Have you ever heard of Naturopathic gardening? Chances are, you may not have heard of it or hardly know anything about it. Naturopathic gardening is the practice of growing without the use of chemicals. But there’s more to Naturopathic gardening. My guest today, Dr. Jenn Dazey explains why in this episode.
Working At A Health Shop
Dr. Jenn Dazey recalls that when she was a young kid, her mom would teach classes on wild greens and edible plants. Her student called her mom the edible weed lady rather than calling her a herbalist.
When Dr. Jenn Dazey became a teenager, she got a part-time job in a shop, although she didn’t know what the shop was. Working under the table for 5 dollars an hour in Duvall, Washington, Dr. Jenn Dazey learned so much about herbs. It was not long before Dr. Jenn Dazey realized she already acquired quite a bit of knowledge.
“I had always wanted to be a doctor and planned to go to formal medical school. But working in that herb shop opened my eyes to the fact that people don’t always agree with mainstream medicine,” said Dr. Jenn Dazey.
She adds, “In fact, sometimes people get harmed with surgeries that they didn’t necessarily choose. They end up with associated nerve damage or the toxicity related to medications taken from chronic conditions.”
Choosing Bastyr University
At a very young age, Dr. Jenn Dazey realized that medical school wasn’t exactly what she was looking for. She wanted to help people. But the herbs, plants, and nutrition spoke to her more strongly than learning just about drugs and formal medical protocols.
“When I was looking at different medical schools, somebody came in and asked me what my plans were. They assumed I was going to Bastyr University. When Bastyr moved closer to home in 1996, I took it as a sign and enrolled,” Dr. Jenn Dazey said.
Teaching In Bastyr University
Dr. Jenn Dazey is currently one of the core faculty of Bastyr University. She has been teaching for 15 years and teaches organic gardening. Organic gardening is parallel to how Naturopathic medicine works. It is also known as Naturopathic gardening.
“When you learn how important your gut microflora is to your overall health and well-being, you can understand how important their bacteria, fungi, and soil are to the soil’s well-being. And the ability for the plants to have bioavailable nutrients readily in the soil,” said Dr. Jenn Dazey.
She adds, “When you put the chemicals down, that’s the finished product of the bacterial breakdown of compost. Plants don’t eat compost. They depend on the “gut flora” to process that compost into bioavailable nutrients. Plants take the sun’s energy, carbon, and water. About 75% of that sugar is used as food to maintain the bacteria in the soil.”
Builders And Destroyers
Dr. Jenn Dazey shares that in her university class, she makes students do an exercise called the Builders and the Destroyers. She divides the room in half and partnerships, and students write a recipe.
One is a recipe for destruction. Dr. Jenn Dazey’s students come up with the worse thing they can think of to till the soil. They flip it to the other side of the room, and the Builders have a recipe for rehabilitating that.
“You have to be realistic with what zone you’re in and what varieties are worth trying in those zones. Although I’m constantly amazed that seed savers and plant breeders are coming up with new varieties that are adaptive to short seasons. Under all circumstances, diversity is the key to resilience,” said Dr. Jenn Dazey.
Dr. Jenn Dazey also adds that merely refraining from using chemicals doesn’t guarantee that the soil will be able to produce crops. She says we need to do much more and know the signs and symptoms of when to take action.
Understanding Naturopathic Gardening
In Naturopathic gardening, no chemicals are used to grow plants. But according to Dr. Jenn Dazey, there are many benefits to gardening in general.
We sequester a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere by keeping a garden. Plus, plants have this incredible ability to photosynthesize. When we’re actively building soil in an organic garden, it takes a significant amount of carbon from the atmosphere and puts it into the ground.
“As a gardener doing Naturopathic gardening, you’re going to want to treat the garden more as a whole living system,” said Dr. Jenn Dazey. “Take that Holistic approach even further, where you’re supporting an ecosystem. And creating the ability for the soil to produce nutritious food for years.”
Biodynamic farming is slightly different from organic or Naturopathic gardening. Developed by Rudolph Steiner in 1924, biodynamic farming is the first of the organic agriculture movements.
According to Dr. Jenn Dazey, one example of biodynamic farming is taking raw fresh cow manure from a lactating cow and stuffing it into a horn of a lactating cow. It initially takes some pondering to make complete sense. But you don’t need to go that far to be a Holistic farmer.
“There are some very specific preparations and times of the season that you can do things. Biodynamic farming takes organic to a much different level. I do love biodynamics, but I think there’s a learning curve there,” Dr. Jenn Dazey said.
