Spring is here and if you’re like me, you are excited to show off your green thumb with a little gardening! Growing herbs at home is fun, satisfying, and good for your health. These medicinal herbs will add flavor, fragrance and extra nutrition to your food. Herbs may be propagated from seed, however, if you’re new to gardening, you may want to purchase starter plants from your local plant nursery to get you going. Read on for more about how to grow some of our favorite herbs, their medicinal benefits, and ways to incorporate these tasty beneficial plants into your diet.
- Medicinal benefits: Recently there has been much research into the health benefits conferred by the essential oils found in basil. Scientific studies in vitro have established that compounds in basil oil have potent antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties (1), and potential for use in treating cancer (2).
- Grow it: Basil is very sensitive to cold and does best grown in hot, dry conditions. Grow basil in full sun in flower beds or containers. Pinch off any flowers that you see so they don’t go to seed. Seeding will lead to bland and sparse plants.
- Love it: Basil is commonly used fresh in cooked recipes. In general, it is added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. Try adding it to pizza, spaghetti sauce, or making a homemade pesto.
- Medicinal benefits: Thyme has a long history of use in natural medicine in connection with chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion. Thyme has antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. Thyme is also an excellent source of vitamin C.
- Grow it: Grow thyme in full sun with well-drained soil. It is generally planted in the spring, and thereafter grows as a perennial.
- Love it: Thyme is a wonderful addition to bean, egg and vegetable dishes.
- Medicinal benefits: Lemon Balm is used medicinally as an herbal tea, or in extract form. It is used as mild sedative or calming agent. At least one study has found it to be effective at reducing stress (3). Lemon Balm has also been shown to improve mood and mental performance (4).
- Grow it: Lemon Balm is a perennial herb known for the gentle lemon scent of its leaves. Remove the flowers of lemon balm to prevent it from self-seeding and becoming weedy. It thrives in full sun to part shade. The herb may be grown in beds or as a container plant.
- Love it: Lemon balm is often used in herbal teas, both hot and iced, often in combination with other herbs such as spearmint. It is also frequently paired with fruit dishes. This herb can be used in fish dishes and is the key ingredient in lemon balm pesto.
- Medicinal benefits: The medicinal properties of chives are similar to those of garlic, but weaker. Chives are reported to have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system. They also have mild stimulant, diuretic, and antiseptic properties.
- Grow it: Versatile and easy-growing, chives thrive in sunny spots. Chives can grow in containers and also form an eye-catching edging in planting beds. Chives have insect-repelling properties that can be used in gardens to control pests.
- Love it: Break up edible chive blossoms on salads for lively onion flavor, or dice and sprinkle unopened, immature flower buds on egg dishes or cream soups as a garnish.
- Medicinal benefits: Dill is believed to have chemoprotective and bacteriostatic properties. It is also a good source of calcium, antioxidants, and vitamin C.
- Grow it: Dill is beautiful, easy to grow, and attracts beneficial butterflies and bugs. The plant requires warm summer climates with well-drained fertile soil to flourish.
- Love it: Snip tasty foliage to flavor potatoes, soups, fish and egg dishes. Save seeds for seasoning bread, stews, root vegetables, and pickles.
1. Bozin B, Mimica-Dukic N, Simin N, Anackov G (March 2006). “Characterization of the volatile composition of essential oils of some lamiaceae spices and the antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of the entire oils”. J. Agric. Food Chem. 54 (5): 1822–8.doi:10.1021/jf051922u. PMID 16506839
2. Manosroi J, Dhumtanom P, Manosroi A (April 2006). “Anti-proliferative activity of essential oil extracted from Thai medicinal plants on KB and P388 cell lines.” Cancer Lett. 235 (1): 114–20.doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2005.04.021. PMID 15979235
3. Kennedy, D. O.; Little, W; Scholey, AB (2004). “Attenuation of Laboratory-Induced Stress in Humans After Acute Administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm).” Psychosomatic Medicine 66 (4): 607–13. PMID 15272110
4. Kennedy, D O; Wake, G; Savelev, S; Tildesley, N T J; Perry, E K; Wesnes, K A; Scholey, A B (2003). “Modulation of Mood and Cognitive Performance Following Acute Administration of Single Doses of Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) with Human CNS Nicotinic and Muscarinic Receptor-Binding Properties.” Neuropsychopharmacology 28(10): 1871–81. doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1300230. PMID 12888775.