6 Easy Herbs to Get You Started Growing Your Own Medicine
As small and insignificant as it may seem in comparison to your large vegetable garden, the herb garden is truly a wonder of nature. Many herbs have compounds known to ward off ailments and illnesses ranging from memory loss to pain relief. Using herbs to flavor your food can also improve your overall health by helping to reduce the intake of fats and salts. Your beautiful fresh herbs give a brighter and healthier taste to your food. For both your health and your palette, here are six easy herbs to get you started growing your own medicine.
Not to mention your herb garden can save you a bundle as they are typically inexpensive to grow, but expensive to buy at the grocery.
You do not need a large yard to grow your own medicinal herbs. Most of the herbs listed do wonderfully in pots in a sunny window. If you do grow indoors, be aware that herbs like frequent applications of organic fertilizer. If you plants begin to wane, don’t fret: it’s simple and easy to replace them every few months if need be.
Chamomile is said to help reduce anxiety levels and bring on sleep. Both of these functions are crucial to our health. Some research has shown that a compound in chamomile oil bind to the same receptors as Valium! It lowers stress and can help soothe an upset stomach and, in some people, it may help relieve menstrual cramping.
Chamomile is an annual shrub which is easy to grow from seed or from cuttings. It is extremely low-maintenance outdoors in full sun, but growing inside is equally easy. Keep it near a very sunny window or place it under grow lights. Make sure that you use at least a 12-inch pot, as chamomile requires more space than most herbs.
To make a tea, pick chamomile flowers and lay them out to dry at room temperature out of direct sun for about a week. Store in a dry, well-sealed jar. Steep 1 to 2 tablespoons of dried blossoms in boiling water for about 10 minutes and enjoy.
Studies have found a part of the oregano called carvacrol. Carvacrol, in some studies, presents the ability to prevent inflammation, which may help it protect against arthritis. Oregano is also high in several antioxidants, including phenols and flavonoids, both of which are said to protect against chronic diseases, such as cancer.
Hardy, perennial oregano is extremely easy to grow, provided it has plenty of sunlight. Find a window with at least six hours of bright light, or grow under fluorescent lights. Oregano in 6-inch pots will assume a trailing nature, perfect for indoor gardening. Pinch off leaves regularly to encourage new growth. Make sure that you use a well-draining potting soil, and let it dry slightly between waterings. Oregano will rot quickly if over watered.
A classic in Italian sauces and dishes, oregano is also very popular in both Mediterranean and Mexican cooking. Add your fresh oregano to poultry, seafood, chili, vinaigrettes and more.
Peppermint is a potent stomach-soother. Studies have found it can help relieve digestive distress in those who suffer from chronic indigestion. A mild anesthetic, peppermint can also help ease the pain of sore throats. Menthol, it’s active ingredient, helps to treat colds and congestion.
Peppermint is among the hardiest plants in your herb garden. It can grow in partial sun and will grow well indoors from seed provided it gets at least a little sun each day. Peppermint does not require a lot of water, so let the soil dry almost completely out between waterings to avoid drowning. Peppermint is a spreading herb, so larger pots are required for optimal results. Plant your seed in at least a 12-inch pot, and then thin to only one plant once it reaches 2-inches tall. (You may carefully transplant thinned seedlings to another pot if you so desire.) Even one strong seedling will quickly spread to fill the entire pot!
Peppermint makes a delicious hot or iced tea, and can also be muddled and mixed with soda water (and sweetener, if desired) for a very refreshing beverage. Mint in common in Thai dishes such as spring rolls, and in Middle Eastern dishes like tabbouleh salad. It is also wonderful in a simple mint sauce for lamb and other meats. Just combine your fresh mint in sugar and vinegar.
Known as the “herb of remembrance”, rosemary is said to contain more than a dozen antioxidants that slow the breakdown of a neurotransmitter that aids in memory and may even help to stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
Drainage and light are both critical to growing rosemary. Choose 6-8′ pots and line them with 1 1/2 to 2-inches of gravel or perlite. Fill remaining pot space with a fast-draining soil mix. Place pots on a saucer, then water from the bottom by filling the tray with water. Rosemary needs lots of light, so place it in a west- or south-facing sunny window or under fluorescent lights. Rosemary is highly prone to powdery mildew, so if you see any sign of it, ventilate plants with a small fan, and snip off the affected areas, then spray the plant with a mixture of 2 tablespoons milk to 1 cup of water.
A classic flavor for roasting chicken and other poultry, rosemary works well with almost any meat dish and is wonderful on potatoes or in flatbreads.
Sage has multiple health benefits as it has been found to enhance memory, particularly in the elderly and well as being a rich source of vitamin K and a number of antioxidants. Studies have found that sage is especially effective against oxidative stress in liver cells, as well as being a potent antibacterial, effective against common pathogens such as salmonella and staphylococcus.
Native to the Mediterranean, sage is an extremely hardy perennial and will survive winters outdoors in most climates. It requires lots of light and excellent drainage, so be careful not to overwater. When growing indoors, include a 1 1/2- to 2-inche layer of gravel or perlite below well-draining potting mix. Make sure that your sage is getting at least 14 hours of light (sunlight or fluorescent) daily for best results.
Robust in flavor, sage holds up to many strong, rich ingredients such as meats and cream sauces. Often used in sausages, stuffings, cream pasta sauces and baked goods such as cornbread, there are many ways to use this versatile herb. You may also like sage tea, made by steeping the fresh leaves in boiling water.
Health-care practitioners in Europe use a variety of thyme products to treat coughs, bronchitis, emphysema and even asthma. It is a good expectorant, and a treatment of dried primula root and thyme has proved just as effective as synthetic drugs in treating bronchitis.
Although you can propagate thyme easily from cuttings or plant divisions, you can also purchase small thyme plants and keep them alive on a windowsill. Thyme prefers full sun, so make sure it is in a very sunny window or under fluorescent lights. Needing little water, make sure that you use well-draining potting soil, and water only when dry to the touch.
Most often found in soups, stews, and stocks, thyme is a crucial element in many French and Middle Eastern dishes. Most commonly known as one of the herbs in the classic French herbes de Provence.
Regardless of whether you think you have a green thumb or not, these herbs are sturdy and can be grown by nearly everyone. Which one are you going to start with?
Now that you are growing your herbs, learn more about drying them by checking out my Herb Drying 101 post here.
6 Easy Herbs to Get You Started Growing Your Own Medicine