Goodness in your Garden
In these troubling times it can be stressful to queue for hours at the pharmacy to get your painkillers and medicines, especially if it turns out that they don’t have the items that you need.
You can be reassured however, if you are lucky enough to own a garden, you may find that you in fact have some herbal remedies right at your fingertips, that can replace those which you were buying beforehand.
Whether you intend for them to be present or not, at this time of year you will likely find 'imposters', roots and shrubs that can surprisingly provide you with some quite impressive health perks, along with flowers and plants that pack a remedial punch, perfect for this time when we need to be doing our best to boost our immune systems and stay healthy.
Here, we review some of the more common garden residents that you can use to your advantage for good health and to replace shop bought items.
Dandelion is high in potassium and vitamins A, B, C and D, which can cleanse the blood and stimulate the liver. It is said to be a powerful cure for many ailments including jaundice and kidney complaints. The dandelion's diuretic properties are very effective for helping to manage urinary tract infection symptoms, and expel fluid retention. Dandelion is in fact safer than conventional diuretics, which tend to leach potassium from the body, as its rich potassium content replaces what the body loses.
Dandelion is also a mild laxative, proving useful if your digestion is suffering due to inactivity or a change to your usual menu as less food items are available.
Lastly, dandelion sap was known to help remove warts, simply applied at regular intervals until the wart shrivelled and went away.
You can use dandelion in various ways:
- The fresh leaves can be added immediately to a salad, or made into a pesto with pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese.
- Dandelion tea (using the root) is very easy to make, simply roast the root first while waiting for the water to boil, then steep the root in boiling water for 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer or cheese cloth and sweeten as normal.
- Dandelion tonic - to refresh the body after a long winter. Using only the heads (no green parts, as they are bitter), rinse a handful of heads in cool water. Warm 1 litre of fresh orange juice along with the juice of one lemon, then add the dandelion heads and heat without boiling for a further few minutes. Strain the juice and cool slightly before adding honey to taste.
Honeysuckle leaves are rich in salicylic acid, a component of aspirin, which makes them an effective treatment for headaches, flu, colds, bronchitis, and general aches and pains.
A natural immune booster, honeysuckle can provide instant relief from high fever and sore throats, as well as easing a cough.
It is also known for assisting the maintenance of blood sugar levels.
Honeysuckle is believed to host certain elements that aid elimination of infection causing germs that cause streptococcal infections, tuberculosis and salmonella infections.
It can be used to treat various digestion related disorders, and is very effectual in curbing nausea and vomiting sensations.
Some uses of Honeysuckle:
- Healing honeysuckle iced tea - honeysuckle retains its sweetness when brewed in cold water, not hot. Bruise or crush a handful or two of honeysuckle flowers by hand or gently with a wooden spoon and add to a pitcher or jug. Top the jug up with cold water and stir. Cover the jug and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 6-8 hours. Strain out the flowers and enjoy poured over ice.
- Honeysuckle honey - Fill a jar with flowers and buds, placing them in gently. Submerge them fully with a good quality, organic honey, ensuring none pop out as they can go bad. Allow to settle and top up with more honey if necessary. Put in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks to allow the honeysuckle to infuse. Strain out the flowers and use as often as needed, a neat teaspoon for a cough, or add to hot water and lemon for a sore throat.
Nettles are a natural anti-inflammatory painkiller and are known to boost the immune system. They a good source of vitamin C and iron and are also great substitute for spinach, as the stings disappear after cooking, so you can add them to soups. Nettles are an excellent remedy for anaemia, and, when applied as a lotion or drunk as a tea, nettles appear to reduce the pain of arthritis and lessen the need for painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
Some suggestions for using Nettles:
- Nettle tea - steep 50 g of fresh leaves in 500 ml of freshly boiled water, cover and leave for 10 minutes. Drink up to three times a day.
