My adventures in health, fitness, and biohacking have taken me around the world—from health retreats in the Swiss Alps, to triathlon and obstacle course racing in Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Europe, and beyond, to speaking engagements in Dubai, Finland, Estonia, Poland, and London, and plenty of other countries and continents sprinkled in there—and while I've found ways to nourish my body and spirit wherever I am (yes, even in Vegas), there are certain places that I keep returning to because they feed me in a special way.
Kauai, my favorite Hawaiian island (although I do dig Kona and Molokai too), is definitely at the top of that list.
See, there's just this special feeling I get when I visit Kauai—a sort of sacred energy—not to mention a plethora of breathtaking views, white sand beaches, crystal-blue water, and a vast array of native superfoods and fruits. As the oldest island in the Hawaiian island chain, Kauai is blessed with ample rain, rich volcanic soil, and a year-round growing season, and it's with good reason it has been nicknamed The Garden Isle.
Fortunately, I have good friends who live in Kauai, including former podcast guests Laird Hamilton (big-wave surfer and model), Gabby Reece (professional volleyball player, television personality, and model), and Rick Rubin (music producer and former co-president of Columbia Records), along with James Radina, who runs a CBD company I have helped him with, and his former partner Dr. Somer Nicole, who I've also interviewed on my show, so when I visit, I get treated to insider knowledge about the local hotspots.
Several years ago, when I was there, Laird convinced me to go visit his favorite local farm, Kauai Organic Farmacy—and let me tell you, I was blown away by this place. Doug Wolkon, who founded the Farmacy in 2010 with his wife, Genna, grows 80 different varieties of healing plants on a humble four acres of land—it might be the most diverse collection of plant medicine in the western hemisphere. Doug and Genna have an entire team that seeds, propagates, plants, hand harvests, artisanally crafts, and packages all of the fresh and pure herbal products into herbal teas, tinctures, hydrosols, salves, honey, and more. When Laird and I went for the first time, we were cutting open cacao fruits and eating the beans right out of the cacao.
Since that visit, I've been using ample amounts of Kauai Farmacy powders and tinctures in my recipes, along with products such as their salves and hydrosols for joint and skin health. Rooted in the wisdom of Hawaiian La’au lapa’au, Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and the tribal indigenous, the herbs that are harvested from the rich, volcanic soil of Kauai have deep healing properties.
I asked Doug to be a guest on my podcast, and he ended up on the show twice:
- Ancient Healing Secrets, Tinctures, Salves, Hydrosols & Teas, Permaculture Tips & Much More From A Little-Known Superfood Farm In Hawaii.
- Crazy Superfoods You’ve Never Heard Of, The Little-Known Libido-Enhancing Berry, Remineralizing Your Body With Lubricating Plant Oils & More With Kuaui Farmacy’s Doug Wolkon.
After graduating from the University of Michigan, Doug pursued a ten-year career in private equity finance in Connecticut and went on to publish The New Game, an economic theory and strategy for sustainable communities. Now, after spending the last 10 years experiencing the power of fresh plant medicine for both himself and his family on a daily basis, Doug thrives on an almost entirely local, Kauai-grown, plant-based diet. He believes Kauai Farmacy's vertically-integrated herbal medicine model is a budding example of what needs to be the future of a more sustainable, preventative-care-focused healthcare industry.
As I've learned more and more about plant medicine, both through my own research, podcast guests, friends, and personal investigation, my understanding and practices are changing—and in fact, throughout this month, I'm going to be sharing my latest insights, and I think you're going want to hear what I have to say. What has not changed, though, and won't, is my certainty about the healing properties of God-given natural herbs from Hawaii.
I recently asked Doug Wolkon to contribute this article, as he has a fascinating personal story that has resulted in a broad, comprehensive knowledge base about how to use Hawaiian plants to deepen your mind-body connection for healing and personal growth. These “plant medicines” and herbs are far, far different than the psychedelic, hallucinogenic plant medicines I'll be addressing in the next couple articles (stay tuned for my potentially controversial thoughts on that topic!).
