Diabetes: Medicinal Herbs to Support Blood Sugar Management in Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes

This past week I had an assignment for school that challenged me to write a professional white paper on a topic of my choosing within the scope of herbal medicine.  I immediately knew I wanted to focus my energy on diabetes due to a recent diagnosis of a close family member.  I wanted to look at the symptoms of diabetes and the research available on medicinal herbs that could potentially serve as adjunctive, complimentary, or alternative treatment for symptom management so that I could suggest this family member discuss these herbs with his primary care provider.

I have attempted to take a large amount of information and present it in a way that is easily digestible.  If you are interested in the research but find this a bit too technical or dry, you are welcome to scroll all the way to the bottom to the conclusion.

Background

Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) and glucose present in the urine (glycosuria).  Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, regulates blood sugar by removing glucose (sugar) from the blood, allowing it to enter cells throughout the body. It is important for other metabolic processes, as well. When there is insufficient insulin, or the body is not reacting to the insulin that is present, the levels of glucose in the blood begin to rise.  Sufficiently high levels of blood glucose result in the body burning alternative sources of energy, like fats, leaving their metabolites, ketones, in the blood. Metabolic changes can result, impairing the body’s ability to handle fats, leading to a buildup of fat throughout their arteries. Ultimately this can contribute to serious health problems such as: blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, and stroke.  

There are two types of diabetes: Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM) and Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM).  IDDM, often referred to as Type I, is usually characterized by significant lack of insulin production. There are many theories about the cause of the disease, however it is not entirely understood. Type I diabetes must be treated with dietary modifications and exogenous insulin supplementation.

NIDDM, Type II, also involves a deficiency of insulin, however it is much less severe. Sometimes the insulin is being produced, but no longer effective.  Treatment for this type of diabetes does not require insulin since the body is still producing it. Common treatment involves the use of hypoglycemic agents, glucosidase inhibitors, dietary modifications, and preparations designed to delay absorption of glucose.   

Present Case

Herbal medicine has been used to treat diabetes for thousands of years.  There are over one thousand plants that have been used historically for treating symptoms of diabetes.  Plants and plant extracts act in a variety of specific and non-specific ways, with the secondary metabolites from the plants either directly lowering glucose levels in the blood while others impact glucose metabolism.  Metformin, the first drug created for the treatment of Type II diabetes, was developed after the discovery that goat’s rue, Galega officinalis, contained a guanidine alkaloid that potentiated the activity of insulin. That alkaloid, galegine, is structurally similar to the synthetic metformin (Bone, 2003).

Testing of plants for hypoglycemic activity is primarily focused on the bioactivity of compounds related to glucose homeostasis  The mechanisms of actions vary widely, with some effects appearing immediately, and others requiring longer periods of time. Many plants have demonstrated beneficial actions related to symptoms of diabetes other than just blood glucose regulation, however they are beyond the scope of this paper.

Clinical studies have demonstrated that certain medicinal plants can stimulate insulin secretion, augment various receptors involved in the process, prevent insulin resistance before it develops, up-regulate or promote translocation of glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT-4), inhibit glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) secretion and advanced glycation end product (AGE) formation. The number of herbs that lower blood sugar levels is extensive and prohibitively long.  

A widely used Ayurvedic herb, “gurmar”, or gymnema, (Gymnema sylvestre) was described in ancient texts as useful when urine is sweet and has been documented as an antidiabetic medication for over 2000 years. The name gurmar means “sugar destroyer” in Hindi.  Controlled trials utilizing Gymnema sylvestre found that a preparation of 400 mg/day of Gymnema extract significantly lowered blood glucose and glycosylated haemoglobin over the course of 18 to 20 minutes, resulting in levels unparalleled by the group receiving conventional treatment. The authors concluded that the herb may promote insulin production and act as a regenerative agent, to include in damaged pancreatic tissue. It is suggested that these actions are due to the gymnemic acids (El-Houri, et al., 2014). A recent randomized, double-blind controlled trial was unable to demonstrate antidiabetic effects, but did have statistically significant reductions in body weight (Martínez-Abundis, 2016).

