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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Medicinal Herb Gardening by Mrs. Celena J.

Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea Family: A...Image via Wikipedia
Earlier this year, I received a free packet of Echinacea (Purple Coneflower) from wintersown.org (by the way, if you're into gardening check them out; they'll send you 10 packets of free seeds for the cost of a SASE).  When I saw the seed packet, I remembered that Echinacea is used to reduce the duration of colds and flu.  I began seriously considering and researching medicinal plant gardening.  Having such a garden would be so useful in surviving numerous catastrophes, not to mention the possible money saver it could be during a recession that's going to last who-knows-how-long!  Of course, not everything can be easily cured with plants but I do believe one reason God gave us so many varieties was to help us overcome illnesses and other afflictions.  
Below, I've compiled a table of some of the medicinal plants that seem the most useful and will grow in the United States.  Since most of these are herbs, unless otherwise mentioned, the plant is an herb.  Most of these plants have been used for thousands of years by civilizations all over the world.  Some of them are even mentioned in the Bible.  Many of them are very beautiful and will make a lovely ornamental garden even if you decide never to to use them medicinally.  At the bottom of this article, I've written short descriptions on how to actually use the herbs.  I was clueless when I first began researching and hope that what I've discovered can be useful to many of you. May God bless your gardening endeavors, whether medicinal or otherwise!
Common Medicinal Plants and Their Uses
Aloe Vera - Treats dermatitis, dry skin, and burns.  This is a succulent plant which grows well in Arizona and other southwestern states. 
Arnica - Do not eat this!  It's poisonous but can be used as a cream to treat sprains, bruises, and pulled muscles.  A very beautiful flowering plant that resembles a yellow daisy.
Basil  - Treats diabetes, stress, and asthma.  It is an anti-oxidant and helps your body absorb manganese (which strengthens your bones).
Bay Laurel - Treats migraines, infections, ulcers, and high blood sugar.  Can be rubbed onto sprains and bruises to treat them.  Also keeps garden pests (bugs) away. 
Catnip - Soothes coughs.
Chamomile - Treats stress. A sleep aid.
Chrysanthemum/Feverfew - Treats migraines, fevers, and chills.  Beautiful flowering plant.
Coriander - An anti-oxidant, used as acne skin toner.  A very beautiful plant.
Dandelion - Aids digestion.  Can be ground into coffee.  Has numerous vitamins and minerals: A, C, K, Calcium, Iron, Manganese, Potassium.
Echinacea (Purple Coneflower) - Treats cold and flu; boosts immune system.  This is a beautiful plant.
Garlic - Antibiotic.  Increases heart health.  Garlic is a bulb and is very easy to grow.  It repels rabbits and moles.
Goldenseal - Treats eyes, boosts immune system.  This is a beautiful flowering plant that resembles a buttercup.
Horehound - Expectorant, treats colds.  This is a mint and can also be used to make candy.
Meadowsweet - Shrub used to treat fevers, inflammation, pain, ulcers, etc.  The name "aspirin" comes from this plants scientific name (Spiraea ulmaria).
Oregano - Used as a topical antiseptic and a sedative.  Treats colds, flu, mild fevers, infections, stomachaches, indigestion, and other aches and pains. It also treats MRSA (different studies have actually shown that Oregano treats MRSA better than most drugs prescribed for the infection).  A very beautiful plant. 
Parsley - Treats high blood pressure. 
Passion-flower - Treats insomnia and epilepsy.  There are numerous varieties of Passion-flower and some are poisonous so if you're going to plant them, research them thoroughly! 
Rosemary - Decreases risk of stroke, Alzheimer's, and Lou Gehrig's disease.
Smearwort - Used as an ointment (hence the name) to heal chronic sores.
Spearmint - Anti-oxidant.  Treats fungal infections.  Can be used to make candy.
Thyme - Treats sore throat (by gargling).  Treats wounds, skin and mouth infections.  Used as mouthwash (main ingredient in Listerine). 
Yarrow - Counteracts poisoning. 
How to Prepare Herbal Remedies
Tea Infusion: To begin, throw in a cupped handful of the herb/leaves.   Pour 2 cups of boiling water on top.  Brew leaves and flowers for about 10 minutes; seeds and roots for about 20. Typically, you don't  need to strain herbal teas because the leaves go to the bottom.  You can also often reuse the leftovers (don't throw them away!)  
Boiling:  Begin with cold water instead of already-boiling water.  Again, a cupped handful of plant to 2 cups of water.  This works especially well for roots, which need to be steeped for 20 minutes.  You can also use an overnight method by keeping the herb in cold water all night and then boiling in the morning for about 30 minutes. 
Cough Syrup: Make a concentrated tea infusion with 12 ounces of plant to 1 cup of water.  Infuse for 15 minutes.  Strain it and then add the liquid back to the pot.  Add 1 cup of honey and warm it just until it stirs well. 

Salve or Ointment
: For this, you also need olive oil and beeswax.  First, put a handful of fresh or dried plant into a pot and cover it with water.  After it begins to boil, bring it down to a simmer for about half an hour.  Strain it and put the liquid back in the pot, adding it to an equal amount of olive oil.  Boil until the water is gone.  Add beeswax until it's the right consistency.
Steam: This works especially well with mints when you're congested.  Throw a handful of fresh mint into a bowl of hot water.  Make a tent over your head with a towel and breathe the steam for few minutes.
Compress:  When using plants to treat muscle pain or injuries, first make a concentrated infusion, dip a towel in, ring it out, and apply it to the painful area.
JWR Adds: I recommend the following books on herbal medicine: