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Grow a Garden with Healing Herbs and Plants

Plant healing herbs and plants to find good health just outside your door.

| February/March 2012

  • Try chamomile tea to ease digestion after meals.
    Photo by Sukharevskyy Dmytro (nevodka)
  • While most references suggest using echinacea root for medicinal use, many herbalists recommend making a tea of the fresh or dried flowers of E. purpurea, which contain chemical constituents similar to those of the root.
    Photo by Tomo Jasenicnik
  • Fennel relieves bloating, gas and diarrhea, and has a pleasant licorice taste. It is also used as a gargle to soothe a sore throat.
    Photo by Foodpictures
  • Clockwise from top: Dried chamomile, peppermint, lavender and calendula.
    Photo by Elena Elisseeva
  • Lavender is used in aromatherapy for calming and relaxation. The essential oil is also antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.
    Photo by mythja
  • Sage has antibiotic and antiseptic properties. It calms inflammation of the mouth and throat, among other issues.
    Photo by CGissemann
  • Growing healing herbs and plants also comes with the benefits of playing in the dirt: plenty of fresh air and exercise.
    Photo by Matt Stallbaumer

Imagine for a moment the processes that take place in our bodies as soon as we encounter even a tiny breach of the skin. A miniscule scrape draws a little blood, fends off infection and eventually heals over, involving so many processes and encapsulating so many minor miracles—none of them conscious, willed or even noticed—that the mind simply boggles.

Now imagine these processes on a scale much larger and more complex: wounds, burns, sore throats, fevers, queasy stomachs. For the seemingly endless things that can go wrong with our bodies, each of us carries an arsenal of weapons, tools and front-line soldiers ready to protect and defend against invaders, interlopers or the simple imbalances that can set us on a rocky path. If the complexity and wonder of that don’t just knock you out, what would it take to impress you?

How about the amazing fact that much of what you need to promote these processes is available in the plant world, and that you can grow these plants and turn them into not just good food, but good medicine, for pennies and without side effects?

This article isn’t intended to take the place of medical advice, but for many routine physical complaints, the garden can provide much relief. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Besides the beauty and bounty of the garden—and the exertion involved in creating and maintaining it—our bodies have been interacting with plants for millennia and know what to do with plant medicines. Herbs interact with our bodies as recognizable nourishment that helps them do what they’re cut out to do: get better. With that as a place to start—that our bodies are designed to heal and actually want to do so—we can plant a garden that gives them fuel for that endeavor.

Growing Your Healing Herbs and Plants

The joy of most healing herbs and plants is that they’re easy to grow and sometimes “medicine” is as easy as making a cup of tea. And the options are endless when it comes to growing these plants. Some of them fit easily into your existing garden, or you can start a healing garden from scratch. If you don’t have a large stretch of garden space, you can tuck in little healing gardens wherever you have soil, sun and access to water. Many of these plants also do well in containers. Check with your local nursery or a seed catalog to get the lowdown on growing habits and soil needs for the variety you select. And remember to grow your plants as organically as possible. You can’t expect your body to heal when you’re giving it pesticide tea.

Herbs for Digestion

Dill (Anethum graveolens). An enthusiastic grower in most environments, dill can reach at least shoulder-high, with large, bright-yellow flower heads. Its ferny leaves and feathery flowers make it a pretty garden filler in any setting, but remember that this is a healing garden and dill also has work to do. Used throughout the ages as a remedy for babies’ colic, it is also a calming herb that settles digestion and helps promote a calm sleep. Dill seed oil is antibacterial, and chewing a few seeds after a meal will freshen your breath while it helps your digestion.

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