Growing herbs for wellbeing
There are many medicinal herbs that relieve common ailments like indigestion, stress, anxiety, sunburn, headaches, coughs, colds, and more. Sometimes a herbal remedy is a safe alternative. Growing your own medicine cabinet is taking things to the next level. Since ancient times the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Native Americans were all practicing herbal-ism.
Herbal medicine’s efficacy and safety profile has stood the test of time. The longevity and popularity of herbs use throughout the world, is undeniable evidence of the healing power of plants.
Our resident herb experts Mudbrick Cottage Herb Farm grow and cultivate over 400 organic herb varieties. These are their top 6 selling medicinal herbs.
Note: All information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only. Please seek professional advice before commencing any treatment.
Gotu Kola (Botanical Name: Centella Asiatica)
Gotu Kola is found growing wild over large areas of North America, South America, Asia, and Australia.
Thai people use gotu kola as a drink sweetened with palm sugar. Sri Lankans make sambal with the leaves, fresh coconut, and lime juice. Sprinkle the leaves into salads, curries and soups.
Research has shown that it contains a substance that increases collagen production and improves circulation, which speeds the healing of wounds and burns and reduces scarring.
Centella Asiatica is also known as pennywort or the arthritis herb. Many people have relieved their arthritis by eating 2 -3 leaves a day. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well. It also helps improving circulation and strengthening blood vessels, giving rise to its use for varicose and spider veins, hemorrhoids and for improving memory and mental clarity.
Because of the many traditional uses of the herb, it is often used as a general tonic.
Gotu Kola is a creeping perennial which prefers a moist position and full sun to filtered sunlight.
Comfrey (Botanical Name: Symphytum x uplandicum)
Comfrey is a perennial herb native to Europe. It can be found growing in damp places along riverbanks and in ditches. It has large, hairy leaves and grows in a rosette to 1 m in height. The small bell-shaped, mauve or pink flowers are borne in clusters. The roots are large with black/brown skin and fleshy insides and travel deep into the soil.
The older leaves of comfrey can be steamed or battered and fried. A poultice of the leaves and or root can be used to heal wounds, burns, bruises, ulcers, dry irritated skin conditions and will help prevent scars. Caution when using comfrey on deep wounds as comfrey knits the skin too fast and could trap an infection within the wound. It is also useful in any kind of inflammatory swelling and reduces inflammation associated with sprains and broken bones.
Use the leaves in the compost heap, as rich mulch, place leaves under roses and fruit trees. Comfrey makes a good liquid fertilizer. Half fill a large bucket with crushed comfrey leaves. Then fill the bucket with water and cover securely. Stand in the shade for 4 weeks. Stir occasionally. Dilute 1part with 4 parts water. Use a watering can to fertilise plants every 3-4 weeks. (This smells really bad).
Comfrey is a tough plant but when grown in the right spot, it grows easily from small root pieces. Choose your position carefully, as it is hard to get rid of. It will grow in semi-sun or in full sun providing it gets enough water during summer. Although comfrey likes plenty of water, it does not like to be in a boggy position. During summer comfrey produces masses of large leaves. During winter our garden is quite cold and the leaf growth slows to a few small leaves.
Radium Weed (Botanical Name: Euphorbia peplus)
Radium weed is also known as petty spurge, milkweed and cancer weed. It is a small annual garden weed common throughout Australia. It has branched stems with alternate oval leaves, the yellow flowers are inconspicuous, and the stem when broken oozes a milky corrosive sap. The sap is the useful part of this plant, being used to burn off sun spots
Historically, it has been used for treatment of warts, corns and skin cancers and indeed, there is an ingredient in the sap that does cause regression of such skin lesions.
An Australian company called Peplin Biotech is conducting research and developing a gel from the sap of Euphorbia peplus as a simple topical treatment for certain skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas.
The milky sap can be applied to sunspots for 2-4 days. You do not need a lot of the sap just a drop on the area to be treated. The site will fester and be quite unsightly, followed by a scab, then fresh pink skin. Fresh aloe gel can be applied to aid healing.
Avoid contact with the eyes and internal membranes. The sap is corrosive and will burn sensitive soft tissues.
