The birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing, the sun is kissing our cheeks, and we (Calgarians) have an overwhelming sense of relief to feel SPRING. No matter where you are in the world, if you are shedding your winter clothes, watching the rain sweep the dirt from the streets, cleaning out your cupboards or pulling bikes out of the garage it is my hope that you will be enticed to get into your garden. Furthermore, how your garden can also be a part of your wellbeing.

Without plants, there would be no life. They are the sole reason that we are able to eat, drink, and breath. For centuries people have used them for food, and for medicine. In this post we will take a closer look at five therapeutic plants that can be harvested all summer long on your balcony, in a windowsill or straight into the ground.

Apart from the healing effects of the plants themselves, spending a bit of time to grow them yourself is healing. Gardening will bring you joy, get you outside, save you money, and teach you something new. For those of you who simply see having a garden as a bit of an ambitious undertaking, no worries. These herbs are easy to source at many local grocery stores.

Well, without further a-do lets tantalize our senses with recipes and knowledge with my friends: Thyme, Lavender, Stevia, Mint and Lemon Balm.

THYME
Thymus vulgaris

Therapeutic Actions:
Anti-septic, anti-helmintic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, astringent, expectorant.

We know this dude as a popular culinary herb when in-fact it has a long history of healing and protective qualities. Without being aware, you have likely used it medicinally before. Perhaps Vics VapoRub rings a bell? Thymol is thyme’s most active ingredient and it is used in Vics. The theory behind this is that it is an anti-bacterial expectorant, with an affinity for our lungs. Another common product that Thyme is used in, which you may have come across is Listerine. This is because of its anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Amazingly, thyme also has 75% of our Daily dose of Vitamin C!

Fresh thyme is so much more flavourful than the store bought dried herb. It is absurdly easy to dry yourself, and once it is harvested it can last in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. Dried, it is ideally used within 6 months. Check out the recipe below for Thyme infused honey. It is a simple recipe that keeps forever. It can be used in baking, but medicinally it gives you a quick dose of vitamin C, while also helping you fight that soar throat or cough.

LAVENDER
Lavendula officinalis

Therapeutic Actions:
Carminative, nervous system relaxant, sedative, anti-spasmodic, anti-depressant, aromatic, anti-rheumatic

Lavender, lavender, lavender. Just spouting this plants name makes one instantly feel more at ease. This beautiful herb is effective at clearing depression, especially when used in conjunction with other uplifting remedies such as a nice walk on a beautiful spring day. Not only does this plant have a plethora of uses, it produces soft violet coloured flowers, which add a beautiful hue of colour to your new herb garden. As a gentle strengthening tonic of the nervous system this herb works great with children to have a calming and anti-anxiety effect, or as a sleeping aid. Try putting lavender on your desk while you study or work. Dried it can be used in tea for upset stomachs or sleep. And if you have lavender oil on hand, try 5-10 drops of this alluring herb on your pillow before bed, and allow it to release the stresses of your day, and soothe you into sleep. As an anti-rheumatic and aromatic herb, the flowers can be used in a bath to alleviate sore muscles or a headache.

STEVIA
Stevia Rebaudiana

Therapeutic Actions:
Human use of Stevia originates in South America, and it has been used extensively by the Guarani people in Paraguay and Brazil for more than 1,500 years to sweeten medicines, teas and ‘treats’. With up to 300 times the sweetness of of sugar and negligible effect on blood glucose levels stevia is fast becoming an integral part of a health promoting diet.

Known as “sweet leaf,” “sugar leaf,” or “sweet herb.” This lush plant lives up to its confectionary expectations. It is 200 X sweeter than white sugar. A few years back stevia was all the rage. Advertised as a zero calorie sugar that promoted healthy blood sugar levels. While it does just that, most of the versions that we see on the shelves are highly processed that isolate its sweetening components. Grow this herb, pick a handful of leaves, let it dry, blitz it in a blender or coffee grinder, and you will find yourself with true stevia.

This plant is extremely beneficial for diabetics who need to avoid conventional sugars. It will promote glucose regulation and help balance insulin levels. This, in turn prevents that classic sugar crash.

MINT (Peppermint)
Mentha Piperita

Medicinal Actions:
Carminative, antispasmodic, aromatic, nervine, analgesic, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, vasodilator

Peppermint is a classic digestive aid and carminative. This makes it the perfect drink to ingest after any meal. Not only will it take down the bloating, but it will also feeling energized yet relaxed. It is also rich is antioxidants and has been shown to be very useful against many common bacterial pathogens and candida. This is one herb (as an oil) that I never travel without. When you have a headache, or cramps us it topically to provide instant relief. There are endless uses for mint, from baking to throwing a few leaves in your water to spruce it up. Below, mint is featured in a savour recipe that can be used on anything from potatoes to sandwiches.

Mint will thrive anywhere, it is a perennial that spreads like wildfire. Keep it contained in a pot on its own or let it loose to fill the cracks in your garden bed.

LEMON BALM
Melissa Officinalis

Medicinal Actions:
Nervous system tonic & Relaxant, carminative, sedative, antidepressant, antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-histamine

In the Middle ages this herb was used as a sedative and the ancient Greek & Romans used it for wound healing. That is precisely why you find it in creams and salves. In present, this herb is used as an effective mood enhancer, for anyone with anxiety and/or depressive mood. Lemon balms calming and anxiety-reducing properties render it effective for restlessness, headaches, mild-palpitations, and excitability. Digestive upsets related to nervousness often find relief with Lemon Balm, With its tonic effects on the heart, circulatory and nervous system try this herb in your next batch of lemonade or sleepy time tea.

Soon, the aromatics will softly fill the room, the tastes will delight your bellies and as you look onto your garden you will be jubilant knowing that you have experienced something new and accomplished so much with so little.

To get your herbs from your garden to your kitchen so that they can do what they do, here are a few recipes that feature one, some or all of the plants that we have talked about.

Herbal Tea

6 Tbs Chamomile
4 Tbs Lavender
4 Tbs Lemon Balm
2 Tbs Spearmint
2 Tbs Licorice or Stevia

Throw in a jar, toss to combine

Brewing: A heaping tsp for every cup of hot water. Let steep for 5 minutes.

Thyme Infused Honey

1-2 Tbs Dried thyme sprigs
1 cup raw honey
Jar with a tight fitting lid.

Place herbs in a jar large enough to fill it with the cup of honey. Fill the thyme filled jar with the honey. Stir the honey, preferably with something wooden such as a chop stick. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth and then cover the jar tightly. Label the jar with the contents and date. Let the herbs infuse for 5 days – 2 weeks. Once you have reached the potency/taste that you are happy with, strain the honey into a similar sized jar. The honey will last until it is all consumed!

Note: It isn’t necessary to strain the honey

Green Harissa

1 clove garlic
I cup cilantro
1 cup mint leaves
½ cup parsley
2 jalepenos, stemmed and seeded
juice of one large lemon
½ tsp of fennel seed, caraway, sea salt
1 tsp cumin

In a food processor add everything except the olive oil. Once the motor is going, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it is mulched. Transfer to a container, and keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Lavender Infused Cream

250ml heavy cream
2 lavender tea bags
1 ½ tbs honey

heat half of the cream over medium heat until bubbles start to form around the edges of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the tea bags to the cream. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Remove the tea bags and let the cream cool completely. Once cooled, add the remaining cream, and honey. Beat with a mixer or by hand until you get a thick luscious whipped cream.