Before I started a tea company I was a physicist working at one of the top research labs in the world (AT&T Bell Labs). So my approach combines a background in physics with training as an herbalist. Rather than looking for herbs that addressed the myriad of symptoms characterized by the top health concerns. My approach was to look for root causes from a physics perspective that were common to all or most of these conditions. Fundamentally, I was asking two really big questions. Why do we get old? And why do we get sick?
From my research I identified 3 core physics principles that I believe are root causes of aging and most illness: oxidation, hysteresis and entropy. Today, let's start with oxidation.
Oxidation: We hear lots of talk about anti-oxidants and free-radicals. Most of us adopted these terms into our “wellness” vocabulary without really understanding what the words mean.
Oxidation is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. Oxygen is the 6th most common element and makes up a whopping 60% of our body mass. Due to its atomic structure, oxygen wants to either combine with other atoms or molecules or steal electrons from them. We call this process, “oxidation.” It happens in our world all the time. Fire, for example, is very fast oxidation. Rust is slow oxidation.
It also happens in our bodies several million times per day. In fact, our very survival depends on it. Our body derives energy from the food we eat by oxidizing carbohydrates. This oxidation releases energy, which in turn fuels the cells of our body. That is why if we deprive our brains of oxygen we get brain damage. Essentially the brain cells run out of energy and die, in the same way a fire will go out if you deprive it of oxygen.
So far, so good. The problem is this. Very often when an oxygen molecule combines with another molecule or steals an electron, it leaves behind molecules or atoms who are now missing one or more electrons. These orphaned molecules are called “free radicals.” The presence of free radicals kicks off a chain reaction. The free radical steal from surrounding molecules creating more free radicals. They in turn steal from other molecules and so on and so on.
This chain reaction leaves in its wake molecules that are chemically and structurally different than before. Since this is happening in our bodies, you can translate “structurally different” as “damaged.” If there are enough altered molecules in a given area this leads to tissue damage, mutation and cancers. The accumulation of this damaged tissue has a name. It is called aging.
By the way, not all free radicals in our body come from the internal process of oxidation. Remember I said that fire is very fast oxidation? Guess what fire produces lots of? Yep, free radicals. So imagine what happens when you smoke? The smoke is the product of a very rapid oxidation process. When you inhale smoke you are voluntarily introducing millions more of these free radicals into your system, ditto for pollution and lots of other external sources.
The chain reaction of free radical driven damage can be stopped quite simply. If a free radical encounters a molecule with electrons to spare then the free radical is “given” the spare electron and is neutralized without creating any more free radicals. We call a molecule with electrons to spare an “antioxidant.”
In our bodies anti-oxidants can come from two places. Either we consume them in the food we eat or our bodies naturally produce anti-oxidants enzymes. Step one in fighting aging and many common diseases is increasing the number of anti-oxidants present in our bodies so that the free radical chain reaction is stopped as soon as possible.