In the first half, researcher Christian Wilde detailed the health benefits of the natural spice turmeric, and its use as a treatment or preventative for such ailments as Parkinson's disease, MS, cancer, and Alzheimer's. According to his research, there are some 650 to 700 conditions that could benefit from turmeric supplementation. For people concerned about fluoride in their water supply, turmeric has been found to neutralize toxins, he noted, as well as having anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties. The neurodegenerative disease Parkinson's involves the death of neurons in the brain, and patients have low levels of Vitamin D. Testing in Petri dishes has shown that neurons bathed in turmeric have 80% regrowth, and these results are being studied for further applications, he reported.
In China and India, the numbers for Alzheimer's patients are much lower, which may relate to the fact that they have more turmeric in their diet, he indicated. A study from Vanderbilt University found that curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) "has demonstrated ability to enter the brain, bind to, and destroy the beta-amyloid plaques present in Alzheimer's disease," Wilde quoted from the paper. Turmeric has also shown some promise as a cancer preventative and remedy. Working with the MD Anderson Cancer Centers, biochemist Bharat Aggarwal has said 'in 50 years of research, I have seen no cancer that has not benefited from turmeric.' It's well established, Wilde added, that turmeric kills cancer cells on contact but preserves healthy cells. Further, oncologists are now considering combining turmeric with chemotherapy treatments to enhance effectiveness.
Meditation and dharma teacher, Spring Washam, leads retreats throughout the world, including deep into the Amazon. In the latter half, she spoke about her extensive training in indigenous healing practices and work with ayahuasca to bring about positive psychological changes and increased meaning in the lives of her clients. She believes that difficult moments can be doorways to new understandings, and that the challenges in our lives are opportunities for growth. She regards the South American brew, ayahuasca, as a kind of sacred plant medicine that has helped people (including herself) deal with unresolved traumas. The potent substance induces a 5-6 hour internal journey, and often results in significant personal clarity, she detailed.
At Washam's retreats in Peru, which include ayahuasca ceremonies, she works with two shamans who offer guidance and support in an atmosphere she characterized as a "spiritual hospital." The experience, she said, has proven useful in treating anxiety, phobias, and depression, and helps people to deal with and release emotions. Ayahuasca naturally boosts serotonin levels in the brain, and this is being studied in Brazil, where the medicinal brew is legal (as it is in most of South America). The ayahuasca experience, as well as deep meditative techniques, may not be right or beneficial for everyone, she conceded-- people with mental illness, for instance, could have difficulty handling the intense states. But for what she considers a global epidemic of "psycho-emotional illnesses" and an ever-increasing number of people yearning for 'something more' in life, plant medicine can be more effective than pharmaceutical medication.