Foods for Resilience

There are a number of foods that can help you and your family weather this pandemic.

The aim in this COVID-19 pandemic is to keep transmission at a minimum. Not only the amount of people it is transmitted to, but also the amount that is transmitted. A smaller amount of exposure is much easier for our immune systems to handle. If we are exposed, certain foods can help us be resilient to the damage and complications that viral infections can cause. Proper care of yourself and family can keep you in the safe zone even if you have been exposed. Foods, herbs & spices as well as plant medicines can bolster our genes and sound off immune protecting cascades to better take on intruders. It is important to minimize the foods that hinder our immunity i.e. sweets, foods that are mucous producing (processed foods, wheat, dairy corn etc) These less than healthy food can counteract the positive affect the following foods can have to protect us.

In the art of medicine, across cultures, heat has recuperative properties. Temperature hot and/or spicy hot can chase away a raspy, sore throat, relieve congestion of the sinuses and bronchus or relieve pain. During this pandemic, especially while the pernicious forces of cold and damp are still upon us as we transition from winter to spring, keep you and your family dowsed in heat. Consume a stream of hot lemon water, teas, broths, steaming soups, stews & whole grain cereals (amaranth, millet, oats etc). Load up warming spices in your dishes: cayenne, turmeric, chili peppers, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, black pepper and cumin . Sit by the fire, spend extra time in a hot shower or bath. Indulge in a sauna or steam if you can. Put on extra layers, make sure you have good socks for when the temperature dips down. Heat is a protector of your constitution.

Phytonutrients are found in vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices & teas: These substances enhance our body’s biochemical, physiologic processes. Of the 6 major phytonutrient groups, flavonoids, cartenoids, ellagic acid & reservatrol are linked to improving immune system function.

Flavonoids are a sub group of the phenol class of phytonutrients. They are rich in apples, onions, coffee, grapefruit, tea, berries, cacao, chocolate, black beans, white beans, red wine, broccoli, cabbage, kale, leeks, tomatoes, ginger, lemons, parsley, carrots buckwheat & cloves. Flavonoids have been found to increase resistance to viruses by preventing cellular damage.

Carotenoids(alpha and beta carotene, lutien, zeaxanthin, lycopene) are found in yellow, orange & red foods (sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, pumpkins, tomatoes) & have antioxidant properties that boost the immune system in a number of ways. It is a precursor for vitamin A which protects mucous membranes. They increase intercellular communication which is crucial to reducing the amount of cellular damage from a viral infection.

Reservatrol found in grapes, berries and nuts as well as chocolates is an important cell defender during a viral infection. It down regulates destructive, pro inflammatory mediators while increasing interferon.

Ellagatic acid found in pomegranates, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, grapes, pecans and walnuts help knock out trespassers on our mucous membranes just as they enter our bodies and before they can get into our cells.

In addition, medicinal mushrooms: shiitake, ganoderma/reishi, turkey tails, chaga, cordeceps, lions main, maitaki have special saccharide compounds that improve our cell mediated immunity. Add them to some of those hot dishes, make a broth and mix it with your tamari, soy, teriyaki or liquid amino sauces. Blend the mushrooms with the broth and make a thick base for stew. If you cannot get them fresh, you can buy them dried from Asian Grocers and reconstitute them. You can even take them by capsule and chase it with a hot beverage. Next up: Plant Medicines for Protection. Stay Tuned!

Remember to keep your mask on when out or even when at home if you know you are with someone with a respiratory illness. This reduces the amount of viral exposure even if it is not a more sophisticated mask, some form of blockage can only help. If having to reuse, be sure to keep it clean. Disinfect your mask with soap and water. That makes it easier on your immune system.

