Balanced Bites Podcast #424: Herbs, cellular health, chronic lyme recovery & more with Dr. Bill Rawls

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#424: Dr. Bill Rawls is a 4th-generation physician who has dedicated his life to medicine. But when faced with a personal health crisis in his late forties with Lyme disease, everything changed. In his quest to regain his health, Dr. Rawls was confronted with the limitations of conventional medicine and knew he had to find his own path to restore wellness. For the past 15 years, he has extensively studied the science behind herbal therapies and new sustainable approaches for protecting health.

Today, Dr. Rawls shares the revelations that helped him and thousands of others reclaim their lives. Dr. Rawls is a leading expert in integrative health and Medical Director of Vital Plan, a holistic health and herbal supplement company in Raleigh, NC. He is the best-selling author of Unlocking Lyme, and his most recent book, The Cellular Wellness Solution: Tap Into Your Full Health Potential with the Science-Backed Power of Herbs.  

Purchase Dr. Rawls’ formulas at 15% off. Just go to and use code LIZ

Unlocking Lyme, and his most recent book, The Cellular Wellness Solution: Tap Into Your Full Health Potential with the Science-Backed Power of Herbs.  


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Balanced Bites Podcast #424 with Dr. Bill Rawls

Welcome to the new Balanced Bites Podcast! I’m your host, Liz, a nutritional therapy practitioner and best selling author bringing you candid, up-front, myth-busting and thought-provoking conversations about food, fitness, and life. Remember:  The information in this podcast should not be considered personal, individual, or medical advice.

I have spent YEARS researching whether a good multivitamin is truly necessary for overall health. But the truth is, there are a LOT of opinions out there, including from people like me, who love to ask lots of obnoxious, overly detailed questions. But the truth is, if I’m paying attention to how I FEEL, my answer was clear: I will be taking my multivitamin. And it will be from the brand Needed. Needed third-party tests EVERY batch for performance and quality, which is incredibly rare in the supplement industry and also incredibly important to me! To get started with Needed, head to Use code balanced for 20% off your one-time order or your first three months’ subscription. While you’re at it, add Stress Support to your cart. I’m loving that one, too.

“Now about today’s episode…

This interview with Dr. Bill Rawls, who is a medical doctor, author and expert on herbs and cellular health, was such a delightful surprise to me. I have been wanting to talk to more herbal experts lately, and I have a few other interviews in queue, but when Dr. Rawls’ team – who were also awesome, by the way – reached out, I knew I wanted to interview him. But I also usually interview folks in or around my demographic, right? Female, 30-40ish, weird sense of humor and penchant for sarcasm…so I wondered – will we “get” each other? And man, I just enjoyed this interview so much. I should have known better than to even wonder that, and some of you will snicker at the opening dialogue exactly because of that…anyway, Dr. Rawls answered so many of my questions and we talked about lyme disease, cellular health and aging, longevity, immune health, and way more and I can’t help but wonder, now, as I’ve gotten more curious about both herbs AND biohacking (so-called, or for me, more lazy biohacking and shortcuts) which would win in a cage fight? Herbalism or biohacking? That venn diagram is really interesting, actually. They’re opposed in so many ways, yet there is surely some overlap.

Anyway. A little more on Dr. Rawls- He is a 4th-generation physician who has dedicated his life to medicine. But when faced with a personal health crisis in his late forties with Lyme disease, everything changed. In his quest to regain his health, Dr. Rawls was confronted with the limitations of conventional medicine and knew he had to find his own path to restore wellness. For the past 15 years, he has extensively studied the science behind herbal therapies and new sustainable approaches for protecting health.

Today, Dr. Rawls shares the revelations that helped him and thousands of others reclaim their lives. Dr. Rawls is a leading expert in integrative health and Medical Director of Vital Plan, a holistic health and herbal supplement company in Raleigh, NC. He is the best-selling author of Unlocking Lyme, and his most recent book, The Cellular Wellness Solution: Tap Into Your Full Health Potential with the Science-Backed Power of Herbs.  

And while we didn’t even get to spend all that much time talking about his company, I do have a promo code for my audience to purchase Dr. Rawls’ formulas at 15% off. Just go to and use code LIZ, all caps. If you aren’t sure what herbs you might like to purchase, he’s got a quiz you can take that’s really easy.

Let’s talk to Dr. Rawls

Dr. Rawls: Hey, Dr. Rawls. How are you? Good, how are you? Good.

Liz Wolfe: I saw something in your, um, information about, about being close to Raleigh or maybe the vital plan is in Raleigh.

Dr. Rawls: My plan, our company is in Raleigh, which is about two hours from where I am. Yeah. But I am right down on the coast specifically.

Liz Wolfe: Oh, lovely. Yeah. Well, I have, um, uh, I don’t know, just a long term, just love of the Andy Griffith Show. So we, like, they always talk about Raleigh. And my husband and I went to Mount Airy a couple of years ago, and I don’t know, it’s, it’s just always fun.

Dr. Rawls: You know, I, I didn’t know people even watched Andy Griffith anymore. I mean, I grew up with it,

Liz Wolfe: I had good, good parents who raised me on Nick at night, and one of my daughters is named after an actress from the Mary Tyler Moore show.

Dr. Rawls: Oh, that’s great. That’s great.

Liz Wolfe: Well, I would love to first actually hear about your journey, number one, to becoming a medical doctor. Mm-hmm. And then from there, you know, I have some of these details in your bio, but just to share with my audience how you got from, I wanna be a medical doctor to, I am an MD specializing in herbs and herbalism and natural health and all of that.

Dr. Rawls: Yeah. It’s been a journey, no doubt about it. So, um, the medical field was in my family. I’m actually fourth generation doing this. I grew up, uh, going on house calls with my grandfather and, uh, so it was all around me. We had medical journals all over the house. And, and so, you know, I looked at a lot of different things and just ended up going the medical route.

Dr. Rawls: I guess it’s because I knew it the very most, but even back then, you know, when I got into medical school, I was taken back by the intensity of medical therapy that they used on patients that were chronically ill. And so I distanced myself from that part of medicine. And when G Y N, because it was mainly healthy, p people didn’t use a lot of drugs.

