WHY FOOD IS MEDICINE … FOR US AND OUR PLANET

Ysanne Spevack learned early in life that food is medicine. But we must also consider how our food choices impact the wellbeing of our planet …

Portrait: Clara Bensen

When I was 22 I went backpacking around India for three months. I visited the river Ganges and saw the burning bodies and the dolphins and Shiva temples in Varanassi. I went deep into my own process and traveled far off the grid. To prepare for my return to London, I went to Delhi for my last week. To see some other Westerners. Check that I was still myself.

In 1993 there was one German café in Delhi, where they had coffee and croissants. It was a big deal, all the travelers went there. And that’s where I got sick. I’d been eating street food for months, lots of deep fried lentils and rice, all very safe because the deep-frying killed any bugs, and I was actually quite plump. But on the plane on the way home I got intense diarrhea. The decline in my health was very quick, very intense. It continued this way for months.

I was really, really sick. Super skinny, with no energy and a distended belly, like a famine victim, and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. They gave me round after round of antibiotics. But I was getting worse. Skinnier and skinnier, no energy at all. Finally someone recommended I go to see an herbalist. At first, I was like, “the doctors can’t fix it, what are herbal remedies going to do?” But I decided I had nothing to lose.

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I found myself at the London Clinic of Phytotherapy, an extraordinary teaching hospital. I was seen by a doctor and his ten students. It turns out I had something called Shigella, a bacterium related to E. Coli, and the remedies they prescribed were a herbal tincture, a serious boiled herbs tea, and a bottle of pure undiluted garlic juice. Just pure, squashed garlic, and very, very strong. I remember knocking back the first round. As I felt it going down, there was a sensation of relief. I could literally feel it healing my esophagus as it went down. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced that feeling since.

It was this experience that taught me the healing power of food—a philosophy that has informed my life and my work ever since. But in our current climate, adopting a healthy diet is as much about healing our planet as it is our bodies. I believe the term “mindful eating” is absolutely meaningless if this is not also considered.

We tend to focus on diet as it relates to our own health and happiness. Our digestion, and how our skin looks. But I believe we should be experiencing these benefits almost as a bi-product of caring for the Earth. Which also means caring for the people far away who actually produce our food. People who are often exploited by our desire to have beautiful bodies and lots of energy, and to live high-performance lives.

Ysanne delivering her TEDx Talk, “Open Your Senses With Music and Food”

There’s currently lots of focus on a plant-based diet as the least harmful to the planet. But it’s more complex than that. It’s true that a vegetarian driving a Hummer has less environmental impact than a meat-eater riding a bicycle. Beef is so impactful to the planet, it’s the most harmful single ingredient.

But a coconut, for example, comes from very far away. It comes from a place where workers are exposed to pesticides, and paid a pittance. I see these issues the same way some vegetarians see meat. It’s about looking at the whole story, not just the ingredient, but how it gets to you, and where it comes from. It’s about seeing the reality. That’s my main thing really. Increasing people’s perceptiveness, supporting them to see the truth about food, and about how everything else is connected from there.

You could say I promote a macrobiotic diet—which basically means seasonal and local. People think of macrobiotic as Japanese, because the diet and the word were coined in Japan. But there it just means eating stuff that’s grown locally, and which resonates with where your body is at.

So, if you live in New York for example, rather than like hitting the coconut oil really heavy, it might mean choosing local sunflower oil, since sunflowers are grown here. Olives grow in California, so olive oil is the way to go there. When you begin to really research it, it’s also creatively much more exciting when you can eat truly local.

For example, come January there’s no fresh food in New York City. The fruit and vegetables are all imported from miles away. But if you’ve got some sprouted alfafas seeds that you’ve been growing in a canister on your windowsill, you’ve always got fresh food in New York, whatever the weather.

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I take this very seriously because I know food is medicine. And with the healthcare situation in the US the way it is, eating to prevent illness is another important conversation to be having, especially for lower income people. Another reason to eat local, too, because it’s less pollution. Yes, it’s all these fashionable little potions and powders. But it’s also the main ingredients of your dinner.

There’s a lot of perceived elitism in the healthy eating scene, but the poorest people can also have a really solid diet—like I did when I was 17 and living in a squat in London, making nutritious meals for no money out of lentils. There’s also only so high of a price point you can put on locally grown plants. Cabbages are amazing!

