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The Truth About DIY Laundry “Detergent”

A recent horrifically nasty discovery about DIY laundry soap prompted today’s soapbox – see what I did there ūüėȬ† I warn you – it’s gonna be long.¬† That said, if you have ever made or considered making – your own laundry detergent, please take the time to read this.¬† If at the end you disagree, rock on. I did my part and warned you.

The Background

Like many people, I want to do the best I can for my family and the environment. That means that I often find myself asking Dr.Google how to DIY everything under the sun so I can limit the toxic chemicals contributing to our toxic load.¬† I’ve tried my hand at everything from candles to deodorant with varying rates of success.¬† Homemade household cleaners were one of the first things I tried and remain one of my favorites since many are effective, economical, and easy.

From DIY cleaners to essential oils, there was SO MUCH bad information out there.¬† So much misinformation being promulgated by well-meaning mommy bloggers with huge followings.¬† I had bought into plenty of it because I didn’t know any better.

I made my first DIY laundry detergent in 2013. That was also the year I banned paper towels and commercial cleaners for an entire year.  Needless to say, when I jumped on the crunchy bandwagon, I went hardcore. I took it to the extreme and wanted to DIY everything because DIY is better, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

The other thing that happened in 2013 is that, at the end of the year, I walked away from a halfway completed Master of Science in Telecommunications.¬† I just didn’t love it anymore and my husband encouraged me to pursue my passion.¬† A month later, in January of 2014, I started a Master of Science with American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS).¬† I took two semesters of graduate courses (to include one graduate level Aromatherapy course and two in Anatomy & Physiology) before realizing that I really needed to take some foundational undergraduate courses before taking higher level courses about theoretical application.¬† I spent another year with ACHS, completing programs in Natural Products Manufacturing, Aromatherapy, and Herbal Retail Management.¬† After ACHS I went on to a Master of Science at Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) in Therapeutic Herbalism.¬† I cannot speak highly enough about those programs.¬† Why is it relevant to this post (and brought up in a lot of my discussions)?¬† It’s because that training included very detailed education on herbs, fixed oils, and essential oils, their chemistry, their actions (based on chemical constituents), and understanding clinical studies and science.¬† It didn’t necessarily make me an expert on science but it definitely gave me the basics so I know when to ask a chemist, biologist, botanist, or medical professional for clarification.

And now, here we are.

I recently started making soap. It’s my current obsession because it is a blend of exact chemistry and artistry. I decided to make another batch of laundry detergent, using one of my pure bars of coconut oil soap.¬† In theory that is the height of crunchiness.¬† I pulled up the recipes I had previously used.¬† Here is the top rated hit Google delivers for the “DIY laundry detergent” search.¬† It calls for a bar of soap, borax, and washing soda. This is another top hit (#3). Same ingredients.¬† #2¬†contains the same 3 ingredients, plus baking soda, Oxi-clean and scent.¬† I have tried all three of these and liked them.¬† My clothes seemed mostly clean. I was willing to lower my standards a bit given the frugality and how much it appealed to my preferences for “natural” products.

While I liked them, I wasn’t in love with them.¬† They never completely got rid of the smell in our sweaty athletic attire and I was frankly way overcommitted (I know you’ve been there, too) and just didn’t have time to figure out the problem.¬† We’ve been using commercial detergent since I started my Master’s with MUIH in 2016.¬† With my new soap fully cured, I was ready to give it a go again.

This time around, with a better understanding of chemistry, the recipes didn’t make sense.¬† I did some more research and found this article.¬† I reached out to a friend of mine, a kick ass chemist with a Master ‘s degree and a job working with chemicals all day.¬† I asked her to fact check the article since I am not a chemist. She verified almost everything in the article as true and then explained why these recipes may not work, and provided a whole lot of info.¬† I realized that, despite my best intentions, we had been wearing DISGUSTING clothing, that was neither clean or sanitary.¬† I was so grossed out that I decided to immediately write a post about this to warn all my well meaning friends.

So what’s the problem? There are actually a lot of reasons, scientifically, that this doesn’t work.

The details.

The bar of soap is the cleaning agent in these recipes.  The only cleaning agent in most of them. Soap is a combination of oil or fat with lye molecules that chemically reacted with water molecules in a process called saponification (that leaves no lye behind). Soap is designed for non-porous surfaces and requires friction (scrubbing) to rinse it away.  We will come back to the soap.

