Late spring is the perfect time to plan an herb garden that can last through summer and into the fall.
Once the final frost has passed, it is time to plant your seeds. You can also start with seedlings from a local organic farm or nursery.
There is no greater joy in the farm-to-table movement and growing your own herbs for medicinal purposes is easier than you may think.
5 easy essential herbs for your personal medicinal garden:
1. Echinacea Purpurea: Immune Tonic – This beautiful perennial has purple, cone-shaped flowers and has been used for its medicinal properties by Native Americans. Echinacea has been widely touted as a preventive for the common cold, but research has been conflicting, showing benefits with certain preparations and not others.1
The fresh or dried, chopped flowers, which are much like the roots can be steeped in hot water for up to ten minutes. Strain and enjoy plain or with honey. Drink four to five times a day at the first signs of a cold.
2. Chamomile: Stomach Tonic – Grow German chamomile from seeds, it’s a great addition to the garden and does best in cooler climates. Cut the flowers when they appear and set them aside to dry in a warm, dark place.
Make a delicious tea that is a powerful digestive aid from the dried flower pods combining 2 cups of water with 2 tbsp of dried flowers, steep for up to 10 minutes, then strain into a cup. Add honey for flavor.
Take the strained flower pods and fold them in a napkin to make a soothing compress for your eyes. Chamomile tea may reduce anxiety, childhood colic and insomnia.2
Beware though, if you suffer from a ragweed allergy, drinking chamomile tea may increase your allergic reaction to this late summer grass.
3. Yarrow Root3: First Aid Tonic – This perennial grows easily from seeds or by dividing the roots. Yarrow contains the plant alkaloid achilleine, which can stop bleeding. It is not an antiseptic, so if you have a cut, clean it thoroughly first, then apply crushed yarrow leaves or flowers to the injury. As a tea, yarrow can be used as a skin toner or astringent. Add the dried flowers to a bath to soothe hemorrhoids.
4. Peppermint: Nerve Tonic – A whiff of peppermint oil is refreshing to the senses. This plant in the mint family is highly invasive and will take over your garden if left unchecked. Grow peppermint in a container and divide the roots to increase your stock.
When the leaves are mature, cut a bunch and dry it in a warm, dark place, such as a basement. Poor boiling water over one teaspoon of dried leaves in a tea strainer and steep for five to ten minutes. A cup of pepperment tea is soothing to the nervous system, and acts as a digestive aid for dyspepsia4 or irritable bowel syndrome.5
5. Cilantro: Detox Tonic – This herb, a.k.a. Chinese parsley or coriander, has a very distinctive taste and aroma. Cilantro is a tasty culinary herb, but did you know that taken raw, it actually can promote the excretion of heavy metals from your body?6 Add cilantro when making raw juiced veggies to help promote a safe and gentle detox. It may even help reverse memory deficits.7
Vincent Pedre, M.D. is an Integrative, Holistic General Practitioner and Board-Certified Internist in private practice in New York City. Follow Dr. Pedre on Facebook.
1Linde K, et al. Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold [Review]. Cochrane Database System. Rev. 2006 Jan 25;(1).
2Shinomiya K, et al. Hypnotic activities of chamomile and passiflora extracts in sleep-disturbed rats. Biol Pharm Bull. 2005 May;28(5):808-10.
3Vitalini S, et al. Phenolic compounds from Achillea millefolium L. and their bioactivity. Dipartimento di Produzione Vegetale, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy. Acta Biochim. Pol. 2011 Apr 19.
4May B, Kohler S, Schneider B. Efficacy and tolerability of a fixed combination of peppermint oil and caraway oil in patients suffering from functional dyspepsia. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2000 Dec;14(12):1671-7.
5Chang FY, Lu CL. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome using complementary and alternative medicine. Division of Gastroenterology, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, and National Yang-Ming University School of Medicine. J Chin Med Assoc. 2009 Jun;72(6):294-300.
6Aga M, et al. Preventive effect of Coriandrum sativum (Chinese parsley) on localized lead deposition in ICR mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2001 Oct;77(2-3):203-8.
7Mani V, et al. Reversal of memory deficits by Coriandrum sativa leaves in mice. J Sci Food Agric. 2011 Jan 15;91(1):186-92.
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