Summer offers a bounty of beautiful sights and smells as gardens bloom and wildflowers blossom. And while we may appreciate this season’s feast for the senses, you may not realize that your garden also offers some common remedies for a variety of minor ailments.

Lavender is well-known for the calming properties of its intoxicating fragrance. Simply rubbing lavender leaves between your fingers or brushing against the plant as you stroll by releases a relaxing aroma. Lavender flowers used in a tea or tincture are prized for their antiseptic properties and digestive benefits. By planting lavender in full sun and moist, well-drained soil and pruning half of the plant’s top growth in early spring, you can have this powerful remedy for indigestion, insomnia, anxiety and tension at your fingertips all summer long.

Peppermint has long been used to relax the digestive tract, ease colic, relieve gas, and treat nausea and vomiting. Even such serious digestive disorders as ulcerative colitis and peptic ulcers may benefit from peppermint’s healing properties. Other uses for this herb include reducing fever, improving respiratory function, calming the nervous system, relieving anxiety, and easing painful menstrual periods, headaches and migraines. (And don’t forget how nice a few mint leaves taste in a cup of tea.) Because it is an invasive plant, peppermint is best grown in a pot, which can be buried in the ground for use as a summer garden enhancement and taken indoors for fresh mint throughout the winter months.

Popular for its use as a relaxing herbal tea, chamomile is a gentle sedative that is very effective for easing tension and insomnia in adults and children. It can quickly reduce fever and encourage sleep in addition to treating indigestion, colitis, diarrhea, peptic ulcers, painful menstruation, pre-menstrual headaches and cystitis. Chamomile blooms are also used to combat conjunctivitis, eczema, asthma and rhinitis. This quickly spreading plant is an excellent ground cover.

What’s a good pasta sauce without a bit of garlic? This highly versatile herb, known for its pungent flavor and aroma in sauces, marinades and many other culinary delights, has a long history of medicinal use. Colds, flu, coughs, ear and chest infections, diarrhea, urinary tract infections and candida are some of the ailments that can improve when treated with crushed or chopped garlic bulbs. As a preventative remedy, garlic is recommended to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels and as a blood-thinner to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. It’s east to grow garlic from bulbs available at plant nurseries or supermarkets. In the autumn, lift the garlic bulbs carefully with a garden fork, allow the stalks to dry and then store for later use.

Thyme has powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties, which are used to combat respiratory and digestive infections. When used as a gargle or mouthwash, thyme can relieve sore throats, laryngitis, tonsillitis and gum infections. It also works as an expectorant to treat irritable coughs, bronchitis, whooping cough and asthma. In a hot infusion, thyme leaves and flowers induce sweat, reduces fevers and relieves colds and can also help relieve diarrhea, indigestion, gas and colic. This multifunctional herb can be cultivated indoors from seeds four to six weeks before the last frost. Sprouts can then be planted in sunny locations that have average, well-drained soil.

Once you have these decorative and useful plants in your garden, you can use the flowers and leaves in infusions while saving roots, bark and seeds for decoctions (see box). Either preparation can be consumed once every hour or two for acute illness or up to three cups per day for chronic conditions. Growing medicinal herbs turns your garden into a source of both sensual pleasure and improved health.

Infusions are made with one ounce of dried herb or two ounces of fresh herb combined with one pint of boiling water. Cover the pot and allow the mixture to steep for 10 minutes before straining. Drink the infusion immediately or refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to two days. (Use half the herbal dose when treating children and only offer small amounts at one time.)

To make a decoction, break the herb into small pieces and use the same proportions as for infusions only adding slightly more water. Place the herb in a non-aluminum saucepan and cover it with cold water. Bring it to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes before straining. Hot decoctions can be sweetened or flavored before drinking.

Harmony Inside & Out, LLC
P.O. Box 153
Cottleville, MO 63338-0038
Tel: (314) 995-1956
Fax: (636) 928-0396
“Empowering people to use their environment and personal health to be more productive and successful.”

Author's Bio: 

Linda Binns, a private practice Holistic Health Practicioner & Feng Shui consultant for eight years, offers consultations for homes and businesses. She is dedicted to helping people be aware of how they can maintain a healthy and natural lifestyle through natural healing methods and the environmental art of Feng Shui.