In the meantime, enjoy this enlightening article from Doug Wolkon!
It was after a traumatic medical experience almost 14 years ago that my wife and I decided to leave our promising New York City design and finance careers to move to Hawaii.
We immediately became enamored by the physical, mental, and spiritual healing powers of Kauai-grown plant medicine. So much so that we were soon inspired to actually grow and craft our very own family medicine cabinet.
It was 10 years ago now that we founded Kauai Farmacy, a home-grown garden and apothecary operation consisting of a small team of avant-garde gardeners, alchemists, and healers. Kauai Farmacy’s mission is to grow, craft, and share high-efficacy healing teas, superfoods, serums, honey, and more. (We have offered Ben's readers a savings of 15% with code GREENFIELD15.)
The first and most impactful encounter we had with a healing herb, that led to what we are doing now, was when we first learned about Noni leaf tea from a small passage in a book about Hawaiian culture. We read how the Hawaiians use the leaf of the Noni (Morinda citrifolia) to promote circulation, reduce inflammation, and detoxify the body. The Noni leaf contains Xeronine, a compound that promotes cell structure health and regeneration, and is also touted for aiding digestion, wound healing, treating arthritis and gout, and supporting good circulation. A lower back injury that had bothered me for years was remedied by simply heating the massive, waxy-green leaf between my hands and applying it topically to the inflamed area, as suggested by one of the locals. The ability to self-heal with a wild plant was a foreign notion to us prior to experiencing the Noni leaf's power. There and then, began the appreciation for a higher power of healing. It is the Noni leaf that many years later became one of the most effective circulatory ingredients in so many of our tea blends, as well as our salves, serums, and hydrosols.
While the plants that we grow at Kauai Farmacy have the ability to help physical injury and malfunction, what has been the most transformative element of the knowledge that we have gained since opening the farm is how herbs can heal and strengthen the connection between your physical body, and your mind and spirit, bringing you to a greater level of consciousness without mind-altering or addictive substances.
Defining Mind-Body Connection For Healing & Personal Growth
We feel it is our kuleana (our responsibility) to mālama (care for) the ‘āina (the land which feeds and provides us) and care for each other.
We recognize that each personal healing journey is unique and relative to lifestyle choices. Herbs have been useful as tools for centuries to help bring that which is out of alignment back into balance. As we learned more about native plants and how they can be used to heal, my wife and I also began to look closely at the mind-body connection, and how certain Hawaiian plants can be paired with practices intended to elevate consciousness and self-love.
First, though, we felt that it was important to define what we even meant by mind-body connection. Could it be the frequent movement of intuitive energy from your core power to the authentic beauty of your mind and back again? When you thoughtfully feed your body and mind, you diffuse blockages in your circulation, foster free-flowing energy, and give way to clean and nourishing pathways of alkaline blood to transport vitamins and minerals throughout your body. You learn to be authentic, to be the best you can be, connecting your mind and body through spirit and love.
It is said that all pain in the physical world manifests originally from emotional grief and suffering. For example, when you are angry or in a bad mood, and you decide to overeat some “not so good-feeling food,” that adds to the already forming blockage in your tummy/back area. Then perhaps you “(un)consciously” move a heavy piece of furniture and throw your back out. Whose fault is that? Did it happen by chance? Is your so-called weak back to blame or is it a total lack of mind-body connection? I mean, you can actually see the ever-enlarging belly area “blocking” the mind-body connection. How could such a random act like throwing one’s back out become a never-ending cycle of intolerable pain as you role-play the innocent victim, moving from injury to injury, from tired to low energy, from dehydration to sleep deprivation?
We encourage you to ask yourself the questions posed above, not with an intention to find definitive answers but to begin to meditate on how you understand your own thoughts about the mind-body connection, and how you may even transcend that understanding to begin to open your mind to the potential of greater healing.
