School of Ayurvedic Diet & Digestion

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Merry Mistletoe!

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Mistletoe, when placed above the head of an unsuspecting bystander or strategically hung before a party, requires that two people standing beneath its bough kiss. Here's something you probably didn't know: Mistletoe is a parasitic plant with poisonous berries. It's also a strong nervine that has been therapeutically used to stop epileptic seizures and aid in difficult sleep disorders, although it is seldom used outside clinical settings because of its strength and potency.

Perhaps its parasitic nature inspires humans to also take what they want from an unknowing victim. Mistletoe can be seen growing as a bush on trees such as the Ash, Hawthornes, Lime, Cedar, and Larch. Birds pick its white berries. When dropped, their sticky surface adheres to a tree which becomes it's home and host. Mistletoe is a true parasite, meaning that at no point in its life does it receive nutrition on its own. Without the host, mistletoe wouldn't survive.

Partridge and A Pear Tree

Pear trees are another symbolic plant at Christmastime, and they have an interesting relationship with mistletoe. Researchers noticed that while mistletoe boasts a high success rate of parasitism on most deciduous trees, it doesn't survive on the pear tree. Ayurvedically speaking, this makes sense: pears are high in ojas (the Ayurvedic term for immunity, and healthy, glowing vitality). Ojas are high in the entire pear tree, thus protecting it from parasitic invaders like mistletoe.

Mistletoe throughout the Ages

This pesky plant has been attracting attention for quite some time. The Ancient Greeks revered mistletoe as an aphrodisiac. The Druids, who believed it to cure infertility and protect from all poisons, conducted a ritual in which mistletoe is cut down in a ceremony involving the sacrifice of two bulls. Shakespeare refers to it in his poetry as "the baleful mistletoe."

But why are we obligated to kiss under mistletoe? The answer lies in a Norse myth in which the god Baldur was so loved by his mother Frigg that she vowed to protect him from all threats. She was very thorough. But, she forgot the baleful mistletoe. Baldur's jealous brother Loki, whose antics have been made famous in the recent Thor flicks, whittled an arrow out of mistletoe wood and shot him dead. To remind us of mistletoe and negate its deadly power, Frigg declared any who passed under it must kiss, not kill.

Happy Holidays!

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About John Joseph Immel

About the Author

John Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda biocharacteristics. His approach to Ayurveda is clinical, yet exudes an ease which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda, offering professional clinical training in Ayurveda for over 15 years.

John's interest in Ayurveda and specialization in digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, as well as public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.

John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well. Outside of work, John enjoys spending time with his wife and 7 kids, and pursuing his love of theology, philosophy, and language.

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