The Healing Power of Nature

One of the main philosophies that drives naturopathic medicine is the concept of the Vis Medicatrix Naturae – the healing power of nature. Naturopathic physicians recognize there is an ordered, self-organized, and intelligent force within every living system that establishes, maintains, and restores health and balance. As we recognize this within an individual, we work to support this process, or help to remove obstacles in the way, in order to create health and wellness.

As an example of this, we can look at the functioning of the liver. The liver is a dynamic organ, performing over 500 functions for the human body. In fetal development, its formation is triggered by messenger hormones from the primordial heart cells. The liver stems from the same cells that will also grow to become the stomach, esophagus, pancreas, pharynx, and lower respiratory system. Just think, your lungs and your liver came from the same starting point.

One of the many functions that the liver is able to do for us is the process of detoxification. Everyday, there are hundreds of toxins being pumped through your liver. These can be things that are naturally created inside the body – such as ammonia, hormones, waste products from cells – or things that we are taking in from the external world – pesticides, exhaust fumes or other environmental chemicals, drugs, smoking, and alcohol are some examples. It is the liver’s job to process all of these things so that we do not store them up in the fat or overload the system and send them to the brain.

This process happens in two phases. In the first phase, we are making the toxins, which are naturally fat lovers, a little more water soluble. To do this, we make use of an enzyme called cytochrome p450. The name of the enzyme isn’t really important, but in order for this chain of chemical reactions to happen we must have a long list of nutrients to assist. This includes: vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, folic acid, glutathione, and branched chain amino acids. The first phase of detoxification also creates unstable molecules called free radicals which can do damage to tissues in the body. In order to make these less dangerous, we need to have a sufficient amount of antioxidants in the body to help neutralize them – vitamin C, E, and A are some of the nutrients needed for these processes.

In the second phase, we are finishing the process of making the toxin fully water soluble so that we are able to get rid of it in bile or through the kidneys. This group of reactions requires protein to function well. And, of course, water is needed to help flush newly processed toxins out of the body.

Looking at just this one process of many, we are able to see how the concept of the healing power of nature is inherent in the human body. The safe removal of toxins helps for us to establish healthy functioning in the body and maintain it, since this process is happening on a continual basis as toxins are being made in the body. It also allows us to restore the body to health as toxins from the external environment are introduced to the system. As Naturopaths, we recognize this process and a natural part of what helps to create heath in a patient and will work to support this process as we are able to. This might be through a nutrient dense diet or supplementation of needed nutrients depending on what level of deficiency the person is at. We also can utilize techniques for direct stimulation of the liver, such as castor oil packs or visceral manipulation. In this way, we are working with the body’s inherent and established processes to restore health and balance to the individual – essentially having their own body provide the healing it needs.

Teens and Peer Pressure

From classroom bullying to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, pressure to conform and fit into social norm comes from all angles and can leave teens feeling shameful about who they are and what they believe in – leading to potentially devastating consequences. Research shows that common reasons adolescents succumb to peer pressure is to avoid experiencing feelings of being left out, isolated, or lesser than those around them. Additionally, they may give in to escape the potential bullying and humiliation that often accompanies the choice not to participate.

Peer influence may play a part in developing self-control as early as age nine. Researchers found that nine year olds who have a social group that is pro-social, denouncing violence, bullying and other negative behaviors, are more likely to exhibit self-control in later years compared to those whose social group is antisocial. This suggests that who our children grow up playing with could have a significant influence on their decision making process as a teen.

Self-satisfaction and high self-esteem are protective against giving in to peer pressure. Teens with higher levels of self-esteem were shown to be better adjusted and have a higher level of resilience than those who were not as confident. Making sure that adolescents are treated with respect and acknowledging and praising their individuality, along with insuring they are not dependent on anyone’s approval for their self-esteem – including parents – can help to boost self-confidence.

Parents should avoid criticizing their friends in front of them, as this could feel like a personal attack. Instead, they can opt to create a relationship with open and honest discussion and teach teens about healthy living and respecting themselves as individuals. Additionally, parents can discuss how peer pressure can work in a positive way – one person standing up and not giving in can influence those around them, according to studies, and instill a sense of pride and confidence.

Peer pressure is difficult to deal with, but if friends cannot respect and accept someone for who they really are, perhaps it is time to re-think if they fit the definition of “friends.”

