This awesome guest post was written by Amelia Wachtin, a naturopathic student and wellness & adventure enthusiast! You can check out her website here!
As the days get longer and the temperatures begin to rise, it has become obvious spring is finally in full swing. This time of year is a favorite of many as it means more time can be spent outside in the garden.
Having a garden is a great way to connect with nature and create something beautiful. With the cost of organic vegetables these days, many are drawn to the idea of growing their own food. This is a wonderful and functional use of a garden, as eating food that you have grown yourself without the use of pesticides or chemicals is satisfying on many levels.
Did you know in addition to growing your own food, you can also grow your own medicine?! Many medicinal herbs are easy to grow and offer a variety of health benefits.
Today I will share 6 of my favorite medicinal herbs that you can grow at home this spring!
1. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm has an uplifting lemony aroma that is beneficial to the body in a number of ways. Native to Europe, this plant from the mint family is now grown all over the world. Its medicinal uses date back before the Middle Ages when it was used to reduce anxiety, promote sleep, and ease gastrointestinal discomfort.
Health Benefits of Lemon Balm
Anxiety and Restless Tension
Lemon balm is a calming nervous system relaxant that helps ease anxiety. It is wonderful for soothing nervous tension and restlessness. It can help ease headaches and palpitations associated with anxiety
Acting as a mild sedative, lemon balm is known to help promote sleep.
Lemon balm has a carminative effect on the digestive tract. Meaning it helps reduce gas, bloating and abdominal discomfort.
How to Grow Lemon Balm
- As Lemon Balm is a tough perennial plant, it is easy to grow.
- Plant in full sun or partial shade.
- Can grow in pretty much any soil types, but well drained clay or sandy loam is best.
- Does best in pots in the summer.
How to Use Lemon Balm
- After harvesting the individual leaves or stalks, Lemon Balm can be dried in a cool dry place.
- The dried leaves can be made into a relaxing tea by steeping 1.5 tsp leaves in a cup of boiled water.
- The fresh leaves can be added to fish or chicken dishes, or added to iced tea in place of lemon slices!
Chamomile is a beautiful daisy like plant that has been used for thousands of years for its calming and anti-inflammatory properties. It has historically been used to treat many conditions such as irritable bowel disease, anxiety, eczema, insomnia and more. Research has shown that Chamomile reduces inflammation, speeds wound healing, reduces muscle spasms, and serves as a mild sedative to help with sleep. The healing properties come from the flowers, which contain volatile oils and bioflavonoids.
Health Benefits of Chamomile
Chamomile acts as a smooth muscle relaxant and anti-spasmodic that can help with menstrual cramping or stomach cramps.
The flavonoids found in Chamomile exert a mild nervous system sedative effect, which can help reduce nervous tension and ease you into sleep.
Chamomile soothes the smooth muscle lining of the digestive tract, which reduce irritable symptoms such as irritable bowel disease, heartburn or diverticular disorders.
Burns and Scrapes
Chamomile oil is effective in treating bad burns. Chamomile is also useful for treating scrapes and cuts due to its anti-bacterial and anti-septic properties
How to Grow Chamomile
- Chamomile is an annual plant and will need to be planted year to year
- It takes about 6 weeks from seed to harvest
- Although it prefers full sun, it can tolerate partial shade.
- Plant in well drained and nutrient rich soil (can also be planted in pots)
- Plant seedlings 6 inches apart
- Water about an inch a week (let completely dry in between)
How to Use Chamomile
- The flowers can be harvested and dried
- The dried flowers make a delicious calming tea – 1-2 tsp of dried herb per cup of water
Often known for its culinary uses, especially in Mediterranean dishes, Rosemary also contains many health benefits that should definitely be taken advantage of. It has traditionally been used to help improve memory, relieve muscle pain, stimulate hair growth and support the circulatory and nervous systems. Research has shown that rosemary has antioxidant and anti-microbial properties. Rosemary is incredibly adaptable to different climates and is one of the easiest herbs to grow!
Health Benefits of Rosemary
Improved Mental Clarity
Rosemary relaxes smooth muscles of capillaries and arteries, thus enhancing blood flow. It increases circulation to the head to improve mental clarity, memory and vision.
Rosmarinic acid found in rosemary is an anti-inflammatory & antioxidant.
* As there is potential for drug plant interactions with this herb, please consult a physician before using medicinally
How to Grow Rosemary
- Rosemary is easiest to grow from cuttings (vs planting seeds)
- Find a rosemary plant and clip off about 4 inches (the best time to do this is in the late spring).
- Plant in a small pot of soil and place in a relatively sunny area
- Once roots have formed you can transfer it outdoors in your garden, where it will adapt to most growing conditions.
- It is happy in pretty much any climate, but prefers warm and dry climates. Choose a spot with full sun that is fairly dry.
