One Spirit Medicine: Ancient Ways to Ultimate Wellness, by Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D. is one of those books that will live on in my library, frequently referenced for years to come. I received this book as a gift from my mom about a year ago, and it promptly got put in my stack of “books to read.”
The consummate bookaholic, I can’t walk into a book store or visit Amazon.com and leave without a book, so my “to read” pile is large. As I was looking for a new book to read last week, something about this one compelled me to pick it up, and then I couldn’t put it down.
Alberto Villoldo’s (“Vee-old-dough”) style of writing is very engaging. With a background in Psychology and Medical Anthropology, he is also versed in the ancient healing practices of the Andean and Amazonian shamans. “The message of One Spirit Medicine is that you don’t need to track down a shaman to find Spirit or look outside yourself to find health. You only have to look within. That’s where you will receive One Spirit Medicine.”
We Are All Capable of Healing Ourselves
After all, as mammals on planet earth for the past 200,000+ years, we didn’t always have doctors to go to. Just like deer, wolves, or jaguars in the wild, ancient peoples knew what herbs and foods to eat to stay healthy and heal ailments. And equally importantly they were keenly in touch with mother nature, the rise and set of the stars, moon, and sun each day, the change of the seasons, the weather, and the plants and animals that shared their symbiotic environment. Our brains developed in harmony with all of these elements in nature, but we’re now so wrapped up in our smart devices, cars, jobs, and keeping up with the Joneses that we’ve lost much of our nature-side. And it is the deficit of this connection to nature, and how our brains are hardwired that is now ailing many. But we still have the ability to heal ourselves, within us. So how can you tap into these ancient ways of self-healing?
One Spirit Medicine walks you through step-by-step how to heal yourself
- Say goodbye to a whole host of illnesses and ailments
- Using plants and food as medicine
- Incorporating shamanic practices that you can do yourself at home
One Spirit Medicine is divided into four parts:
- Discovering your Inner Healer
- Shedding the Old Ways
- Overcoming the Death that Stalks You
- From Stillness Comes Rebirth
Compelling Science and Data
Although some of the information about healthy living wasn’t entirely new to me, as books like Grain Brain, by Dr. David Purlmutter, Clean Gut by Dr. Alejandro Junger and The Blood Sugar Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman have covered similar info. One Spirit Medicine goes way beyond where all of those other books leave off. Plus it was a great refresher of the things I “know” and don’t always remember, like why sugar is so addictive: studies show that cocaine-addicted rats will choose sugar over cocaine 94% of the time!? And how environmental toxins accumulate in your fat (and your brain is 60% fat!)
Our Reptilian Limbic Brain
At the root of healing yourself lies the Limbic brain, our old reptilian part of the brain that is responsible for fight-or-flight. “The limbic brain is driven by the Four Fs—feeding, fighting, fleeing, and fornicating” and is biased towards anger, aggression, and emotional withdrawal which served us well as Cave Men, but not so well today. In ancient times our limbic brain was on high-alert for dangers like saber-toothed tigers that it had to worry about in real-time. The limbic brain can’t differentiate stressors that aren’t happening to us here and now.
What do Facebook, Traffic Jams, the Movies, Coffee, and Alcohol Have in Common?
Does this sound familiar? You grab your daily cup-of-Joe first thing in the morning, then jump on Facebook and inadvertently see a tragic war story. Later while driving to meet your friend for a movie you get stuck in a stressful traffic jam and pass an accident, and although you’re seeing a fun chick-flick with a glass of wine in hand, the previews are filled with violence.
Meanwhile, your limbic brain sees visual stressors in all of those things, thinks YOU are in danger and starts pumping cortisol into your blood. It doesn’t realize that it’s not actually happening to you. Add to this the daily roller coaster of drinking caffeine all day long (“uppers”) and alcohol at night (“downers”) and your body doesn’t know what’s “normal” anymore. Fear of danger and constant upper/downer stimulus triggers the limbic brain to communicate with the Hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands to release cortisol. And too much cortisol in the system is No Bueno.
10 Signs You May Have Too Much Cortisol In Your System
- Insomnia, sleep problems, or waking tired after an eight-hour sleep
- Craving unhealthy foods
- Weight gain around abdomen, even with healthy diet and exercise
- Catching colds/flu frequently
- Depression or feelings of doom and gloom
- Chronic backaches and headaches
- Excessive worrying or fear
- Feelings of anxiety or paranoia
- Chronic gut issues, IBS, gastritis, etc.
- Low sex drive
So what does all this have to do with healing ourselves?
As it turns out, the limbic brain also thrives on carbs and sugar (see number 2 above.) And the more you fuel your body with carbs, sugar, uppers/downers and visual stressors, the more you fuel your limbic brain which keeps on pumping out cortisol. As you can see from the list above, many of the symptoms of too much cortisol in your system are the early warning signs to more serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia. Did you know that fully 90-95% of these diseases are preventable? Only 5-10% are hereditary, that’s pretty shocking to me.
Our Highly Developed Neocortex Brain
Conversely, the neocortex is our higher brain, the part of our brain that developed more recently. This part of the brain thrives on Omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats (remember your brain is 60% fat!) from avocados, coconuts, olive oil, nuts and seeds, and fresh-caught cold-water fish like salmon and sardines. The neocortex helps us think clearly, perceive opportunity, and come up with creative solutions to problems. But it doesn’t deal with stress well, and when there’s too much stress going on as mentioned in the scenario above, your neocortex defers to the Limbic brain to do the “thinking”, which just leads to more of the same, too much cortisol!
How to Reset Your Limbic Brain
So how can you stop this vicious cycle and heal yourself while still living in the modern-day world, and without giving up your Facebook, movies, java, wine or cocktails? One Spirit Medicines gives you all the tools you need and walks you through step by step, with suggestions for diet, and interesting self-reflection exercises for those of you who are truly interested in healing yourself before you become really ill. Well, you might need to give up some of your vices briefly to help re-set your limbic brain, but when you go back to them, you’ll be in the driver’s seat, not your Limbic brain.
You’ll also learn about:
- the gut-brain connection
- the importance of cleaning up and strengthening your gut micro-biome
- how what you eat can turn on and off genes that express disease
- how GMO’s wreak havoc on your gut and body
- how neural pathways created in your infancy and childhood may not be in your best interest now, and how you can change those pathways for a healthier you
- how your past “stories” may not be serving you well and how to change your “story” (a.k.a. how you see yourself)
The Vision Quest
The culmination of the healing exercise in this book is a 3-day fasting Vision Quest in nature. While I’ve not participated in the Vision Quest portion yet (I’m still working on the exercises leading up to it), I’m excited to experience my Vision Quest when the time is right.
Morning Detox Greens Juice
This recipe included in the book is SO delicious we’ll be starting each day with it from now on. Villoldo calls for making it in a juicer, but we make ours in our Vitamix which works just as well, plus you don’t lose the fiber goodness that you lose in a juicer. **Since this juice is helping you to detox, it’s best to use as many organic ingredients as possible.**
12 small leaves of kale (or spinach or other dark leafy greens)
4 leaves of collard greens
1 cucumber (peeled)
4 stalks of celery
1″ of ginger
1 whole lemon, peeled and seeded
1 green apple (seeded, and peeled if not organic)
2 cups water
Extras: We also add a big handful of parsley to ours for an extra dose of green-goodness.
Combine all ingredients in order listed into Vitamix or juicer and blend together. Salud!
THANKS for this amazing book Mom! I can’t recommend One Spirit Medicine highly enough, if EVERYONE read this book and followed Villoldo’s advice, most people would start to live disease-free. The self-exploration exercises are fun and interesting, and I look forward to doing my vision quest soon.
Please leave a comment to let us know how you’ve enjoyed the book and about your Vision Quest if you care to share.