Gardeners everywhere are rediscovering the benefits of herbs, not just for the fresh flavour that they add to food, but also for their medicinal properties. So, just as we keep a First Aid Box of medicines in our homes, how about growing our own Herb Aid Garden? Try it, it's easy to do. For herbs, no matter how exotic, are pretty easy to grow-as long as you meet their sun and shade requirements. You don't even require a big garden, they can easily thrive in potted plants in terraces or balconies or even window sills. Here's how to get your Herb Aid Box started:
This magic herb is used for skin problems, indigestion and even diabetes. One-inch thick piece of a mature leaf, cut into small pieces and chewed daily helps bring down sugar levels. For indigestion, for which its use is miraculous, add black salt and ajwain to the gel or pieces. To grow, plant its cutting in a potting mix of loose and sandy soil. Select a big pot as aloe needs lots of room to grow. During winter, water once every two to three weeks and during summer, water when slightly dry. A good amount of sunlight through the day is a must.
Herbal tea using fresh lemon grass relieves stress and nervousness. Plant saplings in rich, moist garden soil in an area which gets good sun. When growing in a container, use one-third compost, one-third topsoil and one-sixth vermiculite. Start the seeds in a six-inch pot and move into successively larger pots as the clump grows.
It is known for its effectiveness in enhancing memory and promoting alertness. It's also used for treating various mental conditions, besides being a great antioxidant. You can chew four to five brahmi leaves in the morning or add them to a sandwich-filling. If growing in the garden, water well during dry weather as the roots are fairly shallow. If growing in a pot, move it to a warm, sheltered spot in winter as it is frost-prone.
Gaining popularity as a herbal substitute for sugar, all you need to do is pluck off a few leaves, crush them and put them in your tea or dessert. You can also dry the leaves and store them as powder. A semi-humid subtropical plant, stevia can be grown easily like any other vegetable crop even in the kitchen garden. It thrives in well-drained red soil as well as sandy loam soil but not in saline soils. Since seed germination rate is very poor, it is propagated vegetatively.
Every part of basil is useful, that's why it is considered very auspicious in Indian homes. It is an effective preventive aid for many diseases and its fresh leaves can be chewed to cure mouth ulcers as well as cough and cold. It also has anti-stress, antihypertensive and anti-bacterial properties. For planting, scatter seeds in a nursery pot or flat tray filled with any standard potting soil and cover them with a small amount of soil. Water gently but thoroughly and place it in a sunny location. Expect germination in about one week. When young plants are three to four inches tall, transplant them to a sunny spot in the garden. After they're established, they require little water. Tulsi plants will self-sow and often reward you with new plants the following spring.
Also called the Indian ginseng, its roots, leaves and fruits (berry) possess tremendous medicinal value and are used as sedatives, cardioprotective and anti-arthritic agents as well as antioxidants. Two leaves eaten with lukewarm water with half a spoon of honey and a pinch of black salt help reduce obesity. It grows well in sandy loam or light red soil and requires dry season during its growing period.
For planting, sprinkle tiny seeds onto the surface and rake in lightly. Mist regularly so that the surface does not dry out at till the seedlings have developed a deep root system. High humidity is good for initial germination but will encourage fungal problems later. Seedlings can be transplanted when 10 cm tall and germination should be expected within two weeks. So, water generously while young and sparingly when older.
This plant has been used for years to keep annoying bugs away. So it makes sense to grow it in your garden, doesn't it? It looks especially good when grown as an ornamental grass in mixed borders. It requires abundant moisture and sunshine for good growth. Sandy loam soil with abundant organic matter is the most suitable for its growth, while heavy clay soils and sandy soils are to be avoided.
Propagation is done by splitting large clumps into several smaller ones. Besides these, some equally popular and easy-togrow herbs are mint, parsley, curry leaves, oregano, sage, thyme and rosemary. So go on, let your garden patch bloom with health and happiness.