Rosemary Monograph

Rosemary

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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: ½ 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

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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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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 plant 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 four 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 there is no reason they can’t begin exploring the things that they can do and make for themselves.  To this end, I decided it was time to reach out to groups that might be interested.

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.  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.

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).

 

 

During the 90 minute talk 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.

There is a short video clip from the evening hosted on the Garden Club’s site.

 

 

 

 

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?

 

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.

Before we conclude this topic, I need to make an important point.  Essential oils are the key to aromatherapy.  Essential oils are one of the many chemical constituents that come from plants.  Plants used medicinally, whether the whole plant, or just particular chemical compounds (i.e., volatile oils), are considered to be herbs.  This means that by that definition, aromatherapy, a very powerful modality, could be considered a subset of herbal medicine, which is a far older discipline.  I make this distinction here because many herbalists are unfamiliar with aromatherapy because it is a “newer” discipline with less research and historical documentation. Many aromatherapists are unfamiliar with herbs and don’t realize understand the connection to the plant or that there are times when one approach is better than the other.  For me, they are the same thing.  Organic chemical substances that have a biochemical effect on the anatomy, physiology, or psyche of humans.  It’s science.

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.