The alt-rock singer/songwriter, Moby, once famously proclaimed in a popular lyric that “we are all made of stars.” But herbalists, naturalists, and practitioners of folk medicine all know that the human body is far more terrestrial than celestial. We are the children of earth, the heirs and offspring of Mother Nature. We are part of the great cycle of life, and both our origin and our destination lie in the soil beneath our feet.
It is perhaps little wonder, then, that the natural reservoir that breeds life should also be a potent resource for protecting, preserving, and prolonging life. Indeed, nature was humanity’s first pharmacy and its healing powers have never waned, nor has our need for them.
Getting Your Feet Grounded
If you want an example of the restorative powers of nature, then you have only to look at the mounting evidence in support of the healing properties of grounding, also referred to as “earthing.” Grounding is predicated on the premise that free electrons circulating in natural substances, including soil, water, rocks, and grass can be absorbed through the skin and distributed throughout the body, activating the cells and optimizing systemic functioning (1, 2, 3, 4). Research shows, for example, that earthing can reduce inflammation, relieve pain, act as a natural antioxidant, and can even improve metabolic, neurologic, and cardiovascular functioning (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). In addition, there is data to suggest that earthing can enhance sleep quality and duration in patients with a history of insomnia (7).
Earthing is predicated upon regular, prolonged physical contact with natural substances, but the benefits of time spent in nature aren’t derived only from exposure to the earth’s free electrons. Studies show that a daily “dose” of nature, even if it’s simply a few minutes spent sitting on a park bench in a community greenspace, can reduce fatigue, alleviate stress and depression, and boost your overall sense of happiness, connection, and well-being (8, 9, 10, 11).
The Beauty and Beneficence of Botanicals
As potent as soil and water may be, there is also significant power in the earth’s flora. Indeed, the practice of using plants to cure sickness, heal wounds, and extend life is as old as human civilization. Today, however, modern medicine is beginning to recognize at last what traditional healers have always known: that plants, herbs, roots, spices, and flowers can continue to be potent, even for modern medicine (12, 13, 14).
Consider, for example, the humble mango leaf. Mango leaves often take a backseat to their popular and delicious fruit, but studies show that teas, powders, pastes, and inhalants made from mango leaves can help treat a variety of conditions. Mango leaf tea, for instance, has shown significant benefits in managing diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and even dementia (15, 16, 17).
At Casa Alternavida, we are well acquainted with the medicinal properties of mango leaves. Here, we brew our mango leaf tea as only one example of utilizing the healing bounty of our natural surroundings. The benefit of being next to the rainforest is that our property at Casa Alternavida, has fruiting mango trees, acerola (cherry), pineapple, parcha (passion fruit) vines, papayas, bananas, plantain, and cooking herbs. All of these are incorporated into the food we so lovingly prepare for guests, residents, and staff for vitality and health. The result is a menu that supports both nourishment and healing, served in an environment that feeds and revitalizes the mind and spirit as well as the body.
Another example of the healing power of plants lies in cannabinoids. These compounds, much in the news in recent years, have produced a mountain of data to substantiate their long-heralded medicinal properties. Research suggests, for example, that cannabis-based medicines may be effective in treating serious and often severely painful skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis (18).
In addition, there is evidence that cannabinoids may have therapeutic benefits for the treatment of COVID-19 and other serious respiratory viruses. For instance, Paland et al. (2021) found that the anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties of phytocannabinoids may help reduce morbidity and mortality in those with severe COVID disease (19).
(Let Me Tell You ‘Bout) The Birds and the Bees
When we explore the healing attributes of nature, we should not confine our discussion to the flora alone. Nature’s fauna also has a starring role in helping humans live longer, healthier, and happier lives. A case in point: bee venom. We all know that bees help to keep our fields flourishing, our flowers blooming, and our dinner tables full thanks to their pollination. But the humble little honeybee and the bodacious bumble do far more than just pollinate our world, they may also help to cure some of humanity’s most fearsome diseases.
For example, studies suggest that honeybee venom can significantly increase the efficacy of cancer treatment, and may be especially beneficial in combating treatment-resistant breast and colon cancers (20, 21). There is also mounting evidence that bee venom peptides may be highly effective in treating other forms of cancer, including prostate and lung cancer, as well as leukemia (22).
And not only this but, in the spirit of everything old becoming new again, medicinal leeches are also increasingly being integrated into modern medical practice (23). Interestingly, studies show that leech therapy is particularly effective in supporting healing in the aftermath of plastic and reconstructive surgery (24). Likewise, leech therapy is also showing significant promise in treating recurring and potentially life-threatening skin wounds and ulcerations (25). Note, we have never seen leeches in Puerto Rico.
Healing and Hope at Casa Alternavida
At Casa Alternavida, we understand, celebrate, and luxuriate in the healing power of nature. Nestled between the turquoise beauty of the ocean and the lush, emerald green El Yunque National rainforest, we are surrounded by the health-restoring bounty of nature all around us. During our daily nature adventures, guests spend time exploring the forest and the coastlines, luxuriating in the natural world that is always available to help make us whole again.
Our multidisciplinary team of health and wellness experts is uniquely qualified to unleash the healing magic of this incomparable natural environment. Our personal and themed retreats are designed to help you experience the rejuvenating properties of nature and to integrate the profound life lessons learned here into your daily experience at home. We offer a wide range of activities and services tailored to support mental, physical, and spiritual wellness, including interactive cacao and fire ceremonies designed to help you regain your sense of inner peace, reconnect with nature and its eternal life force, and reignite your joy and creativity. Contact us today to discuss how the breathtaking natural beauty of Casa Alternavida can help you get your health, your serenity, and your spark back!
Casa Alternavida was founded on the principle that there are healthier, “alternative” ways to balance life and work. This alternative is to stop the unconscious addiction to stress, overwhelm, and struggle to focus on a healthy, balanced lifestyle that yields better results. Our practitioners are trained to support you with unraveling those unconscious commitments so you can actively create the lifestyle you want to be living, take charge of your well-being, and reset bad habits. We are experts at creating playful experiences in nature that inspire deep personal insight and long-term positive behavior change. Teams walk away from our facility with new excitement for their projects, practices to work smarter, and a deep appreciation of their companies. If you are a business that cares about your employees and wants to enhance your workplace culture, we are dedicated to providing alternative ways of building resilient leaders and teams.
Menigoz, W., Latz, T. T., Ely, R. A., Kamei, C., Melvin, G., & Sinatra, D. (2020). Integrative and lifestyle medicine strategies should include Earthing (grounding): Review of research evidence and clinical observations. Explore (New York, N.Y.), 16(3), 152–160. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2019.10.005
Chevalier, G., Patel, S., Weiss, L., Chopra, D., & Mills, P. J. (2019). The Effects of Grounding (Earthing) on Bodyworkers' Pain and Overall Quality of Life: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Explore (New York, N.Y.), 15(3), 181–190. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2018.10.001
Chevalier, G., Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2012). Earthing: health implications of reconnecting the human body to the Earth's surface electrons. Journal of environmental and public health, 2012, 291541. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/291541
Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2011). Earthing the human body influences physiologic processes. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 17(4), 301–308. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2010.0687
Sokal, P., & Sokal, K. (2011). The neuromodulatory role of earthing. Medical hypotheses, 77(5), 824–826. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2011.07.046
Oschman J. L. (2007). Can electrons act as antioxidants? A review and commentary. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 13(9), 955–967. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2007.7048
Ghaly, M., & Teplitz, D. (2004). The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 10(5), 767–776. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2004.10.767
Meredith, G. R., Rakow, D. A., Eldermire, E., Madsen, C. G., Shelley, S. P., & Sachs, N. A. (2020). Minimum Time Dose in Nature to Positively Impact the Mental Health of College-Aged Students, and How to Measure It: A Scoping Review. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2942. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02942
Longman, D. P., Shaw, C. N., Varela-Mato, V., Sherry, A. P., Ruettger, K., Sayyah, M., Guest, A., Chen, Y. L., Paine, N. J., King, J. A., & Clemes, S. A. (2021). Time in Nature Associated with Decreased Fatigue in UK Truck Drivers. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(6), 3158. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063158
