Monday, April 11, 2011

Herbs, Medicines, and a New Hobby

With the weather getting better every day, my husband and I have been out in the garden more and more. Andy suggested splitting up our gardening duties to ensure we both take responsibility for the gardening and then we can be held accountable for our areas. I thought it was a great idea because sometimes we can forget to harvest, or weed, or water. So now we each have an area to care for, which is helpful because we keep adding garden to our garden. Andy is in charge in of vegetables and I’m in charge of herbs and flowers.

Parsley and Cilantro

Additionally (since we’re not weird enough) Andy requested a medicinal herb garden. At first I wasn’t too into this request. I wasn’t sure what he was looking for. Lotions? Teas? Brews of eye of newt and children? I didn’t know where to start with a medicinal garden, which herbs to grow and how to make them into medicines. Later on Andy specified that he wants to have an herbal remedy for headaches so he doesn’t take so much ibuprofen, and the medicinal garden is an idea he got from a tour of the Hermitage. So that sounded legitimate, less backwoods hippie-ish and potential illegal, and gave me a starting point to look into which herbs would be best to grow.

I quickly back-tracked into the backwoods hippie-ish and potential illegal frame of mind when I was found Sunday afternoon browsing in the Wicca section at the bookstore. Thankfully I didn’t find anything there and instead found a fantastic book called Grow your own Drugs by James Wong (still sounds a bit potentially illegal doesn’t it?) in the crafts section. This book is great because it spells out in plain language how to make tinctures, decoctions, and poultices. My other herbalist book just says to make a tincture or a salve with such and such ingredients, but doesn’t explain how to do any of it. Already from Mr. Wong I’ve learned what a tincture is (like tea but with alcohol), how do I make it? (chop herbs and steep in vodka), and how long does it keep? (up to 5 years).

I don't have a lot of pictures of herbs yet, so here's one of our potato plants.

Mr. Wong gives his top 10 herbs to grow if you don’t have a 5 acre lot and I was happy to discover that I already had 5 of the 10 herbs prior to his sage advice: German Chamomile, lemon balm, rosemary, marigolds (not sure if they’re the right kind though), and peppermint. Pretty good for a novice eh? You can also forage for ingredients, such as horse chestnuts, and I think that sounds fun. It’ll give purpose to some of my walks with my husband. It’s best to be careful when foraging, you don’t want to eat something that looks similar to what you want but is actually toxic. I’ll be playing it very safe when foraging. But that’s just such a fun word, forage, and it’s like treasure hunting so how can I resist?

So what can I use my herbs for already? Here is a bit of information from Grow your own Drugs.

Dill: Good for easing digestive disorders and cramping, expelling gas, treating colic, toning down bad breath.
Lemon Balm: Soothe nervous tension, relieve anxiety, promote sleep, inhibit cold sores.
Parsley: Use for a diuretic, antiseptic, helps anemia, sweetens breath.
Peppermint: Soothe digestive problems, relieve pain and tension headaches, reduce muscle spasms, relieve nasal congestion.
Rosemary: Improves memory and concentration, relaxes digestive muscles, helps mild depression, also sweetens breath.
Thyme: Is an antiseptic, expectorant, soothes sore muscles and rheumatism.
Chamomile: Helps with indigestion, colic, inflamed skin, anxiety and poor sleep. This is common in tea and can ease gout, cause relaxation. It also helps with teething pain, for all of my infant readers.
Marigold: Use as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and to speed up healing, soothe sunburn and minor burns.

Here are some random healing plants that I think are fun, also from Grow your own Drugs.

Elderberry: Can be anti-inflammatory for coughs, sore throats, and bronchial infections, loosens sinuses, antiviral, also use stems for creation of wand of destiny.
Hops: Not just for beer anymore! Used as a mild sedative, calms and reduces anxiety and helps with menopause.
Chili/Cayenne Pepper: Acts as a antiseptic, stimulant, skin soother by increasing circulation and desensitizing pain, protects against gastrointestinal infections.
Marshmallow: I was pretty excited to use marshmallows for a remedy, but then I found out that in this case marshmallow is a root, not a sweet, poofy treat. Soothes and reduces inflammation, expectorant and cough preventive, also can soothe and soften skin.

1 comment:

  1. St. John's Wort is a great one to add to oil for basic muscle aches and fatigue. Borridge is a good liver cleanser. There's a ton more I know that won't come to mind because I'm very sleepy, but medicinal herbs are wonderful and so much fun. Look up traditional Chinese herbology and Ayuerveda if you're having trouble finding info.