Many plants are both pretty and easy to grow. Aside from being delicious in cooking, some of them have medicinal properties that can be handy when you need home remedies. Best of all, if you’ve grown them yourself, you can guarantee their freshness and purity
Many herbs and medicinal plants can be grown from seed. Some are started indoors in trays and transplanted after the last frosts. Others don’t like to be moved and are sown where you want them to grow. Woody herbs, such as lavender and rosemary, are best propagated from cuttings.
You don’t need lots of space for herbs: many will grow happily in hanging baskets, window boxes and all sorts of pots. If you have a garden, herbs and bulbs can be popped in between flowers and shrubs in a border. But keep them away from busy roads, or you’ll be getting an unhealthy dose of exhaust residues along with those beneficial ingredients. Avoid pesticides for the same reason.
"You don’t need lots of space for herbs: many will grow happily in hanging baskets, window boxes and all sorts of pots"
Now that you know the basics of growing herbs and medicinal plants, here are five to start with that will come in handy as home remedies.
Credit: Irina Gutyryak
Buy a couple of small aloe vera plants from a garden centre and keep them indoors on a sunny windowsill. A kitchen or a heated conservatory is fine—but don’t let the plants dry out or get cold. They will die if the temperature falls below 5ºC.
Credit: Alexandra Dokuchaeva
German chamomile, the most popular form, is an annual. Sow chamomile seeds where they are to flower when all danger of frost has passed. Scatter the seeds, tamp down and keep damp. chamomile likes a well-drained, partially shaded spot.
"Chamomile tea calms stomach upsets and eases anxiety"
How to use: Pick the flowers in full bloom and spread them on a muslin cloth on a rack in a warm dry place, or hang them upside down over a paper bag to catch the falling petals. Chamomile tea calms stomach upsets and eases anxiety.
Cumin and caraway
Cumin and caraway produce masses of seeds with a distinctive aniseed flavour. They taste terrific in spicy or fragrant dishes and do wonders for digestion. Both can be sown outdoors in a sunny position once the danger of frost has passed.
How to use: Harvest the seeds at the end of summer. They can be ground in a pestle and mortar or used whole. Put a teaspoon of either type or mix the two, in a cup of boiling water, steep for ten minutes, strain and drink before meals.
Credit: Robert Daly
This is the most satisfying to grow. Before Christmas, break up a plump, healthy bulb into individual cloves and plant them 5cm deep in rows about 15-20cm apart and forget about them. Each clove will grow into a bulb and they will be ready to dig up in July or August. Keep the stems on (so you can plait them) and hang them in a warm airy place to dry.
"Eating a garlic clove or two a day during the colds and flu season will help to boost immunity"
This aromatic plant loves rich, moist soil in the sun or light shade. It grows easily from seed or runners and spreads fast. To keep it under control, grow it in a bottomless pot sunk into the soil. Alternatively, grow it in a container, but be sure to keep the soil well-watered.
How to use: Use the leaves fresh or dried in digestive infusions and mouthwashes. Add the leaves to a steam inhalation for treating colds or flu.
Banner credit: Valentyna Yeltsova
Read more: How to choose herbs to grow in your garden
Read more: How to harness the power of herbs
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