Herb Garden...

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by ErinC, Dec 28, 2005.

  1. ErinC

    ErinC Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    48
    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2005
    Location:
    Michigan
    Hi!

    I've tried having my own kitchen garden a few years in a row now, failing miserably due to putting it in a badly drained spot. This year I'm trying again, but hopefully this will be a better plot I'm putting it on. I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions as to herbs that would be good to plant, especially for teas. I'm also considering trying some herbal perfume recipes I found. Looking for suggestions, what worked best for you, what smells best, tastes best, where you buy your seeds, etc.

    Thanks!


    Erin
     
  2. culpeper

    culpeper Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,187
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2002
    Location:
    Australia
    I have a herb-only garden. I cannot recommend any herbs to be used only as teas if you intend to use them as beverages. Without exception, herbal teas are medicines, and there's no getting around that fact. They should be taken only when needed to treat a particular ailment. :soap:

    However, for more general use, you should consider planting only those herbs you like, and know you will use. There's no point in growing garlic if you don't like garlic! You have about 20000 herbs to choose from. Much depends on your climate. IMO, no herb garden is complete without an aloe vera, also known as First Aid Plant - purely medicinal, and very useful.

    If you live in a warm/hot area, and you like Asian foods, you could consider tropical herbs such as turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, cardamom. You could think about a couple of chilli plants as well.

    If you prefer Mediterranean herbs, you'd choose herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, lavender. For culinary, medicinal, cosmetic and perfuming purposes, go for the English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, or one of its derivatives. You could think about a French Tarragon which rarely produces viable seeds, and if you can't get a plant of one, go for the Winter Tarragon, Tagetes lucida, also known as Mexican Tarragon Mint (and many other names), which is very easy to grow and makes an acceptable substitute for the real thing.

    For basic herbs, you should consider chives, garlic chives, parsley and mint (spearmint is the best all-rounder, but it should be planted in a pot). I love the lemon-flavoured herbs such as lemon balm (you can get Lime Balm if that rocks your boat more), lemon verbena, lemon savory, lemon thyme.

    Depending on your personal taste, you could consider other herbs such as coriander, anise, rocket (arugula), cumin (all annuals). A bay tree is always nice, and I have a particular fondness for elderberries. You can consider a range of scented geraniums (pelargoniums) - there's lemon, rose, nutmeg, peppermint, apple and numerous others to choose from. All are edible, and all are great for potpourri.

    Most of the culinary herbs can be used for perfuming. Most have medicinal uses, too, so consider your herbs as multi-purpose. Consider that roses are also herbs, as are flowering plants like calendula and nasturtium and violets, all of which are edible and medicinal.

    Do yourself a huge favour and prepare your garden well before planting. Dig in plenty of organic matter, especially compost, to improve the drainage. Build up the bed if necessary for the same reason. Drainage is of the first importance with most of the commonly-used herbs. Don't worry too much about fertilising - a lot of the most popular herbs do best in poor soils - but the drainage is the thing!!

    Select about half a dozen herbs to begin with, and thoroughly learn as much as you can about the uses and growing requirements of each. Once you've established those first few, you can then think about the next lot.

    I cannot suggest any place for obtaining your seeds, since I live on the other side of the world from you, but I would suggest that it's easier for a beginner to start off with seedlings rather than seeds. Try to find a specialist herb nursery for the less common herbs, but most nurseries should have a good range of herbs for sale. They should also be able to offer advice on growing them.
     

  3. ErinC

    ErinC Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    48
    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2005
    Location:
    Michigan
    Thanks so much culpeper! I did not notice anyone had replied here until just now.

    I know very little about herb gardening, as you may have gathered, and your advice was very helpful - I really appreciate it!

    Blessings,

    Erin
     
  4. bergere

    bergere Just living Life

    Messages:
    8,280
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    Location:
    Now in Virginia
    I find Mint tea and German Chamomile Tea is quite safe.

    Having had a Herb garden for a very long time, I prefer the safe Herbs.
    Mint, Chamomile, Rosemary, thyme, chives, sage, Lemon balm, lavander..etc..

    Mint & Chamomile- make good teas
    Rosemary, Thyme, Chives, Sage are great in cooking
    Lemon balm- is good in baths.. just put two or three 4" springs in the bath water..helps one relax.
    Lavander- I have always used dried and hang in my closets to keep moths out of my clothes.

    Rosemary and mint steeped to make a tea, makes a great hair rinse. If interested will write out the whole recipe.
     