Dr. Rawls: The procedures that we did really made a difference. Then, you know, delivering a baby was just cool. But that came at that time, 30 years ago with this really intense call obligation with a hospital. So I have, was running the practice, but I was on also taking my share of, uh, call labor and delivery call every second to third day.

Dr. Rawls: And typically when I was on call, I might get three or four hours of sleep that was the best. And then on when I was on off call, you know, busy life, busy family sleep was what got shorted. You know, I, my time was like from 10 o’clock until 12 o’clock and then I’d get up seven the next morning. So I went 15 or 20 years sleep deprived and just didn’t realize the impact that it would have.

Dr. Rawls: Um, but by my late forties, it wasn’t just sleep issues that I was having. My whole body started falling apart. I mean, everything. Um, heart issues, brain issues, all kinds of neurological symptoms. Just everything was falling apart. Joints, GI tract was a mess. And first I reached out to the conventional medical system and realized they didn’t have much to offer, um, accept drugs to suppress the symptoms.

Dr. Rawls: Of course. So that after several years of that, I started looking at other alternatives. I eventually became certified in holistic medicine. Um, and during this time, I, you know, I kept looking for answers and I realized what was missing in our conventional system with managing chronic illness. We didn’t look for causes.

Dr. Rawls: We were just treating the manifestations of illness, just drugs to suppress symptoms and processes, but it wasn’t affecting the causes. So I started paying attention to my diet and lifestyle and stress level and tried to get better sleep. And so all of those things made a difference, but I wasn’t getting well by then.

Dr. Rawls: The only diagnosis that was left for me was fibromyalgia, which nobody really wants because people just don’t get better and they don’t have anything for it. And so like a lot of people, I worked hard and found a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease. I was carrying those bacteria. Not a surprise, I grew up playing in the woods.

Dr. Rawls: Tick bites were an everyday thing. Um, but, you know, and, and it’s the thought, Hey, if I can, if I can get that diagnosis, then an antibiotic will make me, well, well round after round of antibiotic actually made me sicker instead of better. And I was kind of back to square one and eventually just by default ended up following an herbal protocol and started getting my life back.

Dr. Rawls: And that’s been 10 years ago. It took me about five years to completely resolve all of the symptoms and regain what I defined as normal health. But I’ve been able to keep that for over a decade. And it’s 65. I’m doing a lot of things that most 65 year olds don’t get to do. Um, And I’ve been taking herbs continually for 15 years.

Dr. Rawls: So part of that journey is just understanding what the herbs were doing, but also understanding chronic Lyme disease very differently than most everybody else out there. And realizing that most, any chronic condition that you look at, there’s a microbe factor. Whether you’re talking about Parkinson’s, autoimmune, there’s, there has to be a microbe factor.

Dr. Rawls: And looking at the bigger picture and looking at herbs is really a perfect solution that’s been MyQuest in life, is just to share that information with people. So I appreciate the opportunity today to do that.

Liz Wolfe: Well, I really am thrilled to have you here. I’ve had a longstanding fascination with herbalism and how herbs affect our bodily systems, and also just the distinctions between using, say, essential oils versus using herbs versus using more modern derivatives of herbal type com compounds like aspirin and willow bark and, and things like that.

Liz Wolfe: So it seems to me that there must be distinctions between those approaches, and I would love for you to go into that. But I would also love for you to talk a little bit more about chronic Lyme, because I know a lot of listeners deal with that. And increasingly more people are coming to me who are just absolutely baffled by what to do right, about their symptoms and who have been sort of, uh, not served well by the conventional medical model.

Dr. Rawls: Sure, yeah. Um, it all has to do, it, it, you know, when you look at this thing we call chronic lining disease, it, it, it really points to. A lot of issues that we have with our whole medical system and why things aren’t working and why should we should be looking for other solutions for all of it. So doctors don’t understand chronic lyme disease.

Dr. Rawls: In fact, they don’t even recognize it as a diagnosis. They don’t wanna treat it because they are very comfortable with acute conditions. So someone has acute Lyme disease, they get antibiotics. We know what to do with that. But somebody walks in and says, I’ve got all these diverse symptoms and I’ve been having them for years and I don’t even remember a tick bite, but I tested positive for this microbe called Borrelia that comes with Lyme disease.

Dr. Rawls: What do you do with that? And so certain physicians, people who consider themselves more educated about Lyme disease, Feel like the solution is, well, we’re going to keep giving you antibiotics to till you’re well, or three months, six months, and we’re gonna give it to you an intravenously. So it’s really much more potent so we can really kill these resistant bacteria.

Dr. Rawls: And the fact of the matter is that antibiotics are a really poor solution to the problem. Because as you know, as we can get into these microbes are very stealthy, but the big thing is they stay dormant inside cells and you’re not gonna kill ’em with antibiotics. But the fact of the matter is, every time somebody’s bitten by a tick or a flea or mosquito or a lice, or things they pick up as children or the hundreds, thousands of microbe encounters that we go through, life, things get buried in your tissues.

Dr. Rawls: So we all have things that are dormant inside of our cells. These are low grade pathogens. You know, we know more about Ebola virus because it’s so visible and so acute than we do. All of these microbes that are con constantly giving us misery. So the bacteria Borrelia, that causes Lyme disease is not an aggressive pathogen.

Dr. Rawls: It is a low grade pathogen. And the evidence of that is people won’t die from acute Lyme disease. Nobody dies from acute Lyme disease. They may die of chronic manifestation later, but they don’t die of acute Lyme disease. And typically, what I’m finding is most people don’t even get sick. That’s the problem.

Dr. Rawls: You get bitten by a tick, the microbes go in your body and you don’t even know about it. They sneak through your immune system, get buried in your tissues, invade your cells, and if your cells are healthy, they become dormant inside your cells. Inside your brain cells, inside your heart cells, inside your joint cells, cells throughout the body.

Dr. Rawls: But guess what? Ticks don’t carry just that bacteria. You know the thing that some ticks carry Lyme disease bacteria and others don’t? Well, that’s true, but every single tick come carries hundreds of different microbes and we’ve only cataloged what they actually do to a few of them. So the things that we’re testing for are just scratching the surface of the possibilities.

Dr. Rawls: I mean, you think about it, 50 years ago we didn’t even even know about Lyme disease, and now we know about Lyme disease and all these co-infections, and that goes and the number goes up every single year. Well, we’re still just scratching the surface, so we don’t completely understand. But what is we can understand is that these are low grade pathogens.

