Thursday, July 8, 2010

Herbs That Make You Feel Better (c) By Polly Guerin

Cultivating herbs for health is so easy that you can grow them in your window box or garden and reap the “feel good” benefits without even leaving home. Right at your fingertips for so little effort herbs’ have an innate ability to lift one’s spirits, produce calm, boost memory and mood, and even lower anxiety. You don’t need to be a gardener to plant herbs that contain the seeds of health-promoting antioxidants and anti-inflammatory seeds of renewal. Fresh herbs’ potency is higher than the dried variety. All the reason to grow your own.
To plant an herb garden all you need are some earthenware flower pots, a window box or a sunny spot in your backyard or front lawn. The good news for amateur gardeners is that in general, herbs tend not to be very fussy about soil, don’t require optimal fertilization, and are seldom bothered to any extent by bugs. If your local nursery doesn’t have herbs find them on the Internet at During the growing season, keep the plants moist and cut them back frequently to encourage growth. Imagine the convenience and the pleasure of plucking herbs to enhance any meal.
With its green earthiness and fragrant essence, Rosemary can help to reduce joint pain and is effective for weakness in the limbs. Both tension and depression are said to respond to the charms of rosemary. Greek students must have known that rosemary improves memory. Why else would they have worn garlands of rosemary around their heads? Chefs know a thing or two about rosemary in the kitchen. It can perk up the simplest meal. Toss it into salads, tie it into bunches for the stock pot, give a roast a boost and add jazz up dressing oil, stir it into softened butter for topping baked potatoes, whisk it into eggs for omelets, stir it into mayonnaise or mustard---are all delicious ways to get the goodness.
Peppermint’s brisk aroma and stimulating taste make it a fine beverage anytime to perk up a lackluster feeling, and it has the wonderful ability to make the stomach happy, settles and upset stomach and is an excellent remedy when you feel nauseous. Peppermint tea soothes headaches so drink a few strong cups and lie down and let nature over pills takes its course of recovery. The source of menthol, peppermint is one of the oldest household remedies and grows easily in almost any garden. A word of caution!!! Peppermint is such a vigorous grower that you must watch your peppermint patch carefully or it will completely take over your garden, lawn or window box. This is one plant that grows best in a separate bed. Put zest into any salad with fresh peppermint tossed in with the greens; add it to cream cheese for a tangy flavor. Sprigs of peppermint enhance summer coolers and other libations.
There’s no need to purchase expensive mouth washes, sage is highly valued, primarily as a gargle and mouthwash and for relieving sore throat pain or inflamed gums. However, you don’t have to have a problem to enjoy the bracing effect of sage. For a soothing beverage add half an ounce of fresh sage leaves to the juice of one lemon or lime. Sweeten with honey and infuse in a quart of boiling water. Remove from the heat, strain and serve hot or cold. My grandmother had an excellent winter tonic. Put a cup of fresh sage in an electric blender, mix and pulverize at high speed then pour into a bottle of claret or burgundy. To reap the benefits, during the winter months, sip small amounts, perhaps diluted in a small amount of water. Oh, so good to ease sore throats!!! Sage is a hardy perennial and likes a sunny area without strong wind and plenty of water, especially when it is young.
Don’t limit your enjoyment of cayenne to putting it on hoagies and steak sandwiches. Cayenne is one of the most effective herb medicines to treat fevers and when digested it is a harmless internal disinfectant. It’s best to take a capsule or two followed by two heaping glasses of water. Other authorities recommend cayenne as a powerful stimulant and a hangover remedy. If you can stomach the heat, mature red peppers are bursting not only with heat, but nutrition. They have more vitamin C than anything else that you grow in your garden. Cultures that eat goodly amounts of hot peppers every day are also getting important amounts of iron, potassium, and niacin from these spicy foods. Cayenne plants should do as well as tomatoes or eggplant in the garden and when perfectly dry, the peppers can be ground into a fine powder and stored for later use.
Wild herbs have been long known from almost all historical writings to possess “curative” or healing qualities. Its beginnings have been traced back thousands of years. In the Bible, for example, over 100 plants are mentioned which have uses beyond their edible properties. Native American Indians used herbs on the American plains to cure a variety of ills and legions of ancient military doctors schooled in folk medicine have saved lives with the use of herb poultices. Mothers of yesteryear, schooled in the use of herbs, were the first nurses in a family, but few, if any young mother’s today, continue that tradition of herbal care. However, it is comforting to know that modern medicine is beginning to realize that many herbs, used wisely, are the gateway to maintaining or restoring health. If you want to learn more: Read Mark Bricklin’s book “Natural Healing,” (Rodale Press), a practical encyclopedia of natural healing.

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