Borax, (B4Na2O7)

borax
From PubChem

Also known as¬†sodium borate,¬†sodium tetraborate, or¬†disodium tetraborate. It is easily converted into boric acid, however that is a different substance than what is sold in Borax (a salt).¬† It has a lot of different biochemical uses (to include as a buffer), however in laundry it is used to soften hard water (if you are lucky enough not to have hard water you may not care about this part at all).¬†¬†“Hard water” means that your water has a pH of over 8.5 (pH means “potential of hydrogen” if you didn’t know – okay fine, I admit it, I didn’t know).¬† The neutral range for water is 6.5 to 8.5.¬† The goal is to bring your water to as close to neutral as possible to prolong the life of your clothing.

Borax has a pH of 9.3.  It has two salt molecules and is also used to soften water, because the salt molecules (the Na) bind with the minerals in hard water, like Ma and Ca. This chemical couple is an insoluble substance that can be rinsed away (same concept as the oil from the soap trapping dirt and grime). For borax to dissolve and rinse away, you need heat. Agitation is not enough. Cold water will not work.

Washing Soda, (Na2CO3 ),

washingsoda
From PubChem

is also known as soda ash due to burned plant ashes being one source of the substance. It is an alkali chemical used as a water softener or degreasing agent. It is a salt of carbonic acid. The salt (Na) is the part that softens water.¬†Washing soda has a pH of 11. That alkalinity makes it wonderful for removing grease stains from garage floors, tough fabrics, etc.¬† This is also supposed to help soften the water in the exact same way as borax.¬† The problem is that it requires a LOT of rinsing to rinse away. If not, it leaves an insoluble substance redeposited right on your clothes.¬† One rinse cycle is not going to remove this stuff in a standard washing machine.¬† Washing soda does not dissolve easily.¬† You should use either washing soda or borax.¬† You don’t need both, that’s silly and not very economical.¬† For hard water, I would personally choose Borax (lower pH = less caustic) over washing soda and just use warm to hot water.

Oxi-clean, is used for stain-boosting or presoaking.¬† It is actually not found in most “natural” recipes. It is included because it is found in the 2nd most popular recipe (per Google search as of 8/16/2018) for “DIY Laundry Detergent”.¬† While I personally think that this works quite well as a presoak, it is neither natural or “safe”.¬† The EWG gives it¬†a big fat “F”¬†while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (link here) says,

Danger. Causes skin irritation. Causes serious eye damage. Toxic to aquatic life.

If you care about Flipper or your eyeballs, this is maybe not for you.

Scent is pretty self-explanatory. It is usually either in the form of fabric softener crystals or essential oils. Do I even need to discuss the synthetic fragrance in fabric softener chemicals?¬† Let me just point you to my post on candles and let’s call this topic done. Essential oils as scent?¬† Okay – this is a topic that I am most definitely qualified to talk about.

agriculture-05-00048-g008a

Some essential oils work quite well to pretreat (lift) certain types of stains (grease). In the recipe itself? They may make your clothes smell good.¬† They are unlikely to have any other effect in your laundry, no matter what you have been told.¬† Think about the size of your washing machine, the amount of water in it, and then how much essential oil you are adding.¬† If someone quotes “studies” showing how antimicrobial they are, go read the study, look at the quantity used and the application method.¬† It is an absolute distortion of facts to cite those studies as a scientific basis for eos in your laundry.

If you are using essential oils for scent alone (because they are a far better alternative than fragrance), you may be totally happy with the outcome of the aroma after you wash your clothes.¬† If you use water that is hot enough to kill the pathogens lurking on your clothes (staph infection, anyone?) the heat will damage or destroy the essential oils. If you use a dryer, there is almost no chance the aroma will make it through the entire process intact.¬† If you are using them for smell alone, this doesn’t make much economical sense.¬† You would be better served putting them on/in a dryer ball where some would survive the process and leave your clothes smelling nice. Here is a lengthy, detailed scientific review of how light/temperature affect the structure of essential oils, and potential side effects of transdermal absorption of these mutated molecules.¬† My opinion is that if you find a combo that works for you and makes your clothes smell nice, it is far better to go that route than to use cheaper synthetic fragrance.¬† Just know that you are degrading any potential therapeutic benefit so the aroma can be quite expensive.

