Latest Articles

Six Essentials for Optimal Wintertime Health

By Russell Jaffe, MD, Contrbuting Writer

With shorter days and colder weather, many people have trouble finding the motivation to stay healthy during the winter. The following tips can prepare people for what winter has in store for us, and more.

A (Relatively) Short History of HRT

By Sarah Falcone & Becky Wright, Contributing Writers

Medical perspectives and public attitudes about post-menopausal hormone replacement have swung widely in the century since hormones were first described. Here we review a brief history of the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Timing is Everything in HRT for Menopause

By Sarah Falcone & Becky Wright, Contributing Writers

The current landscape for Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a confusing one.

Pharmaceutical industry marketing, conflicting study data, variable medical opinions, and confusing social messages about gender and aging have left many modern women completely baffled about what to do when faced with the challenges of menopause.

Leaky Gut, Leaky Brain: Toward a New Model of Alzheimer’s Disease

By Madiha Saeed, MD, Contributing Writer

In recent years, deeper research into the pathogenic role of chronic inflammation is offering some cautious hope that through comprehensive holistic lifestyle interventions, functional medicine practitioners can help to slow or even arrest the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. In some cases, we might even be able to reverse the damage.

In New Self-Policing Effort, Herb 
Industry Urges, “Burn, Don’t Return”

By Erik Goldman, Editor in Chief

Leaders in the dietary supplement industry have a sharp new directive for manufacturers who discover adulterants or contaminants in botanical raw materials: “Don’t Return It, Burn It.”

The innovative self-policing policy, launched in October, and supported by all the major herbal industry trade groups, puts direct economic pressure on raw materials suppliers to improve the quality of the ingredients they sell into the US market.

Harnessing Hydrogen’s Antioxidant Power to Treat Autoimmune Disease

By Carrie Decker, ND, Contributing Writer

Although hydrogen (H2) is well known as an alternative fuel, recognized as such by the Energy Policy Act of 1992, it was not until 2007 that it began to really make the scene in medicine.

Since then, there’s been an explosion of research on the use of H2 for a wide range of medical conditions. Evidence is mounting that H2 has potential benefits in the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions like psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

HydrogenHydrogen was first used in a medical context in the 1940s, for the purpose of preventing decompression sickness in divers. However, it was largely impractical due to its high flammability; H2 is easily ignited at a concentration of approximately 4% in air.

In 2007, the first research using H2 dissolved in air at a concentration of less than 4%, or in a cellular nutrient medium, was published in Nature Medicine. Researchers at the Nippon Medical School, Kawasaki City, Japan, looked at the potential of H2 to minimize oxidative damage in a rodent model of brain injury. They showed that H2 is a powerful antioxidant that easily and rapidly diffuses across cell membranes (Ohsawa I, et al. Nat Med. 2007; 13(6): 688-94).

Since then, H2 has been administered in clinical studies as an inhaled gas, dissolved in water for oral delivery or for topical application, and infused into saline solution for intravenous delivery.

From human research we know that molecular H2 has the potential to improve metabolic health (Nakao A, et al. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2012; 2: 12), fatty liver disease (Korovljev D, et al. Clin Res Hepatol Gastroenterol. 2019; [Epub ahead of print]), exercise performance (LeBaron TW, et al. J Lifestyle Med. 2019; 9(1): 36–43), and autonomic nervous system balance (Mizuno K, et al. Med Gas Res. 2017; 7(4): 247–255).

It can minimize brain damage following cerebral infarction (Ono H, et al. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2017; 26 (11): 2587-2594), reduce the symptom burden associated with Parkinson’s disease (Yoritaka A, et al. Mov Disord. 2013; 28(6): 836-839), and minimize adverse effects of radiation therapy for liver cancer (Kang KM, et al. Med Gas Res. 2011), among many other things.

Weakness is Strength

One of the curious things we’ve learned from the recent spate of studies is that the antioxidant efficacy of H2 is related to the fact that it is a weak reducing agent, not a strong one (Matei N, et al. Med Gas Res. 2018; 8(3): 98–102). This means it preferentially reacts and neutralizes the most highly reactive and toxic oxidants (such as the hydroxyl radical [•OH] and peroxynitrite [ONOO-]), while sparing weaker but biologically necessary oxidants like nitric oxide (NO) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2).