Jifunza C.A. Wright-Carter M.D., M.P.H is a family physician practicing the “art of medicine” using food & plant medicines to improve the health and well being of patients through self care for over 30 years. In addition to studying herbs and natural medicines since she was a child, she is a graduate of Case Western Reserve Medical School, an alumni of Cook County & Montefiore Family Practice Residency Programs. She received public health training at Johns Hopkins, University of Pittsburgh and University of Maryland. She has a private practice in Chicago and does organic farming in Pembroke Twp. Illinois. If you have any questions or need support, please contact her at

Being Resilient in these Times

As we endure this pandemic, the only thing we have reign over is the care of ourselves and family. While we are encouraged to “do the five”, we can also lean on the “art of medicine” to prevent the spread of the infection by strengthening our immune system to reduce viral replication, spread and severity of illness. While many of the applications suggested here have not been rigorously scientifically tested for COVID-19, they do have some science behind them and all have been embraced by the “art of medicine” as augmenters of immunity. We all need something to apply as these days turn to weeks on standstill. There are no therapeutic drugs nor a vaccine at this juncture. Here are some logical, practical, affordable things to take and make your routines that will increase your body’s resilience with the aim of deceasing the probability of loved ones being infected. Please apply these self care practices to improve the chances of coming out of this all the stronger. There are vitamins as well as minerals that can make it harder for the virus to thrive in your internal environment. There are herbs, and yes, foods and culinary practices from ancient tried and true folk medicine in addition to mind body applications that can make the world of a difference. This the first in a series of posts to hone your abilities to protect yourself in multiple ways.

Vitamins & Minerals

Vitamin C , ascorbic acid is an antioxidant capacity builder, a gift from the late, 1968 Nobel Laureate, Dr. Linus Pauling that has been buried in time. Vitamin C at therapeutic levels creates an environment in the cell that makes it very difficult for infectious organisms to survive. In addition, it reduces inflammation and cytokine production that can prevent complications and shorten the severity and duration of infection. There are 3 types of vitamin C to take orally: powdered, liposomal and buffered. Powdered C is the most affordable and can get to therapeutic levels faster than any other kind of oral but may be too hard on those with sensitive digestive systems. Liposomal C is favored in children and maintains concentrations of vitamin C in the body better than the powdered C with less GI side affects. Esterified, or buffered C is the oral administration of choice for those who have sensitive stomach They may require dosing 1.5 to 2.0 times more because they are buffered to reach therapeutic levels Vitamin C at high concentrations can cause loose stools and cramping.

Reports from Asia (ISOM, China, Japan, Korea) shared that powdered vitamin C 3000 mg/day along with other vitamins and minerals has been very helpful for prevention. It is best to spread dosing of vitamin C throughout the day into 3 to 4 parts. In my practice, I calculate children’s dosing using this formula: [50 mg/ ? lb /4 times per day] Straddling doses throughout the day helps to prevent bowel intolerance.

Note: it is important to note that sugary vitamin C products are not as effective. The sugar and the vitamin C compete for receptors on the cell resulting in lower concentrations in the cell.

Vitamin D has multiple benefits at points in the life cycle, there can only be desirable health consequences from putting you and your family on this additional vitamin. Many have linked vitamin D deficiencies, with epidemics particularly in the northern hemisphere associating lower levels of vitamin D due to the winter with less sun exposure. It is thought this can lead to an increased risk of widespread infections. Vitamin D has multiple physiological accountabilities. It has antioxidant capabilities. It enhances the production of both B cells and T cells. Its immune modulation orchestrates biochemical cascades to fight off infection. Vitamin D works with the parathyroid to balance both phosphorus and calcium deposits in the bone. It has been found to be cardiovascular protective.

Adults: Vitamin D 5000 iu daily for 2 weeks then maintenance 2000 iu daily

Children Vitamin D 200 iu daily

Selenium is a trace mineral that acts as a co-enzyme and is a critical component in biochemical compounds called selenoproteins. These special proteins assist in the demise of viruses by overcoming the reactive oxygen stress (ROS) the virus causes. They help to protect the cell from the infection. It can thwart abnormal cell growth that leads to cancer. Selenium has been found to be helpful in cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma, thyroid disorders and slowing of neuro-degeneration.

Selenium 100-200 mcg daily Children 30-40 mcg daily

Zinc is a co-enzyme trace mineral that preliminary studies support it does reduce the duration and severity of colds/viral respiratory illness. While Zn has been reported as unable to block COVID-19, it has been confirmed to increase the resilience of one’s immune system. This has been the case for H1N1 and herpes viruses. Zinc is essential for eye health and wound healing.

