Online Pharmacy Reviews

No Man Is An Island


Men who are sexually promiscuous “playboys”, behave aggressively, and are self-reliant are more likely to suffer from mental health problems like depression, body image issues, substance abuse, and loneliness. A study published last fall in the Journal of Counseling Psychology drew this conclusion after analyzing 78 mental health studies involving more than 19,000 men over 11 years.

These results are of particular interest right now because of the growing list of sexual harassment charges against powerful men in Hollywood and Washington, D.C over the last few weeks.   Now that the correlation has been made, researchers and psychologists have been fumbling about, trying to make sense of it.

Lead author of the study, Y. Joel Wong of Indiana University Bloomington, has suggested that the increased rates of depression may occur because hyper-masculine behaviour has become outdated.  Men who exhibited these traits in the past may have been praised, but because many of these behaviours are no longer considered socially acceptable, men who display them would tend to receive a lot of negative push-back. This negative push-back could account for their increased feelings of depression, loneliness, and anger.

Psychologist Arie Kruglanski has suggested that men who are sexually promiscuous and who desire to exert physical power over others already have mental health problems.  To compensate for feelings of anger, insecurity and self-loathing,  these men may feel a need to deliberately disrespect, or physically violate people weaker than themselves.  By acting out in this way, it helps them to reassert control over an environment that is no longer fulfilling their needs or expectations.  In this case, it’s not  that sexually abusive behaviour causes mental health problems, but that mental health problems cause men to abuse power through sex.

Until further studies are done, it is impossible to know exactly why hyper-masculine men are at increased risk of mental health problems. But it could be that our culture does these men a disservice. Through movies, commercials, and other media, boys are taught from a young age that they need to be strong, emotionally stoic, and independent. This would also tend to make them emotionally distant and unable to express their feelings. Without the tools necessary to build open and mature relationships with women, or with other men, it’s understandable that their mental health might suffer.

Humans are social animals. Like apes, we’ve always lived together in groups, and relied on one another for protection, aid, and emotional support. No one, no matter how strong, can thrive in this world without the help of others.  To be healthy and whole, we all need to express our emotions to people we trust, and rely on their help in times of stress or misfortune. If the men in these studies were able to release their feelings in a healthy way, rather than through abusive displays of power, maybe workplaces would become safer for everyone.


























But valuing playboy behavior and power over women — aside from being explicitly sexist — was strongly correlated with psychological problems.



Criminologist Candice Batton suggested that men are more likely than women to “develop negative attributions of blame that are external,” which translate into anger and hostility toward others. Women, though, are more likely to blame some failing of their own, “directing anger inwardly into guilt and depression.”


Today’s context is that on top of all that, there are men who are full of insecurity and expected to express themselves only in certain, limited ways.


About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

Sugar, the New Villain


I have a problem with sugar, and I know it.  For me, chocolate seems to be the irresistible lure.  If I see anything with chocolate in it, be it chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, or a big hunk of the good stuff itself, my willpower dissolves within seconds, and before you can say the word “chocoholic”, it’s found its way into my mouth.

For others, it’s the sugary drinks that get them.  Soft drink manufacturers have made a killing over the last several decades by offering us the ultimate vehicle for sugar injection.  The sugars found in soft drinks and other mass market juices are so easily absorbed that our blood sugar peaks within minutes, giving us a satisfying rush that is often likened to an addictive drug.

This collective love of sweetness has caused sugar consumption to increase from an average of 4 pounds per annum in the year 1700, to 100 pounds per annum today, and now accounts for a fifth of all calories consumed.   It’s likely because of the quick energy sugar provides that we crave it so much. The trouble is, once our tastebuds have been stimulated by the stuff, we can’t seem to stop.  According to a New York Times article on sugar written in 1977, “if saccharin is injected into the womb, the fetus will increase its swallowing of the sweetened amniotic fluid. Newborn rats will consume sugar water in preference to a nutritious diet, even to the point of malnutrition and death”.

