Mind, Body & Soul

Miracle moringa, reptilian brains, and the power of now – techniques, natural remedies and wise words to keep you feeling upbeat, on the road or at home.

Words Alexander Ponsonby


Brain Power
Next time you get into an argument, understand the wonderful workings of the mind to prevent a full-blown fight.

What makes humans distinct from other animals is our large neocortex, sometimes referred to as the primate brain. The neocortex is what allows us to suppress urges that would otherwise lead to an undesirable outcome. Your neocortex remembers what you value, and helps you make decisions that are consistent with those values. If one of your core values is “have a fulfilling relationship,” this highly-developed part of the brain comes in handy.

The neocortex, however, is not the part of our brain that reacts initially in a stressful situation. At the top of the spinal column sits a part of the brain sometimes referred to as the reptilian brain, since reptiles and birds have only this section.

This area performs most of the unconscious things the body does and stays awake when you go to sleep. Our “thinking” neocortex gets bypassed completely when the reptilian brain is in an activated state.

A healthy relationship depends on minimising how often you allow your reptilian brain to overrule your neocortex. Like a lizard, a fight or stressful conversation causes this part of the brain to react instantly making you fight, flee or freeze.

In a practical situation it can cause you to say things you don’t mean, distract yourself with destructive activities, shut down or even end a relationship.

When the reptilian brain is relaxed, it becomes possible to freely integrate information across brain hemispheres to connect, feel a range of feelings, and be creative. It typically takes twenty minutes for the reptilian brain to relax after being faced with stress or danger and before the neocortex can register reactions clearly. Simply being aware of the reptilian brain allows us to avoid reacting rashly. Instead try going for a walk while making an effort to engage the “thinking” brain.

Imago Relationship Therapy, a theory created by Dr. Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love you Want: A Guide for Couples, and Keeping the Love You Find: A Guide for Singles reveals how to use this understanding to better communicate with one another.


Sites with Soul
Timeless wisdom from modern websites

Stress Relief Practice presence in daily activities like brushing your teeth and washing your hands instead of turning these things into a means to an end.
Eckhart Tolle, eckharttolletv.com

Healthy Eating Forget fad diets. Don’t overeat and eat regular healthy meals that include protein, carbs, fruit and vegetables and you can’t go wrong.
Laura Clarke, lecnutrition.co.uk

Increase Energy Water is a vital nutrient, and even mild dehydration can cause fatigue. Drink several glasses over the course of a day.
Gianna Rose, Livestrong.com


African Beauty
Oils, herbs and ointments from West and South Africa are making their way into the health and beauty regimes of men and women all over the world. Here’s the lowdown on some of the best.

South Africa

Work and travel can wreak havoc on complexions. This South African red tea is packed with vitamin C, collagen-boosting copper, and fifty times more antioxidants than green tea. Most good supermarkets stock the tea. You can also use it to moisturise. UK-based skincare company, Afriteaque, makes a complexion-boosting, paraben-free range adored by beauty editors from Joburg to London.

Cape Chamomile
Wonderfully fragrant and stress-relieving, this rare South African flower is usually applied as an essential oil or used in creams, soaps and shower gels. Its soothing, fruity fragrance aids relaxation and boosts well-being. A few drops on a travel pillow will give you the sweetest of dreams. A number of online apothecaries stock the oil such as the US-based Floracopeia.

African Potato
Called ‘Inkomfe’ in Zulu, this super-spud stands up to weather-ravaged skin better than a wool balaclava. Used both for sunburns and winter skin it has anti-inflamatory properties and according to some traditional healers can cure everything from the common cold to malaria. We’re not sure about that but we definitely love what it does for dry skin.


Shea Butter
Thanks to global brands like the Body Shop, this West African product – a yellowish fat extracted from the nut of the Shea tree – is commonly used worldwide. Deeply moisturising, it’s great for dry heels and ankles, to reduce the appearance of fine lines and to restore elasticity to skin.

Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Senegal & Benin

Moringa Oil
The Moringa tree, native to Africa, has been revered for thousands of years as a miracle tree. Ancient Egyptians even placed bottles of the oil in their tombs.
Today, the NGO Trees for Life is looking into ways to harvest its nutrient-rich leaves and seeds for malnourished populations. Incredibly, the tree’s leaves and seeds contain seven times the vitamin C of oranges, four times the vitamin A of carrots, four times the calcium of milk and three times the potassium of bananas.
The healing and cosmetic properties of the oil are great too, mixed with a drop or two of fragrant essential oils. It has a potent antioxidant, works as a de-puffer for tired skin and is laden with moisturising radiance-boosting fatty acids. It’s fine to pop a bottle in the back of the medicine cabinet too. Unlike other oils, it lasts up to five years.


Marula Oil
Angolan – as well as Kenyan and Namibian – people have been using the miracle skin oil for centuries. Marula, extracted from marula fruit, contains high levels of oleic, palmitic and stearic fatty acids critical for rapid skin absorbency, hydration and moisture retention and has 16 per cent higher antioxidant powers than argan and grapeseed oil. Although readily available in Angola, some of the best is produced in Kenya by the Leakey Collection.

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