Ancient Wild Plants, the Key for a Healthier Urban Life
Using Ancient Wild Plants As A Key to Unlocking a Healthier Urban Life
By Dr. Luc Maes, N.D., founder of KAIBAE
The importance of a diverse microbiome is now recognized as essential for greater resilience inside and out. Historically, natural environments exposed humans to biodiversity and a vast array of microbes, which led to this resilience and more vibrant health. Today our increasingly sedentary lifestyle and eating habits provide inadequate exposure to the healthy microbiota needed in the gut and the skin.
Consequently, humans have developed more sensitivity to chronic diseases. To achieve optimal health, how can we explore new ways of bringing nature to those in urban environments? How do we regenerate human health in modern urban life? One solution: Ancient wild plants. Both CNN and National Geographic have recently reported on the Hunter-Gatherer societies who have incorporated ancient wild plants into their diets and lifestyles for centuries.
It turns out that wild plants, both terrestrial and marine, are rich bioactive foods that can provide support and replenish human microbiome. That's because the harsh natural environment in which ancient wild plants grow causes them to have incredibly higher nutrient density, leading to potent health benefits. Examples of “wild plants” include baobab, seaweeds, berries, and aloes.
Incorporating wild plants into the urban lifestyle offers solutions to many modern health problems. Potent and wild flora including baobab, cacay, and kappaphycus seaweed, have the ability to strengthen our resilience and should be included in our response to a decreasingly biodiverse world.
The Epigenetics of “Wild Plants”
The term “epigenetics” was coined by British molecular biologist Robin Holliday in 1990 to label anything other than DNA that influences the development of an organism. The implication is that our environment, lifestyle, and diet can all impact our DNA. These factors have the ability to turn genetic expression on and off, subsequently influencing our wellness and even the health of our offspring. How do these epigenetic events affect our genes? Via our microbiome.
Stress, Skin and Sleep.
The stress of modern life reduces our microbiome diversity. As the pace of life increases, chronic stress becomes endemic and in a hyper-connected world, it seems the brain can never turn off. Stress is good in small amounts, but when it exceeds one’s capacity to adapt it is expressed mentally, emotionally, and physically. Continuous exposure to stress has an effect on every cell in the body, including gut and skin. Stress reduces diversity in the gut microbiome and increases chronic systemic inflammation with far reaching effects on mind and body.
Our wellness and our skin are tied together. As the largest organ in our bodies, our skin absorbs Vitamin D, keeping us hydrated and acting as a filter to keep harmful microbes out. Weakened by environmental pollutants, lack of exposure to beneficial microbes, and modern lifestyle habits, we must approach taking care of our skin differently in modern times. One approach to improving urban skin health is to trigger ceramide production by increasing microbial diversity in the gut and skin. This can be achieved by introducing exceptionally concentrated wild plant polyphenols and prebiotic, probiotic, and postbiotic peptides topically to the skin.
The skin also acts as a receptor for these metabolic shifts; exposure to cortisol, adrenaline, and pro-inflammatory messengers weakens the skin from within, while a compromise of the skin microbiome makes the external skin barrier more vulnerable to pollution. These messengers accelerate aging, producing dark spots, dryness, wrinkles, and fine lines. The solution is to replenish the gut and skin with calming, regenerative, and anti-inflammatory building blocks.
Urban living also contributes to worsening sleep habits. National data shows that 25% of U.S. adults are sleep deprived and report insufficient sleep 15 out of every 30 days. Sleep is the time for the body to regenerate and cleanse out damaged cells. Research done by Estee Lauder on circadian rhythms and the skin showed that the skin has a natural rhythm-- a rhythm that was more prevalent in younger skin and disrupted with aging. Skin barrier integrity was found to be best in the morning with oxidation, inflammation and protein damage increasing throughout the day. Sleep puts your skin into recovery mode – so yes there is truth to getting “beauty sleep”.
In order to prevent chronic illnesses and achieve optimal wellness in this modern world, one approach is to incorporate wild plants into our diets and skin care routines, reconnecting with nature’s wild intelligence. There’s no doubt that our modern, urban lifestyles do not provide enough contact with nature; the lack of exposure to diverse microbes is having a detrimental impact on our gut and skin microbiomes.
Furthermore, the natural environment is undeniably important to human health; its preservation is essential for it is a source of resilience. After centuries of adaptation, these wild plants have developed the resilience to thrive in some of the most challenging environments, from the African Savanna to the Amazon Rainforest. Plants that are rich in prebiotic fiber, like the Baobab, allow the probiotics in our gut and skin to flourish for good health inside and out. We can and should learn from these plants and ecosystems.
By harnessing the ancient wisdom of wild plants and their potent benefits to the human microbiome, we can counteract the negative impacts urban living has on our health. Wild plants just may be the key to rewilding ourselves and living a healthy, resilient urban life. We know that now is the time to incorporate lifestyle habits, as well as diet and personal care choices that not only improve our health as humans, but also the health of the planet.