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Updated: Apr 20, 2022

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way.” - William Blake

Along the African Savannah on a wet and foggy day four decades ago, giraffes meandered along the tree lines, occasionally shaking their heads in the rain. They began feeding on umbrella thorn acacias, trees that produce many succulent leaves and pods that the giraffes adore. Suddenly, the animals stopped eating and jerked their heads up and down in quick succession, as though having eaten something bitter. They began walking away from their food source, only stopping to eat from branches one hundred yards away.

Make Them Eat Ethylene

Scientists observing the animals that day later discovered the acacias had pumped toxic substances into their leaves to rid themselves of the large animals. The giraffes didn’t like the caustic taste and moved to other safer sources in the vicinity. The acacia trees produced a warning gas (ethylene) that not only spited the animals but signaled to neighboring trees of the same species that danger was imminent.

Immediately, all the trees also pumped the ethylene into their leaves to prepare themselves. The giraffes were not deterred and moved to find trees that were too far away to get the warning message. Another option for them was to move upwind where the scent messages are not carried to nearby trees.

Our Silent Companions

Trees hold a majestic place as the world’s oldest living organisms. Since humans have occupied the earth, they have been our silent companions, pervading our most enduring stories. Author Hermann Hesse called them “the most penetrating of preachers.” As science expands, it’s obvious trees have a lot to teach us about communication, connection, and even love. Theirs is a silent, complex language, and one that shares information via electrical impulses, taste, and smell.

Indigenous people living in the forests across the earth understood the trees; they knew that they communicated and could send chemicals into their leaves. They understood that if an oak tree tumbled into a river, the water became acidic, encouraging plankton to flourish. As arboreal research from scientists around the world documents the role forests play in making our world a better place to exist, we’re only just beginning to understand arboreal consciousnesses. What the research shows are that trees experience pain, have memories, and that tree parents live together with their children. And they talk to each other.

“All the trees here, and in every forest that is not too damaged, are connected to each other through underground fungal networks. Trees share water and nutrients through networks, and also use them to communicate. They send distress signals about drought and disease, for example, or insect attacks, and other trees alter their behavior when they receive these messages,” says Peter Wohlleben, a German forester and author. Because of his work in tree research, a broader audience is introduced to the field, and science better understands their behaviors. The latest arboreal studies, conducted at universities around the world, confirm what Wohlleben has long suspected from practically living in the forest - trees are conscious, social, deeply sophisticated, and even intelligent.

What Is Love To The Trees

In a mountainous forest in western Germany, Wohlleben slushes through thick fresh snow with enormous black boots. He stops at two large birch trees and points into their branches.

“These two are old friends,” he tells writer Richard Grant with the Smithsonian Magazine. “They are very considerate in sharing the sunlight, and their root systems are closely connected. In cases like this, when one dies, the other usually dies soon afterward, because they are dependent on each other.”

It was long assumed that trees just existed, struggling for sunlight and water along with all the other trees. Wohlleben proves the opposite is true. Trees of the same genus are communal and quite often form bonds with trees of other species, even an emotional connection. The evolution of forest trees shows them living in cooperative, symbiotic relationships, governed by communication and a joint intelligence analogous to an ant colony. And the real connections are occurring underground.

Mycorrhizal networks consist of minute, hairlike root tips that unite trees together with microscopic fungal filaments to form an underground network. These networks appear to exist as a conjoined association between trees and fungi, and it’s believed they share nutrients like water and food.

In this cooperative environment, the fungi consume part of the sugar that trees photosynthesize from sunlight. The sugar feeds the fungi, and they forage the soil for nutrients that are consumed by the trees. Every member of a forest is connected and works together to live.

The Love Between Beech Trees

Wohlleben explains the time he discovered a gigantic five-foot beech stump in this forest, and he surmised the tree’s demise as occurring 500 years ago. When he chiseled the surface with his knife, Wohlleben found something astounding. The wood was still green with chlorophyll. There was only one possibility; the neighboring trees kept it alive with nutrients through the expansive network. “When beeches do this, they remind me of elephants,” he told the Smithsonian. “They are reluctant to abandon their dead, especially when it’s a big, old, revered matriarch.”

