07A1CE9EA9F9F [4]

https://www.mic.com/impact/science-shows-something-surprising-about-people-who-still-journal-16207322#.n0QO5ApTN [5]

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3102/00346543066001053 [6]

https://www.apa.org/monitor/jun02/writing [7]

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/writing-can-help-injuries-heal-faster/ [8]

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/wealth/earn/boost-these-hormones-to-succeed-as-a-leader-at-work/articleshow/66988190.cms?from=mdr#:~:text=DOSE%E2%80%94Dopamine%2C%https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-healthy-type/ [9]