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Guide to healing herbs

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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Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

Comfrey leaves are hairy and large at the bottom of the plant, decreasing in size as they go up the stem. Purple tubular flowers appear in summer. Both the leaves and root speed up the healing of bruises, cuts, muscle strains, sprains and broken bones. (Note that if you have an infected wound, treat it with an antiseptic herb like tea-tree oil first.) The easiest way to use comfrey is to mash freshly chopped leaves or roots with enough hot water to make a paste, spread it on a cloth and place that over the wound, keeping
it in place with a bandage. Replace the comfrey mixture every few hours.
Harvest season: Leaves in summer, roots in autumn to early spring.
Growing conditions: Will grow in almost any soil but prefers slightly moist conditions.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed has tiny, white, star-like flowers growing on light-green stems. A handy plant if you suffer from eye problems such as pink eye, conjunctivitis or irritation from contact lenses. Simply rinse a bunch of chickweed and place it directly over the eyes, then hold it in place with a bandage. The chickweed will heat up; when it does, replace it with fresh chickweed. The leaves can also be placed on bites, wounds and sores. Munching on fresh chickweed will give you a good nutrient boost.
Harvest season: Winter.
Growing conditions: Fertile, mineral-rich soil. Chickweed grows well in the shade.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Not to be confused with Catsear, which has a branched thin stem with many flowers, true dandelions have only one yellow flower per stem. The dark green leaves grow in a rosette from the taproot. Both the leaves and roots are used as a liver tonic, diuretic and digestive aid. The nutrient content of dandelion is dense. The roots can be sliced into stir-fries or stews and taste like a slightly bitter parsnip. Use the leaves in salads or as a tea. The roots are best brewed by pouring one cup of cold water over 1-2 teaspoons of finely cut root, bringing it to the boil and simmering for 10 min before straining.
Harvest season: Autumn - early spring for the roots, summer for the leaves.
Growing conditions: Will grow under most conditions. It restores abused soils, creates drainage and attracts earthworms.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

If you have a herb garden, you probably already enjoy the fabulous aroma and taste of fresh basil in your cooking. There are a number of medicinal uses as well. Basil tea is particularly good for the nervous and digestive systems. It is an anti-depressant and is useful for headaches, indigestion and nausea. Traditionally, basil was also used as an external medicine - the bruised leaves were rubbed on scorpion and wasp stings. Applied to the skin this way it can also repel flies and mosquitoes.
Harvest season: Summer.
Growing conditions: Plenty of sun; grows well next to tomatoes.

Pest control

As with many common garden plants, these herbs have the potential to jump the fence and cause problems in bushland if they're not managed responsibly.

Rod Randall, a weed specialist from the WA Department of Agriculture and Food, gives lavender as an example: "It can spread from seed and cuttings if the conditions are right. Old pot-pourri thrown over the back fence can often have viable lavender seed in it, and away they go. It can create dense monocultures, displaces the native shrubs and because it's so aromatic the native wildlife don't eat it."

So, before you plant your herbs, check with your local council or download a free copy of The Introduced Flora of Australia and its Weed Potential.

❖ Never throw seeds, stem or root fragments over the fence into bushland.
❖ Compost or dispose of garden and green waste in council green waste collections.
❖ Cover your compost so that seeds cannot be dispersed by wind or animals.

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