Beginning this past May, I have been lucky enough to intern for the Restorative Agriculture Program through the Grounds Department here at the College of Charleston. The main goal of this program is to maintain our four on-campus gardens using sustainable techniques in the downtown urban environment. We also run the on-campus compost system located at 45 Coming Street. My specific role this semester is to not only maintain the gardens, but to be in charge of our social media. As the social media intern, one of my responsibilities is to promote our events and then post photos of them. Our most recent event was the Halloween Herbalism Workshop.
One of our on-campus gardens is designated as an herbal medicinal garden, containing sage, rosemary, lavender, lemon basil, lemon balm, and borage. These herbs were used in our Herbalism Workshop. As students, faculty, and community members were sipping on sage, lavender, rosemary tea made right there, my boss, Lexa Keane, went through a detailed slideshow about various herbal remedies and the importance of herbal medicine opposed to scientific medicine. We learned that the “wise-woman”, or herbal, method is more proactive and nourishing than scientific methods. We were also taught about what specific herbs can be used for. A lot of herbs have many functions and can act as: carminatives, which aid digestion; anti-inflammatorys, which help inflammation; circulatory stimulants, which get the blood flowing; emmenagogues, which promote menstrual cycles; astringents, which clears or dries things out; adaptogens, which aid the immune system; nervines, which tone and repair the nervous system; and bitters, which enhance digestion. For example, ginger is an anti-inflammatory as well as a circulatory stimulant and an emmenagogue. The different types of herbal remedies that were discussed included: infusions, which are made from leaves, water, oil, and alcohol; tinctures, which are concentrated liquids extracted from the herb; salves, which are made with infused herbal oil, beewax, and essential oil (note however, that essential oil is not sustainable, yet all of the other practices and ingredients are); decoctions, which are made from roots, bark, seeds, and can be used in teas; syrups, which are a mix of sweetener and a decoction; elixirs, which can help with long term issues; poulstices, which contain chopped herb mixed with boiling water to create a pulp; and finally compresses, which help injuries, fevers, and headaches. For a cold or the flu, an infusion would be the best remedy, yet for a liver issue, a decoction would work best.
The lesson on herbal practices was followed by the opportunity to create your own teabag or smudge stick (used to burn as incense) using the herbs harvested from our herbal medicinal garden! We harvested the herbs weeks prior and hung them around our office so that they would dry in time for this event. There was a pretty large turn-out, which I was pleasantly surprised by. People seemed to really enjoy the lecture and then were able to apply that information to make their very own tea. The workshop accomplished so much: teaching the community about sustainable practices specifically with herbs, and bringing the community together to enjoy the herbs they walk past each and every day! Overall, I think the workshop went better than expected and I am excited for our next event- the Kimchi Workshop. Interning with the Restorative Agriculture Program has taught me so much about sustainable techniques that are so easy to apply to everyday life. I would say that my lifestyle has definitely changed for the better as I continue to become more knowledgeable about urban farming and restorative agriculture practices. Feel free to “like” our Facebook Page: College of Charleston Restorative Agriculture Department, and follow our Instagram account: cofcrestorativeag.
Awesome post! I have visited the gardens on campus that the restorative agriculture department handles – they’re so cool. I’ve also worked with Lexa and I’m sure working with her has taught you a ton! It’s very interesting how people can easily make their own natural remedies. Wish I could’ve made it to the event.
Excellent post, Michelle! I think there is a lot of benefit and wisdom that can be gained through these kind of techniques and that they can be used in conjunction with modern medicine. I’m looking forward to hearing about more of your work through this department!
Very interesting! I knew that we had on campus gardens and a compost spot (which I think is awesome, and would love to get involved with all things compost) but I am unfamiliar with where they are located, what they grow, and who they are growing for. I will be sure to give the Facebook page a like, and follow the instagram page, so that I can learn more about whats going on with the gardens. Is any of the produce or herbs grown on campus donated anywhere or used for a specific cause? Or are students allowed to pick openly from them?
Love that the school does the gardens! Being in a concrete jungle, we need some urban wildlife!
This sounds awesome! Herbs are so good for your body and mind. I used to see a accupuntuist for stress and after she would put needles in me ( it doesn’t actually hurt, you get used to it) she would give me herbs to take in pill form or give me a liquid essential oil to use. They take longer to work then regular medicine but they are so much better for your body and mind. I also use an essential oil diffuser now and there are so many liquid herbs that you can use for different things now, it’s crazy! Awesome post! And thank you for keeping CofC gardens’ beautiful and clean!
It’s really cool how there are programs like this around the city. I also really like that all the plants you are growing have multiple helpful properties, and they can be grown and used for positive purposes.
I didn’t even know that we had a Restorative agriculture program here at cofc, it’s really cool that you get to intern there. I think that the use of herbs and natural medicine is really interesting, and that there should be more research done. A lot of people turn to synthetic drugs and pharmaceuticals when it comes to health problems which could potentially have harmful side effects, especially with prolonged use. It seems silly when we have plants that can treat so many conditions naturally.
I really wanted to attend this workshop, but sadly had class at the same time. I would be really interested in learning more about the topic of medicinal herbs and it sounds like it was a successful workshop. I did not realize we had a Restorative Agriculture Program and I would love to get involved with it somehow. I used to drop my compost off at the school and did not realize this was the program that took care of the compost. Really cool stuff, thanks for sharing!
I really enjoyed reading your post; I myself already know a lot about the natural medicines that we can substitute for prescription medications. I want to go on to Pharmacy school after I graduate but had no idea that the College of Charleston offered this type of program. It sounds like something I would have been really interested in getting involved with. I also thought it was really neat that that they grow their own natural herb garden filled with a lot of natural medicines that are great for the human body. I think that people and doctors should look towards natural medicines as a solution to any health problem because its overall a better solution to any problem than it would be if you were to take prescription drugs that effects your body in a negative way.
This is quite an opportunity that you have had, and I must admit that I’m feeling a bit jealous. The applications of herbs seem to be endless and often overlooked. I wish that the biology department would offer an in-depth course similar to this internship so that more students could have access to this valuable knowledge.