My garden wouldn’t be a garden if it stayed the same year after year. What I love most about having my own outdoor space is trying out new ideas and having fun learning along the way. If it turns out to be a complete disaster then at least I know never to do it again or try it a little differently if I do.
One of the new concepts I’m trying this year is to grow a medicinal herb bed. Lots of us already grow herbs for culinary purposes – parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, lovage, etc – but this herb bed is specifically herbs that are used for health.
This is a project I am undertaking as part of a new diploma course I am studying with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh on the subject of Herbology – that means plants that can be used by humans for healing. My challenge is to grow 12 medicinal herbal plants – at least half of which must be grown from seed. I must tend to those plants throughout the growing season ahead, and then create a variety of healing herbal remedies (lotions, syrups, tinctures, balms) using those plants that I must then present to my tutors. It is an exciting (if slightly intimidating) plan and one that I am really excited about bringing to fruition.
So far during my studies I have discovered there are so many familiar garden plants, and a lot of ‘weeds’ that have fabulous medicinal properties. Sticky willy (Galium aparine) for example is a prolific herb which we all try to eradicate from our borders in late spring and early summer but it is a fabulous plant for tackling inflammation in the body, as well as treating skin problems such as eczema . It contains high amounts of silica, an essential nutrient for hair, skin and nail growth and repair and is wonderful for kick-starting a sluggish digestive system (Chown & Walker, The Handmade Apothecary: Healing Herbal Remedies, 2017). A wonderful recipe is to collect some fresh sticky willy, put it in a jug of water, leave in the fridge overnight and then serve, strained in a glass the next morning. Delicious.
In my medicinal herb bed, I plan to grow a variety of annual and perennial herbs including Calendula officinalis (marigold), Echinacea purpurea, Fillipendula ulmaria (meadowsweet) and Achillea millefolium (Yarrow). As I move through the processes of sowing, caring for and harvesting my herbs I will try to share my journey with you so that you could perhaps try and create your own herb bed for yourself.
Needless to say I am not a qualified herbalist. While herbs are natural it doesn’t mean they can’t be dangerous if taken in inappropriate quantities, with other drugs and even on their own. I will reference my work and recipes when I post them here, but please seek advice from a trained medical herbalist before embarking on any new course of medicine.
Watch this space for more info (and hopefully some recipes) coming soon.