Tell Me Your Secret, and I’ll Tell You Mine

You have a secret.  I know you do.   The person sitting next to you has a secret too.   According to a new study conducted at Columbia Business School,  we all carry secrets, with the average person keeping 13 all at once, including 5 that are buried so deep, they’ll never see the light of day.

It’s interesting that we use the word “carry” when we talk about secrets.  Intuitively, we understand their weight and the burden they place on us, so we choose language that accurately conveys this.

What this new study tells us, is that the “weight” of your secret is no joke.  When you keep a secret, it causes increased stress, sleep loss, reduced productivity, and memory loss.  Because secrets raise your cortisol level, your immune system can weaken, your blood pressure can rise, you can develop osteoporosis more easily, and your skin will wrinkle.  Still think that secret is worth keeping?

Neuroscientists now believe that it’s better to confess your secrets than hold on to them.  The same is true of grudges.  They use up too much of your willpower, and too much of  your conscious thought to be healthy.

According to this new study, the difficulty of secrets doesn’t come when you think it will – during those brief moments where you’re consciously hiding what you know from others.   No.  The damage to your health comes when you’re finally at home, alone with your thoughts, in the middle of the night.  That’s when the rumination starts.

You might try to avoid thinking about your secret, but your mind won’t let you.  A battle will rage between your pre-frontal cortex, which controls decision-making, complex thought and deception, and your cingulate cortex, which is triggered when you feel anxiety or fear.   The bigger your secret, the greater your anxiety and fear.  It will wear you down.  You will feel burdened.

According to Chinese medicine, worry, or excessive thought – such as you might experience when keeping a secret – is said to weaken your spleen.   Normally, when your spleen is healthy, you will have strong energy, a good appetite, and a light feeling, as if you are being lifted up.   However, when your spleen weakens, not only will you feel tired and listless, but you’ll feel heavy too, like you’re carrying a ton of bricks on your back.  That’s the heaviness secret-carriers feel.

So how can you help your spleen?  Well, for one thing, don’t willingly carry a secret for others, if at all possible.  If you must keep that secret and you have no choice, you can reduce its weight, and the burden on your spleen, by writing it down.   Somehow, the act of putting your secret down on paper releases some of the load, reducing stress hormones and blood pressure, and improving your mental health.  Telling your secret to a trusted friend helps too.

To further help your spleen, you can also consider taking our Meta Plus tincture, which contains herbs that directly strengthen spleen functioning. But whatever you do, think carefully before agreeing to keep a secret for someone.  Above all else, your mind yearns for authenticity, and you will never be authentic when you’re withholding the truth.



Time To Start Meditating

If you meditate regularly, you’ve probably already noticed how it calms you, elevates your mood, and improves your focus.   That’s reason enough to continue your practice right there.

But there are plenty more reasons to meditate daily, and scientists have only just begun to quantify them.   Here are a couple.   In a recent study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, it was found that stressed adults who practiced mindfulness meditation for just four months had reduced signs of inflammation in their bodies.   Their brains were also positively altered, so  that the regions involved in attention and executive control showed greater connectivity.

The reduction in inflammation is important.  Low grade inflammation has been linked to long-term, chronic health problems such as auto-immunity, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer, so reduced inflammation is a great predictor of better health, and a longer life.

In another study published in the journal Psychiatry Research, 89 people with generalized anxiety disorder were divided into two groups.  One group took an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course, while the other took a course on Stress Management Education.  This course included tips for improved sleep and nutrition, as well as other wellness topics.

Before and after the study, each of the participants was required to give a speech before an audience, an activity that most people dread.  The study participants who took mindfulness-based stress training showed significantly reduced signs of stress immediately after the speech, including lower blood cortisol levels and inflammation markers.  By comparison, the subjects who took the general stress reduction course experienced no reduction in blood cortisol levels and no reduction in inflammation.  In other words, resilience to stress increased markedly after just 8 weeks of mindfulness-based training.

When you combine these results with the impressive study released in 2014, where mindfulness was found to control depression as well as many anti-depressant drugs, it becomes increasingly clear that mindfulness meditation is something we should all be doing.  In a world that just keeps spinning faster and faster, and where problems only multiply, now is a great time to start.  To begin, search out meditation courses near you, or pick up a good book on the subject.  Authors like Sharon Salzberg or Jack Kornfield, who have decades of experience in meditation instruction, are particularly recommended.





The Dangers of Ibuprofen Use


When large numbers men start to have fertility problems, you know there is something wrong with the environment.  For a long time, scientists were unsure this was really happening.  However, repeated studies have confirmed that male sperm counts in Western continents are 59% lower than they were in 1971.  They are now directing their attention to possible reasons why.

What they’ve found should make men more concerned about their use of over-the-counter drugs.  A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  has found that when men use ibuprofen on a regular basis, it can lead to hypogonadism.  This is a condition normally seen only in elderly men, but researchers were able to  induce it by giving men two 600 mg tablets of ibuprofen daily for several months.  When they administered the ibuprofen directly into testicle samples (provided by organ donors), testosterone production declined in just 24 hours.

Luckily, testosterone levels rose again once the study ended, so the problem can be reversed – at least when ibuprofen is taken only for short periods of time.  However, scientists are now concerned about the many male athletes who take ibuprofen on a daily basis to control inflammation and pain.  Ibuprofen is one of the most widely used medications, and larger doses of the drug, taken for years at a time, may make this condition irreversible.

The hypogonadism generated in the study seems to have occurred because of increased production of luteinizing hormone by the pituitary gland.  When luteinizing hormone increases, it causes a relative reduction of testosterone, leading to infertility, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, depression, and loss of bone and muscle mass.

This is not the first time that ibuprofen has been implicated in fertility issues.  In a previous study, women who took ibuprofen during pregnancy gave birth to boys with impaired testicular development.

Concern has also been raised over the safety of other over-the-counter drugs, such as acetaminophen.  In addition to its tendency to cause liver damage when taken in high enough doses, acetaminophen has been linked to an increased risk of behavioural issues and ADHD among children when mothers take it during pregnancy.  Another study found that people who used acetaminophen to control pain had reduced empathy, and other positive emotions.

We’ve always known that drugs come with some negative side effects.  But which side effects are we prepared to accept?  At what point do the negative consequences of these drugs outweigh their potential benefits?  Many herbs have valuable pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, with fewer, if any, side effects.  To save our environment, and ourselves, we need to start using these more natural options.

If you have any questions about how to use our tinctures to reduce pain and inflammation safely, please write us at, or give us a call at 416-248-2930.





Yet Another Reason to Reduce Salt


Do you have a sweet tooth?  Or, perhaps you prefer salty snacks?  Indulging in either craving can cause your waistline to expand, and damage your cardiovascular health in the long term.  However, a new study focusing on the effects of excess salt consumption in mice has found that salt is particularly damaging to mental functioning, irregardless of whether your blood pressure rises.

In the study, mice were given 8-16 times more salt than normal for several months, comparable to what humans consume when they eat a high-salt diet.  MRIs later showed reduced blood flow to areas of the brain involved in learning and memory.  The mice also performed significantly worse on maze and recognition tests, and became unable to build nests, something normal mice do every day.

But here’s the really interesting part:  contrary to what the researchers expected, the decreased flow of blood to the brain was not caused by salt-induced high blood pressure, but by changes to the gut.   It appears that the increased salt consumption caused the production of a particular kind of white blood cell to escalate (T- helper lymphocyte TH17).  This resulted in dysregulation of the inflammatory response, which increased inflammation – already known to damage delicate neurons and deprive them of oxygen.  Meanwhile, nitric oxide production within blood vessels also decreased.  Nitric oxide is a gas that causes blood vessels to relax and  open, thereby increasing the circulation of blood throughout the body, including to the brain.

Reassuringly, once the excess salt was taken away from the mice and their diet returned to normal, their brain functioning improved within four weeks.   This implies that if we humans were to also reduce our salt intake, we might see a similar increase in cognitive function, and a reduced chance of developing dementia.  It’s just another reason to stay away from salt!

Intriguingly, this research also points towards another avenue for dementia research:  gut health.   It may be that the root of cognitive decline isn’t in our cardiovascular system, as has previously been thought, but in our digestive system instead.  All the more reason to keep improving your diet, reducing salt intake, and while you’re at it, keep an eye on your liver health.  Since the liver is the most important organ in the digestive system, keeping your liver in tip-top shape will ensure that  your digestive health is as optimal as possible.





The Psychological Importance of Pets


Do you have an only child?  If so, you may be concerned that your child’s emotional development may be negatively affected by the lack of a sibling.   After all, friends are important, but there’s something comforting about having a brother or a sister, even if you don’t get along very well.  Their very existence makes you feel less alone in the world.

Enter the family dog.  A new study done last year at the University of Cambridge suggests that household pets have a significant effect on childhood development, positively influencing their social skills and emotional well-being.  For children who don’t have siblings, or who are shy or emotionally sensitive, having a family pet may even improve psychological health later in life.

In this most recent study, 77 pre-adolescent children in the UK reported having a better relationship with their pet than with their brother or sister.  They were more likely to confide in their pets, got greater satisfaction from their furry friends, and also had less conflict with them.  Dogs, in particular, were associated with higher incidence of companionship and satisfaction than cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, or fish, but it’s probable that any family pet can have a positive influence.

Given the emotionally fraught nature of most sibling relationships, having a pet may provide stress relief and added comfort when arguments inevitably erupt.  For those who don’t have a sibling, a pet can help to fill the void, and even create a more positive, supportive relationship than any sibling ever could.  Whatever the case, evidence continues to accumulate that inviting a pet into your home has both physical and psychological benefits, particularly for children.