In the July/August issue of AARP The Magazine, the gardening gurus highlight five simple-to-grow herbs that may help boost brain health, alleviate aches, and help you sleep. Though the article targets older readers, adults of all ages can benefit from these herbs – as well as the simple joy of nurturing life through keeping a garden, whether outdoors or just on a kitchen windowsill.
Here’s a snapshot of the article, provided by a publicist for the AARP:
How to Get Started: Plant your herbs in a sunny spot. During the growing season, cut them back frequently to encourage growth. Keep them moist.
First cultivated near London in 1750, peppermint has been shown as an effective remedy for indigestion. Peppermint calms the muscles of the digestive tract to alleviate intestinal gas and cramping. A cup of warm peppermint tea may also thin mucus, loosen phlegm and soothe sore throats. Apply it topically to take the itch out of bug bites or to ease muscle cramps, arthritis and headaches.
Growing Tip: Snipping can begin two or three weeks after a plant is established and do not strip the stem bare or you’ll compromise the plant.
- Lemon Balm
A panel of physicians, pharmacologists and scientists appointed by the German Ministry of Health endorsed the herb for relieving tension, anxiety and restlessness. There’s also evidence of cognitive benefits.
Growing Tip: Like peppermint, lemon balm is fast growing. If you plant it in your garden rather than in a pot, be sure to give it a lot of space.
The use of rosemary as a memory enhancer dates back at least to early Western civilization. Greek students wore garlands of rosemary around their heads, and students in Rome massaged their temples and foreheads with the herb prior to exams. The herb may also reduce joint pain.
Growing Tip: Rosemary is best grown from a plant and performs well in a container.
Used throughout history as a sedative and sleep aid, valerian gets its name from the Latin “valere,” which means “to be in good health.” Research conducted on 16 insomniacs at Humboldt University of Berlin, in Germany, found valerian extract helped them nod off faster and improved the quality of their sleep.
Growing Tip: When valerian is used for medicinal purposes, cut the flowers as soon as they appear. Opt for the Valerian officinalis variety, which can be used medicinally.
Research found that sage combined with Echinacea was as effective as the pain killer lidocaine in relieving sore throat pain. Plus, studies show that the herb’s bacteria-fighting heft makes it a potent breath freshener. To make sage mouthwash, steep 1 tablespoon sage leaves in 1 cup of hot water for 5 minutes. Strain and gargle.
Growing Tip: Sage is best started from a plant because it can take up to a year to establish itself. The best medicinal variety is Salvia officinalis.
The full article includes tips on preparing the herbs for medicinal use and is available here.
Flickr Image Credits
- Sage: jspatchwork
- Rosemary: skibler
- Lemon balm: amber in norfolk
- Peppermint: Zach Bulick
- Valerian: Rob Rover