the george Club The Conversation On Local Wellness

On Local Wellness

What is Local Wellness and why is it crucial you explore it

Travel both near and far can create an imbalance in your regular stride, but one of the most easily accessible things to do is go on a hunt for local ingredients wherever you land to zap your system back into shape.

A significant part of finding the specialty of a place, wherever it may be in the world, is seeking out its local wellness traditions; people in the area who focus on sourcing specific ingredients from the region that aid in healing various ailments and contribute to the overall health of the body and mind. While there wasn’t always a name to it, it has always existed, this curious world of holistic medicine. Herbalists, naturopaths and homeopaths create their elixirs, tinctures and tonics to take the ailing through the seasons with heightened immunity, soothing and easing individual needs from allergies and pains to colds, fertility, viruses and everything in between.

Finding your local wellness regime, whether you are home or traveling is very telling of a place. Striving to dig deeper than the cliched, pricey tourist traps that boast sugar-infused superfood shots and promises of instant relief are few and far between, but absolutely worth your due diligence. Before Los Angeles, home to Hollywood and the ubiquitous organic juice bar, became the central spot to monetize wellness across the board, hyper-boosting, nutrient-dense ingredients with actual results like improved focus, mood, sex-drive, anti-aging and detoxifying agents lived in the nooks and crannies of villages, small towns, alternative medicine practiticoners and via word-of-mouth. 

Levinski Market
Photo by Sivan Askayo

Natural remedies from around the globe vary from place to place, with some overlap or tweaks from culture to culture, but each has its own fascinating history and tradition. Of course, there are the widely-known and wildly popular therapeutic properties of olive oil from Italy or the multitude of benefits of fresh coconut hailing from Indonesia, antibacterial manuka honey from New Zealand and Australia, and Morocco’s restorative argan oil for hair, skin and nails. India’s turmeric, brimming with bioactive healing properties, umeboshi from Japan, a pickled plum that balances the acid in one’s body, libido-surging seaweed smoothies from the Caribbean islands and Hawaii’s fresh cane juice, cleansing the liver and lowering cholesterol, Iran’s saffron, protecting from heart disease and combatting depression. 

The list of ingredients and remedies goes on forever, and the fun is seeking them out. Travel both near and far can create an imbalance in your regular stride, but one of the most easily accessible things to do is go on a hunt for local ingredients wherever you land to zap your system back into shape.

In Israel, there are a host of healing brews and tinctures that locals use for everyday immunity and energy that are rarely heard of outside of the Middle Eastern region, including natural herbs, plants, and spices. Israel’s diverse landscape and terrain, comprising different types of deserts, are home to medicinal plants and shrubs that have been used since biblical times. Just a few: Za’atar oil is packed with antioxidants and is used for brain circulation, memory, boosting one’s immune system and anti-aging properties. Gat, which originally hails from Yemen, is a psychostimulant plant and is made into juice (and even mixed with cocktails) for a hyper-focused jolt of energy similar to a cup of strong coffee (if coffee could also increase sex drive), and black radish root strengthens immunity, digestion and can help with weight loss. Anise seed is locally used for stomach aches and indigestion or, even more popular with the night owl set, distilled with grape seeds to create an intoxicating Levantine spirit called Arak.

The Etrog Man

In Tel Aviv, Maayan Hazay is a well-known naturopath and part of the renown family-owned health food shop called Uzi Eli The Etrog Man, named after her father. Originally hailing from Yemen, the Jerusalemite started a humble organic juice stand in the celebrated Machne Yehuda market over 30 years ago that has since branched off to a bustling Tel Aviv outpost, attracting Israelis and tourists from all over the country. Hazay was born into the field, with age-old natural remedies infused into her upbringing from day one. Feeling out and talking to customers from morning until night at her juice station, she has taken significant stock of what ails each and every person coming by to feel better, or to simply start or end their day on a healthy note. 

Of all the healing ingredients she can recommend that are easily accessible in Israel, she whole-heartedly lists citrus fruits at the top, followed by pomegranates (when in season), almonds and nuts, passionfruit, ginger and turmeric. “A major benefit of travel is seeking out local ingredients directly from the source,” she says. “I learned from my dad and my dad, from his grandma, and so it went from generation to generation, passed down: age-old knowledge with an emphasis on the seasons and the environment in which each person lives: What grows in season according to its environment is best for the human body. So even though we live in a blessed global marketplace where we have abundance from across the world year round and many products are adopted by other countries and sold for export and import, the key is to discover a country through its core resources and learn about the authentic origins and roots of what can be found in each place and how the locals use them for their own well-being.”

“Humanity and nature will forever want to synchronize,” Hazay continues. “For example, that is why ginger grows in the winter, when we need it most. Of all the questions I am asked regarding health and wellness, I am most asked about what people can take or do to gain more energy. Since Corona, we have put a lot more awareness and focus on our own health and well-being and strengthening one’s diet, enriching it with vitamins and supplements, (before, during or after illness).” 

In Israel, where fresh juice stands mark every corner and are part of our lives, culture and tradition, it is easy to throw back a daily intake of citrus fruits, frankincense, turmeric, and ginger to help cleanse, release and strengthen the immune system. A quick stop for a vitamin-infused juice is as ubiquitous as the Spanish siesta or the British break for tea.

“I am in the process of testing and creating natural medicinal fragrances that aid various ailments that I commonly see in people like stress, lack of focus, low energy and more,” says Hazay. “The scents penetrate the brain directly and have the ability to help us instantly and powerfully. I will continue to develop more and more remedies based on the traditions I have been raised with, coupled with our dynamically changing world and how we are all evolving as humans on a day-to-day basis. This is the essence of local wellness.”