Long before the battle over universal healthcare, insurance companies and Big Pharma, people relied on homegrown remedies for a variety of ailments. In fact, many cultures around the world still use plants and herbs for medicinal purposes, with great success. If you tend a garden or have planter boxes that can grow common ornamental garden herbs, you can use the herbs to cure your ailments, as well. Here are a few herbs to try:
A perennial plant with purple flowers, Russian sage not only looks great in a garden, but it also has a variety of medicinal benefits. Steep sage leaves in hot water for 15-30 minutes to create a medicinal tea that can help relieve stomach pain and indigestion.
Tea made from Russian sage can also help break a fever. Herbalists recommend letting the tea cool, then soaking it up with a towel and using it as a compress for the forehead. Between the essence of the sage being absorbed by the skin and the soothing aroma of the scent, this practice has been shown to have a positive effect on those with fevers. Additionally, the sage leaves can be placed directly in boiling water for you to inhale the aromatic steam to clear blocked nasal passageways and ease bronchial congestion caused by colds and flues.
Thyme is an evergreen shrub that was popularized, like sage, by the Simon & Garfunkel song “Scarborough Fair” in 1968. Although thyme can be used to cook with in the kitchen, thyme has had medicinal benefits for thousands of years. Thyme is an antioxidant, improves circulation and heart health, and can serve as a natural cough remedy. Thyme essential oil and tea have been linked to help combat acute bronchitis, and thyme is packed with vitamins A and C to help strengthen the immune system. Thyme also has properties of a fungicide, which can be used as a chemical-free disinfectant for low mold concentrations. Simply add thyme essential oil to a spray bottle with some water and apply it directly to mold.
Like Russian sage, lavender is also a purple flowering plant that adds character to any garden. Lavender is lauded for its soothing properties, and lavender essential oil is commonly used as a sleep aid. Adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to your bathwater or pillow is a great way to relax and help calm your mind around bedtime. There have also been studies on the positive effects of lavender on mental health, like decreasing feelings of anxiety and stress, which makes lavender tea an excellent nighttime choice. The soothing side effects of lavender also make it ideal for helping soothe skin after being bitten by bugs, such as mosquitoes and spiders. Simply break the leaves of the lavender plant and rub the oils directly onto the affected area of the skin for instant relief.
Peppermint is also a wonderful garden staple, as it can add a kick of flavor to desserts. But peppermint has the ability to help with your health from time to time, as well. Peppermint is used to treat an upset stomach, including symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Methanol, which is found in peppermint, is an anti-spasmodic, and is most potent when crushed up into a capsule to be swallowed. Peppermint tea also can help soothe an upset stomach as well as boost your immune system.
In the same plant family as mint, lemon balm is a lemon-scented herb that has traditionally been used by herbalists to improve cognitive function and mood. But it can also settle an upset stomach, like nausea, and help aid insomnia. Making lemon balm tea before bed has been shown to relieve restlessness, and alleviate sleep disorders, especially in children. Keeping lemon balm in your garden for nights when you have your grandchildren sleep over could prove fruitful for everyone!
As you can see, there are many medicinal benefits to common garden herbs, but before you try something new, double-check with your physician to ensure that the herb you wish to plant and use is safe and doesn’t have any potentially negative side effects.