Herbal Workshop at Washington College

 

herbal workshop with whitney palacios in the alumni house
Herbal workshop in the Alumni House.   All photos in this post are compliments of Washington College Videographer, Shane Brill.

 

I have been teaching my children all about plants and herbal medicine for years.  They forage, mix, measure, and discuss what we are doing and why. We are big on science in this house and I have now been formally studying herbs, herbal medicine, and natural products for about three years.  Numerous friends and family have left my house with handmade goodies because they simply asked a question, paid a compliment, or just looked interested in what I was doing.  Any opportunity I get to share my knowledge, I jump right in.  After all, this is the medicine of the people.

As my studies at MUIH have progressed, so has my desire to share the knowledge that I have learned.  Not everyone needs to understand the phytochemistry or pharmacokinetics of plants (but wouldn’t that be great?), but there is no reason they can’t begin exploring the things that they can do and make for themselves.  I love empowering people to do things for themselves.  To this end, I decided it was time to reach out to groups that might be interested.  I really wanted to teach.

I contacted the Garden Club at Washington College.  My logic was that if anyone were going to love plants, it would be that group.  After a few weeks of correspondence, I taught my first workshop on Tuesday, October 10th.  This wasn’t a group of people that through birth, legal obligation, or friendship, are required to care about what I am doing or feign interest.  They didn’t have to pretend to like me or my message.  This was a group of intelligent, inquisitive college students with backgrounds ranging from Biology to Environmental Science.   In other words, this group was smart and kept me on my toes.

I consider myself lucky that they allowed me to share just a little bit of knowledge with them.  The workshop was very hands on, with the students measuring, pouring, and mixing while asking questions ranging from dosage of essential oils to whether particular plant oils were comedogenic.  Seriously, I couldn’t spell comedogenic, much less pronounce it correctly at 18.  I learned a lot from the group as they talked about what they were studying and the efforts underway at the college (which is truly fascinating so check out the Eastern Shore Food Lab).

 

 

In the course of an hour and a half the students made their own bath salts and lip balms. We discussed the role that the different ingredients played in the product, as well as how to change ratios or omit certain ingredients.  Everyone left with their own products, as well as the ability to recreate the recipes.  I am grateful for the experience and can’t wait to do it again.

 

 

 

 

Natural Remedies for Combating Symptoms of the “Low-carb Flu”

Have you recently taken the plunge and undertaken a low carb, no-sugar diet like Whole30, Paleo, or Keto? If you have and you have found you are suffering from some of the many symptoms (and you want relief), then keep reading.

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“Low carb flu”, “carb flu”, and “keto flu” are all terms used to refer to the many unpleasant symptoms that may occur when switching to a low-carb, no sugar lifestyle. 

The symptoms may range from mental fog, nausea, fatigue, headaches, cramps, digestive issues, low energy levels, twitchiness, crankiness, and exhaustion.  Some people have characterized it as feeling like they were withdrawing from heroin. For me, I was an emotional terrorist, snapping at anyone in my path and only vaguely remembering why five minutes later.  I was one of the “lucky” ones.  I didn’t experience the other physical symptoms. Mine was mental and emotional.  I accidentally walked down the bread aisle and imagined myself ripping through a bag of bagels with my bare teeth and devouring every last one.

If you committed to one of these diets and have taken the time to do the tedious meal planning, I assume you were aware these symptoms could or would happen.  I will also assume that you have read about why.  I will provide a brief and not overly scientific explanation before moving on to what you can do to help alleviate the symptoms using some natural remedies.

WHY???  First, sugar.  Sugar is highly addictive.  It is as addictive, or more addictive, than many narcotic drugs.  Read that twice and let it sink in.  Here is just one study that shows that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. You are going through withdrawal from a highly addictive substance, just like a junkie.  Making it worse is that sugar is sugar. That means healthy sugar, imitation sugar (which is the devil), and carbohydrates (because your body converts unused carbs to sugar!) are all fueling your addiction.  Now that you are denying yourself all that pleasure-center activating sugar, you are going to feel like crap.

