The Spirituality of Health: Turmeric

In September 2016, I received a life-changing recommendation from friend and massage practitioner Yvonne Mock-Robertson, who has seen and nearly done it all when it comes to healing. I was on the hunt for a special doctor, someone who would partner with me on my dream quest to get my house in order and to achieve optimal wellness in all areas of my physical being. I recently had a fancy physical at a fancy hospital and felt incredibly let down. With all the new information out there on the leading edge of health and wellness, the experience with the fancy doctor was shockingly uninspired.

Yvonne told me to see Dr. Rachel West, an internist and osteopath. Within five minutes I knew she was the match for me.

Dr. West approached my health through a spiritual lens—the quantum perspective I was seeking. Yes, we went right to work with comprehensive medical testing, but she also placed her focus on my spiritual health in a unique and integrative way. Besides, she is way cool. I invited her to Belle Vie to hang out with Nancy and me and share her perspective on modern medicine, while sipping tea and kale smoothies, of course. Here’s a bit of the conversation:

SHERI:  Throughout this dedicated year of radical self-care, Nancy and I are finding that info on medicine, detoxing, and leading-edge nutrition is everywhere. Even fashion magazines are packed with the latest and greatest in wellness. You call yourself a doctor of contemporary medicine. What does that mean?

DR. RW: It’s a funny term because contemporary means futuristic or present, but I think for health to be properly addressed we often need to go back in time. I like to take the best of the past, the present, and the most updated information in order to help people. I may promote an herb that’s been around for 5,000 years or I might recommend doing DNA genomics, which allows doctors to give people specific recommendations based on their genetic makeup. It’s the future of medicine — it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, it’s genetically personalized.

NANCY:  You have an interesting approach to medicine — you’re a certified doctor and completed traditional formal training, as well as specializing in osteopathy. What’s an osteopath?

DR. RW: Osteopaths (DO’S) are fully licensed physicians in the United States who do four-year intensive schooling similar to MD’s and work side by side with them. Andrew Taylor Still was an MD who founded osteopathy 200 years ago after wanting to understand a full body approach to healing.  Osteopaths learn techniques that foster body, mind and spiritual alignment to support the body’s own healing capacity. The three main tenets are:

God and patients heal themselves and physicians are the agents of health. 2) If one part of body is sick, it will affect the whole body. 3) Structure and function are interrelated.

SHERI: I have been your patient for about five months now and I told Nancy after I met you that if we were in King Arthur’s mythical times, you would have been the healer in the woods with herbs and your knowing intuition. You bring so much more to the traditional model of medicine — it feels like you’re in the sweet spot that I call “the spirituality of medicine.” As I continue to work with you, I see that medicine is a bit more of an art than I understood.

DR. RW: Centuries ago, thinkers and philosophers were the great doctors. Surgeons or doctors who cut into the body were less respected. Medicine was more herbal and the world was quieter and slower so that people could hear their own voices. They connected to each other more.

SHERI: Speaking of great doctors, you’re in daily contact with doctors around the world who are traditionally trained but exploring the leading edge of healing. Together, in real time, you’re sharing new modalities with each other.

DR. RW: Yes, and because of this communication and ability to share our experiences, gifts from around the world come back to the United States—like the use of the spice turmeric. In the Ayurvedic tradition, which comes from the culture in India and some parts of the Middle East, they eat turmeric at every single meal and mix it with red pepper to magnify its properties. And now turmeric, which has been around for 5,000 years, is trendy and is even being taken in supplement form because it’s anti-inflammatory without causing bleeding. That’s of incredible value to healing. Our ability to communicate with other healers around the world has changed medicine. There are so many more gifts to share.

SHERI: We love turmeric. Our nutritionist, Bridgette, taught us her recipe for “Golden Milk,” an anti-inflammatory turmeric based elixir, which we drink daily. But here’s what I want to know — is food medicine?

DR RW: Yes, food can help us heal, but food can be a toxin, too. I like to go back to traditions. It’s not just about the food itself, it’s also about how we are eating that food. I come from a culture that includes some of the more traditional religious Jews and they say a prayer before they eat. What does the prayer do? It changes who they are in that moment. So now they may be in a different cellular balance while they are taking that deep breath and saying thanks to the universe for the food. They’re more relaxed so the food becomes medicine.

NANCY: I grew up in a family that never prayed before eating, but I can imagine taking a moment to slow down, to take a deep breath and receive the food — and not checking your phone or worrying about other things — I can imagine that practice changing my biochemistry.

SHERI: If there’s one thing we’re learning, it’s the “quantum-ness” of appreciation and how much magic there is in that. Thank you to the growers of our organic produce, thank you to the cook who prepared the meal, appreciation for the sun, water, the soil. It’s big!

NANCY: The power of appreciation in daily living could be one of our greatest discoveries during this year of radical self-care.

DR. RW: That is powerful. We can agree that we are not going to live forever. I can’t keep anybody alive forever, but I can help you to have a great journey. We need to talk about the journey and not just the destination. It begins with appreciation — appreciating every moment of the journey. The yogis have a quote that when you are healthy you can suck the nectar out of life. I love that vision of the juice, the nectar. They even say that in mediation you connect to the nectar of your own brain. That is healing at its most powerful.

NANCY: Also, it’s fascinating that everywhere we turn, meditation keeps coming up as the path for wellness, happiness, spiritual connection, and a true “Belle Vie.” Meditation is a spiritual practice for me, but it’s also a psychological practice because I am clearing my own head and thoughts.

SHERI: So best takeaways from today: Turmeric as an anti-inflammatory healing food, the practice of appreciation for quantum wellness, and meditation to make it all stick. Thank you, Dr. Rachel West. As Nancy and I work on our own personal recipes for wellness, we’re going to continue these conversations with you about the new modalities in healing.

Dr. Rachel West is a board-certified Integrative Family Medicine Physician and Osteopath with a state-of-the-art practice in West Los Angeles. Her experience has put her at the forefront of Integrated and Preventive medicine. She has been a certified yoga instructor for 20 years, as well as studying homeopathy. Her specialty is in traditional osteopathy and hands-on treatments.