O'Brien L. (2018). Engaging with and Shaping Nature: A Nature-Based Intervention for Those with Mental Health and Behavioural Problems at the Westonbirt Arboretum in England. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(10), 2214. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15102214
Sefcik, J. S., Kondo, M. C., Klusaritz, H., Sarantschin, E., Solomon, S., Roepke, A., South, E. C., & Jacoby, S. F. (2019). Perceptions of Nature and Access to Green Space in Four Urban Neighborhoods. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(13), 2313. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16132313
Chugh, N. A., Bali, S., & Koul, A. (2018). Integration of botanicals in contemporary medicine: road blocks, checkpoints and go-ahead signals. Integrative medicine research, 7(2), 109–125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2018.03.005
Memete, A. R., Timar, A. V., Vuscan, A. N., Miere Groza, F., Venter, A. C., & Vicas, S. I. (2022). Phytochemical Composition of Different Botanical Parts of Morus Species, Health Benefits and Application in Food Industry. Plants (Basel, Switzerland), 11(2), 152. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11020152
Funk, J. L., & Schneider, C. (2021). Perspective on Improving the Relevance, Rigor, and Reproducibility of Botanical Clinical Trials: Lessons Learned From Turmeric Trials. Frontiers in nutrition, 8, 782912. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2021.782912
Kumar, M., Saurabh, V., Tomar, M., Hasan, M., Changan, S., Sasi, M., Maheshwari, C., Prajapati, U., Singh, S., Prajapat, R. K., Dhumal, S., Punia, S., Amarowicz, R., & Mekhemar, M. (2021). Mango (Mangifera indica L.) Leaves: Nutritional Composition, Phytochemical Profile, and Health-Promoting Bioactivities. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 10(2), 299. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox10020299
Zhang, Y., Chen, Q., Liu, M. Y., Ruan, J. Y., Yu, H. Y., Li, J., & Wang, T. (2019). Effects of Benzophenones from Mango Leaves on Lipid Metabolism. Chemical & pharmaceutical bulletin, 67(7), 634–639. https://doi.org/10.1248/cpb.c18-00905Villas
Boas, G. R., Rodrigues Lemos, J. M., de Oliveira, M. W., Dos Santos, R. C., Stefanello da Silveira, A. P., Barbieri Bacha, F., Ito, C., Bortolotte Cornelius, E., Brioli Lima, F., Sachilarid Rodrigues, A. M., Belmal Costa, N., Francisco Bittencourt, F., Freitas de Lima, F., Meirelles Paes, M., Gubert, P., & Oesterreich, S. A. (2020). Aqueous extract from Mangifera indica Linn. (Anacardiaceae) leaves exerts long-term hypoglycemic effect, increases insulin sensitivity and plasma insulin levels on diabetic Wistar rats. PloS one, 15(1), e0227105. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0227105
Baswan, S. M., Klosner, A. E., Glynn, K., Rajgopal, A., Malik, K., Yim, S., & Stern, N. (2020). Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 13, 927–942. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S286411
Paland, N., Pechkovsky, A., Aswad, M., Hamza, H., Popov, T., Shahar, E., & Louria-Hayon, I. (2021). The Immunopathology of COVID-19 and the Cannabis Paradigm. Frontiers in immunology, 12, 631233. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.631233
Duffy, C., Sorolla, A., Wang, E., Golden, E., Woodward, E., Davern, K., Ho, D., Johnstone, E., Pfleger, K., Redfern, A., Iyer, K. S., Baer, B., & Blancafort, P. (2020). Honeybee venom and melittin suppress growth factor receptor activation in HER2-enriched and triple-negative breast cancer. NPJ precision oncology, 4, 24. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41698-020-00129-0
Duarte, D., Falcão, S. I., El Mehdi, I., Vilas-Boas, M., & Vale, N. (2022). Honeybee Venom Synergistically Enhances the Cytotoxic Effect of CNS Drugs in HT-29 Colon and MCF-7 Breast Cancer Cell Lines. Pharmaceutics, 14(3), 511. https://doi.org/10.3390/pharmaceutics14030511
Ceremuga, M., Stela, M., Janik, E., Gorniak, L., Synowiec, E., Sliwinski, T., Sitarek, P., Saluk-Bijak, J., & Bijak, M. (2020). Melittin-A Natural Peptide from Bee Venom Which Induces Apoptosis in Human Leukaemia Cells. Biomolecules, 10(2), 247. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom10020247
Lemke, S., & Vilcinskas, A. (2020). European Medicinal Leeches-New Roles in Modern Medicine. Biomedicines, 8(5), 99. https://doi.org/10.3390/biomedicines8050099
Hackenberger, P. N., & Janis, J. E. (2019). A Comprehensive Review of Medicinal Leeches in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Plastic and reconstructive surgery. Global open, 7(12), e2555. https://doi.org/10.1097/GOX.0000000000002555
Koeppen, D., Aurich, M., Pasalar, M., & Rampp, T. (2019). Medicinal leech therapy in venous congestion and various ulcer forms: Perspectives of Western, Persian and Indian medicine. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine, 10(2), 104–109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtcme.2019.08.003