While many doctors and researchers have warned of the negative effects of sugar for decades, it’s only recently that a loud consensus has been reached.  This is due to two recent revelations:  the first being the discovery of a number of 1967 memos proving that Harvard researchers were handsomely paid to downplay links between sugar consumption and heart disease in the past.  The second being the consequent promotion of a low fat diet by most public health bodies, which inadvertently caused carbohydrate consumption to spike, and resulted in alarmingly high rates of diabetes and obesity, while failing to provide the hoped-for reduction in heart disease.

Clearly, we should all be avoiding sugar as much as possible if we want to maintain our good health.  But how do we go about doing that?    Well, the old advice is still good advice.  As much as possible, eat real food, not snack bars, dessert-like breakfast products, or pre-made smoothies.   All of these foods have alarmingly high amounts of sugar added.  If you like to drink smoothies, make your own.  It’ll contain healthier ingredients and fewer calories.

Another good rule that’s tried and true:  never shop for groceries when you’re hungry.  You’ll always make poor food choices.  Finally, choose foods with plenty of colour, and by that I don’t mean coloured candy.   Fresh fruits and vegetables come in plentiful shades of green, red, orange, and yellow, all indicating a high nutrient content.  Try to bring a rainbow of colour to all your meals, by eating a wide variety of steamed or stir-fried vegetables, mixed with whole grains and small amounts of protein.  Ideally, your vegetable portion will make up at least half your plate.   Essentially, eat more like the Asians do, and you can’t go too far wrong.

As for other chocoholics like me, consider indulging in a single square of dark chocolate once in awhile.  Dark chocolate contains high amounts of flavenoids, which have antioxidant activity.  If you do it with a friend, you’ll stay honest and be prevented from finishing off the entire bar in one sitting.  My husband and I buy a dark chocolate bar every so often, and then we each eat one square a day until it’s gone.  Because I know he’s watching, I never eat more than one square at a time, and that small taste of chocolate each day is enough to satisfy me.

For women who chronically crave chocolate or other sugary treats, it can be a sign of “blood deficiency” in Chinese medicine.  Menstruating women can become blood deficient easily because of our monthly release.  I usually find that when my sugar cravings get out of control, it’s because I haven’t taken a blood tonic in awhile.  Consider trying our Shou Wu Plus tincture, which contains several Chinese tonic herbs known to nourish your liver, kidneys and blood.  I find that as long as my blood is well nourished with such longevity herbs, sugar holds a much weaker appeal for me, and I have less difficulty avoiding it, even when I’m hungry.

About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

Healthy Gut, Healthy Life


I learned about the power of intestinal bacteria about five years ago.  My cousin was struggling with an intestinal infection that just wouldn’t go away.  She’d been treated with successive rounds of antibiotics, but it had only made the problem worse, not better.  No longer able to work, she was taking probiotics and eating fermented foods in the hope of recovering her intestinal balance, but none of it was working.

Finally, she and her doctors decided to try a fecal transplant.  It was a very new treatment at the time, and sounded very strange, but the results were nothing short of amazing.  Within a few days of receiving the transplanted micro-organisms, she was finally back on her feet and re-entering life.  Ever since then, stories about the importance of a healthy microbial balance always catch my attention.

In the last few years, a mounting pile of research has demonstrated the importance of a healthy diversity of bacteria for overall good health.  Links have been found between our gut microbiome and conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, Parkinson’s disease and even cancer, and has led some researchers to suggest that a potential cure may be found in fecal transplants, such as my cousin had, or perhaps through dietary changes that alter the balance of intestinal bacteria so these conditions can be prevented.

A new study from the University of Western Ontario and Tianyi Health Science Institute in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, China suggests that a healthy microbiome may also be linked to a long and healthy life.  For this study, a team of researchers analyzed the gut bacteria of 1,000 people between the ages of 30 and 100.  They then asked the older participants about their health status. 

