By Kim Robson:
Spring is coming. This is the time of year when many of us are planning our gardens and placing orders with seed catalogs. This is also the perfect time to consider some of the many plants to grow for their medicinal properties.
After the dreary, cold winter months, learning about herbs and all their uses is secretly a fun way to get kids to reconnect with nature and gardening. Make a plan now as a family for your spring garden. When spring and summer roll around, try your hand at making herbal tinctures, and create your very own homestead apothecary!
These safe and effective herbs are easy to grow and use in homemade remedies for everything from first aid to illness:
Aloe Vera — This succulent is prized for its thick gel inside, perfect for soothing burns and skin irritations.
Burdock — This tenacious weed is great for skin problems like acne, eczema and psoriasis.
Calendula — Beautiful flowers that promote cell repair and growth in rashes, sores and burns.
Chamomile — Gentle but effective in treating colic, indigestion, infection, and more. Safe for pregnant mothers.
Chili Peppers — Topical capsaicin can be useful in relieving pain. It works by depleting substance P, a compound that conveys the pain sensation from the peripheral to the central nervous system. Taken internally, capsaicin stimulates healthy digestion, helps maintain a healthy metabolism, and supports vascular health.
Comfrey — The leaves and root make an excellent external remedy for sprains, swellings, bruises, severe cuts, boils, abscesses, and gangrenous and ill-conditioned ulcers. The whole plant, beaten and applied hot as a poultice, soothes pain in any tender, inflamed or suppurating part. It is an effective astringent for inflammatory swelling. Ground comfrey root, when mixed with saliva and applied directly to a wound as a poultice, will stop bleeding almost immediately.
Dandelion — Not just a pesky weed, it is a great liver tonic and blood purifier. Good for digestion. Makes an excellent tea.
Elder — Helpful with fevers, viral infections and frequent bladder infections.
Feverfew — Used for centuries to treat headaches, stomachaches and toothaches. Also used for migraines and rheumatoid arthritis. (Pregnant women should avoid feverfew.)
Garlic — This powerful and healing herb is an antifungal, antimicrobial and antibacterial. It helps to boost the immune system.
Ginger — The phytochemicals in ginger help with joint and muscle pain, and inflammation.
Goldenseal — Can be used to fight off illness and conjunctivitis. Makes a great mouthwash.
Hawthorn — Can help regulate cholesterol levels and blood flow.
Jewelweed — Excellent for treating poison ivy and poison oak.
Lavender — Contains antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. The oil is excellent for soothing and healing minor burns, abrasions and bug bites. Also useful for treating anxiety, insomnia, depression and restlessness.
Lemon Balm — Good for depression, memory, focus and digestive issues like colic. A member of the mint family, it makes a wonderful tea.
Licorice — Soothes inflamed tissues such as sore throats and ulcers. Also good for adrenal fatigue.
Marsh Mallow — Lubricates dry coughs and moisturizes the lungs. Also soothes skin.
Plantain — The plant, not the banana relative — Often used for wounds, bites, stings and blood poisoning.
Stinging Nettle — Helps with joint pain, allergies and hay fever.
St. John’s Wort — Helps with stress, depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Also good for nerve damage, sciatica, arthritis and neuropathic pain.
Valerian — Good for insomnia, anxiety and nervous system disorders.
Yarrow — Helps with swelling and inflammation, soothes menstrual cramps, and reduces heavy bleeding.