Posts Tagged ‘health


12 Medicinal Herbs I Grow and Use Often

Images left to right from top: comfrey leaf; thyme; dill flowers; dried hops flowers; St John’s wort flowers; potted kawakawa; broad-leaved plantain; yarrow flowers; yarrow leaves; lemon balm; feverfew; aloe vera; peppermint. 

There are masses of websites with info on medicinal herbs and quite frankly most of them are rubbish. Written by writers, not by doers they run of a list of ‘facts’, historical details, and an dizzying list of healing properties. What they don’t do is offer actual, real walk-out-into-the-garden-and-use details.

Here are a list of herbs I grow and use the most that don’t need a medical, herbal or botany degree to use or recognise. All have scientific backing. All are super easy. I’m not a herbalist, just a very keen gardener. I believe you should see a herbalist for the proper internal use of herbs (lots of active ingredients in plants can cause all sorts of issues).


I had monumental back and hip problems having a baby. My doctor suggested using comfrey poultices because my tailbone ached for months after. For me, it was a miracle cure. I scrunched up a couple of leaves, put them in a cloth and poured hot water of it and sat with it on the sore bit for 15 minutes a night. I was cured–could walk properly, carry my child and wasn’t constantly in pain. Sore knees, sprains, strains? Go find yourself some comfrey.


For sore throats and mouth ulcers I boil the jug and pick a handful of thyme, or use the dried thyme I’ve collected. I let the thyme steep for 30 minutes and add a spoonful of salt. Tastes much better than store bought alternatives and works just as well.


I collect the seeds of my dill each year and they’ve been a godsend with a windy baby. After the first couple of months I stopped using gripe water (active ingredient is dill), and made herbal teas with crushed dill seeds and gave her tiny sips.


I have a tin next to my bed of hops, rose petals and lavender. When I’m having trouble getting to sleep I open it up and waft away with the delicious scents.

St John’s wort

St John’s wort is mostly associated with depression, but that’s a whole medical aspect I’m not prepared to get into here. But looking at those brilliant sunshiney flowers will definitely lift your mood. I use St John’s wort for burns and bruises by making a tincture which you can read about here. Warning! Weed alert: grow St John’s wort in a container.


I battle winter colds with a kawakawa, lemongrass and ginger tea. Kawakawa is a native of New Zealand with a peppery bite. I collect and dry the ingredients and store them in an airtight container. I also chew on the leaves if I’ve got a toothache. Use the kawakawa leaves with lots of holes, the insects are showing you which leaves contain the most medicinal compounds.


Insects love to bite me. Luckily I have lots of plantain growing everywhere. I grab a leaf and rub the underside on bites and it takes the itch right out of it.


There tends to be lots of cut fingers in my household–bloody DIYers. Beautiful white yarrow grows as a weed in my garden and wrapping a furry green leaf around the afflicted digit stops the bleeding.

Lemon balm

Brewed into a tea, lemon balm is marvellous for headaches, anxiety or when friends arrive feeling a bit down. It’s also said to be helpful to drink if you have a coldsore. I haven’t had a chance to test that yet.


I used to eat a leaf a day to ward off migraines. They taste pretty awful so I’d roll them into a ball and cover them with honey or mashed potato or peanut butter or just about anything to cover the bitterness. This is a longterm strategy, it will take about a month of continual use before the active compounds start kicking in. I haven’t taken it while pregnant or breastfeeding and suggest you don’t either.

Aloe vera

Sunburn, skin irritations, after-waxing redness? Aloe vera is my summer go-to plant. Grab an aloe vera spear, slice off the spikes, slit in half and rub juicy, refreshing aloe vera innards all over the skin. Instantly cooling, really soothing.


Nausea is the mindkiller-when you’ve got it, it’s very hard to think of anything else. Use peppermint for a zesty herbal tea to ease the quease.


My Artichokes are looking beautiful

I think when they’re perfectly ready I’ll make some of these for those near and dear who need them:

Artichoke and Hawthorn Bar for cholesterol

(Recipe from the BBC’s Grow Your Own Drugs – James Wong)

4 artichokes
1 litre water
475 g hawthorn berries
225 g sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of 1 lime

1. Chop the artichokes, place in a saucepan, cover with the water and boil for 10 minutes, or until cooked. Remove from the heat, then leave to steep for 20 minutes. Strain into a bowl.

2. Heat the oven to 100C.

3. Place the artichoke infusion, hawthorn berries, sugar and cinnamon stick in a pan, and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture is soft. Take out the cinnamon stick and blend in a liquidizer with the lime juice, then pour into greased, lined baking trays to a thickness of about 1 cm.

