Herbal Treatment Tips: Growing Your Own Herbal Remedies
By: Laura Miller
Long before pharmaceutical companies cranked out medications by the millions, people relied upon herbal remedies to treat diseases, injuries, and maladies. Interest in these natural remedies is trending, as studies indicate many of these age-old remedies from the garden have a positive impact upon health.
Growing Herbs for Health
As a type of alternative medicine, herbal remedies contain chemical compounds which comprise the active ingredients of an herbal treatment. Since these compounds can react with traditional medications, it’s advisable to discuss natural remedies with a doctor before embarking on a routine of herbal treatment.
Additionally, growing herbs for health and beauty can produce varying results depending upon when and how the herbs are grown, harvested, and used. Keep these considerations in mind when using remedies from the garden:
- Use herbal remedies safely – Do your research to ensure you are not only using the correct plant, but that you are using it safely. For instance, elderberries have antiviral properties which can be used to combat the flu, but they must be cooked before use. Consuming raw elderberries can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Grow organically – One of the primary benefits of growing herbs for health is the ability to control the garden environment. Avoid consuming chemical residue by using natural methods of pest control, weed reduction, and fertilization.
- Know when to harvest – The potency of herbs varies depending upon when and how the herbs are harvested. For instance, herbs containing essential oils are most potent when picked in early morning.
- Dried vs. fresh – When making natural remedies, pay particular attention to the amount of dried vs. fresh ingredients. For many herbs, chemical compounds become more concentrated when the plant is dried. Shelf life can also affect potency.
How to Make Remedies from the Garden
- Herbal tea – From a steamy cup of chamomile tea to help you sleep to an infusion of fresh ginger root to calm an upset stomach, herbal teas are one of the most popular herbal remedies. Teas and infusions are made by steaming or boiling leaves, roots, or flowers in water and then allowing the liquid to cool to a drinkable temperature.
- Poultices – These externally applied natural remedies use fresh or dried herbs as a first aid dressing to treat aches, injuries, and infections. Oftentimes, the herbs are ground first, then applied as a paste and covered with cloth or gauze.
- Bath salts – You can give yourself a soothing herbal treatment by making your own medicinal bath salts. Simply add herbs with a high volatile oil content, such as lavender and rosemary, to a jar of either Epsom or sea salt. Let the salt absorb the essential oils for a couple weeks before using.
- Facial Steam – If you enjoy this beauty treatment, add calendula and other aromatic herbs to your weekly facial steam. This will not only open your upper respiratory tract but can also improve your complexion.
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Read more about General Herb Care
Chamomile is one of the most familiar and delicious herbs for drinking as an infusion.
In traditional herbal medicine, chamomile is considered the “good for the gut” plant.
They also call it the “Mother of the Gut”.
Chamomile is a key herb in traditional herbal medicine for the treatment of a wide range of gastrointestinal-related problems.
Such problems include irregularities in bowel movements, abdominal bloating, colic, and gastrointestinal infections.
Chamomile has also a calming effect and traditional herbal medicine is using it for stressful situations, anxiety, restlessness, or sleep problems.
In addition, when used externally, it may soothe eye infections, skin irritations, burns, and wounds.
How to Grow Chamomile in Your Herbs Garden
Plant chamomile in a pot or in your herbs garden and grow it mainly in the spring months.
Pick a location that gets at least 8 hours of direct sun a day.
It takes about 6-8 weeks for the chamomile to produce flowers.
The chamomile’s dried flowers are suitable for infusion.
You can mulch them, so that the seeds will fall on the ground, and wait for germination.
The chamomile’s seeds usually germinate within 7-10 days.
Uses of Chamomile
You can use chamomile flowers to make an infusion, as you should pick them in the middle of the day.
Concentrated infusions of the dried flowers can be prepared and used externally for eye infections, skin irritations, burns, wounds, etc.
The medicinal plant is gentle and safe to use even on children.
Become a Doctor and a Chef With Your Vertical Vegetable Garden
Multipurpose Herbs For Medicine and Meals
Not only are these herbs great immune system boosters, but they also can add extra flavor and nutritional value to any meal. By putting these into your vertical vegetable garden, you’ll have a first-aid kit AND a pantry right outside your door. These tasty culinary greens include:
- Basil: besides spicing up pizza or pasta, these fresh leaves can relieve headaches by being rubbed on the temples. Not only can you relieve pain in your head, but your feet, too. By pouring boiling water over the leaves and soaking your feet in the mixture, your aches and pains will melt away with the relaxing warmth.
- Parsley: this delicious herb can add flavor to mashed potatoes or steamed veggies and neutralizes mouth odors while boosting your immune system. Additionally, these leaves are incredibly nutritionally dense—by adding parsley during the last 10 to 15 minutes when cooking soup or stock, vital nutrients will be infused into your food.
- Rosemary: not only can this herb be used to cook the perfect lamb chops, but it can also help those dealing with seasonal affective disorder and hangovers. Along with these soothing properties, infusing warm red wine with rosemary, cinnamon, and cloves can help cure colds in the winter.
The best part about these greens is that all of them thrive in the Garden Tower®. By placing any of these herbs on top of the Tower, they’ll enjoy well-drained soil and lots of sunlight, allowing them to thrive.
There are two kinds of Chamomile – Roman, and German. Chamomile is a lightly-flavored tea that is usually grown in large gardens. Visually pleasing daisy-like flowers smell like an apple. A chamomile plant thrives well in the sun. Pluck the flowers as soon as they appear. The homegrown chamomile plant calms the nerves and induces sleep. Grow chamomile in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 to 9 for best results.
Brewing tip: Use the small white and yellow flowers of chamomile, not the leaves to prepare the tea.
3. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata, Passifloraceae)
Passionflower is a native vine to the southeastern United States, with gorgeous flowers and interesting foliage. It is weedy in much of its range and fairly easy to grow elsewhere, especially if given a wall or trellis to climb. The leaves and flowers are an important nervine sedative and are used to help promote sleep and alleviate pain, such as menstrual cramps and headaches.
Passionflower is a short-lived, perennial herb that will clamber gregariously over arbors and fences. Space plants 3 feet (.9 m) apart and trellis—they can climb 5 feet (1.5 m) or more by the end of summer! Passionflower loves full sun, and will bloom more profusely when situated to bask in the solar rays, especially if you live further north. If you live in a hot climate, consider planting passionflower where it will receive some shade by mid-afternoon. Acclimated to warmth, passionflower is only hardy to zone 6 and is highly frost tender. Mulch heavily in the fall to help it overwinter.
Plant passionflower in well-drained to average garden soil. Seeds will germinate more easily if you first scarify them by rubbing each one between sandpaper until you see a pale inner tissue emerge within the darker seed coat. I also recommend stratifying the seeds by placing them in damp sand in the refrigerator for one to two months (see these links for more on scarification and stratification ). Be patient, sometimes it may take months for passionflower seeds to sprout, and germination may not happen all at once. The use of bottom heat, planting in a warm greenhouse, or sowing seeds in late spring will all enhance germination.
Passionflower will spread throughout the garden if it’s happy, which may make you happy, or not, depending on how big your garden is. It’s easy enough to pull up any runners emerging in inopportune locations, and either transplant them or give them to your uptight neighbor. And then just when you think you cannot contain the vines’ exuberance, and begin to see it as a nuisance, it will up and die from heartache. Actually, passionflower is just a short-lived perennial, so no need to take it personally—you may simply need to replant it after three years or so.
The stems, leaves, and flowers can all be gathered for medicine, and used fresh or dried in tea or tincture form.