Earlier in the week, I fell into a thread by Bonnie Blue on Twitter (@BonnieBlueTK) about growing herbs in your garden for medicinal purposes. I immediately asked her to write us a guest blog to share her ideas. I hope you all find this as enjoyable as I did.
Here is her guest post:
I was fortunate enough to be largely raised by my grandmother, who was a depression era bride. Even before Victory Gardens came along, her generation knew you had to take care of your family’s food needs and be self-sustaining. She was a strong farm and ranch wife, with the tenderness to let my little hands help her from as far back as I can remember. It would have been much easier for her to do it herself, but she knew it was important information to pass on. Those early lessons were largely centered around gardening and canning the fruits of our (her) labor. But there was a special area not far from the vegetable garden, and that was her herb bed. It wasn’t until I got much older, that I realized the importance of that bed. Back then, I simply saw it as growing dill for pickles, and herbs for a tasty cup of tea.
Fast forward to today. Food prices are sky rocketing, there have been warnings of shortages, and those that look at the world around them understand that a great deal of our pharmaceutical components have been outsourced to China. That is where herbs come into play. As many rush to plant modern-day “victory gardens”, herbs are often overlooked. For a variety of reasons, you need to tuck herbs among your vegetables, plant them with your flowers, or dedicate a bed to nothing but herbs and more herbs.
Herbs make a lot of the foods we grow taste even better. A few sprigs can make dried beans taste even better when cooked. But herbs go far beyond seasoning the evening meal. Herbs have been used for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes. Many attract bees to the garden. Given that bees, which are responsible for pollinating one-third of the world’s food supply, are declining in numbers, adding even more plants to attract them is never a bad idea.
Healing herbs can be used fresh, dried and steeped as tea, or soaked in vodka to make a tincture. Many of them have a myriad of uses. I find that it is best to focus on herbs that I can get the most use from when planning my garden space. Think about the herbs that will give you the most bang for your gardening buck and take it from there. I suggest that in addition to internet searches on herbs, you add a book dedicated solely to herbs to your library. When the lights go out, you don’t want to be left wondering how to use a particular herb you planted. My favorite resource is the book “Growing and Using Healing Herbs”. It is a wealth of information and laid out in a very practical way.
My herb beds include a lot of the culinary herbs, many of which have medicinal uses. Rosemary helps relieve gas. It is considered a stimulant and is a good herb for treating cluster headaches. Thyme has antispasmodic qualities that could make it useful for stomach cramps, or the treatment of coughs.
I also have beds dedicated to a few useful healing herbs. The predominant herbs being lavender, chamomile, and peppermint. Lavender is my everything herb. It is wonderful for attracting bees, and is scattered around my garden, as well as the healing teas bed. My favorite evening tea for stress is lavender. Headache? Lavender. Can’t sleep? Lavender. Even my dog likes lavender. When I put lavender essential oil in a diffuser at night, she will lay with her head under the mist. Chamomile is another versatile herb that I use much the same way as I use lavender. It is a mild flavored herb, and one that children will often drink in a tea, when others are considered too harsh. Peppermint is a stronger herb for gas and indigestion, or an upset stomach. It also contains menthol, good for helping treat upper respiratory symptoms of a cold or flu.
Herbs do not have to be relegated to herb beds and vegetable gardens. Many can be tucked in a front yard flower bed for color and interest. It is a great way to use space for more practical reasons, and to not draw the attention of neighborhood busybodies. The purple coneflower is a beautiful perennial flower. You might have bought it in capsule form, under its botanical name of echinacea. Yes, that echinacea, which is used as a remedy for colds and flu. Rose hips are a great source of vitamin C. Brew them as a tea for a tangy boost to the immune system. Both roses and purple coneflower are great at attracting bees. Just make sure you do not use pesticides on your flowers. They are not good for the bees, or you.
I am not a medical professional, I am simply an avid gardener, who feels that we need to find ways of being self-sustaining, and ready for hard times. After identifying your herb garden needs, read all you can on each herbs use, benefits, and possible side effects. This will also help you decide which herbs to focus on, so you have enough to truly get you through possible tough times. Better to have enough for the most important uses, than a little bit of many that will not bring as much benefit.
Enjoy your herbal adventures, and happy gardening!
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