Dr. Rawls: So how bad something is, how bad a bacteria or virus or whatever it is depends on whether we have built-in immunity. Ebola virus, humans have never been exposed to it. We don’t have any built-in immunity. When that things enter our, enters our system, there’s nothing to stop it. It ravages the whole body.

Dr. Rawls: Tick-borne microbes, ticks have been biting humans since the beginning of time. Borelli is 60 million years old. It was biting dinosaurs. This is something that humans have regularly been exposed to. So we do have built-in immunity, but they’re stealthy. They sneak past the immune system. They bury in our cells and become dormant.

Dr. Rawls: And then when we’re stressed later on by any variety of factors, our cells are stressed and weakened. These microbes emerge and they start infecting other cells and it happens in your brain and you’re hurt in your joints and everywhere. Me. 20 years of being sleep deprived finally caught up with me.

Dr. Rawls: These microbes reactivated emerged all in different parts of my body, and it waxes and wanes. That’s typical, you know, y you kind of, your body gets control over it in one area and it pops up in another. And I think this is happening, but because we’re all exposed to so many different microbes, these things can manifest in different ways.

Dr. Rawls: They infect different cells in the body. So when we start looking at other chronic illnesses, we find that there are a lot of microbe connections. But with these low grade pathogens that people with scientists have basically been ignoring for years, they’re paying attention now. But because doctors don’t have any tools to treat it, they’re still ignoring it.

Dr. Rawls: This all

Liz Wolfe: feels so not so new. Like you said, this is something that has been around for a long time, but I remember maybe 10 years ago in the early days of Netflix watching a documentary about Lyme disease, I think it was on Netflix, and it was talking about how modern medicine was blocking access to intravenous antibiotics, which was such a horrible thing because they were lifesaving.

Liz Wolfe: So it was almost like this holistic point of view around modern or this sort of, not conspiratorial, but this point of view that modern doctors and insurance companies were blocking access to these lifesaving, intravenous antibiotics. And perhaps that was. The status of our understanding, the most progressive point that we had gotten to around Lyme disease and how to treat it at that time.

Liz Wolfe: But now, probably 10 years later, we understand better what antibiotics can do to the system long term and how they can actually weaken it. So have you watched that progression from feeling like those were the solution to feeling like they are actually part of the problem?

Dr. Rawls: Yeah, I’m on the side of part of the problem that, that they are part of the problem.

Dr. Rawls: Now, there are people that get well with antibiotics, but I can’t tell you the number of people that, that lives have been totally destroyed, both financially and physically. Their health has been destroyed by intravenous antibiotics. To solve a problem, you have to pick the right solution, and here’s why.

Dr. Rawls: Antibiotics aren’t the right solution. Antibiotics. All antibiotics come from a natural source, either a bacteria, a plant, or a fungus. So, you know, I think people have this idea, oh, we’re smart and we just create these chemicals that kill bacteria. No, we’re not that smart. We always pull from nature.

Dr. Rawls: So we take an organism, most commonly a fungus, all living organisms have to make defenses against other organisms, and most other organisms, plant bacteria, fungi use a chemical defense system. And so what we do is we pull what we think is the most potent chemical out of that defense system, and then we potentiate that in the lab.

Dr. Rawls: So it becomes this really potent, aggressive, random killer, right? It’s not a defense system anymore. It’s just a random killer. All right, so that plant is using hundreds of chemicals that affect a lot of different things, and there’s a certain intelligence about that. We lost that intelligence by pulling that chemical.

Dr. Rawls: So what we want out of an antibiotic and where their true value is, is killing rapidly growing, invasive, aggressive bacteria. Right? So suppose you get a pneumococcal infection. You’re talking about bacteria that are overturning growing. They’re, they’re, uh, reproducing about every 20 minutes they, it takes to turn over.

Dr. Rawls: So that’s really fast for bacteria, and so you can really wipe them out very quickly. So when you look at these dormant microbes in your tissues that are being slowly reactivated, their growth rate is like 1224 hours. So you’re not going to get them. You’re, you’re not going to have the same effect and you’re not going to kill the ones that are dormant in your tissues.

Dr. Rawls: Dormant microbes in tissues, inside cells, it turns out is a fact of nature. Every living organism, plant, animal, us, everything has dormant bacteria, viruses, protozoa inside of our cells. Um, it is a fact of nature that’s well proven in the scientific literature. So you’re not gonna get those things?

Dr. Rawls: But here’s what happens. So everybody talks about the immune system, right? You actually have four levels of defense. Your first level of defense is barriers. Your skin. The lining of your gut to keep those microbes and two food material inside your gut, the lining of your nasal passages and lungs to get inside your body.

Dr. Rawls: Microbes have to get across those barriers. And of course, biting insects. Boy, that’s a great way across the skin, right into the bloodstream. What they all want is to get to the bloodstream, because that’s a highway to all the cells in our body and our cells of their food. That’s what they want. So first level of defense is barriers.

Dr. Rawls: Second level of defense is the immune system that when things do inevitably get into the bloodstream, which is actually happening all the time actually to you and me right now, bacteria drifting across from our intestinal tract and sinuses and gums. And so the immune system job is to kill as many of those things as it can.

Dr. Rawls: Some of them make it through, they invade our cells. Fourth, third level of defense is our cells can defend themselves. This is really interesting. It’s new that process as you hear about from time to time called autophagy of how our cells renew themselves. It’s actually how our cells also expel or kill invasive microbes so our cells can defend themselves.

Dr. Rawls: But a survival mechanism that most bacteria, viruses, other things have is to go dormant. Turns out that 60% of the total mass of all microbes on earth in any given point in time with, uh, is dormancy. So if conditions aren’t just right, they just go warm. It, it’s great survival mechanisms wait until the food is available and, and the conditions aren’t threatening and reactivate.

Liz Wolfe: I’m thinking of my sourdough starter right now. Right. Put it away and reactivate

Dr. Rawls: it when you’re ready. Right. Exactly. So that’s happening to all of us. And so, you know, so our cells, so that third level defense is our cells either expelling microbes or keeping them dormant. Fourth level of defense, this is really important.

