Healing Herbs: From the Garden to the Kitchen
Jul 01, 2011 03:12PM
By Constance Campbell Ferry
The small daisy like blossoms of German chamomile are just one of many subtle colors and textures one can expect in an herb garden from May through September. A garden is a healing place in and of itself.
Fresh herbs impart their healing properties to us easily and with joy. Following is a list of a few herbs that are ready for harvest in late spring and early summer. All provide a variety of benefits and are gifts aimed towards healing.
German Chamomile is harvested in full bloom when the petals splay back toward the stem. After harvest, cut the self-seeding annual plant back to about 10 inches. German chamomile is used to make chamomile tea and is a well-known medicinal herb. It is most commonly used as as a mild sedative, especially good for insomnia as well as many other nervous conditions. It is also used for fever, colic, and inflammation, and has been shown to have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Lemon Balm is a wonderful perennial nervine herb in the mint family with a gentle lemon scent. Leaves should be picked just when they are beginning to flower. Lemon balm is also used medicinally as an herbal tea and is helpful for anxiety, depression and stress. The crushed leaves, when rubbed on the skin, are used as a repellant for mosquitos.
Mints are aromatic digestives used throughout the world for their healing properties. Spearmint is a cooling digestive and good for congestion and inflammation in the lungs. Peppermint is a warming digestive good for sore muscles, headaches and energy. Pick your peppermint and spearmint anytime and when in flower, as volatile oils are highest at this time.
Sage can be harvested at anytime but is especially fruity and aromatic in early summer and is beautifully in full flower in May and June. Harvest the flowering stems with some leaves, taking flowers and leaves from the stem to use. Sage is a salvia (Latin meaning ‘to save or heal’), and is an ancient healing plant. It is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and digestive, plus it is a good antiviral for colds, flu and sore throat.
Lavender is ready for harvest when it is just beginning to flower and is in tight bud. Lavendula, from the Latin ‘to wash,’ is also an ancient, important healing herb. Infusions of lavender soothe and heal insect bites and burns. In pillows, lavender seeds and flowers aid sleep and relaxation. Essential oil of lavender has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Often used in massage oil for relief from stress, tension and strain.
Now is also the time to use and harvest wise woman herbs such as nettle, red clover, plantain, comfrey and dandelion for nutrition and medicine. There is much to learn, but in gardening, the joy is in the journey.
Take the journey from garden to kitchen with these Herbal Recipes.
Fresh Herb Tea
4 tsp. fresh herb leaves or flowers
5 oz. distilled water
Teakettle (not aluminum)
Bring water to a boil. Pour over herbs in cup. Cover and steep 10-15 minutes.
Tea Juice (for children)
Follow recipe for Fresh Herb Tea, then add about ¼ cup of fruit juice to the cooled tea.
For a special treat, freeze the herb tea into ice cubes and add to other beverages such as lemonade, green or black tea and fruit juices
1 Tbsp. each of fresh chamomile flowers, lavender flowers and leaves, peppermint leaves and lemon grass leaves. Pour olive, sunflower, grapeseed or safflower oil over herbs to cover by an inch. Let sit in warm (100*) for 10 days to two weeks. Strain herbs from oils. Let sit a few days and decant herb oil into another bottle. Reheat herb oil gently and add 1 oz. of beeswax to melt together. Pour herb oil in beeswax mixture into small jars to use.
Constance Campbell Ferry owns Hobbit Gardens in Fillmore, IN. She offers many recipes using natural herbs that can be grown at home. She may be reached at 765-246-6315.