The autumn finally settled in here in Illinois this past week
with crisp mornings and warm days. The trees have shifted in color
just a bit on their topmost branches and I expect that we will see
the full blossoming of autumn in the next two or three weeks.
This week I'll talk a bit about botanical medicine and our
skillset that is developed both in our botanical medicine courses
as well as in clinical practice. Botanicals are powerful tools in
the naturopathic doctor's toolbox; proper instruction, use and
avoidance are necessary to effectively help others with this form
of our eclectic approach to medicine.
LaKisha Brandon (9th Tri), Darius Lembert (10th Tri), and
Joclyn Davis (9th Tri)
formulating and dispensing a custom tincture from our clinic
My definition of botanical medicine is using plants and their
constituent chemicals to help others heal. To that end we have a
series of four botanical medicine courses before and during our
clinical rotations here at NUHS to prepare us as new practitioners
out in practice.
Dr. Lorinda Sorensen and Dr. Fraser Smith (Dean of Naturopathic
Medicine) guide our ND students skillfully through this course
sequence in a way that prepares our future docs with a wealth of
information. We study the habitat, harvesting methods, parts of the
plants that are used, and proper preparation from harvest to
medicine. We are taught interactions (both beneficial and
dangerous) with pharmaceutical drugs. Finally, we learn the proper
times to use and avoid any botanical medicine, as well as the
proper dosage method, amount and timing.
When in clinic, we custom prepare our own tinctures based upon
the needs of the patient. We utilize the variety of professionally
prepared, medicinal grade botanical preparations at our disposal in
the clinic dispensary. We combine our botanical medicines with
other therapies that can help our patients on the path to a return
to their basis of health. This could be a quick turnaround or could
take some time depending upon the pathology and methodologies
utilized in the treatment plan. Through learning botanical medicine
at NUHS, I feel that we are well prepared to enter our practices
with a solid botanical skillset.
Hi again, everyone!
Well, this past week was another test, quiz and case-filled
seven days! After finishing up some last minute study before Friday
afternoon's classes were over, I was catching up with some friends
in the library. All of a sudden, the skies opened up with wind,
rain and a massive thunderstorm! Now, you might think that I have
run out of things to talk about so I'm just babbling on about the
weather. Au contraire, mon frère (ou sœur)! This short little storm
that lasted maybe 10 minutes, managed to break branches on just
about every tree on campus (and the surrounding community),
including our two huge willow trees adjacent to Lake Janse.
While saddened to see branches blown from our campus willow
trees, the broken branches and twigs provided the raw materials for
a couple of projects for the Naturopathic Student Gathering this
coming November. These wreaths are the prototypes (and framework)
for a few ideas the NUHS Gathering Team is considering for the
opening and closing ceremonies for the weekend in November.
Needless to say, our group is charged up and excited!
The Naturopathic Gathering is an annual conference hosted by one
of the seven North American naturopathic medical schools. National
University has the honor of hosting the Gathering in 2012. Students
from all schools will be visiting our campus this November to hear
some of our leading naturopathic doctors speak of their clinical
experience in the context of the philosophy of naturopathic
Do you remember the Botanicals class I mentioned a few weeks ago
where we made tinctures? Well, each student in the class has the
option to make a useful botanical product from the methods we have
studied along with the curative properties of various botanicals
(or plants). Having been an avid beer home brewer for a number of
years, I tried to think of something that could incorporate an
infusion of herbs along with a healthful, tasty drink! After some
deliberation, I decided to make Ginger Beer (or Ginger Ale) using
only the botanical ingredients.
Having made that decision, I trekked to Larabee Herb Store in
Elmwood Park, just outside Chicago. I was able to purchase all
supplies that I needed for my Ginger Beer recipe with the exception
of my fresh Key Limes and Lemons. I won't reveal all the
ingredients in my recipe this week. I will be sure to share
my recipe, brewing experience, my opinion of the Ginger Beer along
with some notes from my classmates. I will also give a bit of
information on Ginger Beer's medicinal uses historically.
This week I am appreciative that, even in her fury, Nature
shared the materials we needed for some of the Gathering projects.
My thanks go to Jack and the entire landscaping team at NUHS for
allowing me to "scavenge" willow branches. I'm also happy that we
have such an energetic team working on the Gathering!
Until next week when the Ginger Beer (non-alcoholic) will be
flowing and finals will be creeping ever closer….
Let the exams begin! We finished up this week with the
first of the many exams, quizzes, midterms and lab practicals that
6th Trimester is known for providing (if that is
the proper term). The first quiz was centered on the endocrine
system, its involved structures and their interaction. What a doozy
to kick off the trimester!
The classes aren't all work and no fun however! In our 'Special
Topics in Botanical Medicine' class this week, we had the
opportunity to make tinctures for the first time! A little about
tinctures first. Tinctures can be made from the fresh or dried
medicinal parts of plants. These parts could be the leaf, flower,
stem or root of a plant, or all of the above, depending on the
plant. Next, these medicinal parts are 'soaked' in a solution of
alcohol, glycerine or vinegar, depending on the type of plant and
the 'plant constituent' or chemical part of the plant that we want
to use in the tincture.
The tinctures are made in ratios such as 1:2 or 1:4 or higher.
The first number is the amount of plant material, typically in
grams. The second number is the amount of 'vehicle' or alcohol,
glycerine or vinegar in milliliters. So, if you have 10 grams
of plant material being soaked in 20 milliliters of alcohol, you
would have a 1:2 ratio tincture! The units of measure don't really
matter as long as you stay consistent with your ratios if you make
a tincture and like the outcome. Simple really!
Some of the tinctures our class made this past week.
I made a Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) tincture in a 1:18
ratio as a fragrance for a future cleaning solution. I also made a
Bilberry Leaf (Vaccinium myrtillus) tincture in a 1:4 ratio as an
experiment for future tinctures. Bilberry Leaf is reported to have
anti-aging properties through improved circulation in the small
blood vessels near the hands, feet and farthest reaches of the
circulatory system from the heart. With an aging patient
population, research continuing and the possibility of a potent
herbal medication, Bilberry shows some promise!
Herbal medicine is just one of the strong tools at the
naturopathic physician's disposal. The chemical constituents in
many pharmaceutical medications are either the exact phytochemical
or a derived component of many botanicals (or plant medicines). The
great thing we are learning about the botanical medicines is that
while the patient gets the benefit of the botanical medication
(albeit at a much lower concentration than a corresponding
pharmaceutical medication), the botanical medication typically has
other components that reduce or eliminate any side effects of
taking the botanical medication. While not true all the time, this
is typically the case with botanical medications. As with any
medication, any physician needs to take the precaution of
understanding how the botanical medicine interacts with any other
medications the patient may be taking, whether botanical or
This week, I am grateful for botanical medications that Nature
has provided for us. I personally have utilized a botanical
remedy a number of times in various circumstances from a poultice
for a pretty big scrape to helping ward off a nasty ear
infection. Thanks to those who have come before us and paved
the way learning, gaining knowledge and sharing over countless
generations for all that Nature provides for our health.
• Combined Classes
• Observing in Clinic
• Botanical Medicine
• Minor Surgery
• Intern Skills
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