Only on Bali

I hadn’t realized how relaxing Bali was for me last time I was here.

I visit a lot of sites when I travel, and I like to see as many people and as much of the local culture as I can wherever I go. But Bali has a different speed to it that you don’t experience anywhere else.

No matter how fast my friend Westi drove his truck or how many appointments I had, it never felt rushed. I never felt pressed for time. I sort of forgot about that until I came back these last few days.

I had a completely different sense of time when I was in Africa. Like I didn’t have enough of it to do everything I wanted. I stayed there longer than I had planned because I kept meeting more people and discovering new places and traditions I wanted to study.

There was also a sense of urgency in Africa. Many of the things I saw were endangered. I wanted to see things that you won’t be able to see in 20 years. There will be no more chimpanzees in the wild. No gorillas, except in captivity.

It was a now-or-never feeling, and not just for the wildlife. The Batwa tribe I wrote to you about… their environment had been unchanged since the Stone Age. But now their culture is disappearing. And I may have been among the last people to see one of the original tribes of humans born and raised in their own forest.

In Bali, though, there’s no urgency. Except maybe my stomach growling at me because I forgot to eat. The time passes in such a relaxed rhythm you kind of forget about the regular, day-to-day things you’re used to. No schedules. No reminders. Maybe Bali feels that way because it’s an island.

Even the breeze is different in Bali. I remember standing at the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater in Africa thinking it was the wildest place on Earth. Bali is wild, too… but in the opposite way.
Africa is like a wild, untamed animal. But one that you get the sense is about to be caged. Bali is wild in an unspoiled way, and seems like it will never change.

Except that it might be even lusher than I remember it.

I stopped in Bali for a few days after my presentations in Malaysia at the world anti-aging conference to catch up with my friends Lelir and Westi. They are the couple I’ve written to you about who give “herbal walks” around the area near their home in Ubud. They show tourists and others the different roots and plants they use to make the health products in their shop.

Their herbal knowledge comes from a long tradition of herbal healing passed down through many generations.

That huge amount of healing wisdom is one of the reasons I’m writing a book with them that will be the second in my “Healing Herbs” series.

The first is Healing Herbs of Jamaica that I wrote with my friend and herbalist Ivey Harris.

For Healing Herbs of Bali, we’re going to bring you the stories of how Westi and his family began growing the herbs and plants, how Lelir and her family have used the herbs for generations, and how you can use them, too. You’ll be able to make teas, creams and other cures, just like the traditional healers in Bali.

One of the plants traditional healers in Bali use is cacao, or cocoa, the tree that gives us chocolate. Add local organic chocolate to my list of things that make you feel good when you visit Bali.

The Balinese consider cocoa brain food, and science backs them up.

Cocoa helps your brain because it has the amino acid tryptophan, which helps you feel relaxed and deal more positively with stress. Cacao also stops your brain from losing tryptophan, enhancing the effect.1 Plus, it contains the neurotransmitters anandamide and phenylethylamine (or PEA) which work in the brain to create feelings of pleasure and well-being.

Cocoa also has a set of flavanols – plant nutrients – that increase blood flow to the brain.2 One study where they gave people cocoa flavanols found their anxiety went down, their math skills went up, and they reported much less mental fatigue.3

But the chocolate they make in Bali is like nothing you’ve ever tried.

For example, they don’t roast the beans in Bali. They are naturally fermented under banana leaves, and are then washed, sun-dried and peeled. Then they cold press the beans to separate the oil.

That helps keep in cacao’s important minerals like zinc, magnesium, sulfur, iron, and chromium.

And they don’t add any of the processed stuff you’d find in Western chocolate, like cane sugar, soy or gluten. They use coconut sugar.

Lelir has cacao growing right in the backyard of her shop, but she also buys from cocoa farmers and makes a lot of cocoa butter and powder. Restaurants buy the powder from her, and she sells the cocoa butter as a base for white chocolate and cosmetics.

Most of the chocolate you see in stores comes from South American cocoa, but there are some companies starting to bring you organic chocolate from Bali, such as: – A consortium of over 9,000 Balinese farmers who are considered partners and contribute their crops to make organic and raw products. – Run by a raw foods expert and chef who has formed relationships with organic farms around the world. – The first company to import verified raw chocolate from Bali. – Also gets its cocoa from the world’s first verified raw chocolate facility in Bali.

1 Jenny M, Santer E, Klein A, Ledochowski M, Schennach H, Ueberall F, Fuchs D. “Cacao extracts suppress tryptophan degradation of mitogen-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Mar 18;122(2):261-7.
2 Ghosh D, Scheepens A. “Vascular action of polyphenols.” Mol Nutr Food Res. 2009 Mar;53(3):322-31.
3 Scholey A, French S, Morris P, Kennedy D, Milne A, Haskell C. “Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in acute improvements in mood and cognitive performance during sustained mental effort.” J Psychopharmacol. 2010 Oct;24(10):1505-14.