Many plants have been grown to offer incredible health benefits for centuries. From chewing leaves of the feverfew plant to ease a migraine to adding lemon balm to your tea to relieve anxiety, there are plenty of options for keen gardeners to choose from. But, which medicinal plants can you start growing straight away in your back garden?
Feverfew is a beautiful plant — delicate, pure white and similar to a daisy. However, many people grow the plant to take advantage of its medicinal properties. Feverfew has been found to reduce the pain of headaches and migraines. This is due to its active ingredients, which prevent platelets (small cells in the blood) from building up in capillaries and blood vessels. A build-up of these can often be the cause of headaches. You can pick the leaves and eat them however you like — add them to a salad or consume them on their own.
If you choose to grow the feverfew, it’ll grow to around 20 inches in height. But be warned; the plant spreads fast if you don’t remove the flowers quickly! Sow the seeds either between February and May or between August and October. It’s possible to sow directly into a sun-exposed bed during warmer weather or in seed trays. Provide the seeds with plenty of water but do not make them too wet.
Basil’s a very popular herb added to an array of meals in various cultures. But, it has other properties too. One of its value is its ability to fight free radical damage and slow down the effects of aging. It does this by reducing oxidative stress through two flavonoid antioxidants — orientin and viceninare. Make pesto with it or add it to your favourite Italian dish to reap the benefits.
Keen to start growing your own basil? Start by sowing seeds of the basil plant indoors from late February to mid-summer. The best way to do this is to fill a small plant pot (3in) with seed compost, firm down and sow the seeds over the top. Unlike other plants, where you may sow more seeds than you need due to some being lost at germination, you should only plant a few more than you need as most will begin to grow. Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, water and place in a propagator. For those without a propagator, cover the pot with a freezer bag and secure with an elastic band.
Once the seedlings are large enough for you to hold, put them in their own pot with multi-purpose compost. Basil is not good in cold weather, so don’t put it outdoors when it’s frosty.
Another popular cooking herb is thyme. But did you know that the herb has many medicinal properties too? The essential oils of thyme (obtained from the leaves) can also be used as a natural cough medicine and has been found to alleviate symptoms of acute bronchitis. It is also a good source of vitamins A and C — helping to boost your immune system. Dry out the leaves to make a beneficial thyme tea.
Sluggish and uneven germination make thyme difficult to grow from seed. Instead, buy the plant after germination or take cuttings from a friend. You should plant cuttings indoors six to ten weeks before the spring frost and take them outdoors around two to three weeks before the last frost. These plants prefer well-drained soil and be sure to keep them well-trimmed.
This plant is a sturdy and fast-growing plant. The lemon balm is tolerant of a range of conditions and isn’t affected by many pests and diseases. Many appreciate the essential oils of the lemon balm for its ability to ease anxiety. It does this through increasing GABA in the brain, which produces a sedative and calming effect to help reduce anxious feelings. You can add it to smoothies or use dried leaves for tea.
Like a mint plant, the lemon balm has deeply wrinkled leaves. You can start by planting the seeds indoors and keeping water levels low. Once the seedlings grow large enough to handle, take them outside to plant in the garden. Choose a spot where they can be protected from the sun at its peak, as it grows best in a cooler part of the garden.
Sage is a common and popular accompaniment to turkey at Christmas time. But, it has many other uses. A drink made from sage has been called ‘thinker’s tea’ due to its ability to enhance mental clarity and improve memory. It has also been found to ease depression.
The best thing for sage is plenty of sunlight when it’s growing. Therefore, if you are planting indoors, place the pot next to a window that receives a lot of light. Similar to thyme, it’s best to plant sage plants from cuttings. The plant does not ned a lot of water, so wait until the soil is dry before watering.
All the above medicinal plants are simple enough to grow in the garden — but make sure you research their qualities first. If you are pregnant, check with your GP that it is safe to consume some of these plants too as they do have side effects. Happy planting!
This article was created by Suttons, online retailers of plant supports.