Those older people who described themselves as being “extremely healthy” were found to have very diverse microbiomes, very similar to people decades younger than themselves.  In fact, these older participants had a gut microbiome resembling people in their thirties, leading the researchers to suggest that microbial diversity might be a strong factor in predicting a long and healthy life.

It’s important to note that this study is the first of its kind, and merely establishes baseline evidence for the importance of healthy gut bacteria.  Further studies will be needed to corroborate these findings.  For now, it’s hard to tell if healthy people naturally have a diverse gut microbiome, or if it’s the diverse microbiome that keeps you healthy.

Still, the results are very intriguing.  As Greg Gloor, the principal investigator of the study, comments, “Maintaining the diversity of your gut as you age [could become] a biomarker of healthy aging,  just as a low cholesterol level is a biomarker for a healthy circulatory system”.    If that happens, probiotic supplements will become even more popular than they already are.

About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

Curcuma and Depression

Ground and mashed turmeric
Ground and mashed turmeric

Curcuminoids have been making news lately.  This compound from the curcuma plant has been found to have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, and in recent double-blind studies has worked as well as fluoxedine (Prozac) for the treatment of depression.

Curcuminoids are most prevalent in the popular Indian spice, turmeric, which gives curry dishes that distinctive orange colour.  They are also found in the tuber of the curcuma plant, known in Chinese medicine as “yu jin”, which means “gold for depression”.  This descriptive name is an indication of how valued the curcuma plant has always been for the treatment of depression in China.

From recent research, it appears that curcuma’s ability to treat depression lies in its anti-inflammatory properties, which match the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs – but without the side effects.  Almost every chronic disease has low level inflammation at its root, so by taming this inflammation, curcuma could be helpful in the treatment of other inflammatory conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and various other degenerative conditions.

Because of its strong anti-oxidant activity, curcuma is frequently touted as an anti-aging herb.  Recent research has also proven curcuma’s effectiveness as an anti-cancer agent.  In various studies performed over the last 50 years, curcuma has demonstrated an ability to suppress intial tumor formation while also preventing metastasis.  In one study, 44 men who took curcumin daily for 30 days were able to reduce the size and number of lesions in their colon by 40%.

Curcumin has also demonstrated neuro-protective properties in studies with aging rats, meaning that it can stimulate the growth of new neurons in the brain while also protecting existing neurons from degenerating.   This research suggests that curcumin may be helpful for the treatment of age-related memory problems, and enhanced cognition for humans of all ages.

Although turmeric is the most famous part of the curcuma plant, it is known to be a “warming” spice in Chinese medicine.  This tendency to produce heat could aggravate liver congestion, a condition known to be associated with “excess heat”.  For this reason, we used the tuber of the curcuma plant in our Curcuma tincture.  The tuber, known as “yu jin”,  has similar properties to turmeric but is cooling instead of warming, and therefore less likely to aggravate a liver condition.  Customers of ours have successfully used our Curcuma tincture to treat their depressive symptoms, while also healing inflammatory conditions and problems related to poor blood circulation, such as varicose veins and frequent bruising.

In addition to using our Curcuma tincture, you can also reduce inflammation in your body by following a healthy diet free of deep fried, fatty foods, spicy foods, and sugars.  You should also try to avoid eating prepared foods filled with preservatives and chemical colourings.  The best diet is one that includes plenty of lightly cooked vegetables, whole grains, with small amounts of protein.

For the treatment of depression, daily exercise is also very helpful, as it draws stagnant blood out of the liver and then circulates it throughout your body.  This not only improves liver functioning, but helps to provide better nourishment to all the cells of your body, including brain cells.  One of our customers found that just by doing daily deep breathing and stretching exercises, she was able to considerably reduce her feelings of depression.

About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

The Dangers of Over-Work


How many hours did you work last week?  Was it more than 40?  Please don’t tell me it was more than 60!   The number of hours you work each week has big implications for your health, a new study shows, and this is particularly true for women.

This new research was published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, and concludes that the average person should work no more than 39 hours a week to prevent a substantial decline in mental health.  For women, the magic number is just 34 hours per week.  Once those limits have been passed, mental health starts to suffer and people are less able to eat well, and take proper care of themselves and those they love.

A 40 hour work-week causes more distress to women than men because they perform more unpaid childcare and household chore responsibilities than men, which adds to their daily schedule.  In addition, women tend to have lower paid jobs, with less autonomy over workplace decisions, which can also increase workplace stress.

The research was conducted in Australia, where data was collected from 8,000 adults between the ages of 24 to 64.  Generally, it was found that once people began to work more than 45 hours per week, the risk of cardiovascular disease, angina, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack increased.

While it is true that some work is good for our physical and mental health, there is definitely a threshold whereby people begin to suffer, and that seems to occur when people regularly work more than 12 hours per day or 60 hours per week.

This new information should serve as a warning for people in North America, whose amount of leisure time has decreased from the mid-twentieth century until now.   According to a 2014 Gallup poll, the average full-time worker in the US now puts in about 47 hours per week, and 40% of workers work at least 50 hours per week.

True health is more than the absence of illness.  It also means having the space and time to enjoy what we have, rather than constantly reaching for more.  For many, life is a daily struggle just to make ends meet.  Somehow, we have to find a way to re-structure society so that we can all live comfortably, without stretching ourselves past our natural limits.














About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

Smart People Live Longer


Though it’s been many years since I’ve sat, frustrated and confused, in a math or science classroom, I must admit that I still feel a lingering resentment towards quick learners.  You know the kids I mean.  The ones who pick up new concepts quickly, and then apply them with ease.  The ones who barely look at their notes and still get an A+ on their test, while the rest of us work all night long and only achieve a B+, at best.

Sure, some of them suffer with social difficulties that can offset many of their mental gifts, but for the most part, they’ve got it made.  Their ease with scholastic material means they’re more likely to get more advanced degrees, with higher paychecks.   Their ability to dazzle and impress educators as well as their parents, means they get more positive attention as they grow.  And now, according to new research,  it appears that people with a high IQ also live longer.

The first evidence linking high IQ with a long lifespan came from a Scottish study that began in 1932.   That year, a cohort of 11 year old children were given an IQ test, and researchers then followed them up until the age of 76.  When the results were analyzed, children with a 15-point IQ advantage were found to have a 21% greater chance of being alive than those with a more average IQ score. You might assume this increase in longevity might be due to differences in lifestyle, or better access to health care, but the researchers controlled for those factors.  Statistically, lifestyle choices or  socioeconomic advantages explained only 30% of the link between intelligence and life span.  The rest was genetic.

Further studies were done by Rosalind Arden and her colleagues from the International Journal of Epidemiology.  They found several groups of identical and fraternal twins in which both IQ and mortality were recorded, and used those numbers to help clarify how much of the IQ-lifespan advantage is genetic, and how much is environmental.  When the analysis was finished, the more intelligent twin was found to have a longer lifespan, even if both twins shared other lifestyle factors.  Clearly, there’s something about having a high IQ that also increases longevity.

The answer may be resilience.  Gro Amdam of Arizona State University and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences has theorized that the reason people with a high IQ live longer, is because they are just engineered better.  In addition to a more impressive performance on mental tests, he believes they also have a greater ability to survive environmental onslaughts.

He tested his hypothesis by strapping honeybees to straws and then dripping a sugary solution on them.  Honeybees are often used in neurological experiments because they can be trained with positive or negative reinforcement, and in this case, Amdam wanted to isolate the smart honeybees by preceding the drip of sugar with a certain smell.  The smarter honeybees identified the link between the smell and the sugar solution faster, and learned to stick out their proboscis to receive it. The slower honeybees lost out.

The second part of this experiment involved exposing all the bees to a high oxygen environment, to see who could endure it the longest.  A high oxygen environment is a metabolic stress test that simulates aging.  It turned out that the quick-learning honeybees lived, on average, four hours longer than the slow-learning bees when exposed to unnaturally high levels of oxygen.  This show of greater resilience among the smarter bees suggests a possible survival advantage that may also be present in humans.

