Wellness Is Not A Trend

In the media, we often hear the conversation, “What’s the latest wellness trend?” The ‘trend’ concept of wellness suggests that it’s a movement for the moment that could drift depending on external forces or swing along an irregular course.

Actually, the more important conversation is, “How to create a wellness lifestyle for a higher quality of life.” This would elevate the conversation from what’s fashionable, or faddish, to a dialogue about a dedicated way of life. In turn, this would elevate wellness to a driving force of human existence.

Photo credit: Julia Caesar on Unsplash.

In this age of self-care, living with intention and well-being, more and more people are shifting their thinking to wellness. According to the National Wellness Institute  (NWI):
“Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.”

Furthermore, the NWI interprets wellness as a conscience, self-directed choice that’s multi-dimensional and holistic, positive and self-affirming.

The widely accepted paradigm of wellness comprises:

  • Physical – maintaining a healthy body through exercise, nutrition, and good lifestyle practices.
  • Intellectual – being open to new ideas, experiences, and learning.
  • Professional – being engaged, stimulated, and satisfied with your work.
  • Emotional – understanding your stress and the ability to cope, problem-solve, and manage our emotions.
  • Social – having healthy relationships and networks with family, friends, and others.
  • Spiritual – having moral values, forgiveness, empathy, and gratitude.

When we evaluate the wellness constructs, there may be gaps that we identify in our lives. Identifying these gaps can help us determine where we may need to put in some extra effort. And it’s an ongoing process, not a ‘trend’.

The focus on wellness is of paramount importance. Every action, reaction, or emotion reflects our overall wellness. When these components exist in our life, then we begin to experience a higher quality of life.

Down, down, down it goes…

…down the bathroom sink, the bathtub/shower drain, the toilet – all those places that we allow the “dirty” water to pour into… ever wonder where that water goes?

For most of us, that water heads for a treatment plant, where – once cleaned – the water heads out to a stream or river or lake. But, the question must be asked: How “clean” is that clean water?

Treatment plants do a great job at removing objects and solids then adds filtering processes to remove small particles. Further treatment with bacteria and chemicals leave the water clean enough to drink directly – supposedly.

But, what exactly is “clean”? What about some of that stuff that goes down drains that may get through all the treatment procedures, e.g., chemicals? Ever wonder about those ingredients in your shampoo? Skin lotion? Bath bar? Makeup?

At present, treatment plants handle many common products found in waste water, but what about other chemicals: dietary supplements, drugs – prescription, over-the-counter,  veterinary – whole and ingested, pesticides, sunscreens, laundry soaps… the list goes on.

That anti-bacteria hand soap? What happens to that? As bacteria are an integral part of the water treatment process, can the anti-bacterials have an adverse effect in our eco-systems? If the chemicals are not removed, what happens to the ecology of our lakes and streams?

One study evaluated the presence of pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic contaminates in 139 streams in 30 states. They found 82 of 95 antibiotics, non-prescription drugs, steroids, and hormones in at least one sample. Eighty percent of streams sampled had more than one contaminant. Seventy-five percent had two or more. Fifty-four percent had more than five, 34% had more than 10 contaminants, and 13% of streams tested positive for more than 20 targeted contaminants.*

And that is just what they were testing for. Who knows what they missed.

Down the drain it goes, where it shows up, no one knows.

*Kolpin, D. W. et al. 2002. Pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants in U.S. streams, 1999-2000: A National reconnaissance. Environmental Science and Technology 36(6):1202-1211 in https://extension.psu.edu/pharmaceutical-disposal-and-water-quality.

The Loss of a Gentle and Gifted Man

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of a mentor, friend, and colleague, Willie Alberts.

Willie lost a courageous battle to cancer. His tenacity, incredible spirit, and love of life nearly won the day, but his body was too badly ravaged from drugs and disease.

Willie had been an important part of DLG’s expansion into Botswana. He brought his keen intellect, a remarkable sense of quiet humor, unwavering patience, a plethora of skills, ranging from computers to plumbing, and a perseverance that never quit.

Willie started his career in South Africa as a researcher in  animal husbandry and became a practical agriculturist due to  extensive commercial farming experience. He was also involved in  research working with African indigenous fauna and flora.

