Liberation: A Spiritual Hypothesis

I see two extremes in religious beliefs. On the one hand, during dark times people flock to religion for the promise of something better after death, since they have lost hope for something better in this life. On the flip side, people ignore religion, or are too distracted to engage themselves spiritually, when their lives are going well.

The first extreme has people waiting, even wishing, for death, and in doing so, they fail to take anything meaningful from life. Life is suffering, seems to be the message, and you just have to wait it out, and be an okay person in the meantime. It may be positive to encourage people to do good, but this is more or a sticks and carrots, heaven or hell sort of incentive: be good or you will be damned for eternity. It is more of a functional religion, keeping people relatively peaceful and placated while they pass their miserable existence.

Instead of working on spiritual awakening adherents are worried about where their next meal is coming from, or what disease will kill them if they aren’t murdered first.

The second extreme shows up in advanced societies where the standard of living has reached a certain point. Ironically, this might be the point to thank God, Allah, or Gaia, but instead people forget, or are distracted by their earthly concerns. People have responsibilities, jobs, hobbies, and toys which take up most of their time. Then, if they ever need a “deeper” distraction, there is politics, and a culture that keeps them in the rat race. Religion becomes an appointment on Sunday morning, or as necessary to keeping up with the neighbors as the new car. Spirituality is hardly a thought on the mind.

Instead of striving for a perfect soul, people strive for more money, more power, and higher social status.

The Problem: Overwhelming Earthly Concerns

The problem is that people are too worried about their earthly concerns either out of necessity of survival, or out of distraction by unimportant goals.

When people are hungry, they will do crazy things for survival. In actual poverty, it is all but impossible to focus the mind on anything but somehow figuring out how to live through the next day: what you will eat, where you will sleep. There can hardly be a long term strategy for life, let alone trying to figure out the afterlife. People need a certain standard of living in order to seriously explore and engage in spirituality and religion.

When a culture elevates unimportant goals that have no end and are impossible to achieve, people never conclude their attempts to gain whatever they are striving for. If someone wants power, there will be no point where they sigh in satisfied relief and say, “I did it”. There is no end to who can have the best car, best house, or best looks. These are earthly goals with fleeting fulfillment. They will always leave something to be desired, even if you “win” at certain points. People cannot pursue truly religious goals if they are working 60 hour weeks to have the newest everything, or shallowly trying to keep face with their peers. People cannot be spiritual if they fill that void with elections, gadgets, or alcohol.

The Solution: Liberation

Earthly goals are not necessarily a bad thing. We are on this earth for some reason, so it makes sense to accomplish tangible earth things. And as I’ve mentioned, a certain level of disregard for earthly things like food and shelter can be just as spiritually distracting as pop culture.

What I propose is a two part solution for the individual, as for society, as each are a reflection of the other. Life should be lived in two phases; an earthly phase of real world accomplishment, and a spiritual phase of religious learning, soul searching, and acquiring inner peace. The two phases need not be purely separated necessarily, as each person’s journey will be unique. But generally speaking, first liberate your earthly self, then liberate your soul, eternal energy, or mind.

Liberation has just one tenet, and it is the golden rule found in many major religions and spiritual teachings. Treat others as you wish to be treated (unless you’re a masochist). Simply put, initiate no harm to others. Never be the aggressor.

Phase One: Liberate Your Earthy Self

Society: By truly accepting and adhering to the only tenet of liberation, you will set in motion the societal change which will bolster phase two. Liberation does not require social acceptance to work, but as I’ve said, society mirrors the individual, and vice versa. The more individuals who liberate themselves, the greater their reflection on society will be, thus creating more individual liberation. The growth of liberation could therefore be exponential which will assist the masses in their spiritual awakening–though any one individual can liberate themselves with or without the greater society.

For some it will be easier to liberate the earthly self than others, based on the luck of the circumstances they were born into. In a sense, these individuals have a greater responsibility to liberate themselves. The goal is to eventually raise the standard of living for every individual on earth to the point where they no longer need to worry about necessities, and can therefore follow liberation to a spiritual awakening.

There is no requirement on any individual following liberation to give their wealth away, or necessarily help others–though it is usually a good idea to do so. Rather what follows from personal liberation is advancement and wealth which raises the standard of living for all. When every individual is responsible for their actions, they will reap the rewards and suffer the consequences. This is liberation, and it can only be accomplished by individuals, not by edict.

Currently smart mobile devices in Africa are revolutionizing how money changes hands, so that people can produce and trade for the goods they need to survive, without worrying about getting robbed of all their earnings. Only because someone earlier, on a different continent, accomplished their goal of creating a smartphone, can essentially all of humanity currently use the devices to their individual benefit. The same has been the case with most inventions and technology throughout history; that it proliferates after initially only being available to a few. Therefore simply by liberating themselves, free people will create and trade, which will inevitably spread the wealth they create to the masses.

Charity can be a very useful tool, but it should never be required: forcing charitable contributions would break the only tenet of liberation. Therefore adherents to liberation who believe in charity must effectively convince others of their cause, or set the example in using charity effectively to advance the cause of liberation, and therefore the cause of humanity.

Eventually, as liberation philosophy progresses, the standard of living will be high enough so that no individual needs to worry about survival, and can therefore pursue a fulfilling earthly goal absent any financial and material considerations.

Individuals: Liberation of the earthly self will come in many forms, as we are vastly different individuals with different interests and goals. Keep in mind that unlike the corrupting goals mentioned earlier which cannot be accomplished or executed (i.e. more power, more wealth, “the best” clothes or gadgets), the goals set forth in phase one of liberation must be attainable, with a specific end.

“Become rich,” would not be a good goal, because it is not well defined what rich means, and could always lead to wanting more. “Building a million dollar company,” would be a better goal, because it has a finite ending. Still though, if you want a million dollar company so that you can buy a nice car, this is a fleeting goal. If you want a million dollar company because you believe in the product or service you are selling, this is a meaningful goal.

Really you want your goals for liberating yourself to reflect what you will need for a high enough standard of living to successfully complete phase two–though as liberation progresses and the standard of living rises, this will be of less concern. But you also want your phase one goals to be about the accomplishment in itself, and not necessarily for what you can do with the fruits of the accomplishment. Do what makes you feel most free, as long as it does not harm anyone.

For example, my phase one goal might be a self sufficient homestead. This will give me a place to live during phase two, for little cost, while giving me the opportunity to produce passive income, which makes me feel more secure if I were to need money in a pinch. A homestead would also put me in an environment that feels natural to me where I can truly be myself, and live happily and healthily. I want the life that the homestead can give me, but the homestead itself also makes me happy.

Currently phase one can still be rather stressful, as it is hard enough saving for retirement, let alone somehow shaping your life to perfectly suit you in phase two, where you ideally do not need to work, and can devote yourself to spirituality. But having specific tangible goals can help. Most people go through life being prescribed their goals: a mortgage, a good job, a nice car, etc. But many of the things we waste our money, and therefore our time and labor on, do not contribute to long term happiness or spiritual growth.

For someone who craves security, phase two might not start until retirement, when enough has been saved to live comfortably. For the adventurous sort, phase two might start at age 25 after they have saved up enough for a van to travel the country. Some might feel truly themselves at work, and therefore can move onto phase two while still happily employed. Cut whatever societal chains which keep you in slavery.

The point of phase one is to use the material earthly world to accomplish something that is freeing in and of itself, but that will also help you remain free in stage two. This need not necessarily be wealth either; mentally speaking, having helped orphans or provided food for the homeless might be the only accomplishment necessary to move onto phase two. Having created a successful business might be less about if it made you wealthy, and more about the confidence in your own abilities the experience gave you. Perhaps skills you gain in phase one will make you more liberated for whatever path you choose to follow in stage two.