This evident resilience among smarter bees – and possibly humans – may occur because of a faster reaction time.  When researchers tested the reaction time of 898 fifty-six year olds, they found that those who reacted more quickly to a stimulus also lived longer.  Study participants were required to press one of four keys on a keyboard in response to seeing the identical digit on a computer screen.  There was no complicated thinking involved; you would think that anyone could do well.

Yet, when they followed up on the participants more than a decade later, those who had a faster reaction time on the test, also lived longer.   What’s more, once the reaction time was taken into account, the correlation between mortality and IQ disappeared, meaning that relationship between reaction time and longevity is stronger.  The reason that high IQ people tend to live longer, is because they react faster to external events.

It appears that the benefits of having a high IQ are more widespread than just being able to do well in school and on tests.  Nevertheless, those of us who have more average intelligence shouldn’t despair. “The intelligence-longevity link is a small one”, says Rosalynd Arden of the International Journal of Epidemiology ,  “Nothing we found counteracts the good old stuff your grandmother would have told you about how to live well”.  Eat well, exercise regularly, avoid smoking and excessive drinking, and we can all hope to live a long and healthy life.  Even those of us who suck at math.


About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

Safety Fears Over New Drugs


My mother-in-law has never been a fan of pharmaceutical drugs.  All her life, she’s eschewed them in favour of more natural treatments, like following a healthy diet, exercising daily, and using herbal remedies.

It was no surprise, then, that when her son developed a bad case of diarrhea, that she threw away the doctor’s prescription and decided to treat the problem with herbs instead.  However, in this case, her reason for doing so wasn’t because she didn’t like pharmaceutical drugs in general.  It was because she didn’t trust this pharmaceutical drug in particular.

As a chemist, she had read laboratory reports indicating the drug could cause leukemia in children.  Several years later, the drug was taken off the market for that precise reason, and she felt vindicated in what she’d done.  But even years later, she wondered how many children had died after using the drug, with their parents never knowing the sad cause of their deaths.

Concerns about drug safety haven’t changed.  What is new is the large amount of drugs approved by the FDA each year, many of which have been inadequately tested before going to market.  A  study done this year by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found that nearly a third of FDA-approved drugs released between the years 2001 to 2010 were later found to have major safety issues, and were either taken off the market, or required safety announcements about new risks, including “black box” warnings, which is the FDA’s more serious safety alert.

Why are newly approved drugs so risky?  Serious side effects are often missed because of the small size of clinical trials (typically just 1,000 patients or less), and their short duration (results evaluated after just six months).  Many of the subjects are also cherry picked so that the most optimal results are found, and perhaps most critically, the success of the drug is based only on its ability to bring down blood pressure, for example, and not on whether it increases the risk of death by doing so.

Many new drugs aren’t even very “new”.  An independent analysis done in 2015 by the British Medical Journal found that most drugs expedited through the FDA approval system didn’t provide any notable clinical advances.  That’s a lot of risk for so little benefit.

Dr. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, says, “All too often, patients and clinicians mistakenly view FDA approval as [an] indication that a product is fully safe and effective.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We learn tremendous amounts about a product only once it’s on the market, and only after use among a broad population”.

This assumes that people don’t mind being used as guinea pigs for the long term safety testing of new drugs.   Many people do mind; they’re just not aware that big pharmaceutical companies are essentially using their bodies to save money on clinical trials.

If your health condition has been successfully treated in the past with an older medication that’s been on the market for ten years or more, there’s no reason for you to feel pressured into using a newly approved drug.  Many people assume that “new” means “better”.   When it comes to drugs, “new” means “not fully tested”.

To be fair, drug research is both risky and expensive.  It takes about twelve years to get a drug from the research phase to patient, and only five in 5,000 drugs in pre-clinical testing ever make it to human trials.  Of those, only one in five is ever approved for human use.  Pharmaceutical companies need to recoup those costs somehow.