Dr. Rawls: It’s often overlooked. Our normal flora in our gut and on our skin suppresses pathogens. And, you know, your immune system doesn’t reach into the food contents inside the gut, and it doesn’t reach out on our skin. So we really depend on normal path, on normal flora to keep pathogens that are always there in check.

Dr. Rawls: And so when you disrupt normal flora, You not only allow pathogens to flourish in those locations, but they cross into the bloodstream more aggressively and end up all over our body. Well, when we kill bacteria with nor, uh, like a, when we treat a pneumonia with antibiotics, we’re killing those gra fast growing BA bacteria faster than we’re killing our normal flora.

Dr. Rawls: But we’re not kill, we’re still killing our normal flora too. And that adds up. So you’ve got about 10 days, it’s a race. If you don’t wipe out that infection before that period of time, you start wiping out your normal flora. So somebody treated with three months, six months of IV antibiotics, you just wipe out the normal flora in the body and you create bacterial resistance and, and the pathogens.

Dr. Rawls: So you’re hitting your normal flora a whole lot harder than you’re hitting those dormant microbes. So that’s a huge problem with antibiotics is they’re this random killer that also kills our normal flora, useful for short term aggressive infections that are growing really fast. Wow. So many lives have been saved by antibiotics, but we’re overusing antibiotics and now we have this thing that’s going on of bacterial resistance that is just become an enormous problem.

Liz Wolfe: So I wanna back up just really quickly for my chronic Lyme people and ask you for a quick opinion on something. Do you feel like one has to test positive for the bacteria to be diagnosed and treat as if you had chronic Lyme?

Dr. Rawls: Yeah, a absolutely not. You know, I’m all for testing because we need to learn everything that we can, right?

Dr. Rawls: But, Our testing is so limited that if you get a positive test, that’s great, but if you don’t get a positive test, it doesn’t mean the bacteria. Whatever you’re looking for, isn’t there. And there’s so much more too. They found that one tick species can carry over 237 different families of bacteria.

Dr. Rawls: There’s a lot we don’t know about. 50 years ago, we knew about one bacteria called Bergdorf Theory. That was the culprit behind the bullseye rash and Lyme disease. But even then, you look at the original specimens from Lyme, Connecticut, the researcher, Dr. Borer, it was named after him, was also seeing other bacteria, rickio species and other things, but he felt like he needed to pick one.

Dr. Rawls: So he did. Even then, there were probably other things that were making those people sick, and that’s probably why those people got more sick than average is because they were picking up other things besides Borrelia. That was 50 years ago. We knew about this one bacteria, and over the years we’ve started developing better and better tests, so we’re finding it more, no surprise.

Dr. Rawls: But then we defined, started finding other species of that bacteria. When I wrote my book, unlocking Lyme in 2017, there were 12 species of Borrelia recognized worldwide that could cause Lyme disease. That’s up to 21 now. And then we started looking at co-infections and we picked out one or two species that we test can test for Anaplasma, Oria Relic, rickettsia.

Dr. Rawls: Turns out there are dozens of species of each ones of those, and there are a whole lot of things that are carried by ticks that we haven’t even cataloged yet. So if someone has all the symptoms of fibromyalgia or Lyme, chronic Lyme or chronic fatigue or anything else, I automatically can very confidently say, yeah, there is this issue with dormant microbes in the person’s system that have been reactivated, and we don’t necessarily know the full spectrum.

Dr. Rawls: I mean, when I talk to someone who’s had testing, I say, yeah, that’s great. Now multiply it by somewhere between a hundred and a thousand and you might be in the right category of what’s actually active in your system. So the bottom line is what do you do with someone who has a positive test? So someone who doesn’t have a positive test, well, you end up treating them the same.

Dr. Rawls: So why does it matter? There certain cases where it can be valuable, but I certainly don’t encourage people to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on testing. And here’s the deal. I mean, you know, I, again, I’m for testing on a, on on from, from an academic point of view. The more we know the better, but labs have popped up all over the country because this is very lucrative.

Dr. Rawls: Someone with a diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia does not want that diagnosis. They want a positive test for some kind of microbe, because that gives them legitimacy. So the mainstream system is not designed to be sensitive enough to pick these things up. So labs have popped up all over the country to give people what they want, and that’s a positive test.

Dr. Rawls: So they’ve raised the indicators to get a higher degree of positivity, but here’s the deal. If we took a high tick bite area like New England and chopped up everybody in that lived in New England and looked in every one of their cells, I bet we would find a wide spectrum of tick-borne microbes in every person, with the exception of people who had somehow made it through life and hadn’t been bitten.

Dr. Rawls: So in other words, these things can be present dormant, you wouldn’t know about it, and they can be reactivated it later.

Liz Wolfe: Now that feels a little bit scary, but as I’m thinking about this, I’m thinking, yes, we’re talking about all of these different bacteria and microorganisms that can sort of hide out in our bodies and go dormant.

Liz Wolfe: But we also, as you were saying, we have an army of microbes, of beneficial microbes within our bodies that we can harness and take advantage of, and ensure that they’re primed to fight the important battles for us. So I guess I’d like to go there now and talk about how to keep our bodies and our immune systems healthy with the type of substances that you have an affinity for, the herbs and the natural type remedies, and explain a little bit what that process looks like.

Dr. Rawls: Yeah, yeah. You know, that that whole thing does seem a bit scary and realizing that we all have, what is, what scientists are calling a dormant blood and tissue microbiome. And there are some suggestions that this meat lead to, uh, uh, explanations for every chronic illness. And it’s different in all of us.

Dr. Rawls: So we all end up getting different illnesses. There are no drugs, there are no antibiotics for this, but herbs just happen to be the perfect solution. And so when you look at that concept of wellness, what, in my opinion is what wellness is, is when your cells are healthy and your microbes are dormant.

Dr. Rawls: That’s the definition right there. So we are made of cells. Our whole body is made of cells. Everything that happens in our body is a function of cells. If you have a symptom of any kind, it’s because cells in your body have been stressed, injured or weakened. And when that happens, you know, cells release substances.

Dr. Rawls: If it’s enough cells, like if you twist your ankle cells, release substances that activate nerves that tell the brain something’s wrong. We feel pain. But also you lose that function. You can’t walk on that ankle as well. Well this is true of heart cells and brain cells and joint cells and muscle cells and liver cells In all of our cells, everything that fun that happens in our body is a re of reflection of cells.