And now… the biggest reason for this blog post.¬†

Let’s talk soap.¬† Soap is designed to trap bacteria (with the oil) and allow you to rinse it off with water. The water is critical because you can actually remove a lot of germs with just water and friction, but you remove nothing with just soap. Let’s start simple.

Consider the quantity.¬† If one bar of soap goes in the total recipe and you are using one or two tablespoons of “detergent” per load, how much soap is actually in that? It’s fractions.¬† Maybe a 1/4 of a tablespoon of cleaner for an entire load of laundry? Would you use a drop of liquid dish soap for an entire sink full of dishes? That tiny quantity would not be enough to clean anything. Gross!

So let’s say you have figured out the right quantity to make sure there is enough cleaner in each load. Let’s say you even figured out the proper ratio of pH balancers (all the Borax and washing soda talk above) for your exact water to make the soap effective and prevent it from turning into something insoluble that leaves a film (this is the EXACT thing that we call “soap scum” in our showers).¬† Here is the critical thing I just didn’t understand:¬†laundry soap is designed for washing boards, tubs, or washbasins, with the cleaning powered by humans through mechanical energy (good, old fashioned scrubbing!).¬†¬†Modern washing machines do not generate that much friction, which is why laundry detergent exists.

The terms are often used interchangeably but they are NOT the same thing.  Soap can be made at home with a basic understanding of chemistry (hello, I do it!). Detergent requires a chemistry lab. Both contain surfactants but behave very differently in water.

Detergent, developed in labs when plant oils and animal fats were scarce during World War I, is free rinsing.  The minerals in hard water do not react with the detergent like they do with the soap.  If you have an energy efficient washer, worse, a front loader (like me), the agitation will not come close to the friction needed for the water to wash away the oil from the soap (that has trapped the gross stuff).  Ivory soap, pure coconut oil soaps, Castile soap are all still soap, no matter what you read on the blogosphere.

This concept is really, really important.¬† If I confused you or you don’t believe me, you can (and should!) read¬†this¬†chemistry site,¬†this blog, or even this one.¬†that explain the difference between soap and detergent and why they are NOT the same thing.

Regardless of the name, all of the DIY recipes are for laundry soap, not detergent.

Any remaining delusions I had about my ability to make laundry detergent were shattered after I realized that every single recipe uses soap and is therefore laundry soap, not a detergent.¬† Next came the reality that we had worn dirty¬†clothes for the months (year?) I made our “detergent”.¬† We wore bacteria-laden clothing, with pollen potentially still trapped in the fibers of my highly allergic husband’s clothing, in the name of cheap and eco-friendly DIY cleaners for my expensive eco-friendly HE front-loading washer.

So think about what is on your clothes after multiple washes with your DIY “detergent”.¬† Do you wash your clothes on cold cycle? Cold water won’t dissolve the soap as well, either.¬† You may just be leaving chunky residue on your clothes and washer.¬† If you are still arguing at this point, I feel sorry for your bacteria and soap film covered family.

Let that all sink in.¬† If you’ve made your own “detergent” you may be feeling a bit queasy. If you are really brave and have a strong stomach, there is a photo gallery to show what was stripped off of clothes that were cleaned with homemade “detergents”.¬† It’s nasty. Don’t say I didn’t warn you first. Once you understand soap versus detergent, you know that these recipes do not work in a washing machine.

What can you do?

  1. You could wash your clothes by hand using laundry soap.
  2. You could wash your clothes in a washing machine with laundry soap and pretend you never read this article.
  3. You can try to tinker with the recipe. If¬†you have soft water you MIGHT be able to use a DIY recipe and multiple rinse cycles to generate the friction to rinse off the soap oils.¬† When doing multiple rinse cycles you are using more energy but you aren’t polluting Mother Nature with the chemicals in detergent so the eco-friendly argument might still be in your favor. You would definitely have control of the chemicals you are using. You might even have clean clothes maybe.
  4. You can suck it up, like me, and buy commercial detergent. There are some “safe” ones out there if you do your research.
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MUIH Microbial Analysis Experiment Internship Part III

 

At last, we have reached the end of this series on the “internship” that is no longer an internship. If you didn’t read the series, you should start at Part I.¬† The point of this blog series is to illustrate some of the work that I have done and things that I have learned. Since this is a real, ongoing, study involving accredited universities (University of Maryland and Maryland University of Integrative Health), I am not disclosing all materials and methods, analysis, or results.

