The Medicine Hunter's Healthy Gift Ideas

The holidays are upon us, and we are in that period when we tend to eat a bit more, drink a bit more, and perhaps take a break from regular exercise. There are gatherings and parties, and it’s easy to get caught up in all the festivity. At the same time, as we eye the New Year, we often turn our minds to ways that we can live in healthier ways.

Here are some healthy holiday gift ideas that not only may be more fun than giving yet another necktie or sweater, but will also help to ring in a healthier New Year.

1. Massages – Perhaps a friend or loved one would enjoy a massage. These days, there are plenty of types of massages to choose from. Swedish massage involves long strokes to the sore and tired muscles of the body, and is a great way to work out tension. Shiatsu massage, a Japanese creation, utilizes pressure on various points on the body to stimulate energy flow and boost energy and immune function. In some urban areas, you can even find Thai massage, which stretches the body and makes you feel like you’ve just had a good yoga class. Which ever massage you choose to give, it may be much more welcome than a new set of napkin rings.

2. Home massage tools – At fitness centers and natural food stores and online you can find home massage tools that enable you to get the kinks out of your body according to your own schedule. My all-time favorite is the Ma Roller, a wooden tool that works out back tension. Simple, easy to use and with no moving parts, this can really get deeply into sore muscle tissue and give relief. There are also foot massage tools, from simple wooden rollers to more elaborate electrical devices that vibrate your feet and drain tension from your entire body. A good massage tool can become a favorite possession.

3. Exercise equipment – Looking for a gift that will last? Try getting somebody a good piece of exercise equipment. Make sure it’s something they want, though, as a lot of exercise machines wind up as clothes hangers. My favorite pick is a bicycle. A bike offers great transportation and good cardiovascular exercise, and can be taken on scenic trips. Another wonderful item for those who live in areas where there is winter snow, is a pair of snow shoes. Today’s light aluminum snow shoes are loads of fun to use, and enable you to glide over the deepest snow with great ease, while working out your whole body. It’s fun to explore woods and fields in deep winter snow, without sinking up to your knees. Drop into a good sports store and see what’s available.

4. Fitness classes – From Yoga classes to martial arts lessons to aerobics classes of every type, there is a lot to choose from. Has your loved one expressed a desire to get into better shape? A trial membership to a fitness class may be just the thing they need to jump-start a whole new habit of being in better overall physical shape, with reduced mental stress as a bonus. Make sure the class membership you give is right for the person, though. Your aging grandmother may enjoy a senior’s fitness stretching program, but may not appreciate lessons in extreme wrestling!

5. www.Anything goes – The World Wide Web has totally changed life as we know it, and it has changed gift-giving as well. For the self-starter, you can find fitness and yoga DVD programs, meditation CDs, books on healthy living and much more. Simple Google searches for key terms like “healthy gifts” and “stress relief” will yield a plethora of possibilities.

6. Spa treatments – From day spas where you can be pampered, massaged, steamed, and rejuvenated at your convenience, to getaway spas that take you in and guide you toward a totally healthier life, there is plenty to choose from. The spa scene has exploded in the past decade, and you can find everything from convenient day spas in strip malls, to exotic retreats in tropical locales.

Living healthy is not a matter of doing just one or two things. To be truly healthy requires a whole host of habits, from eating well to exercising regularly to taking time to relieve stress. Giving gifts of health is a kind way to promote the well-being of friends, loved ones and co-workers. Whoever first said “health is wealth” surely knew what they were talking about. With the vast array of healthy gift possibilities, you can help and encourage others to enjoy the vitality and well-being that make living vastly more enjoyable. Very happy and healthy holidays to you.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at