Herbs that help with well­be­ing A

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GREENSPACES - With Han­nah Stephen­son

S a teenager, Chris Beard­shaw was a keen sports­man, run­ning half-marathons for his county, des­tined to achieve great goals as an ath­lete.

Sud­denly, within the space of 10 days, his feet swelled up so chron­i­cally he couldn’t walk. The con­di­tion spread to his an­kles, hands and wrists. His case was a mys­tery and, af­ter nu­mer­ous trips to spe­cial­ists and con­sul­tants, he was di­ag­nosed with rheuma­toid arthri­tis.

His choice was to un­dergo ma­jor surgery on his toes and lower joints, or face a life­time in a wheel­chair.

This is where his in­ter­est in holis­tic treat­ments be­gan – he changed his diet, eat­ing fewer veg­eta­bles which ex­ac­er­bated his symp­toms, such as aubergines, red pep­pers and toma­toes, cut out red meat, red wine and dairy prod­ucts and started in­ves­ti­gat­ing the power of herbal reme­dies.

“I went through four-and-a-half years of be­ing ex­plored,” the award-win­ning gar­den de­signer and broad­caster re­calls. “I be­came used to be­ing a cu­rios­ity. They were never able to get a full di­ag­no­sis on the type of arthri­tis.

“I had gold in­jec­tions, ra­dio­ther­apy, hy­drother­apy and tried Voltarol-based prod­ucts. Some pro­vided short-term gain, but four weeks later the con­di­tion would re­turn.”

He found that com­frey cream, ar­nica and devil’s claw helped al­le­vi­ate his symp­toms to a de­gree, but the whole ex­pe­ri­ence made him think more about the heal­ing prop­er­ties of plants, some of which he now grows in his own gar­den.

While one in six of us can recog­nise echi­nacea, which is used to pro­duce cough and cold reme­dies, even fewer of us know how to recog­nise a safe herbal rem­edy, ac­cord­ing to new re­search from Pot­ter’s Her­bals. Yet many plants that can help us main­tain our well­be­ing are so easy to grow and we may al­ready have them in our gar­den.

Com­mon plants which Chris rec­om­mends and uses for his own well­be­ing in­clude:

Le­mon balm: “It’s very easy to grow – once you have it in the gar­den you’ll never get rid of it. It’s a herba­ceous peren­nial which grows vig­or­ously and has a hawthorn-like leaf. You harvest the leaf tips from May to mid-sum­mer and make a tea out of it. Tip on boiling wa­ter, let it steep for three min­utes and when it’s cool enough, drink it. It has a cit­rus zing to it which cleanses the palate and is up­lift­ing. It’s also good for im­prov­ing cir­cu­la­tion.”

Rose­mary and thyme: “Grow them hard, don’t over­wa­ter or over­feed. Don’t grow in a rich gar­den com­post, grow them in a soil-based com­post like John Innes No 2 which is less fer­tile and has a more min­eral-rich struc­ture to it. The plants will stay dwarfed but will be more con­cen­trated in their com­po­nents. Put them in the sun to in­ten­sify the oils. Rose­mary and thyme can break down fats in the body, they serve as a rem­edy for bad fats. So if you’re eat­ing fatty bar­be­cued meats, take some sprigs, crum­ble them in your hands and throw them over the meat, not so they burn but so they are warmed.”

Black pep­per­mint: “It’s the most po­tent form of mint. Grow it at the back of a herba­ceous bor­der and let it run for­ward. When it starts to in­vade other plants, rip it out and use the bits you’ve ripped out in sal­ads or in tea, as a di­ges­tive pro­moter and to al­le­vi­ate bloat­ing. Al­ter­na­tively make it into a com­press, hold it on the skin and use it on sun­burn. Keep it wet. Mint doesn’t like to dry out. It will also need feed­ing.”

Laven­der: “Laven­der is an­tibac­te­rial, so it’s good to wash your hands in a tea made of laven­der. It’s good for fun­gal in­fec­tions, if you’ve hit your fin­ger and have bleed­ing un­der the fin­ger­nail, it will clean the skin and cu­ti­cles.”

Tansy (Tanace­tum - a mem­ber of the Aster fam­ily): “This pro­duces tiny yel­low flow­ers with ‘shav­ing brush’ heads. The leaves are an in­sect re­pel­lent. It will grow to 4-5ft and is very good if you’ve got pets be­cause at this time of the year there are lots of tics and fleas about. Harvest the leaves and take a bunch and wipe them down the side of the cat or dog, just be­hind their ears. It’s a sun-lov­ing peren­nial, so grow it in sun at the back of the herba­ceous bor­der, com­bined with aconi­tums, Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium) and eu­pa­to­ri­ums which will shore up the tansy.”

PA Photo/think­stock­pho­tos

Fresh herbs in pots are at­trac­tive as well as ben­e­fi­cial

Flow­er­ing tansy

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