5 Practices (& Plants) For Deepening Your Mind-Body Connection
The Farmacy is a farm-based dispensary of pure, plant medicine.
We felt obligated to differentiate ourselves from the “ph”armacy where chemical, synthetic drugs are sold without a clear understanding of where, when, and how they are made. Creating transparency became a solid mission of Kauai Farmacy as we ourselves wanted a medicine cabinet filled with only that which we could understand, trace to its pure organic origin, and most of all trust.
The herbs on the farm have led to many revelations, as healing trajectories have been initiated: skin rashes cleared, mastitis soothed, kidney stones passed, excess weight trimmed, and the mental fog lifted. Pairing herbs with certain practices leads to feeling renewed, energized, and invigorated. Early on, we were cleansing on an emotional and physical level, both from recent life events and from past, psychological life programming, and a lifetime of ignorant, haphazard consumption of low-quality food and drink. We were learning truths about ourselves as we shed layers of our old ways and slowly started to transform physically and mentally with new-founded spirituality and purpose. This began a subconscious surrender to the authentic ways of natural healing.
Today, I want to share five practices that we have adopted, with the herbs that we pair with those concepts to bring your health to an optimal level, and I hope that by introducing you to those connections, you may begin to think about how you could benefit from safe, natural herbal healing.
1. Develop Self-Awareness
We were introduced to the practice of self-awareness when we moved to Hawaii almost 15 years ago and began working with the plants on the farm.
I first discovered tulsi in our landlord’s garden on Kauai. I immediately used it as the base of a fresh daily tea blend that also included mint, sage, and lemon balm. This fresh garden brew that I drank daily for the following six months completely shifted my diet from acidic to alkaline, attracting predominately fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds to my plate for the first time in my life. When we bought the farm soon thereafter, tulsi was the first plant we grew in our gardens, and it also organically became the base of all Kauai Farmacy tea blends.
As a result of its exquisite flavor, revered adaptogenic qualities, and perennial tropical nature, tulsi became the most popular plant in our 80-plus plant species medicinal gardens. In Ayurvedic medicine, tulsi is known as the “Elixir of Life” and is used to cleanse the respiratory tract, promote healthy digestion, relieve stress, lower cholesterol and protect against foreign toxins in the blood. When you consume tulsi daily, your physical health benefits, and as a result, your body will be more calm and balanced for self-awareness practices such as meditation and breathwork.
2. Take Full Responsibility
We are taught early on by the system how to conveniently take the perspective of the victim.
But what if you took full responsibility for your life experience and realize that you actually made a choice in the matter, consciously or unconsciously?
For example, I cut myself with that knife. How could I do such a horribly mean thing to myself? I pulled my hamstring again. Why didn’t I hydrate and stretch before practice? I got food poisoning. Maybe I ate too much junky food? I was severely dehydrated. How could I let such an innate act as drinking water be overlooked in my daily regiment? I burnt myself bad at the beach today. How could I have not felt myself burning and get out of the sun? My knees hurt. Then why didn’t I lose weight to relieve my physical stress? I am tired and have low energy. Maybe a nap is in order instead of another cup of coffee? My hormones are out of balance. Could there be some plant medicine that would help me find a more balanced diet and restorative lifestyle?
For me, it’s my shoulder and knee that is hurting. Why did I eat that bag of chips which added to my pain, immobility, and lack of optimal performance? When you don't take full responsibility, your body begins to fight back and loses trust in its own intuitive mind-body connection. As the inability to trust your own intuition grows, the physical blockages grow with it, resulting in all kinds of physical ailments throughout the mind and body.