The antioxidant characteristics of H2, its biological effects, and its therapeutic benefits have been explored in roughly 450 recent publications reflecting over 170 different human and animal diseases. Ishihara and colleagues at the College of Life and Health Sciences, Chubu University, Japan, summarized the findings from 321 of these studies published between 2007 and 2015. In aggregate, they report that H2 treatment gives meaningful effects in essentially all organ systems (Ichihara M, et al. Med Gas Res. 2015; 5: 12).

Two years ago, Ge and colleagues at Taishan Medical University in China published a comprehensive review of the literature on H2, with detailed explanations of its various mechanisms. While they acknowledge that there are still many unanswered questions, they are firm in their conclusion that, “H2-based therapies show great promise as novel and innovative tools to prevent and treat human ailments that are currently major health burdens globally” (Ge L, et al. Oncotarget. 2017; 8(60): 102653–102673).

HPharmacokinetics

Because of its size, neutral charge, relative non-reactivity, and non-polarity, H2 readily passes through cellular membranes as well as the blood–brain barrier. Consequently, it can get into all tissues and cellular compartments.

After consumption of H2-rich water, the H2 concentration of the breath and plasma rises in a dose-dependent manner, peaking between 5 to 15 minutes after ingestion, and returning to baseline roughly 45 to 90 minutes later, depending on the amount ingested. But H2’s physiological effects are not limited to the time it remains in circulation, as has been shown in a number of studies.

For example, Hara and colleagues showed that human umbilical vein cell cultures grown in a hydrogen-rich medium were resistant to the damaging effects of one form of dioxin long after the H2 was undetectable in the medium (Hara F, et al. Circ J. 2016; 80(9): 2037-46).

The antioxidant effects of H2 are most prominent under conditions of high physiological and oxidative stress—the very situations in which we most need those effects (Ohta S. Methods Enzymol. 2015; 555: 289-317).

H2 turns on the transcription of other important antioxidants, detoxification enzymes, and proteins required for glutathione synthesis and recycling

The body always experiences some degree of oxidative stress, and actually needs mild oxidative stress in order to function properly. Naturally occurring oxidants such as NO and H2O2 trigger cellular signaling pathways and necessary processes like vasodilation. Mild physical stressors such as exercise, intermittent dietary restriction, and even mild ischemia enhance these healthy processes and generally have a beneficial effect (Mattson MP. Ageing Res Rev. 2008; 7(1): 1-7).

However, when the body is put into states of constant high stress, as is the case in severe emotional or psychological duress, during extreme physical exertion, in chronic diseases, or when undergoing invasive and toxic therapies for a condition like cancer, the endogenous responses are pushed beyond the threshold of adaptability.

It is precisely in these conditions, when oxidative stress has gone beyond the normal adaptive threshold, that many of the benefits of H2 are truly realized. Molecular hydrogen is able to reduce the excessive quantities of many of the most damaging oxidants (Sakai T, et al. Int J Mol Sci. 2019; 20(2), 456; Itoh T, et al. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2011; 411(1): 143-149).

In addition to reducing •OH and ONOO- radicals, H2 turns on the transcription of other important antioxidants, detoxification enzymes, and proteins required for glutathione synthesis and recycling (Buendia I, et al. Pharmacol Ther. 2016; 157: 84-104).

H2 oncotarget 08 102653 g001Numerous models of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammation and ischemia/reperfusion injury have shown that treatment with H2, in its various forms, helps protect against excessive inflammation and subsequent cellular and tissue injury. Treatment with Hdecreases the overproduction of proinflammatory cytokines and oxidants, including NO, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-1β, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα).

Given all the data describing the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of H2, it is not surprising that researchers have begun looking at it in the context of autoimmune disease.

H2 for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The first publication of this nature was an open-label pilot study looking at the impact of consumption of supersaturated H2 water on patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). 

Twenty patients with RA drank 530 ml of water containing 4-5 parts per million molecular hydrogen daily for 4 weeks. This was followed by a 4-week washout period, and then another 4-week cycle of daily H2 water.

