Monday, 18 January 2016 03:35

The Healing Garden

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As we become more dependent on pharmaceuticals, yet more resistant to them, there is merit in turning back to nature to make us feel better. The simplest and most natural source may be the antidote to your ailment. Emily Williamson explores some of the best medicinal plants and the benefits of growing a medicinal garden in your own backyard.

Historical cultures around the world have long understood the medicinal properties of their local surroundings and passed this information down for generations. Cocoa leaves, for example, were used by the Incas as a mild stimulant, for assisting with altitude sickness and even suppressing hunger. Indigenous Australians also had an excellent understanding of the medicinal value of their plant-life. Tea tree was used for its antibacterial properties to help heal wounds, and boiled in tea to assist with illnesses such as throat infections.

Generations of cultures knew the healing powers of their surrounding plant environment, so when considering your garden design, take a leaf out of their book and include a few of these ten medicinal florae in your collection.

1. Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is known as the ‘medicine plant’ because of its numerous benefits. It can be used for both internal and external ailments including aiding digestion, and reducing inflammation, healing wounds, and even treating eczema when applied to the skin.

The Aloe plant prefers warm, dry conditions and thrives in direct sunlight. It can grow in low-level fertile soil and is suited to pots or in-ground. It’s important to water Aloe as it is growing and flowering, but keep it dry otherwise.

2. Tea Tree

Tea tree is an incredible anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiseptic plant, used by Indigenous Australians for generations. The oil from a tea tree can be used to treat a vast range of ailments from insect bites, to minor burns, athlete’s foot and even acne. It really is a must-have addition to your garden and your medicine cabinet.

The Australian tea tree is an easy plant to maintain, requiring full or partial sun with fast draining soil to prevent root diseases. However, ensure your soil has the right level of acidity and do not fertilise your tea tree excessively.

3. Chamomile

Chamomile is known for its soothing effects in tea, but it can also serve as a remedy for your digestive system and common aches, such as an earache or toothache. If you are looking for a therapy to help with stress and assist your sleeping, chamomile is a great option.
Chamomile grows excellently in pots with well-drained soil. It requires watering sparingly – a weekly basis is the general rule – however, do account for long bouts of hot dry weather. Unless you have poor soil, standard fertiliser right at the planting stage will be sufficient.

4. Eucalyptus

The uses for eucalyptus include antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It is used to treat symptoms of the common cold as it acts as a natural decongestant, as well as treating infections and wounds. Be cautious, however, as it is unsafe to orally consume eucalyptus oil or directly apply it to your skin.
Eucalyptus trees are perfect for the Australian climate and require minimal attention once established, except for an annual pruning in summer. The use of fertiliser is not recommended as they cannot tolerate phosphorus, and watering should be done sparingly. The trees easily adapt to a range of soils from hot and dry to partially wet, and will do well as long as the area has good drainage.

5. Lavender

Lavender is a miracle herb with the ability to help treat digestive issues, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. It is also used as a natural insect repellent and its calming effects can assist with sleep. Its antiseptic and anti- inflammatory properties are used to help treat minor burns, insect bites and other wounds.
Lavender is a very low-maintenance herb that thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. If you plant your lavender in the shade it will grow out on an angle towards the sun. Fertilise sparingly during spring and autumn, and water occasionally. Lavender develops a deep root system and as it grows, its branches can become quite tough and woody. When pruning ensure you retain the green foliage and don’t cut back into this old wood.

6. Echinacea

Echinacea is extracted from the leaves, flower, and root of the plant, and its healing properties are outstanding. Echinacea can stimulate the body’s immune system and increase its ability to resist bacterial infections. When consumed orally it can assist with ailments from the common cold, to migraines, to chronic fatigue syndrome. When applied directly to the skin it can be used to treat boils, wounds, burns and even eczema.
This pretty and easy-to-grow plant is another must-have addition to your medicinal garden. Echinacea prefers full sunlight, however, can tolerate partial shade in areas subjected to high temperatures. It requires well- drained soil and is tolerant to low fertility.

7. Calendula

The extract from the calendula flower contains numerous medicinal properties including antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidants. Calendula is used to encourage the healing of wounds and skin diseases, as well as aid with digestion.
Calendula is another low-maintenance herb that is adaptable and requires little care once established. It prefers average soil that drains well, and only occasional watering. The calendula favours cooler temperatures so place it in shadier areas with partial sun.

8. Garlic

Not only is garlic delicious in food, it is also an excellent home remedy. It is very effective in strengthening the immune system against the common cold, and consumption is also known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and improve bone health.
Growing garlic is very easy. It requires full sun, and well-drained loamy soil, which is slightly acidic to neutral. Simply put individual cloves into the soil around autumn or spring, and water sparingly around once a week. Keep in mind that it cannot tolerate wet soil, and as the garlic becomes established, it needs hot and dry conditions to mature.

9. Fenugreek

Fenugreek consumption can help to reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, as well as aid digestion, reduce inflammation, and assist in the control of blood sugar levels.
Fenugreek should be planted around late spring in a position of full sun, as it cannot tolerate the cold and wet. It can also be grown in-ground or in pots, as long as it has good- quality soil with excellent drainage.

10. Sage

When consumed, sage can assist with throat infections, indigestion, anxiety and depression. When applied externally its antiseptic properties can be used to help insect bites, skin infections, and cold sores. Sage also assists with anti-spasmodic properties, which reduces tension in the smooth muscle. Many asthmatics inhale the steam of sage in boiling water to assist with their symptoms.
Sage seeds should be planted in late spring in a bed or container with rich clay loamy soil that grows well and is rich in nitrogen. Clay soil should be mixed in with some sand and organic matter to help lighten the soil and aid drainage. Sage is a hardy and fairly drought-resistant plant so water it sparingly. Keep the soil moist while the plants are small. Once established, however, only water when the soil is dry to the touch. Keep sage in full sun and prune each stem by about a third in early spring once the danger of frost has passed. Sage will need to be replaced every three to five years as the plant then becomes too woody and unkempt.

This is just a short list of the medicinal plants that you can grow in your garden. The options are endless and it is certainly worthwhile looking into what will work for your climate, your lifestyle and your medicinal needs. Whether it’s making oil from the tea tree to add to your medicine cabinet, growing garlic to add to your meals, or using an Aloe Vera leaf to soothe your sunburn, find out what you can grow and harness its medicinal potential.

Read 56211 times Last modified on Tuesday, 19 January 2016 23:40