If you thought your garden was just for growing delicious veggies, think again.
Many of the herbs and flowers you plant next spring could have a major impact on your health and well-being.
Here are seven tried-and-true home remedies you can make with plants right from your own garden plot:
1. Stop the Sniffles
Ah, cold season! A few days of a stuffed nose or a sore throat turn most of us into sniffling wretches on the couch.
The good news? You can beat your cold symptoms with a simple tonic straight from your herb garden: herbal tea made from thyme leaves.
“The herb is antibacterial, antifungal, and spasmolytic, so it fights agents that cause bronchitis and helps to quell a spasmodic cough,” explains Chris Kelham at Prevention. “It is also a first-rate expectorant, aiding the body to eliminate accumulated mucus.”
Time to put that kettle on.
Herbal Rx: Use fresh cuttings to form the base for a cold-fighting herbal tea. Add honey if you’ve got a cough.
2. Ease Your Cough
If you’re tired of spending a small fortune on cough drops, it might be time to start growing more sage.
According to health writer Amy Jirsa, sage can help relieve symptoms of respiratory distress, including that persistent phlegmy cough that makes people edge away from you on the subway.
Sounds like a wise move to us!
Herbal Rx: Like thyme, sage leaves can be boiled and used in a tea with honey and lemon to help ease a sore throat and cough.
3. Make Your Headaches Disappear
Migraines are no joke - even if you feel one coming on, it can still lay you out for the better part of a day.
Show your headache who’s boss by using butterbur and feverfew - a member of the cheerful daisy family - to help combat chronic headaches.
Herbal Rx: You can find feverfew in the supplement aisle, but rest assured you can grow it in your garden, too. Experts at The Migraine Trust recommend using feverfew leaves in salads - just watch out, they’re bitter!
4. Settle an Upset Stomach
The next time you need to reach for Tums, consider this alternative, instead: peppermint tea or a few sprigs of lemon balm.
For health writer Tieraona Low Dog, using peppermint to ease stomach woes is part of an all-hands-on-deck herbal treatment.
“Bitter herbs like dandelion and chamomile also promote healthy digestion, especially when combined with carminatives—herbs that reduce intestinal cramping and bloating,” writes Dog.
“That's almost all the aromatic spices and culinary herbs, including ginger, anise, fennel, peppermint, and thyme.”
Herbal Rx: A cup of peppermint tea will help settle your stomach and promote good digestion even after a monster dinner made from the contents of your farm share.
5. Heal Burns
It happens to the best of us: we’re bustling around in the kitchen but manage to scorch our fingertips taking a pan out of the oven.
Look no further than the aloe plant to relieve your red, throbbing mitts.
Herbal Rx: After you run your hands under the faucet, snip off the leaf from an aloe plant and apply the juices to your burn. Cover and apply an additional antibacterial ointment if necessary.
6. Improve Your Memory
Want to fool-proof your memory? A little bit of rosemary can boost memory performance and help stave off dementia, according to a new study from researchers at Northumbria University in England.
For a deep dive, check out this incredible feature on the Northumbrian study of rosemary’s effects on memory over at the BBC.
Herbal Rx: Smelling rosemary every day can make a big impact on your memory. Head out to your herb garden and take a few deep breaths.
7. Get Zen
If you’re one of the 61% of Americans who still work on their “vacation,” chances are you get it: stress is real.
That means when you finally make it home from the office, it’s time to really unwind. Scents like lavender can actually target the centers of your brain wired for relaxation, even lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.
Herbal Rx: Use lavender oil in a diffuser, or cut a few sprigs from your garden to keep in your bedroom, where the plant will promote a restful night’s sleep.
While we won’t turn up our nose at cold medicine, sometimes it’s nice to know that your garden’s more than a pretty plot of land. Join the tradition embraced by centuries of herbalists and gardeners to get the most out of your harvest next spring.
Do you use herbal medicine to treat common ailments? Tell us about your all-time favorite home remedies in the comments below: