21 July 2009

Do you have a medicine cabinet in your yard?

I do. But, in my case, it's not a coincidence. I planted most of the herbs in my yard myself. Over the past couple years, I've grown a pretty potent garden. Many gardeners don't realize the medicine they've got growing in their yards! Yarrow, calendula, mints, mullein, etc. A lot of people have these common perennials mixed in with their veggies and don't even realize the potential.
Here's a quick glimpse into my garden....

Feverfew - as its name suggests, feverfew was used to treat fevers. It is said that chewing one leaf a day will prevent migraines. I have yet to try feverfew as a medicinal. I just love the cut flowers - they last for weeks.

Lemon balm (Melissa officianalis) - oh, my lemon balm. She's such a prolific gal. I have so much lemon balm dried, it should last a solid year and yet she keeps on growing. The one problem with this wonderful herb is that she will take over your garden if you let her. She's rather domineering. In tea, lemon balm is wonderfully lemony - but a little less so than lemon verbena (which I also grow and love, but is a very very tender perennial, not as tough as Melissa). Great for common colds, sore throats, congestion - an all around great tea ingredient. You can even toss a sprig in your iced tea.

Bee balm - As you can see, bee balm is a friend to pollinators. They love it. I have the purple variety, and am currently on the look out for red. Makes a great tea, a little citrusy (orange) - hence the nickname bergamot. Good for colds and sore throats. I dry the stalk, leaf, flower and all. Yum.

I've got some calendula petals drying, and below that you can see the calendula growing amongst some dahlias that haven't bloomed yet (there's also a really pretty blue flower that's mixed in, called "love-in-a-mist"). Calendula is awesome. There are many uses for it, but I will likely make salves and creams out of mine. I harvest it by popping off the flower heads, and pulling out the petals to dry. That's the purest and (in my opinion) best way to dry calendula.

Peppermint - the main ingredient in most of my medicinal teas. I grow a lot of mints. I also have spearmint, orange mint, catnip, etc. Mints are great in tea. I don't think I need to carry on about why peppermint is a staple for any herb garden. Pretty much everyone knows that.
Below I have some lavender drying as well as some paprika yarrow. I haven't harvested the yellow yarrow yet, which dries much better than the red - aesthetically speaking. Below that is some of my catnip drying.

I have many other herbs growing. Chamomile is one that I can't have enough of. I love it for tea, of course, but it also makes great oils and soaps. I love stocking our medicine cabinet with homemade remedies. I can truthfully say I've saved us at least two trips to the doctor this summer - one of which for an infected bug bite. One of my older sons is a mosquito magnet. He has horrible reactions to their bites, and with the use of herbal medicines, we were saved a copay. The first time we rushed him off to his dr, resulting in a copay, and expensive antibiotic as well as OTC allergy meds. I'm talking bug bites that swell up to a 5" diameter. My sons also - very willingly - will drink any tea concoction I slip under their noses. Just an encouraging wink and a nod that says "oh, yeah...that will make you all better" is all it takes. I should note that common sense is needed here. Any time anyone exhibits an ailment that won't leave after 24-48hrs, a dr visit is warranted.

So, who else grows herbs for fun or for medicine?

This weekend I also put up many many jars of raspberry jam, pickled beets and sweet cucumber relish. Pics and tips to follow in another post later this week ;^)

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