Muse Flash: Growing herbs for health

By Al-Lisa McKay –

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
~ Hippocrates

Herbal medicine is an ancient medical system that has provided the world’s population with safe, effective, and affordable medicines for at least 60,000 years. Even today, the population of developing countries worldwide continues to rely heavily on plant medicines for their healthcare needs.

One of Al-Lisa’s medicinal herb gardens. Photo: Al-Lisa McKay

Globally, there is now a general recognition that the medicines once described as primitive could be humankind’s saving grace and so within the past two decades, the views of herbs as medicines moved from “witches brew” to major medicine.

Herbs are used for the treatment of chronic and acute conditions and various ailments, including major health concerns like cardiovascular disease, prostate problems, depression, inflammation, and a weakened immune system. Herbs are used around the world to treat conditions and diseases, and many studies prove their efficacy. In fact, of the 177 drugs approved worldwide for the treatment of cancer, more than 70 percent are based on natural products or chemical imitations of natural products.

Having experienced first hand the self-empowerment that comes from knowing the healing potential of plants, I have made it my personal path to finding, disseminating, and growing medicinal herbs when and where I can.

Here are some growing tips and the main things you will need to get your plants started.

Start your plants or seeds in clean potting soil; or, if you’re reusing old soil, remove any dead roots and mix in some compost or fertilizer. Then give things a little boost as needed throughout the season. You can use water-soluble natural fertilizers about every two weeks, like organic coffee grounds, seaweed, or “liquid fish.”

Why? If you want your plants to keep producing throughout the summer, it’s important that the soil they’re growing in is aerated enough to let oxygen through and provides enough nutrients. When you’re watering small containers frequently, you end up flushing out the nutrients in the potting soil.

Once you have planted your herb garden, make sure it gets two inches of water every week. Also, make sure to harvest your herbs frequently. Many times, when a new gardener is starting an herb garden, they are afraid that harvesting the herbs frequently will hurt them. Actually, the opposite is true. Frequent harvesting of herbs will result in the herb plant producing more and more foliage, which increases the amount you are able to harvest. At the end of the season, you can also dry or freeze your herb harvest, so you can enjoy homegrown herbs all year round. Taking the time to plant an herb garden is very satisfying and easy. By starting an herb garden and growing herbs, you can add beauty to your garden, flavour to your kitchen, and health to your bodies.

A good starter base herbal kit you could grow would be of these varieties:
(I have provided just a little tidbit of information about each herb listed. There could be small novels written about each and, of course, each herb you plant should be researched for its benefits and cautions.)

Chamomile: Use the flower heads and foliage of this medicinal herb for infusions and salves to relieve indigestion and colic, anxiety and tension, and skin inflammations and irritations.

Chamomile harvesting in Al-Lisa’s garden. Photo: Al-Lisa McKay

Basil: This medicinal herb can help with flatulence, lack of appetite, cuts, and scrapes. Harvest the young leaves of this annual plant as needed.

Echinacea: If you suffer from a cold or the flu, try this medicinal herb to ease the severity of your symptoms. It also helps provide relief to your immune system.

Feverfew: Use the leaves and flowers of this medicinal herb for teas; chew leaves to ease headache pain (including migraines). It’s also provided relief from arthritis and skin conditions.

Johnny Jump Up: With anti-inflammatory properties, this medicinal herb is good for eczema and skin blemishes and to help loosen phlegm.
Lavender: Even smelling this medicinal herb calms and relaxes. It also eases pain, and when applied to cuts and bruises functions as an antiseptic.

Lemon Balm: A relative of mint, lemon balm is a versatile medicinal herb that helps relieve anxiety, insomnia, wounds, herpes, insect bites, flatulence, and an upset stomach. It also speeds the healing of cold sores.

Marigold: Good for sunburn, acne, and blemishes, this medicinal herb also soothes ulcers and digestive problems.

Parsley: Don’t think of it as decorative on your plate; this medicinal herb is loaded with nutrients as well as healing powers to help with flatulence and bad breath.

Peppermint: If you have digestion or gas, sipping tea made from this medicinal herb might provide relief. It’s also been shown to help soothe headaches.

Rosemary: This medicinal herb helps memory and concentration, improves mood, and sweetens breath.
Sage: the name, Salvia, means “to heal,” reflecting its early use as a medicinal, not culinary, herb. It can help provide relief for mouth and throat inflammations.

Thyme: The active principle in thyme, thymol, is a strong antiseptic. If you suffer from coughs, congestion, indigestion, or gas, consider using this medicinal herb.

St, John’s Wort: Talk to your doctor if you suffer from mild to moderate depression; they may suggest St. John’s Wort. The glossy leaves and yellow flowers are this medicinal herb’s active parts.

St. John’s Wort in Al-Lisa’s garden. Photo: Al-Lisa McKay

Wishing you a glorious healthy relationship with a garden of your desire and design and always remember to choose to nurture and grow kindness.

“Kind hearts are the gardens, kind thoughts are the roots, kind words are the flowers, kind deeds are the fruits, take care of your garden and keep out the weeds, fill it with sunshine, kind words, and kind deeds.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Al-Lisa McKay is a chartered herbalist and avid wild crafter. She is also the founder of Miss White Spider Arts, a Williams Lake-based fine arts business offering workshops, travelling theatre, paintings, portraits, puppets, dolls, music, dance, sculpture, installation art, murals, and other fine arts. Find her on Facebook at Miss White Spider Arts or visit her website misswhitespider.com.

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