It’s Spring! I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but get a little excited at the warm sun on my face, the birds singing in the trees, and the possibilities for my garden.
I’m going to come clean with you all… I am a garden center addict. Admitting it is half the battle, yes? I walk in there at the first hint of spring and feel a buzz from the potted Gerber daisies, the rows upon rows of organic seed packets, and the aisles full of fragrant herbs.
And I know I am not alone… in fact I have a fantastic friend/enabler who will aimlessly wander those aisles alongside me with equal abandon and encourage my addiction. We can’t be the only two who feel that way… Come on, who can resist the time of year when the flowers are starting to bloom again and the world is awake and renewed!
If you’ve limited yourself to a few potted plants here and there… this year, I want you to think a little further while you smell the roses.
Start (now!) being the best supporter of your health. Choose to GROW some great herbs that can benefit your overall wellness! If you are like me, lucky enough to have a full-size veggie and herb garden at home, try mixing it up this year. Branch out and grow something you haven’t tried before. You might be surprised at how easy it is to grow some pretty powerful and healing plants for your whole family!
Here are a few of my absolute favourites!
Lemon balm (Melissa off.) – a member of the mint family, this fantastic plant has multiple uses in my garden! Lemon balm has use in mild depression, anxiety, nervous tension, headaches, and insomnia. I even use it for teething in my little one. Used for centuries to calm the heart and body, the delicate lemon flavor from this plant’s leaves is great in teas and tinctures. I also love lemon balm for attracting bees to the garden, as well as keeping mosquitoes at bay (just rub a few leaves over exposed areas and those little suckers don’t snack on you!). The simplest uses are my favourite – mixed into a pitcher of water, sprinkled on salads and paired with meats, or infused into an herb butter.
St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) – I added this herb to my garden just last year and loved the burst of sunny yellow flowers! Although most know it as the depression herb, SJW also has some impressive use in liver health, wound healing, and pain relief. Because it has an affinity for the nervous system, it’s also a great choice for nerve pain and viruses such as cold sores or even shingles.
Nettles (Urtica dioica) – So I know most people will curse a plant that causes them discomfort, but stinging nettle actually quite a nutritional powerhouse. It has been used medicinally for ages with a number of helpful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and analgesic health benefits. Nettles are great for reproductive health in both men and women, restoring energy levels, helping support your elimination organs with detoxification, strengthening your bones, and relieving allergies and eczema! One of the great qualities of this herb is that it is nutrient dense, so adding it regularly to your diet will provide you with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients you may be missing!
Calendula (Calendula off.) – I love this plant for all things skin related! Calendula is great for soothing rashes and nourishing the skin, as well as healing wounds. It works by stimulating your immune system, lymphatic system, and also supports your liver. A versatile herb that is super easy to grow, it can be used in so many herbal preparations – my favourite being tinctures, creams and salves.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – Is a bitter tasting plant that has a place in my garden for all things wounds and bleeding, infections and fevers. Yarrow is a great antiseptic, an anodyne (for pain relief), astringent and diuretic. The most impressive use for this plant is the ability to regulate the blood in many ways including stopping bleeding (even when it’s heavy), and sees its use in not only cuts or scrapes but post-partum care, uterine fibroids, nosebleeds and even ulcers! Being a bitter herb, yarrow can be used in small amounts to promote digestion.
Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)- this plant is another one of my favourite herbs and one I consume regularly for it’s amazing nutrient profile! Spoiler alert – it tastes nothing like the tasty fruit it bears, but has a gentle flavor similar to that of black tea. It’s my go-to herb for supporting women’s health (and not just during pregnancy!). Raspberry leaf is high in vitamins and minerals specifically for female health including iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium, as well as vitamins A, C, E, and B. The B vitamins are a high enough level to help improve sleep, soothe leg cramps, and deal with nausea – which is why it’s so popular during pregnancy! It also helps to strengthen the uterus and pelvic muscles which some say leads to shorter and easier labor (and who doesn’t want that?!). Because of its high amounts of vitamins and minerals, this herb is great for balancing hormones. Raspberry leaf also has a high vitamin C content which makes it great for immune support during illness and is super safe to give to the kiddos too!
*I have used this safely throughout pregnancy but always consult with your practitioner or midwife prior to taking*
Okay so I’ve shared a small sample of the herbs I keep in my garden. And if you are stuck in that place where you’re thinking you kill every live plant people give you, your thumb has no green abilities in it, you don’t have any space for a garden, or you simple don’t have any time… then I challenge you this spring to spend more time at the farmer’s markets. Nothing beats shopping and supporting local, and the quality and freshness cannot be beat. Now is also a great time (with the shift to lighter food and attitudes) to try new things and kick start your health for the year ahead. My second challenge to you is to look for and sign up to participate in a local herb walk – you’d be amazed at how many incredible medicinal plants are growing right in your neighbourhood (a note of caution here- do not use any of them unless you are absolutely sure of their identity and use!).
More and more we’re realizing that true health for us today begins in our markets, in our kitchens and our gardens – and is a result of our habits and choices.
What choices will you make to be healthier this year? What herbal remedies could replace some items in your medicine chest? Who could help you get started?
In the meantime, this weekend I’ll be wandering my happy place (insert local organic nursery), herbal tea in hand, soaking up the sunshine vitamin rays, while wondering if my hubby would miss the grass entirely if I just planted this… or this… or this.