Growing herbs for use in the kitchen allows you to add a freshness to the table that store-bought herbs can never produce. Whether grown in a small plot designed especially for a kitchen herb garden, in containers along the patio or as companion plants in the family garden, herbs are an excellent addition to your homestead.
Although herbs add much to our culinary endeavors, they are also useful in many other ways. Many common herbs have great medicinal qualities, are helpful in caring for livestock, and some have the ability to control unwanted pests around the homestead. For the cost of a few seeds, or potted plants, and a bit of time for researching your options, you can grow a natural medicine chest in your backyard.
Below is a brief overview of 10 common plants that can be used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Some can be taken internally as an herbal tea, while some should only be used as an infused oil or as part of a poultice. Still others are best suited for pest management on the homestead.
1. Sweet basil
Sweet Basil is not only versatile in the kitchen, but also works as a repellent for flying insects such as flies and mosquitos. Basil reduces inflammation and has been shown to be effective as an antibacterial agent.
Not to be confused with marigolds, which are toxic, calendula has many healing properties. It is best used as a salve in treating skin irritations, including rashes, bruising, cuts and scrapes. It is safe to use for everyone on the homestead, including livestock.
Comfrey contains allantoin, which aids cell formation, giving comfrey wonderful healing properties. Used to treat wounds, burns, skin irritations, sprains and even broken bones, comfrey can be used as a raw leaf, in a salve or more often as a poultice.
Please note that comfrey should not be taken internally, as it disrupts liver function.
We all know that garlic has health benefits when added to our meals, but it is also helpful as a repellent for pesky mosquitos. A garlic poultice can be used to treat ringworm and other skin irritations. Painful ear infections can be eased by the application of warm, mashed garlic cloves.
Even in ancient times, lavender was added to bath water to restore calm. Today, we recognize that it is helpful not only for relieving anxiety but it has beneficial properties that can be utilized to treat burns, cuts and insect bites.
6. Marsh mallow
Marsh mallow is a versatile healing plant. It can be used as a salve for insect bites, bruises and other types of skin inflammation. It works well as a poultice for chest congestion and can also be made into a syrup to further alleviate congested airways. An herbal tea, made from the root of the mallow plant, has been known to help multiple ailments, including excessive stomach acid and even the passage of kidney stones.
7. Painted daisies
Painted daisies, as well as other daisy relatives, contain pyrethrum, a natural insecticide. Whether it is used as a companion plant in the garden or planted around an outdoor living space, this plant is a colorful natural alternative to toxic insecticides.
Aside from garnishing your dinner plate, parsley aids in digestion, promotes optimal liver function and combats bad breath. It can be used as poultice to reduce swelling and bruising. Additionally, adding parsley when juicing other fruits and vegetables also helps to eliminate water retention.
A common addition to savory foods, sage, used as an herbal tea or as a syrup, is helpful in reducing fevers, easing headaches, and clearing sinuses. Relieve skin irritations, such as itchy rashes, with sage leaves.
Thyme is a multipurpose plant, offering many medicinal uses, as well as being helpful for pest management. Adding thyme to your garden will draw bees for pollination. However, if you add thyme to a campfire, it will repel unwanted insects. Medicinally, thyme can be used a number of ways. As a poultice, thyme acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and is also antifungal. As a weak tea, it can be used as a mouthwash and gargle to relieve sores in the mouth and general sore throats. It works as an expectorant, helpful in relieving painful coughs.
Which herbs would you add to the list? Share your advice in the section below: