Friday, February 11, 2011

Growing Your Own Medicinal Herbs

I made a decision a few years ago to grow my own medicinal herbs and spices. It's a step on the road to natural self sufficiency. Medicinal herbs can be strong medicine and have to be taken carefully. I am not going to tell you how to use the medicinal herbs since I am not a qualified herbalist but there are a lot of good books out there on the subject and websites as well. One website I have used is "Anne's Remedy". It lists all the medicinal herbs in alphabetical order and tells you what they are for.

They also sell the herb oils, tinctures, teas and so forth but wouldn't you rather just grow your own? It can get a bit expensive buying these things, with postage and all.

I am not recommending that you use medicinal herbs in place of standardized medicine. I still go to the doctor and take the medicines that he gives me, when I need to. (I am usually almost dead by that time and have to be dragged there. It's free here in Canada, but I still hate going, lol). I tell him what natural remedies I am using. I think this is important if you are getting a prescription medicine because some of the natural remedies may react with the prescription drug. I do use the medicinal herbs that I grow, but very carefully and in their weaker form as tea.

I also grow most of my spices but I did not dry them this year. (I just didn't have time, you know... BUILDING FENCES!!! and all.) I threw a few fresh chopped spices into the freezer and have been using those, but this coming year I plan to supply all my dried spice needs, where possible, myself.
I have a lot of thyme that I planted from seed three years ago. I also have oregano, although I want to get some Greek oregano and I have sage, cilantro, mint, lemon mint, basil and lemon basil and rosemary. I never use terragon, so I don't grow it. (We are stuck in a rut and use the same spices all the time.)

I plan to dry all of these this year and keep them in jars in a cool, dark place. Probably the spare room upstairs, since it is unheated in the winter and the basement is too damp. You can see what I do with the mint in a previous post "Using All That Mint". (I have discovered this winter that I like a mint shot in my coffee, as well. I'm going to try that at home :-)

I do wish I could grow cinnimon and nutmeg. Ciinnimon is not that expensive to buy but nutmeg sure is! I use a lot of both in the pumpkin/squash recipes for pie and muffins. If you discover a hardy, short season cinnamon and nutmeg that I can grow, please let me know!

Another thing I want to grow this year is my own ginger. Has anyone grown ginger for drying and grinding? How does it keep in that form? How does it compare to storebought? I'm betting it is a lot more potent! The big question for me is this: Is it worth the time and effort, when my time is so short and I use most of my "effort" already? I need to know.

One thing I am going to do with my herbs this year is make my own herbal tea blends. Not "tea from China" tea , since it doesn't grow here either :-( I drink a lot of green tea and herbal tea blends, especially the mints. I hear that chocolate mint makes a fabulous tea. I have to grow some chocolate mint this year! I might even break down and actually BUY one in the spring! (I tend to avoid those places that sell reasonably priced plants. Too many of them just hop into my cart and insist on following me home!)

Another herb I am going to grow and use this year is stevia. I use too much of the artificial sweetener in tea and want to get away from it. (I know real sugar is healthier, but I don't metabolize simple sugars very well.) If you grow and use stevia, I wouldn't mind some feedback on the taste vs. sweetener and sugar.

I am going to dry these things hanging under the front porch roof where they are out of the sun and get the maximum air flow (and look so "country chic"). This is the mint that I dried last year. It is still hanging out there in -16c temps today. I guess I should have frozen it too. (Time! I had no time!!)

Now that I have these cool new spice jars, I might get adventurous and try new spices, just because I like the way they look in the jar!
For those of you who are interested, I sell a small few medicinal herb and spice seeds in my seed store at The Providence Acres Farm website.


Janice said...

Iced coffee with mint is a delicious refresher during the hot garden days in the sun! If you find the nutmeg you are looking for, please, post it for us!

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

Good tip! I like iced coffee in the summer.

dilli said...

I love growing our own herbs for cooking and medicinal use.. i have not grown it but many talk of Nigella for nutmeg .. stevia i use all the time, love it although i cannot seem to get it to grow from seed no matter how hard i try.. you may want to start with small plants.. it is also not cold tolerant at all so do watch that..

The Japanese Redneck said...

I grow ginger, but only for the flowers. The roots I have are small compared to what's in the store.

The Girl in the Pink Dress said...

What a great post on herbs!
I love mint shots in my coffee/hot chocolate as well, so will definitely be checking that out!
As for cinnamon and nutmeg, I hear you *sigh...*
I'm growing cinnamonette basil as a substitute. I haven't tried it yet, so we'll see how it works out. You might find some substitutes at
A vast variety of herb seeds!
The Girl in the Pink Dress

Mr. H. said...

I have always wanted to grow giner too, but we don't have good enough lighting inside or a long enough season outside. I hope you do try it as I would love to see how it does for you.

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

Dilli, Nigella seeds ground as a nutmeg substitute? Really? Really? Do you use them for that purpose? Do they taste like nutmeg? I have some nigella seed. I have to do some research into that one!

I will try to grow a year's worth of stevia during the summer and dry it for grinding.

LOVE my little electric coffee/spice grinder!

MikeH said...

I hear that chocolate mint makes a fabulous tea. I have to grow some chocolate mint this year! I might even break down and actually BUY one in the spring!

I'll send you a rooted bit of ours. We got it from Richters a few years ago. It really does have a chocolate taste to it. I'd never really been a fan of herbal teas until I tasted chocolate mint tea with a teaspoon of honey.

Another herb I am going to grow and use this year is stevia.

I'd been using organic stevia bought from a health food store. Then last summer, we grew Richters Crazy Sweet® Stevia. At the end of the summer, we potted it up and brought it inside to see if we could over winter it. So far, so good. It's even in flower!

I wouldn't mind some feedback on the taste vs. sweetener and sugar.

I much prefer it to chemical sweetners. I find that it has no aftertaste nor is it bitter. I use it in place of sugar. My wife, on the other hand, says that it has an aftertaste. It looks like one's taste buds are a factor.

DayPhoto said...

I love growing my own herbs and spices. You did a nice job with this post.


Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

MikeH, thanks so much for the choc mint! It will be very welcome!
I am definitely going to grow Stevia this year! Must go look for some this weekend.

I looked into the nigella seed. It's the nigella called "niger" that's used as bird feed that is sometimes used as a substitute for nutmeg, not nigella "love in a mist". Interesting...

Lindsay said...

I think I missed where you are located at some point so I'm not sure how applicable this is, but I'm in FL and here, ginger grows like crazy.

People start it in their garden beds and it travels all over the place. Anywhere with good, moist soil. It grows all along bogs, retention ponds, drainage ditches, wet spots in yards, etc.