- Restorative nettle soup - you’ll need 25 g of butter, one medium onion finely chopped, 2 garlic cloves, crushed, 400 g of potatoes peeled and chopped, 450 g freshly picked nettle tops, 1 litre vegetable stock, 150 ml double cream, nutmeg, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. In a large pan melt the butter and gently cook the onion and garlic for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and nettles and fry for two minutes, add the stock and cover then bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Leave to cool. Purée the ingredients with a handheld blender then stir in the cream and season with a little nutmeg salt and pepper. Reheat immediately, and serve.
Plantain can be found in your lawn. It has an ability to treat infections, cuts, varicose ulcers, sore eyes and ears, and even broken bones. The leaves are anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. Plantain is a natural antihistamine and helps with wound healing and insect bites and stings, especially nettle stings - in fact plantain is more effective than dock leaves. Plantain, along with dandelion and nettle is a mild diuretic and used to ease the symptoms caused by water retention.
Uses of Plantain:
- An expectorant decongestant – add a handful of plantain to a bowl of boiling water, allow to infuse for a few minutes and then use as you would a menthol inhalation.
- A tea for coughs, sinusitis and upper respiratory tract infections - place the washed chopped leaves and plants into a glass bowl or cafetiere, pour freshly boiled water over and leave to sleep for 8 to 10 minutes or until the water is coloured.
- A tea for fluid retention & ease swollen ankles - simply wash 2 tablespoons of plantain leaves 2 tablespoon leaves or flowers of dandelion and 2 tablespoons of nettle leaves placed them all in a bowl pour over 1 L of water and bring to the boil steep for 10 minutes and strain.
Sage is common in most peoples’ gardens. It is considered a ‘cure all’. Like rosemary, Sage is a memory enhancer, diuretic, and digestive aid. It’s good for cleaning teeth, for treating colds and coughs and for loosening mucus in the respiratory tract. You can gargle with it for sore throats, tonsillitis, inflamed gums, and mouth ulcers, or use it with honey to soothe your sore throat.
Some uses for Sage:
- Sage honey - wash and dry a handful or two of the leaves, place in a small pan and add enough honey to cover. Simmer gently for one hour. Allow to cool, strain into a sterilised jar and add a fresh sprig of sage if desired. Take the honey meat or add to hot water and lemon.
- Sage and sea salt toothpowder to remove plaque and soothe gums - 350 g of sea salt and 100g of fresh sage leaves. Pound the salts and leaves together. Bake the mixture on the lowest oven setting until it dries out thoroughly; do not allow it to burn. This will take at least 20 minutes but you will need to check from time to time. Grind to a fine powder in a coffee or salt grinder then put in a shallow wide-mouthed sterilised jar with a lid to keep it tight. Use as normal toothpaste. Use the paste until the aroma of sage has gone.
Chive leaves are mildly antiseptic, and when sprinkled on food, they stimulate appetite and help to promote digestion. Always be sure to add them at the end of cooking otherwise they lose their flavour. Chives contain vitamins A and K, promoting increased bone health, and are also rich in antioxidants. The allicin in chives is known to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and the quercetin reduces the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Chives are also known to boost circulation.
- Freshly picked and snipped as a garnish in omelettes and scrambled eggs, salads and soups, mash them into soft cheeses, or sprinkle them onto grilled meat.
- Add the leaves to white wine vinegar for a fresher taste as a dressing
Parsley is extremely nutritious. It is high in protein, iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A, B, C, and chlorophyll. Parsley is an anti-inflammatory and a diuretic. It stimulates kidneys and has an antiseptic effect on the urinary system. Parsley also relieves spasms and wind in the digestive tract. Parsley is also good for anaemia, as it helps improve iron intake and absorption. Parsley is good as a garnish, but also great in juices, teas and tinctures.
Uses for Parsley:
- For treating UTI – steep a handful of parsley leaves in boiling water for 10 minutes, drain, and drink as often as desired.
- As a hay fever remedy tea – steep 2 teaspoons of dried parsley leaves in 1 cup of boiling water. Drink up to 3 cups daily.
