Battling Depression

One Key Ingredient for Battling Depression and Mental Illness

It’s only the 3rd week of January in Southern California, but we are already welcoming the sun back into our daily lives. We missed her and our time outside under her sunny rays. 

Once the sun comes back into your life, go outside and make some vitamin D and you will feel a whole lot better, because, chances are, you are battling low-level depression.

Today, we understand better the role of vitamin D and its protection against depression. This little vitamin, best obtained from sunlight, not only plays a role in bone health, but also in the health of your brain. A plethora of neurological disorders have been linked to insufficient vitamin D, including depression and Alzheimer’s. 

Even more recent studies connect the ever-increasing problem of childhood mental health issues like bi-polar and schizophrenia, showing up in younger and younger children, to the lack of vitamin D; kids just don’t play outside like they used to.

But what about all the advice you hear to slather up/cover up at the first blush of the sun? It turns out that 20+ years of advice was dead wrong, and, as is often the case, your mother was right, when she urged you to get outside and get some sun.

Nearly three quarters of people living in the Northern Hemisphere have less than the required amount of vitamin D and nearly one quarter in the Southern Hemisphere are below par. People live indoors and when they are outside, they are covered with sunscreen. Not like our early days when we ran around all day under the sun, buck-naked and free. That all changed around 75,000 years ago, when we moved out from East Africa to points around the world, many of which required the wearing of skins and living under a roof of some sort. But even those folks were outside a lot, up until about 100 years ago, when we started living indoors, and more so every single year.

It’s no wonder that depression is becoming one of our biggest problems world-wide. 

You get 90% of your vitamin D from the sun; chances are, your bank of vitamin D (stored in your liver) is close to empty at the moment. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, your bank is even more depleted, as meat and fish eaters have higher levels of D. 

Dietary sources of Vitamin D

The problem intensifies once you are over 60, as your skin requires 4 times as much sun exposure to make the same amount of vitamin D as it does for someone younger.

What to do?

  1. Every day you see the sun in the sky, run out and get 10 to 20 minutes, on as much bare skin as is legal, and as the temperature allows. No sunscreen. Preferably before 9:00am and, in the summer, after 5:00pm. 
  2. Worried about skin cancer? Up your ingestion of foods rich in carotenoids, like carrots, tomatoes, pumpkins, kale, and spinach. These foods significantly lower your risk of skin cancer. 
  3. Add a little butter to those carotenoids as they are fat-soluble. Yum. 
  4. In the dark days of winter, supplement with vitamin D3, (make sure it is 3, not 2); supplementation is now known to be an effective treatment for depression.
  5. Finally, don’t laugh, but your mother was right about this too: take fish oil, specifically cod-liver oil, daily. 

The tried-and-true advice from days past is often still very viable today, but we tend to forget these simple pieces of sage wisdom. 

Ensuring you’re getting your proper dose of Vitamin D can not only help you be healthier and feel better in the present, but it can prevent serious issues in the future. 

So, make sure you make vitamin D a priority and part of your daily routine!

Get better sleep without drugs

5 Easy Steps to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

This is the third blog in a row I’m focusing on sleep because we simply aren’t getting enough of it!

If you missed the first 2 blogs, you can read them here:

The Best Sleep Ever: Why You Need It and How to Get It

8 Natural Herbal Remedies for a Better Night’s Sleep

This week, let’s talk about 5 more easy, actionable steps you can take to improve your quality of sleep.

      1. Limit your exposure to EMFs.

        We are all very sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, and there’s little data out there on what it’s doing to us. How to counteract all that WIFI that’s coursing through your bodymind? Try grounding every day: in warm weather, walk barefoot. In cold, go outside and stand near a tree, even hugging it when the mood strikes you. Keep your phone a foot away from you, or, radical thought, put it on airplane. Turn off your WIFI in your home or apartment at night. Keep sections of raw silk where you work and where you sleep; silk absorbs EMFs.

      2. Exercise before noon, not after.

        The idea is to keep your core temperature lower as evening approaches, allowing you to sleep more easily because your body is cool. (more on that in my first sleep blog) Exercise will not only raise your body temperature but also release cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol is a daytime hormone, that is the opposite of melatonin. When cortisol is high, melatonin is low. To get good quality sleep, cortisol needs to be low, so exercise early in the day. Plus, when you exercise in the morning, it produces feel-good brain chemistry that make you feel happy all day. Sleep naked, it will keep you cool and your partner will love it. Oddly enough if you keep your socks on, that will help lower your body’s temp, and you will fall asleep faster.

      3. Make sure the air in your bedroom is fresh.

        Even 100 years ago, we spent most of our day outdoors; now, we spend over 90% of our time indoors. Indoor air can be very polluted and dead, not carrying enough oxygen to oxygenate your cells. What to do? Open your bedroom windows during the day, if it’s too cold at night. Or install an air ionizer or a HEPA filter if your outdoor air is bad and opening windows isn’t an option. Bring in plants, they will purify your air for you. Sleep outside in the summer, like I do, and not only get great air, but exposure to the moon and stars, which balances the lunar, feminine energies in your body, relaxing you, and promoting good sleep.

      4. Take magnesium at night.

        Magnesium is necessary for good sleep; take it with a dash of calcium. Alternatively, eat a few bites of a banana (just a couple of bites, since they are very sweet), which will help you develop melatonin.

      5. Meditate for just 10 minutes, no more.

        That little bit of meditation will take off the edge and allow you to drop off to sleep easily. More would wake you up, so just 10 minutes.


