The Farmers Market

Medicinal plants grown in your own gardens can reduce your dependence on drugs, if not completely eliminate them. But growing random herbs with medicinal properties doesn’t help.

It is a common myth that all herbal preparations are safe by virtue of being natural. This is far from true. A typical example is foxglove or Digitalis purpurea. It has a positive effect on heart function, with the cardiac drug digitalin extracted from the plant. However, ingesting any part of the plant can induce nausea and vomiting, and can even lead to total collapse from digitalis intoxication and death.

Accessibility is another issue, as in the case of rosy periwinkle Catharanthus roseus/Vinca rosea from which anticancer drugs vinblastine and vincristine are obtained. You don’t benefit from growing this plant unless you are an experienced herbalist who can put it to good use. Otherwise, it will just remain a display specimen in your garden. You need to grow plants whose goodness you can access through simple preparations such as teas and infusions, poultices and powders.

Some medicinal plants are to be used for treating specific ailments, while others have a generalized positive effect on our health when used regularly. Many herbs belonging to the latter group have found their way into our culinary scene as flavoring agents. Your medicinal garden should ideally have such plants that have practical uses for the common man besides being easy to grow.

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