Growing Herbs: Which Herbs and Home Remedies Can I Grow at Home?
Herbal medicine is one of the oldest forms of health care and has seen a recent surge in popularity.
In fact, most of the herbs and spices we use in the kitchen today began as medicines and only relatively recently began to be used for culinary purposes.
As people look for natural alternatives to prescription and over-the-counter drugs, or herbal remedies to use in conjunction with allopathic (Western medicine) treatments, families are turning to medicinal herbs to treat everyday ailments.
For example, some cancer patients may rely on radiation and chemotherapy to combat their disease while using natural remedies, such as peppermint, to treat the nausea caused by the chemotherapy.
Other people may choose to forego Western medicine completely and treat their ailments naturally, such as using St. John’s Wort to combat depression, valerian root as a sleep aid or feverfew to treat headaches.
Some medicinal herbs have strong healing qualities and can be just as effective as prescription cures, offering abundant healthful benefits without the side effects that often come with synthetic drugs.
Other herbs provide subtler relief of particular symptoms or assist your body in warding off disease before it occurs by boosting your immune system and helping to ensure your body has what it needs to function properly and heal itself.
Because some herbs can interact with prescription medications, it is always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before starting herbal therapies.
Where Can I Find Medicinal Herbs?
Healing herbs can be purchased as teas, tinctures, infusions, capsules, essential oils, creams, ointments, suppositories or compresses.
You can also purchase loose herbs from an herbalist, herb store, online retailer or in some health food stores to create your own home remedies.
When shopping for herbs, you will want to make sure you ask the right questions, such as whether or not the herbs were grown with chemical pesticides, how long ago they were dried and how far they traveled to reach the point of purchase.
Some herbs can begin to lose their effectiveness rather quickly, so the fresher they are, the higher the potency you can expect in regards to its healing qualities.
Spices and herbs that are also used for cooking can be found in any grocery store; however, the products you find in the baking aisle are often exposed to radiation through a process called irradiation in order to kill bacteria and pests, extend shelf life and preserve flavor.
While this is generally considered a safe process and fine for herbs and spices used in cooking, many natural healers prefer organic products that have not been exposed to radiation when selecting herbs to use in creating herbal remedies.
This is because many natural healers believe the healthful qualities of herbs are stripped away when they are exposed to radiation through this process.
To find non-irradiated herbs, you can choose products labeled organic, purchase your herbs in the bulk section of your local health food store, buy herbs from a professional herbalist or holistic healthcare provider, or seek out an online source that sells only non-irradiated herbal remedies.
Alternatively, you can grow some or all of your own herbs, which is the best way to know exactly where they come from and what has been used in the growing process.
This way, you can make sure they are grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and you will know that they have not been irradiated.
It is important to remember that non-irradiated herbs have a shorter shelf life and may contain harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, which has occasionally been found in some teas and spices.
Should I Grow Medicinal Herbs at Home?
Herb gardens are a fantastic way to grow some of your own food or home remedies while saving money and getting more in touch with food sources.
The movement towards consuming only locally grown produce has inspired many people to plant herb gardens or vegetable gardens at home, and there are many resources available to assist homeowners who are interested in starting a windowsill herb garden, a patio container garden or an expansive vegetable garden in their backyard.
When it comes to locally grown produce, it does not get much more local than your own backyard.
It is also a nice benefit to be able to simply step out your back door and pick a few herbs when they are needed for cooking, or if someone in your family gets sick or hurt.
Aside from the convenience and other benefits of growing medicinal herbs, this is also a great project to do with kids and provides an opportunity to teach your kids about gardening and about natural remedies.
If you choose to grow herbs to use for holistic healing purposes, you should be aware that certain precautions are necessary to ensure that your herbs are safe for use.
For example, insect infestations, mold growth or using chemical products in the growing process could make your herbs unsafe for consumption.
If you are not working with an herbalist, naturopath or other herb expert, you will also need to do a bit of research to make sure you use your DIY remedies safely.
For example, rosemary is a popular choice for stimulating hair growth and soothing sore muscles; however, it is not recommended for use by children, pregnant women, or people who have high blood pressure or ulcers.
Growing medicinal herbs at home and preparing your own homemade, natural remedies is a great hobby and a satisfying experience.
It is a fantastic way to always have natural first aid supplies on hand and a great way to break into backyard gardening, if you are not sure how green your thumb might be.
5 Easiest Herbs to Grow in Your Garden
If you would like to start out small, or are not overly confident in your gardening skills, you may want to start with just a few easy herbs that can be grown in small containers.
You can start your herb garden indoors, on your patio or in garden beds, and you can begin from seeds or purchase small plants to transplant into containers.
It is easiest to begin with small plants that are already thriving, and you can begin to use your herbs sooner with this option.
