Home Remedies From the Garden

Kick back with a stress-relieving tonic or whip up a soothing skin oil. Elizabeth Millard, author of Backyard Pharmacy, shares tips for using garden plants to treat everyday ills.

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Photo By: Photo by Elizabeth Millard / Courtesy Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Photo by Elizabeth Millard / Courtesy Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Photo by Elizabeth Millard / Courtesy Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Courtesy Cool Springs Press / Photo by Elizabeth Millard

Photo By: Photo by Elizabeth Millard / Courtesy Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Photo by Elizabeth Millard / Courtesy Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Photo by Elizabeth Millard / Courtesy Cool Springs Pres

Photo By: Photo by Elizabeth Millard / Courtesy Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Photo by Elizabeth Millard / Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Photo by Elizabeth Millard / Courtesy Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Photo by Elizabeth Millard / Courtesy of Cool Springs Press

Photo By: Photo by Elizabeth Millard / Courtesy Cool Springs Press

Calendula-Infused Oil Balm

Elizabeth Millard is the author of  Backyard Pharmacy, a guide to using plants from the garden for health. Calendula, says Millard, can be infused in olive oil. "Stuff a jar full of dried leaves, pour olive oil over them, and let them infuse for a few weeks. Then use the oil for bruises and summertime skin issues." She starts calendula indoors, in early spring, and transplants it into the garden in early summer. "You can also directly seed into a garden if you live in a warmer zone. Deadhead the plants regularly, and use those flowers to create your infusions." Editor's Note: This content is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a professional healthcare provider before trying any form of therapy or if you have any questions or concerns about a medical condition. The use of natural products can be toxic if misused, and even when suitably used, certain individuals could have adverse reactions.

Backyard Pharmacy

Elizabeth Millard, author of Indoor Kitchen Gardening, shares tips for using garden plants to make tinctures, teas, salves and decoctions in her book, Backyard Pharmacy (Cool Springs Press).

Refreshing Lemon Balm Ice Cubes

Author Elizabeth Millard says drinking a lemon balm tonic can relieve stress. "Create an infusion by pouring just-boiled water over 1 tsp. of dried or 2 tsp. of fresh leaves and let steep for 15 minutes. Lemon balm is (also) a good choice as a mosquito repellant. Crush the leaves and rub on skin and clothing." Lemon balm is related to mint, she adds, but the plants aren't invasive. "Cut it back regularly as it's growing and you'll have plenty of leaves for infusions."

Mint for Digestion and Energy

There's a good reason Millard grows mint in containers: this perennial is a bully that can overrun your garden. It's worth any extra effort, though, because mint has stimulating properties believed to aid digestion and boost energy. Millard likes to chop a few fresh leaves and toss them into a salad, or drop them into a glass of water or lemonade.

Basil Toothpaste

Millard grinds dried basil leaves into a powder that she mixes with toothpaste to freshen her breath and help reduce mouth bacteria. Basil you're growing in your yard needs 6 to 8 hours of sun a day, but the plants can take some shade in hot climates.

Rosemary-Infused Olive Oil

Chefs know rosemary is a useful culinary herb, but University of Illinois researchers have said it might also show promise in treating type 2 diabetes. Millard notes this perennial herb is also believed to have antioxidant, antiseptic and anti-depressive properties, among others. Give you plants loose, well-drained soil and lots of sun.

Thyme for Skin Treatments

Researchers from the U.K.'s Leeds Metropolitan University think thyme may have a greater antibacterial effect on a certain kind of acne than benzoyl peroxide, Millard says. She grows the herb to make a tea to treat coughs, among other uses. Don't worry that thyme will take over in your garden; it's not as aggressive as mint.

Breath-Freshening Fennel Seeds

Fennel isn't just for cooking; you can also chew the seeds to sweeten your breath and aid digestion, Millard notes. She also digs and cleans the roots, and simmers them for about an hour, to make a tonic that she says may help detoxify the liver. She grows both leaf and bulb fennel and has found their culinary and medicinal uses similiar.

Comfrey as a Poultice

Once grown by monks in their medicinal gardens, comfrey is still applied topically for its reported ability to treat some types of skin problems, such as rashes and minor sores. Millard mashes fresh leaves with a mortar and pestle, or blends them into a paste that she places over the affected area. The area is then covered with a clean, fresh cloth.

Oregano Tea

Humans aren't the only ones that can benefit from home garden remedies. Millard makes a tea from dried, steeped oregano leaves. After the tea cools, she sprays it on pets to help kill fleas and control itching.

Pain Relieving Cayenne Peppers

It's the capsaicin in cayenne peppers that gives them their fiery flavor, but used externally, they can also help relieve headaches and joint and nerve pain, Millard says. She treats oncoming colds by drinking 3 ounces of warm water mixed with a teaspoon of cayenne spice, a little honey, and some crushed garlic.

The Benefits of Garlic

Some gardeners use garlic as a home remedy to treat colds and flu. She also cites research that indicates garlic may help reduce inflammation and lower LDL cholesterol. Grow softneck garlic if you live in a mild-winter climate, or hardneck types if you garden where the winters are cold.

Antioxidants in Cilantro

Cilantro, sometimes called coriander or Chinese parsley, has antioxidants that are thought to help with inflammation and prevent some illnesses, Millard says. Research continues on other possible health benefits from this pungent herb. Millard's easy herbal preparation: she simply eats the cilantro leaves.