Self seeds readily throughout the garden, will grow in poor soils and difficult positions, but grows better in a well-watered position in sun to semi sun.
In South East Queensland it grows better through the cooler months, in cooler southern states it will grow through summer.
Elder Flower (Botanical Name: Sambuccus Canadensis)
Elderflower, S. canadensis is also known as the North American elder and has been reclassified to a subspecies of S. nigra, along with the European or black elder. S.nigra is popularly cultivated in Europe and because the two varieties are so similar, the American elder is not cultivated commercially. It can be found growing naturally in wet, swampy areas across much of eastern and central North America and Canada.
As well as forming part of the edible garden, it can also be used as a feature plant in the garden. The dark green, compound leaves are pinnate or bipinnate with leaflets arranged oppositely around the stem, creating an overall length of up to 30 cm or more. Each leaflet has serrate edges, is quite large and may measure 3-12cm long by 2-6cm wide. The fragrant white flowers are large and bloom in inflorescences or clusters, about 30 cm in width. These are followed by the blue berry-like fruits, but the plant may have both flowers and fruit for several weeks.
There are many uses for the fruit of the elderflower plant, as both a food and a health supplement. The many varieties of elder have been used all over the world for many centuries. Native Americans valued elderflower as a medicinal herb and used it to treat many conditions. Other uses included repelling insects and creation of a black dye from the bark.
Elderflower, or elderberry, is a vigorous, soft leafed deciduous shrub that can grow from 3-4 meters. The elderberry plant is quite adaptable to Australian conditions and will grow in most soil types, including wet soils. This plant likes full sun but is happy to grow in part shade as well. After flowering, the fruit appears in late summer and the stems may droop under the weight of hundreds of small berries. Choose your position carefully, as this multi-stemmed plat suckers upwards and spreads. You may choose to grow it in a pot for this reason, or use a root barrier in the garden.
Stevia (Botanical Name: Stevia rebaudiana)
Stevia, which is also known as ‘sweet herb’ is a native plant of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. The Gaurani Indians of Paraguay have been using stevia to sweeten drinks such as Mate for hundreds of years.
The Japanese have been growing stevia in hothouses since the early 1950’s and in the late 1960’s when the government banned certain artificial sweeteners its use increased dramatically. In Japan, stevia is used to sweeten pickles, meats and fish, soy sauce, fruit juice, soft drinks, yoghurt, deserts, and low-calorie foods.
Stevia leaves are used as a calorie-free sugar substitute in food and drinks. Two or three leaves of stevia is enough to sweeten a cup of tea or coffee. Dried powdered leaves are 10 to 15 times sweeter than sugar, 2 tablespoons of stevia can replace 1 cup of sugar. To make a liquid extract combine 1cup of warm water with ½ cup of mashed fresh leaves in a jar with a lid and let stand for 24hrs. Strain and refrigerate for up to 1 month. Stevia does not brown or crystallize like sugar so cannot be used in recipes such as meringues.
Stevia doesn’t adversely affect blood glucose levels and may be used freely by diabetics. It is attractive as a natural sweetener to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets.
Stevia is a perennial growing up to a metre tall, likes full sun and prefers acid soil. It flowers late summer to early autumn, it should be harvested as it begins to flower as this is when the stevioside content (the compound which gives stevia its sweetness) is at its highest.
Herb Robert (Botanical Name: Geranium robertianum)
Herb Robert is a dainty looking plant with branching stems and green leaves that are covered in fine hairs. The flowers are five-petalled, bright pink and are followed by seed pods that resemble a birds beak.
The leaves of Herb Robert are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, astringent, antiseptic and mildly diuretic and can be used for diarrhoea, gastrointestinal infections, peptic ulcer, haemorrhage, inflammation of the uterus. Externally for skin eruptions, wounds, inflamed gums and throat and herpes.
Herb Robert is a potential treatment for cancer; it has the ability to make oxygen available to the body’s cells helping the body to fight disease.
Herb Robert grows from Cairns in the north to Tasmania in the south. In hotter climates grow in dappled shade and water regularly, grows better through the winter in tropical and subtropical areas. It self seeds readily ensuring an abundance of plants.
All information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only. Please seek professional advice before commencing any treatment.