Rosemary is known as the ‘herb of remembrance’. It can increase the effects of essential enzymes in the brain that’s helping to improve concentration and memory. It contains compounds that relax the muscles of the digestive tract and when drunk in small amounts it reduces flatulence and stimulates the smooth muscle of the digestive tract and gallbladder and increases the flow of bile. Rosemary can lighten mood and help overcome nervous exhaustion and anxiety and mild depression. Have as a tea, or simply smell some to cheer you up. Rosemary is also used in hair care products for thinning hair, dandruff, alopecia, and is a natural antiseptic. It can be used as an antiseptic gargle and mouthwash for bad breath. Rosemary oil is antibacterial, antifungal, and helps poor circulation if rubbed into affected joints. Rosemary oil is great for headaches if applied directly to the head.
Lavender has a soothing, sedative effect. It helps to calm nerves, relax muscles, ease anxiety and promote sleep. Lavender also aids digestion, relieving intestinal spasms and killing nervous stomach complaints. Lavender also helps throat infections, skin sores, inflammation, rheumatic aches, insomnia and depression.
Mint is antibacterial and anti-parasitic. It helps relieve nasal congestion and catarrh. Mint soothes digestive problems, relieves pain, reduces muscle spasms and flatulence, and relaxes the gullet which helps to get rid of gas in the upper digestive system through belching. Mint is as antispasmodic and anti-flatulent. It also stimulates appetite.
This is a simple introduction to the many uses of garden herbs, shrubs and flowers, there are many other remedies and of course many other ingredients that you may happen to have in your garden. So, before you make a list and mentally and physically prepare yourself for a stressful visit to the supermarket or pharmacy, consider slipping on your garden shoes instead!
Remember to keep your pendant alarm on in the garden, the range of the button you wear is 164 feet from the base unit in your home, which is ample for the majority of gardens. Peace of mind for you and your family.
References: stylecraze.com / primallyinspired.com / Grow your own Drugs by James Wong / The Hedgerow Apothecary by Christine Iverson / The complete herb book by Jekka McVicar
- Add to plantain or use on its own in an inhalation to lift catarrh
- As a garden insect repellent – Add mint leaves to your mulch to repel common insects that may destroy plants. Be careful not to plant the mint, to avoid an overcrowded garden.
- As a tincture for upset stomach & hiccups – Fill a jar with fresh mint leaves then cover with an alcohol like vodka or brandy (40% or more). Cover jar opening with plastic before placing metal lid on (to prevent corrosion). Store on a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks before straining, shaking every day or two. Use sparingly, just a couple of drops, or mix with honey or hot water.
- As a dog breath freshener – Blend 6 ounces of plain unsweetened yoghurt with a large pinch of fresh mint leaves and a large pinch fresh parsley, spoon into ice trays and freeze until solid. Remove from trays and store in freezer bags in the freezer.
- Deep sleep pillow – Take a few handfuls of sprigs and crush with your hands. Place in a muslin cloth and wrap the opening with a ribbon or sew shut. Place near your head at bed time to ease insomnia.
- Tea – steep a few sprigs in boiling water for 10 minutes then strain. Have as a calming tea one hour before bed.
- As a dandruff remedy – allow the tea to cool and use as a scalp rinse.
- As an after-sun spray – boil 240 ml water and add 2 tablespoons dried mint leaf, lavender flowers and dried plantain leaf. Simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool then strain out the herbs. Add an equal amount of apple cider vinegar and pour entire mixture into a clean spray bottle. Use as often as needed to soothe the pain.
- Tea – Simply steep 2-3 sprigs Rosemary in boiling water for 10 minutes, drain and drink.
- Mouthwash breath freshener – Pour 500 ml freshly boiled water over 30g dried rosemary, then cover and steep for 30 minutes. Strain and store in a sterilised container with a lid in the fridge.
- Hair growth & strengthen remedy – crush fresh rosemary and add to a jar of apple cider vinegar. Store in a cool, dark space for 2-4 weeks. Dilute ¼ cup vinegar with 1-2 cups water and rinse hair with it, do not rinse out. If you don’t like the smell, simply rinse hair with rosemary tea, see above.