When other “family” member trees are sick or dying, the other trees help nurture it back to life by the root and fungi system. When they need water, they share their own. Trees are social beings that never isolate from the ecosystem but keep a constant and broad connection to the environment they live in. They communicate to fungi, grass, and even birds.

Wohlleben and other scientists tell us trees can detect scents through their leaves, and they possess a sense of smell just like humans. They also have a sense of taste. For example, when certain trees are ambuscaded by leaf-eating caterpillars, they taste the caterpillar saliva, and release pheromones that invite parasitic wasps. The wasps lay their eggs in the caterpillars, and the wasp larvae eat the caterpillars from the inside. “Very unpleasant for the caterpillars,” says Wohlleben. “Very clever of the trees.”

So, a forest is not merely a forest. Neighboring trees assist each other through their root systems, by a complex system of reciprocities. If this is not incredible enough, these arboreal connections are even more complex. Trees seem to recognize their own roots from those of other species and even of their own relatives. So, like humans, a tree is only as strong as the forest that surrounds it. There is something to learn from that, and we should begin to listen.


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Updated: Apr 20, 2022

Note: This is the first in a series of blogs on the science of tea. Learn why it's good for you, and all about the myriad kinds of tea (we love tea!)

Over 158 million Americans will drink tea on any given day, and it’s obviously the go-to-beverage when plain water won't do. Among those 158 billion tea consumers are green tea aficionados. While only 15% are green tea drinkers, its growth is outpacing all other forms of tea, with a 60% increase in consumption since 2004. Why the crazy growth? Well, green tea has a lot to make you happy about.

A Diverse History

Green tea was discovered in its greenest form over five thousand years ago. While stories vary, some versions of the leaf's history have a flower magically falling into a teacup, while another has an Emperor chewing a leaf imaging how delicious it would be steeped in water. The most important book to set the record straight was Cha Jing, or Tea classic, written around 600 AD. The book detailed exactly how a cup of green tea should be made and how it should be served. Today, green tea is prepared in the exact same way (or should be), and drinking it has multiple health benefits. Green tea is the result of semi-oxidized leaves from camellia sinensis. Flavors and aromas vary greatly depending on the season of harvest, country of origin and method used to process. Flavored green teas are especially popular, according to the Local Tea Company, where the best-sellers are Goji Green, Organic Strawberry Smile and Acerola Green Tea. They offer 13 other green teas.

Feel the Power

Green tea is more than just a hydrating beverage that tastes great. The green tea plant contains a bevy of powerful compounds that make it into every cup. Rich in polyphenols (compounds great at reducing inflammation in the body), green tea is a cancer-fighting champion. Green tea also contains a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG is one of the most powerful compounds in green tea. Catechins are natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and provide other cellular protections. Together, these substances help reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, protecting cells and molecules from damage. These free radicals play a large role in aging and many types of diseases. The benefits of green tea are numerous, so it's worth adding to your diet.

Perhaps the best news (and one that may make you happiest), is that green tea accelerates fat burning and boosts metabolic rate. Look at any weight loss supplement, and you will see green tea on the label, that's because green tea is a dynamo for assisting weight loss programs.

Brain Protection

But let's not leave out our most important organ, the brain. With an increase in brain-related diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, the brain needs protection, too. The bioactive compounds in green tea can have various protective effects on the brain. They may reduce the risk of dementia, a common neurodegenerative disorder in older adults. Multiple studies show that the catechin compounds in green tea can have various protective effects on neurons in animal studies, possibly lowering the risk of dementia and memory loss.

Green tea consumption around the world is growing, not only for its wonderful taste, but for its endless health benefits. And as science backs up these benefits, it will only grow in popularity. Try to choose a higher caliber brand of green tea, as some of the lower quality brands can contain excessive amounts of fluoride.

What's the best green tea? A great source is the Local Tea Company, featuring locally inspired loose-leaf teas. Try their diverse blends of green tea and so many others.


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Updated: Apr 20, 2022

“Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.”

― Honoré de Balzac

In the mid-nineteen-sixties, Romanian ruler Nicolae Ceausescu enacted Decree 77, which banned abortions and restricted contraceptives. His skewed vision was to increase the population and improve industrial progress. The birth rate soared by thirteen percent in one year, and the infant population exploded. It left about 150,000 infants in state-run institutions that were unable to care for so many children. In one of the most heartbreaking stories in history, the babies were left crying in cribs, with only one nurse in charge of as many as twenty-five children. The infants often experienced severe sensory deprivation in what should have been their most important months.