  5. culpeper

    culpeper Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,187
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2002
    Location:
    Australia
    Although the culinary herbs are generally considered 'safe', there are very few which don't come with warnings! One cup of herbal tea per day is the usual recommended medicinal dosage for an adult. You need to do some homework on the herbs you intend to use as teas - some you should avoid in medicinal doses altogether. Herbal teas can and do interfere with many conventional medications. A commonly-used herb for tea-making is Lemon Balm. However, it may cause night-sweats. People with either Grave's disease or thyroid-related illness should not use this herb. Prolonged contact with balm plants or leaves may cause contact dermatitis (itching, sting, burning, reddened or blistered skin) or it may sensitize you to other allergens.

    Mint tea taken to excess or too frequently has an accumulative effect, and may interfere with the digestive processes, and cause headaches. It will dry up breast-milk, it interferes with iron absorption, it may cause dermatitis, it should not be given to children, and should not be used by nursing mothers. In some cases, it can cause allergic reactions - not necessarily immediately, but after using it regularly over time. The tea most commonly used for tea is Peppermint, but all mints have the same medicinal actions, and Pennyroyal should be avoided altogether. Even the smell of it can cause a pregnant woman to miscarry.

    Chamomile tea: Sufferers of allergies to daisies, ragweed asters or chrysanthemums should avoid using chamomile. In cases of fragile pregnancy, chamomile should be avoided as it will promote a delayed menses. It may cause stomach upsets in some people.

    You will naturally do as you please with regard to taking herbs as medicines, but it's best that you be aware, at least, that while herbs definitely do have an upside, they also definitely do have a downside as well. Do NOT assume that all herbs are safe in all situations for all people. My favourite word when it comes to herbs - MODERATION. Throw in a truckload of common-sense, too.
     
  6. bergere

    bergere Just living Life

    Messages:
    8,280
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    Location:
    Now in Virginia
    Yes, People should use caution and take into account their health conditions.

    However, I have been drinking mint tea every day for the last 20 years. Normally 2 to 3 cups. Tell you right now, I have not had an problems whats so ever.

    People can even have problems large and small with normal coffee or tea.
    Now, Coffee does cause me problems.

    Rosemary should not be used in cooking with Pregant women.
    However knowing lots of Italian Grandmothers with lots of Children and having used lots of Rosemary in cooking. Makes me wonder.

    Comfry.. and I have been going on about this for years,,should never be taken internally. Can cause the liver to fail.

    So it does depend on each person. I have a good knowledge of herbs and their uses.
     
  7. ErinC

    ErinC Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    48
    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2005
    Location:
    Michigan
    Wow, thanks for the warning - I have a thyroid disorder I've been trying to get under control, and I'm afraid I love lemon balm...Very glad to know that! Out of curiosity, are there others that I should be completely avoid, thyroid-wise?


    Hehe, I only have problems with coffee when I don't have it:) Interesting about the Italian gals...hmmm....


    I've read so many books on herb gardens, remedies...etc., but I have a ton yet to learn - please keep the info coming!
     
  8. culpeper

    culpeper Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,187
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2002
    Location:
    Australia
    Echinacea is another herb you shouldn't use if you have thyroid problems. Also Ephedra (never considered a safe herb!), go easy on the garlic (it acts on the thyroid and helps to regulate it, may interfere with thyroid medication for that reason), gotu kola (avoid if thyroid is over-active), horseradish (once used to treat over-active thyroid so if your's is under-active, avoid it, and avoid if taking thyroid medication), lemon balm inhibits thyroid activity, motherwort is used to treat over-active thyroid, soya beans (and therefore soy products) may interfere with thyroid activity.

    There are no doubt more, but that's just off the top of my head.

    As for rosemary, excessive use may cause convulsions or poisoning. Avoid when pregnant, if or suffering from high blood pressure or epilepsy. Luckily, rosemary is one herb which is best used with discretion! It has quite a strong flavour, and one small sprig added to a stew for a family is more than enough. It's unlikely that those Italian mothers and grandmothers have been taking rosemary in medicinal quantities.
     
  9. dlangland

    dlangland dlangland

    Messages:
    827
    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2005
    Location:
    NW Iowa
    I think the trick that anyone using herbs, whether homegrown, or purchased should do the required research and reading beforehand. Lots of books and information on the internet. Yet, sometimes it's merely a dose and tolerance thing, for I am as allergic as they come, yet never experienced any problem with high doses of chamomile. It comes down to knowing your own body. Deb
     
  10. bergere

    bergere Just living Life

    Messages:
    8,280
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    Location:
    Now in Virginia
    Nope just used it for cooking.. but boy,, did they cook a lot!! Good stuff too. ;)
     
  11. ErinC

    ErinC Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    48
    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2005
    Location:
    Michigan
     
  12. culpeper

    culpeper Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,187
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2002
    Location:
    Australia
    Herbs which help to stimulate the immune system include:

    Astragalus, Basil, Boneset, Cat’s Claw, Chamomile, Echinacea, Ginger, Ginseng, Goldenseal, Gotu Kola, Liquorice, Maitake, Marshmallow, Mistletoe, Reishi, Shiitake, Schizandra, St. John’s Wort.