Lead author of the Yale study, Dr. Joseph Ross says, “We know that safety concerns, new ones, are only going to be identified once a drug is [through clinical studies and] used in a [the] wider population. That’s just how it is”.  The question is:  how important is it that we get these new drugs so quickly?  Are these drugs really providing much-needed, innovative cures that will save more lives, or are they merely used to line the pocketbooks of industry executives?




About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

The Magic Power of Swearing


In the religious home where I grew up, swearing was strictly forbidden.  My parents didn’t swear, my grandparents didn’t swear, and neither did my aunts, uncles, or cousins (as far as I know).  They considered themselves respectable, educated, moral people whose standards were above the vileness of a potty mouth.

Having rarely heard swear words as I was growing up, I never had much temptation to use them when I was young.  When I grew older and my peers began to swear, I occasionally tried out a word or two, but they always felt foreign and uncomfortable on my tongue.  Since the words weren’t part of my usual vocabulary, they sounded false and inauthentic when I used them.  I envied people who could roll multiple swear words off their tongues with ease.  They always seemed more relaxed and uninhibited.

It turns out I had reason to be jealous.  In the last several years, several studies have confirmed the power of curse words.  In 2011, it was found that study participants who swore could better withstand the pain of having their hand plunged in ice water.  Other recent studies have shown that cursing enhances social ties, and aids in the processing of overwhelming emotions.   Now, a new study has shown that swearing can increase your physical strength.

In this new study, participants were asked to ride an intense cycling course which strongly increased their heart rate, and then perform a low intensity handgrip test.  Those who cursed during the cycling test increased their peak power by 24 watts, and when they cursed during the grip test, they boosted their hand strength by 2.1 kg.

Interestingly, the powerful effect of cursing wasn’t dependent on volume (participants were told to swear in a neutral tone), but frequency was important.   When curse words were repeated too many times, the effect began to wear off:  the strongest burst of strength was during the initial 5 seconds of the cycling test when the cursing had just begun.  Strength gradually diminished during the remaining portion of the test.  Clearly, the magic of swearing can wear off if overused.

During each physical test, the researchers also measured heart rate, to see if the effect of the swear words was due to a surge of adrenaline due to perceived stress.  In all the previous studies on swearing, heart rate increased with the use of curse words, which seemed to confirm increased adrenaline as the cause of these effects.  However, in this latest study, there was no difference in heart rate between those who swore and those who didn’t, leaving researchers flummoxed.

Clearly, we still have much to learn about the power of swearing.  In the meantime, if you are facing a difficult task where extra strength is required, popping out a quick expletive can do plenty to ensure your success.

As for my own proficiency with swearing, it took a great leap forward when I began driving during rush hour traffic in Toronto.   Belting out a quick expletive whenever someone cut me off seemed to decrease my level of stress.  No doubt, a study will soon prove a link between cursing and reduced stress too .  Says psychologist Richard Stephens, “We’re not telling people something they don’t already know, …we’re [merely] verifying that in a systematic and objective way.”














About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

The Many Benefits of Generosity


Every year on September 4th, Bob Blackley of North Carolina stands on a street corner holding a sign.  It reads “I have  home.  I have a job.  Could YOU use an extra $5.00?”  Anyone who stops is given a crisp, new $5.00 bill, no questions asked.  The first year he did it, he gave away $700.  The next year, it was $750.  He says he wishes he could win the lottery.  Then, he could give away $100 bills instead of only fives.

When asked the reason for his generosity, he says “It’s my birthday!” He doesn’t care what people spend the money on.  He just wants to spread a little happiness.  His yearly gift to himself is to make others smile.

A recent study from the University of Zurich in Switzerland confirms that Bob Blackley is on to something.  Generosity really does breed happiness.  When researchers used fMRIs to scan the brains of study participants, specific areas of the brain related to altruism and happiness lit up in those who gave to others, but not in those who acted selfishly.  Also, when asked how they felt after the experiment was over, those who gave reported greater feelings of happiness than those who didn’t.

