Thursday, 21 February 2013

Herbs - my first (gardening) love (Part 1)

I have been exploring the wonders of herbs for a long time.

Even before I had my large garden to love, I was fascinated by herbs and their power to enhance flavours and heal a wide range of ailments.

And since my kids were little, I have frequently consulted Penelope Ody's Complete Medicinal Herbal to treat ailments simply and naturally.  As you can see, the book is beautifully illustrated with a full page on each herb, and useful sections on how to use them for particular ailments.

Having learned the characteristics of certain herbs from this book, it was not difficult to put that knowledge into practice.  For example, I learned that putting chamomile tea into a teapot with a piece of cinnamon stick and a clove, plus honey to taste, made a soothing remedy for tummy troubles (such as when a child overdoes it at a kids' party).   Similarly, strong black tea was helpful for 'the runs'; and calendula flowers made into a tea helped with period pain if drunk, and could also be dabbed on sunburn.

The main staples in my first aid kit are Calendula and Arnica creams - calendula being the 'go to' remedy for all manner of skin problems, including bites and stings, dry skin, rashes, fungal problems, cuts, burns, blisters and abrasions; and arnica bringing quick relief for bruises, sprains, aches and pains.

Calendula is my favourite herb.  I am so keen on calendula that I am now growing my own calendula flowers.  I first planted them a couple of years ago, from Diggers Club seeds.  It grows readily from seed, and self sows prolifically!

In my garden at the moment, the older calendula plants are finishing and I have just cut them back, but new ones are coming up already - see the buds?

In addition to the budding seedlings, there are calendulas in each of the following stages in my garden at the moment (ie, all at the same time!):

one of the last flowers of the season . . .

a flower head going to seed, and

a seed head just about ready to be sown (see the little crescent-shaped seeds?)

I intend to make my own calendula balm from the recipe below, which was featured in the September 2012 edition of the ABC's Gardening Australia magazine:

I hope to have enough calendula petals to harvest for this purpose in early winter.  If I do, you guys will be the first to know!  Do you have a favourite herb?

PS I will be posting a Part 2 on culinary herbs soon!


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