Dr. Rawls: So keeping your cells healthy is really, really important. Um, and for that, uh, you know, looking at the parameters of wellness from a, from a cellular point of view, your cells need the right nutrients. They need to feed ’em properly. They need a toxin-free environment, a clean environment to operate in.

Dr. Rawls: They need downtime, sleep, they need good blood flow from exercise, and they need protection from microbes. And our immune system just isn’t enough. And so, yeah, what that means is, yeah, there’s certain things we have to do. We have to eat at good diet, we have to keep our environment clean, we have to get enough sleep, we have to stay physically active.

Dr. Rawls: But the herbs give you a whole dimension. That you really have a hard time getting otherwise. And there are a lot of interesting characteristics about herbs. You know, you, we talked about our normal flora and the importance of having those healthy bacteria. Um, so cultivating those things, eating a good diet, all of those things help cultivate good bacteria.

Dr. Rawls: But the herbs give you a whole different dimension. So I talked about the fact that plants, fungi, everything has to have a defense system against microbes. And it’s a system. It’s not one chemical like an antibiotic. It’s hundreds in hundreds of chemicals. And that’s true of every plant. Every single plant has a defense system to defend, to protect cells against microbes, against, uh, free radicals, against toxic substances, against every potential threat.

Dr. Rawls: So, Herbs are plants that we have selected out over thousands of years as being that, as meshing well with our biochemistry. So it’s like, you know, poison Ivy’s a plant. Well, we wouldn’t wanna pick that. Um, so the things that we could, we, we really do well with, they’ve already been picked. Our ancestors have done that for us.

Dr. Rawls: All herbs have antimicrobial properties, but it’s not a single chemical, like an antibiotic. It’s a defense system and it has intelligence, which is really interesting. And I, and I noticed this over years, but I actually found a study to prove it. When you take an herb, the antimicrobial properties are selective for pathogens, but don’t disrupt your normal flora.

Dr. Rawls: It makes sense. You know, the plant’s gonna want us to take care of it’s friendly bacteria, but it wants to suppress those things that would define be defined as pathogens. So when we take an herb, it actually is cultivating that really favorable microbiome force. I find that it actually works better than a probiotic.

Dr. Rawls: Taking herbs for 15 years. My gut is better than at any other point in my life. It actually had just this extraordinary restorative effect that was wonderful. So yeah, so that’s one aspect that was really interesting with the herbs. That they kill pathogens. They suppress pathogens, and that allows you to take ’em for a long time, like I said, 15 years now.

Dr. Rawls: Um, so when you’re taking an herb, you’re constantly, you know, if you have reactivation of microbes, you’re constantly suppressing those things. But you’re not disrupting your normal flora, which is really good. But the herbs are also doing things to strengthen your cells. They’re inhibiting free radicals and all kinds of other threats to your cells so that it’s just this wonderful cell protection system that’s doing all these things on, on a variety of different levels, and it’s really cool.

Liz Wolfe: you just said about them working better than probiotics, and I imagine if you really think about it, it makes sense. With probiotics, you’re kind of adding more good bacteria to hopefully, you know, whatever landscape you have inside of you, but it also matters whether they’re preserved correctly, how they’re suspended in the formulation and all that.

Liz Wolfe: But with herbs, you’re actually giving your body more tools to suppress the bad and grow the good.

Dr. Rawls: You know, nature is a lot smarter than we are. Yeah. That’s what I’ve come to the conclusion. It’s, you know, when, when we hear about biohacking and all of that sort of thing, and we’re trying to tweak every little hormone and, and, and nutrient in our body, man, just eat a good diet.

Dr. Rawls: Get plenty of rest. Do the things you need to do that are your part, and the herbs do the biohacking for you. They’re gonna do all this stuff because here’s the deal. What healing is, is the ability of cells to recover from stress. You know, you don’t hear about healing defined that way. Our body is made of, of cells when we are sick.

Dr. Rawls: It’s because our cells are stressed. But our cells have this remarkable ability to recover from stress and regenerate. If you give ’em the right opportunity and that is the right nutrients, clean environment, little bit of down time and sleep, good blood flow and protection from microbes, they’ll regenerate.

Dr. Rawls: So when you look at this, herbs are one of the best things that we can do to actually promote healing in our body, but not just every now and then, we can take these things every day and do it continually.

Liz Wolfe: Okay. I’d like to ask you a quick question and then we can delve into more specifics around herbs.

Liz Wolfe: My big question for you is, when we’re talking about herbs, are we talking about whole plants? Extracts and compounds, or are we talking about things like essential oils and can you give me an idea of the difference?

Dr. Rawls: There is a difference. There is a very distinct difference and they’re both valuable, but you have to use them differently.

Dr. Rawls: So when we talk about an herb, what we’re doing is extracting this really complex chemistry from the plant. Um, and we can do that in a variety of ways. You know, there are a lot of different ways to extract those chemicals. Um, so we’re not getting nutrients, we’re not getting vitamins and carbohydrates and minerals.

Dr. Rawls: All we’re wanting is those, those protective chemicals from the plant. So typically we use a water alcohol preparation to pull the chemicals out, and then we discard just the fiber in the plant parts. And that can be a tincture when you can take that and make what’s called a powdered extract by drying off the water and alcohol and just getting that, that, that, uh, pow getting the chemicals in a powder form.

Dr. Rawls: It’s really concentrated so you get a lot, um, and it’s just really easy to get the quantities that you need from that. So different preparations can make a difference, but we’re getting this complex chemistry and we want to get as much of the spectrum of that as we can. We want to get all those chemical protectants.

Dr. Rawls: Um, but these are things that the plants, this chemistry is what the plan is circulating around it cells to protect it. Cells, specifically cell protectants, that’s not what essential oils are. So what the plan is using an essential oil force. So an essential oil is a fatty compound or, or a bunch of fatty compounds called terpenoids.

Dr. Rawls: And these are basically insect repellents and they’re actually somewhat toxic, two cells. So the plant takes these oils, these compounds, and walls them off into what are called vacuoles, little little bubbles inside the leaves and inside the stems. So when a, when an insect comes along and starts chomping on the leaf, it releases these NOx noxious chemicals and chases the insect away.

Dr. Rawls: So it just so happens that these chemicals do have some really wonderful anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, as well as being really good insect repellents, but they’re more toxic to cells, so you have to use them much more carefully. Uh, certain oils like clove can really burn your skin.

Dr. Rawls: They have to, you know, you’ve gotta be really careful. Typically, you don’t swallow them or you ingest them. Uh, aromatherapy seems to be the least, uh, toxic way to get these chemicals, but essential oils are more toxic than herbs, and you have to respect that.

Liz Wolfe: That makes sense. Respecting the, the power of these plant compounds absolutely makes sense.

Liz Wolfe: And it seems to me that herbs in general can exert a more gentle, maybe more gradual effect. You’re talking about you can take these every single day. Yes. Whereas you might want to use essential oils in a more targeted way. Yes. Can you talk about how you use, uh, herbal remedies or just herbs in general, just as a, an overall approach to wellness?

Dr. Rawls: Um, yeah. You know, the, when we say that word herb, there’s a pretty broad spectrum there and it starts all the way at one end of the spectrum of culinary herbs that we use in food that actually all have some really nice antimicrobial and anti uh, uh, and protective properties. Um, you gotta remember that, you know, we typically use herbs and spices.

Dr. Rawls: I. To flavor our food, but traditionally what they were used was to reduce spoilage before refrigeration. That’s what they were important for. And uh, and it was because of the strong antimicrobial properties of those herbs. But at that end of the spectrum, you’ve typically got plants that have chemicals that don’t disrupt neurotransmitters or hormones or things in our body.

Dr. Rawls: So we don’t get any drug-like effect from them. And the incidence of side effects or adverse reactions is really low. At the other end of the spectrum are plants, say like poison ivy that do have chemicals that would have an adverse effect or more of a specific effect. You know, they might, um, affect different, uh, receptors or enzymes or neurotransmitters in the body.

Dr. Rawls: So these have more of a drug-like effect. So down at that, under the spectrum, St. John’s ward or even plants with caffeine, you know, caffeine is a phytochemical and it has an effect that’s stimulatory to us. Other herbs like passionflower ha, have, uh, chemicals that are calming, so they have a little more of a drug-like effect.

Dr. Rawls: And in fact, more than half of drugs actually come from plants. But it’s not the commonly used herbs. It’s more plants that have poisonous properties that we get our drugs from. But kinda in the middle, there’s this really nice assortment of herbs that mainly are protectants. They protect ourselves from free radicals, radiation, toxic substances, and microbes of course.

Dr. Rawls: And they contain chemicals. You know, the plants cells have to talk to one another to work together. So the plant uses chemical messengers to coordinate cellular functions. Well, that’s where these chemical messengers come from that can affect us. And there are a lot of them that are balancing. So many of herbs in this kind of middle spectrum have things that balance our stress hormones and balance overactivity of hormones or immune system activity.

Dr. Rawls: In our, in our system, they’re called a modulators. So they’re, they’re immune modulators that balance immune system functions, hypothalamic modulators that balance stress functions. And many of these herbs are called adaptogens. Um, there’s some really nice adaptogens, Rola, ashwagandha. And, you know, we, and you know, when we use this word herb, it typically includes plants.

Dr. Rawls: But most herbalist use, uh, mushrooms of, you know, for some of these same aspects because they have very similar chemicals and they’re doing similar things. So our medicinal mushrooms like Rishi and Cordyceps and some of these things that are also adaptogens have very similar effects to the plants. So these are things, no load incidents of drug-like effects, adverse reactions, mostly just protecting ourselves.

Dr. Rawls: These are things that are ideal to use every day. And in most herbal traditions, there are those herbs that are restorative, that people did take every day. It’s only been our society where we are so drug oriented, that people look to herbs to act like drugs. You know, I want an herb to solve a problem. I want an herb to help me sleep, or this sort of thing.

Dr. Rawls: And I don’t really use herbs that much that way. I’m looking at herbs more for restorative because it’s that thing. If you can balance hormones, functions, balance cellular functions in the body, enhance cellular stress, body’s gonna balance itself and all your symptoms are gonna go away. And the longer you take the drug or the longer you take the herb, the better that’s going to be.

Dr. Rawls: So I started taking these herbs for Lyme disease, I thought about 15 years ago, and my health got better. And at that time I thought, well, I’m just killing this one microbe. And now I realize, no, I was suppressing all the dormant microbes in my system that had been reactivated and restoring cellular health.

Dr. Rawls: So I had all these other things happen. My GI tract, which I had had problems with since I was in my twenties, got better heard of, that was eating good food. But there’s no doubt the herbs had a really good effect. My thirties, I was diagnosed with essential hypertension. They said, oh, you know, you’ve, you’ve got it.

Dr. Rawls: Your blood pre, my blood pressure was typically 150, over a hundred. Couldn’t take any of the drugs because of all of the terrible side effects they had, and just kind of like, okay, I’ll just live with this. And then I forgot about it. And then years later I started taking my blood pressure again, and it was normalizing.

Dr. Rawls: Now at age 65, my blood pressure is typically one 15 over 70, perfectly normal, no drugs. My cholesterol is better than when I was in my forties. My blood sugar, everything normalized. And so when you normalize, when you protect yourselves, Your cells are gonna do all the work for you, they’re going to normalize these things.

Dr. Rawls: Now there is the aging factor, and what aging is, is the gradual loss of functional cells. So I don’t have the cell capacity that I had when I was 30, but my cells are healthy. So I’m living a life and doing a lot of things that a lot of people don’t get to do at this point.

Liz Wolfe: You’ve said a couple times, you’re 65, so I feel like I could talk about it. You look really unbelievably healthy. I mean, it is striking you. A lot of people are gonna be listening to this instead of watching it. So I wanna point that out and I’d love for you to talk a bit about healthy aging. This is becoming, as I’m approaching 40 this year, it’s something that I’m really starting to think about getting ahead of. So I’d love for you to talk about that.

Dr. Rawls: You know, it goes back to that cellular angle. Um, no matter what you want to talk about disease, health, any aspect of our being, if you take it down to cells, which you’re the smallest functional unit, you know, every cell in our body is an independently functioning unit.