Touch Starved

In early 2000, scientists from Harvard, Tulane, and the University of Maryland began a study of one-hundred and thirty-six Romanian children abandoned either in foster care or in government-run orphanages. Their goal was to investigate what kind of impact sensory deprivation—specifically of touch—had on children (and of course its effects on humans in general).

The results were horrific. Denied sensory stimulation, the children ceased producing growth hormone and had diminished IQ. Most of the children were cross-eyed because they had nothing to observe and focus on, so the eye muscles did not develop. When the infants were moved and received proper sensory stimulation (for example, being held), almost fully recovered.

Sensory (touch) deprivation is as real today as ever, and it includes adults as well as children. During our current crisis, people are more isolated than at any other time in human history. Humans are wired to be touched, especially when we are lonely and anxious. Without it, our health begins to suffer. Here are five science-based truths of how powerful human touch is.

1. The Midas Touch Study

An interesting study involving waitresses and tips demonstrated that customers gave larger tips when they are lightly touched by the waitress. The simple study examined the effects of two types of touch in a monitored setting of a restaurant. When the waitress returned the customer’s change, she lightly touched a hand or shoulder. The tips were larger in the customers that were touched. This exemplifies the power of non-sexual human touch, and why we need it, even in its most basic form. Like the infants who were touch-deprived during the Decree 77, this can be traced back to mothers, who in early life nourished their infants by holding, hugging, and speaking to them. We crave and need touch as adults, too.

2. Hugs Help Buffer Stress And Strengthen The Immune System

A study that was published in Psychological Science and led by Carnegie Mellon psychologist Sheldon Cohen, examined if social support helped reduce stress in humans. While other sites offer much more definitive information on the nature of stress, the research showed that the more people experienced social conflict, the more at risk they were for illness. Social support helps to eliminate susceptibility to common diseases. Hugs that are at least twenty seconds long are a prime component of that support and even reduce symptoms in people already infected with a cold. Allowing someone to hug you conveys non-verbal support and increasing the frequency of hugs is an effective way of reducing the effects of stress. The protective effect of hugs, the research showed, comes from the physical contact itself. Those who receive more hugs are more protected from illness. At the University of Vienna, researchers found that oxytocin is released in the body during a hug. Known as the “love drug,” oxytocin is produced in mother’s milk to give babies comfort. It’s also a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of social connection, emotional bonding, and decreased anxiousness. It helps reduce blood pressure, lower anxiety, improve memory, and is a stress-reliever.

3. Touch Improves Human Relationships

Families use touch extensively, and it helps deepen relationships in a powerful way. In the 1950s, there was a belief system that you didn’t hug your kids because it was considered socially unacceptable. The mindset was that kids don’t need to be coddled. Even today, there are many fathers who are reluctant to hug their sons because of how they will be perceived. The truth is, males need hugs, too, but most are afraid to admit, or even afraid of receiving a hug by another male. A 2011 study by the Kinsey Institute surveyed one-thousand men and their female partners on hugs and found that men thought it is more important than sex. Touch increases bonding (through oxytocin) with those around us, and it deepens the emotional connection.

4. Pain Reduction

New research at the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder explores the concept of touch as it relates to interpersonal synchronization in the context of pain. The study confirmed previous research that demonstrated that couples synchronize physiologically just by being present with each other. When the woman was subjected to pain and the partner did not touch her, that physiological connection was lost. When the male partner held her hand, heart rates and respiration soared. Also, empathy in the male partner spiked when holding hands. The study showed that the more physiologically synced we are, the more our pain diminishes. Touch is involved in interpersonal synchronization, and it increases physiological connections whether there is pain or not.

5. Touch Makes Us Healthier And Happier

Touch affects our overall health, and the health of our relationships. With the release of oxytocin and the stronger physiological connections, our immune systems are super-charged, and we are better able to fight off disease. Our moods are altered, so we are happier humans. The evidence suggests that incorporating regular touch into relationships is linked to a stronger bond between couples. Touch facilitates relationships, even if it’s just a hug. As Patch Adams said, “The consequence of a hug could save a life. I’ve seen it happen.”

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