WTF is Wellness? Part 1: The Beginning
Wellness... a term that’s been bandied around so often that it's hard to grasp what it's actually supposed to mean.
Given that one of our most loved phrases is “Immunity Wellness for High Performers,” we thought we would run you through a quick history of wellness.
It all started in India (Ayurvedic Wellness) and China (Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM) roughly around 2000BC.
Though separated by about 2000 miles - in a time where Concord’s equivalent was a horse with a point to prove - the two Asian countries adopted somewhat similarly structured approaches to maintaining a sense of wellness in their people.
The key focus for both is a balance of mind, body and spirit.
To feel unwell is to be imbalanced in these areas.
You’re probably already familiar with the Chinese principle of Yin & Yang – the Indian equivalents are Linga & Yoni. There’s an idea of a lightness and darkness that our actions, environment and thoughts, emit. Each of us contain both elements, but only when they are in balance do we feel truly well.
Similarly, both Ayurvedic and TCM principles rely on an individualised approach to the person seeking treatment, recognising our unique metabolic styles. Basically, what works for you won’t work for me.
Integrative exercise is also prioritised in both practises alongside some form of breathing/meditation – Tai Chi in China and Yoga in India.
So, though developed millennia ago, these two geographically distant cultures actually arrived at rather similar conclusions when it came to wellness. Both suggest that intuition plays a mammoth role in of wellness.
It goes without saying that rigorous research wasn’t exactly de rigueur during these times. The practitioners of the day used what was around them, paid attention to what happened following consumption/adoption, and experimented in all kinds of ways – drying, heating, toasting, submerging plants and herbs in an attempt to tinker with the outcomes.
Modern western medicine typically looks at ailments in isolation; if you’ve an issue with the liver, there’s a medicine to take. But even science is one dimensional to a degree – the notion of “X causes this and requires Y as a remedy” completely negates the extraneous factors that contribute to our ill health.
TCM and Ayurvedic wellness, on the other hand, seek out a total package response to the issue, tackling mind, body and spirit at the same time. By focusing on these three categories, we bolster all areas of ourselves and, in turn, our immune system too.
See, if your mental health is off, it’s likely that your physical health will follow suit.
Conversely, when we’re physically off-kilter, our emotional health will tend to flag, too.
Simultaneously, the consumption of certain plants and herbs can, and do, provide fortification for our bodies. Some proven by science, others underpinned by hundreds of years of anecdotal evidence.
Either way, it would be foolish to rule either science or intuition out of the question, solely due to an inclination to side with one approach.
Not So Quack
Need… proof? You got it. Let’s talk about Artemisinin, a herb extract (also known as Sweet Wormwood or Qinghao in Chinese) that led to a miraculous remedy and has a foot in both science and ancient wellness.
In the 1960s a group of Chinese scientists led by a lady named Tu Youyou analysed over 2000 herbs in search of a remedy for malaria. Identifying wormwood as a potential winner, the scientists discovered initially promising results but were unable to repeat the observations consistently in follow-up tests.
That is until Tu read a classic Chinese medical book, A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies. The recipe called for the immersion of the herb into water, which prompted Tu to alter her method. Rather than heating the wormwood, the text inspired Tu to reduce the temperature instead. This led to a 95%+ inhibition of malaria in rodents.
This work of tinkering and following intuition, just like the practitioners did thousands of years ago, in tandem with modern science, eventually led to the development of Artemisinin and other derivatives.
This substance has since saved millions of lives threatened by malaria throughout the world and is considered one of the most important breakthroughs in human health across the last century, culminating in Tu being awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Suffice to say there is an inherent value in many of the ideas of Ayurvedic and TCM wellness. By coupling them with modern science as Tu illustrated above, we’re able to channel the intuition of antecedents into provable, effective treatments in the modern day.
Of course, at ZAAG, we value the scientific findings above all else. But the history behind wellness need not be discounted just because there aren’t citations aplenty. The 29 vitamins, nootropics and adaptogens that form our gel-shots are all rigorously supported by data. But we’re also aware that there are benefits that can emerge from all types of things that may not have simmered in cold-hard-facts.
Anyway, now you’ve got a little information regarding the start of what is now a multi trillion dollar industry that's impacting hundreds of millions of lives.
Next we'll turn our attention to the work of Hippocrates in the canon of wellness, as we continue to march towards the modern day.
We hope you’re well.
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