It was hard to just pick 20 herbs to share with you! I mainly try to use native herbs in my herbal practice where I work with over100 herbs as they are just as good as the more exotic ones we can sometimes hear alot more about! (There are a couple of exceptions that I had to share)
Not many people realise we have a Farm-acy growing all around us!
1. Aniseed:I love aniseed because it’s really good at doing a few different things and is gentle enough to give to toddlers and tastes yum. As a tea or syrup, it is excellent at easing griping pains in the stomach or ‘wind’ as Mum’s affectionately call it! It will do the same thing for adults, so is a good friend to IBS sufferers, it relaxes spasms of the gut which can cause the familiar pains associated with some bowel problems. It makes a great cough syrup for young and old its particularly good at treating dry coughs, especially those that have that ‘once you start you can’t stop element ‘(known as spasmodic coughing). It can be bought as the seed Anise or as star Anise, found in many Asian curries.
2. Basil:Most of us are familiar with this one, but did you know that it is highly revered in India, even given status as a sacred herb. It is given the nameTulsi (Holy Basil)and is said to sharpen awareness, aid meditation and promote compassion. It is a slightly more pungent variety than the one we find here in our stores but the humble Basil has a number of uses, it can be eaten raw, juiced, or used to make a tea. It has a warming action on the body and so is great for fending off colds and flu. More recent mainstream research has foundTulsican reduce cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, normalise blood sugars. It is also of benefit to stomach ulcers providing an anti-inflammatory effect and increasing the body’s own production of protective mucus.
3. Chamomile:A great all-rounder herb. Wonderful for children it calms and relaxes them and can help to settle an upset tummy, or calm an overactive child before bedtime. It will have the same effect on grownups. I find it is necessary though to make a fairly strong infusion of the tea for this purpose! It can make a wonderful facial treat for tired puffy sore red eyes, place cold teabags over eyes and cover with a cotton wool pad, lie back and relax while chamomile anti –inflammatory and soothing properties get to work. Great for hay fever sufferers and stressed out office workers alike.
4. Catmint:Cats go wild for this herb they will roll around in it and purr with delight if you take a notion to grow it. Catmint grows very generously and dries very well so you can keep a small stock of it in an airtight container. Similar to the other mint family members it is very soothing to the tummy and the nervous system it can be taken as a tea made from fresh or dried leaves, it makes a great substitute for Chamomile where it cannot be tolerated because of taste or allergy. It also has a really pretty purple flower which will attract pollinating bees into your garden!
5. Clove:I find this is a very under rated punchy little herb. There really is nothing better for a toothache than sucking on a clove (well maybe a trip to your friendly dentist). It will kill the pain of a tooth ache and also have a local effect of being antiseptic, so you see its use in a hot whiskey goes way beyond that of taste alone. A gargle of numerous cloves infused in boiling water can be really effective for a sore throat.
6. Comfrey:If you love your garden you will love comfrey it makes a free very effective organic liquid compost, simply add to water leave outside for 3-5 weeks and use as required on your tomatoes or veg/flowers in the garden, to make it even more mineral dense add fresh nettles to the brew and you have liquid gold on your hands, be warned its quite stinky.
7. Elder:The elder tree gives us elderflower in the Summer, great used as a floral water to tone and astringe the skin, or as a warm drink for a sniffling runny nose or it makes a refreshing cordial that is actually good for you. Go all French and call it a Presse its delicious in the Summer time with fizzy water and a slice of Lemon. In the winter we get elderberries, and excellent anti-viral, these little wonders have been shown to cut flu recovery time in half. They can be made into a lovely syrup too for little ones, and freeze very well.
8. Fennel:The friend of nursing mothers, this herb eases colic when drank by nursing Mum as a tea, it can also be given directly to baby in bottle. It is very gentle yet effective at easing an irritated stomach and can be drank daily as a tea for this purpose after eating or just as a comforting cuppa, it has a slightly sweet taste. The shoots of Fennel you find at your supermarket make an ideal salad when grated raw to make a salad and can make a really nice coleslaw for those who can’t tolerate raw cabbage.
9. Feverfew:This herb is a member of the daisy family and will grow very well in the garden producing lovely flowers. The leaves are anti-inflammatory and have a modern and historic reputation for relieving migraines and the pain of arthritis.
10. Hawthorn: A super Irish herb for the heart, proven effective for the symptomatic relief of angina, and can gently and effectively reverse age related degenerative changes in the heart the berries are mainly used for this purpose.(Always seek professional help when dealing with cardiac problems)
11. Horsetail: Ladies you need to know about this herb as it is fantastic for skin, hair and nails. It has a particular abundance of the mineral silica which keeps skin smooth and elastic. It was traditionally used as a cleanser for the kidneys and to remove excess uric acid (which can cause Gout) from the body.
12. Irish Moss:Sometimes calledCaragheen(its a seaweed) this is easy to come by in your local health food store and is great value for money. It should be boiled up and it can be stored in the fridge or made on demand a few times a day it makes a soothing drink for bronchitis & coughs for this purpose i recommend adding a small quantity of aniseed when you are boiling it up to improve taste.
13. Lemon Balm:One of my favourites and very easy to grow. This herb is a wonderful gently relaxing and rejuvenating herb ideally drank as a tea in the evening times; it also has a reputation for ‘lifting the spirits’ where they may be down. Sometimes called ‘Mellisa’ I have found the eastern European stores nearly all sell it as a tea at a good price.
14. Milk Thistle:This herb can help regenerate liver cells where they may have been harmed or damaged due to poor diet, overindulgence or environmental toxins it is one of the best and safest herbs for this purpose.
15. Nettle:I heartily recommend nettle soup in the spring months. It is full of valuable minerals required for robust health, as well as having a blood purifying or detoxifying effect on the body. The herb can be picked and dried in early spring and stored in an airtight container for use throughout the rest of the year.
16. Plantain:If you suffer with your sinus this time of year or you are a hayfever sufferer this is your friend. Plantain taken in a tea is great for all afflictions of the chest; irritating wet coughs and colds. If you are a fan of the great outdoors it makes an excellent wound remedy if you get a cut or scrape, take a leaf and rip it up and apply to your cut ( ideally you should chew it for a minute then apply it to the scrape) just call it a grass plaster, it will heal and disinfect all in one go.
17. Rosemary:Useful for migraine headaches, improves circulation and has an antiseptic effect on the tummy. There is a good body of evidence that it can also improve memory
18. Slippery elm powder:It provides a directly soothing effect on the tummy; It is both soothing to diarrhoea and helps to draw water into the bowel in cases of constipation. Can be taken by those who convalescing for its nutritive powers, particularly useful in this regard for both children and the elderly. Useful in acid reflux conditions to protect the stomach from the effects of excess acid.
19. Sage:Friend of the aged this title is deserved it improves memory and attention in the elderly. It also makes a very effective gargle when made into a tea for sore throat, tonsils and is also effective for those irritating mouth ulcers. A herb worth having no matter how big or small your garden is.
20. Thyme:This has got to be top of the class as a remedy for the chest taken as a hot tea in generous amounts it has a stimulating expectorating action meaning it helps you to cough up thick mucus. Thyme combines well with garlic in treating a chesty cough infection, not for the meek taste wise. Although safe for children I find most will only take it as syrup where it combines well with the Elderberry already discussed.