4. Dry in the heated oven for 2-3 hours.(Check after 2 hours; you want it to be chewy but not too tough.) Leave to cool,  slice into bite-sized pieces.

Please note: If high blood cholesterol is suspected, you must see a doctor. This recipe may be used in addition to, not as a substitute for, proper medical treatment. If you are on other heart medication you don’t eat hawthorn berries. The remedy is not suitable if you are diabetic.

Storage: Keep in greaseproof paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.


All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden

Image: An outside lounge in the backyard of Oregon-based landscape architect Jeffrey Bale. Note the stone mosaic work on the ground. Photo by Allan Mandell from The NY Times.

I’ve been constantly coming back to Geoff Lawton‘s quote since I heard it in Establishing a Food Forest. It so beautifully sums up my philosophy on plants and gardening. While it was the unofficial motto of 2009, let it here be ordained that this year it shall be my main motivator.

To kick off 2010 in good measure,  I need to get myself correct – last year was an appalling one as far as my health is concerned, with tragic turns of events and generally unfortunate circumstances. So I’ve put quite a bit of time these holidays into getting healthier and making sure I stay that way.  And so I wanted to work out how the ‘All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden’ quote could really apply to me right here and now.

I’ve been reading Malcolm Harker‘s Health and Healing Lifestyle Manual, which has provided me with a very good answer of how to incorporate the view of the garden into my own personal wellness. Harker talks about the eight most important ‘doctors’:

Continue reading ‘All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden’


The dark side of fruit & veg

apple2I’m just a little perplexed by this article in the Daily Mail. I can’t figure out if it’s another case of bad journalism, some kids taking the mickey or a tragic indictment of the state of our food supply.

I can maybe see what they’re saying about hayfever. I can also see that in diversifying our diet, we eat new compounds that could cause allergic reaction.

I believe though, it’s more likely that kids are actually allergic to the high levels of pesticides in the fruit and veg. The cited celery and bananas being amongst the most pesticide-laden of products.

But such horrible headlines! ‘The tiniest piece of celery can leave me gasping for breath’: Rising number of children allergic to fruit and veg.

Ridiculous scaremongering for those that only read the sensationalist headlines. All the good work that’s been done on promoting healthy eating in England will have just taken a giant step backward.


Learning From The Elders on The Internet

dsc01420Terrific work is happening in the recording of traditional food knowledge (TFK) from indigenous people around the world. TFK refers to the cultural tradition of sharing food, recipes and cooking skills and techniques and passing down that collective wisdom through generations. I see this as a very important for two reasons:

1 – To help populations regain their connection to the land, keep their traditional knowledge and reclaim their identity, health and mana.

2 – I’d like to believe that it’s now pretty well understood that many modern intensive-agricultural methods aren’t beneficial to the environment or mankind. We need to take a look at different ways people beneficially work with the land and apply some of the lessons to our own little piece of the earth.

Indigenous Nutrition is a fantastic website with seven quality webisodes exploring the traditional knowledge of seven different peoples, and what they’re doing to keep it. The focus is primarily on health issues. This is an excellent resource and will hopefully inspire others to do similar things within their communities.

From a New Zealand viewpoint, Te Ara covers Māori food production economics and The National Library does a brief introduction to traditional knowledge. The Māori Plant Use database allows easy access to records on traditional uses of NZ native plants. The same people (Maanaki Whenua, who incidentally have a wonderful bookstore) also provide excellent information on harakeke (NZ flax, Phormium spp.).

A lot of work is being done in this area and it would be great to see more resources online in the near future. If you’ve got any great links in this area, please share in the comments.


Make Your Own Herbal Multi-Vitamins

Treasure! I’ve just been sorting out some old books and this piece of paper dropped out of it. A recipe for herbal health capsules given to me about 20 years ago.

All the ingredients are pretty easy to get. I have most of them in my garden or cupboard and I’ll sprout some alfalfa especially for it. Watercress and kelp usually aren’t a problem to find in NZ. Considering good quality multi-vitamins cost about NZ$40 a month right now, I’m really keen to give this a go. This should only cost me the gelatine caps, or if I wanted to cut it down even further, use one of my husband’s cigarette papers to wrap it up in to swallow (not half as bad as it sounds).

88888 Disclaimer: I haven’t tried this, I don’t vouch for it. I am not a trained nutritionist, doctor, or herbalist. But since these are all things I would eat anyway, I’m willing to give it ago. 88888

Continue reading ‘Make Your Own Herbal Multi-Vitamins’

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Social Media

Follow Me on Pinterest
August 2020

%d bloggers like this: