Grow Your Own Medicinal Herb Garden

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Herbs have been grown for their healing properties for more than 5,000 years. Chinese emperors, ancient Hindu doctors and Egyptian medical practices during the days of the pharaohs sought out the medical uses of a thousand different herbs. In addition to their healing qualities, herbs contribute to healthy eating habits and a healthy lifestyle.

Common Healing Herbs

There are many herbs that you can grow in a garden that can be used to add flavor to a meal, brew a cup of tea, draw a relaxing bath, clear up a case of acne or cure an upset stomach or a headache.

Dill can be used as a digestive aid or to get rid of a case of hiccups. Here are other ways in which dill can help:

  • Chew dill seeds when you have the hiccups.
  • Strengthen brittle nails with a dill soak. Mash 4 tablespoons dill seed and cover with 1 cup boiling water. Let the mixture cool. Soak fingers for 5 minutes.

Mint has many therapeutic uses and it smells good too. It can be used as an antiseptic, to help with digestion problems, to calm a toothache, to create a stimulating bath and as a decongestant. Here are a few simple ways to use mint:

  • Add mint leaves and grated ginger to boiling water and let sit for 15 minutes to relieve motion sickness.
  • Dip a cotton cloth in chilled mint tea, wring it out and apply it to the forehead to get rid of a headache.
  • Give yourself a soothing mint footbath by pouring a gallon of boiling water over mint leaves, let the water cool and soak your feet for 15 minutes.
  • A sage and mint facial steam improves circulation and cleanses the skin. Fill a bowl with fresh chopped sage and peppermint, add boiling water, hold your head over the bowl and cover your head with a towel.

Parsley is a natural breath freshener. It can also help reduce fluid retention and fevers. Here are other ways to use parsley:

  • Blend parsley leaves into a juice and lightly dab around itchy eyes using a cotton ball.

Rosemary has a variety of medicinal uses. It can be used as a disinfectant, to treat a headache, as an astringent for oily skin and to alleviate tiredness. Try some of these tips for using rosemary:

  • Sip rosemary tea when you feel tired or a little down in the dumps.
  • To help reduce a fever, make a rosemary tea, make a compress with the cooled tea and apply to the legs or feet.
  • Add shine to dark hair by infusing 2 or 3 rosemary stalks in hot water for several minutes, strain and let the tea cool before using.

The list of healing herbs is extensive. Here are just a few more herbs that you can use for cooking and for healing:

  • Drink chamomile tea before bedtime to defeat insomnia.
  • Make a poultice using comfrey leaves to relieve swelling.
  • Fennel seeds and leaves, when infused in a tea, soothe an aching stomach.
  • Gargle with a fenugreek tea to calm a sore throat.
  • Drink hyssop tea for colds, coughs and sore throats.
  • Sage tea may help with dizziness and nausea.

Planning a Medicinal Herb Garden

Medicinal herbs are grown using the same methods as all other herbs. Herbs can be planted outdoors in an herb bed or indoors in containers sitting in a kitchen window. Wherever you plan to put a medicinal herb garden, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Provide medicinal herbs with well-drained soil, a sunny site, plenty of room and fertile soil.
  • Start herbs from seed, either sown directly in the garden or started indoors in containers, or purchase transplants from a local garden center.
  • Herbs must be harvested regularly. This keeps the plants compact and bushy. Some herbs, such as chives, mint and tarragon, must be divided when the plants become too large.
  • Herbs are less susceptible to pests than other types of plants. Keep a vigilant eye open for aphids, whiteflies and spider mites.
  • Perennial herbs can be left in the ground during the winter. Cover the ground around the plant with a thick layer of mulch or straw.

Harvesting and Storing Medicinal Herbs

Harvesting medicinal herbs is the same as harvesting all types of herbs. It is best to harvest herbs early in the morning just after the morning dew has evaporated but before the day begins to turn hot.

While fresh herbs can be used for medicinal purposes, it is best to dry these herbs. Use these tips to dry herbs:

  • Herbs with woody stems can be bundled together and hung upside down in a cool and shaded room with good ventilation.
  • Roots and succulent herbs can be chopped into 1 inch size pieces and dried by laying on a screen near a heat source or in a dehydrator. The right dryness is reached when the roots snap easily.
  • Leafy herbs can be dried by spreading on a cookie sheet and placing in a slightly warmed oven. The leaves are dry when they crackle when crushed.
  • Dried herbs should retain their original appearance but with a muted color and a stronger smell.
  • Keep herbs in glass jars with tight-fitting lids. Do not grind or break up the herbs. Store in a cool, dry and dark place.

A medicinal herb garden is an extension of your kitchen. Not only will these herbs provide healing benefits, but their fresh flavors and intense aromas will make any meal more appetizing and nutritious.

Last Updated: June 26, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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