He became involved with human resource development and advanced  in a training career within the agricultural disciplines. He  held the post of Rector of a Technical and Agricultural College and became involved in numerous community projects when he joined SAEOPA (Southern Africa Essential Oil Producers Association) in 2000. He had been the primary Agricultural Advisor for the association since then.

Willie had a unbridled love for nature and served as an Honorary Ranger for the South African National Parks, where he had been actively involved in conservation work.

Our condolences to his family, especially to Karen Swanepoel, Willie’s longtime partner.

Willie will be greatly missed.

“People are so difficult. Give me an elephant any day.” – Mark Shand

And now, let us entertain you.. with a fun youtube video and little elephants (the term “little” is relative).

“Of all African animals, the elephant is the most difficult for man to live with, yet its passing – if this must come – seems the most tragic of all. I can watch elephants (and elephants alone) for hours at a time, for sooner or later the elephant will do something very strange such as mow grass with its toenails or draw the tusks from the rotted carcass of another elephant and carry them off into the bush. There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, and ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.” – Peter Matthiessen

…………………………………………………….

Ending on a more sober note, one elephant is killed every 15 minutes by poachers in Africa.

“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?” – David Attenborough

Marula, Chobe, and Women Guides

We keep trying to talk about marula oil in this blog, but occasionally something comes along that we simply have to share with our readers. This time, it is an article written by Hillary Richard in the travel section of the Aug 27 issue of the New York Times: “The Wonder Women of Botswana Safari.” (Our thanks to Tony Carroll for calling this to our attention.)

Photo credit: Alexander Lahti

This article was intriguing for a couple of reasons. First, Botswana is the country where we harvest and process luxurious marula oil, and the Chobe National Park in Botswana is a true national treasure.

Photo credit: Hillary Richard

Second, Ms Richard speaks at length to this relatively new role of women in Botswana: Park Guide, a profession long dominated by men. Ms. Richard notes: “Guiding in Botswana is a prestigious career. Applicants must complete a standardized course that includes a placement at a safari camp, plus tests to evaluate English skills and scholastic aptitude.”

These women love their jobs. We support all efforts at elevating the status of women everywhere, especially in such challenging and demanding careers.

Chobe Game Lodge. Photo credit: Joao Silva, New York Times

Third, we encourage our readers – their friends and family – to consider traveling to this beautiful country and embarking on a great and memorable adventure: a safari! A number of excellent lodges are available, offering services and facilities that will meet even the highest standards of travelers.

Looking to travel Botswana? We can help. While we do not profess to be travel agents, we can answer questions and get people pointed in the right direction. Just ask.

Maybe we will see you here!

The Story of Marula, Elephants, and Beer

As many bloggers will note, sometimes staying on topic can be difficult. Anyone, who has ever written a paper or a journal, knows to stay on topic. Fortunately, no such rule exists for blogging!

In a previous post… actually previous two posts, we tried to stay focused on marula. DLG sells marula oil to international clients, so we have a particular interest in the subject: What makes marula oil so special? But, as in life, we have those “squirrel!” moments. Something attracts our attention, and off we go!

Photo credit: Ross Couper and Singita Safaris

This time, it was elephants! But, we stayed clear, intent on marula. No great, gray pachyderms would deter us from our appointed rounds. (Actually, elephants and marula do have their own story!)

Our focus this time is the marula fruit itself, the pulp that serves as food for animals and humans. But like many other kinds of fruit, marula can also be fermented. People in southern Africa make a “beer” (“mokhope” or “ubuganu”) from the fresh fruit, although “beer” may be the wrong descriptor. For those of us, who have brewed beer at home, about 4 weeks is required to complete the brewing process.

Not so with marula. We are talking a mere couple of days here. Days, not weeks. In fact, anything past three days is probably too much. After that, the concoction is very potent – even if any is left to drink!

Brewing marula beer is a cultural and social activity, taking place in the first few months of the year when ripe fruit is available… and there is plenty of ripe fruit! Woman peel the fruit, crush the pulp, and remove the stones (similar to plums). (Watch this video for a demonstration.) Water is added in an equal amount to the mash (oh, yes, don’t forget to remove the worms first), which is then left in a covered bucket for…

… one day, maybe two. If you are brave, you might try the three-day beer. Anything past that, fair warning!

After that, it is festival time! One of the biggest is the Limpopo Marula Festival. Out in the villages, however, people sit around in a shady circle, scoop beer from a communal vat, share large pitchers of the brew, and give thanks for fruit, the “mokhope,” and the wonderful, joyous tradition passed from generation to generation.

