It’s been a long winter. And, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s finally coming to a close, and warmer weather is on the horizon. Spring is a season for which I definitely hold a lot of favor in my heart, especially when I see new herbs make their appearance. Nothing compares to seeing Mother Nature emerge from hiding, shake the snow from her back, and begin a new year of life. The year my first was born, right around the time we brought him home from the hospital actually, a beautiful mama robin built her nest right at my door, up in the rafters of our front porch. It truly was a miraculous experience to sit in the recliner, nursing my newborn, while watching out the window as another new mom (and dad!) sat on their eggs, and fed their chicks, until the day those babies finally emerged from the nest and took their first flight.
New life also includes new plant life, and millions of farmers and gardeners are preparing for the spring as you read this. In fact, one in three households are growing some of their own food, mainly millennials (those born between 1981-1997) with children in the home. And, as we have known for literally thousands of years, plant life offers so many more advantages above and beyond simple nourishment. Today, we’re going to be talking about 5 herbs that you need planted in your garden this spring!
Coriander, commonly referred to as cilantro (the Spanish word for coriander), is absolutely one of my favorites. Not a fan of high temperatures, the herb cilantro thrives during cool, sunny weather, and in many areas, flourishes in the springtime. Packing a powerful punch of nutrition, just half a cup of the leaves offers over half the recommended daily value of vitamin A. But really, that’s barely scratching the surface to all the good this herb can do. Coriander can be a life-changer for those with anxiety disorders, as this plant acts as a potent anti-anxiety whose effects have been compared to the prescription drug diazepam (Valium), and a concentrated extract could potentially be used as a sedative/muscle relaxant. Oral consumption of cilantro also promotes significant reduction of inflammation within the body, and helping improve conditions like arthritis, and preventing tumors from even forming[4,5]. The essential oil of coriander also acts as a potent anti-fungal, negatively impacting yeast cells, and possessing “enhanced anti-Candida activity“. And, though cilantro’s impressive abilities haven’t been adequately studied in the lab, we do know that it “contains bioactive phytochemicals that are accounted for a wide range of biological activities including antioxidant, anticancer, neuroprotective, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, analgesic, migraine-relieving, hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic, hypotensive, antimicrobial, and antiinflammatory activities.”
Ready for the soil a few weeks after the first frost, sage is definitely one of the herbs you don’t want your garden to be lacking. Sage is closely related to rosemary, and many of its health benefits are a result of the organic compound rosmarinic acid. Sage has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and was traditionally documented as helping with pain relief, “protecting the body against oxidative stress, free radical damages, angiogenesis, inflammation, bacterial and virus infection,” and even more. The Salvia species, which includes sage, clary sage, white sage, etc., is very well known for possessing benefit to the brain. Sage shown the ability to improve memory and cognition, is effective in managing mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease, and could even have applications in the treatment of dementia. Ursolic acid, also found in sage, has been shown to have potential to help protect from cancer. This organic compound inhibits “tumour invasion and metastasis“, and has indicated possible anticancer activity. And, while all that may be impressive, there is still so much more sage has to offer. For diabetics, sage has indicated a potent therapeutic potential, decreasing serum glucose levels in rats with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. One of the most fascinating findings is that, while sage does have a hypoglycemic-like effect on those with diabetes, it seems to have no effect like this on healthy animals.
3. Lemon Balm
As you can probably tell by its appearance, lemon balm is part of the mint family, it emits a strong lemony scent, and is ready for soil transplantation around April. Like cilantro, lemon balm is another great choice for those who suffer from anxiety disorders, and those who find themselves feeling stressed in general. In the lab, researchers have appreciated lemon balm’s ability to improve cognitive performance and mood, as well as reduce stress and anxiety. When lemon balm was used medicinally, marked improvement of anxiety-related symptoms, like eating problems, emotional instability, fatigue, feelings of guilt and inferiority and psychosomatic symptoms was noticed. Lemon balm can also be used to improve symptoms like restlessness and insomnia, especially in children. Pediatricians reported that children who suffered from hyperactivity, concentration, and impulse issues and were treated with lemon balm, noticed changes like reduced stress, more friendly atmosphere and conversation, and ease of ability to fall and stay asleep at night. Lemon balm also helps support one of the most important, yet unappreciated, organs: the liver. Today’s traditional diet in first-world countries is extremely taxing on the liver, and lemon balm has actually shown to help protect the liver from some of these harmful effects caused by the diet. The compounds found within the herb, “especially flavonoids, have protective effects on liver damage induced by free radicals and liver toxins”
Best if planted 3-4 weeks after the last frost, oregano – one of my favorite herbs – loves warmer, sunnier temperatures. It’s no secret that I absolutely love this herb. I have spoken of it several times on the blog, especially its abilities to fight against staph bacteria, heal eczema, and kick yeast to the curb. But really, I have not even begun to give oregano the credit that its due. While many health benefits can be associated with the organic compound carvacrol, like sage, oregano is also high in rosmarinic acid. Studies examining the use of oregano topically found it to be a “promising candidate for use in skin care products with anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties“, and is especially useful in tissue remodeling. This is because oregano helps speed healing, protecting from fungus, bacteria, and inflammation which could eventually lead to cancer. And, because of the natural makeup of this incredible herb, oregano consumption has even been shown to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases.
