I am an avid gardener and find that being in the garden really helps me to relax. There is a great sense of satisfaction that I get from growing my own food and medicine. We often sit at the table marveling over the fact that….”Wow…we grew this”. I guess you could say it doesn’t take much to impress us.
There are a lot of wonderfully exotic herbs out there that are used medicinally and I have no aversion to using them. However, there are also plants that can be easily grown in your garden and are truly magical and healing. Many of these plants you may find in your spice cabinet and you may already be adding them to your food.
If you are just starting out with herbs I think it is so beneficial to attempt to grow some herbs so that you can observe them, taste them, use them as medicine and get a real feel for the plant. Some really great herbs to start with are some of the culinary herbs that you find in the grocery store such as Thyme, Basil, Bay, Oregano, Mints, and Rosemary. All of the herbs can be grown either in the garden or in containers if you are limited on space. Depending on where you are located some other herbs which are easy to grow include Aloe, Chamomile and Calendula. If you are interested in growing your own medicinal garden check out local resources to see what will grow in your area.
Most culinary herbs we use are very Aromatic. Aromatic herbs are warming and dispersive which means they spread out through the system, warm things up and get things moving. If you think about the feeling or effect you get when you inhale the fragrance from an aromatic plant it opens up your head and your respiratory system; that is the effect of dispersive and this effect occurs throughout the body as well. The movement provided by aromatics increases digestion and peristalsis along with relieving the pain associated with cramps. Because aromatics alleviate this resistance thereby reducing pain they are often referred to as Antispasmodics. By reducing tension or resistance aromatics are also considered to be tonics for the nervous system and relaxing nervines. Most aromatics are also antimicrobials meaning they are effective for a host of infections due to bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Most culinary herbs are also carminatives. Carminatives are aromatic herbs which help to improve digestion, relieve gas, bloating and cramping. Many carminative herbs contain volatile oils which help to disperse or create movement freeing up any stagnation that has occurred therefore allowing the body to begin its healing.
BASIL (Ocymum basilium)
An herb used for centuries in both culinary and medicinal applications, Basil is said to be both cooling and heating in its actions. Traditionally, it has been used in instances of melancholy (depression), indigestion, and for insomnia related to nervous tension. Basil is also used for conditions ranging from colds, fevers, kidney and lung troubles.
Remedies using Basil
Make a tea using basil for headaches, indigestion, fevers, colds, flu, menstrual cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
- Apply as a poultice for bacterial infections and burns.
- Crush leaves and apply the juice topically to help with the itch of insect bites and inflammation of the skin.
- Use as a steam for head colds.
- Mix the juice of the leaves with honey for coughs.
BAY (Laurus nobilis)
Many people know about adding Bay leaves to their foods while cooking. However, many people may not know that Bay is not just added to food to impart its flavor to the dish. Bay leaves help to prevent gas and indigestion and were originally added to food as an aid to digestion.
Bay Oil for Arthritis
- Heat bay leaves in oil on low heat for several hours. Strain off the oil and apply the oil to swellings, sprains, or achy, arthritic or rheumatic joints.
CAYENNE (Capsicum anuum)
Cayenne is an herb which is high in Vitamin K making it a natural blood coagulant. With this said it can staunch the bleeding from an open wound almost immediately by just applying it topically. Cayenne is also a wonderful digestive aid which enhances the metabolism as well as increasing circulation.
Cayenne Liniment for Arthritis:
Add one ounce of Cayenne to one quart of rubbing alcohol and shake well. Allow the mixture to sit for 2 – 3 weeks. Apply this liniment to affected joints.
CAUTIONS: Do not get Cayenne in the eyes. Be especially careful if you wear contacts.
DILL (Anethum graveolus)
Traditionally used for colic and gas, Dill is a great herb to grow in your medicinal garden. Dill is an annual and will self seed itself. Another use for Dill is that it may help stimulate milk in lactating mothers.
Ginger has warming, stimulating, and antispasmodic properties. It is used frequently for stomach cramps, colds, poor circulation, motion and morning sickness. Ginger is also a wonderful herb for menstrual irregularities and discomfort and helps to promote circulation. Ginger can help to relax the smooth muscles thereby helping to alleviate menstrual cramps.
Remedies using Ginger:
Cough/Cold/Flu - Add a thumb size piece of ginger root to one quart of water and bring to a boil. Simmer with lid on at low heat for 30 minutes. Let the mixture cool. Strain and drink ½ – 1 cup as desired. May sweeten with honey. (Do not use for a dry unproductive cough)
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Because of its calming action Oregano is a wonderful herb to help reduce tension and nervousness. Oregano as a tea is also very beneficial for digestion, improving appetite, to relieve flatulence and bloating. When the leaves of the Oregano plant are crushed they can be applied topically to help ease rheumatic, muscle and joint pain, itching, swelling, and to ease the sting of a bee.
PARSLEY (Petroselinum crispum)
Parsley is an outstanding herbal diuretic and may benefit those suffering from bladder and kidney problems. Also high in vitamins and minerals, Parsley is a good herb for the immune system. Eaten or drunk as a tea, Parsley is a great herb to have on hand for stomach cramps associated with gas.
PEPPERMINT (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint is another herb that is great to have on hand in the kitchen as a digestive aid. Not only is Peppermint great for nausea and flatulence but it can help to ease the stomach cramps associated with colic.
Remedies using Peppermint:
Nausea – Steep 1 tbsp of mint leaves in 1 pint of boiling water for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and sip on the tea as needed.
ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis)
A potent antiseptic, antioxidant, and antispasmodic useful in treating circulatory conditions, eczema, rheumatism, stiff muscles, Alzheimer’s, cancer, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Sage is a handy herb to have on hand during cold and flu season. A tea made with sage and used as a gargle can benefit someone with a sore throat. There is some research indicating that sage may help to reduce blood sugar levels and therefore benefit those with diabetes.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
This very aromatic herb can be used internally or externally and is a very powerful antimicrobial herb. Because of it’s highly aromatic essential oils Thyme can be quite beneficial for treating respiratory troubles such as asthma, coughs, infections and allergies. Thyme also contains strong antifungal properties which make it useful for treating nail fungus, athlete’s foot, and yeast infections.
Thyme and Honey Cough Syrup
Place 3-4 tablespoons of dried Thyme in a pot along with a pint of water. Bring herbs and water to a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool. Mix the infusion with 1 cup of honey. Use 1 tsp as needed for coughs. Keep refrigerated.