Discover the medicinal plants in your garden

We are surrounded by herbs, be it the ones we cook with or the weeds that grow in our gardens and parks. These humble plants can do remarkable things.

How do herbs work?

Herbs are imbued with nature’s ingenuity and intelligence. Plants evolve over millennia to effectively occupy specific ecological niches. Factors like climate and the abundance of nutrients and moisture in the soil all influence a plant’s properties. The wide variety of these ecological niches largely explains their various properties as well as the benefits these plants can offer.

Thanks to modern herbal medicine, we can now analyze the “active ingredients” of herbs to better understand their uses and effectiveness. For example, we know that turmeric is rich in curcumin, a remarkably powerful antioxidant that can relieve inflammation and help treat many inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

In addition to relieving inflammation, certain herbs can relax you and help you get a good night’s sleep (like chamomile, hops, mugwort or valerian), they can nourish a depleted nervous system (withania, oatmeal , ginseng or licorice) or repair damaged tissue (yarrow, arnica, calendula and goldenseal) and many other things! So venture into your backyard and see what may be waiting to be discovered.

Let’s start with the dandelion, the quintessential lawn grass with cheerful yellow flowers and the beautiful, delicate ball of seeds you blow into the air to make a wish. Dandelion is one of my favorite herbs for supporting healthy liver function. Among other things, dandelion has a beneficial effect on cholesterol and can help regulate blood sugar. Other very common lawn weeds with healing properties include white clover (used to treat fever, coughs and colds) and plantain (for inflamed skin, insect bites and coughs).

And the bushes in your garden? You might have rosemary which, like many culinary herbs, is fragrant, meaning it’s full of volatile oils and a clue to the healing properties it contains. While rosemary can boost memory, alertness and concentration, other common herbs like lavender help with anxiety, stress, insomnia and thyme is one of my favorite remedies for cough.

We are only scratching the surface. Other common weeds include the prolifically growing violet, an excellent remedy for anxiety, and chickweed, commonly used in ointments to treat skin irritations like eczema – the list goes on.

The next time you are in your local garden or park, take a moment to consider and explore the pharmacopoeia around you. Before taking any herb, always speak with a qualified herbalist or other trusted healthcare professional to determine what is appropriate.

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Alvin J. Chase