This last portion of the experiment I have been participated in involved testing botanical extracts against various bacteria, yeast, and mold.  Specifically, I got to test hydro-alcoholic extracts of Echinacea purpurea (commonly known as Purple Coneflower or Echinacea), of varying strengths to see if it inhibited growth of the bacterias, yeast, and mold.  To do this, I created dilutions using 3 different Echinacea tinctures to inoculate, incubate, and interpret results from 3M Petrifilms.

I learned aseptic lab techniques while carrying out the study discussed in Part II of this series. This time around, it was even more important because I was handling petrifilm loaded with yeast and mold spores, and one with E.Coli (yuck!).   Having the experience gained from the first round made it much easier to confidently carry out the steps while limiting exposure.  Some of the additional daily tasks involved taking ambient temperatures, monitoring samples, counting colonies, and reporting results.

I won’t go into all the nerdy details since more will be written (and it’s really the school’s place to properly publish the study and get credit for it).¬† For now here are some pics of what I’ve been learning and doing.

 

Rosemary Monograph

Rosemary

img_20180714_081450

Nomenclature    

Rosmarinus officinalis

Family

Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae)

Parts Used

Leaves, flowers, and essential oil.

Identification of Genus/Species

 

Part Identification
Stem Shrub with scaly branches and bark. Grows to 3 feet.
Leaves 1 to 2 inch long needle-like evergreen leaves.
Flowers Flowers are small and pale blue or white.
Taste Strong, oily, bitter.
Odor Strong and pleasant. Camphor-like.

Cultivation

As a Mediterranean native, Rosemary does best in warm, sunny, and dry spots. It can be propagated by seed, cutting, or layering.   

Collection

To get the most essential oil, harvest the upper parts before they flower. The flowers and upper parts can be harvested in early Spring and Summer.  The leaves and flowers should be dried in the shade.

Constituents

The leaves and flowers contain an essential oil made up of borneol, camphor, 1,8 cineole, linalool, terpenes, and borneol esther.

The leaves also contain tannins, resin, carboxylic acid, and minerals such: as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, and potassium.

Actions

Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, antispasmodic, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, hepatic, hypertensive, nervine sedative, rubefacient, stimulant, and tonic.

Medicinal Use

The essential oil is thought to be responsible for the majority of the Rosemary’s therapeutic actions. Rosemary has many uses for the hair and skin: hair growth, dandruff, ulcers, sores and wounds.

Rosemary is used to support colds, headaches, fevers, poor memory, rheumatism, and sprains.  Due to its antispasmodic properties, Rosemary is useful for cramps and spasms. It has a general tonic effect on the circulatory system and may be helpful with varicose veins.

Contraindications & Side Effects

Rosemary contains two toxic constituents, borneol camphor and pinene. Camphor in high doses can aggravate asthma and epilepsy.

Rosemary should be avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy. Rosemary should not be administered to children under the age of four.

Rosemary should be tested via a skin patch test prior to topical application.

Follow dosage recommendations for the essential oil carefully. Rosemary can impact blood pressure.

 

Dosage

Doses can be taken three to four times a day.

Infusion: 3 to 5 tablespoons

Tincture: 5 to 20 drops

Essential Oil: ¬Ĺ to 3 drops

 

References

Balick, M. J. (2014). 21st century herbal: A practical guide for healthy living using nature’s most powerful plants. V. Mattern (Ed.). New York: Rodale, 341-345.

Bone, K., & Mills, S. (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy modern herbal medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier.

Easley,T. and Horne,S. (2016). The modern herbal dispensatory: A medicine-making guide. Berkeley, CA. North Atlantic Books

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Petersen, D. (2015). Herb 201 Herbal Studies. Portland, OR:  American College of Healthcare Sciences

Weiss, R., & Fintelmann, V. (2000). Herbal Medicine (2nd ed.). Stuttgart: Thieme

Lemon Balm Monograph

Lemon Balm

img_20180714_081613

Nomenclature

Melissa officinalis

Family

Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae)

Parts Used

Leaves

Identification of Genus/Species

Part Identification
Stem Similar to others in the Lamiaceae family, the stem is square.
Leaves Leaves are slightly hairy, broad and ovate. Low lying leaves may be heart shaped.  They omit a lemony aroma.
Flowers Flowers bloom in summer and are small and hooded, in white or lemon color.
Taste Pleasant, lemony, and mildly spicy.
Odor Lemony

Cultivation

Lemon Balm is an easy to grow perennial herb that will reach up to three feet high and two feet wide.  It is hardy to zone 3 and prefers fertile soil with a slightly acidic pH. Supplementing the soil with different nutrients will impact the chemical composition and essential oil yield.

Lemon Balm can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or division. Lemon Balm grows best with regular watering.  It will grow in sun or partial shade.

Collection

The entire above ground herb is harvested.  Lemon balm should be harvested by hand in the early morning, after the dew dries.  The leaves should be dried immediately.

Constituents

Essential oil contains citronellal, citral, linalool, and other monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes. Also contains tannins, flavonoids, and bitters.

The herb contains caffeic and rosmarinic acids.

The chemical composition of the oil is similar to the pheromone that helps worker bees locate their colonies.

Actions

Antidepressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, carminative, diaphoretic, and nervine sedative.

Medicinal Use

Due to its mild sedative action, Lemon Balm is useful for concentration, depression, sleep and stress.   Lemon Balm is also indicated for gastrointestinal disorders and nervous disorders and is especially prescribed for children with these conditions.

The essential oil has antiviral properties so it is used for cold sores and shingles.

Contraindications & Side effects

No known safety concerns.

Dosage

One to three times daily.

Infusion: 1 cup

Liquid Extract 2 to 4 millimeters

Tincture: 2 to 6 millimeters

References

Balick, M. J. (2014). 21st century herbal: A practical guide for healthy living using nature’s most powerful plants. V. Mattern (Ed.). New York: Rodale, 341-345.

Bone, K., & Mills, S. (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy modern herbal medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier.

Easley,T. and Horne,S. (2016). The modern herbal dispensatory: A medicine-making guide. Berkeley, CA. North Atlantic Books

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Petersen, D. (2015). Herb 201 Herbal Studies. Portland, OR:  American College of Healthcare Sciences

Weiss, R., & Fintelmann, V. (2000). Herbal Medicine (2nd ed.). Stuttgart: Thieme

Basil Monograph

Basil

 

Nomenclature

Ocimum basilicum

Family

Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae)

Parts Used

Leaves, flowers, and essential oil.

Identification of Genus/Species

Part Identification
Stem Grows 3 feet high. Obtusely quadrangular.
Leaves Leaves grow opposite, are 2 to 3 inches long, oval, and bright green.
Flowers Flowers are white or pink whorls
Taste Pleasant, strong, and peppery
Odor Highly fragrant

Cultivation

Sweet basil, ocimum basilicum, is an annual herb that is very easy to grow.  It prefers light, well-drained soil in warm climates with full sun.  It will also grow in a container. The top shoots should be clipped to promote fuller, healthier growth.  Cuttings can be rooted in water and grown in pots indoors.

Collection

Optimal harvest is just before the blooms open.

Constituents

The exact chemical profile of basil depends on the particular cultivar.  Sweet basil contains many chemical compounds in the essential oil: estragole, methyl cinnamate, ocimene, cineole, linalool, thymol, and camphor.  The leaves contain tannins, vitamins, and minerals, such as: calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, B2, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.

Actions

Analgesic, antibacterial, antiflatulent, antifungal, antiemetic, anticmicrobial, antioxidant, antispasmodic, antivenom, antiviral anxiolytic, circulatory stimulant, digestive, diuretic, galactogogue, hepatoprotective, hypoglycemic, insecticide, kidney tonic, nervine, orexigenic, sedative.

Medicinal Use

Basil has both topical and internal use. Taken orally, basil helps with digestive issues, stomach spasms, kidney issues, and blood sugar issues.  Multiple Ocimum species have exhibited a hypoglycemic effect. Basil may also help with headaches, appetite stimulation, circulation, and fevers.

Topically, basil can be used for bites, stings, and may be helpful for acne.  Basil can be used as an astringent mouthwash.

Basil essential oil exhibits antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, making it useful for cleaning and disinfecting.

Contraindications & Side Effects

Basil essential oil is not safe while pregnant, breastfeeding, or lactating. Sweet basil should not be consumed in doses higher than a culinary dose while pregnant, breastfeeding, or lactating and should be avoided entirely by infants and toddlers.

Basil should be avoided by those with an allergy to the Lamiaceae/Labiate families.

There are very few adverse effects reported.  Those with allergies to the Lamiaceae/Labiate families could have an allergic reaction to basil.

Dosage

Infusion: 1 cup of tea

Essential Oil: 1 drop

Tincture: 4 millimeters

Fluid Extract: 2 millimeters

 

 

 

U.S. National Arboretum Internship

 

I had the opportunity to do my Spring 2018 internship at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. ¬†The Arboretum is run by the U.S.D.A.’s Agricultural Research Service and hosts many different types of gardens and exhibits. ¬†I had three different tasks: spend four Saturdays working in the National Herb Garden, create herbal monographs for several herbs that I worked with, and finally, to assist in the design, planning, and execution of a workshop on herbal bitters that would be held on the Arboretum grounds in August.

The work in the gardens provided a new appreciation for the hard work horticulturists put in.  My internship started with hours of carrying and planting herbs, and digging up tulip bulbs from the Spring entrance display.  The next Saturday, I planted enough corn and sugarcane to fill in the entire display we had dug up the week before. I pulled weeds, planted lemon balm, and pruned other herbs.  Dozens of people stopped to ask questions, providing an opportunity to share knowledge about the plants. During my two remaining days of work, I pulled weeds and helped shape plants in the Medicinal, Native American, and Culinary Herb Gardens.  The hard work in the garden paid off because I learned new gardening skills such as the right planting depth, proper pruning, and all about several garden pests. These skills will be very useful for cultivating my own herbs.

Creating the herbal monographs required a lot of research, my own organoleptic experience, and taking photos of properly identified plants.  The monographs can be viewed here. The final task, preparing for the Bitters Workshop, required extensive soft skills. I worked with the Arboretum staff via email, telephone, and through live collaboration sessions where we edited documents as we exchanged ideas.  

Each of the three tasks was very different from the others. I was able to do some manual labor, research, and event planning all surrounding herbs.  In the end, I walked away with some cultivation skills, experience creating monographs, and an appreciation for the amount of coordination that goes into planning events.  

Disclaimer:  Due to the beauty of Arboretum, I took an obscene amount of photos from May РJuly so I captured both Spring and Summer in the Herb Garden.

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Medicine Making in the Woods

During early Spring, as the plants were just beginning to poke out of the ground, I had the privilege of once again working with the students of Washington College.¬† The workshop this time was all about making medicine in the woods so we took it offsite and explored the flora (and fauna!) of the beautiful land owned by the school on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

This workshop allowed us to examine medicinal herbs in their natural habitat.  We discussed the plants from both an ethnobotanical and chemical perspective.  Thanks to permaculturist Shane Brill, identification was quick and easy. After we identified the plants, we discussed their historical use by various world cultures and the main chemical compounds that are responsible for their therapeutic actions.

The students were able to touch, smell, and in some cases, taste, the materials we were discussing.  Most students had some prior knowledge of some of the plants, making for a few hours of interesting and educational conversation while we explored the woods.

While I am normally all about ratios, measurements, and precise chemistry, it isn’t always practical in real life scenarios.¬† I can’t imagine that most people have weight scales, liquid measuring cups, and the like with them when they have first aid emergencies in the woods.¬† For the “medicine making” portion of this trip, we made medicine the way our ancestors did.¬† As the village medicine woman in this scenario (that’s really fun to say!), I passed down my knowledge of the plants as everyone was gathered in a circle. The students harvested plants and combined them in jars to make their medicine.¬† We used Apple Cider Vinegar to extract the fat-soluble constituents and all those vitamins and minerals that come out best in acetic acid. The students also made a simple infusion that they could take him and try.

Check out the highlight reel and photos below.