Herbs are food, and like all good foods, herbs strengthen and heal the body. Herbs, however, can accomplish powerful things that most foods cannot. These energy-rich plants have a highly concentrated source of medicinally useful and high value vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and antioxidants.
For thousands of years, herbs have been consumed and appreciated by mankind. There is no single answer as to the origins of mankind’s use of these unique purpose plants. Over the course of time and through observation, along with trial and error, people have discovered the benefits that herbs bring to the table, so to speak. Most societies have a history of eating a particular leaf, root or plant, and of course would also know any medicinal or health effects that the plant would impart.
Recorded history shows that the Romans and the Greeks used herbs, as did the Chinese, developing the earliest known systems of medicine. Herbs were used as the starting point for many of the pharmaceutical medicines that are well-known today. Aspirin was first isolated from the bark of the willow. Digitoxin (used in assisting various heart conditions) was derived from purple foxglove leaves, and morphine is an active element of the opium plant.
Despite modern health care advances, or perhaps because of those advances, it’s apparent that phytotherapy, or plant medicine, plays a very important role in everyone’s health.
Herbs have a proven track record of preventing many ailments and assisting in the healing of many others. An important precaution: before taking any herb to heal an affliction or to take as a preventative measure, it’s highly recommended to speak to a qualified natural health professional.
Some herbs can help prevent the formation of cancer cells, and some herbs can assist in killing cancer cells. Examples of these cancer fighters are: bayberry, comfrey, echinacea, mistletoe, myrrh, plantain, red clover, periwinkle and yellow dock. Antioxidants, still having a hard time gaining the health-benefit traction they found when first ‘discovered’, are still in the camp of nutrients worth exploring. Some herbs that are rich in antioxidants are: alfalfa, comfrey, parsley and water cress.
Beneficial herbs include:
: This herb has a high chlorophyll content so it is excellent in combating bad breath. Angelica
: Anti-inflammatory compounds are in this herb. It relaxes the windpipe and may be useful for asthma sufferers. Balm
: Balm has sedative qualities. Bee balm in particular is a very attractive flower and attracts butterflies. Barberry
: Contains berberine that possesses infection-fighting properties. This herb stimulates the immune system and treats pink eye and urinary tract infections. Basil
: Basil will add flavor to vinaigrette and makes greens safer to eat. It has anti-bacterial properties aiding in stomach ailments and is good for clearing acne. Bayberry
: Good for treating diarrhea. Black
Haw: The bark of this North American herb contains salicin which is closely related to salicylic acid (aspirin). Black Haw can be used to relieve arthritic inflammation and pain. Bugleweed
: This helps overactive thyroid glands, especially when symptoms include tight chest and nervous palpitations. Buroak
: Increasing the flow of urine and promoting sweating (which rids the body of toxins) is the main quality of this “purifier” herb. Catnip
: Chemicals called nepetalactone isomers are in catnip. This aid in calming anxiety, and making catnip tea especially, has become common. Cayenne
: Stimulates the circulatory system and boosts the immune system. Chamomile
: This is a relaxant, and a great tea to have at bedtime. It aids in slowing down the central nervous system. Chives
: Rich in vitamin C and iron, and helpful in treating anemia. A great addition to any salad. Cloves
: Clove oil is very rich in eugenol, used by dentists as a local anesthetic. Cloves also help to reduce toothaches. Starting an Herb Garden
Having an herb garden is easy and takes little maintenance. Even if there is no backyard, container gardening in the home or on a balcony can work, providing fresh nutrients straight to your kitchen.
Creating an herb garden can be exciting, but it does require some work to ensure success. The first step is to research what herbs will successfully grow in your geographic location. Although the internet is a fabulous wealth of information, calling a local garden center can provide you with a detailed list of what herbs will grow best in your area. Once you know what herbs will succeed in your climate zone, the next step is deciding on which ones you would like to grow.
Once the herbs have been chosen, the next important step is planning where to plant them in your yard. If planting an herb that needs partial shade is placed in a full sun area, it will result in an unhealthy plant. Another important factor in designing an herb garden is that it’s essential to know what herbs grow the tallest so that they can be planted toward the back of the garden. Tall herbs, towering over shorter plants that need full sun, will fail.
Research what herbs are ‘spreaders’. If there is a restriction on space, keep in mind that many common herbs such as parsley, dill and chives will spread quickly. With these kinds of spreading herbs, ‘container’ gardening works well in containing their spreading ways. Drawing a ‘map’ of your garden pointing to where each herb will be placed may sound like hard work, but it will save much searching later.
In your quest for designing a perfect herb garden, don’t forget to explore some perennials, those plants that continue to pop up year after year without any effort on your part. Having a good portion of your garden in perennials makes gardening very easy.