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Wellness Questionnaire with Olivia Amitrano, Owner and CEO of Organic Olivia

Discover how this herbalist, podcast host, and entrepreneur was inspired by her own health challenges to create a brand of herbal formulas to help others.

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In her ongoing quest to explore human health and wellbeing, Olivia Amitrano, an herbalist, writer, entrepreneur, and podcast host, is striving to bridge the gap between Western medicine and herbalism. Her journey began with various health challenges from a very young age. Despite conventional medical advice, she felt there had to be alternative paths to wellbeing that didn’t involve medication that treated only the symptoms. She eventually found her way to a TCM practitioner, whose diagnosis and herbal remedies proved transformative. Within weeks, she found relief from gastrointestinal issues, acne, anxiety, and more. This pivotal experience led her to embrace herbalism and complete a three-year clinical herbal program. Today, Amitrano shares her wisdom, plant-based remedies, and perspective on wellbeing through her company, Organic Olivia, which retails herbal formulas. Here, she reveals how she prioritizes her health and what she has learned through her own health challenges.  

What does wellness mean to you?

Wellness is about the tiny, monotonous habits and choices that may feel insignificant at the moment but add up over time to create the foundation of long-lasting health. I think in the wellness industry, which is a totally different topic of conversation, it can feel like wellness means buying every new gadget, eating the perfect diet, or spending a ton on superfoods, supplements, and services. And while yes, finding a practitioner who can hold the right container for you is worth its weight in gold, and supplementing what you’re missing or relying on herbal allies for support can be a game changer, most of the work lies in the little things we do each and every day. Those can be as simple as getting sunlight in the early morning to support your circadian rhythm and neurotransmitters, optimizing the quality of your sleep via breathwork or meditation, taking walking breaks in between work, pumping up the amount and variety of prebiotic fiber in your diet, eating consistent meals (with adequate protein) to keep your nervous system and blood sugar stable, setting boundaries in your relationships, and cultivating a strong social community. These things sound simple, but they matter immensely.

What are your favorite things to do to maintain your personal wellbeing?

One, I focus on blood sugar regulation and adequate protein consumption. This has been a game changer for my metabolic health and hormones, but also for my mood and ability to withstand stressors. I used to skip breakfast and chug an iced coffee instead, which sent me on a blood sugar rollercoaster throughout the day and created not only glucose spikes, but anxiety and mood lows when they inevitably dropped. Now, I start every day with a serving of 30 grams of protein, and make sure to have three consistent meals (plus snacks, if needed) that contain a balanced protein, carb, and fat combination. This has lowered my blood sugar, improved my hormones and periods, and helped me to feel stable and strong even when stressful moments arise because my body is fed, fueled, and safe.

Two, I prioritize my relationship with myself and nervous-system regulation techniques. I start every day with “morning pages,” a brain dump of a stream of consciousness that takes up three pages in my journal. This can be my worries, my dreams from the night before, my hopes, and what I want to accomplish. It helps me to create space, acts as a meditation, and allows me to connect with myself like I’m checking in with a friend. I also make time for stretching, exercise, stillness (time without my phone), and acupuncture weekly.

Three, the runner-up list includes eating lots of fiber and fermented foods to ensure I have high levels of healthy gut bacteria and thus serotonin (sauerkraut, fermented beets, goat kefir), utilizing nervine and adaptogenic herbs for deep sleep and recovery from stress, strength training for muscle mass, and plenty of social time because fun = health.

Is there a specific fitness activity that you love and why?

Weight training, hands down. I used to be prediabetic and was diagnosed with insulin resistance. My functional doctor taught me that muscle is the most insulin sensitive tissue in the body, and if I wanted to reverse IR, I had to build a lot more of it. Muscle acts as a suitcase where your body can “stuff” excess glucose, keeping it out of the blood. After completely changing my body composition through heavy lifting, I’m now in the healthy range.

What is your favorite healthy food, and do you have a favorite way of preparing it?

Honestly, I love a sandwich and think they can be extremely healthy. I like to use gluten-free sourdough bread (since I have a gluten intolerance, but regular sourdough is lovely if you don’t), grilled chicken breasts, tomatoes, lettuce, microgreens, pesto, and anything else you can think of. It’s the perfect marriage of protein (chicken), carbs and fiber (the bread), healthy fat (pesto), and antioxidants (the veggies). Eat with a side of sauerkraut! I also love steamed beets and hardboiled eggs with a tahini dill dip for breakfast.

What is your favorite healthy beverage (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), and do you have any insider tips for preparing it?

I like to make a mood-boosting spritz that gives you the feeling of a happy, almost-buzz without the alcohol. You can take any unsweetened, fizzy drink you love (I’m a huge fan of Rishi Tea’s Dandelion Ginger sparkling botanical), add two full droppers of my Mood Juice tincture and a splash of maple syrup. Mood Juice contains the perfect ratio of St. John’s Wort and lemon balm to help instantly lift your mood and reduce anxiety, and maple syrup contains a ton of minerals that support your brain and energy levels.

What is your greatest wellness achievement?

Getting into the best shape of my life at 30 and reversing prediabetes.

What person in wellness do you most admire and why?

I admire my teachers, Richard Mandelbaum and Claudia Keel, from my school Arbor Vitae School of Traditional Herbalism. This was a three-year clinical herbalist program in Brooklyn, NY, and my teachers lovingly shared their years of wisdom and experience in the most down-to-earth, human-first way possible. They reminded us each and every day to look at lifestyle and diet first before having clients spend a dime, to see the person and pattern in front of us instead of the diagnosis, and to teach people how to have a true relationship with the plants that were calling to them versus consume the latest and greatest super-herb.

What is the best piece of wellness advice you have ever received and from whom?

You can do all the things, take all the digestive enzymes, run the fanciest lab testing in the world, eat the perfect diet, but your gut and digestion will still struggle if your nervous system is running in fight or flight all the time. Sometimes the issue is not where the symptoms are presenting, and we must look deeper at the root. Often, that root is our nervous system health: the way we speak to ourselves, how quickly we’re rushing through life, feeling unsafe in our bodies, unresolved trauma, etc. This is where so many of us need support from modalities like EMDR, trauma-informed therapy, breathwork, movement, etc. I’m not sure if I learned that from any one person, but after four seasons of having a podcast where I interview experts, physicians, and healers from around the world, this is what everyone keeps coming back to.

What do you think is the most exciting wellness innovation you have recently discovered?

I’m a big fan of red-light therapy, photobiomodulation, for modulating pain, inflammation, and even supporting thyroid health and hormone production. I have a small red-light device that I use for inflammation and pain relief. I recently had viral conjunctivitis, and it was the only thing that gave me relief from the pain in the middle of the night when I couldn’t keep getting up for compresses. I also use it on my dog for hip issues and even skin health.

What is your favorite place for a healthy vacation or escape?

I don’t think it matters where you go for this one, but I do think it’s immensely important to travel solo at least once in your life. Everyone has that place where they feel really free and alive. For me, it’s London, for some people, it’s Joshua Tree or Costa Rica or Wyoming. Solo traveling to London gave me an immense sense of independence, capability, and self-confidence, and it helped me meet myself as a human outside of my usual identity (especially the identity I have in my work and how I tie my productivity to my worth as a human). I think that’s really healthy.

We place a lot of weight on our identities—like careers and parenthood, for example. And once we reach those goals and settle into those identities, it can almost feel like life is metaphorically over. Not that we’re necessarily unhappy, but that it feels like, “Okay, this is my life, and this is what it’s always going to be.”

Through solo travel and seeing new parts of myself in new environments, I learned that one part of your identity doesn’t have to be your ONLY identity. My friend told me recently, “This is not the last thing that you’ll create.” It’s healthy to give yourself space to become the next version of yourself.

Is there a particular wellness company or brand that truly impresses you with their efforts and why?

I think Parsley Health is a wonderful model for connecting with functional physicians that will truly get to the root of your health issues, without spending a fortune. For a long time, functional medicine has not been covered by insurance and has simply been inaccessible to most. Parsley and Robin Berzin, M.D. are changing that, and I love to see it.

What is your favorite self-care routine?

Castor oil packs are my go-to self-care, bodycare, and hormone-care routine. I like to put them over my liver if I’m experiencing inflammation, allergies, skin issues, etc., or over my abdomen if I’m feeling constipated or like my lymphatic system needs support. Castor oil is absorbed into the body through the skin. Once absorbed, it stimulates the flow of lymphatic fluid. The lymphatic system is in charge of eliminating toxins from the body and blood. Therefore, improved lymph flow would translate to enhanced detoxification. Applying castor oil onto the abdomen directly helps with the healing and stimulation of the GALT (gut associated lymph tissue), digestive tract, and liver.

What is your go-to for de-stressing?

Calling a friend, making a cup of tea, or laying in the dark with a meditative playlist on and placing one hand on my heart and asking myself questions so that I can speak to my body, talk about what I’m feeling, and be my own best friend.

About The Author
Heather-Mikesell-author-1

Heather, co-founder of Well Defined and the former editor-in-chief of American Spa, is an award-winning journalist and content strategist, skilled in writing, copyediting, and media relations. She is also a freelance writer and has contributed to Elite Traveler, Islands, Kiwi, Luxury Travel Advisor, Organic Spa, Porthole Cruise, Travel Agent, abcnews.com, jetsetter.com, outside.com, and wellandgood.com, in addition to various custom publications. She is frequently called upon to comment on various spa and wellness trends for various media outlets.