Interestingly, the amount of money given away made little difference in the outcome.  Says researcher Philippe Tobler, “You don’t need to become a self-sacrificing martyr to feel happier.  Just being a little more generous will suffice”.   In fact, the generous participants experienced an increase in happiness just by pledging to give, before they actually gave anything at all.

In previous studies, generosity was also linked with reduced mortality, better overall health, and a reduced risk of heart problems.  So, when you spend a little extra money in the morning to bring your work-mates a cup of coffee, you’re not just helping them.  You’re also benefiting yourself.












About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

Help For Arthritic Knees


Until now, it was commonly thought that osteoarthritis was virtually unavoidable.  As people get older, years of wear and tear on knee joints naturally take their toll, causing cartilage to wear down.  This, then, allows roughened joint surfaces to rub together, causing the familiar symptoms of inflammation and pain.

However, a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that other factors may be involved – factors that are well within our control and may be used to help prevent arthritis from taking hold.

By looking at skeletons, both ancient and modern, Professor Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University has found that the incidence of arthritis is now twice as common as it was prior to the 1950s.  It’s not just because our population is aging either, or because the rate of obesity is rising.  Even after correcting for those factors, the increased incidence for arthritis remained.

These numbers have convinced Dr. Lieberman that “wear and tear” may not be the true cause of the problem.  His research is supported by several long term studies that were completed around the year 2009.

One study was conducted at Stanford University and tracked nearly 1,000 members of a running club, along with non-runners, for 21 years.  The data tabulated in that study showed that the runners were no more likely to develop osteoarthritis than the non-runners, despite the increased wear and tear on their knee joints.

A second study completed in 2007 followed 1,279 elderly residents of Framingham, MA.  Here, the results were similar:  the most active residents had no greater incidence of arthritis than the non-active residents, showing that physical activity very likely had little effect on the condition.   At the time, this news was absolutely revolutionary,  and overturned decades of speculation that had no doubt prevented many people from taking up running, and had also greatly enriched the makers of high-quality, cushion-soled running shoes.

A third study, published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism in 2007 showed that people who exercised vigorously had thicker and healthier knee cartilage than their sedentary peers.  Although study participants weren’t followed to see who would develop arthritis and who would not, it was theorized that based on these results, those who exercised would probably have fewer joint problems as they aged.

With this new Harvard study of skeletons, data is increasingly showing that, far from causing osteoarthritis, physical activity must help to prevent it.   It now appears that the regular pumping action of running and other high-impact exercises works a lot like lymph circulation.  It’s only when your feet hit the pavement and the synovial fluid in the joints squishes out, that it comes into contact with greater oxygen and nutrients from your blood.  When your body becomes airborne again, this newly enriched fluid is sucked back in, nourishing and strengthening the cartilage and preventing it from breaking down.

Strong muscles also appear to play a part.  In another study published this year in the journal Arthritis Care and Research, researchers found that women with weaker quadriceps muscles (the muscle on the front of the thigh), had a 47% greater chance of developing knee arthritis than women whose muscles were stronger.  Strong hamstrings were also important.  The researchers concluded that strong quadriceps muscles and hamstrings may prevent osteoarthritis by acting as shock absorbers and stabilizers for the knee joint.

While dietary factors and early sports injuries may still play a part, it seems clear that there’s no reason to avoid running or jumping exercises if you want to protect your knees.  In fact,  the more you move, the better off your knees will be.

For those who already have osteoarthritis, continued movement should help to ease pain.  You may prefer to sit as much as possible, but according to Chinese medicine, the stimulation of blood circulation is important for relieving pain.   In this case, vigorous exercises that pound your knee joints should be avoided.  Instead, you should try to perform gentle, deep breathing exercises, like yoga, tai chi, or our own Y-Dan exercises, available on DVD.  These slow and gentle exercises not only increase circulation, but also improve balance, which helps to prevent falls, and also straighten posture, improve coordination, and promote relaxation, which reduces feelings of stress.







About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.