Turmeric is one of the twelve highly acclaimed canoe plants that sailed from Tahiti to the Hawaiian Islands, with its earthy orange anti-inflammatory healing powers, that taught us to foster the critical connection between the immune system inside our body and the one outside in our environment. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we were receiving an introduction to the ancient system of plant medicine and modern-day superfoods, including the storied herbs mentioned above, as well as such personal favorites as ginger, ashwagandha, moringa, cacao, cinnamon, cardamom, and comfrey. These popular herbs and spices comprised the medicine cabinet of the ancient native cultures around the planet for thousands of years.
I like to use turmeric root daily to break up toxic blockages, cleanse the liver, and relieve pain. Turmeric may be the planet’s most effective anti-inflammatory medicine. At Kauai Farmacy, we have a diverse array of product offerings to conveniently use the almighty turmeric rhizome. Our Curry Spice Blend is almost 50% turmeric and can be sprinkled on all kinds of foods for a superb culinary spice. The Cacao Olena superfood powder is also a great daily dose of turmeric that can be utilized in smoothies and makes for a decadent, chocolaty golden milk (15% off blends and powders with code GREENFIELD15). Almost all of our medicinal teas have turmeric as a base ingredient, and we also hand-craft turmeric hydrosols, honey, and tinctures. When you take care of your immune system and your body's self-healing properties, you have set the foundation for taking responsibility for reducing your own physical ailments and injuries.
3. Nourish Willpower
If you utilize the power of the plants, practice self-awareness, and take full responsibility for your health, have you found the secret to the mind-body connection?
The next step is to actually choose to rejuvenate your achy bones, hydrate your muscles, do more hula, stretch your ligaments, dance freely, enhance your spirit, sing with your heart, boogie down every day, and practice self-love. It’s not enough to be self-aware and take responsibility for your achy bones, bad back, and/or out-of-balance hormones—you must act to heal them. In other words, you must not only have the awareness to say “I am sorry,” but also access the willpower to act on it and be sorry. You must put the most practical and effective steps to Heal Yo’ Self into action!
We help nourish, cleanse, and activate your willpower with the powerful root medicines that grow underneath the soil including turmeric, ginger, ashwagandha, kava, and comfrey. The ashwagandha root is the quintessential plant medicine to nourish willpower. The ashwagandha root (Withania Somnifera) is known as the ginseng of Ayurvedic medicine, promoting a restorative lifestyle, cultivating drive, and teaching the practice of longevity, and is revered for supporting an optimal balance of sleep, hydration, and nutrition. Ashwagandha can be a powerful support to you as you learn to practice actions for which you may need to draw upon willpower.
4. Practice Self-Love
Then, you can teach yourself, with positive thoughts and intentional actions, to practice self-love.
We are redefining the “cleansing” experience with a historically renowned yet rare collection of tropical plant heroes. This intentionally crafted alchemy of plant healers provides a lighter, kinder, and easier way to cleanse ourselves from the inside out. The Kauai Farmacy Cleanse Powder consists of a symbiotic combination of essential amino acids, plant proteins, ultra-rich antioxidants, rare multi-vitamins, and precious minerals. This potent Kauai-grown blend is purposefully designed to reduce toxic inflammation, regenerate healthy cells, and calm the nervous system. We just sent Ben a fresh new batch and can't wait to hear what he thinks.
What if you learned how to cleanse your system, and then practice a hyper-intentional process of self-love? These plants are not just magical genies that grant wishes. These plants and many others teach you to be calm, breathe better, circulate oxygen, practice restoration, hydrate your body, and nourish your soul—ultimately allowing for the highest level of self-love.
5. Trust Your Intuition
Imagine if you approached your nutrition, rest, and hydration practices with the same refinement, determination, and commitment that you put into your career, childhood academics, or elite performance training?
With such intentionally-minded fuel you are granted access to your mind-body connection and with it, your most prized possession of all–your intuition.
It is your intuitive self that is aware of your hydration levels and which foods can function as medicine. It is your intuition that acutely senses when there is a danger of injury or disease lurking and acts to maintain calm. It is your intuition that persistently strives to find the elusive balance between strength and flexibility. It is your primate, animal-like, intuition that rejuvenates its being and supports longevity.
Your intuition simulates a body, mind, and spirit with no disparate parts. For example, your front and backsides are virtually the same things, your liver is only as good as your gall bladder, and the strength of your punch is dependent on the stability of your stance and the determination of your mind. Your methods of training, athletic prowess, and your daily routines, or lack thereof, become inevitably wiser as you seek optimal intuitive performance.
Brahmi has been revered for centuries for supporting nervous system rejuvenation and regeneration. Also known as Bacopa, or by its epithets “mountain of wisdom,” brahmi has been shown to offer nootropic properties. Brahmi slows the brain-aging process through the removal of toxins and blockages in the nervous system and regeneration of neural tissues. Often used in geographical areas of rigorous meditation practices, this herb supports concentration, focus, and mental clarity, and I love brahmi to support optimal intuitive performance.
Why are the most powerful healing plants on the planet not in our everyday culture, hospitals, and healing centers?
We are seeking to change that at Kauai Farmacy. As I walk the grounds of our farm daily, an unfathomable experience unfolds inside me as well as around me. I connect with the flavors, scents, and energies of these ancient tropical plant medicines.
Sadly, much of our intuitive sense for nutrition and self-care has been manipulated by the powers that be. It is that lack of nourishment, lack of diversity of plant flora in the oxygen that you breathe, and disconnection to the earth that is creating unconscious and unfathomable suffering as well.
When you think of tackling chronic pain, cancer, or unruly viruses, you may feel overwhelmed. However, you have the power to take action. Without overwhelming yourself with the “ultimate healing remedy” or the “quick cure” for whatever may be ailing you, you can take action in a more attainable way.
The first step: drink a cup of herbal tea. It may sound simple, but that’s the point. This is the very act that will propel further expansion. Then try to integrate two cups of tea into your daily routine. You may find yourself making more intentional, conscious choices throughout the day as a result. You may find ease where there once was tension. The change will arise differently with different people as we are all unique individuals. However, one thing will be certain—when you introduce herbs into your lifestyle consistently over time, micro-shifts will occur, and new opportunities will emerge.
So let's recap the top ways you can learn to deepen the mind-body connection:
- Develop self-awareness. Indulge in the tulsi plant or holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) to cleanse the respiratory tract, promote healthy digestion, relieve stress, lower cholesterol, and protect against foreign toxins in the blood—tulsi is often used to treat a number of things such as skin inflammation, weight management, aging, and even anxiety, typically via brewed tea.
- Take full responsibility. Be aware and fully cognizant of the choices you made in your own life, conscious or subconsciously. Consume turmeric root daily to break up toxic blockages, cleanse the liver, and relieve pain, taking responsibility for your own healing.
- Nourish your willpower. Make a conscious effort to rejuvenate achy bones, hydrate muscles, dance freely, enhance the spirit, etc., with the support of ashwagandha.
- Practice self-love. Be hyper-intentional about your self-love, and meditate on how you're helping your mind, body, and soul in the process, preparing your body with a gentle, natural cleanse.
- Trust your intuition. Your intuitive self is most in touch with what your body needs. Listen to it and meet those needs accordingly. Brahmi will support your optimal intuitive performance and mental clarity.
It's important to have compassion and understanding as you must know what is good for you somewhere inside of you. But can you connect to it? Could it be that this all-empowering, intuitive, mind-body, connective tunnel can be accessed through your daily diet of healthy food as medicine? Perhaps…
So how will you be incorporating these practices into your daily lifestyle? Do you already practice any of these methods to foster your mind-body connection? Let me know in the comments, I read them all. And, one last thing—if you find yourself in Hawaii, be sure to visit Doug and Genna's four-acre tropical medicine farm, or check them out online to learn more about how they intentionally grow, craft, and share food as medicine (and use code GREENFIELD15 for 15% off).