Herbs: Medicine from the Garden
Spring’s warming temperatures begin to thaw the hardened ground of Winter producing splashes of green around your yard or garden. Unfortunately, in our Western culture, too many consumers spend much time and money trying to rid their outdoor space of these “weeds.” Did you know that those obnoxious weeds in your garden may be giving you a message about the condition (imbalances) of the soil in your yard?
I learned from Steven Horn, an herbalist and instructor at the School of Modern Herbal Medicine, that different weeds thrive in different soil conditions. Certain weeds thrive in compact soil because their growth loosens the soil. Some weeds actually balance soil deficiencies while other weeds grow well in toxic soils because they tend to detoxify the soil.
Horn suggests learning the nature of the weeds, then treating or balancing the soil and the weeds usually will bid your yard or garden good-bye.
A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I love the similarities between Nature’s earth and my body. Along the path of my personal wellness journey I’ve discovered that healing principles are also similar.
The use of plants as medicine dates back to the beginning of time. Those ancient native cultures I mentioned in previous chapters found many healing and medicinal uses for seasonal weeds, more lovingly known as herbs. Many of our modern medicines have their roots, so to speak, in plants.
Whether you choose to use herbs as a healing tool for your wellness journey or as a culinary herb to bring flavorful life to your recipes, I invite you to get acquainted with this simple, beginner’s list of Spring-into-Summer herbs. Enjoy!
• Regarded as the “Father of all foods” due to its high content of easily digested vitamins, minerals, (iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sulfur, chlorine, sodium, potassium, silicon), trace minerals and protein (contains eight of the essential amino acids)
• Commonly used for conditions pertaining to arthritis, digestive distress, elevated cholesterol levels, halitosis and body odor (chlorophyll is a natural deodorizer)
• Enjoyed best as sprouts (from seeds) or as a tea (from the dried plant).
• Traditionally used externally for the treatment of skin burns (sun, wind, fire, chemical), cuts, abrasions and poisonous plant irritations.
• The inner leaf gel is a beneficial skin moisturizer and is an ingredient in many skin care products.
• Aloe vera juice, taken internally effectively soothes digestive disorders and improves inflamed gut lining tissue due to aloe’s ability to promote cellular growth and repair.
• From the Greek word, King, this aromatic herb relieves stomach discomforts (cramping or nausea) and relieves intestinal gas.
• As a culinary herb, basil lends a heady, warm flavor to Italian or Mediterranean style dishes; finely chopped, it adds flavor and color to appetizers, dips, sauces, egg and cheese dishes, and squash or tomato dishes.
• Nutritional and medicinal, this herb improves the metabolism and stimulates circulation.
• Contains more Vitamin C than oranges, iron, calcium phosphorous, and the B-Vitamins.
• Soothes indigestion; reduces inflammation; relieves congestion and improves immunity.
• This spicy pepper adds zest to any dish, so use sparingly; you’ll not want to get this near your eyes.
• Member of the lily family; high in Vitamin C and iron.
• Improves anemia and digestion.
• Add this mild, onion flavored herb, freshly chopped, to potatoes, soups, sauces, seafood; add to softened butter for delightful herb butter spread.
• Commonly used as a detoxifying herb; effective in cleansing metal toxicity from the body’s tissues; it has been called, “the poor man’s chelation” remedy.
• Rich source of healing phytonutrients and antioxidants, Vitamins a, c, K and some B-Vitamins; provides calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and sodium.
• Reduces anxiety; promotes efficient bowel activity; excellent blood builder, preventing anemia; acts as a natural diuretic helping to reduce or prevent kidney stones; anti-inflammatory.
• The fantastic flavor pairs well with many foods but especially Mexican dishes; add freshly chopped cilantro to soups, salads, sauces and salsas.
• Perennial herb used mostly as greens; considered a weed by many gardeners.
• Provides wealth of vitamins, minerals, protein, choline, pectins and carotenoids.
• Best known for its liver cleansing and toning properties .
• All parts of the plant are edible (roots, leaves, blossoms), and may be taken steeped as a tea, snipped into green salads or smoothies or added to jellies, jams or wine (blossoms).
• With a long history of health benefits, dill protects against free radical damage; provides plentiful sources of Vitamins A and C, and the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, potassium and manganese.
• Common uses include relief for digestive discomforts; stimulates milk production in nursing mothers; soothes nervous conditions.
• A popular herb in European and Mediterranean dishes; freshly snipped dill pairs well with cheese, salads, soups and is used in pickling recipes.
• A perennial herb (in the onion and chive family), known as “Nature’s antibiotic” and is used for fighting infection (bacterial, viral, fungal, staphylococcus and E. coli).
• Supports heart health, modulates cholesterol levels and helps emulsify plaque on arterial walls.
• Restores and rejuvenates cellular function; promotes endurance and energy.
• The robust flavor of fresh garlic enhances many types of foods, especially Italian and Mediterranean dishes.
• A powerhouse of nutrients providing cancer protection and healing properties for respiratory disorders or congestion, fevers, sinusitis and coughs.
• This pungent plant is related to mustard, cabbage and wasabi; used in appetizer dips, cocktail sauces, relishes, salad dressings and a condiment on meats.
• Greek for “mountain joy,” this aromatic herb provides antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that improve respiratory, gastrointestinal and urinary disorders.
• High in iron, Vitamin E and K, calcium, manganese and omega fatty acids this herb promotes healthy bone growth and density and the production of blood clotting proteins.
• Culinary uses include Mexican and Mediterranean cuisines, soup, stew, stuffing seasoning, and pasta sauces.
• High in Vitamins a, c, and some B’s and the minerals calcium, copper, iron, manganese and potassium, parsley stimulates the immune system and increases the body’s resistance to disease.
• The diuretic properties make this a beneficial kidney and bladder herb; helps calm digestion after eating and is soothing for respiratory irritation.
• The flat-leaf or curly variety may be used in any green drink or in stuffings, egg dishes or toppings on grilled meat.
Peppermint – Spearmint
• A rich source of nutrients including Vitamin C, manganese, copper offering antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
• Widely used to soothe symptoms of indigestion including irritable bowel or colitis; contains plant compounds that improve respiratory conditions (asthma, bronchitis), and sinus related allergies.
• Commonly steeped as a tea (hot or cold); flavoring for candy; used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking.
• Most commonly used for its memory improving properties and relief of headaches and nervous tension; improves immune function and circulatory system.
• A good source of iron, calcium and Vitamin B6.
• The bold and piney flavor enhances breads, meat and fish, soups, sauces, rice, and vegetable dishes.
• Rich source of several B-vitamins, Vitamin A and beta-carotene, Vitamin C and the minerals potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, manganese, copper and magnesium.
• The fresh leaves add a flavorful addition to stuffings, roasted pork or lamb; also used to flavor vegetable dishes especially with beans.
• Rich in Vitamins a, c, iron, copper, manganese, and dietary fiber.
• Powerful antioxidant properties improve respiratory function, ease congestion in chest and head; has a soothing sedative action on nervous conditions; reduces fevers.
• The slightly minty flavor is an excellent seasoning in poultry or seafood dishes, creamy soups, chowders and sauces, stews and stuffings; often paired with tomatoes.
Connie’s Comments: Most of these simple garden herbs grow well in pots, planters or small containers making it easy for you to “grow-your-own.” If you do purchase fresh herbs, you’ll want to select locally grown, when possible, chemical free and organic herbs. If you desire to use Nature’s foods for therapeutic reasons, please consult a professional in herbal medicine or check with your professional health provider for appropriate and effective dosages. There may be plant (herb) interactions or contraindications with medications you may be currently taking, so please research first! In rare cases, plant allergies may be a consideration. If you have plant allergies, please review the plant family and botanical properties before using an herb for the first time. I encourage and support wellness with wisdom!
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