The other reason for all the unpleasantness has to do with your gut. Each of us have unique flora in our gut. This is determined by a lot of factors, most notably, your diet.  Your old diet, like 2-7 days old, is going to play a part in how you feel now.  Any drastic dietary changes will trigger a reaction where your gut needs to find some harmony. 

Until it does, you may suffer the dreaded “flu”.  Moving on… what can we do to make it better?

You should have read up before kicking off your diet.  There are some standard nuggets of wisdom: find a support network, get sufficient rest, exercise, drink tons of water, etc. 

 Those are critical to your success (and comfort!).  But you didn’t come here because I’m a diet expert (I’m not).  Sometimes those things just aren’t enough and you want some extra help.  If you are looking for natural, safe, mild alternatives, you are in the right place.  

 

I have created a list of things that you can try to help alleviate each symptom. To make it easy for you, it is in a completely free, downloadable infographic (the one above). Let me know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is aromatherapy?

aromatherapy (1)

What is aromatherapy? Did you know that this very question causes major debates? There are a whole bunch of words and terms tossed about: aromatology, aromachology, aromatherapy, holistic aromatherapy, psychoaromatherapy. Seriously, it’s still a little daunting for me and I’m a pro. So, what exactly is aromatherapy?

For most people who are new to aromatherapy, they conjure up images of candles or bath salts.  Maybe they picture a scene with a woman in a bathtub, surrounded by things that smell good.  Well, that might be part of it, but it definitely does not cover it.  

Aromatherapy has a vast number of definitions, even amongst some aromatherapists.  Some definitions, such as the one contained in The Concise Oxford Dictionary, which defines aromatherapy as “the use of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils in massage and other treatment”, seem to be overly restrictive and do not fully embody modern aromatherapy.  According to Jane Buckle, author of our Clinical Aromatherapy textbook, aromatherapy is a misnomer because it is not just about smells and massage.  

The Sense of Smell Institute (SSI) recognizes aromatherapy as “the therapeutic effects of aromas on physical conditions as well as psychological conditions”.  This definition is much more inclusive and allows us to break aromatherapy into several subdisciplines, as described by Başer.  Aromatherapy is the more generic and overarching term, which will include: aromatherapy, aromatology, and aromachology.

Aromatology, a subdiscipline of aromatherapy, is concerned with the internal usage of essential oils.  The method of internal consumption is not as important as the effects of the chemicals.  This is usually overseen by doctors or herbalists and is traditionally quite common throughout much of Europe.

Aromachology is closely aligned with psychology since it is concerned with the impact of smells on feelings.  It is also referred to as psychoaromatherapy and aims to study the impact of aromas on endorphins and the limbic system. (Buckle, 2003)  

The term “holistic aromatherapy” seems to refer to an approach that considers that patient as a whole and aims to treat them as such.  This is a practice undertaken by many nurses in the U.K. who have begun to embrace complementary modalities in their healthcare practices.  This term most closely describes what I, as a student, envision aromatherapy to be.

Now, you may still be wondering how aromatherapy works.  There are a couple of different ways that the essential oils cause therapeutic actions within the body.  Oils can be applied topically to the skin, with somewhere around 20-75% of the oil absorbed by the skin.  It varies greatly by atomic weight of the oil but it is pretty straightforward.  The oils either treat a topical issue or treat an internal issue once they have gotten into the bloodstream.  Oils are sometimes ingested. This is also a pretty simple concept. The final way that oils work their magic is through inhalation. This is pretty complex so if you want to learn more, check out How the Sense of Smell Works.

References:

Başer, K. H., & Buchbauer, G. (2010).Handbook of essential oils: science, technology, and applications. Boca Raton: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.

Buckle, J. (2003). Clinical aromatherapy: essential oils in practice (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone.