Long before medical records were being kept, wild herbs were considered for their medicinal purposes and used as healing remedies.
In 1991 a 5,300-year-old Iceman was found in the Alps. Among his personal effects were medicinal herbs. For centuries, herbal remedies were integral to Eastern medicine; it is only recently that modern medicine has caught on, realizing that herbs may actually:
- ease symptoms of many ailments
- help to cure the common cold
- help reduce the symptoms of arthritis
Due to their health-promoting compounds – antioxidants and anti-inflammatories – have gained esteem in recent years.
Fresh herbs, having more potency than dry leaves, make growing them a benefit to you and your health. Ideal for amateur gardeners, these simple to grow and thriving herbs are a perfect way to get you started.
- Peppermint – settles upset stomach and eases muscle cramps
- Lemon Balm – dispels anxiety and improves mood
- Rosemary – increases memory and reduces joint pain
- Valerian – acts as a sleep aid and has sedative effects
- Sage – eases sore throats and freshens breath
So, grab some pots, find some nutrient-rich soil and clear a sunny spot in your home or garden!
- Find a sunny spot for the growing herbs.
- During the growing season, cut the leaves back often to encourage growth.
- Make sure to water your herbs, keeping them moist.
In the ninth and tenth centuries, Arab physicians deemed lemon balm the gladdening herb. It was prescribed to anyone with a propensity towards anxiety and heart palpitations. More recently, it has been endorsed by the German Ministry of Health for relieving tension, anxiety, and restlessness. Some have also found that in small sample studies ingesting lemon balm can increase memory and improve mood.
Lemon balm is quick to grow, so be sure and give it a lot of space!
In 1750, peppermint was first cultivated in London, and used to heal indigestion. Noted to calm the digestive tract and alleviate intestinal gas and cramping, peppermint may also thin mucus, loosen phlegm, and sooth sore throats. Some have used it topically to ease the cramping of muscles, stop the itch of insect bites and to assist in lessening the pain of arthritis and headaches.
Being careful not to strip the plant, peppermint can be snipped within two or three weeks of planting!
Early Western civilizations used rosemary as a memory enhancer. Greek students donned rosemary garland around their heads. Students in Rome massaged the herb onto their foreheads and temples prior to taking exams. A topical ointment of rosemary can also reduce joint pain. (To make the topical ointment: Soak rosemary needles in almond oil for two weeks, filter, then rub the oil onto sore joints as needed.)
Rosemary can perform well in a container, but is best grown naturally from a plant!
Studies have shown that sage has bacteria-fighting heft, which makes it a potent breath freshener. Combined with echinacea, it can be as effective as lidocaine in relieving pain associated with a sore throat. (To make sage mouthwash: Steep one tablespoon sage leaves in one cup of hot water for five minutes. Strain and gargle.)
The best medicinal variety of sage is Salvia officinalis. Because it can take up to a year to establish itself, sage is best started from a plant!
Used as a sedative and sleep aid, this herb gets its name from the Latin valere, meaning “to be in good health“. Some are so sensitive to the herb, that the sweet smell alone can put them to sleep! In studies at the Humboldt University of Berlin, Valerian extract has been found to assist insomniacs in falling asleep faster and improving the quality of their sleep.
The best medicinal variety is the Valeriana officinalis. Cut the flowers of the Valerian plant immediately when they appear, when being used for medicinal purposes, allowing the most energy to be preserved rather than being sabotaged by the leaves.
The health benefits of these herbs can be fount by drinking them in a tea or utilizing them in topical remedies. To make a tea, pour one cup of boiling water over six leaves (for Valerian, use 2 tablespoons of the chopped root) and steep for five minutes, before straining and enjoying.
To find these such herbs and others that you may wish to use in healing your ailments, consult with your primary healthcare* provider and fellow gardeners.
*It is important to always consult your primary healthcare physician prior to consuming any medicinal plants or taking herbal remedies.