Dr. Rawls: So it’s not like we have, our heart is just a unit. It’s a composite of billions of cells, which means we can lose cells and things keep right on working. It’s very different than your, you know, your car breaks down, you gotta fix your car before it’s working again. Well, everything keeps working in your body because you can lose cells.

Dr. Rawls: And we do lose cells. We accumulate cells until age 20 at peak adulthood. At that point in time, we have five to 10 times the number of cells that we need. And all of our cells are brand new. We’re very resilient. It’s no doubt of why most 20 year olds feel pretty invincible. Yep. After that point though, we start gradually losing cells.

Dr. Rawls: So by age 40, most athletes are retired by age 40 because by that time they’ve cut through half of their reserves and their cells are less functional. And it has to do with the fact that we gradually burn out our mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy sources of our cells. And I’ve studied this and there are a lot of people looking at, well, how do we tweak these mitochondria?

Dr. Rawls: And you know, I’ve come to the conclusion that to defy aging completely, you’re gonna have to break laws that are fundamental that govern our universe, and it’s just not going to happen. So you have to accept aging, but you don’t necessarily have to accept illness. And so, When we go through life, the faster we lose cells, the faster we age.

Dr. Rawls: And that’s fundamentally what aging is. Um, so if your cells are chronically stressed by bad diet and not sleeping in all of these things, then you lose cells faster. So if there was no stress in life, you know, theoretically, supposedly our cell supply just from the mitochondrial factor would last to about 120.

Dr. Rawls: And that’s the oldest than any person has ever aged. But we, most of us don’t even come close to getting where we need to be or might want to be because we’re doing things that cause cellular stress. So we age faster. Now, granted 65. I burned through a lot of cells in my life. You know, I was definitely stressing my cells between the time I was 30 and 50.

Dr. Rawls: So I burned a lot of cells that I’m not going to get back, and that’s going to affect my total life expectancy. But I’m healthy because I keep the cells that I have healthy. I do things to reduce cellular stress every day of my life. And I live differently than I did when I was in my thirties, so that, you know, I’m going to get a higher level of health.

Dr. Rawls: And this has been well-documented. You know, you look at all the, the anti-science, uh, the anti-aging science and technology, and. Yeah, it’s, it’s fundamentally flawed. But when you, you know, when you really get down to studying it, but then you look at groups of people, and you’re probably familiar with the Blue Zone studies.

Dr. Rawls: Um, this came out of a National Geographic project about two, the around 2000, um, that they looked at pockets of people around the world that were living typically into their nineties or beyond a hundred, and they weren’t getting sick. And then I look at my, you know, I analyzed, you know, this way that I’ve come to looking things from a cell model.

Dr. Rawls: They were doing all the right things. They were eating the right diet. They had low stress, they were sleeping, they stayed physically active. They were eating basically herbs every single day. They were doing all the things they needed to do to reduce cellular stress throughout their lifetimes. These people weren’t, aren’t wealthy.

Dr. Rawls: They didn’t have access to a lot of technology. They didn’t do thousands of dollars worth of labs and all of this kind of stuff. They just basically, without knowing it took care of their cells. And typically, you know, they, they didn’t get sick. They just basically stopped functioning at some point. And it just sends a message that, you know, we, we don’t necessarily, um, need to all live at a very, very low level, but we could be smart.

Dr. Rawls: I mean, if you think about that cellular metal model, just being smart about what you eat and the environment you live in and your, your stress level and sleep and how active you are and taking herbs every day, you do those five things. And the chances are that you’re going to be able to live a symptom free life.

Dr. Rawls: And wellness is just that simple, and that’s the crazy thing when you look at how complicated everybody’s made it. It’s just not that complicated. You talked a little

Liz Wolfe: bit about adaptogens and modulators. Is there anything else that are on your list of, you know, top 10 favorites for general

Dr. Rawls: wellness? Oh, of course.

Dr. Rawls: I, yeah, there are a lot of great herbs out there and I’ve tried many of them. Um, I have what I call antimicrobial herbs that I kind of keep in reserve, and I took these stronger, you know, so the antimicrobial properties of a plant or the properties in general really depend on the natural environment. Of the plant and what kind of stresses it’s having to deal with.

Dr. Rawls: It’s building chemistry against those stresses. So when you combine multiple plants, multiple herbs, you get this really nice spectrum that can compliment one another. So blending herbs together is, I, is something that’s always been done in herbal traditions. Typically, most formulas have anything from five to a dozen herbs, and it’s just you’re getting this really nice, uh, uh, complimentary function of the herbs.

Dr. Rawls: Um, so I have some stronger antimicrobial herbs that I use and I kind of keep in reserve when I’m stressed or maybe catch a cold or things like that. But they’re herbs that I take every day. Um, they don’t have quite as strong in antimicrobial properties, but again, Every single herb has antimicrobial properties.

Dr. Rawls: So some of my favorites, kind of my standard list. Um, Rhodiola is an adaptogen that’s kind of top of my list. Um, it is just a personal favorite. Um, I picked it up by, you know, years ago, uh, kind of before I really like this was in my early forties. Um, I had started using herbs a little bit and I heard about Rhodiola being good for altitude sickness because it increases oxygenation of your tissues.

Dr. Rawls: I. And we were going out to Colorado to go skiing. And you know, I live at sea level. My kids had me at 12 to 11 to 12,000 feet the next day that we, the first day we got there, um, doing the advanced slopes. And, um, I had, you know, I had taken all this Rola ahead of time and just didn’t have any feelings of altitude sickness or anything.

Dr. Rawls: So it’s been a favorite since. Um, it’s an herb from Siberia and it, uh, so it’s it’s cold, harsh environment and it’s really good for it helping us adapt to physical and mental stresses. It protects our cells, protects our organs, enhances oxygenation, balances, immune system functions, and it has some basic, uh, antimicrobial properties.

Dr. Rawls: Really nice herb, um, Rishi Mushroom. Um, that is, uh, if you go walk, take a walk in any woods. Anywhere that mushrooms grow and you see a mushroom that looks like a fan growing on the side of the tree that has kind of a rainbow rust color. That’s a species of Rishi, so they grow worldwide. And, uh, but this, the Asian variety has been studied in Japan and has some of the most potent anti-cancer properties known, really wonderful immune modulator.