Now, about the elephants…. Well, maybe next time!

Marula – from Stem to Stern (or root)

Photo credit: Stephen Sporik. Paintings inside Pomongwe Cave.

We noted, in a previous post, a cave in Zimbabwe: Pomongwe cave. When discussing marula, specifically marula oil, bringing a cave into the conversation does not seem relevant. Except that it is from a historical context.

Marula has been part of the African life for centuries. As far back as ten thousand years, and very probably longer, marula has been part of the southern African diet. The fruit is highly nutritious, as are the seed kernels. Inside Pomongwe cave, evidence exists that over twenty million marula fruits were eaten.

Photo credit: Brett Hilton-Batber

The marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea) is one of Africa’s treasures. Not only is the fruit so highly valued, but every component of the tree can serve a vital purpose. The tree bears fruit from January through March – give or take several weeks, depending upon location, beginning when the tree reaches seven to ten years of age. Trees continue fruiting into their hundredth year and beyond (at over fifty feet tall, the ancient trees are quite majestic!).

While the fruit itself is important (especially to us here at DLG, and we will discuss it in future posts), Africans have used virtually every part of the tree:  The wood can be carved and the bark made into a dye or brewed into a tonic used as part of a marriage ritual (marula is known as the “marriage tree”). The bark contains antihistamines and is also used to treat fever, malaria, scorpion stings, snake bites, dysentery, and diarrhea.

The “mopane worm” – Saturniidae “Emperor moth” caterpillar. Popular food item in southern Africa. Large numbers of caterpillars can be harvested before the start of the rainy season, dried, and stored. Photo credit: P.A. Hulley.

The inner bark makes rope. Insects – e.g., the large Saturniid caterpillar, a resident of the tree, and the larvae of the cerambycid wood-boring beetle – can be roasted as nutritious treats. (We here are DLG have enjoyed the mopane worm as part of our meal.) The leaves are commonly used to treat heartburn and indigestion.

Marula trees are dioecious, i.e., they have a gender. The Venda believe bark infusions can determine the sex of an unborn child. If a woman wants a son, the male tree is used; a daughter, the female tree. But, if the infusion fails (a child of the opposite sex is born), then the child is designated as very special: he or he defied the spirits.

We cannot forget the roots, which are used for bilharzia (a disease caused by a parasite worm), sore eyes, weakness, and making an alcoholic medicine known as kati.

Finally, the fruit.  Inside the fruit, and held firmly by a concrete hard pit or stone, are one to four seed kernels. These are tasty, protein-rich food sources, and their high oil content makes for a lovely skin cosmetic – and it is the oil that we will focus on in future posts.

The Story of Marula… opps – make that Hyrax!

When doing research for a blog article, we often stumble upon some interesting information that has nothing to do with the initial topic. In this case, we intended to write about the story of marula oil. The initial idea was to offer the story in two or three parts, depending on the eventual length of the blog post.

But, we found a description of a cave located in Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe. The cave, more specifically Pomongwe Cave, has produced intriguing archaeological findings dating back to pre-middle stone age, including nearly 40,000 stone tools, hearths, cave paintings, and bones – tortoise, large game animals and, most notably, bone fragments of the hyrax, apparently the main menu item for the cave’s inhabitants.

That is an old cave! But, the age of the cave was not what caught our attention. We had to stop and ask: What is a hyrax? That was a new one for us. Toyota builds a truck called Hylux, but we seriously doubt cave dwellers were munching on Toyotas of any model. So, instead of researching marula, we had to know more about the hyrax.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

To our surprise, we ended up on www.wired.com for a few “fun facts” about the hyrax. This little furry animal looks like a large guinea pig, but it is not a rodent. They are actually related to – ready for this? – elephants and manatees!

Somewhere in the evolutionary pathways, the hyrax and its cousins decided on different roads to travel. Today, the hyrax sports tusks, has a multi-chambered stomach (but are not ruminants), and males have testes that change with the season (hyraxes live in colonies usually dominated by a single male, who aggressively defends his territory and females from rivals and in mating season can have his testicles can grow 20 times larger than during the non-breeding season).

And they talk! And sing, and chatter… In fact, as noted in the wired.com article, “hyraxes have at least 21 different vocalizations, including trills, yips, grunts, wails, snorts, twitters, shrieks, growls, and whistles. Males also sing complex songs that can last for several minutes and serve a territorial purpose, like bird song. When researchers looked at how males put together different syllables (wails, chucks, snorts, squeaks, and tweets) to compose a song, they found the order of the syllables was significant; that is, hyrax songs make use of syntax, the manner in which different elements are combined. They also found hyraxes from different regions used different local dialects in their songs.”

Maybe they sing about marula!

Well, if they don’t, we certainly will. Stayed tuned for the Story of Marula in upcoming posts. We will try to keep on topic next time!

Stories… and mysteries to be solved.

For our team located at our marula production facility in Botswana, each day offers a story. Some of the stories relate to the trials and tribulations of running a factory in a country, which cannot guarantee electricity or Internet… or even water at times, those essentials needed to keep a business rolling. Other stories focus on our buying adventures, trips to parts of Botswana, places that invite producers of “Naked and Afraid” to film episodes of contestants challenging the elements for survival.

We go in search of “pips” – those hard cores of the marula fruit. The fruit is like a plum… flesh surrounding a hard core. That core, once the flesh is removed and the “pip” washed and dried, holds one to four “eyes” – the kernels that hold the oil we will process into a clean, rich, pure ingredient for cosmetics.

The pips are collected by Batswana (the citizens refer to themselves as Batswana) and either brought to us “at the gate,” as we call delivery at our door, or we go to the villages and buy the pips directly from the local harvesters. The pips are dry, as the fruit has either rotted away on the ground or been made into a strong “beer,” after which the pips are set in the sun. When ready, the people put the pips in to bags for sale to us.

We purchase literally tens of tons of marula pips during the year.

So, what is the story here? A few days ago, a “bucky” – a small pickup truck – arrived at our gate. In the back of the truck were bags of marula pips, all dried and in beautiful condition. ½ ton of pips! The truck had traveled from Shoshon, about a three-hour drive from the factory. The pips had been collected by a group of people, who are building a church in their community. They all chipped in enough pula (the country’s currency), so the driver could afford petro. The driver and his passenger arrived hungry and thirsty, and we were happy to feed them. The funds for the sale would be applied to their church building.

In fact, they promised us more pips over the coming months. We are delighted! The marula comes from an area we know produces excellent oil. But, beyond that, we achieve our mission of enhancing local economies. The money gained by the sale of a local, sustainable, natural product supports individuals and communities.

A “win-win” – and we love it!

Speaking of stories, we recommend Alexander McCall Smith and his series of novels, “The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” (http://url.ie/11w17), for anyone interested in learning more about Botswana. The stories are delightful and fun to read. Each book offers a picture of Botswana – its land, its people, its development. The stories are a bit dated (set a couple decades ago), but much remains unchanged. And, of course, there are mysteries to be solved….

Bacteria are hot!

Photo credit: Yang H. Ku/C&EN

Just a few short years ago, even as of today, we were buying products that resulted in the demise of “99%” of the germs on our hands, our skin, our hair, or in our mouth. Those nasty bugs on our bods create all kinds of havoc! They don’t deserve to live! Thus, an avalanche of antibacterial toothpastes and lotions and shampoos and dish soaps greeted us on the store shelves.

And, anyone looking for a product that did not include anti-bacterial ingredients had a tough time finding one.

Among the latest trends in cosmetics today is a recognition that bacteria are not purely harmful. Most of the bugs that call our skin and hair home are harmless and some are even beneficial to our health. Like the “probiotic” trend in foods, products that maintain healthy bacteria and yeasts in the gut, cosmetic manufacturers are now looking at a “probiotic” approach to creams and lotions. One track is “feeding” existing “good” bacteria through specialized ingredients or “prebiotics.” A second track is adding bacteria to cosmetics, a similar approach to “probiotic” foods.

In either case, the jury is still out on effectiveness. Skeptics say that evidence is insufficient to warrant adding live bacteria to cosmetics. In addition, they point to regulations that prohibit the sale of “contaminated” products and wonder how the intentional addition of bacteria will be permitted.

Photo credit: Yang H. Ku/C&EN

We are in a new world where cosmetics are concerned, and consumers are curious about the prospects of healthier skin and hair through use of these products. Get ready to see “Beauty and the Bugs” at a cosmetic counter near you, as the big manufacturers are seeing a “healthy” market demand on the near horizon!