Cusp of Spring Project: Growing Safe Herbs for Stress Relief

In our backyard the plants are starting to green out way down underneath at ground level, despite numerous and tenacious patches of snow. The call of the garden is why you haven’t heard from me in a while.  Since I’m obsessed with seed starting and planting right now, and can’t seem to write about anything else, thought I’d share some of that passion with you…. 

Mom instructing in her garden a few years ago, despite Parkinson's and dementia, right before she moved. These days she gardens from a chair or wheelchair in my garden, or in the courtyard of her assisted living, but she remains just as enthusiastic and bossy!

A great project you can do along with the person you care for, no matter what his or her ability, is to plant and enjoy a simple flowering/fruiting herb garden together. Besides the obvious sensual benefits, well proven by multiple studies to improve mood, these plants may be harvested, dried, and made into nourishing, calming teas year-round.

If you’re new to herbs, please be not afraid. Chammomile tea just isn’t that radical. It’s easy and empowering to choose a simple, safe herbal tea to start with. Go slowly, stay curious, and observe how your body reacts over time. Soon you might find yourself seduced into the empowering world of DIY preventative health, if you’re not there already.

Some of the herbs you can use already come in prepared tea bags, though they’re nowhere near the freshness and potency of growing and harvesting your own, which can be done in the harshest of climates. (I’m in one of those.)  If you don’t want to start a garden project, see if any friends or neighbors have these herbs growing around.  I’d be surprised if they don’t.

A few beautiful, fun, and oh so safe herbs to start with:

  • chammomile (harest the flowering tops just after they open)
  • lavender (harvest young flowering tops for best scent)
  • lemon balm (harvest the fragrant leaves before flowering)
  • rose (harvest petals anytime scent is strong; harvest hips after the first frost)
  • raspberry leaf (harvest young leaves when tender and bright green, before fruit appears)

If you take just a bit from each plant, you won’t compromise it’s overall vigor and health.

Two blogs I love recently crafted the kind of article I’d been hankering to write this winter to share some of my favorite homegrown remedies for stress. So instead of overlapping their fabulous articles outlining some stellar herbs for calming and nourishing ourselves, I’ve posted their article links below for your enjoyment.

Most of the herbal nervines (herbs that act on the nervous system) will not interfere with medications that you or the person you care for might be taking, especially if you’re just preparing a cup of tea. But it’s always reassuring to do a check, especially if using plants and food as medicine is a new endeavor in your kitchen.  Please note that St. John’s Wort and Marshmallow Root are two herbs that WILL often slow down the absorbtion of other medications, so you’ll want to avoid those in most cases when using pharmaceuticals. 

Click here for a resource to cross-check possible herb/drug interations.

The first article link below is by Meg Dickey, guest posted at the blog, “Keeper of the Home”.  It’s simple and straightforward for complete beginners, and is nicely complemented by the next article by Kathy Eich (one of my current, and favorite, teachers of herbalism), at Red Root Mountain. Kathy’s more intricate post delves deeper into the art of customizing herbs for different people with their unique constitutions and health patterns, which can make a world of difference in the way herbs work their subtle, life-changing magic.

Hint: When they talk about tinctures, they mean an herb prepared in an alcohol solution for preservation, stored in a glass dropper bottle. You can find these at herb or natural foods stores, or easily make them yourself.  Feel free to drop me a note if you’d like more resources to do so.

Meg Dickey’s article from the blog “Keeper of the Home”:
http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2011/01/naturally-neutralizing-stress-herbs-that-calm.html

Kathy Eich’s article from Red Root Mountain:
http://www.redrootmountain.com/relieving-stress-part-i-nervine-tonics-for-a-new-year/277

Enjoy!

passionflower in my herb garden last summer - powerful elixir for stubborn mental stress

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This entry was posted in caregiver stress, support, and respite, dementia, holistic health, inclusion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Cusp of Spring Project: Growing Safe Herbs for Stress Relief

  1. Marty says:

    Lovely smell wafting from your post today!
    So can I use raspberry leaves in cooking? That would make my day!

  2. Hi Marty!

    Dried raspberry leaves make a nice, rich tea, lovely with a little honey and lemon. The taste isn’t fruity at all, and hardly even a hint of raspberry essence- it’s full and earthy, and is great for nourishing anyone, but especially women. Not so much unlike a weaker black tea.

    Enjoy!

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