    All of these have other medicinal actions as well, and some (echinacea, ginseng and St. John's Wort especially) should only be taken under expert supervision. If your doctor doesn't know much about herbs, he won't be able to advise you.

    I strongly recommend that you find a professionally qualified herbalist - THEN take the information and recommendations to your doctor. The two professionals can then work in together to find the best treatment for you.

    Some of the herbs mentioned have a stronger immunostimulant action than others. Astragalus, for instance, is often used in conjunction with chemo- or radiation therapy to help counter the side-effects. It seems to be a good one to think about. Also the mushrooms (maitake, reishi, shiitake).

    Please don't go about self-medicating or self-diagnosing. You could be doing yourself more harm than good. Also remember that I'm not prescribing or recommending any particular treatment - just offering information.
     
  13. ErinC

    ErinC Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    48
    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2005
    Location:
    Michigan
    Thanks culpeper! I really appreciate the info & will definitely go about this carefully. Thanks again!


    Blessings,

    Erin
     
  14. ceresone

    ceresone Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    5,018
    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2005
    such good information! wish culpepper had a site with all this on it-my printer dont have enough ink to print this whole thread. thanks so much--
     
  15. culpeper

    culpeper Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,187
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2002
    Location:
    Australia
    Ceresone - no need to print it out. Just copy and paste into a Word file or similar. Store on disk as a backup.

    I'm glad you all find my information helpful. With herbs, ignorance isn't bliss!
     
  16. Pony

    Pony Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    19,807
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2003
    Culpeper, is "boneset" the same as "knitbone," aka comfrey?

    I eat LOADS of basil, as I absolutely adore pesto. But if I eat too much of it, or smell too much of it when processing, I get headachy and feel crummy.

    I like sage quite a bit, and even use it for tea, but I don't drink it daily.

    I read that pennyroyal is a good insect repellant, but it's also a Pony repellant. I do NOT like the scent at all!

    Pony!
     
  17. Jeff54321

    Jeff54321 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,094
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
     
  18. ErinC

    ErinC Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    48
    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2005
    Location:
    Michigan
     
  19. culpeper

    culpeper Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,187
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2002
    Location:
    Australia
    Boneset and Comfrey are 2 different herbs. It's important to know the botanical name of any herb you use - common names are horribly unreliable! As the following shows:

    Boneset is Eupatorium perfoliatum. Also called Feverwort, Agueweed, Crosswort, Indian Sage, Sweating plant, Thoroughwort, Vegetable Antimony, Wood Boneset, Eupatorium.

    Comfrey is Symphytum officinale. Also called Knitbone, Gumplant, Healing Herb, Boneset, Slippery Root, Bruisewort, Gooseberry-pie, (Sweet) Suckers, Church Bells, Pigweed. Blackwort. Assear. Consound. Miracle Herb, Wallwort.

    Just to confuse issues, further - Bugle (Ajuga reptans) is sometimes called Middle Comfrey!!

    As for doctors - perhaps Australian doctors are more progressive than American ones. Most have at least a fundamental knowledge of the most commonly-used medicinal herbs, and most are willing to check out the ones they don't know. Hospitals even issue information pamphlets to patients booking in for surgery, listing herbs and supplements to avoid beforehand. Most doctors here have computers on their desks, on which they have a data base to refer to, to advise patients on which herbs to avoid when patients are taking certain medications, interactions, alternatives etc. Some doctors (including a specialist I attended recently) will go so far as to prescribe herbal treatments. When I was admitted to hospital after being taken in as an emergency patient recently, triage nurses were keen to know whether I'd been taking herbs, and which ones. They are trained to recognise which ones can pose a potential threat to patients in crisis - for instance, it's important to know which herbs may cause bleeding during surgery, or which ones may affect anaesthesia, or whether a herb has interacted negatively with conventional medication, or a pre-existing condition. Even chemists will give warnings about such things when dispensing medications. And, in my experience, even dentists are getting in on the act!

    Maybe I've just been lucky to have encountered open-minded, knowledgeable doctors! My own GP is very interested in herbal treatments, and he and I have had many a discussion on the subject. Perhaps its time for American doctors (and doctors everywhere) to emerge from the Dark Ages! I daresay there are some Australian doctors who have an anti-alternative-treatment bias, but I haven't encountered any. There is a place for herbs, and it can be side-by-side with conventional (modern) medicine.

    In any case, if you have a good doctor, and you ask about herbs, the very least s/he can do for you is to investigate and interpret the information for you.