By Ginny Clayton
It never ceases to amaze me the way nature has found ways to put the herbal properties in plants.
Here are some of the herbs with different ways the properties are found.
Stevia (the sugar herb) is an easy one to start with- it is such a great help to people who are diabetic in particular, as they can sweeten their food totally naturally. The properties are in the leaves, so you can use them direct straight from the plant or make a fine powder to keep in an airtight jar until next season.
Another plant that is a sweetener is a tree- known as the Licorice tree, Glycyrrhiza glabra. This is one of the most well known herb trees, also one of the most valuable. The root is 50 times sweeter than sugar and extracts of the root are used as a sweetener for herb teas, making lollies, and to flavour all manner of drinks and tobacco products. It also has great anti-inflammatory properties- helpful for arthritis. The parts used are the roots- harvested when the tree is 3 years old.
Live Forever or Sedum telephium, is also known as Orpine stonecrop. This perennial succulent is thought to have anti-cancer properties, has several other uses including helping with stimulating
the kidneys, stomach problems and piles. The properties for these purposes are released by boiling the fleshy leaves with milk. The juice in the leaves when mixed with vegetable oil will help heal burns, so it is a good alternative to Aloe vera, although not as instant to put on. Apart from all these properties Live Forever makes a great garden plant for rockeries and dry places, with beautiful crimson flowers and bluey-green leaves.
The original coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and its close cousins, are all significant as all parts of the plants are used- the roots (as with all root herbs) are best used when 2 years old, but the leaves and stems can be used anytime. This herb is great for the immune system and one that we are more familiar with. It also makes a great show in the garden.
The humble calendula holds all its properties in the wonderful colourful petals of the flowers- this plant is so good for using in creams that are so easy for us to make.
We all know the wonderful culinary herbs and what a difference the properties in their leaves make to our food and good health, but there are other herbs with properties in their leaves which are great as insect and slug/snail deterrents.
The musky scent of Balm of Gilgead and the strong aroma of Southernwood will keep slugs and snails away from your vegetables if you lay some of their branches in your vegetable garden.
So, just a taste of the way nature has organised some of our herbal properties- we must now ensure that these plants continue for our next generations to use.
CALENDULA SALVE RECIPE:
450 ml (2 cups) olive oil
Mix oil and beeswax together in a heatproof container, then add as many calendula petals as will mix. Heat slowly over boiling water for 2-3 hours. Squeeze through muslin; pour the warm oil into jar. Compost the calendula remains. Leave to solidify.
The salve can be spooned into smaller containers if needed.
Store in a cool place – keeps well.