Plant Prescription: Is There Medicine in Your Garden?

Aromatic Lavender Growing in Colorful Hedge

Aromatic Lavender Growing in Colorful Hedge

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Did you know that much of modern medicine is derived from herbal medicine? In fact, many of the herbs that we grow in our gardens or right on the windowsill have healing properties. Here are five popular and easy-to-grow medicinal herbs, and their benefits:

Lavender

The scent of lavender flowers has been shown to have anti-anxiety and stress-relieving abilities.

To use: Tuck dried lavender flowers into a sachet and put on your pillow for a good night’s sleep, or create an herbal infusion and use as a massage oil for fussy babies or stressed-out kids and grown-ups.

Mint

Mint is known for soothing upset stomachs, and it grows in such abundance that a garden crop could probably take care of a whole neighborhoods’ worth of tummy aches.

To use: Bruise (gently crush) a handful of fresh, clean mint leaves, place in a mug, and pour boiling water over. Steep 3-5 minutes, then drink: no need to remove the leaves! Feel free to add a little honey or lemon, though the tea is nice and refreshing as-is.

Chamomile

There’s a reason chamomile tea is so often recommended as a sleep aid. The flowers of German Chamomile are well known for their relaxing, stress-relieving qualities.

To use: Put a handful of fresh or dried chamomile flowers in a mesh bag and run hot water over it for a soothing, healing bath. Or, make your own “sleepy time” tea by putting 2-3 flower heads (not the leaves!) into a mug and covering with hot water. Steep for three or four minutes, then pour the tea through a strainer into another container. Enjoy with a little lemon or honey!

Calendula

This colorful flower is well known for its skin-soothing qualities, and is said to have anti-inflammatory, astringent, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.  

To use: Dry the flowers, then turn an infusion of calendula into a soothing salve, great for treating minor burns, scrapes, chapped lips and rashes.

Sage

This popular kitchen herb is also renowned for its usefulness in treating sore throats, coughs and congestion. It’s a strong herb and shouldn’t be used medicinally if you’re pregnant (though it’s fine to use it in cooking!)

To use: Crush a few teaspoons of dried sage, then steep in boiling water. You can use a tea ball or reusable tea bag if you like, or just strain the sage out after it steeps for a few minutes. You can also use this “tea” as a gargle for sore throats.

Caution: While herbal medicine has been used safely and effectively for centuries, some herbs can interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications, and may not be safe for people with certain medical conditions. Check with your health care provider to be sure herbal medicine is safe for you.

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