Grow Your Medicine!
7 medicinal herbs to grow at home or pick in the wild
Hey everyone! I’ve got another awesome guest post for you today. Geerte, a Crafty Little Gnome reader from the Netherlands, has written a great guide to 7 medicinal herbs you can grow at home or forage from the wild. She’s included some of my favorites like Stinging Nettle and Chamomile and included some ones that are new to me like Blackberry leaf (who knew?) and Elder flower. Read on to learn more about these great herbs and how to use them. Take it away Geerte!
Even if you’re not a full-blown witch, gathering herbs and using them as medicine is a convenient, cheap, and fun thing to do. Herbs cannot replace prescribed medicine, but they can help alleviate small ailments like a cold or a cut. Some of the most useful herbs are very easy to grow at home, or to find and pick in the wild. This article will show you seven of the most useful herbs. Gather and dry them this summer and you will have homemade medicine all winter.
Chamomile is commonly used to help you sleep, it is very soothing and calming. Because of this, it is also excellent for anxiety or nervousness. Chamomile acts as a painkiller, alleviating a sore throat, muscle aches, fever aches, and any and all other aches. When you suffer from a cold, taking a steam bath with chamomile will bring relief quickly.
Chamomile can be bought as seed and sown in your garden, in a pot, or even on the windowsill. Chamomile makes a charming flower that looks somewhat like a daisy, and gives off a delicious smell. You can pick the flowers and lay them out to dry. Once dry, store them in a container and seep in hot water to make tea or steam baths.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know about the many benefits of nettles. They pack a great amount of vitamins and minerals, as well as heaps of iron and protein, so these plants are super healthy (especially for vegans!) Because of all these nutrients, nettles will improve the quality of your skin and hair. It is even said to clear up skin conditions, like eczema.
The dried nettles can be used for tea or mixed to a paste to apply on the skin. It makes an excellent compress for small wounds, cuts, or burns. Nettle is also ideal for face washes or steam baths, because of its cleaning and antiseptic properties.
Nettle picking might seem hard, but there’s a trick that makes it easier. First of all, always use thick gardener’s gloves! Now, take a big, wide-mouthed jar in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. “Catch” the top of the nettle with the jar, and snip it off with the scissors.You can leave the jar open in a dry and warm place, or hang the nettles up to dry. Once dried, they loose their sting and are safe to touch and use however you want.
Blackberry leaves are little known as medicine, but they have many good qualities and should be part of any herb collection. Blackberry leaf restores loss of nutrients in the body, therefore it is well suited to use after a period of illness, an operation, or after a time of stress. The leaves help with anything to do with the immune system: sore throat, cold, fever, infected gums, sores in the mouth, and more. Blackberry leaf can be used on the skin to stop cuts from bleeding, because of its astringent properties.
Blackberries can be found anywhere, they usually grow at the edge of forests or in government-planted green zones. Once you look for blackberries, you’ll start to find them everywhere. In folk legend it is said that blackberries always protect an enchanted spot. In August and September, you can pick the sweet blackberries, but from April on you can pick the leaves and lay them out to dry. You can use it as a tea on its own, but it tastes nicer if you mix it with some other herbs or spices (like ginger or mint).
Peppermint is most excellent for any and all gastro-intestinal problems. If you have a stomach ache, if you ate too much good food and your belly feels full, but also for other problems with stomach and bowels, nausea or throwing up, a cup of peppermint will definitely help. Any tummy discomfort: drink peppermint tea!
You can buy peppermint cheaply as a plant and plant it out in your garden or in pots. Make sure to buy the variety Mentha Piperita and not any other mint kind (the mint used in Arabian mint tea is Mentha Spicata, a different herb.)
Thyme is not just a delicious kitchen herb, it has some powerful medicinal properties. Thyme is a herb that works mostly on the lungs. In regular store-bought cough syrup you will often find thyme extracts. A cup of thyme tea will help with all kinds of coughing, soothe the throat, and help with the stuffy feeling that comes with a cold. Thyme can also help with blood circulation, especially if you add some to your bath water along with drinking the tea.
Thyme is an easy plant to grow because it is a perennial. This means you can plant or sow it once and you will have thyme for many years! Thyme likes a dry sunny spot with good irrigation, too much water will kill it. Apart from that, thyme is a very easy plant to grow. Pick the leaves in the fall and hang them upside down to dry.
To make thyme cough syrup: make a tea of 2 tbs thyme and 2 cups of water, steep for 20 minutes. Now add 250 gram/8 oz. sugar and heat together until it starts to really thicken and look like syrup. Pour in a clean jar and store in the fridge, take a spoon two or three times a day to help with coughing.
Calendula is most excellent for cuts, bruises, burns, or anything to do with skin. As soon as the flowers are out you can pick them and dry them (keep a few to make seeds for next year!) Calendula can be used as tea, in a bath, or you can make a cream from it. Use the cream on sore or dry skin, small cuts or wounds, burns, rashes, infections. Calendula is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. To quickly make calendula cream, just melt a container of Vaseline (petroleum jelly) au bain marie, and add two handfuls of dried flowers, cut up very small. Once it’s thoroughly warmed, you filter out the flowers and transfer the Vaseline back to its container.
Calendula flower seeds are cheap to buy and easy to sow: you just sprinkle them anywhere and they will grow in abundance! They make beautiful flowers in all shades or yellow and orange. Seed pods of calendula are easy to recognize so you can collect them for next year.
Elder flowers can be found in April and May, you recognize them by their delicious, perfume-like smell. You can pick some heads of flowers and dry them upside down. They can be used as tea to treat influenza, colds, mucus, sinusitis, fever, hay fever, and problems of the lungs. Externally the flowers can be used in a compress to treat sore eyes, irritated and inflamed skin, and minor injuries. Elderflower tea will boost your immune system and also boost your mood!
Elder flowers can usually be found in the same sort of spots as blackberries: around the edge of forests or other untended bits of green. Apart from using it as medicine, you can make many delicious dishes with both elder flower and elder berries. The flowers can be made into champagne, cordial, or fried with batter into delicate fragrant pancakes. The berries can be used for wine, jam, or syrup.
Always be careful when using herbs for medicine! Don’t use the same herb over a long period of time. If you’re pregnant or nursing please look into each herb carefully to make sure they will not harm you or your baby. If you’re seriously ill, please go see a doctor! Herbs can help you a great deal but they can’t take the place of prescribed medicine.
When wild-picking herbs, always double check you’re picking the right plant. Pick what you need and leave the rest undisturbed: birds, small animals and other wild-food pickers will thank you!
Geerte de Jong is freelance writer, living in a tiny city in the Netherlands, sharing a tiny house with her husband and cat. She likes to garden, collect herbs to make strange perfumes and potions, go on adventures in the forests, or to stay home and read books. You can read her blog here: http://koopweigering.blogspot.com (it’s in Dutch!)
Thanks so much Geerte! Want to guest write for Crafty Little Gnome? Check out the guidelines here