Sweet dreams!

Get better sleep

8 Natural Herbal Remedies for a Better Night’s Sleep

Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? This may be due to a short-term issue or it can stem from longer-term sleep habits that are incorrect. Beyond a week, sleeping pills are not the solution. Prescription meds don’t address the underlying cause, and they have some serious side effects. 

In addition to the suggestions in last week’s blog, what about diet, can it help with sleep? It may be surprising, but what you eat at dinner or in nighttime snacks can affect your sleep. Certain foods, like cheese and turkey, are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce serotonin, which will help you feel sleepy. Almonds also have tryptophan as well as calcium and magnesium, minerals that calm the body and the mind. However, you will want to avoid carbs at dinner (especially potatoes), as they convert to sugar and six hours later, you could very well wake up. You would avoid sweets after lunch for the same reason.

One study revealed that tart cherries help people with insomnia; they are the only food source of melatonin, that necessary hormone for sleep. Tart cherry juice works as well, but stay away from caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and spicy and fatty foods, all which can lead to sleeplessness. 

There are natural herbal remedies that make it easier to go to sleep and stay asleep. Here are 8 of them:

  1. Chamomile tea: it’s been used for hundreds of years as a sleep aid because it acts like a mild sedative. Brew for 10 minutes using two or three tea bags to calm your nerves and get a full night’s sleep.
  2. St. John’s wort: this flower can be brewed as a tea to ease anxiety and insomnia or taken as a supplement. Make sure you stay out of direct sunlight when you take it because it can make you more sensitive to UV rays.
  3. Valerian root: over 16 studies have shown this flowering plant helps you fall asleep faster and have a more sound night’s sleep. It’s the most commonly used herbal supplement to promote sleep in the U.S. and Europe. Taken together, valerian and hops are well-studied herbal supplements for sleep; they boost production of GABA, a brain chemical that reduces anxiety and has sedative properties. You will want to restrict your use to a week or two, so as not to overly burden the liver.
  4. Kava: Pacific Islanders have long used this root for relaxation. Like valerian, don’t use over a long period of time. Use a high quality supplement.
  5. Passion flower (also called maypop): is not only a delicious tea, but is also a mild sedative. Steep for 10 minutes in boiling water.
  6. California poppy: the bright orange leaves of the poppy should be steeped in hot water for 10 minutes to make a tea that gets you ready for a good night’s sleep.
  7. Lavender: the soothing fragrance of lavender’s purple flowers enhances sleep. Lavender aromatherapy is often as effective as pharmaceutical medications, with no side effects. Don’t take lavender orally. Use a good quality lavender oil in a diffuser around 30 minutes before bed.

So, forget counting sheep and brew a cup of herbal tea to catch some Z’s. 

And if you’d like to hear more about this and other topics, come join our live show on January 22nd at 3PM Pacific. We’ll be talking to expert herbalist and Deborah King Center Graduate Practitioner, Lisa Vander Kaay.

Join the conversation!

Click here to reserve your seat for the show >>

Getting best sleep

The Best Sleep Ever: Why You Need It and How to Get It

This is the time of year when everyone focuses on diet and exercise, but it’s sleep that needs our attention – the importance of sleep is vastly under-rated. When you get enough sleep, you rebuild your body and your mind: sleep releases human growth hormone, essential for staying young; it balances your appetite hormones (ghrelin and leptin), keeping you slender; repairs your DNA; speeds up muscle recovery; preserves your memory; and improves your ability to learn. What’s not to like about sleep! (Meditation does all these things too, so be sure to meditate once you do wake up.)

Even one night of poor sleep can throw you out of whack, making you over-do carbs and sugar the next day. Plus, staying up late causes your immune system to plummet, your blood pressure to rise, and inflammation to increase. Not a pretty picture.

To this day, every animal on the planet sleeps, so clearly sleep is not optional. Here are five steps to good sleep:

Step One: Spend a little time early in the morning, outside, letting your eyes be exposed to the morning light, so your all-important circadian rhythm gets set for the day.

Step Two:  Spend a minimum of 15 minutes outside during the day, getting more natural light on your eyeballs, which will reinforce your body’s regular wake/sleep rhythm.

Step Three:  Minimize the amount of blue light you are exposed to both during the day and the evening from devices like computer screens, TVs, iPads, and smart phones; blue light blocks the critical melatonin production that you need to sleep properly. Melatonin is generated in your pineal gland when it’s really dark. To prepare for that production, turn off the TV an hour before bedtime and make sure your devices are on “night shift” settings that warm the color of the screens. Check out an app like for ways to minimize the amount of blue light you are exposed to from your screens. Or grab a pair of blue light blocking glasses from and be healthy and hip looking all at the same time.

Step Four: Go to bed at about the same time every evening, ideally within 15 minutes of your routine time. I spent many years on the farm, watching all the animals, and saw how well animals do this – always bedding down at the same time every night. Or sleeping standing up, as horses often do.

Step Five:  Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. If you need your phone (on airplane mode, of course) to see the time, choose a red screen for that purpose. Wear an eye mask just in case light is leaking in under the door or around the drapes. Even your skin takes in light, so the darker the room, the better.

Step Six: Enjoy all the benefits of your prep during the day with a blissful night of sleep in a room that is between 60- 65 degrees Fahrenheit/15 – 19 degrees Celsius – your body needs to be in that temperature range in order to continue to produce melatonin and to stay asleep. And, if you wake up too early, simply meditate and chances are, you’ll drop back off to sleep before long. Happy ZZZs!