5 Potent Medicinal Herbs In Your Back Garden

Having previously lived in a remote area of Sweden, It was a long way to the supermarket so I would often look into the garden and beyond to see what we could grow or see what was already growing. I was surprised by some of the herbs that I found that were not only abundant but also extremely nutritious and tasty. I also grew my own potatoes and nearly started a forest fire in the process but anyway we won’t go into that right now.

Power up your meals with these herbs that would provide you with some healthy nutrition and immune boosting powers for the cost of, well, pretty much sweet nothing.

1.Stinging Nettles. 

I don’t know any back garden that doesn’t have a few stinging nettles in them, and the young leaves are best plucked and eaten in the Spring time. They provide a wide variety of nutrients, including vitamins A, C and K and several B vitamins, minerals such as Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Sodium and some healthy fats to include linoleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid and oleic acid.  Its also believed that eating stinging nettles in spring can purify the blood.

Wear protective gloves to gather the rich green Spring leaves, and gather in a bag or basket and then take them home to wash. The leaves make a delicious soup which I believe tastes quite similar to spinach, and I know what you’re thinking, no the leaves don’t sting at all when cooked.  The Spring leaves also freeze very well so you can have them all year round.

Recipe to try:  Stinging Nettle Soup 

2.Dandelion. 

Chances are there will be a few dandelions in your garden. Most people think of dandelion as a weed, but the plant has long been used in herbal medicine, the roots are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal and the Dandelion leaves are a natural antioxidant, and a digestive aid. The entire dandelion plant from root to flower is edible with a slightly bitter, chicory-like taste. The leaves are high in fibre and high in vitamin A. If you find the leaves too bitter on their own why not try adding them to your smoothie with a mixture of other fruits and veg to balance out the taste, or you could also add them to a stir-fry as they are not so bitter when cooked.

Recipe to try: Marinated Chickpeas with Quinoa and Dandelion Greens 

3.Horseradish.

These look very similar to weeds, kinda like a large dock leaf, and they spread like wildfire so there will be a lot in one area. When you start to pull them up thinking that they are weeds, thats usually when they giveaway their scent, the smell of the root is very pungent. You would more likely find this root in a large garden with wild areas of fauna or in hedgerows and ditches. We mostly use Horseradish to make a sauce and its so tasty with roast vegetables. Horseradish root is packed with nutrients and phytochemicals which can boost the strength of the immune system and stimulate the activity and production of white blood cells, the body’s main line of defense. The vitamin C content is also impressive which can boost the strength of the immune system.

Once picked just wash and peel it, and then it can be grated and mixed with cream and other ingredients to make a eye watering sauce which goes very well with roast beef or roast vegetables.

Recipe to try: Horseradish Sauce. 

4. Wild Fennel.

Wild Fennel is a common plant usually found in coastal areas in the UK, mostly in hedgerows and fields. Its appearance is very delicate and nothing like the cultivated Fennel that you find in supermarkets. You wouldn’t eat the bulb of the wild variety, its the delicate fronds and stems that are the edible part. They taste delicious chopped and garnished on potatoes and on soups especially fish soup. Fennel is usually available from autumn through to early spring.  Wild Fennel has many medicinal properties such as enhancing the eye sight and is also great for digestion.

Recipe to try:  Wild Fennel Ice-Cream 

green ice cream in bowl
Photo by Pranav Pancholi on Pexels.com

5. Evening Primrose.

This pretty yellow flowering plant is entirely edible. The young roots can be peeled and boiled  and taste great served with butter as you would serve boiled potatoes.  The early leaves are cooked and eaten as greens and added to salads. The flowers of Evening Primrose make a pretty edible garnish and have a mild lemon-pepper taste.

Evening primrose contains protein, carbohydrates, beta carotene, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B3. This plant also contains high levels of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) which is important in supporting the immune system and regulating hormones, making it very affective at treating PMS.

Tips to try: How to balance hormones using Evening Primrose Oil. 

So next time you are in your garden or the park or on your country walk, take the time to look around and you never know you might find some tasty treats.

Here are some of my favourite UK foraging sites that might spark your interest a little further and provide you with some useful insights into the world of foraging for general eating, enjoying and pleasure to medicinal healing.

 

 

 

How Toxic Is Your Home?

When we are at home the last thing we think about is toxins, we are in our safe environment, or so it seems but we are increasingly becoming aware of the potential dangers lurking in our home and quite rightly we are now questioning them and unfortunately finding out more than what we bargained for.

The Living Room and Bedroom:

Let’s start with the 1970s when flame retardants were added to foams, plastics, furniture, carpets, building insulation and children’s car seats. Most flame retardants escape from the products into dust and the air we breathe. When dust contaminated with flame retardants gets on the hands, you can easily end up ingesting the dust in your mouth and also through your skin. Scientists have found exposure to flame retardants can affect the nervous and reproductive system and some flame retardants like PBDEs may be linked to neurodevelopmental problems, including impaired cognition and ADHD, particularly if exposure occurs at a very young age. In Europe the use and export of brominated flame retardants have been banned or severely restricted but PBDEs are still used in plastic manufacturing in China.

To minimise and limit your risk of exposure try to keep dust levels down by wet-mopping, and vacuuming with a HEPA filter and wash your hands before eating and avoid buying furniture filled with polyurethane foam.

