In the heart of summertime, with gardens in full bloom, it is a perfect time to explore the hidden health remedies…growing right in your backyard!
Those gorgeous natural herbs in your garden can help improve your memory, fight off infections, soothe your digestion, and boost your resiliency to stress.
Here are some of my favorites, along with their remarkable health benefits, and suggested ways to use them.
It’s well known that lavender is a great calming herb. It can be used in a bath or eye pillow to help calm your nerves and help you sleep. It can also be used at any time of day as a tea, tincture (a liquid form made with alcohol), or capsule to calm anxiety.
What you may not know is that lavender is also anti-viral, so it can fight off the pesky viruses that could cause a summer cold.
To make lavender tea:
Place 1 tablespoon of fresh or dried buds into a cup or tea ball; pour boiling water into the cup with the tea ball; allow it to steep for ten minutes and then enjoy!
For a relaxing bath:
Add a quarter cup of dried lavender flowers directly into your bath, either on their own or perhaps with a cup of epsom salts.
To make an eye pillow:
Put a quarter cup of dried lavender with flaxseeds or rice into a piece of cloth and sew it shut.
A favorite with tomatoes and mozzarella, basil can actually reduce stress and symptoms caused by stress, including stomachaches and headaches. It can also be used to help heal a cough or respiratory infection.
A type of basil from India called Holy Basil has been proven to be an adrenal adaptogen—in other words, it can help your body recover from stress.
Related: 10 Ways You Can Reduce Stress
To make basil tea:
Put about two tablespoons of fresh cut basil in eight ounces of hot water and steep for seven to ten minutes, then strain the leaves.
For a basil bath:
Throw the same amount of leaves into your bath for a soothing escape.
If you have a cough, sore throat, stomach pain, or diarrhea, thyme can be a huge help because it works as a natural antibiotic, anti-fungal, and anti-spasmodic (to decrease cramping).
Thyme also contains high amounts of anti-oxidants, which protect your cells from oxidative stress (a type of stress within our bodies that has been associated with aging, memory loss, and cancer).
Using thyme in cooking:
Thyme flowers and leaves taste great on fish and chicken.
You can also infuse olive oil with thyme.
For thyme tea:
Use 1 teaspoon of dried thyme for each cup of hot water and steep for five to seven minutes. Strain the herbs (or use a French press) and add honey and/or lemon if you wish.
Like thyme, oregano also contains anti-oxidants, which protect your cells from stress and toxins.
In addition, it contains several nutrients, including iron, calcium and vitamin K (for bone health), and tryptophan, which is the precursor to serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter.
Oregano is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, which means it can help your body fight off and recover from infections, hopefully preventing the need for antibiotics. It has been shown to work against antibiotic-resistant strains of a bacteria called MRSA.
Use oregano in a tea or capsule form to help with everything from muscle pain, toothaches, and menstrual cramps, to acne, allergies, and bloating.
For oregano tea:
Use three teaspoons of fresh whole or cut oregano leaves, or one teaspoon of dried oregano, in a large cup of boiling water; steep for five to ten minutes (the longer you steep, the stronger the flavor!).
You can use cooled oregano tea as a mouthwash, or breathe in the steam from the hot tea to help loosen phlegm and to heal a cough (but be careful with hot steam).
Of course, oregano is delicious in soup, and with fish or meat.
One of my favorite herbs to use in cooking, rosemary is so much more than savory.
It can improve memory, decrease inflammation (and pain), and prevent cancer. That’s because it’s another herb that contains those powerful antioxidants that protect us from stress and toxins.
It can also help with heartburn, intestinal gas, and headaches.
A rosemary bath:
Add rosemary to your bath to help with eczema, muscle pain, and wound healing.
Sprinkle rosemary on your chicken, turkey, eggs, and/or vegetables any chance you get!
You can actually make tea with rosemary by putting one teaspoon of leaves in one cup of boiling water for at least five minutes (but avoid rosemary tea during pregnancy). It is also nicely paired with lavender and thyme.
Okay, it’s important to know that mint can aggravate reflux, so if you suffer from heartburn, better steer clear of it in your tea and toothpaste.
Otherwise, mint is an amazing herb, helpful for irritable bowel symptoms of cramping and bloating, as well as for calming your body from stress.
Mint tea alone, or with other natural herbs/teas, can be made simply by adding a few sprigs of mint to two cups of hot water and steeping for three to seven minutes. Alternatively, you can throw a few mint leaves into your summer herbal tea, or even on your dessert for a refreshing twist.
Also rich in antioxidants, sage has been considered a solution for essentially anything, because it helps with so many conditions.
Research shows that it helps decrease inflammation anywhere in the body, helps with digestive distress, improves memory (such as word recall), mood, and even helps regulate blood sugar levels which means it can help with diabetes and lowering cholesterol levels.
You can make sage into a tea to drink (for a sore throat), to inhale the steam (for asthma), or to use as a mouth rinse once cool (for gingivitis). You could even freeze the tea as ice cubes for summer drinks.
Sage is perfect to add to soup, eggs, potatoes, and/or poultry.
You may have already suspected correctly that basil, lavender, mint, oregano, and sage are all part of the same plant family, Lamiaceae. This means that if you are allergic to one, you should be careful with (or avoid) them all.
If you don’t have these herbs in your garden, you can purchase them fresh or dried, often in combination, at a farmer’s market or health food store.
Be sure to choose organic in order to avoid toxins which would counter the benefits of these natural herbs, and to store dried herbs in a dark, cool location, in a glass container. It is best to use dried herbs within two to four years. If they lose their fragrance, it’s a sign that it is time to replace them.
The natural herbs growing in your backyard can improve your health more than you can even imagine. Pluck a few and try them out. You won’t regret it.
Dr. Donielle (Doni) Wilson, a nationally celebrated naturopathic doctor, teaches women, men, and children how to make life-changing differences to improve their health using natural approaches. In her new book, “The Stress Remedy,” she discusses how and why we experience stress and its impact on health and wellbeing, in addition to providing expert guidance on how to reduce stress and reclaim optimal health.
Photo by ardemonia