Another traditional remedy with thousands of years of use in Ayurvedic medicine is Coleus forskohlii.  The traditional use was for cardiovascular and digestive disorders, however it is a powerful herb for endocrine function because it has the unique ability to increase production of cyclic AMP (cAMP, adenylate cyclase), an important messenger used by many hormones and neurotransmitters (Bone & Mills, 2013).  While it does not cross into the cell, it is used for intracellular signal transduction, triggering changes in the cell’s function.  There are numerous physiological and biological effects from elevated levels of cAMP, however relative to the metabolic system, cAMP can trigger increased insulin production, stimulates the release of glucagon, stimulates the breakdown fat and inhibits glucose uptake.  Since obesity and adipose tissue play a role in insulin resistance, this herb could play a powerful role as both a hypoglycemic and a fat loss aid at a dosage of at least 50mg/day of forskolin, a diterpene extracted from the plant. This dosage was found to be effective in several clinical trials and studies. The results of another study found that an oral dose of 250mg/day for 12 weeks lowered body fat content in obese men, raised their testosterone levels, and increased their bone mass (Godard, Johnson, & Richmond, 2005).  Another herb that has been found to have similar impact in promoting fat loss is licorice Glycyrrhiza glabra.

Clinical trials support the use of fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum, leaf or seed, at 5g/day for improved blood glucose.  It is also reported to promote pancreatic cell renewal (Kalailingam et al., 2014).  Nopal, or prickly pear cactus Opuntia ficus-indica, has been used as an indigenous remedy for diabetes for hundreds of years. In vivo studies have shown that Opuntia lowers has promise in blended whole plant form, juice extracts, and isolated constituents. It has been found to both lower blood glucose and increase insulin levels (Leem, Kim, Hahm, & Kim, 2016).  The sulfur-containing compounds, allyl propyl disulfide and allicin, found in onions Allium cepa, and garlic Allium sativum, exhibit hypoglycemic effects by competitive interaction with insulin.

Cinnamon has been lauded for its support in blood sugar  management. There are conflicting studies on the efficacy and particular species responsible for the hypoglycemic action.  A meta-analysis found that 1-6 grams of powdered cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum and Cinnamomum cassia) had positive impact on blood sugar levels, however more studies are needed.  There is insufficient quality clinical date to evaluate bitter melon Momordica charantia, however one of its hypoglycemic peptides, Polypeptide-p, also known as “plant insulin” has been clinically demonstrated to be effective for humans when administered subcutaneously.

Other promising medicinal herbs with strong supporting clinical research are Ganoderma lucidum Reishi mushroom and Fucus vesiculosus, a brown algae seaweed known as “bladderwrack” in western herbal medicine. Both are nutritional powerhouses.

Conclusion:

Medicinal plants can effectively serve as an adjunctive treatment or natural alternatives  to commercial oral hypoglycemic medications.  There is insufficient clinical data to support each of the thousands of plants that have been used in traditional medicine systems for blood sugar management.  There is sufficient clinical research to support the use of some of these, such as: Gymnema sylvestre, Coleus forskohlii, licorice Glycyrrhiza glabra, and fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum, bladderwrack Fucus vesiculosus, and reishi mushroom Ganoderma lucidum, among others not covered in this paper.

 

References:

Bach, E., Hi, E., Martins, A., Nascimento, P., & Wadt, N. (2018). Hypoglycemic and Hypolipidemic Effects of Ganoderma lucidum in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats. Medicines,5(3), 78. doi:10.3390/medicines5030078

Baskaran K., Kizar B, Shanmugasundaram K, et al. Antidiabetic effect of a leaf extract from Gymnema sylvestre in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients.  J. Ethnopharmacol. 1990;30(3):295-300.

Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. St. Louis: Churchill Livingstone.

Bone, K., & Mills, S. (2013). Principles and practices of phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine (2nd ed.). Edinborough: Churchhill Livingstone Elsevier.