- Rosemary prefers dryer soil, so be careful not to over water
How to Use Rosemary
- Enjoy in cooking
- Use in a tea infusion by adding 1 tsp/cup
An all time favorite herb of many, it is hard to resist the calming floral aroma of this powerful purple plant! Research has proven that lavender exerts a slight calming, soothing and sedative effect when the scent is inhaled. Native to the Mediterranean in sunny habitats, it now grows abundantly in Europe, Australia and the United States. The volatile oils found in the purple flowers are mostly responsible for the medicinal actions of this herb.
Health Benefits of Lavender
Effective against headaches, especially when they are related to stress.
Lavender is a gentle strengthening tonic for the nervous system that can help with nervous system debility and exhaustion. In double blind, placebo controlled studies, lavender has been shown to reduce anxiety after 10 weeks of supplementation.
Prevents Hair Loss
Lavender massaged on the scalp has been shown to significantly improve hair regrowth over long term.
Lavender helps women with pre-menstrual symptoms. It can help women curb emotional tendencies before their menses.
How to Grow Lavender
- Plant lavender plants 12-18 inches apart in an open area with lots of sun.
- Plant in well drained soil that is slightly alkaline
- Do not over water and allow soil to dry before watering again
How to Use Lavender
- To dry lavender, cut stems and hang a bunch upside down in a dark, well-ventilated place to preserve the color and prevent molding of the stems.
- You can add the dried flower blossoms to teas, baking, and sachets.
- Essential oil can also be diffused for a calming scent in your home.
Calendula is a plant in the marigold family that has been used as medicine since before the 12th century. It is native to the Mediterranean, but it is now grown throughout the world. Calendula is high in bioflavonoids and antioxidants, and appears to fight inflammation, viruses and bacteria. The primary medicinal use for Calendula is typically on the skin.
Health Benefits of Calendula
Calendula has been shown to heal wounds faster, potentially by increasing blood flow and oxygen to affected areas, which helps the body to grow new tissue. It can also be used to improve skin hydration.
Plant constituents such as saponins, micronutrients, flavonoids and polysaccharides can be attributed to the antiedematous, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and wound healing effects. Also, calendula can help stimulate collagen regrowth in wounds.
Calendula has been shown to assist in preventing dermatitis and skin inflammation in people with breast cancer after radiation therapy. It can be used topically to soothe rashes or eczema. Also, internally is anti-inflammatory in the digestive tract for conditions such as gastric or duodenal ulcers
How to Grow Calendula
- Calendula flowers are very easy to grow. They bloom from early spring until late autumn.
- It is an annual plant that can survive the winter in mild climates. It self-seeds easily, so once it is sown you may not need to seed that area again.
- Can be grown in pots or garden beds.
- Sow seeds about 3-4 inches apart after the last frost. Cover with about 0.25 of an inch of soil.
- Calendula needs plenty of water, so make sure to water lots
How to Use Calendula
- Harvest flower heads only
- Can use in baking and salads
- Can add to oils or healing salves
Peppermint is a very common herb known for its classic flavor and scent used in toothpaste and gum. It is an incredibly easy plant to grow, and grows in temperate or wet areas. Although it is native to Europe and Asia, it has also been naturalized to North America. The leaves of the plant are medicinal as they contain the volatile oil, Menthol. While our oral health may greatly benefit from Peppermint, our digestive system could also use a little TLC from this plant.
Health Benefits of Peppermint
The carminative action of Peppermint calms the muscles of the stomach and improves the flow of bile. As peppermint relaxes the muscles, it relives the pressure from excess gas. The volatile oils act as a mild anesthetic to the stomach wall which helps with feelings of nausea during travel or pregnancy.
Applied to the temples and forehead, Peppermint oil can help reduce headache symptoms
Itching and Skin Irritation
When applied topically, Peppermint has a soothing and cooling effect on the skin. Especially useful for skin irritation caused by hives, poison oak and poison ivy.
How to Grow Peppermint
- Plant in rich soil with good drainage
- Needs LOTS of water
- Partial sun is good, but full sun will increase the potency of the volatile oils
How to Use Peppermint
- Add a few drops of essential oil to massage oil to use topically
- Make peppermint tea from dried tealeaves – 1-2 tsp/cup steeped for 5-10 minutes covered.
Calendula. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/calendula
Calendula officinalis and Wound Healing: A Systematic Review. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://www.woundsresearch.com/article/9064
German chamomile. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/german-chamomile
Herbs Articles – Gardening Know How. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
How to Grow Rosemary. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://www.wikihow.com/Grow-Rosemary
Lavender.(n.d.).Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lavender
Lemon balm. (n.d.).Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lemon-balm
Peppermint. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/peppermint
Rosemary. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/rosemary
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