Dr. Rawls: It was a primary herb in my recovery. It does have some antiviral properties. I’ve been taking that one every day for years, mainly because of all these wonderful anti microbe or anti-cancer properties that they’ve defined. Turmeric, everybody knows that one. Um, that’s the yellow color in curry. And, uh, turmeric has some really wonderful properties.

Dr. Rawls: People in India consume about a gram of turmeric every day in their curries, and it’s one of the reasons that India has felt to have some of the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s and cancer. Um, but it’s really good for, uh, arthritis in the joints. So it’s a, it’s a really nice herb to take for a lot of different reasons, you know, and sometimes we take an herb to say, oh, I’m taking this for my joints, and you find out it does all these other things too.

Dr. Rawls: Um, go to cola is another one from India that’s good for the brain and has nice calming effect. Um, milk thistle is always on my list. I’ve been taking milk thistle for 15 years. You hear a lot about milk thistle, um, for its protective liver protection ability. So it’s really good for protecting liver cells.

Dr. Rawls: We all need that. We all need that. As we go through life, we burn out our liver cells and replace them with fat cells, and so we lose our ability to detoxify all these toxins we’re exposed to in our modern world. But we also lose the ability to properly manage cholesterol. And I think one of the big reasons our cholesterol goes up with time is because we’re burning out our liver cells.

Dr. Rawls: Again. I’ve been taking milk thistle for 15 years, low dose only about two to 400 milligrams a day, and my cholesterol is actually better. Then when I was in my forties. So I feel like it probably has a nice effect. But the other day I was, I was researching milk tole and I also found that it protects cells that reorganize our bone.

Dr. Rawls: And it’s been, it’s something that women post menopause can take to help prevent osteoporosis. So this liver herb is great for your bones. And I found a study the other day that it’s great for oral health that reduces cavities and gingivitis. So yeah, one herb does all these wonderful things. Hawthorne typically good for the vascular system, and heart has a lot of wonderful properties.

Dr. Rawls: Uh, French mi, maritime pine bark is good for the vascular system. So that’s just a small list of some of my favorites.

Liz Wolfe: And do you take, in general, do you take them as tinctures as you mentioned before or do you do the powdered

Dr. Rawls: herb or both? I do a standardized extract, and that was the deal in my recovery.

Dr. Rawls: Um, I was taking a lot of, of stuff. I wa you know, I had like a shoebox full of bottles of, of, of various kinds of herbs and you really have to take a lot of the water, alcohol tinctures to get that full benefit and I learned that. So, so there are really three main commercial preparations of herbs. One is a whole herb powder.

Dr. Rawls: Now that’s a least pot. They basically take the plant, dry it, crush it up into a powder and put it in a capsule. And this can be con deceiving because if you’re looking at caps encapsulated products, most of them are, of them are cheap whole or powder. So you’re getting mostly fire to bear. Not much of the chemistry of the plant.

Dr. Rawls: So kind of the second level is that water, alcohol, tincture. And there are other kinds of ways to extract the herbs. Um, you can use glycerin and other kinds of things, um, but the water alcohol pulls the widest spectrum of the full chemistry of the plant, and that’s what you want, but you end up taking a lot of liquid, a lot of water, alcohol.

Dr. Rawls: I still use tinctures. I think they’re great, but to just for convenience. On a day-to-day basis, I typically use a standardized powdered extract. So if you’ve got an encapsulated product and you look on the bottle and it says standardized extract, and it’s standardized as some key phytochemical in, in the herb, that’s going to be 10 times more potent than that whole herb extract, and about five times more potent than the water alcohol.

Dr. Rawls: And what they’re doing basically is taking that water, alcohol, tincture, drying off the water and alcohol and collecting the powder. So it’s very concentrated. Um, and that’s the way to get it. So, you know, typically, uh, you know, the supplement that I use, uh, for my daily, I, I only have to take about three capsules to get a pretty large sum of all of those herbs that, you know, and nobody loves to swallow capsules, but they’re the easiest way to get, uh, the stuff, you know, and that fourth preparation that you’re seeing more of, um, gummies, you’re just not getting very much in a gummy, you know, I mean, it’s, uh, gummies are great.

Dr. Rawls: It’s just hard to get much in there to get that full spectrum of what you want. Taking a few capsules can give you a much higher presentation enough to actually do good. Well, our time

Liz Wolfe: is fast. Coming to a close, I could ask you a million questions and I could keep you on all day, but I suppose what we need to tell folks about is your book.

Liz Wolfe: You have a wonderful book that’s available for folks. Can you please let them know what it’s about and where they can find it? I, you know, this journey, um, one of my therapies was just writing. I love writing and enjoy explaining things in a way that people don’t necessarily think about. So, um, my latest book, the Cellular Wellness Solution, was j is just a composite with all of that information that I have put together over the past several decades of my life.

Dr. Rawls: Um, and it’s really four books in one. So the first book is that the, that theory, the model of the cellular, uh, version of health. The second is everything you need to know about herbs. So it’s like a, a primer on herbs by itself. The third is all the other things you need to do as far as diet and environment and lifestyle.

Dr. Rawls: And the fourth is applying these principles to specific problems like, uh, cardiac illnesses, uh, menopause, osteoporosis, all of these kinds of things. So, so it has a lot of information, um, well-documented. Um, there have been probably several hundred, uh, resources, uh, scientific articles that I reviewed to verify everything in the book.

Dr. Rawls: So it’s, it’s very evidence-based. Perfect. Well, I

Liz Wolfe: appreciate you so much for coming on today and answering some of my questions about herbs. Folks go grab this book. This is something I’ve been so fascinated about and I’m so excited to learn more and so grateful that Dr.

Liz Wolfe: Raws was able to come on and, and give us a primer.

Dr. Rawls: Well, thank you so much for the opportunity.

Thanks for listening to the new Balanced Bites Podcast! Before you shut down your podcast app, PLEASE take a moment to subscribe and leave a review! It’s a small thing you can do that I appreciate more than you can imagine! And speaking of what we can do for each other, if YOU have a question you’d like to have tackled on this podcast or an interview you’d like to hear, submit the details at Let’s keep unpacking, unraveling, contextualizing and nuance-ing the important questions together so we can be empowered, informed, active participants in our own health and happiness.

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