Zinc gluconate or acetate lozenges 2-5 mg every 4-6 hours has been recommended for those with new onset cold symptoms. The metal taste is a turn off so other options are Zinc tablets 5-20 mg daily.

Next up: Food for Resilience will include plant medicines.

Jifunza C.A. Wright-Carter M.D., M.P.H is a family physician practicing the “art of medicine” using food & plant medicines to improve the health and well being of patients through self care for over 30 years. In addition to studying herbs and natural medicines since she was a child, she is a graduate of Case Western Reserve Medical School, an alumni of Cook County & Montefiore Family Practice Residency Programs. She received public health training at Johns Hopkins, University of Pittsburgh and University of Maryland. She has a private practice in Chicago Illinois and does organic farming in Pembroke Twp. Illinois. If you have any questions or need support, please contact her at

The Pact

In 2005, the Wright-Carter family made a pact to reduce their carbon footprint after learning about global warming and resource decline.  Akin, the youngest son, 8 years old at the time, challenged us all to not continue to ’mess up’ his future.  As a family, we vowed to do all we could to prepare ourselves and others for an energy descent. We wore coats and hats indoors upon setting the thermostat to 65.  We traveled to hold workshops to inform others about this imminent reality that would be front row center of our recent future.  In 2006, we established Black Oaks Center as a not for profit to facilitate the mission of equipping youth and families with the skills of sustainability to be lifeboats in times to come.  Young and old engaged in collective design charrettes of the 40 acre “eco campus” in Pembroke Township Il. Envisioning it to be a place where the community can learn these skills.  In 2009, we moved out of our near 3000 square foot deluxe Chicago Bungalow into an off grid, 580 square foot Mennonite storage unit we re purposed to be our home on the eco campus complete with outdoor compost toilets and a wood stove.  The motivation?  to “fall” down the rabbit hole into an alternate reality of a low carbon life so we could help others do the same when the impact of constrained energy, a destabilized environment and low to no growth economics would tailor more and more of our lives.  Our hearts and our vision were much bigger than our budget as we worked hard to be innovative and self-reliant.    We had to master the skills of sustainability so that we could support others in doing the same.  As we approach our 11th winter off grid, we are still striving to master the skills of sustainability.  Both the sacred and the challenge of living close to the earth a sculpted us.  The living a simple life, well inside our means has allowed up to maintain the pact, to stay on the mission. 

The Amazing Story of Soil

seedshineSoil is amazing. Do you want to know why? If so, you can get information for free by simply clicking on the link below. Soil is incredible. It forms part of an ecosystem, it adapts to the environment and provides nutrients to plants and organisms. Here I will explain the five major functions of soil. These are:

* Support
* Water Provision
* Habitat
* Digestion
* Respiration

To find out more about each of these essential roles soil plays, simply click the link below! Click here to get the complete functions of soil guide instantly e-mailed to you!

Within the free document, you will discover how soil acts as an anchor for plant roots, how it behaves as a tank for moisture, and how it makes a suitable habitat. Soil can absorb and retain water for the organisms and plant life within its bed. Different soils have different consistencies and you can learn about them here.

Bacteria, fungi, beetles, worms, and many, many other creatures live and work in soil and a healthy soil is beneficial to all those creatures. Most spectacularly, soil can digest matter like our stomachs digest food. As part of the amazing cycle of life, it can decompose dead plants and animals and extract nutrients from the decay and return the resultant forms back to new plants. Also, without soil, plants would not be able to provide the world with the oxygen essential for life! If you want to be wowed by the incredible functions of soil, click below!
Click here to get the complete functions of soil guide instantly e-mailed to you!

Thank you for making the world a better place!


Check out this great video “Soil Stories”

In “Soil Stories”, our protagonist, Francine, embarks on a journey of discovery that begins with her realization that soil is alive and that without soil, life, as we know, would not exist.

Check out this great video “Basic Soil Science” from the Department of Environmental Science.  This video is a bit technical but has valuable takeaways every farmer/gardener should know.

What to Plant? Starting for the Midwest

garden1Since we started the Lifeboat Series 2017 in February, I have been very anxious and excited about starting my garden this year.  It would not be just another ordinary garden this year.   Not just a bunch of pretty plants while I fuss over the “weeds” and creeping and crawling things with chemicals from the Home Depot and tips from various television commercials and grocery store rack magazines.  magazines Now things are different.  Now I will start my first Permaculture 100% organic garden.  I will become one with my environment.  With pleasant “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance“, thoughts and dreams, I studied the Principles of Permaculture in earnest with frantic anticipation of Spring.

Here we are.  Sigh.  So many dreams of greens! beans! potatoes! Egyptian Flowerstomatoes!  You name it!  However, what to do, how to do and when to do still alludes me.  I have a small area to plant in and I am considering growing some plants indoors.  I am hoping to learn more about myself and which plants I vibe with best.


As we all start out learning more about ourselves and our broke207environments there may be some moments when we come to a point and ask ourselves, what is my vision and how can I manifest this vision? Can it be done?  Will it work? Will they grow, thrive and stay alive?  Who am I and where did we all come from?  lol

No really, now that the time to plant and start this great journey to transform our environments and ourselves using the Principles of Permaculture is here, a bit of frustration, over anticipation, lack of preparation and procrastination can sometimes make us feel fear and wanna give up. Put it off til next year.  Wait.  Let somebody else do it.  Well, it can’t wait and there is no one else who can transform our environment into a personal and communal paradise. Only the people who live in that paradise can make it be so.  So don’t give up!  Let us come together, take whatever we have, and look at wherever we are, and make a commitment to ourselves, our families, our friends and our future.  A commitment to turn our environment into a holistic paradise.  Join us in forging onward with just one seed with an exponential value of infinity.  


Here are a few tips and suggestions on what to plant now from Mother Earth News.

If indoor seed starting is not your thing, but you still want to have the variety and cost effectiveness of seeds, you can direct sow your seeds directly into the garden.  If you are planting in mulch, be sure to open a hole in the mulch, plant the seed to the depth on the seed packet and cover with potting soil.  Mulch can form a hard crust that only the strongest seedling (like beans and squash) can break through.

Here is the by-month seed sowing calendar for our Zone 6 garden.  There are so many early and late varieties available that you should consult the seed packet on the best outdoor sowing times (always listed as the weeks before your last frost date).  Finish reading article here

I found another article that may be helpful for our planting ideas.

If you’re lucky enough to live in the Midwest, your gardening challenges are few when compared to other regions. Most soil in the Midwest is loam or loamy clay, although the soils in Michigan are often black sand. Add some compost or manure every year, and you’ll have beautiful, fertile soils with little effort.  

Off the Grid News

Here is a great video on Permaculture in the Midwest by Bill Wilson

How to become an Urban Farmer tips and tricks

Creating a Functional Design


The first step in building a Permaculture garden is to figure out what a Permaculture garden is to you. This might sound strange, but the fact is that there is no one way to build any type of garden, you’ll have to have some idea of what you want to create.




Having a finalized design means you have something to build, it ensures that you have committed your ideas to paper, and to do this they have to have some structure and form. If you’re just entertaining vague ideas, you could end up procrastinating and never designing anything, let alone building something tangible.




If you don’t have a backyard, a courtyard garden or even a balcony garden can be productive.  If you don’t even have a balcony, there is the possibility of taking part in a community garden, getting your own plot, and doing your gardening there.

Combining the best of natural landscaping and edible gardening, permaculture systems sustain both themselves and their caregivers. The ultimate purpose of permaculture—a word coined in the mid-1970s by two Australians, Bill Mollison, and David Holmgren—is to develop a site until it meets all the needs of its inhabitants, from food and shelter to fuel and entertainment.

natrual landscape design

A lot of people think they are doing permaculture by growing food, being active in social networks and community banking etc. They might be doing something that looks like permaculture, but unless it has an intentional design, it is permaculture by chance. Permaculture takes chance out of the equation and sets out to make things happen by design.


The video below talks about a functional design for a permaculture garden.

Produce No Waste, Value Diversity, Obtain a Yield

Why is diversity so important?  As we see in permaculture diversity is necessary to use all the energy in a closed ecosystem.  Diversity produces resiliency, beauty, variety, and multiple resources that serve many functions.