Fifteen of the 20 participants were either on methotrexate or abatacept, or a combination of these two drugs. The other five were not on any RA medications. No one in the study was being treated with steroid hormones.

Following each 4-week phase, the researchers measured key markers of oxidative stress as well as RA symptom burden.

They concluded that H2 “effectively reduces oxidative stress in patients with this condition,” noting that this correlated with amelioration of symptoms.

RA disease activity scores, based on assessment of 28 joints (DAS28), improved in most participants. In the first four-week treatment cycle, scores decreased in 18 of the 20 patients. By the end of the study, the average DAS28 score had decreased from a baseline mean of 3.83 to 2.26. Five of the patients achieved remissions (defined for the purpose of this study as a DAS28 < 2.3), and 4 were totally symptom-free by the end of the trial (Ishibashi T, et al. Med Gas Res. 2012; 2(1): 27).

This is not surprising given that reactive oxygen species (ROS), especially the •OH hydroxyl radical, are thought to be key drivers of the tissue damage that characterizes RA (Khojah HM, et al. Free Radic Biol Med. 2016; 97: 285-291).

One particularly interesting finding from this study was that the DAS28 score continued to improve during the four-week washout period, suggesting that the H2 treatment continued to have residual effects. Urinary 8-hydroxy-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) levels, a marker of DNA oxidative damage also improved not only during treatment but during the washout phase as well, remaining below the baseline through the end of the study.

It is possible that some of the longer-term effects seen with H2 are due as much to its impact on cellular signal transduction, protein activity, and genetic transcription, as to its direct antioxidant effects (Qian L, et al. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer; 2015).

Building on their initial pilot study, Ishibashi and colleagues studied H2-saline infusion treatment in a cohort of 24 RA patients. The participants were randomized to be treated with either 500 ml pure saline, or saline infused with H2 to a concentration of 1.6 ppm. The intravenous treatments were given daily for five consecutive days.

The DAS28 scores in the H2-treated group decreased from an average of 5.18 at baseline to 4.02 immediately after the five days of infusions. Four weeks after the final treatments, the average score was 3.74. There were no meaningful changes in DAS28 scores among the subjects getting the placebo saline infusions (Ishibashi T, et al. Int Immunopharmacol. 2014; 21(2): 468-73).

The investigators also reported statistically significant reductions in the levels of IL-6 and matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3)—two key markers of inflammation and joint damage—among the H2-treated patients. In the placebo group, these markers increased. MMP-3 is a strong predictor of joint destruction in people with RA (Yamanaka H, et al. Arthritis Rheum. 2000; 43(4): 852-58).

H2 for Psoriasis

Ishibashi’s group has also begun exploring the potential of H2 as a treatment for psoriasis. They published a series of three cases using a variety of different H2 administration techniques: inhalation, intravenous infusion of H2-saline, and oral ingestion of H2-infused water.

Regardless of the mode of delivery, the treated patients showed significant improvements in skin lesions and psoriatic arthritis symptoms. The visually-obvious clearance of lesions and the reductions of DAS28 and Psoriasis Area Severity Index (PASI) scores were accompanied by decreases in the levels of inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-17 (Ishibashi T, et al. Mol Med Rep. 2015; 12: 2).

Bathing in H2-rich water also has been studied as a treatment for psoriasis. In a study of 41 psoriasis patients, H2 baths resulted in a 75% or greater improvement in the PASI score in 10 of 41 patients after eight weeks. In comparison, only 1 of 34 patients in the control group showed this level of improvement (Zhu Q, et al. Sci Rep. 2018; 8(1): 8051).

Whole-body bathing may not be practical for most psoriasis patients, but soaking a portion of the body that is most affected with psoriasis lesions in H2-rich water is not tremendously difficult and worthy of consideration.

Safety

Because H2 is produced to some extent by the bacteria normally present in the digestive tract, our bodies are routinely exposed to it.

Numerous studies using considerably higher doses than what H2-rich water provides, have shown that H2 has a very high safety profile and is not cytotoxic, even at very high concentrations (Friess SL, et al. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 1978; 46(3): 717-25; Nagatani K, et al. Med Gas Res. 2013; 13: 3).

In one study, researchers observed hypoglycemic episodes in an insulin-dependent patient with mitochondrial myopathy, who was treated with hydrogen-enriched water. The problem was resolved by lowering the patient’s insulin dose (Ito M, et al. Med Gas Res. 2011; 1(1): 24).

H2 has not been clinically studied as an intervention for young children or for women during pregnancy. However, animal studies in these settings have shown protective effects against disease and toxin exposure. This positive effect extends to fetal animals in utero (Nakano T, et al. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2015; 57(3): 178–182).

The most convenient way for people to obtain the benefits of molecular hydrogen is via supplements that can release precise doses of H2 when mixed with plain water. Typically, these are effervescent tablets containing magnesium and a natural organic acid which react with water to release H2.

The concern about flammability of molecular hydrogen, which limited the medical utility of hydrogen gas in the 1940s, does not pertain to H2-rich water or to Hsupplements, because the amount of H2 in saturated or even supersaturated water is far below the flammability threshold.

With so much promising data from pilot clinical trials and animal studies, we can expect to see more clinical research on H2 for treatment of autoimmune conditions in the coming years. It is a very safe, low-cost approach, and it’s potential to give sustained benefits for weeks after cessation of the intervention is particularly exciting, as this would minimize cost and the hassle of having to take daily supplements indefinitely.

 

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Don’t Worry, Be Hemp-y: Discovering The Culinary Value of Hemp Seeds

By Ellen Kanner, Contributing Writer

Hemp seed oilHemp is definitely the “It” plant these days. Thanks largely to the public’s interest in cannabidiol (CBD), hemp and cannabis-derived products are poised to hit $2.6 billion in sales by 2022.

But in the midst of this Cannapalooza, one vital part of the plant is being overlooked and underloved: hemp seeds.

No, they do not contain THC, CBD, or other brain-tickling cannabinoids, but these humble seeds are culinary and nutritional powerhouses that definitely earn the status of “superfood.”

There are misconceptions about hemp seeds that deter some people from trying them. Which is unfortunate, because hemp seeds pack a big nutritional punch.

First off, let’s be clear about what plant they come from.

The plants we know as “Hemp” and “Cannabis” (aka Marijuana) are from the same botanical genus, called Cannabis. The difference between them is in the relative concentrations of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids that they produce.

As defined by the Federal government in last year’s historic Farm Bill, “Industrial Hemp”—the main source of hemp seeds used for food—produces significant quantities of CBD, but only very small amounts (under 0.3% dry weight) of THC, the compound largely responsible for the psychotropic effects of Marijuana.

The forms of cannabis that are sold for recreational or therapeutic use as "Marijuana," produce both CBD and THC, the latter in high amounts. The difference between “hemp” and “cannabis” is a regulatory distinction, not a taxonomic one.

Both hemp and cannabis/marijuana produce many other cannabinoids, which researchers are only beginning to characterize.

But all of these cannabinoids are in the flowers and leaves of the plant, not the seeds. Hemp seeds certainly do not produce buzz-inducing THC, and they contain only trace amounts of CBD, if any.

So, without the potential for a high or for pain relief, where’s the thrill in hemp seeds?

Nutrition and flavor! That’s where.

Mightier Than Meat

Tiny though they are, hemp seeds are nutritional powerhouses.

At 10 grams of protein per 3 tablespoon serving, hemp seeds offer more protein per ounce than any form of animal protein, plus all six essential amino acids.Hemp seedsHemp seeds

High in healthy fats—13 grams per serving—they have a rich, clean, buttery flavor that is quite delicious. They definitely do not have the skunky, funky, weedy aroma that is characteristic of hemp buds and leaves.

Like flax seeds, whole hemp seeds in their natural state have a dense, crunchy hull, which makes them challenging to eat, and impedes nutrient absorption, too. So, most companies that market hemp seed products have done the work and hulled them for us. What consumers get are hemp seed kernels, brilliantly rebranded and sold as “hemp hearts.”

Hemp hearts are disc-shaped, translucent ivory with darker speckles and about the size of pinheads. By any name, they’re edible, enjoyable, and won’t cause anyone to fail a drug test.

