With the revitalization of home food production seems to be the re-recognition of plants as powerful, natural medicines.
Without much ado, we can incorporate more natural medicines into our first aid repertoire by planting medicinal herbs and spices in our home gardens, be them container gardens, edible lawns or full-on homesteads.
By and large, just about every edible plant comes equipped with a useful slurry of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients well tuned for keeping the body sufficiently bolstered. However, there are some plants, especially certain herbs and spices, that excel in human health. Lots of them can be grown easily right at home.
Though a tropical plant, ginger works well in containers that can be moved indoors if need be. Its power with regards to stomach ailments are renown. In the kitchen, it combines well with sweet and spicy flavors, such as carrot soup or curry, and fermented ginger beer can be a great source of probiotics.
For most of us, basil is nothing mysterious on ingredient lists. We are accustomed to this herb being in just about all types of cuisines, from Mediterranean to East Asian. What many of us don’t realize, however, is that basil — fresh basil, especially — contains anti-inflammatory properties good for joint pain and anti-microbial elements for preventing infection.
A little spice always makes things nice, and cayenne pepper is amongst the healthiest ways to pique our taste buds. They are perennial plants that prefer the warm temperatures of the tropics and sub-tropics but can, again, be cultivated in pots. It can be used topically for muscle and joint pain, and internally, it aids in detoxifying the body.
Sage is one of the lesser utilized herbs, but that is certainly no reflection on its flavor. It makes fantastic tea and gives gravies, stews and stuffings a full-bodied flavor that keeps us coming back. It can be grown indoors in colder climates but will need a sunny window and possibly a spot near a fluorescent bulb for enough light. Sage is great for the brain, thought to help with alertness and mood elevation. It has also been tested for its ability to help memory in Alzheimer patients.
Perhaps the most potent of all spices, turmeric is getting a lion’s share of the good press about medicinal plants these days. It’s well deserved as the plant improves digestion, protects the brain, relieves swelling, calms stomachs, combats flus, and colds and even heals cuts. Forget about it. It likes hot weather but takes to a pot as if it were a ginger plant.
For many, oregano oil is a great cure-all because it stimulates and bolsters the immune system. It’s used for respiratory issues, gastrointestinal problems, urinary tract infections and menstrual cramps, and topically, it can treat acne, dandruff, and other skin conditions. Oregano needs no introduction for cooks, and for gardeners, it grows well in pots and, though it likes warm weather, will come back after winter.
Another flavor that we are all very familiar with, garlic plays a role in many of the world’s cuisines. It also has such powerful medicinal qualities that people commonly take it in pill form. Consumed regularly, it regulates the cardiovascular system, protects the brain and detoxifies the body of heavy metals. Growing it is very simple (just stick a clove in the soil), and the greens are also delicious additions to salads and soups.
Also known as cilantro (typically leaves are referred to as cilantro, the seeds coriander), coriander is a beautiful annual plant that provides a fresh flavor. They don’t love overly hot weather, and they’ll flower under the stress of heat. Luckily, their flowers are fantastic food for insects as well, and bolting plants are no problem with regards to harvesting coriander seeds. Health-wise, it is good for intestinal problems and fighting off bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.
Mustard is a versatile addition to the garden, as it can be used for spicy greens that’ll spruce up a bed of lettuce and for seeds as a spice or the more often utilized condiment. Medicinally, it is a cumulative cancer inhibitor, and due to its spiciness, it’s respected as a remedy for congestion and lack of appetite.
Truthfully, for every herb or spice, there are a whole host of benefits, both in the kitchen and the body, so there is no going wrong when adding a new one to the garden or the cabinet. The big trick is to use them regularly so that they work as preventatives rather than cures.
Lead image source: Loppear/Flickr