Starting a Healing Herb Garden



Gardening has benefits aplenty, from relieving stress to improving mood. One experiment by NASA found working with plants improved psychological well-being for astronauts in the harsh environment of outer space. Another study found gardening decreased levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, improved mood, and reduced feelings of stress. Other research links gardening with reductions in anger, fatigue, depression and anxiety, and even viewing plants can reduce blood pressure, pulse rate, and muscle tension. Gardening may also support the immune system; the “hygiene hypothesis” says beneficial bacteria found in soil can improve the microbiome and enhance immune response.

Ready to get digging? Start with these five easy-to-grow selections.

Grow Your Own: Echinacea

Also called “purple coneflower,” echinacea has long been used to support immune health. It’s native to North America, and grows well in most temperate climates. Echinacea is rich in phytochemicals that enhance immunity, reduce inflammation, and protect against viral infections; while Echinacea purpurea is the most common, research suggests benefits from multiple varieties. 

How to use it: You can use the petals, leaves, and roots of the plant. To make a tea, harvest flowers while they’re in full bloom but before they start to fade. Cut them off at the stems, right above the first or second set of leaves. Rinse them off, tie stems together, and hang to dry with the blooms pointing downward. Loosely tie a paper bag around the stems to catch petals as they drop, and store dried leaves and flowers in a glass jar. For tea, steep 2 tsp. in a cup of boiling water for 20 minutes, then strain. To use the roots, harvest them in the late fall; wash them well, cut into half-inch segments, and lay out to dry, away from direct sunlight. When roots are completely dry, store in a sealed glass jar. For tea, combine 2 tsp. of dried roots with a cup of water; simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, then strain and drink.


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