There are certain plants that can be grown that also offer health benefits — and this can all be achieved in your allotment. From chewing leaves of the feverfew plant to ease a migraine, to adding lemon balm to your tea to relieve anxiety — here are five medicinal plants you can start growing right away.
We’ve teamed up with Suttons, who have a diverse range of seed potatoes to find out more:
If you love plants that are visually pleasing, feverfew is a must-have — especially its angelic white petals. Others however, grow the plant to take advantage of its medicinal properties. Feverfew has been found to reduce the pain of headaches and migraines. This is due to its active ingredients, which prevent platelets (small cells in the blood) from building up in capillaries and blood vessels. A build-up of these can often be the cause of headaches. You can pick the leaves and eat them however you like — add them to a salad or consume them on their own.
If you don’t keep on top of your garden, feverfew can grow at a fast pace on small bushes around 20 inches high. Sow the seeds either between February and May or between August and October. It’s possible to sow directly into a sun-exposed bed during warmer weather or in seed trays. Provide the seeds with plenty of water but do not make them too wet.
You’ve probably come into contact with Sage; especially around Christmas time when it accompanies the turkey. A drink made from sage has been called ‘thinker’s tea’ due to its ability to enhance mental clarity and improve memory. It has also been found to ease depression.
This can grow in any area of your garden, but when in contact with direct sunlight — leaves taste much nicer. Therefore, if you are planting indoors, place the pot next to a window that receives a lot of light. Similar to thyme, it’s best to plant sage plants from cuttings. The plant does not ned a lot of water, so wait until the soil is dry before watering.
3. Lemon balm
If you haven’t heard of the lemon balm, it’s notorious for growing at a rapid pace. It’s tolerant of a range of conditions and isn’t affected by many pests and diseases. Many appreciate the essential oils of the lemon balm for its ability to ease anxiety. It does this through increasing GABA in the brain, which produces a sedative and calming effect to help reduce anxious feelings. You can add it to smoothies or use dried leaves for tea.
You can start by planting the seeds indoors and keeping water levels low. Once the seedlings grow large enough to handle, take them outside to plant in the garden. Choose a spot where they can be protected from the sun at its peak, as it grows best in a cooler part of the garden.
Basil is commonly used in your kitchen, and you probably have some stored in your cupboards. But, it has other properties too. One of its value is its ability to fight free radical damage and slow down the effects of aging. It does this by reducing oxidative stress through two flavonoid antioxidants — orientin and viceninare. Make pesto with it or add it to your favourite Italian dish to reap the benefits.
Is there a chance to grow this in your own garden? Start by sowing seeds of the basil plant indoors from late February to mid-summer. The best way to do this is to fill a small plant pot (3in) with seed compost, firm down and sow the seeds over the top. Unlike other plants, where you may sow more seeds than you need due to some being lost at germination, you should only plant a few more than you need as most will begin to grow. Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, water and place in a propagator. For those without a propagator, cover the pot with a freezer bag and secure with an elastic band.
Once it becomes large enough to handle, you must put it in its own pot accompanied with multi-purpose compost. Basil doesn’t deal well in colder weather, so make sure that you only place it outdoors when any chance of frost is gone.
As well as basil, you’ve probably used thyme in your kitchen too. But did you know that the herb has many medicinal properties too? The essential oils of thyme (obtained from the leaves) can also be used as a natural cough medicine and has been found to alleviate symptoms of acute bronchitis. It is also a good source of vitamins A and C — helping to boost your immune system. Dry out the leaves to make a beneficial thyme tea.
However, it does become tedious to grow thyme from seeds because of germination that is unbalanced. Instead, buy the plant after germination or take cuttings from a friend. You should plant cuttings indoors 6 to 10 weeks before the spring frost and take them outdoors around 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost. These plants prefer well-drained soil and be sure to keep them well-trimmed.
Although there are more medicinal plants you can grow, these are some of the most common for allotment holders. If you decide to start taking one of these plants as a supplement, do thorough research. If you are pregnant, check with your GP that it is safe to consume some of these plants too as they do have side effects. Happy planting!