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Create Your Own Wellness Garden

by in Health 31/03/2014

Powerful Plants and Herbs for Homegrown Remedies

Mortar and pestle with herb garden behind.
Since the beginning of time, humans have used certain herbs and plants for their amazing healing powers. Monks, medicine men and early physicians grew ‘wellness gardens’ especially for healing herbs. In fact, many medicines you find at the pharmacy are have active ingredients derived from plants. Aspirin is a perfect example, which is derived from tree bark. But the potential for natural remedies goes far beyond aches and pains.

For very little money and a bit of work, you can develop your own healing garden that will provide balms, teas and infusions that you can use for various ailments – and to make into concoctions that are environmentally friendly for cleaning and refreshing.

Among the conditions that can be helped by healing herbs and plants are indigestion, rashes, and depression as well as sleep disorders. Most herbs and plants used for healing purposes are easy to grow and you only need a small space or window sill to provide a rich harvest.
Fresh herbs growing in window boxes on bright balcony

Some History on Healing with Herbs and Plants

Using plants and herbs for medicinal purposes has been studied throughout human history and is practiced today as a form of alternative medicine. Many pharmaceutical drugs are derived from natural resources and even include other environmental products such as minerals, fungus, honey and shells – plus some parts of animals.

Archeological research indicates that healing plants were used as long ago as 60,000 years while written confirmation can be found over 5,000 years ago when the Sumerians created lists of plants they used in creating their healing medicines.

Herbs and plants were also used in the healing practices in India and China. The research and development of medicines made from plants and herbs have contributed much to the Western style of medicine we know today and are likely to play an even more important role in the future.

Volumes of books have been written about the use of herbs and plants as medicines, and we now have a documented listing of ingredients and recipes detailing how to turn them in to creams, infusions, tinctures, salves and anything else we may need.

Today, access to Internet websites can teach the world just about everything we need to know to grow healing gardens, harvest herbs and plants and concoct them into medicines that can heal.

The history of using plants and herbs for medicinal purposes is fascinating and can help you choose which plants you want to grow in your wellness garden.

Medical Conditions that can be Treated with Herbs and Plants

Almost any condition – including cancer – can be relieved or healed with herbs and plants. The derivatives of the plants and herbs (such as berries, leaves, bark, flowers and seeds) are also used to treat some medical conditions.

As herbalism becomes more accepted in our mainstream communities, we’re learning more about its healing powers. Improvements are being made in quality of the herbs sold in stores and online and clinical research is also touting the benefits of using herbal medicines in both the prevention and treatment of some diseases.

In a recent study conducted by the World Health organization, it’s estimated that roughly 80% of people the world over use herbal medicines for at least part of their health care regime.

It’s highly understandable that people would be turning to herbalism since the cost of prescription drugs is skyrocketing all over the world. As people are learning more about herbs and how to use them – thanks to easy access to the Internet – the interest in growing these plants for their own benefit is also experiencing rapid growth.

Some conditions that are increasingly being treated by the use of home grown herbs and plants are:

  • Asthma A respiratory condition that can be triggered by allergens such as mold or pollen, food additives and preservatives and coloring used in food, strenuous exercise and stress.
    • A few natural remedies that have been found effective in treating asthma are flaxseed oil, Ma Huang, coleus, licorice and lobelia.
  • Eczema Skin condition where patches of skin become inflamed and scaly, sometimes causing blisters and itching when irritated.
    Natural, herbal remedies that may help alleviate the symptoms of eczema are aloe vera, coconut oil, comfrey leaf, yarrow flowers and Echinacea root.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome A severe condition that seems to be triggered by psychosomatic reactions to stress. The symptoms are bloating, constipation, diarrhea and cramps.
    • You may be able to help your irritable bowel symptoms by drinking a daily cup or so of peppermint or ginger tea. Another ‘natural’ way to alleviate the symptoms is to get into a regular habit of exercising to release natural, pain-relieving endorphins.
  • Cancer Herbal remedies for cancer treatments are being studied and the jury is still out on a cure, but there are many herbal concoctions that can help prevent and alleviate the pain and other results that some modern “cancer cures” can cause.
    • Astragulus is an herb that can be helpful for immune system problems that chemotherapy and radiation cause. Enchinacea (also known as Purple Coneflower) is antibacterial, antiviral and can also be used for healing wounds.
  • Arthritis Types of arthritis include the crippling Rheumatoid arthritis and it can be a painful and cause swelling because of the inflammation. More people than ever are seeking alternative medicines to reduce pain and swelling of the disease.
    • Aloe vera used topically, Boswilla and Cat’s Claw for their anti-inflammatory properties and eucalyptus leaves for pain are just a few of the herbs and plants that are commonly used for symptoms of arthritis.

Before taking any herbal concoction for a medical condition, you should meet with your health care provider. Some herbs can interact with medications you may be taking for other conditions, so doing research is extremely important.

Easy to Grow Herbs and Plants for your Wellness Garden

Woman working in herb garden
Plants and herbs that you can harvest to enhance your food recipes and your health can be found in abundance. Many are easy to grow and can add beauty and scent to your wellness garden.

Whether you have a large or small space outdoors, a sunny window sill or some pots on a patio, you’ve got the makings for a garden that can yield an abundance of herbs and pique your curiosity and creativity for homegrown herbal remedies.

Here are some herbs that will definitely enhance your garden and provide bountiful results:

  • Parsley Various types of parsley, including flat Italian and curly parsley. This beautiful green herb can be a great addition to a wellness garden as it’s chock full of healing powers and powerful nutrients.
    • Uses: Food garnish, bad breath and flatulence.
  • Thyme Fragrant and easy to grow, thyme can thrive as an edge to a walkway, a ground cover or in containers. Thyme’s healing properties include thymol, a powerful antiseptic.
    • Uses: Indigestion, flatulence congestion and coughs, irritable bowel syndrome, mouthwash and to increase the potency of poultices.
  • Basil The young, fragrant and branching leaves of basil come in a variety of flavors and sizes including sweet basil, lettuce leaf basil and holy basil. You can harvest the leaves from the plant as it grows. Basil is great to grow in containers.
    • Uses: Cuts and scratches, to increase appetite, flatulence, prevent headaches and calm the stomach.
  • Lemon Balm A close relative of mint, this herb releases a strong lemon smell when rubbed between your fingers. It grows nicely in clumps in your wellness garden and you can use the leaves for teas, add flavor to fruit and other food and bring into your home for fragrance.
    • Uses: Flatulence, calming the stomach, insomnia, anxiety and stress, cuts, insect bites and herpes.
  • Chamomile You’ll definitely want to include the popular herb, chamomile, in your wellness garden – if nothing else but for its beauty. Flowers of the chamomile plant look like daisies and it spreads in your flower garden or stays well-contained in pots.
    • Uses: Skin problems and inflammation, stress, anxiety and indigestion.
  • Feverfew An herb that’s leaves can be chewed and its flowers used for teas. Its flowers also resemble daisies and it’s a member of that same flower family. This herb attracts bees, birds and butterflies and is both a beautiful, aromatic and useful addition to your wellness garden.
    • Uses: Helps reduce pain from migraine headaches, reduces fever and helps to dilate blood vessels, acts as a digestive stimulant, helps you to relax and also helps ease inflammation and spasmodic conditions.
  • Sage Even the scientific name of this herb (Salvia) means “healing.” Used for centuries as a medicinal herb, sage is now used commonly in the kitchen. It grows outward in clumps and becomes very woody over time.
    • Uses: Healing for irritations of the mouth and throat, prevents excessive perspiration, lowers blood sugar, aids in drying the flow of milk in lactating women and is antimicrobial.
  • St. John’s Wort Shiny green leaves and bright yellow flowers are the beautiful and the beneficial parts of this natural, healing herb. It can be used in essential oils and its flowers can be harvested and eaten after blooming.
    • Uses: Helps alleviate the effects of depression, heart palpitations, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, cancer, headaches and nerve pain.
  • Peppermint Peppermint is a fast-growing and wide-spreading and will grow just about anywhere you plant it. It’s also good for small gardens and container-type gardening.
    • Uses: Use peppermint leaves as an antispasmodic relief for the stomach and intestines. You can concoct a tea or crush the leaves and pack them in capsules.

Be sure you have well-drained soil and a sunny location for most of the above herbs and plants. You can purchase seeds and plants from your local garden center or order them online.

Books and online websites are great resources for recipes and ideas about how to store the herbs after harvesting. And, it’s always best to consult with a health care professional before using any herbal supplements or using them to make herbal medicines.

Sometimes the herbs can interact with medications you’re already taking and have dire consequences. You’ll find that herbs can be used for a number of other uses besides medicines, such as cleaning, scents and fresheners and are environmentally safe.

Preparing Your Wellness Garden

You can fill a garden with fragrance and your environment with beauty by planting healing herbs and plants that you can use as remedies for common health problems. If you’re thinking of planning and planting a healing garden of herbs and plants from which you can make medicinal concoctions, there are a few things you should know before you begin.

Most healing herbs are easy to grow and there are many beautiful, aromatic and powerful herbs from which to choose. You won’t need to rely on store-bought herbs if you have your own and can be sure of the potency and that they weren’t grown with pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

After reading about and selecting the healing herbs and plants that you want for your garden, you can choose from several methods to purchase them. Local nurseries can provide you with herbs and advice, mail-order herb catalogs or the plethora of online websites that can cater to all your herbal questions and needs.

When purchasing or ordering herbs, be sure to refer to the Latin names as well as the common names of the plants. Some places vary in how they categorize the plants, so you’ll want to be sure you get the ones you really want.

Even if you mainly want herbs that carry medicinal value, other herbs and plants can add to the beauty of the garden. Some herbs are too powerful for most people to use in concoctions – such as bloodroot, rue and foxglove. Only a trained herbalist or professional medical person should use them for internal remedies.

Medicinal herbs usually need sun, but a sunny window will do if you have no garden space. If you’re a beginning healing herb gardener, there are some recommended herbs that you should start with.

Rosemary, sage, winter savory, basil, mint and parsley are just a few of the herbs that beginning herb gardeners can have success with and that will provide herbs for cooking and concocting into medicinal remedies.

If you have a vegetable garden and are new to growing herbs, you can easily incorporate the herbs into an outdoor garden, but most prefer to have a special site or containers used only for the herbs.

The size of your healing garden depends on the type of herbs and variety you’d like to plant. Many people are making use of vertical gardening plans to grow herbs, but container gardening is always a good choice. Be sure to keep the herbs labeled so that you don’t forget what they’re for.

Growing herbs indoors is becoming very popular, especially among city dwellers that lack space for an outdoor garden. Grow lamps or fluorescent lamps and well-drained soil are about all you need to begin. The pots should be sterilized before planting and you should remember never to use harsh chemicals or fertilizers on the herbs you’re going to use for medicine or cooking.

Harvesting and Storage for Homegrown Remedies

Herbal medicine with dropper bottle and wild flowers
Herbs are usually at their peak just before they flower, so unless you need to use the flower for a concoction, it’s a good time to collect and prepare them for storage. Knowing how to prepare and store your medicinal herbs is key to how long you can enjoy their potency.

Some herbs fare better by drying, but others can be frozen, pulverized or carefully stored in jars and other herb storage devices. Silica gel and salt can also be used to store herbs.

You should always wash the harvested herbs in cold water to remove any dust, dirt, insects or other material left on the leaves. Drain on paper or material towels and dry or store however you choose.

Research the herbs you chose for your healing garden and see what the best ways are to harvest and store your herbs for medicinal remedies. You’ll also find recipes and other hints and tips online and get help from herbalist websites.

The Future of Herbs in Medicine

Woman growing plant in lab
Over the last thirty years, herbalists have gained respect and herbal supplements are now classified in the United States as dietary supplements. However, these supplements can be sold without testing to ensure they’re effective.

Medical professionals are now realizing that herbal remedies can be more effective, less harmful and have fewer side effects than synthetic medications that are conventional and being prescribed by physicians today.

Almost one-third of Americans today use herbs for medicinal purposes. That number should only increase in the future as more is known about the awesome healing powers of herbs.

Today, more medical professionals are turning to herbal medicines for an alternative to the sometimes harmful traditional medications. Naturopathic physicians, pharmacists, medical doctors, herbalists and Chinese medicine practitioners are all getting extra training in natural remedies using healing herbs.

In other countries, herbs are considered drugs and are regulated before sale. More medical schools are not teaching about using certain herbs effectively for some health conditions and are also taught about the possible negative effects of their use.

When medicinal herbs are grown, prepared, stored and concocted properly, they can be extremely effective in alleviating pain and other conditions that may occur during certain illnesses. Also, when used correctly as a preventative, herbal remedies can help us with lifestyle changes and promote good health.

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