Feature

Guide to healing herbs

G Magazine

With these handy herbs in your garden, a variety of common ailments can be treated naturally without the need to leave your front gate.

Lovely thyme

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

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Borage

Borage (Borago officinalis)

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Red clover

Red clover (Trifolium pratense)

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Calendula

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

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Stinging nettle

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)

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Comfrey

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

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Chickweed

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

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Dandelion

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

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Basil

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

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We may habitually rush out to the chemist at the first onset of a cold or headache, but when it comes to mending a minor ailment, a fix may very well be found first in your own backyard. A range of easy-to-grow medicinal plants can effectively treat everyday ailments with the following advantages over store-bought herbs: they haven't been the cause of fuel consumption, nor have they been packaged and - best of all - they're completely natural. The following well-known culinary herbs and common weeds (also see our tips on growing these plants responsibly) can often be used as first aid treatments and/or to maintain our health.

Most of these plants can be made into a tea. A standard cup is made by pouring one cup of boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of finely cut herbs and steeping for 10 minutes (preferably in a pre-warmed teapot.)

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Like most culinary herbs, thyme not only compliments the taste of certain foods, but helps us to digest them. The tea is also used to treat digestive and respiratory infections as it has antiseptic properties. Women who are pregnant however should avoid large doses of thyme as it is a uterine stimulant.
Harvest season: Summer.
Growing conditions: Will grow in poor soil but prefers good loam.

Borage (Borago officinalis)

Borage has hairy leaves, a hollow stem and star-shaped flowers that can be either blue or pink - even on the same plant. The flowers taste sweet. The leaves can be used to make a tea for strengthening the adrenal glands and are therefore useful for people under stress or going through menopause. The tea also increases milk supply in nursing mothers.
Harvest season: Spring and summer.
Growing conditions: Light, dry soil.

Red clover (Trifolium pratense)

Red clover flowers can be made into a tea to cleanse the blood, soothe the nerves and promote sleep. They are also used for coughs and bronchitis as they have expectorant and anti-spasmodic properties. The tea, drunk three times daily over several weeks, can also help to clear skin conditions such as psoriasis.
Harvest season: Summer.
Growing conditions: Prefers light sandy soil.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Calendula flowers can be eaten in salads, drunk as a tea or applied on the skin. They have anti-fungal properties and can be used for a wide variety of skin problems such as inflammation, burns and bruises. Oil to be applied on the skin can be made by steeping calendula flowers in olive oil over several weeks. The tea is also drunk for digestive inflammations.
Harvest season: Summer.
Growing conditions: Will grow in most soils.

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)

Nettles have a square grooved stem and blue-green leaves covered with stinging hairs. Wear gloves to stop your skin coming into contact with the leaves and make sure kids keep clear. Nettle tea is drunk to strengthen the nervous system, ease skin problems such as acne and to treat arthritis and gout. It's often recommended as a general tonic for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers can drink it to stimulate their
milk supply.
Season: The top leaves of the young plants are harvested in spring.
Growing conditions: Rich, wet soil.

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