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Don’t forget your medicine

Most of us know by now how beneficial gardening, plants and growing your own food can be.

First and foremost are the improvements to your mental and physical health.

Improving environmental conditions, benefits to the economy (local and at large,) and strengthening educational efforts from school age and beyond, are a few more in a long list of why plants and gardening have always been, and will always be essential.

As we are recovering and reopening the economy and the world, while still being mindful of our surroundings, we can take advantage of some plants’ “added benefits” of medicinal and healing properties, many of which we still every day in our grocery stores, apothecaries, pharmacies and perhaps our own windowsills and backyards.

In case you can’t or don’t want to venture out, or you DO venture out and can’t find what you’re looking for at your favorite store, you may want to plant or keep a few of these handy in case you need them.

Though this list is by no means exhaustive, here’s some of our favorite plants that have many purposes:

Aloe: known as a burn salve for centuries, and in many treatments & ointments for sunburn and other minor burns, and small cuts, the cooling properties of the “gel” found inside a stalk of your favorite houseplant.

Dandelion: It is a diuretic that helps your liver to detoxify your body. It also contains potassium, and some have used it to treat eczema, intestinal problems and arthritis. The leaves can also help to regulate blood sugar. If you haven’t eliminated them from your yard, you can use them for this instead of yanking them out!

Rosemary: This is one of the oldest plants in our diet. Some studies have shown rosemary can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s decease. Also, its oils naturally fight bacteria and fungi in your body and home.

Lavender: can be be used for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. But its very fragrance can help with anxiety, migraine, insomnia and depression.

Thyme: The citric variation of this herb (Thymus citriodorus) is known for its positive effects on children’s digestion and its antibiotic and anti-fungal properties, particularly used for healing superficial wounds.

Celery: Better known as a salad topping, a vehicle for peanut butter or a garnish in a brunch cocktail, celery is also a great diuretic. The seed extract of this vegetable reduces blood pressure in animals and yields sedative and anti-convulsive effects for humans. (note: many of the health benefits are said to be best amplified when consuming celery extract or seeds, rather than a stalk of the raw plant)

Sunflowers: According to the Medical Horticultural Society of Massachusetts, “a tea made from the leaves of sunflowers is an astringent, a diuretic and an expectorant, and it also works to reduce fevers.”

Mint: Headaches, skin irritations, nausea, pain, diarrhea and bloating are some of the many symptoms that mint alleviates. It also helps with digestion and chest congestion.

Nepeta cataria: This plant, whose common name changes depending on where you are (cat mint, catnip, cat’s basil) is famous for inducing hallucinatory states of mind in cats. But people can chew its leaves to alleviate toothaches, fevers (because it causes sweating) and as a sedative. It is also known to repel mosquitoes much more effectively than store bought repellent.

Basil: was first used in the Greco-Roman world to repel insects and as an antidote to scorpion’s poison. It can also be used help combat stress, diabetes, and asthma.

How many of these do you have growing in your garden or landscape?

What other plants do you know have double benefits?