Grow your own herbal remedies

WORDS Linda Brennan.

Are you feeling a bit under the weather with winter ills causing coughs, headache or congestion? It’s fairly common to be beset by a string of winter viruses, especially if you have children, work in air-conditioning or if you travel by public transport. (That seems to cover almost all of us!)

Long before the chemist became the go-to place for cold and flu relief, the back garden was the place to find for soothing remedies. We can buy effective preparations over the counter, but there are many natural options you can use to relieve the symptoms of head colds and other viral infections. These homegrown herbals are a fraction of the cost, all-natural and, in many cases, just as effective.

Blocked nose and mouth ulcers

Do you remember your mum giving you tea tree inhalations for a blocked nose, or a drop of eucalyptus oil on the corner of a hanky to sniff while at school? As a child, my own mum would also prescribe an inhalation at the first sign of the sniffles.

A towel and a bowl of hot water filled with fresh peppermint gum leaves or a drop of eucalyptus oil was a great antiviral and decongestant inhalation.

Coughs

Coughs can be a real nuisance, interrupting sleep, not to mention spreading germs. If mucous is thick, anise seed is recognised as a good expectorant. Simply chewing on a few seeds will release a liquorice flavour while helping release a mucousy cough. For children, the seeds may be an inhalation risk, so an infusion of seeds in hot water, strained, cooled and sweetened with a little honey, can be effective.

Sore throats

If you have a sore throat, try our family remedy of a cup of strong liquorice root tea. It just can’t be beaten. Sipping a strong brew of dried liquorice root, which is naturally sweet, is oh-so soothing.

A word of warning: Drinking more than a couple of cups of liquorice root is not recommended for those with high blood pressure.

If liquorice is not your thing, Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi, has a musky fragrance. Tulsi relieves sore throats and helps to build immunity. Most commonly taken as a tea, Tulsi can also be chewed fresh to impart cold relief; it can even be used in pesto and salad.

I’ve had a love affair with The Sorcerer’s Remedy Infusion, which I first had in a Medieval Tea Shop in a town called Aigues-Mortes in France—see below for the recipe. The brew is a tea alternative and is useful in helping to ward off early virus symptoms. See below for the recipe.

Fever and pain relief

There are many culinary herbs that are recognised as effective medicinal herbs for relieving pain, inflammation and fever.

Lemon verbena, turmeric, rosemary and ginger can all be grown at home and used in cooking or at times of illness. Turmeric root, a member of the ginger family, is a much-researched treatment for pain and inflammation. The turmeric health drink arising from Balinese culture is a tonic and pain reliever, gently melting away pain. Make it by mixing lime juice, honey and tamarind pulp with grated turmeric. For a warming and relieving drink, why not make your own turmeric latte? They are all the rage in trendy cafes. You can make your own very easily using dairy or non-dairy milks. I’ve included the recipe below for you.

Lemon verbena, a favourite herb of the French, makes a wonderful infusion to sip warm, and can also be used as a compress on a sponge to relieve fever. Rosemary leaves, if included in a herbal infusion, impart a gentle antisepsis treatment for viruses and is a very mild sedative.

Grow your own pharmacy

A collection of pots or a small garden area can be easily converted to a fresh, organic, herbal medicine chest with just a little forward planning. Sow seeds or seedlings—providing a sunny spot and ample water to keep the soil moist. A fortnightly foliar spray with fish and kelp liquid fertiliser will promote healthy growth. A seasonal application of organic fertilisers to the soil will feed the soil microbes and thus the plant.

Start harvesting the herbs when they show active signs of growth. New plants need to be at least the size of your hand before their first harvest. Harvest no more than half of the plant at a time, no matter what its size. Remember, regular harvests will help to keep the plant compact and will stimulate it to produce more leaves.

With your medicinal and culinary herb garden at the door, you’ll be treating yourself to good health all through the year.

For more information on growing a range of herbs, visit Linda’s website.

 

Sorcerer’s Remedy Infusion

Add a posy of each of these herbs to a teapot. Brew 5 minutes before sipping, warm or cool.

  • fennel leaf
  • rosemary
  • mint
  • licorice root
  • thyme
  • sage
  • basil
  • cinnamon stick

For growing notes for these healing herbs, grab a copy of Sprout Magazine Winter 2017 issue at your local stockist or online, posted directly to your door.

 

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