by Traci Knight – Staff Writer
There is no shortage of herbal supplements to boost immune function and increase vitality. As interest in gardening and food cultivation continues to grow, more people are seeking to produce their own “farmacy”. These six plants can all be part of your landscape and harvested for a variety of ailments, not the least of which is to gain energy and enhance the immune system. This list represents a small but potent sample of herbs that can be grown at home. Choosing what to grow and learning how to harvest and process these medicinal herbs empowers individuals to be responsible for their own health.
1. Green Tea
Green tea is considered to be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet. Loaded with polyphenols, it’s antioxidant properties are renowned. It’s bioactive compounds aid brain function, fat metabolization, and minimizes the molecular damage of aging. Green tea has been shown to offer protection against Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Parkinson’s disease, and Type II Diabetes.
If you live in US growing zones 7-9 you are in luck, because you can grow Camellia Sinensis, the plant used to produce most of the world’s tea. This common tea plant will take up to 4 years to harvest but can produce for up to 30 years, eventually turning into a tree if not pruned. Young leaves are picked and then dried out in the oven, allowing tea lover’s to have ultimate proximity and control of this medicinal miracle.
Beautiful borage deserves a special place in our medicinal gardens. This flowering herb has many culinary applications, but is renowned for it’s health benefits. Filled with essential vitamins and antioxidants, Borage is used to treat a variety of nervous conditions and chronic fatigue. It contains essential fatty acids, including high levels of gamma linolenic acid. It’s anti-inflammatory properties have spurred it’s use for rheumatoid arthritis and eczema. Long term, continual use of borage can be dangerous, due to high concentrations of alkaloids. However, timely treatments with borage in the form of edibles, tea, or concentrates can be highly beneficial.
As a hardy reseeding annual, once established borage should not need to be sown again. It is encouraged in permaculture planting, both for it’s medicinal uses as well as it’s soil building properties and ability to feed and attract pollinators.
Oregano (or marjoram) is credited to be one of the most beneficial foods in the world. While oregano extract has been receiving a great deal of positive attention, growing oregano in your garden is super easy. Oregano is a useful antibacterial and antioxidant. It has been shown to be more effective than clinical drugs in treating disorders like giardia. It’s natural antioxidant properties out perform apples, potatoes, oranges, and even blueberries. As a functional superfood, this weedy perennial can be grown in bulk and either worked into mealtimes, or for the more ambitious – used for oil extractions.
4. Dandelion Root
Dandelion is undergoing an image change in the western world. Although many people still treat Dandelions as weeds and use spray or sod to remove them, there is a growing movement to view dandelions as beautiful flowers that provide an abundant source of valuable medicinals. Dandelion Root is used to to detox the liver and kidneys, as well as improve digestion. Research has shown that the root blocks melanoma, leukemia, and other cancers, transforming tissue into non cancerous cells.
5. Reishi Mushrooms
These mushrooms are readily available as tablets, capsules, or extracts. They also contain the added benefit of being able to be grown at home simple by ordering the spores, plugging them into hardwood, and mulching. Reishi Mushrooms are powerful antioxidants, used for immune boosting and to directly combat cancerous tumors. They provide a healing effect on the lungs, and act as an anti-inflammatory agent on the body.
The primary ingredients in Reishi Mushrooms is Beta Glucan, one of the strongest immune enhancers available. They also contain Ganoderic Acid, a triterpenes that can help reduce allergies by stopping the production of Histamines. Because of it’s commercial availability and the fact that it can be grown at home, Reishi is a valuable tool to have in your home medicinal kit.
Often called “the poor man’s ginseng” codonopsis is both a culinary delicacy and a medicinal herb. Although the roots take 3 years to mature, it is well worth the wait. Rich in saponins, it has the ability to penetrate and cleanse tissue. It reduces blood pressure, increases hemoglobin, and immunity. Often used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome and ulcers, Codonopsis is also an ornamental addition to the garden, producing beautiful bell shaped flowers. This plant would be highly suitable for permaculture planting.
Reclaiming our ability to produce food and medicine for ourselves, allows us to be independent practitioners of our own health and gives us an added understanding of the relationship between soil, food, and our bodies. There are many more foods and herbs that can be added to this list. Tailoring your garden to meet your individual health needs is an ideal way to embrace sustainability and the future of food, health, and medicine.