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6 Easy to Grow Therapeutic Herbs (and why you should grow them)

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Growing herbs is a rewarding experience that can also be quite practical. Herbs have a long history of both culinary and medicinal use. Loading your garden up with a few powerhouse herbs like the ones below offers not only great beauty but also a treasure trove of therapeutic benefits.

Echinacea

One of the most popular medicinal herbs there is, echinacea is well- known for its ability to fight a cold by strengthening the immune system. It also battles against some viral and bacterial invaders too. The most commonly used medicinal variety is Echinacea purpurea, also known as Purple Coneflower. It helps fight infections and can be used both topically and internally for everything from acne to bronchitis. 

Growing tips: Echinacea is a plant best grown outdoors. It requires well-drained soil and will tolerate half-shade and is remarkably drought-resistant. Plus, it creates a gorgeous display of color, particularly when planted among shorter perennials, allowing its pink, white, and purple flowers to stand out. Water regularly until it’s well-established. Once established, it rarely needs watering, with overwatering being the bigger concern. You can grow it from seeds sown early indoors and transplanted outside after the threat of frost has passed, or you can sow it directly into your garden in the summer. 

Basil

Basil is one of the most commonly used herbs for cooking, a staple in many different cuisines, including Italian. I always have some on hand, not only for culinary uses, but for medicinal purposes too. Holy basil tends to offer some of the most powerful benefits for one’s health, including the ability to fight fatigue and reduce cortisol levels. This stress hormone can weaken your immune system, contribute to weight gain, and even harm your ability to learn new things. 

Growing tips: Basil is an herb that’s great for growing indoors in a smaller, globe-type container. Plant it in well-drained, nutrient-rich soil that’s kept moist but never soggy. Use organic fertilizer to help maintain pH levels and place it in an area that gets at least six hours of sunlight each day. If that’s not an option, fluorescent lights can be used, but the plants will need about ten hours of light daily for healthy growth. 

Comfrey

Comfrey is a plant with slender, long leaves, and black-skinned roots. It produces clusters of blue, purple, and white flowers. While some make a tea from it, most experts advise against consuming it, as it can be toxic to the liver. In fact, comfrey-containing oral products have been banned in the U.S. and other countries! It’s best used topically for medicinal purposes. I use it to make a poultice to help reduce inflammation and soothe pain by combining four cups of the chopped leaves and stems with a quarter cup of almond oil. I then wrap this paste in a cotton cloth, freeze it, and apply to problem areas, holding it on for 30 or more minutes to relieve pain and swelling 

Growing tips: Comfrey can be grown almost anywhere, indoors or out. This hardy plant can withstand temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero and as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit. While it prefers soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0, it tends to adapt well to nearly any environment, dry or wet, in full sun or partial shade. Simply grow it, sit back, and reap the rewards 

Broadleaf Plantain

You might run across a couple of different plantains, but I prefer the broadleaf plantain, which has larger and softer edible leaves. They can be used both medicinally and in the kitchen. The edible leaves are loaded with calcium and other minerals, as well as vitamins like vitamin K. The tender leaves are great eaten raw in a salad, but if they aren’t fresh, you can cook them or make a plantain tea. Sipping tea is fabulous for easing digestive ailments, including IBS and other inflammatory problems in the gastrointestinal tract. 

Growing tips: Broadleaf plantain is generally best grown outdoors, using natural, organic farming or no-till garden methods. One it’s started, there’s no need to turn the soil, as it loosens hard, compacted soils. As it’s quite hardy, it can be walked on over and over, so it’s great for growing on pathways, and it can grow in a variety of soil pH and climates. After spreading the seed, simply tamp the soil with the back of a hoe and spread a little mulch to prevent other weeds from popping up. Then, all you have to do is pick off flower heads to keep them from turning into seedheads, and you’ll have some nice greens year after year.

Chamomile

Who doesn’t love chamomile tea? It’s one of the most common herbal teas, frequently used to help promote better sleep and a sense of calmness. It can also help remedy digestive ailments and contains a powerful antioxidant that can reduce inflammation that leads to illness and dangerous diseases. 

Growing tips: Chamomile will thrive outdoors, but it also grows well indoors in a pot. Requiring only four hours of sunlight per day, it will do well indoors as long as it has a spot by a south-facing window. The soil should be kept moist but not overly wet, so water about once per week. Plant chamomile outdoors in the spring from either starter plants or seeds. It does best in cool conditions with partial shade, though it will grow with full sun. Once established, it requires very little care. It’s drought-tolerant and only needs water during times of prolonged drought. 

Chives

Chives can be used in many dishes, including omelets, creamy sauces, soups, salads, and garnishes. They contain a substantial amount of vitamin K and are a particularly good source of vitamin A, with 145 percent of the RDA in just a half-cup. They also offer antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, and antibiotic properties. 

Growing tips: Chives can grow just about anywhere, including indoors. Keep them in the kitchen, and you’ll have an easy-to-grab supply. Choose a sunny, south-facing window that gets six to eight hours of full sunlight each day, rotating your containers if the chives begin to reach toward the light. Mist frequently, using a water bottle to prevent low humidity, and water the plants whenever the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. 

Happy growing!

-Susan Patterson

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