For more information:


Ali, MM, Dwyer, DS. Estimating peer effects in sexual behavior among adolescents. Journal of Adolescence. 34(1): 183-190. 2011

Dumont, M, Provost, MA. Resilience in Adolescents: Protective Role of Social Support, Coping Strategies, Self-Esteem, and Social Activities of Experience of Stress and Depression. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 28(3): 343 – 363. 1999.

Lashbrook, JT. Fitting In: Exploring the Emotional Dimension of Adolescent Peer Pressure. Adolescence Magazine. Winter 2000.

Meldrum, RC, Hay, C. Do Peers Matter in the Development of Self-Control? Evidence from a Longitudinal Study of Youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Online publication 07 July 2011. (Access: 29 December 2011)

Wallis, Claudia. What Makes Teens Tick Time Magazine. September 26, 2008.

Originally Published in Sound Integrated Health News, Jan 2012

Butternut Squash Risotto

This looks delicious!!

Sweet Pea's Kitchen

If you are still looking for that perfect Thanksgiving side dish, look no further! This rich and creamy risotto with butternut squash, sage and pine nuts is an excellent choice. Many people believe that risotto is a time-consuming and labor-intensive dish to prepare. While you do have to stir it frequently, you still have plenty of time to prepare other foods or mingle with your guests. You only have to watch and stir it constantly for about 10 minutes. You can even enlist your family members to help with stirring in the last 10 minutes. 😉 The result is a creamy, rich and flavorful risotto that just screams fall.

One Year Ago:Cranberry Crumb Bars 

Butternut Squash Risotto

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  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded (fibers and seeds reserved), and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black…

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Just Breathe

Welcome to The Healing Blend. This blog is meant to help be a guide to find balance and wellness in a world that is often spinning out of hand. My hope is that it will inform you and create some moments of thought and awareness in a day that is perhaps not as full of intention as we would like it to be.

To begin with, let’s talk about one of the most fundamental, and simple, things that we can do to help create health: breathe. Breathing is essential to life. As we are born it is often that first cry that allows mom and family to breathe a sigh of relief that the birthing process went well. Without breath, we would simply not exist. Yet, how many times a day do you stop and acknowledge that you are breathing? Or how you are breathing? Becoming aware of our breath can become a powerful tool to help us navigate through stressful situations and what life chooses to throw at us. As we are aware of our breath flowing through us, it can be a space to slow down, to connect with the body – and physiologically, the body’s stress response slows down and we are able to be in a more clear headed and relaxed state.

One way to become in touch with the breath is a practice that I learned from a wonderful friend and teacher of mine at Bastyr University – the breathing inquiry. It is very simple and yet the information that you are able to gain from doing this simple exercise is boundless, and often different every time that you approach it. You can do this either laying on the floor with your knees up and feet flat on the ground, or sitting in a chair with your legs uncrossed and feet flat on the floor. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly and close your eyes. Take a few moments to just become still and aware of your body and your space, maybe even a brief body scan to check in with yourself. Then, turn your awareness to your breathing. Don’t try to change anything, just notice what is happening. Ask yourself, without judgement, what breathes first? What breathes most? Is there a fluidity to my breath, or is it ragged at any part? What is longer the in breath or the out breath, or are they the same length? Is there a pause after the inhale or exhale, or does the breath just continue from one right into the next? Take a few minutes to explore and just notice anything about your breath and your breathing.

While this idea might seem too simple, or to some perhaps even ridiculous, I challenge you to try it every day for a week. See if you have a new experience of your breathing and if it creates a space to rest into that you perhaps weren’t aware of before. The goal of the practice is to cultivate awareness so that you are aware even when you are not in the intentional space of performing the inquiry. You may begin to notice that when you have to give a presentation at work, you are holding your breath, or when you have a tough discussion with your partner or children, your breathing begins to become more ragged. In these moments, you will then be able to shift your breath into one that is more relaxing for you – and perhaps your experience of the situation will also shift, creating less stress and more space, more health.

In my own experience of working with breath awareness, the one practice that continually keeps me grounded is to stop and remember that the breath that I am taking right now is the only one like it that will ever exist. Each breath that we take has its own level of awareness, complexity, thoughts, situation, nurturing, etc attached to it. This is its one moment to exist in this life. Cherish it.