And those who feel they cannot do what they wish to do because of the current unjust power structure must find ways to peacefully undermine those forces. If you are adhering to the one tenet, the golden rule that you will not initiate harm on anyone, then you are doing nothing wrong. You are morally superior to those who wish to curtail your peaceful activities, and should find solace and accomplishment in subverting them. Their failure to enslave is your liberation.

We all have different comfort levels with risk, and different desires, which is why it is impossible to prescribe a specific phase one path for everyone. In that sense, the spiritual journey starts in phase one with trying to figure out what earthly goals are calling you, and what will truly free you. But just make sure phase one accomplishments are not something you must suffer through. Accomplishment is not always fun, but it should be a rewarding, liberating, process.

Phase Two: Liberate Your Eternal Being

Society: It is true that some who are not adherents to liberation will attempt to harm you. These are the same entities which keep those with a high standard of living focused on shallow earthly desires like possessions and power. When people are afraid to lose their possessions, and competing for power, they accept violations of the golden rule based on the belief that it will help their earthly self. It is a sad irony that the earthly individual would have a higher standard of living if everyone adhered to the tenet of liberation, and would therefore have the chance to focus truly on more than the earthly self.

But remember, there is hope! As more people participate in phase one of liberation, the more society will reflect the philosophy, and therefore attacks on liberated individuals will wane. This means the power structure will erode and crumble, leaving no method of manipulating the masses towards materialistic goals, and aggression.

As society begins to follow the golden rule, the one tenet of liberation, it will add yet another level of security to be able to live out phase two in peace. Rejection of harming, threatening, and forcing others will grow with liberation, and soon the tiny minority who have always initiated and wielded violence will disperse in fear of the liberated masses. Liberation in both phases one and two helps to subvert the unjust and evil power these individuals currently exercise. Of course hope is not lost for those who currently do evil; they may yet repent, and liberate themselves as well.

Everyone within phase two will have already completed their earthly goals of liberation, showing the younger generations that it can be done, and encouraging them to do whatever necessary to liberate themselves. The “authorities” and their coercion will soon become an afterthought, a small hurdle before they become extinct. If living the liberated peaceful life you want to live is rebellion of the system, then let’s all be rebels. Help those who may be in harm’s way, simply because they are rightfully liberating themselves.

Individuals: People have surely been reaching phase two of liberation since the dawn of time, without labeling it as such, and have practiced the philosophy without society’s acceptance or approval. It simply takes a person who can rise above the judgement of their peers. Compete with yourself to become happier every day, to get one step closer to ultimate liberation of the soul.

Liberation is an umbrella philosophy which encourages individuals to find their spiritual way by considering numerous possibilities. A person may well decide that the religion they grew up with is the best fit for them, but they should not do this without first exploring various religions and spiritual teachings. What most people will probably find is that melding different religious philosophies gives a deeper spiritual awareness.

If you want to truly know as much as possible about a historical event, you can’t just read one account and assume it to be fact. The best way to understand history is to triangulate the perspectives of various historians, first hand documents, science surrounding artifacts, and events leading up to, and coming after the historical event. The search for truth in liberating the spirit, mind, or soul should be similar, in that you come at the issue of the afterlife, being, or ultimate truth from multiple angles.

For some this will mean travelling the world to immerse themselves in every religious tradition they can find. For others it might mean becoming more involved in their local church they have always belonged to, and reaching out to other individuals, in order to learn. Some may look for spiritual answers in science, history, or mathematics. Others may look for spiritual guidance from hallucinogens–though a word of caution is in order that drugs should never be used to permanently attain a higher spiritual level, but rather give one an example for a useful mindset for looking at humanity and spirituality.

The goal is that after years of study, exploration, critical thought, meditation, and whatever else it takes, an individual arrives at a religious or spiritual philosophy that works for them to happily complete their life cycle. Some may settle on a specific religion, others a melded philosophy of spirituality and religions. Some may follow their own unique path, or start traditions that help them and their friends find peace. One person may believe that we reincarnate until we live the perfect life, and find ultimate peace within. Another may conclude that we are all higher beings in a complex simulation that is testing our fortitude in a material world.

Some may decide when all is said and done that this is simply a material world without a higher anything; but that too is fine, as long as it brings the individual what they need. Liberation is still a philosophy that encourages a happy, fruitful human existence, so even if one is an atheist after stage two, they should be able to look back at their life with satisfaction, knowing that they accomplished a meaningful goal, and followed their desires without harming others, enjoying what life has to offer, and always striving for the deepest truth possible.

Liberation encourages living a fruitful life, striving for higher meaning, and passing on in peace, liberated.

Synergy

Don’t misconstrue the two phases to mean you cannot be religious, or explore spirituality in phase one. Pursue the ultimate knowledge whenever you get the urge and have the time! My only point in breaking liberation into two phases is that you do not need to forgo the material world in order to properly experience spiritual growth. We are here on this earth for a reason, and only by experiencing what earth has to offer can we grow from that experience.

In general, spirituality and religion is less on the mind when young and full of energy. Harness this energy, and pursue those earthly goals, as long as they are not ultimately destructive. Chances are your early earthly experiences will greatly set the tone for your later spiritual journey. But the phases are just one way of thinking about liberation, and could conceivably (and certainly will at points) be mixed up, reversed, mingled, and intertwined.

The main thing to take away is that liberation is absolutely crucial to a healthy earthly existence, and completely necessary for any considerations of an eternal soul or being. Your human body must be used for what is was intended, and that is to live a fruitful life on earth free to do anything that does not hurt others. And your soul must be explored for what is was intended, and the journey to spiritual liberation will be an exciting one.

Think of the young in poverty, with no opportunity to make something of their lives, which skews the perspective on what may lie beyond. Think of the youth in advanced society, with no direction, no desire, and no motivation. They are pushed this way and that by the power structure, used as pawns, and left empty and bitter by the coercion they feel dictating their every move.

This will end with liberation. Individuals will reclaim their youth for the exciting, invigorating journey of creation and accomplishment it was always meant to be! No more dead end jobs, no more broken promises, smashed dreams, or stolen opportunities. When we liberate ourselves, there is no height to which individuals cannot take this world.

Think of the elderly in poverty, waiting to die to stop burdening their families who already have so little. Think of the elderly with high living standards, waiting to die because they don’t know what else to do, and have forgotten what it means to have otherworldly goals.

This will be no more in liberation. Under liberation the seasoned, the accomplished, will reclaim their position as spiritual elders whose purpose is to guide the younger generations in their life phases with knowledge, experience and example. There will be no end of life regrets, but instead the dying will pass on satisfied, surrounded by those they love, knowing that whoever is left behind will have an equally glorious life.

The whole will become greater than the sum of its parts. Society will see a spiritual awakening brought on by individuals who decide to liberate themselves. It requires no evangelizing, as simply seeing free people stokes the desire to become liberated. It is a movement that has already begun, and cannot be stopped. Already individuals are living the lives they want to live, regardless of what the sick sad system has to say. These individuals will become the spiritual leaders of the next great awakening on earth. The spiritual renaissance is upon us.

Start Today

Begin pursuing phase one of liberation today. You might already know what that is: the business you want to start, the skill you want to gain, the group you want to help, the book you want to write, or whatever else will make you independent and fruitful. You want to be in control of your own destiny, and let go of the things you cannot control.

Liberate yourself! Let go of the fear the controllers of society shove down your throat. Become as free as possible; in doing so not only will your own life be drastically improved, but your positive energy will infect those around you. Let go of the burdens society has foisted upon you without your consent. Take control of your life and set it up the way you want it.

Liberate your soul! Dissolve the distractions and take a journey with your spirit. Become more connected with others, with yourself, and with a higher realm. Seek ultimate truth, being honest with yourself, and those around you.

Join me, in liberation!

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Making Home-Made Products!

Part of the allure to mini-farming is making your own products. Since we have only been at it for a couple months, we can’t make everything with homegrown ingredients yet, but we can still save money by making things like soap, tooth-paste, and seltzer, as we have done. The other benefit is that you know a bit more about what is really in the products you are using; unfortunately lots of tooth-paste and soap have some harmful stuff in there to make them foam.

Tooth Paste

Most recently I made my own tooth-paste, because I am running out of my Ava Anderson chemical free toothpaste, and wanted to save money. The recipe was pretty simple that I found on DIYNatural, but I added my own flare with a couple extra essential oils. Here’s what I did:

In an 8 ounce jar, I combined 2/3 cup of baking soda with 1 tsp. of sea salt which I ground to a powder with a mortar and pestle, so that it would not scratch the enamel. The baking soda is to clean and whiten the teeth, and the salt is meant to re-mineralize the enamel.

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Now, the original recipe called for enough water to turn that powder into a paste, but I took a different route. According to the book The Green Pharmacy by James Duke, chamomile tea is a disinfectant of the gums, which can help prevent gingivitis by getting deep down to tackle the germs stuck in the gums. In fact gingivitis simply means swelling of the gums, and there are varying degrees of the disease, but it is something most of us will deal with at some point in our lives. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.

So instead of water I made a tea of chamomile and green tea. The green tea, because of the tannins and astringent quality, acts to protect the teeth from bacteria that cause tooth decay and gingivitis. I mixed the tea with the baking soda and powdered salt, and then added some essential oils.

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Keep in mind you do not want to swallow essential oils, and even an ounce can be fatal. That being said, I did not use nearly an ounce of essential oils in the entire batch of tooth paste, let alone for each brushing session.

I used 5 drops of peppermint essential oil, which smells nice, and makes for a fresh taste. But peppermint oil is also antiseptic, which means it helps cure the root cause of bad breath, and not just cover the smell.

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I could have stopped there, and next time I might. The reason is, a nice fresh peppermint toothpaste feels natural and leaves my mouth feeling clean. The next to essential oils definitely help with oral hygiene, but they don’t really make the paste taste especially good. Your breath certainly won’t smell bad after brushing, but it won’t have the classic fresh mint smell.

That being said, I added 5 drops of teatree oil because it is also antiseptic. It doesn’t really taste good though, so I think I will save it for a mouthwash in the future, if I feel any swelling in the gums. James Duke recommends swishing a couple drops diluted in a glass of water, and spitting it out to combat gingivitis.

I also added 5 drops of eucalyptus oil, another antiseptic. Again, next time I will probably just stick to the peppermint.

Carbonated Drinks

My sister’s fiance has been making hard cider for some time, and since he already had the equipment, decided to throw together some seltzer as well. He simply filled up a five gallon keg with filtered water, added about a half cup of lemon juice, and attached the keg to the carbon dioxide tank to carbonate. In just about a day, we had five gallons of seltzer on tap, which went surprisingly quickly. Next time I am encouraging him to try making green tea seltzer with lemon.

Soap

My sister Steph and I have made a couple batches of soap already as well. We learned how at PorcFest from Hershel who makes Shire Soaps. Soap making is basically a chemical reaction between lye and fat. So we mixed shea butter, olive oil, and coconut oil as our fats, using an online soap making calculator to determine how much of each. Shea butter is solid, so we microwaved it a little at a time to melt it, and get the temperature up in order to mix with the lye.

Then we mixed the lye with water, always adding the water to the lye very carefully in a well ventilated area, or preferably outdoors, because it creates toxic fumes (and heats up) when it combines with water. Finally when the two mixtures were within ten degrees of each other, both around 110, we mixed them using a handheld blender, and added our essential oils, like lemongrass, rosemary, and lavender. Then, into a PVC pipe lined with parchment paper it goes for 24 hours to set, before we cut it, and let it dry for a month.

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And that is all just the beginning when it comes to home-made. We are getting some various styles of garden beds together to plant, which I will share soon!

 

Brains, Computers, and Meditation

As I was laying in bed last night trying to go to sleep, I figured I’d do some meditating. I tried to clear my mind, and simply view the thoughts that came to me, then let them go. As I was doing this, it reminded me of a computer shutting down, which was a problem, because then according to my meditation, I should have viewed that thought and let it go. But I wanted to blog about it! So I reviewed it a couple times in my head so that I would remember, then continued with my efforts.

It is so strange trying to think about nothing, because then seemingly random thoughts will pop into my head as soon as the others have faded, instead of the usual continuation of one subject evolving into another. And at this point, I can’t clearly remember what these thoughts even were, but at the time, it reminded me of pop-up ads as you are trying to close a browser. You realize there were all these ads behind the main window that you were focusing on. Maybe they weren’t taking up much of your thought, but they were certainly making the computer or internet run slower.

The same applies to background programs on the computer that you don’t even know are running until you shut it down. Then all these windows pop up like, “are you sure you want to close this?” and “forced shutdown could make you lose data”. But in the end the computer always seems to run better when it is restarted.

Our brains are probably very similar. Even though when we sleep we are often refreshed, it seems like it would be beneficial to shut down each memory train that is running in our brain. They reveal themselves as soon as you push out the more pressing thoughts closest to the front of your mind. Then random imagery, words, people, events, or fiction pops into your head. But somehow I doubt it pops in randomly, it must be playing off something else, or perhaps hanging out in the back of the mind the whole time just waiting to get some attention.

If anyone has a psychology background or understands how the brain works, let me know if I am onto something. But even if I am not onto something scientific, it certainly was good imagery to focus my meditation session. And then it puts my mind at ease, because I feel like I am putting to rest tiring backstories that need not constantly play in the subconscious.

Close those brain pop-ups down one at a time, and then enjoy the blank space, the clean surface, the properly functioning drive. Just clear it out, reset, and everything will run smoother when you boot it back up. Perhaps only truly important backstories will reboot, and you can put some of the nagging ones to rest.

My Theory on the Secret to Great Health (and suggestions on foods to integrate into your diet)

The Benefit of Variation

I named this blog Joe Jarvis explains it all, and damnit I intend to explain it all! Eventually…

As for today I’ll share with you the secret to perfect health! Okay I might be exaggerating slightly. But I am being serious when I say that variety is key to health.

Every so often there is a big hype about something that will supposedly double your lifespan. Add turmeric to everything because the curcumin is the elixir of life! And you know what, turmeric is really good for you. But sometimes we focus too much on one thing and lose the forest through the trees.

There might be a million things your body needs, and turmeric might have 900,000 of them. But if all you use to boost your health is turmeric, you will be missing 100,000 needed health agents.

So add some ginger, garlic, and onions; foods I swear by. Maybe they each have 900,000 of their own benefits, and when they are all figured in, after the healthy overlap, you get 970,000 of the things you need out of a million.  That’s pretty good, but why stop there?

You like apples so you have an apple everyday. Great! But still, apples have very different constituents than oranges. And oranges don’t have everything that kiwis have, which don’t have everything that pineapple has. But if you decide to try a new fruit each week, while also getting your fill of the classic favorites, you’re undoubtedly going to be scooping up nutrients, antioxidants, and amino acids that your body may otherwise have lacked.

And since each fruit, vegetable, and spice is so complex, even science cannot yet properly pinpoint everything the food will do for you. Why wait for the research to come out, when you could inadvertently be preventing hundreds of diseases, just by eating lots of different healthful and delicious foods?

Variation! The same principle applies to exercise. Any one exercise is good for you, but could put a lot of stress on particular joints, and only strengthen particular muscles. But if you cross train, do a little running, some biking, a bit of lifting, and yoga, you will be strengthening more muscles, and spreading the workload across various joints and ligaments.

Running may prevent heart disease, but cause joint inflammation. Lifting may increase bone density, but stress ligaments. Yoga may protect muscles and joints, but do little in the way of preventing heart disease. All together, each in moderation, you will have a pretty good formula for protecting the muscles and bones, preventing heart disease, and avoiding long term damage in any one area.

Same goes for healthy food. If you always eat the same 10 fruits and vegetables, you will probably be pretty healthy. But suppose you are chronically low on one particular nutrient or antioxidant. Well whatever illness that nutrient prevents might be what gets you!