A sprinkle of hemp hearts adds munch, punch, and a solid dose of plant-based nutrition to many dishes. They can go savory or sweet, and they’re a satisfying nutty alternative for those with tree nut allergies.

Their luscious taste and buttery texture make them a nice substitute for grated cheese, a big plus for lactose intolerant patients. And they’re a soy-free form plant-based protein.

Substitute hemp hearts for croutons for a satisfying and gluten-free soup or salad accent.

On the sweet side, hemp hearts can replace high-sugar, high-fat processed granola as a topping for oatmeal, fruit, or acai bowls.

Emerald Green Oil

Cold-pressed hemp seeds produce a rich, emerald green, mildly flavored oil that’s loaded with nutritional benefits.

But it’s not CBD oil. Pure hemp seed oil is non-psychoactive and made from hemp seeds, end of story.

CBD oil, aka “full-spectrum hemp oil,” is extracted from hemp flowers, leaves, and stems, and can contain up to 40% CBD, but little to no THC (less than 1%).

That said, there are some unethical marketers out there taking pure hemp oil, adding small amounts of synthetic CBD and cannabis terpines, and then selling it as “CBD oil.”

Given the ambiguous regulations around CBD products and the FDA’s haphazard enforcement, this is likely to be a problem for some time.

Pure hemp seed oil sold for culinary use has a low-heat smoke point of 330º (just above olive oil's smoke point of 320º) and works best drizzled on as a finishing oil or incorporated into salad dressings. With its high volatility, it should be stored in a cool place away from bright light, and consumed within a year.

Outside the kitchen, hemp seed oil is also muscling into the beauty and self-care space. The seeds’ highly emollient nature makes them a desirable base for lotions, salves and cosmetics, and their oil is noncomedogenic—it won’t clog pores.

Limited studies suggest that hemp seed oil has anti-inflammatory properties. Brands including Kiehl’s are capitalizing on it, selling cannabis seed oil products to treat skin irritations and ailments including eczema, acne and rosacea.

Further research needs to be done to determine whether adding full-spectrum hemp oil to skin care products and cosmetics offers the same benefits as pure hemp seed oil. Marketers certainly would like us to believe that this is the case. CBD skincare products are flooding the retail sector, both online and in stores, typically selling at a premium price. One recent poll indicated dermatologists are as confused about cannabis skin care as most consumers.

Betting the Farm

With the market for hemp and cannabis so hot these days, raw material is in high demand. Over the last year, the amount of agricultural acreage devoted to hemp farming has increased by over 300 percent.

Since passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the cultivation of low-THC industrial hemp, some small to mid-sized family farmers across the nation have begun shifting away from growing vegetables, fruit, or other medicinal herbs and converting their fields for full-scale hemp cultivation.

The potential revenue is alluring: the prices that hemp buyers and processors are now promising are sometimes ten-fold higher than what farmers earn from other crops.

But it’s a high-risk play. Starter plants and feminized seeds—male plants are unwanted—are expensive, and many seed suppliers require farmers to sign highly restrictive non-compete contracts. Since the demand is so high, plant theft is a common occurrence. Yes, people really will literally tear up sections of a farmer’s fields at night, in the hope of making a few bucks.

As more farmers and massive agricultural operations get into hemp cultivation, today’s shortage could become tomorrow’s surplus, with sudden price drops that could leave some novice hemp farmers wishing they’d stuck with heirloom vegetables.

However the economics play out, there’s no question that the proliferation of hemp and cannabis products will continue to grow.

Also forecast to grow: canna-confusion.

There are so many different brands out there promoting hemp-based products for nearly every benefit desired by humankind. People wishing to use hemp for health need to be careful that they’re buying pure, high-quality products.

Purity starts with the plants. As a crop, hemp excels at absorbing whatever is in its growing environment. It’s been used to remediate soil, because it is highly effective in soaking up toxins and heavy metals. That means one must be doubly careful when choosing hemp-derived nutritional products.

What’s in the water and the soil is what’s in the hemp. For that reason, hemp seed products of all stripes should be certified non-GMO or organic to guarantee purity.

The Taste Test

The nation’s current hemp-mania has led to a bumper crop of hemp seed foods and beverages.

We know that they’re going to be good for us, but how do they taste? We put a few hot products to the test.

On the beverage side, a number of brands including Pacific Foods and Living Harvest now offer hemp milk products. Like soy, almond, and rice milks, hemp milk is promoted as a vegan alternative to dairy.

Hemp milk has a rich, silky mouthfeel and is high in Omega-3s. But it hasn’t proven a winner in the flavor department. It has a slightly chalky off-note compared to other plant-based milks.

More promising is a new food product called Hempé. Essentially it is a hemp seed tempeh, and it is very good.

Tempeh is an ancient fermented soy food originally from Indonesia. Hempé’s chef/creator Chad Oliphant discovered tempeh when he studied at the Kushi Institute, the nonprofit organization dedicated to macrobiotics as a path to healing.

Given the concerns many people have about GMO soy and soy isolates, Oliphant set out to develop a soy-free alternative. The result of his efforts is a tempeh made from hemp, chia and chickpeas. It’s high in fiber, protein, and nutrient density. It’s also gluten-free, certified organic, and vegan, but with a meaty flavor and texture.

Hempé can be eaten uncooked, right out of the package. I recently served it that way at a green food festival, and people loved it. But as with soy-based tempeh, it lends itself very well to stir-frying. You can also slice it, brush it with oil, and roast it along with root vegetables for a simple and healthy autumn meal.

The current canna-craze has given birth to lots of different hemp seed burgers, hemp seed ale, and hemp seed granolas.

That’s all well and good, but here at Holistic Primary Care we enjoy our hemp straight from the heart—pure organic hemp hearts from respected brands like Manitoba Harvest and Nutiva.

 

Pumpkin Hemp Power Salad
Recipe by Ellen Kanner

Hemp hearts are a great addition to any kitchen.Hempe Pumpkin Hemp Power Salad Pumpkin Hemp Power Salad. Photo credit: Ellen Kanner. Here they add richness to greens and augment the natural nutty notes and sweetness of the roasted pumpkin in this filling and flavorful harvest season salad.

Best enjoyed warm or at room temperature, my Pumpkin Hemp Power Salad would make a welcome addition to a Thanksgiving buffet.

Salad

2 cups pumpkin or winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized cubes
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cups barley, cooked and cooled
6 cups of fresh leafy greens — arugula, watercress or spinach
3 tablespoons hemp seeds
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons pumpkin seed, hemp seed oil, or olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, onion, olive oil, smoked paprika and sea salt. Spread on baking sheet.

Roast for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The pumpkin is done when it’s turned rich brown and tender. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk together vinaigrette ingredients until emulsified. Pour over pumpkin, mix in barley and celery.

Recipe may be made a few hours ahead, and kept covered and refrigerated.

Remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before proceeding. To assemble, gently mix in leafy greens. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon onto a platter or into a large bowl. Sprinkle hemp seeds on top.

Serves 4 to 6.

 

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Fantastic Fungi: New Film Explores Mushrooms, Medicine & the Human Condition

By Erik Goldman, Editor in Chief

They were the first multicellular organisms to emerge from the oceans and take hold on dry land.

They’ve lived and thrived for ages, molding every environment they touch. They’ve survived ice ages, extinctions, and the most extreme conditions this planet can generate. They underpin the great Web of Life—a web in which we humans are but a thread. “They” are fungi, and they’re the subject of a fascinating new film that reveals much about their vast but little understood kingdom.

Visually magnificent, emotionally touching, and intellectually challenging, Fantastic Fungi explores the fundamental role that mushrooms, molds, and the like have had in shaping the world as we know it. The film also posits the hopeful message that fungi can help us solve some of our most vexing problems.

A Safe Future: Is That Too Much to Ask?

By Erik Goldman

“We deserve a safe future. And we demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask?”

Greta Thunberg posed this blunt question to the world during her brief but forceful speech at the New York City climate strike on September 20.

To thunderous applause and fervent chanting of her name, the celebrated--and vilified --Swedish eco activist voiced the fears, rage, and hopes of her generation.

The troubling truth is, Greta’s demand really might be too much to ask.