Here are five of the easiest herbs to grow at home:
1. Basil – Basil is incredibly easy to grow, has a strong flavor that makes it popular for cooking and gives off a wonderful aroma as you walk by the plants.
It has traditionally been used to treat stomach cramps, constipation, nausea and arthritis, as well as a host of other ailments.
Basil can be grown indoors or outdoors, likes full sun, is an annual and will grow into a fuller plant if you pick leaves for use often.
2. Lavender – Lavender is often chosen for flowerbeds simply for its beautiful flowers and fragrance.
Enjoying full sun and well-drained soil, this easy-to-grow herb is perfect for container gardens or garden beds.
This herb has traditionally been used to promote relaxation and treat acne, insomnia, menstrual cramps, asthma and much more.
3. Fennel – Many gardeners enjoy including fennel among ornamental grasses, where this easy-to-grow herb will thrive.
Fennel has traditionally been used to treat a wide range of ailments, including irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, sore throats, depression and anemia.
4. Garlic – Garlic is a versatile choice that provides food flavoring, natural pest control for your other herbs and medicinal benefits.
This popular choice for the kitchen and the medicine cabinet could not be easier to grow.
In fact, you can start your own plant by simply planting a clove from a bulb you pick up at the store.
Some of the most popular uses for garlic include boosting the immune system, combating cancer, lowering cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.
5. Peppermint – Peppermint (and other mint varieties) are so easy to grow that they will take over your entire garden, if you allow it.
Keep this one in a container to avoid the constant battle of trying to keep it from spreading.
Peppermint leaves have traditionally been used to treat anxiety, headaches, stomach ailments and skin irritations.
Other herbs that are easy to grow include lemon balm, sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley and oregano.
6 Most Popular Herbal Remedies to Grow at Home
When choosing which herbs to grow in your home remedy garden, you should focus on customizing your garden to fit your family’s needs and particular health concerns.
If someone in your family is prone to headaches, you might want to grow feverfew or fennel.
If you have an accident-prone little one, you might want to grow calendula or aloe vera.
If a member of your family tends to have frequent stomach upsets, peppermint and basil would be good additions.
Here are six of the most popular home remedies you can grow at home:
1. Wound Care – To treat burns, skin irritations and open wounds, many people grow arnica, calendula or aloe vera in their medicinal herb gardens.
2. Heart Health – To treat high cholesterol or high blood pressure, or for overall heart health, garlic, ginger, hawthorn and green tea are popular options.
3. Headache Relief – To relieve headaches and migraines, many people choose feverfew, lavender, ginger or peppermint.
4. Stomach Ailments – Ginger, peppermint and basil are all popular choices for medicinal gardens focused on treating stomach ailments.
5. Cold and Flu Relief – To find relief from common symptoms that come with a cold or the flu, it is handy to have on hand peppermint and Echinacea for a soothing tea, sage and licorice for sore throats, or lavender, peppermint or rosemary for their purported antiviral properties.
6. Immune System Boost – To help your family avoid catching a cold in the first place, you can grow bergamot, lavender, garlic, Echinacea or licorice.
How to Use Herbs to Create Herbal Remedies
Herbal remedies come in many forms, but some of these – such as essential oils or tinctures – are not that easy to accomplish at home without expensive equipment and specialized knowledge.
When growing a medicinal herb garden, there are much easier ways to effectively use your herbs.
The easiest way to use herbs from your garden is to simply pick fresh herbs to use for cooking or to make remedies that do not require dried herbs.
It should be noted that some of the healing properties of herbs can dissipate when cooked, but you can retain as much effectiveness as possible by waiting to add herbs towards the end of the cooking process.
Basil is particularly easy to use in this manner and can be harvested for use in sauces, soups, salads and an array of other dishes.
In order to have medicinal herbs on hand for cooking or first aid throughout the year, you will likely want to dry some of your herbs for easy storage.
You can dry herbs by tying bunches together and hanging them upside down for up to three weeks.
Once the leaves feel as though they will crumble when rubbed between your fingers, you can then remove the leaves and store them in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Herbs that are dried in this manner will often have a shelf life of up to one year.
Your dried herbs can then be used for cooking, to make healing teas, to create herbal steams to inhale, in soothing baths, or to craft wound creams, poultices, ointments, oil-based muscle rubs or lotions.
You can also place dried herbs in empty capsules from your local health food store to create your own herbal supplements.
Dried herbs, and remedies, sachets or bath products made from them, also make fantastic gifts.
Whether you want to create an all-natural first aid kit to treat a wide array of ailments or just want to keep a few key herbs on hand, growing herbs in your garden is a fun, simple, satisfying undertaking.
Gardening is a relaxing, stress-relieving hobby that can improve your health and wellness, and is a fantastic project to take on as a family.
Even if you do not have a green thumb, try your hand at an herb garden and let your inner gardener come through.
Herb gardens are so easy to start and maintain that this is truly something anyone can do.
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