When it comes to everyday ailments, Mother Nature is often the supreme healer. Herbs have been used for thousands of years to help relieve everything from headaches to anxiety to insomnia, and have the additional benefits of pleasant fragrance, attractive greenery and pretty flowers – benefits not found in any bottle of pills from the pharmacy. So the next time you have a minor health problem, step away from the medicine chest and look to your herb garden for relief. Just snip off a sprig of fresh leaves, inhale the potent fragrance, and feel your troubles ease.
Sweet basil: You probably already appreciate basil’s wonderful benefits in the kitchen. This aromatic herb’s uses go beyond the saucepan, however. Next time you’re facing a challenging task, and looking for focus and mental clarity, turn to basil instead of caffeine for a boost of energy, stimulation and mental focus. Basil is happiest in an outdoor garden, but if you have a very sunny windowsill, you can grow it indoors.
Cilantro: Salsa wouldn’t be the same without a dose of cilantro, the pungent leaf of the coriander plant. But cilantro isn’t just for Asian or Mexican cooking. When a hectic day has left you a bit irritable or stressed, the powerful aroma of cilantro can help rebalance your mood, leaving you feeling confident and calmer. Grow cilantro outdoors in the cooler weather of spring and fall: it will grow through the winter if you live in a mild climate.
Rosemary: When Shakespeare wrote, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance,” he was right. Just brushing against a rosemary plant is enough to release the powerful fragrance, which has been shown to improve memory and concentration. So next time you have a major presentation at work or are the speaker at your non-profit’s big fundraiser, take a sprig of rosemary to sniff before you head to the podium. You can grow rosemary indoors if placed in a sunny, warm window.
Lavender: Lavender has long been used to treat insomnia and anxiety, and research has borne out that good reputation. The pretty purple flowers can be used fresh or dried to calm the mind and promote restful sleep. Just clip a flower stalk and slip it into a tiny vase near your nightstand, or place it in the guestroom to help weary overnight visitors beat fatigue and jetlag. Lavender grows best in hot, dry climates like its native Mediterranean.
Peppermint: This hardy herb has so many uses: use it to flavor lemonade, make tea, add zing to fish or chicken, or mix up a classic mojito. Peppermint goes beyond the kitchen, however. The next time a headache strikes, pluck a few leaves off your peppermint plant, rub them between your fingers to release the oils, then sniff the fragrance, or rub the oil right onto your temples. In the garden, peppermint can be very invasive, so grow it in a container to keep it under control.