I’m not trying to scare anyone, and I feel like not getting too worked up about these things is important, since stress itself can be more harmful to you than what you are stressing about. But if you are constantly switching up what you eat, you  are that much more likely to get important nutrients that may otherwise fall between the cracks.

Ginger has almost a dozen antiviral compounds, and each one varies in effectiveness against various virus’s. If you start feeling flu symptoms, chances are ginger will help. But garlic and licorice also have antiviral constituents, and while some may overlap, parts of each plant will be more effective in different areas and against different viral strains. Varying the intake of antiviral foods when you start to feel sick increases the number of different antiviral compounds, which makes it more likely to kill whatever virus is ailing you. Also, it increases the overall volume of the helpful components. You may find it tough to each 5 cloves of garlic per day, but you could easily put two in your dinner, throw some ginger in your salad, and put some licorice in your tea.

Target Ailments with Specific Foods

If you are the health conscious type, you may even want to tailor your intake of veggies and fruits towards whatever has recently been ailing you. I’m a runner, so I try to eat a lot of pineapple and ginger, both powerful anti-inflammatories. In addition to reducing joint pain, and warding off tendonitis, pineapple contains a protein dissolving compound which can help prevent gout, by dissolving the crystals which form and collect in the joints. So even when you eat a food to target one ailment, it will almost certainly overlap to prevent another ill.

But again, don’t stop with pineapple and ginger. If swelling and inflammation is a problem—and lots of research suggests inflammation is an underlying long term cause of many killer diseases—then try different anti-inflammatories that will all tackle the problem with slightly different compounds that may be variably effective on different people, parts of the body, and sources of inflammation. Turmeric would be a great addition to an after workout smoothie to reduce swelling, and in addition it would inadvertently help keep your liver healthy. You could also forage some dandelions, and beyond draining excess fluid, some research suggests the flowers could actually help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The bottom line is that no matter how good for you one fruit, vegetable, or spice, it will never cover all of your bases. But eating a plethora of different fruits, veggies, and spices will vastly expand how many beneficial compounds are introduced to your body, possibly eradicating a problem before symptoms ever even show up. And anyway, it’s fun to try new stuff! So here are a few suggestions for health foods that might be a good starting point to expand your horizons.

Avocado: This is a great source of beneficial fats which can also reduce inflammation. Avocado can help with skin issues too. I try to eat avocado daily if possible during the winter, since dry skin can be a problem in New England. It also helps people absorb beneficial fat soluble compounds in other vegetables, so throwing one in a salad is a good idea.

Brazil Nut: This is another promising possibility for treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease, since a compound in them prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine, thought to be a cause of the disease and accompanying memory loss. The brazil nut is like a multi-vitamin in a shell; just a couple per day provide all the selenium (prevents cancer), and vitamin E you need, as well as large doses of copper, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, and the good fatty acids that lower bad cholesterol, and boost good cholesterol.

Beets: Try having some beets before a workout, because they expand the blood vessels, and will therefore get more oxygen to the mussels, increasing performance and aiding in recovery. Also a great blood purifier and liver repair man, beets are another who’s who of essential vitamins and minerals. And the sugars from beets are released into the body slowly, increasing energy without the classic “sugar crash”.

Collard Greens: These and similar leafy greens can prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. The antioxidants neutralize free-radicals which damage nerves in the back of the eye. In addition to their antioxidant content, collard greens are another anti-inflammatory, and help detoxify the body by activating our own enzymes. These three factors combined are why collard greens are said to prevent many cancers.

Purslane: I now see purslane everywhere! It is a common fleshy “weed” that can be foraged, found creeping along the ground in lawns and parking lots. You could also find it at a farmer’s market, or Whole Foods. Purslane apparently contains the highest levels of omega-3 fats of any edible plant, and “10 to 20 times more melatonin—an antioxidant that may inhibit cancer growth—than any other fruit or vegetable tested”.