Beautiful calendula can be used in so many ways medicinally, whether topically for skin healing, or orally to grab those potent anti-inflammatory capabilities, this is definitely one herb you can’t forget! One of the early birds, calendula thrives best when planted in early spring – even as early as late-February in some places! When it comes to patients with diabetes, calendula may be invaluable. Not only is calendula safe, beneficial, and effective at healing diabetic foot ulcers, but this plant can even “promote spontaneous repair and regeneration of the pancreas. When used topically, calendula can be used to reduce inflammation, control bleeding, and soothe irritation, and it can even be used to treat those with radiation exposure. Because of its effects against inflammation, promoting skin regeneration, and its ability to ward of bacteria, calendula is an excellent compound to use on injuries and even bacterial infections. Within one week of treatment with a calendula extract vaginal cream, women suffering bacterial vaginosis were free of all symptoms, including “including vaginal itching and burning sensation, odor, dysuria, and dyspareunia”, and there was not one side effect.
Growing your own garden is a miraculous, wonderful experience. To start with a tiny little seed, care for it, feed and water it, until it one day feeds your family is such a wonderful example of the circle of life, and I love the whole process of it. More and more people are realizing how easy it can be to grow their own food, and it’s now time we understand we’re also growing medicine.
Food is medicine.
Until next time,
1. The National Gardening Association Garden to Table: A 5-Year Look at Food Gardening in America
2. Academic Journals Coriander (Coriandrum Sativum L): Processing, Nutritional and Functional Aspects
3. SciELO Evaluation of the Anti-Inflammatory of Coriander (Coriandrum Sativum L) in Rodents
4. American Botanical Council Food as Medicine – Coriander/Cilantro (Coriandrum Sativum L)
5. NCBI The Role of Herbs and Spices in Cancer Prevention
6. PLOS One Coriandrum Sativum L. (Coriander) Essential Oil: Antifungal Activity and Mode of Action on Candida SPP., and Molecular Targets Affected in Human Whole-Genome Expression
7. NCBI Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Medicinal Property of Sage (Salvia) to Prevent and Cure Illnesses Such as Obesity, Diabetes, Depression, Dementia, Lupus, Autism, Heart Disease, and Cancer
8. NCBI Antiprotease and Antimetastatic Activity of Ursolic from Salvia Officinalis
9. NCBI Activation of the Nuclear Receptor PPARy by Metabolites Isolated from Sage (Salvia Officinalis)
10. NCBI Effect of Salvia Officinalis L. Leaves on Serum Glucose and Insulin in Healthy and Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats
11. NCBI Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of Volunteers Suffering from Mild-to-Moderate Anxiety Disorders and Sleep Disturbances
12. Semantic Scholar Hyperactivity, Concentration Difficulties and Impulsiveness Improve during Seven Weeks’ Treatment with Valerian Root and Lemon Balm Extracts in Primary School
13. NCBI Comparison Between Effects of Different Doses of Melissa Officinalis and Atorvastatin on the Activity of Liver Enzymes and Hypercholesterolemia Rats
14. NCBI Anti-Inflammatory, Tissue Remodeling, Immunomodulatory, and Anticancer Activities of Oregano (Origanum Vulgare) Essential Oil in a Human Skin Disease Model
15. NCBI Flavonoids and Phenolic Acids from Oregano: Occurrence, Biological Activity and Health Benefits
16. Miraj, Sepideh The Role of Medicinal Plants in the Treatment of Diseases: A Systematic Review of Calendula Officinalis
17. Academic Journals Pot Marigold (Calendula Officinalis) Medicinal Usage and Cultivation
18. WOUNDS Calendula Officinalis and Wound Healing: A Systematic Review
19. NCBI The Effect of Calendula Officinalis versus Metronidazole on Bacterial Vaginosis in Women: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Study