The Kitchen:

In most homes the kitchen tends to be a minefield, do you ever use the self-cleaning feature on the oven?  Many people assume that the self-cleaning feature does not involve chemicals so it’s a safe choice. Self-cleaning ovens work by heating the oven to insanely hot temperatures and the problem is that the walls of many self-cleaning ovens are coated with Teflon that actually begin to break down at high temperatures, releasing toxic chemicals into the air. Inhaling these fumes may lead to polymer fume fever, so get your rubber gloves on and get some hot soapy water and use elbow grease to clean your oven, and avoid the self-cleaning oven feature like the plague.

woman in black and white striped shirt eating food from pot
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Talking of Teflon, have you checked your Teflon pans lately and seen scratches on them? if so time to say goodbye to them, many people are still using non-stick pans even after they have become damaged and begin to flake off.  The chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which was used in non-stick Teflon pans up until 2015 and has been linked to many diseases such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, liver tumours, and reduced fertility. This chemical was found to build up in people’s bodies so if you are using your frying pans daily you will be at a higher risk.

Ceramic coated pans are one of the best replacements to Teflon as they are free of toxins. Always choose a brand that clearly states it’s toxic-free and environmentally friendly.

Do you dry your clothes in a dryer that resides in your kitchen?  Every time you put a load of washing on or dry the clothes inside the machine it gives out volatile organic compounds, which include Benzene and Acetaldehyde, carcinogenic substances which are not something you want to breathe in regularly, so if you live in an apartment and cannot dry your clothes outside just open those windows whenever you use your appliances.

The Bathroom:

Some bathrooms tend to be a damp haven which is a breeding ground for bacteria and harmful organic matter, mold can build up on tiles, on the walls and even on shower curtains and is usually caused by lack of air ventilation, so make sure you have a fan built in to your bathroom or open the windows when you shower or bath to avoid this build-up as the spores from mold can cause toxic disturbances and illnesses over a long period of time.  Throw away old shower curtains, re-masticate the tiles and keep mold away by using white vinegar.

Most cleaning products you also use in the bathroom and kitchen are filled with hazardous chemicals which you ultimately inhale when spraying them onto the surfaces, thankfully there are many less harsh cleaning alternatives on the market nowadays and I find my favourite natural solution is white vinegar, it is a great and safe substitute for cleaning anything but especially great for taps, shower screens, mirrors, and mold too. If you don’t like the smell of vinegar try adding some lemon oil.

(Never use chlorine bleach on mold which is often used to clean all manner of surfaces, not only does it produce fumes that pollute the air it also generates a by-product called dioxin, which is linked to cancer. Used over time, bleach builds up these pollutants in the environment, the last thing you want to do is create more toxic chemicals in your home, mold is toxic enough.

The World Health Organisation has pinpointed environmental pollution as a serious contributing factor to diseases and there have even been calls for a ‘Healthy Home Mark’ to be brought in that could be as important as energy efficiency when it comes to people’s decision to buy a home say Envirovent. 

As to how bad your house is, there are a number of tests and outside agencies that can come in to assess the quality of your air especially if you suffer from respiratory or asthma symptoms, it might be worth checking out whether the toxins in your home are to blame.

 

 

 

 

 

Could Forest Bathing Make You Live Longer?

The forest isn’t the first place you think of when planning to go bathing, but its all the craze in Japan and has been since the 1980s. In Japan, its called “Shinrin-yoku” which means immersed in nature and it has become a vital healing medicine in Japan.

Many health experts have been claiming that forest bathing is the most important thing you could do for your health. According to national figures, in the UK we are a stressed-out nation, 74% of UK adults are overwhelmed by stress at some point in their lives making it one of the biggest health problems we face today.

There have been many scientific studies that demonstrate the healing effects of simply being in nature that can help us live longer and healthier lives.

So how does something so simple as a walk in the forest give you ultimate health benefits?

It’s proven to:

  • Reduce high blood pressure
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve your mood
  • Increased ability to focus,
  • Accelerated recovery from illness
  • Increased energy levels
  • Improved sleep

 

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It seems the effect of just switching off from your everyday problems and thoughts to spend some time in nature has a positive healing effect physically and mentally.  We live in such an unnatural environment, constantly connected to our phones which distracts us from what is important in life. Just listening to the sounds of the forest is the best meditation.

I tried it this weekend and went to the forest with my dog, we just walked slowly and peacefully connecting with nature, I noticed the trees, the branches, the simple things became magical,  I felt a sense of calm which lasted for days, I am usually affected by high cortisol levels and anxiety and this all disappeared, I could think more clearly and my problems felt so insignificant.

The best methods for forest bathing.

  • Turn your phone off,  the idea is to escape such intrusions that enter your life
  • Even if you are in the company it’s better to be quiet and listen to nature not the sounds of your friends talking even if the conversation is great.
  • Don’t use this time to think about your problems which would make this a useless exercise.
  • Be mindful, take in the sounds of nature, the birds, the leaves blowing in the wind, smell the earth, feel the ground under your feet.

 

If you live near a natural park, the countryside, or a forest, make time to try forest bathing and feel the healing power of nature. The more you do it the more benefits you will feel from this free and mindful practice and you will keep wanting to go back for more. Natural healing is definitely the best medicine for me.