While I’m not a fan of some of their ideas, I’m quite protective of the women who are attacked for talking about how food is medicine, Gwyneth Paltrow and Amanda Chantal Bacon of Moon Juice being the two most often assaulted. It’s massively gendered. Because we’re not seeing Alex Jones of Info Wars being attacked. We’re not seeing Tim Ferriss being attacked. And they’re all recommending similar stuff, but aren’t attacked at all.

It’s important we separate the conversation on food and localness from elitism and medicine, and take it out of the context of gender.

And anyway, when you look at it, it’s often people who are broke who are eating the processed food, which is the expensive stuff. From my perspective, they’re eating meals that have been prepared by servants in factories. Not to mention paying a premium for the truck that brought it to the store, the marketing campaign, and the shiny box it comes in.

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Ysanne Spevack is a composer, private chef, and the author of 13 books. Ysanne is available for talks, cooking classes, personal chef and consultancy projects, and to create private dinners and mocktail events. Discover more about Ysanne and her work HERE and watch her recent TEDx Talk HERE.

ESSENTIAL OILS FOR EVERY MOON PHASE

Laying out your crystals and setting intentions for the emo Pisces Full Moon? Supercharge your ceremonies and activate the magic of nature by adding essential oils for every Moon phase, says Amanda Maybroda. 

Image: Charlie Nolan

Using Essential Oils during the Moon cycle is like a triple shot of espresso (wake up call!!) to all your healthy cells. All without the jitters or any negative side effects …

Just like we place some of our crystals under the moonlight to clean and re-charge, the Moon’s energy gives oils a little extra mojo.

If we sync our oils with the cycle, we can use them to amplify and open our receptors to all the good ju ju that’s available to download and receive.  Combine the oils below or use alone … have fun with it!

**Note: Only ingest oils that are therapeutic grade and cleared for internal use. I recommend doTERRA.

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:: NEW MOON ::
The New Moon is a Re-birth, new beginning, fresh start. It’s a great opportunity to manifest what we desire and allows us to cut the cords that no longer serve us. These oils help plant new seeds, literally and figuratively …

  • Hawaiian Sandalwood supports your sexual energy and, in turn, your creativity. As the Moon moves towards waxing, it’s time to get those juices flowing and open your mind to new opportunities and resources.
    Activate It: To help increase creative and sexual flow, apply to all lower chakras. You can also apply it to wrists, back of knees, cervical spine, feet, ankles and third eye- its grounding and manifesting ability may surprise you.
  • Patchouli is both an aphrodisiac, and a digester of toxic materials. Perfect for officially cutting the cord to any blocks or stagnation as you start fresh for the New Moon!
    Activate It: Take a drop in a veggie cap to release what no longer serves you. Or mix a drop of this oil into your Sandalwood as you apply to your lower chakras.
  • Holy Grail is a signature blend of mine that allows your soul to travel the cosmos and gather information and resources, and allows your body to create the grids needed to anchor into this dimension. Perfect for receiving all the new info available for download during the New Moon.
    Activate It: Try hand diffusing and then cupping your closed eyes for a few breaths. And make sure to have your journal handy for all the new ideas you’ll be receiving!

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:: WAXING MOON ::
This is a phase of regeneration when our bodies are able to absorb most efficiently and easefully. It’s a time to fortify, strengthen, and replenish our bodies, souls, energetic fields, and resources.

  • Juniper Berry supports the nervous system, regeneration, and replenishment by bolstering feelings of love, peace, and wellbeing. As your body transforms into a balanced and harmonious vessel, your energy field literally begins to strengthen.
    Activate It: Do hand diffusions throughout the day, taking 6 good deep breaths. And throw this baby in the diffuser at night (that’s when we repair ourselves the most). Juniper Berry can also be applied to the front and back of the heart to help activate its replenishing properties.
  • Rosemary helps memory and our ability to trust the process. The Waxing Moon is a gestation period, during which we can’t always see the trajectory of our movement or the end result of our intentions. Rosemary supports the motivation and courage we need during this phase by boosting clarity, endorphins, and brain functioning. It’s an oil for breakthroughs!
    Activate It: Apply Rosemary to the base of neck, occipitals, and top of head to bring clarity. Apply it to the bottom of your feet to give the seeds you planted some extra love. And put some in your salad dressing or sprinkle on some red roasted potatoes- ingesting neutralizes stress and helps move stagnant energy.
  • Lavender supplies patience as we fortify during the Waxing Moon phase. Sometimes our outer worlds don’t catch up as quickly as we want, and this oil helps infuse the trust of Divine Timing into any type of preparation work.
    Activate It: Combine in with your favorite carrier oil (i.e. coconut or olive oil) and lather yourself generously, paying special attention to your ankles and hips. Diffuse Lavender by itself, or with Juniper Berry and Rosemary, to bring you into the present moment and back to the patience that is needed during this phase.

