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 – July 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!