Our gardens contain more than just plants grown for their varied colorful blooms, sweet fragrances or lush greenery. They are also not just for the strawberry patch, climbing pole beans or lush red tomatoes.
Gardens can contain plants with amazing and unique healing and medicinal properties. Medicinal plants have played a part in people’s health and well being from prehistoric Neanderthal man to the middles ages up to modern day, discovered mainly by trial and error or in the search for nutritional foods.
More than 4,000 years ago in early Chinese and Egyptian cultures, some of the earliest known texts regarding the use of medicinal plants were found. Medicinal plants are used in tinctures (alcoholic extracts of plants), infusions, essential oils and salves giving relief to anything from skin ailments (eczema), respiratory conditions, depression and cancer treatments. Modern drug companies often turn to the properties of plants for their development of current day medications and in some cases replacing synthetic drugs, additives and dyes with their natural counterpart.
Healing plants are either cultivated or picked from the wild (wild crafted) and these types of plants have a long history in Canada. Species such as Echinacea, Ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba or St. John’s Wort have been used by the First Nations for traditional medicine for hundreds of years.
Of these plants, Echinacea (coneflower) is seen in almost every garden plot and is a hardy, medium-height specimen, belonging to the aster family with a daisy like purple flower. This long lived perennial can withstand dry conditions, is relatively disease resistant and is most often used in treatment for reducing effects of colds and flu symptoms. It is known to strengthen the immune system and is widely used throughout America and Europe.
Ginseng is cultivated in Canada and is a very popular herb or supplement first used in Chinese medicine over 2,000 years ago. An energy booster, it calms a stressful mind or creates overall better body function.
Ginkgo Biloba, cultivated by the Chinese and other Asian cultures for thousands of years, is best known for its believed ability to improve blood circulation, and enhance memory with the increase of blood flow to the brain. It is known to date back to the Paleozoic era (200 million years).
Who isn’t familiar with the Aloe Vera plant? Many homes have them as house plants, ready to treat that accidental pot burn or cut finger. The gel of the plant has healing properties when applied directly to the affected area. Parts of the plant can be eaten as well aiding in digestive function.
There are a large number of herbs whose possibilities for treating a myriad of aliments and conditions are continually being researched. Caution must be taken though when considering these forms of treatment as they may interact with other medications.
The benefits are evident when taken in the proper dosage and for specific conditions. Medicinal plants history of uses has gone back thousands of years and is not a new concept. Take the time to investigate this source of care.
Betty Drover partners with Patty Siddall and Margaret Devantier in a local garden business and shares this space with them every other Friday. They can be reached at 364-1005