Growing your own herbal remedies is both easy to do and rewarding. I keep a few ‘dual purpose’ herbs on hand in my herb garden, and I use them in both cooking and medicinally.
Making a herbal tea is simple - you just need a good-sized teapot with a lid/plate you can rest over the top (this keeps valuable herbal constituents from evaporating with the steam). Grab a handful of the leaves of your chosen herb, toss in the teapot and cover with boiling water. Steep for at least 10 minutes, strain and drink the tea warm. You can sweeten the tea with a little honey if you like, and cooled tea can be kept in a clean container in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Here are 3 of my favourite garden herbs:
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Sage (below, left) grows well is our area, is not bothered by frost, and doesn't need a lot of water, so it is ideal if you are a newbie herb gardener. It grows best from August through to March in the Toowoomba area, however I've had this particular plant (picutred) in since last year and it is looking good despite being somewhat neglected over Summer!
Sage has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, and it is prescribed by herbalists for conditions such as mouth infections (eg ulcers), tonsilitis, tummy upsets and menopausal hot flushes (with sweating). You can also cool the tea and use as a mouthwash if you have a mouth infection or ulcer.
As with many herbal remedies - just because it is natural does not necessarily mean it is safe to use in all situations. In Sage's case, it is not safe for pregnant or breastfeeding mums.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme (below, middle) is commonly grown as a culinary herb, however it is a great little medicinal herb also. Thyme has antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties, as well as being an expectorant so it can be useful for colds and flus - particularly when there is a 'chesty' component as it can help this to come up and out of the body. It also helps to relieve upset tummies and diarrhea.
Manuka honey with thyme tea is a great combination if you are suffering a chesty cold + sore throat). Manuka honey has antibacterial properties - look for one with at least a ‘10+’ grading. The cooled tea can be used as a gargle for sore throats. It is best to avoid thyme during pregnancy, in serious digestive disorders and congestive heart failure.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). Also called Melissa, Balm or Honey-Plant (below, right).
This plant is a member of the mint family, and as such it can be a bit of a pest to plant in the garden (it has the tendency to go a bit crazy), however it grows well in a potted container as long as it is kept moist and is placed in a shaded position.
Lemon Balm helps to calm the nervous system, and also has anti-spasmodic properties, so it can be useful to help relieve anxiety and soothe the digestive tract, particularly where digestive upsets are related to nervous tension. It can also be used as a remedy for cuts and insect bites (mash some fresh leaves and apply to the wound) and for the flu (particularly where a fever exists). Lemon Balm does have anti-thyroid effects, so if you have low thyroid function it is best avoided, or taken in small quantities only. However, because of this it can be beneficial if your thyroid is overactive.