The Principles of Permaculture focus on the mantra that nature produces no waste. Everything has purpose and value in more ways than one!  Energy is never destroyed it is only transferred from one form to another.  In a closed ecosystem, energy is shared transferred and transformed from lifeform to lifeform.  We all “feed” off each other.  But when we take more than our fair share we create imbalance and become parasitic.

Produce no waste, value diversity and obtain a yield are principles that are applicable in every part of our lives and lifestyles.

Check out this great video on these Permaculture Principles!

Creating a Food Forest Step by Step

selfcareZone 0 self-care.  There is an old saying in some communities “you are what you eat”.  We are all products of our environments.   Now there is a NEW paradigm.   The NEW thinking is that you eat what you ARE.   We have finally come to understand that we eat according to our moods and emotions and internal thinking, not just environmental influences.  In order to change our eating habits and improve the quality of our lives, our families and our communities, we need to change our thinking towards self, health, and wellbeing.


If you want a healthier body and mind, consider growing your own food and eating from your own garden.  In this “bag and go” culture, we have all come to a stand still.  We have arrived at that fork in the road where knowledge meets application.  In order to take back our lives, our children, our families, our communities we must take back the environment.  When I say “take back the environment” I mean that we all have come to the obvious understanding that we are products of our environments.

Utilizing the principles of permaculture observe your environment starting at Zone 0. What are you putting inside your body?  What are you NOT putting inside your body?  What visual aesthetics are in your daily environment? What sounds are part of your daily environment?  What is the average temperature and nature of the seasons in your daily environment?  Taking all these things into consideration can assist you in the development of your garden and food choices.  Living in the Midwest there are certain “staples” that are commonly eaten by all.  However, when thinking of your food forest, activate the principles of permaculture and consider diversifying your garden with more varieties of edible plants.

Below is a link to an awesome website that provides you wth a step by step guide for creating a Food Forest.

Eco Practicums

The Design plan of permaculture applications for implementation in the Earth Care and Fair Share Phases will be solidified.  Trainees must work in groups.  Individual design projects must be supported by other projects that complement or are necessary for the success of each design process.  Eco Practicums must be designed to “mimic” a healthy ecosystem where each living and nonliving thing plays a critical role in the well-being of that system.

Eco Practicums can be land based (a farm, a garden, a suburban plot) or project based (building a high tunnel, a Tesla generator, passive solar lean to, herbal medicine making, health programming during Market Days, chicken tractor, solar water irrigation) or even process based (food systems transportation logistics, designing an app, structuring community skill-share, trainings, protocols for food preservation).

Inherent in the design, all group eco practicums must be the model of permaculture principals.  Be clear about which principals your project is a representation of.  The use of permaculture design tools in your eco practicum must be highlighted.  All eco practicums need to interconnect in some way enhancing the well-being and success of other eco practicums that can collectively move our communities towards resiliency and sustainability. In the contribution we all are to each other, our needs are met, our potentials are being actualized and the whole we create is greater than the sum of our parts.

We are designing a whole system

To begin to formulate your design plans, answer these questions:

  1. What is your niche?  What do you want to do?  What drove you to this training?
  2. Who is on your team?  Who do you need to be in relationship with to assist you in fulfilling your niche?
  3. How will your eco practicum improve the well-being of the whole?
  4. What are the permaculture principals, tools, and applications that are expressed in your eco practicum?
  5. What/who are your direct and indirect links?
  6. What are the elements in your design projects?  What functions do the elements serve?
  7. How will they work together to create a sustainable, energy efficient cycle?

Black Urban Growers Conference-Africaness and Indigeneity

Africaness and Indigeneity-Black Urban Growers Conference is a blog post written by Jackie Smith about the 2014 Black Urban Growers conference.  She is sharing this writing, as a result of our discussion on indigeneity.  The blog post was written for the Enviromental and Food Justice blog in December 2014 and became a vehicle for Jackie to share her voice and the voice of others who are decendants of indigenous land cultivators.

“It is my hope that what I have learned of myself and of other indigenous growers will help the future permaculturalists of the LifeBoat series of Black Oaks Center.”  -Jackie Smith 

Click this link and please feel free to leave comments on your thoughts and ideas on this blog.