Spring is here! With the cold of winter finally behind us, the last thing you are thinking of is the cold and flu season. However, a little thought and planning now can make for a garden full of natural healers when the coughs and sniffles return.
These five plants are well-known, easy-to-grow, and a must-have in any medicinal garden.
Garlic. By far one of nature's best healers, garlic is a potent cold and flu fighter. It has antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties, and stimulates the immune system. I take it whole, add it to cold-kicker concoctions, use it to treat earaches, and often cook with it. Although best planted during the fall, in cold climates like mine, there is no harm in planting it during the early spring for this year’s harvest, and planting again in the fall for next year’s.
Horseradish. You probably know how strong fresh horseradish can be. My grandmother used to say, “That will clear your sinuses!” and she was right. If you can stand the heat, fresh horseradish clears clogged nasal passages right up! It is an antiseptic and full of vitamins and minerals. Mix it with honey and apple cider vinegar to calm the flavor. And please, learn from my mistakes: plant it in a contained section of your garden, or a large pot. This plant spreads!
Ginger. A well-known anti-nauseant and one of my personal favorites, ginger is easy to grow in a large pot inside since it suffers in cold climates. It is beneficial for clearing up respiratory congestion and sore throats.
Sage. If you plan to use it in your cooking, sage is a popular herb in many gardens. However, it is useful for fighting off illness as well. It is antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and fights against laryngitis, tonsillitis, and sore throats.
Thyme. This is another culinary herb with a rich medicinal profile. Thyme, my go-to cough medicine, has disinfectant and antifungal properties. It can be used as a rinse to soothe sore throats and fights against colds.
For the Adventurous Gardener
If you're ready to step beyond the fundamentals, these three additional herbs are perfect for you.
Elder. I have noticed a lot of written material lately extolling the benefits of elderberries, and for good reason! Since they are immune-boosting and anti-viral, they fight off both colds and the flu (like this elderberry tincture). The plant itself can grow as tall as 30 feet, so it will need space in your garden. I haven't yet grown it, but I hope to soon!
Echinacea. Although widely-known and easy-to-grow, capturing the medicinal properties of echinacea is difficult. Its immune-boosting prowess is known even outside of herbal circles. Use the whole plant, gathered over the course of one whole season, to make the most effective medicines.
Goldenseal. This is one of my favorites for treating sinus congestion, infections, and colds in general. I stopped using it when I discovered it was becoming endangered, so, although a little tricky to grow, I can’t wait to try it in my own garden.
These plants are more than just cold and flu fighters. There is enough plant power here to fight off a variety of maladies and help you maintain health all year long!
Do you grow medicinal herbs in your garden? What are your favourite cold and flu fighters?
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