Plants have been used for centuries as natural medicine and much of the medicine we are familiar with from the pharmacy have their roots in trying to simulate traditional elements from the plant world. Often the active ingredients in medications are synthetic versions of compounds found in plants. In the best spirit of human nature, to ensure safe dosage quantities, increase production, and provide low-cost solutions, medications have been created to help most people fight what ails them. But what if we can create our own natural pharmacy at home? Possibly helping to keep us healthy and out of the pharmacy and doctor’s office. Of course, any serious ailment requires a proper diagnosis and treatment plan but even then, part of the treatment may even be grown at home in a garden, on a balcony or even in an indoor planter.
Food as medicine
Not everyone has the luxury or space to grow their own vegetable garden, but even a planter with homegrown organic tomatoes, or a window box with some dark leafy greens can increase nutrients in the diet, leading to a more healthy lifestyle. Healthy diet and lifestyle choices may be the easiest way to grow our own medicine. By following the old proverb, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, eating a healthy diet high in fresh, nutritious, vegetables might go a long way to keeping us out of the doctor’s office and not in need of ongoing medications.
Cold and flu
Growing herbs, in particular oregano, thyme, and basil, which contain antimicrobial compounds can help kick those cold and flu symptoms faster than without them. Growing your own herbs can be a fulfilling experience, adding them to your diet creating more flavorful dishes, and making your own medicine at the same time. You might infuse oil with oregano, thyme, and basil to use as a tincture at the onset of a cold. Similarly, you might infuse honey with these herbs to use in a nice warm cup of tea to help settle your symptoms down. Also, you can make an herbal steam, steeping the herbs in boiling water and inhaling the antimicrobial steam helping to decongest your sinuses.
A hardy, herbaceous perennial, oregano is a flavor favorite. It grows in hot sunny locations to about 3 feet tall. As with many herbs, harvesting in hot dry weather before the plant is blooming can provide the most flavorful harvest.
A special, slow-growing, woody perennial, thyme is used sparingly and effectively as a helpful cold and flu symptom crusher. There are many kinds of thyme to grow, but the most effective medicinal thyme is Thymus vulgaris.
A gorgeous tender annual known throughout the world, not only is basil delicious, but it is also a powerful antimicrobial which can reduce the duration and symptom severity of cold and flu. Another incredible herb whose healthfulness is included in the famously healthy Mediterranean diet.
Stress, anxiety, and sleep issues
Grow chamomile inside or out, in a pot or in the ground. Chamomile is a happy little plant, loved by slugs and snails, so if these are a problem for you, grow chamomile in a pot where you can keep the plant safe. Keep the plant well watered in full sun and in well-drained soil. Pick chamomile flowers just after they open and dry them for making your own tea to drink before bed.
Lavender can be grown inside in cool climates and outside in zones warmer than zone 5. It is a long-lived woody perennial that makes deliciously relaxing smelling flowers each summer. Lavender is also an option for treating migraines.
A hardy herbaceous perennial, lemon balm or Melissa officinalis is a relaxing lemony scented plant from the mint family. Lemon balm is used to treat mood and stress issues. It also can help pain caused by menstrual cramps and headaches. I highly recommend growing this lovely green plant. It is easy to maintain and is covered in many kinds of bees and beneficial insects in the garden once it is flowering.
Passionflower is hardy to -10 and is a vigorous vine that likes a moist site with some protection. It can grow up to 40 meters so supply a strong support and train the large plant. Harvest stems, leaves, and flowers to make a sleep-inducing tea. Extracts of passionflower may be effective in treating anxiety disorder even when compared to a medication.
There are many varieties of peppermint and some can take over large areas of a garden in the right conditions. It may be recommended to keep it in a container in this situation. Although would having a field of peppermint be such a bad thing? It is a hardy (to zone 3) perennial that grows about a foot tall and spreads by a vigorous root system. Cut stems to harvest the leaves before the plant starts to bloom in mid to late summer. Dried leaves make a digestive, soothing tea or a lovely addition to many recipes such as salads, dips, or drinks.
In moist areas, this relative to parsley (also great for digestion) grows as an annual, freely seeding itself. It has a long germination stage, so seeds must be kept moist during the first two weeks for the plant to establish. It is loved by aphids, so keep an eye out. Dill weed, the fine, fern-like leaves make delicious additions to soups, salad dressing, and dips and can help reduce stomach ache and wind. Young, harvested dill weed can be dried for long-term storage or frozen for medium length storage. Frozen dill weed keeps its delicious taste and aroma better than dried. Dill seed is also very good for digestion and is wonderful in marinades and pickles. If your grandma gave you pickles for an upset stomach, it was the dill that was helpful.
Growing your own medicine can help keep you healthy, out of the pharmacy and doctor’s office. Plant-based medicines have been used by people for hundreds of years and still are. Most of the medications that we know have their roots from plant compounds. Being able to supply yourself with your own plant medicines may hopefully help what ails you.
Sherra is a prolific writer who is continually honing eloquent writing skills. She is passionate about health and wellness and the state of society and humanity as a whole. Obsessed with our relationship to the natural world, she continually strives to have as little impact on her surrounding natural environment as possible, while she endeavours to learn everything there is to know about the plants and wildlife that surround her in her rural home in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.