How to use garden herbs for home remedies, and how to make herbal tea

Bay leaves (Laurus nobilis)
Bay leaves (Laurus nobilis) | Source

Garden herbs can be useful for more than just adding flavour to your food, many of them are also known for their medicinal properties, and there are some simple remedies that you can easily make at home for minor ailments. Many people have a small herb bed in their gardens, or perhaps some herbs in pots, and even if you don't have a garden many of these herbs can be grown in small pots on a sunny kitchen windowsill.

Bay

Bay leaves from the evergreen laurel or bay tree (Laurus nobilis) have been used medicinally at least since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held it in very high regard as both a symbol of peace and wisdom and for its many medicinal applications. It has astringent, antiseptic and stomach soothing properties, and is also said to induce menstruation and childbirth in women - so it is best avoided if you are pregnant. Culpeper's Complete Herbal also claims that a bay tree can protect you against evil witchcraft!

A tea made from the dried leaves can help to expel wind and soothe stomach aches, and is also thought to help with colds, rheumatic pains and in clearing congestion. See notes at the end for a guide to making herbal teas. You can add a little honey to this tea to make it more soothing and palatable.

Sage (Salvia officianalis - purple variety)
Sage (Salvia officianalis - purple variety) | Source

Sage

Sage (Salvia officinalis) has many uses, but is mainly known for its antiseptic properties. A strong tea made from the leaves, and used as a mouthwash can help to soothe mouth ulcers, sore gums, sore throats and respiratory infections. Simply chewing a leaf and then rinsing with your mouth out with water is also a quick way to help with mouth infections or sores. Poultices made from the leaves can be used as an antiseptic treatment for cuts and sores on the skin.

Sage tea is also beneficial to the digestive system and can help with flatulence and intestinal cramps. It is also said to promote longevity and aid memory, and some recent research has indicated a possible use in helping to prevent Alzeimers.

The picture above shows the purple variety, which is a more ornamental shrub, but it does have the same properties as the more common green leaved variety.

Lavender (Lavandula spica)
Lavender (Lavandula spica) | Source

Lavender

The delicately aromatic lavender (Lavandula spica) gets its name from the French word "laver" which means "to wash", as lavender was often used in laundering clothes to soften the water and to make the laundry sweet scented.

The tradition of lavender bags (cloth bags filled with dried lavender) is still used to keep clothes and linen smelling clean and fresh when stored in drawers.

Lavender is usually used medicinally in the form of lavender oil, which can be used topically on the forehead or temples to ease headaches and relieve stress. It has a calming and soothing influence, which can also be attained simply by picking a handful of flowers, crushing them and inhaling the fragrance.

Garden mint, or spearmint (Mentha viridis)
Garden mint, or spearmint (Mentha viridis) | Source

Mint

Common or garden mint (Mentha viridis) is another soothing herb, and the fragrance from the crushed leaves or distilled oil can be used to soothe headaches and help to clear blocked noses. A mint tea can also help with various respiratory and digestive ailments.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is more commonly used as a tea, and is one of the best herbal teas for soothing stomach complaints such as indigestion, nausea or trapped wind. A mild infusion can be used as a gripe water to help with colic in young children. It is usually recommended that pregnant women avoid peppermint tea, as it is a mild stimulant.

Lemon balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has the most refreshing smell, and simply picking a few leaves to inhale the fragrance is uplifting, reviving and can combat feelings of depression and nausea. Tea made from the leaves is said to have anti-viral properties, and is also useful in relieving the symptoms of colds.

Try using a fresh lemon balm leaf to relieve itchy mosquito bites or wasp stings.

A note on making herbal teas

A general guide to quantities for making herbal teas is to use one tablespoon of dried herbs or two tablespoons of fresh herbs to each cup of water. You can vary this according to your own tastes or requirements.

Use a china or glass teapot, pour freshly boiled water directly onto the herbs, leave to brew for at least 5 minutes, then strain and serve. It can also be served chilled, or used topically, for instance when using sage leaf tea as an antiseptic mouthwash or cleanser.

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Comments 11 comments

Brittanie2216 profile image

Brittanie2216 4 years ago from Seattle WA

Great hub Thank you for sharing. This was a truly interesting read. I use lemons for everything from cleaning but I have never heard of lemon balm. I am going to have to grow some of that stuff. The other herbs sound pretty useful too. I had know clue about the healing qualities of any of these. Voted up :)


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 4 years ago from Southwest England Author

Thank you Brittanie. Lemon balm belongs to the mint family, and looks quite similar, but has more yellowy-green leaves and a really strong smell of fresh lemons. I will add a picture to the article as I missed this one out. I quite often pick a leaf on my way past, just so I can breathe in the lovely aroma to cheer myself up!


Jennifer Baum profile image

Jennifer Baum 4 years ago

Love this, very informative and useful! Thank you


gout relief profile image

gout relief 4 years ago

Thank you for the tip on using lavender to ease headaches and stress.

Continual stress can cause significant health issues if left untreated.

Good to find some natural remedies for this.


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 4 years ago from Southwest England Author

glad you enjoyed it Jennifer, and that you found it useful gout relief (I wonder which herbs are good for gout - I'm sure there must be some!).

I have now added a picture of lemon balm for those of you who might want to know what it looks like.

thanks for reading - Imogen :)


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

It's always good to be reminded of herbs' medicinal uses and to learn new ways to use them. Thanks for putting this together. I need to remember to harvest and dry my lemon balm for fall/winter tea.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean

Thanks for this information on some of my favorite herbs. I love the scent of lavender. I put bay leaf in my soups and I make fresh mint tea. Lemon balm is new to me too, but I've read your comment on it. Voting Up and Useful.


pringoooals profile image

pringoooals 4 years ago from Edinburgh

I put bay leaves to my soups also and I love mint tea. It's great to know about it good influence on health also. Thanks for sharing. Very useful!


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

All these are very useful herbs for health and to include them in our daily diet will definitely benefit us in many ways.

Thanks for sharing this healthy hub!


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

Great tips! I have not made this kind of herbal tea you have mentioned above. I´ll try them soon. Thanks for sharing.


Imogen French profile image

Imogen French 3 years ago from Southwest England Author

hi CS and Thelma, thanks for reading and commenting. TA - I love making a fresh herbal tea on a hot summer's day - it's so refreshing. CS - I try to use as many fresh herbs in my cooking as I can, to incorporate them into my diet. Fresh herbs such as parsley, mint and basil are wonderful chopped up in green salads.

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