Bloomingdale is blooming at Common Good City Farm (V Street NW between Second and Fourth streets). The community-run educational endeavor, which raises produce for low-income adults and families, aims to spread the word that local, seasonal crops are healthier. You can get a taste for this mission by signing up for one of the farm’s Growing Gardens workshops. This weekend’s lesson: how to spice up your medicine cabinet.

The first in a four-part series on herbs, Herbalism 101 (Sat.,
11 a.m.-1p.m., suggested $10 donation), focuses on harvesting, preparing and using herbs medicinally. Health coach Tricia McCauley plans to weave together the history and theory of herbal medicine with its practical applications.

Using the garden as a classroom, students will learn to create teas, tinctures and poultices. Although those words may sound like homework straight out of Hogwarts, they don’t require any wizarding magic — just some plants plucked straight from the fields. The processing of each herbal concoction typically involves soaking a leaf, dried or fresh, in a solvent such as water or alcohol. Then it’s as simple as following a recipe.

The active ingredients might surprise folks who’ve regularly downed them as part of a meal, rather than as a way to heal. “Thyme,” McCauley says, “is brilliantly antimicrobial, and it has specific treatments for the throat and upper respiratory area. It’s something that you can brew into a tea or could add to a steam.”

Have a tummy ache? Try some mint. The chemicals that are the source of the herb’s crisp coolness have been used to treat pain since ancient times.

McCauley cautions that these supplements aren’t a substitute for medicine — a salad isn’t going to cut it when you really need antibiotics. But what plant-based remedies are good for is boosting your body’s natural capabilities. “The time to use herbs is not when you already have a cold but when you first feel that first little tickle before it takes hold,” she explains.

And being aware of these natural benefits can make a difference when illness strikes. “It could mean that you don’t have to take off work, schedule an appointment to go to the doctor and maybe get medicine that is stronger than what you need,” McCauley adds.

So, even if you find some of this hard to swallow, it’s worth a try. At the very least, it’ll be delicious.

Written by Express contributor William Shubert
Photo courtesy Good City Farm