If you don’t yet have a medicinal herb garden, perhaps now is the time to consider starting one. Having not only a living but a renewable source of holistic medicine on hand for your family is only one of the benefits of growing medicinal herbs. There’s no reason to wait either, even if you are in the grips of the winter cold, many of these herbs can grow year-round, indoors, simply on our window sills or under artificial light. And while the sound of a “Medicinal Herb Garden” doesn’t sound too appealing, you’ll find many of the herbs your already know and love in cooking will provide you and your family with alternatives to drug store medicine in an emergency when you need it most.
The truth is people have been growing medicinal herbs for thousands of years and many of the medications you find on store shelves today are derived from the very same botanicals you can grow in your own home.
Approximately, 40 percent of prescription drugs on the market today came from plant extracts. These medicinal herbs that you can grow yourself have the ability to help heal and relieve symptoms caused by a variety of ailments, and, major bonus, many can be enjoyed in your culinary adventures too. As most preppers know, you never know what is going to happen, and having these plants in your arsenal could offer an important solution for your family in a time of need.
These basic herbs are just a few of the many that could be part of your medicinal herb garden, but these are perhaps the ones that no living medicine cabinet should be without.
Echinacea (E. purpurea) is already one of the top-selling herbs in health food stores and a major ingredient in several wellness products, proving its effectiveness as an immune booster. In fact, you can almost hear your mother telling you to drink that Echinacea tea once you feel that cold come on, can’t you? Echinacea has almost been called the purple coneflower by many gardeners and is still admired for its beauty, as well as its properties. Echinacea root is the most popular part of the plant to extract the medicinal properties from, but many will make tea out of the leaves and flowers as well. You can make a tincture, or a basic tea to use this medicine helping you to get over colds faster or preventing them in the first place.
Looking to relax? How about a nice cup of Chamomile tea? Chamomile is a must-have for any medicinal herb garden as it is an effective sleep aid that can also aid in digestion and urination. For a mother, this herb is especially beneficial as it is gentle enough for young tummies and can even ease colic. Chamomile tea, made from the flowers of the Hungarian chamomile plant, (Matricaria recutita or Chamomilla Recutita), can also be used to wash sores and wounds. Official health authorities of 26 separate countries approve it to treat inflammation, infection, colic, muscle spasms, and tension.
The flowers usually appear within six weeks of planting. It does best in cooler climates and making it a great indoor plant, even though it can get quite large. The plant likes sun exposure but needs to be protected from the intense summer heat.
Traditionally, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has been used to reduce fevers and treat colds by inducing sweating. It has been known to calm the digestive tract, relieve spasms related to cramps and headaches, and aid in the battle against insomnia. There are even studies to suggest that lemon balm not only calms anxiety but also inhibits the growth of fungi and bacteria. Lemon balm, like chamomile, is a larger plant, but it can also be grown indoors. It is best, however, grown outdoors with partial sun. When outside it is also a great attractor of bees, which any gardener knows, is a benefit to the overall health of your garden. The plant can tend to spread, so trim the tops off before they go to seed to prevent overgrowth.
One of the best reasons to grow lemon balm yourself is because it is most effective fresh, or freshly dried, though it does lose some of its aromas when dried. The leaves and the blooms can be harvested to make tea to unlock the medicinal potential.
Mint was mentioned as a stomach aid in the world’s oldest surviving medical text, believed to date from the 16th century B.C. Peppermint (Mentha ×piperita) is actually a hybrid between spearmint and water mint.
Peppermint leaf tea was traditionally used to cure insomnia, upset stomach, indigestion, nervous tension, cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. Studies have shown that the essential oil extracted from peppermint contains substances that relieve muscle spasms and inhibit the growth of bacteria and viruses. It also contains menthol, which is well known for its health benefits as well as its distinct scent.
Peppermint can also grow quite large and can be suitable outside. Peppermint crops can be increased by dividing the roots as the flowers do not provide seed. Peppermint tends to take care of itself, it almost thrives on neglect and it may be necessary to dig up plants regularly if grown outside to limit spread. The peppermint leaves are easy to dry and store for use in tea or other applications.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is rich in vitamins C, B12, K, and vitamin A and provides a host of preventative benefits. It can be grown in a simple box on your window sill, or in an open garden. Parsley helps promote a strong immune system and it has been known to treat the nervous system as well. Parsley can also help reduce blood pressure as well as aid with digestion problems.
Parsley can be dried, chewed raw, or used in a tea. Many people also chew on the leaves to control bad breath. Parsley is also a popular seasoning when cooked though the raw leaves contain the highest concentration of health benefits as cooking can reduce potency.
Lavender (Lavandula) is a popular herb, best grown outside, as these gorgeous and fragrant flowers can grow quite large. Like lemon balm, lavender is attractive to bees and hummingbirds. In addition to the unmistakable scent, lavender has long been associated with providing a sense of calm and relaxation. Lavender tea has also been shown to reduce pain as well as provide many aroma-therapeutic benefits. When applied as a part of a salve to cuts and bruises, lavender can also be an effective antiseptic.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) is another plant known for its unmistakable scent, but its benefits reach far beyond simply aromatics. It is a little-known fact that sage can also help to soothe coughs and general throat irritation. Sage has been known to reduce the longevity and severity of common colds and sinus congestion. Sage has also been shown to aid with hot flashes, an added benefit for many women.
Whether you have an indoor or an outdoor herb garden, or perhaps both, your living medicine cabinet can benefit from the inclusion of these marvelously miraculous plants. All of these can be used as teas, but many can be made into tinctures and salves that are wonderful to have on hand when a medical situation arises. Having your own living medicine cabinet prepares you for so many ailments and situations, and allows you to provide the best, freshest and safest health remedies for you and your family.