Benefits of Tea
Dr. Jenn Dazey reveals that tinctures weren’t a thing yet back in the early 90s. Bulk herbs were. She says there are qualities to tea that are therapeutic, like the process of making the tea.
But then simply just having plain hot water without any herbs in it is going to be warming. It also helps open pores and gives you more vitality through the heat. Dr. Jenn Dazey recommends infusing most of the tonic teas overnight. And drinking the next day or soaking it for a minimum of one hour.
“Or if you have a cold infusion, cold water is going to be refreshing and have a medicinal quality to it without any herbs. Of course, it depends on which herbs you put in there,” Dr. Jenn Dazey said. “Whether it’s going to be mild, gentle and safe or something that you need to pay attention to dosage, side effects or therapeutic threshold.”
Dr. Jenn Dazey affirms that most fresh fruits and vegetables support a healthy immune system. They make the body alkalize and help regulate proper digestion. She says it’s a daily detox of sorts when you can have fresh greens and cooked vegetables in every meal.
Dr. Jenn Dazey cites that kale, brassicas, and cabbage are antioxidants. Brassicas can prevent and fight cancer and inflammation on several different levels. Kelp or seaweed is also a good source of nutrition.
I learned to love kale, and I use kale leaves as a taco shell. For the filling, I have all sorts of stir-fry vegetables and healthy seasonings. The combinations are endless and best of all; it’s healthy and delicious!
“We have an instinct to go after nutrient-dense superfoods. When you’re looking at the mineral profiles of seaweed, it’s pretty intense how that works. For a plant to have a high mineral content on land, it simply has to diffuse with the mineral content of the surrounding water,” explains Dr. Jenn Dazey.
She adds, “For a plant to have a high mineral content in seawater, it needs to hyper-accumulate minerals to a very high level. The potassium levels in seaweed, for example, are going to be miles ahead. A hundred times more than the potassium levels of any land plant that you could encounter.”
Naturopathic Gardening Book
Dr. Jenn Dazey has a book called Naturopathic Gardening: A Basic Gardening Text for Students of Natural Medicine. It’s currently available on the Bastyr University website.
“It’s a bridge to understanding Naturopathic philosophy by the analogies of the garden. You can make soil vibrant and vital as long as you treat it like a whole living system,” Dr. Jenn Dazey said. “Dig as deep as you can in that one spot and take a little slice of soil out. Depending on what that soil is composed of, you’ll know automatically what to add back.”
Dr. Jenn Dazey also shares that there’s a technique called double digging. This is where you work the surface and the layers underneath separately. We are actively disturbing the soil in the garden. And very particular plants are already programmed in that soil to germinate and start growing.
Apart from the Naturopathic Gardening book, Dr. Jenn Dazey is also slated to launch a recipe book where there’s a section on user-friendly recipes on seaweed. So watch out for that!
Effects In Patients
Getting into Naturopathic gardening has had a lot of positive effects on people. Dr. Jenn Dazey says she found out her patients enjoy their food more by cooking more regularly.
The food that they eat changes. And all it takes is one little breakthrough to transform someone’s affinity for plants in general. There is no set type of vegetables to grow because everyone has different tastes. So Dr. Jenn Dazey highly encourages growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
“Just like Naturopathic Medicine, it has a different perspective. When you garden with the same philosophy, you have to stand back and look at the whole garden as one living organism. See what your role is before you take action,” said Dr. Jenn Dazey.
Dr. Jenn Dazey is a core faculty member in the Department of Botanical Medicine. She sees patients in her private practice at Green Bean Natural Health in Monroe, Washington.
Dr. Jenn Dazey earned her degree in Herbal Sciences from Bastyr University in 2002. She also received her degree as a Doctor in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in 2008.
Dr. Jenn Dazey’s background includes both clinical and teaching experience. She has worked as an herbalist in private consulting since 2003, and as a primary care physician since 2008. Dr. Jenn Dazey also has worked at Evergreen Hospital in adult health education. She worked with dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals as the lead practitioner for Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy.
Dr. Jenn Dazey has authored some articles and regularly serves as a public speaker and counselor on the safe and effective use of medicinal herbs. She published the book Naturopathic Gardening, which helps draw parallels in gardening and clinical practice to illustrate the principles of natural medicine better.
Dr. Jenn Dazey grew up on a local subsistence farm and has been teaching organic gardening and many other topics related to soil and land management since 2002.
Dr. Jenn Dazey teaches herbal materia medica in both the graduate and undergraduate programs, as well as organic gardening, soil ecology, seed saving, and biointensive IPM for the certificate program in Holistic Landscape Design. She leads students abroad to study medicinal plants in Costa Rica, as well as locally in Washington and Oregon.