Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Grow your own pharmacy

I thought I'd share a little of how I became a herbalist and also a little knowledge of some simple herbs that are often overlooked as simply 'weeds'. The article is one I wrote several years ago for an Atlantic gardening magazine. I found the piece the other day and it brought back memories. Click on the image to enlarge it for reading.

Its quite likely that most people are doing this already without even knowing it. Even if you don't have a single plant growing in your garden, its pretty likely that you have a dandelion or two growing in your lawn. Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are the much maligned plant of gardens and people are hell bent on destroying them. Yes they multiply like rabbits at a puff of wind, but there are also many things about dandelions that should make you think twice before digging it up, poisoning it or chopping it to pieces with the lawnmower.

Dandelion root and leaf are extremely bitter and are effective in promoting liver function. Dandelion tincture or a salad with young dandelion leaves increase bile production, which in turn, assists with the digestive processing of fat.

If there was one herb that I could choose to take on a journey to the far flung planet of X, it would be dandelion. Its versatility and healing powers make it the king of medicinal and culinary herbs.

Plantain, that broad-leafed plant found in wasteland, fields and lawns, is the layman's antidote to insect stings. The leaves, when crushed or bruised and placed on the sting, will relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Plantain is also great for disinfecting and cleaning minor cuts and scrapes.

Chickweed grows rapidly, winding its way round plants in flowerbed and vegetable gardens. We pull it out by the handful and toss it on the compost heap. But chickweed is an extremely valuable plant. An infusion of chickweed will assist with bronchial coughs and acts as an effective skin wash for eczema and other skin disorders.

The flower bed provides another source of plant medicine. Calendula, that beautiful orange or yellow member of the marigold family is a disinfectant and wound healer. It can treat common cuts and scrapes, athlete's foot and ringworm with antibacterial and antifungal properties. Thyme is a strong antiseptic and expectorant and can help clear a congestive cough. One teaspoon of thyme in a cup of boiling water, drunk two or three times a day while you are sick or it can be used as part of a steam inhalant mix to help reduce congestion.

A good starter kit for herbal home remedies includes many common plants found in your own garden or easily obtained form a nursery or herbalist. Safe use of home remedies is assured by using only herbs that are recommended and never collecting or growing your own herbs unless you are certain of their identification. Always stick to recommended doses. Self-diagnosis and medication can be safe if simple rules are followed. More than 90 percent of all illnesses taken to doctors are simple conditions that can be treated at home - just look at the 'over the counter' drugs available at your local pharmacy to treat nearly any symptom you can present. Coughs, colds, indigestion, muscular aches and pains, headache, insomnia, insect bites, eczema and so on. All these can be treated with herbs.

Technorati tags: , , ,


Mireille Sampson said...

Here's one that doesn't often come up: California Poppy. Best herbal sleep medicine I've come across - and my other half has often tended towards insomniac. I used to make a tincture of it using vodka and the flowers and green bits. Other half found it even better than Valerian. Quite pretty things to have in the garden too.

Jeanette Jobson said...

Yes, I've grown those too Mireille, they are a very effective relaxant and pain killer too. And they're just so pretty as flowers, so bright and cherry.

SkylarKD said...

Very interesting! We've just started gardening this year, and planted a few herbs for cooking with, but maybe I'll look into medicinal herbs as well.