I remember walking through a colonial era house in Elizabeth City, NC a few years ago. There was a beautiful herb garden planted near the front. The design reminded me of a traditional English herb garden, complete with a gravel path although on a much smaller scale. It was so beautiful and inspiring. I imagined that there were herbs used for cooking and healing and maybe some just because they are pretty but I don’t’ suppose that one would be planted for that reason alone. I also pictured herbs hanging in bundles from the rafters and long lines of herb-filled jars on shelfs in the kitchen. It is a cozy, warm image in my mind.
This last week, I finally have my garden plot prepared and planted a few aromatic herbs. I’d only heard of two of them before but went out on a limb to try some new ones.
Here’s what I know I have in no particular order: Lemon Balm, Anise Hyssop, German Chamomile, and Cinnamon Basil.
About the only thing I know about any of those herbs is that they can probably go in a tea bag and taste pretty good. It’s time to expand my knowledge.
Lemon Balm: I opted to plant this because it attracts bees and I want to do all I can to make a nice place for both the bees and my plants. It’s a calming herb and has been used since the Middle Ages to reduce stress & anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite and ease the pain of indigestion (read gas & bloating). I feel like it’s got quite a bit of credibility. Lemon Balm is usually combined with herbs such as valerian and chamomile for relaxation so it’s a good thing I added some Chamomile. It can be used in creams to treat cold sores also.
Cinnamon Basil: I was nervous about this one but after some brief research, I’m very pleased to add it to my garden. It is a common ingredient in Italian food, which I don’t make all that often, but can be used in Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese cooking as well. I found some cookie recipes here that I’m exciting about trying. Although I will have to adjust to keep them gluten free. Cinnamon Basil has an impressive list of medicinal uses which include: allergies, cold and flu, respiratory disorders, etc. The most appealing thing to me is that it can repel mosquitos. Yay! I can’t wait to test this! It is advised to plant it near decks or maybe make a centerpiece with it during picnics. You can also rub it on the skin. Last Summer I got a mosquito bite on the bottom of my foot so this could have saved me some misery. Additionally, a poultice can be made with it to use for insect bites and wart removal. Now, what the heck is a poultice?
German Chamomile: The most popular herb in the world. In the Middle Ages chamomile was used as a love potion! More recently this herb is used to treat many issues including anxiety, digestive issues, muscle spasm, skin conditions, and mild infections. More specifically, chest colds, sore throats gum inflammation acne, eczema and minor burns. Sounds good! The white and yellow flower heads are what is used to make the teas, ointments, and extracts.
Anise Hyssop: I don’t prefer the taste of anise but given that this plant attracts butterflies and bees and is repellant to deer and my nemesis – moths, I decided to try it. This herb can help with blood sugar control, relieve respiratory symptoms, and improve digestion. A warning though- do not consume while pregnant. I’m pretty interested in this jelly and cocktail recipe. The Methow Valley Herbs website has a wonderful post about Anise Hyssop. Here is a recipe for an Oxymel that will help loosen mucus, made with Anise. Interesting stuff.
I have a mint plant left to add to the garden. With mint, I make the most healing elixir that I know of: mojitos. They take me to a sunny, tropical place in my mind and I am completely at ease.
That’s what I’m starting with. It’s not in an elegant, traditional garden. It’s not even a complete medicinal garden. I’m not even sure what a complete medicinal garden looks like. Here’s what I know: I have a while to watch these lovelies grow, I will enjoy the butterflies and the bees, and I will be ready when cold season hits. I will let you know how it goes 🙂