El-Houri, R. B., Kotowska, D., Olsen, L. C., Bhattacharya, S., Christensen, L. P., Grevsen, K.,  Christensen, K. B. (2014). Screening for Bioactive Metabolites in Plant Extracts Modulating Glucose Uptake and Fat Accumulation. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine,2014, 1-8. doi:10.1155/2014/156398

Godard, M. P., Johnson, B. A., & Richmond, S. R. (2005). Body Composition and Hormonal Adaptations Associated with Forskolin Consumption in Overweight and Obese Men. Obesity Research,13(8), 1335-1343. doi:10.1038/oby.2005.162

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

Kalailingam P., Kannaian B., Tamilmani E., Kaliaperumal R. (2014). Efficacy of natural diosgenin on cardiovascular risk, insulin secretion, and beta cells in streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats. Phytomedicine 21 1154–1161. 10.1016/j.phymed.2014.04.005

Khanna P., Jain S. C., Panagariya A., Dixit V. P. (1981). Hypoglycemic activity of polypeptide-p from a plant source. J. Nat. Prod. 44 648–655. 10.1021/np50018a002

Leem K.-H., Kim M.-G., Hahm Y.-T., Kim H. (2016). Hypoglycemic effect of Opuntia ficus-indicavar. saboten is due to enhanced peripheral glucose uptake through activation of AMPK/p38 MAPK pathway. Nutrients 8 800

Martínez-Abundis, E. (2016, July 13). Effect of Gymnema Sylvestre on Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin[Scholarly project]. In Clinicaltrials.gov. Retrieved from https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02370121

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Cannabis Controversy

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Several weeks back I was doing a little Saturday morning reading before leaving for the workshop I was teaching that morning.  I was looking at the FDA’s website for any current “drug” news related to the herbal products industry (FDA definition of a drug includes all the teas, tinctures, etc that I brew at home to help with my own health)*.  I saw a release from June (2018) about cannabis.  It was in no way related to my workshop but a glaring contradiction caught my attention. I noticed that in June the FDA approved a drug with the isolated cannabidiol compound for use in seizures, but Cannabis sativa (marijuana) is still listed as a Schedule I drug.  Huh?

*The FDA is a fee for service organization that has become very expensive and prohibitive for smaller companies. Without the money they can’t gain the legal approval to bring their products to market, making it a bit of a hustle.  That said, they are our regulatory body and have a mission to protect consumers from dangerous drugs.  I always tread very carefully here so I will go no further with this commentary, other than to say that our construct is possibly not as unbiased and scientifically based as we would believe, however it is what we have.

Cannabis isn’t one of the most dangerous plants out there but it seems to be the most politicized (at least in the U.S). The secondary metabolites in Datura stramonium and Salvia divinorum have more of a hallucinogenic effect in humans than cannabis but they aren’t illegal and grow prolifically in North America. From a strictly botanical perspective, it makes no sense.

Additionally, certain strains of Cannabis have been used as the source of hemp, which was, according to The People’s History,

one of the most significant crops for mankind up until this last century…

Hemp was probably the earliest plant cultivated for textile fiber. Archaeologists found a remnant of hemp cloth in ancient Mesopotamia (currently Iran and Iraq) which dates back to 8,000 BC. Hemp is also believed to be the oldest example of human industry.

Hemp, which has historically had over 25,000 diverse uses ranging from paints, printing inks, varnishes, paper, Government documents, bank notes, food, textiles (the original ‘Levi’s’ jeans were made from Hemp cloth), canvas (artists canvases were used by the great masters) and building materials still remains banned in this country whose Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. With modern technical developments, uses have increased to composite boards, motor vehicle brake and clutch pads, plastics, fuels, bio-diesel and Eco-solid fuel. In fact anything that can be made from a hydrocarbon (fossil fuel) can be made from a carbohydrate, but the strong lobbies still manage to keep the growth of this useful crop banned and the public disillusioned.

The full article on the history of hemp is absolutely worth your time to read if you have any interest in this topic.

Between the botany and the history of the plant, I was perplexed and began wondering what it is that got this one plant to the point of being so controversial.  Why are we even having national conversations about this? Why is it illegal? From my opinion, it looks a bit like reading about Prohibition. (Note that this is not a discussion about addiction or crime, both of which can occur with any substance on Earth and merit their own discussions.)

Until recently, my knowledge of marijuana was limited to the “just say no to drugs” training in my schools in the eighties, the demonization by my family, church, and employers, and the military members that were kicked out for popping positive on drug tests because they smoked weed on leave. Having worked with DEA agents in my past life, I was well aware that crimes have been committed and people are in prison because of the illegal marijuana industry.  What I didn’t understand was why.  Let the research commence.

First, what’s the history?

Cannabis was commonly used in medicines prescribed by physicians in the United States and was not really given much attention as a plant any more special than many others. With the post Mexican Revolution wave of immigration, Mexicans brought with them the habit of smoking “marihuana”. Anti-immigration backlash began and by the 30’s FDR was pressuring lawmakers to outlaw the substance. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed, not criminalizing the use, but levying heavy fines on anyone selling the product. The American Medical Association (still the largest group of medical doctors in the United States) was completely against the legislation because they would be losing cannabis, a medically important drug. The first marijuana related arrests in the U.S. resulted in 2 men being sentenced to 18 months and 4 years at Leavenworth for failure to pay the tax. Scratching my head and thinking that the potheads have been right all these years. It really was about money and control all along. We are just now, nearly 100 years later, getting back to the point where we use cannabis as medicine, except this time many doctors are against it.

The FDA* had recommended several Schedule I research licenses to the DEA. Those were not approved at that time but there have been updates since that morning.  (Read all about it here).  Additionally, I was unaware that the DEA had taken steps to increase legal cannabis production back in 2016.  This is an excerpt from the article I just linked.

In 2016 the DEA approved a process to allow more cultivators to grow cannabis for research. More than 20 facilities have filed applications to become licensed cultivators, but the Justice Department, under Jeff Sessions, has blocked the DEA from processing the applications.

Cannabis was commonly used in medicines prescribed by physicians in the United States and was not really given much attention. With the post Mexican Revolution wave of immigration, Mexicans brought with them the habit of smoking “marihuana”. Anti-immigration backlash began and by the 30’s FDR was pressuring lawmakers to outlaw the substance. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed, not criminalizing the use, but levying heavy fines on anyone selling the product. The American Medical Association (still the largest group of medical doctors in the United States) was completely against the legislation because they would be losing cannabis, a medically important drug. The first marijuana related arrests in the U.S. resulted in 2 men being sentenced to 18 months and 4 years at Leavenworth for failure to pay the tax on the plant, not for possession or use of the plant itself.

Meanwhile, the traditional cultivation of hemp, dating back thousands of years, was taking a huge hit.  Under the pressure of multiple lobbyists, for example, DuPont, maker of petroleum based synthetic textiles (competitor), the government instituted enormous taxes on hemp, eventually banning it altogether later that same year (1937).  Interestingly, the U.S. government continued to import hemp due to its extensive, plant-based products that were useful in numerous industries. Just a few years later, the government doled out special grants to farmers to grow hemp to support the World War II war-time production.  The ban remained after the war.

We are just now, nearly 100 years later, getting back to the point where we can legally use cannabis as medicine (30 states plus Washington, D.C. at the time of this post), except this time many doctors are still against it. Despite the fact that hemp (mostly a plant carbohydrate) can be used for most of the same things as the less environmentally friendly fossil fuels, it remains banned.


After reading through all this research, I can’t help but notice some parallels to current events. Heavy waves of immigration, backlash, politicians playing on fears and passing legislation that benefits corporate interests more than the constituents… From drugpolicy.org,

The demonization of the cannabis plant was an extension of the demonization of the Mexican immigrants. In an effort to control and keep tabs on these new citizens, El Paso, TX borrowed a play from San Francisco’s playbook, which had outlawed opium decades earlier in an effort to control Chinese immigrants. The idea was to have an excuse to search, detain and deport Mexican immigrants.

That excuse became marijuana.

This method of controlling people by controlling their customs was quite successful, so much so that it became a national strategy for keeping certain populations under the watch and control of the government.  Sound familiar?  Would love to hear your thoughts below.

 

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

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.

Design

“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!