Red Pepper: If you like spice, throw some hot red pepper in everything you can, especially if you have any chronic pain. Capsaicin is what helps reduce pain, by triggering the body to release endorphins. These pain reducing benefits can also be absorbed through the skin, by applying a capsaicin cream to sore area, and arthritic joints. The spicy heat also increases blood flow to the area, and promotes healthy circulation in general. Red pepper can also help aide in weight loss, by increasing the metabolic rate and body temperature after meals.

Food can be your medicine, and generally with fewer and less harmful side effects. The real key to health is preventing rather than treating illnesses. If your diet includes all different spices, foreign fruits, obscure vegetables, and foraged fare, you are that much more likely to give your body what it needs, and then some!

Thanks to James A. Duke who wrote The Green Pharmacy for informing me on much of what I’ve shared here.

Going on the Offensive When I Start Feeling Sick

I never remember how awesome it feels to be healthy until I get sick. What is the deal with getting sick in the summer anyway? I spend sufficient time outside and doing physical things. I’m not as cooped up as in the winter, fewer people around me in general are sick. Oh well, I guess it happens. I am determined to remind myself how good I feel everyday when I am not sick, and make sure I appreciate and enjoy the feeling!

It is day 3 and I am already feeling a lot better, which is encouraging since yesterday I had that muscle soreness flu like symptom. I attribute my quick recovery when I am sick to the fact that I go on the offensive as soon as I start to feel under the weather. And If it isn’t the things I eat and drink that makes me recover quickly, it must be the placebo effect, which would actually mean we have a lot of power with our minds to affect our health.

I start with echinacea, which is just a plant; I get it ground up and stuck into some capsules. It is reported to be an immune system booster. While there is apparently not a huge amount of research on whether or not echinacea can help with colds and common sickness, some studies and anecdotal evidence suggest it has benefits. And it is pretty safe to use, even if it doesn’t have benefits; though according to Web MD it could concentrate caffeine in your system by slowing down its metabolization, and there is a slight possibility for other mild side effects. I have never experienced anything negative about echinacea though, and a couple times when I have felt some sickness coming on, it has retreated without making me sick after using echinacea. It is hard to isolate what worked though, because I also do other stuff to ward off the illness.

I will drink apple cider vinegar straight or you could mix it with some water if that is too much for you, or mix it with some olive oil and put it on a salad. Apple cider vinegar is essentially the magic elixir of life, and the actual contents of the fountain of youth. But seriously, it has some crazy benefits. It can boost energy, make your hair and skin more vibrant, sooth sunburn, and apparently, which I am going to have to try, remove stains from the teeth. It can even break up mucus in the lungs. But I think the reason it works for keeping people healthy is that apple cider vinegar balances the pH level of the body:

Apple cider vinegar helps the body maintain a healthy alkaline pH level. Research shows that higher acid levels (lower pH level) leads to a lack of energy and higher incidences of infection.

I’ve heard that things like too much sugar and alcohol can mess with our pH levels, and that apple cider vinegar brings us back to a healthy balance. Oh yea and they say to get the apple cider vinegar “with the mother” which supposedly gives you even stronger benefits, and just means it has not been filtered; its raw and unpasteurized.

Also, I kind of have this theory that if you eat a lot of garlic, ginger, and onions, you will live forever. So when I am feeling under the weather, I try to overdose on these delicious spices. According to the book The Green Pharmacy by James A. Duke, onion and garlic are closely related plants that contain antiviral compounds. Garlic also contains “allicin, one of the plant kingdom’s most potent, broad spectrum antibiotics”. As for ginger, it also contains almost a dozen antiviral compounds, specifically ones that kill the rhinovirus family, which includes common cold viruses. Cold symptom relief can also be found from ginger, because of its mild sedative effect, and the gingerols and shogaols that reduce fever, pain, and coughing.

Then of course there is the classic green tea which certainly can’t hurt, and eating as many vegetables and fruit as possible, while being sure to drink enough liquids. But most importantly, appreciate how awesome it feels to be healthy.