Six garden herbs that heal

  • How to grow your own drugs
  • The herb that heals coughs and colds
  • The garden activity that reduces back pain (new research revealed!)

It’s unrelenting, isn’t it?

No sooner than one global crisis strikes…

… another quickly comes along.

This time, war in Europe.

Amidst the desperately worrying news last weekend, I found myself standing in the garden, away from all the electronic devices.

Ok, so I’ll admit that it was a bit chilly in the shade.

But when the sun broke though and hit my face, it was absolutely wonderful.

Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life that make you happy.

And I think it’s important to force yourself away – from time to time – from all the rolling news, social media and phone alerts from friends and family.

As the cliché goes, we all need to “stop and smell the flowers” every now and then.

Saying that, there is not much in the way of flowers in my garden right now.

But as my world-weary worries began to ebb away in the wintry sunshine, I started looking at barren patches of soil, wondering what to plant.

Because now that we’re into March, it’s the time of year in which I start thinking about ordering seeds and growing food.

Not only food to eat, but as medicine – and of the best kind too, natural and direct from Mother Earth’s larder.

I realise that I’m lucky to have a garden and not all readers will have the privilege.


Even if you can manage a few window boxes or a raised bed in a yard, there are some lovely herbs that you can grow in a small space.

Six garden herbs that heal

For example, you can immediately start growing pots of basil, coriander and chives indoors, under glass or on a windowsill, if you like! When the risk of frost goes away, you can begin moving them outdoors.

Parsley is not only an essential herb if you love fish, but it has lots of vitamin K which is important for bone health, along with plenty of antioxidants to help protect you from disease.

One that I recommend you consider is feverfew, a herb that can be used for indigestion, headaches and (of course) fevers!

You can sow the seed in trays, cover them and water them until they are large enough to pot. Then plant them in the garden later in the spring.

If you can get hold of it, I also recommend something known as ‘Holy Basil’.

This antibacterial herb is good for coughs and colds but could also alleviate joint pain, eczema and anxiety.

Chamomile is another good one, particularly for stress and sleep problems.

Later in the spring, lavender is another sleep aid that you can plant in your garden – or in pots if you prefer.

There’s one I’m going to try this year for the first time – known as Calendula, it’s really good for the skin if you turn it into a topical lotion. Even better, if you add it to a vegetable patch it can help repel pests like aphids without you resorting to horrible pesticides.

If you want more ideas, inspiration and practical information on this topic, there are two books I like to get down from my shelves at this time of year:

  • James Wong’s Grow Your Own Drugs (Collins, 2009)
  • Linda Gray’s Grow Your Own Pharmacy (Findhorn Press, 2007).

Both will give you a broad range of options – showing you what to grow, how to grow it and when, along with the health benefits.

There’s also another reason to consider a bit of gardening this month….

How gardening protects against back pain

An article in the news caught my eye earlier last month: “Over 50s urged to dig for victory against back pain.”

It told of a new study at Portsmouth University, which showed the huge benefits of digging for the over 50s.

This might come as a surprise because we often think of heavy duty gardening as more of a punishment for the joints and muscles than a cure for pain.

But if built into your regular weekly routine (at least once a week) digging in the garden could help ward off back pain in the long term.

The reason is that digging counts as high intensity exercise, along with running, tennis and swimming.

So if you’re not into sports or you don’t want the hassle of joining clubs or driving to leisure centres and pools, this could be an easy alternative.

The study showed that over a period of ten years, those who did a lot of high intensity physical exercise suffered less from musculoskeletal pain.

Interestingly, other domestic chores – for example, laundry, vacuuming and DIY – didn’t have the same effect. These count as ‘moderate’ exercise, along with walking, stretching and dancing.

While these activities still do you lots of good, say the experts at Portsmouth, they don’t have the same measurable effect on back pain as the more vigorous stuff.

The only issue I have with digging as a form of exercise is that there’s only so much you can do in your own little garden.

That is, unless you start digging your neighbours’ gardens!

In fact, perhaps there’s a neat little ‘side hustle’ idea here for middle aged folk.

Charge money for heavy garden work so that you make a useful side income… while also reducing your muscle and joint pain.

You won’t get rich quick, but you might “get strong slowly”!