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BREVARD, NC—The sky looks foreboding as I head out to the ’Gaia Cares’ benefit but when I get there Ric Scalzo (herbalist, Gaia founder and CEO) assures us that the weather will cooperate. As we make our way to our seats, we are first gifted a Gaia Herb tote bag filled with supplements.
The event starts by Ric telling us Gaia’s mission to give back to the community. Every year they sponsor Golden Courage International, an organization run by Dr. Yun Lu, which aims to provide education to children living in China who are affected by extreme poverty.
Dr. Lu stands before us. He has a soft-spoken voice that belies a strong presence of dignity, humility and intelligence. He tells us that the early work of his organization supported children who have been orphaned because of AIDS (in addition to that work, the organization now provides education and nutrition to vulnerable children in China, and support to families and communities in need of micro-loans, government support and job training). He tells us that the name “Golden Courage” was coined by a girl who was disillusioned until the organization stepped in and helped her with her education. She has since finished college and is now a nurse.
After a brief slideshow, we hear about Dr. Lu’s clinic in Michigan. He reviews with us five items of vital importance for health, such as “Sleep, necessary for detoxification and rejuvenation” and, “Pooping…what are your poops like?” Dr. Lu mentions the toxic nature of constipation and the importance of regularity. “When I go to Ann Arbor and see all the angry drivers, I think THE LIVER! They need more greens.”
The next is stress—“I see a six-year-old and they say to me, ‘Dr. Lu, I am stressed.’ Why are six-year-olds stressed?” Finally, he discusses overindulgences—our addictions, not just what we eat, but how and when we eat, and the need for detoxing.
As my stomach audibly rumbles, Ric steps in to conclude the talk by going over the nine-course dinner awaiting us. We’re offered polenta, an herb-encrusted ricotta appetizer, a fermented bitter melon dish, salad from Gaia’s mammoth organic garden, vegetable/egg stir fry, red chicken, salmon fished by local fishermen in Alaska, and fruit for dessert. Bitter melon, we later learn, is an acquired taste. Since it supports the pancreas and is incredibly healthy, we nibble on it tentatively during the meal.
We go outside and make our way up to a barn. As part of their wellness benefits, Gaia employees are served two meals per week, and supplied vegetables from their company CSA. Gaia also donates veggies to a nearby food pantry from their 15-acre organic vegetable garden.
We gather in the now parting clouds and settling sun, sipping lemonade infused with holy basil extract. Ric tells us that Gaia is the only herbal company that can trace their goods from seed to end product. Most of their herbs are grown right in Brevard and that their area of Transylvania County is one of the most bio-diverse sites in the country.
More Information Ric imparts about Gaia’s herbs:
• Their Ginkgo Trees (an herb used for memory and cognition) are intentionally grown with many supporting trunks to give proliferation to their abundant leaves. Ric tells us that Gaia is a company doesn’t use any toxic solvents in their extraction of Ginkgo).
• Hawthorne has cardio health properties, and the trees on site are intentionally planted near the Ginkgo for a heart/mind balance.
• Ashwagandha is an herb used to balance night time cortisol levels
• Before we even get to the Echinacea we see its plentiful purple flowers swaying in the almost stilled air. We are asked, “did you know symptoms of a cold usually don’t start until four days after exposure?”
• Astragalus—“tastes good in soups and works in a deep way on our immune system.”
• Stinging Nettle is one of the healthiest herbs we can eat (and we are served some)
• Feverfew works medicinally for pelvic and migraine pain
• Lemon balm- “Wave your hands over it and smell it,” Ric instructs us. It smells divine.