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:: FULL MOON ::
This part of the cycle is a yummy energetic time for experiencing amplified feelings and experiences. Our bodies go through a lot on this planet, and this phase asks us to open the heart chakras, get grounded, listen to our bodies, and amp up the self-love!

*Create a sacred space with these oils and have a release. Cry, kick, scream if you need too … and trust that they will literally help you transform it all.

  • Cedarwood’s luscious grounding and sedatitive abilities help us root deeper and feel beautiful. It’s also very cleansing and has a diuretic effect that helps with body release during the Full Moon.
    Activate It: Apply the Cedarwood to your feet, ankles, tailbone, and sternum. Step outside if you can and walk barefoot on our beautiful earth mama!
  • Yang Ylang softens that heart chakra, amplifies your sensuality, and deepens your connection to self.
    Activate It: Put a few drops in a salt bath and tell your body all the reasons you’re grateful for it and why you love it SO much!
  • Peppermint’s antiseptic and uplifting properties facilitate any physical or energetic cleaning out to create an environment for emotional and spiritual growth.
    Activate It: Try hand diffusing peppermint- inhale and apply to your energetic field. This is done by rubbing oils between palms and then dancing around and painting your field with it. (The dancing part isn’t mandatory but highly suggested for Full Moon party vibes!)

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:: WANING MOON ::
The waning gibbous moon brings about instinctual growth, subconscious enlightenment and an opportunity to clarify our values. This is a time of deep internal rest, meditation, self analysis, and reconnection to our cozy internal home as we prepare for the New Moon. This final stage of the process allows us to release, pivot, banish, and break unhealthy habits, relationships, behaviors, patterns, and thought forms as we prepare for rebirth.

  • Frankincense helps to re-pattern, re-generate and re-parent ourselves. I can confidently say this was one of the main oils I used in healing my own PTSD. Working intentionally with this oil can truly heal and release those negative habits, patterns, and thought forms.
    Activate It: To allow for your values to clearly present themselves, mix with a carrier oil of your choice and give your scalp some extra TLC with a massage. For instinctual growth and immunity stimulation, place a drop under your tongue.
  • Geranium allows the body to recuperate from all that deep work that has been done releasing and re-patterning during the entire Moon cycle. This oil is also an antidepressant and can help any heavy feelings associated with this deep phase of the Moon. Give yourself permission to really take some time to rest.
    Activate It: Take a salt bath with some Geranium and any flower petals you may have. Bathing is a perfect New Moon prep activity during the Waning Moon cycle because it allows every cell and system to relax so that we will be able to launch forward to receive during the next phase.
  • Holy Ghost (another of my signature blends) has the mother, father, purifier, and exciter of oils all in one, and balances your Divine Masculine and Feminine energies. As we prepare for the New Moon, this oil helps release any stress, worry, doubt or fear that may be associated with transition or rebirth.
    Activate It: Take a few drops under your tongue before meditation. Or use as a spray or through a diffusor to cleanse and shift the environmental energy towards openness, balance, and support.

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Amanda Maybroda is an LA-based Intuitive Alchemist, Spiritual Wellness Coach, speaker, author, and founder of I AM Elementals. Known as the “go-to witch doctor” in her community, she uses high-vibe nature energies and elements to create custom blends, mantras, yoga practices, and meditations that support each client’s health, desired intentions, and frequencies.

**I AM Elementals is brand new to the IG game! Follow her HERE, and make sure to snag one of the final spots for her next private coaching sessions (starting October 1, 2017, and January 1, 2018) by emailing [email protected]