December 17th, 2009
Since the very earliest times, we have used herbs not just for food but for healing. Every great civilization of the past – Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, they all used plants to heal wounds, deaden pain, lift the spirits and balance the mind. Plants have been used for healing for thousands of years. Our grandmothers used them every day.
We can grow many herbs in our gardens or pots, not only for their usefulness but also for their beauty. Sage for example is perfect underplanting for roses. Don’t feel you need a special ‘herb garden’ to enjoy them; put them in the beds you already have for they are beautiful in their own right, and can add to any garden bed. But if you have the space and the sunshine then indulge yourself by creating a special herb garden.
I myself have only a small garden with space very limited so I decided to grow my healing plants in mixed beds. As my garden is also very shady this means I can use any spots that get enough sunshine to grow the herbs I really can’t get by without having. But whether you have a large garden, a small garden, a balcony or even only a window-sill, you have room to grow some herbs.
I use any space I can find. While many herbs like full sun, many others, such as chives, fennel, lemon balm, and parsley, are happy in part or dappled shade, while mint, comfrey and lungwort (Pulmonaria) will grow well in full shade.
Since I am trying to grow all my plants organically I can use them in my cooking without having any reservations about what sprays have been used on them. This means that I don’t use any weed killers and no insecticides. But with most herbs this is easy because most herbs are tough cookies. For most people who are concerned about the environment, as well as what they eat, it is the only way to garden anyway.
The essence of organic gardening is that you feed the soil with compost or well-rotted manure and allow the plants to draw their nutrients from these, instead of taking them directly from artificial fertilizers.
One of the best ways to keep herbs vigorous and growing well is by regular picking. So use your herbs in your cooking regularly, it is good for your plant keeping it bushy and producing lots of new growth and it is good for you as herbs not only add taste to your food but essential oils and minerals to your diet. Parsley for example is a tonic for the nervous system and good for digestion, stimulating the appetite and combating wind. It is also a diuretic, very useful for urinary infections as well as helping with such conditions as arthritis. So think of that as you sprinkle some over your next meal.
Rosemary has been a popular rememdy for centuries for improving concentration and memory – rosemary for remembrance – and since it works by stimulating the flow of blood to the head, that may well be true. It is certainly good for headaches. It can even be used as a mouthwash!
I just love the plants themselves. The fragrance in the early evenings, or while I work in amongst them. I often make myself a cup of lemon balm tea or sage tea just by snipping off a good handful and pouring the hot water over in my little tea pot. I let it infuse for about 5 minutes and then enjoy.