Medicinal Garden: G-Q
Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus)
An herbaceous perennial plant native to Europe and western Asia, but widely grown throughout Northern America, the chelidonium majus is used to cure various digestive tract problems including upset stomach, gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, loss of appetite, stomach cancer, intestinal polyps, and liver and gallbladder disorders. Other medicinal practices for greater celandine include detoxification, treating menstrual cramps, cough, breast lumps, chest pain, fluid retention (edema), hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), high blood pressure, asthma, and osteoarthritis. Some individuals apply greater celandine directly to the skin to treat warts, rashes, eczema, and scabies. The root is also chewed to relieve toothaches. The chemical compounds in greater celandine might slow the growth of cancer cells, but may be harmful to normal cells.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
While lavender is frequently used as a fragrance ingredient in aromatherapy products to achieve relaxation, it also has several medical benefits. Lavender is commonly used therapeutically by individuals who suffer from restlessness, insomnia, nervousness and depression. Others add lavender to bathwater to treat blood circulation disorders while simultaneously balancing their mental well-being. Lavender can also be used to relieve digestive issues such as upset stomach, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal swelling from gas. Additionally, those experiencing pain from migraines, headaches, toothaches, sprains, nerve pain, sores, and joint pain can use lavender to alleviate the discomfort. If used in oil form, lavender has the ability to repel mosquitos and other insects and can even treat hair loss. Unfortunately, when taken orally, lavender can cause constipation, headache, and increased appetite. Lavender rarely causes irritation to adults, however, it may potentially be unsafe for young males who have not yet reached puberty. It is known to disrupt the normal hormones of a young man’s body, which could result in abnormal breast growth called gynecomastia.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Native to Southern Europe and North Africa, the strong lemon flavor of the lemon balm leaves and flowers may be used to flavor foods. Medicinally, lemon balm has long been used for treating sores, tumors and insect bites topically. Prepared as a tea, it may be used to treat depression, nervousness, indigestion, high cholesterol, migraines and break a fever. Lemon balm propagates easily by seed, cuttings or division in the springtime and is hardy in a full sun garden and will spread readily. Containment in the garden is usually the biggest growing challenge.
Monkshood (Aconitum napellus)
Also known as “aconitum,” “dogs bane,” “tiger’s bane,” or “European monkhood,” monkshood is used to treat both external and internal maladies. When applied externally, monkshood preparations can be used to soothe pain while internal consumption treats high fevers, however, it may be toxic unless prepared by a homeopathic professional. Monkshood contains pseudaconitine, which is an alkaloid and is extremely toxic. Ingestion of monkshood will cause minor gastrointestinal issues, and, if enough is consumed, may cause your heart rate to slow, which ultimately leads to death. Monkshood is a perennial plant and will grow mostly in the mountainous northern hemisphere. The plant serves as food for many different moth species and acts as an attractant for bumblebees.
Onion (Allium cepa)
Often touted as one of the world’s healthiest foods, onions contain a flavonoid called quercetin, which is said to prevent the onset of different types of cancers; onions also reduce the symptoms of bladder infections and decrease blood pressure. The sulfur found in onions, acts as a blood thinner and reduces the overall risk of heart disease. The beneficial flavonoids are found in the outermost layer of the onion, so make to peel a minimal amount of skin.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Oregano is a perennial herb within the genus Origanum, and is extremely aromatic and has a variety of culinary applications. Its wide variety of uses has resulted in the numerous species and subspecies bred over the centuries to produce an equally large range of flavor profiles and qualities. Medicinally, oregano is used to treat respiratory, gastrointestinal and urinary tract disorders as well as menstrual cramps. The herb is also applied topically to help treat a number of skin conditions, such as acne and dandruff.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Parsley has had a wide range of practical uses throughout human history. The Romans used parsley to cover up the scent of dead bodies, bad breath and alcohol while the ancient Greeks would place the herb in wreaths awarded to winning athletes. Parsley didn’t become popular for culinary or medicinal purposes until the Middle Ages. It can be used medicinally to help remedy the body’s ability to retain water (diuretic); it can help with kidney problems, digestive issues, appetite stimulation and bad breath. The leaves, stem, and seeds can all be ingested, which makes parsley the perfect ingredient for decoction. Decoction is the best method to draw out beneficial healing methods of many coarse plants, roots, bark, or heavy leaves and is achieved by boiling 1 oz. of dried herb to 1 pint of water. Although its medicinal properties are often questioned, parsley serves as a perfect dietary supplement containing vitamins A, B and C, iron and calcium. It grows well in rich, moist, and well-drained soil.
The passionflower is domestic to South America and was planted as a crop for hundreds of years by the Incas, Maya, and other indigenous peoples. It was later introduced to Europe in the early 1800s. Now, the passionflower can be found in parts of North America, Australia, Africa, and Asia; however, the natural habitat of the passionflower is dwindling due to deforestation, thus making the flower more likely to become extinct. As a medicine, passionflower is mostly used to relieve symptoms of anxiety, narcotic drug withdraw, and provides relief to short-term depression. It is said that consuming up to 45 drops of passionflower extract, found at your local health store, is as effective at reducing symptoms of anxiety as anxiety prescription medicine. While consuming passionflower is generally healthy, possible side effects include dizziness, confusion, irregular muscle contractions and nausea. It is recommended to stop consuming passionflower two weeks before any scheduled surgery, as it will increase the effects of anesthesia.
Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)
Indigenous to Europe and the Middle East, peppermint is a hybrid mint, a cross between water mint and spearmint. Peppermint is cultivated in many regions of the world and is occasionally found in the wild with its parent species. It is an herbaceous, rhizomatous perennial plant that grows 30–90 cm (12–35 in.) tall, with smooth stems and a square cross section. The rhizomes are wide spreading and fleshy, and bear fibrous roots. Peppermint flowers from mid to late summer and thrives in moist habitats, including streamsides and drainage ditches. As a hybrid, peppermint is usually sterile, and reproduction is achieved by the spreading of its rhizomes. If placed, it can grow almost anywhere.