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3 Herbs to Lift Mood & Prevent Infections

Healing plants you can grow at home

The medicinal properties of everyday herbs are bountiful. You can address low mood and common ailments like colds and skin rashes with plants grown in your garden or home by making them into tea or an ointment.

Here are 3 medicinal herbs to grow at home to support mood, skin and immune health.

Lavender – Perfect for anxiety, low mood and stress

With its beautiful purple flowers and sweet-smelling aroma, lavender is a delightful addition to your home or garden. It can be grown indoors or outside; however, it thrives in a warm environment, so it’s best kept inside in cooler climates. Lavender is a nervous system tonic with medicinal properties to calm the nervous system, stabilise mood and induce sleep. It is often used by herbalists to address depression, anxiety, insomnia/ sleep issues and stress.

Lavender is also effective for pain and inflammation (headaches, achy joints, muscle pain) due to its analgesic action. Before antiseptics, doctors used lavender to clean wounds in hospital wards due to its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties.

Other uses include:

  • Supports digestive function by reducing flatulence, bloating and nausea
  • Soothes burns and rashes when applied topically
  • Relieves nasal congestion associated with a common cold

How to collect and prepare:

It is best to gather lavender before the flowers open which is usually between early summer and early autumn. Gently dry the flowers at a temperature below 35 degrees C.

Tea

To make a tea, add 1 teaspoon of dried lavender flowers to a cup of boiled water and allow it to infuse for 10 minutes. Drink 2 – 3 cups per day.

Infused oil (for topical use)

A lavender-infused oil is not the same as lavender essential oil which is much more concentrated and potent. To make an infused oil, add 28g of dried lavender flowers to a clean jar. Completely cover the flowers in a carrier oil such as coconut oil, extra virgin oil or almond oil. Screw the lid on and shake the jar well. Leave the oil to infuse for 10 days. Store it near a window (but not in direct sunlight) and shake it every day. After 10 days, strain the mixture through a strainer into a clean glass jar. Store in a cool, dark place.

Essential oil

A few drops of lavender essential oil can be added to a diffuser (to disperse the oil into the air), a bath or on your pillow at night to aid sleep, reduce stress and promote relaxation. Never use essential oils neatly on the skin, they must be diluted in a carrier oil.

Tincture

Lavender can also be taken as a liquid tincture for a more therapeutic dose. To make a tincture, the herb is soaked and the medicinal properties are extracted using alcohol. Consult with a qualified herbalist who can advise you on the correct dose.

Calendula – Soothing inflamed skin, wounds and stomach ulcers

Calendula, also known as pot marigold, is a bushy plant with bright yellow-orange flowers that can bring a splash of colour to your home or garden. Calendula is particularly effective for soothing inflamed, irritated and itchy skin when applied topically. It contains wound-healing properties that can stem blood flow, reduce inflammation and prevent bacteria from penetrating the area. Calendula is an excellent herb for cuts, insect bites, minor burns, mouth ulcers, eczema, acne, varicose veins and haemorrhoids.

When taken internally as a tincture or tea, calendula can used to heal stomach ulcers, reduce enlarged glands and relieve painful periods (by improving blood flow and relaxing the muscles of the uterus). Calendula is also helpful for digestive issues such as stomach cramps, indigestion, diarrhoea and IBS symptoms as it contains properties to detoxify pathogens and soothe the gut wall which can become irritated and inflamed.

Part of herb used: Flower petals

How to collect and prepare:

Collect the petals between early summer and early autumn. Dry the petals carefully out of direct sunlight for 2 – 3 weeks.

Tea

Steep 2 teaspoons of dried calendula in a large cup of boiling water for 10 – 20 minutes. Strain the dried flowers and it’s ready to drink. Have 2 -3 cups per day. You can also use the tea as mouth rinse to heal mouth ulcers, as a gargle to relieve a sore throat, or as an eyewash solution for eye infections.

Infused oil (for topical use)

Fill a glass jar three quarters full with dried calendula flowers and then pour an oil of your choice (olive, coconut, almond) to completely cover the flowers. Close the jar and allow the flowers to infuse for 4 – 6 weeks. Store it at room temperature and stir the mixture daily. After the infusion period, strain the flowers from the oil and pour the mixture into a clean jar.

Cream/ ointment

To make an ointment or cream, you can mix the infused calendula oil with other natural ingredients like beeswax, shea butter and essential oils. A quick and easy way to make a calendula ointment is to heat 80g of calendula oil into 20g of beeswax pellets over a gentle heat in a Bain Marie (double boiler). Once the beeswax has melted, remove from the heat and add 5 drops of lavender essential oil to the mixture. Stir gently and pour the mixture into little jars. Leave it cool until the ointment has a nice buttery consistency.

Learn how to make natural skincare products

Echinacea – Immune booster for colds, flu and infections

Echinacea is well-known for its immune-boosting properties – it’s a popular remedy for colds and flu, available in a range of supplemental forms from teas and tinctures to throat lozenges. Part of the daisy family, echinacea produces pretty white/pink/purple flowers that look similar to daisies. There are many different types of echinacea; the species with the well-documented therapeutic properties are Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea. It is a plant that likes sunshine and is best grown outside in well-drained soil.

Due to its immune enhancing, anti-inflammatory and infection-fighting properties, echinacea is an excellent herb for all types of acute and chronic infections. It is particularly helpful for upper respiratory conditions including nasal congestion, sore throats, ear infections and coughs. Echinacea is also effective for urinary/ kidney infections and addressing gastrointestinal and skin conditions such as dermatitis, shingles, cellulitis, candida and dysentery.

You can use echinacea topically as a lotion or balm for cuts and sores. Also, as a mouthwash for oral issues like gingivitis (red, swollen gums) and periodontitis (severe gum disease).

Part of herb used: Roots

How to collect and prepare:

The best time to dig up echinacea roots is late autumn when it’s finished flowering. Wait until the plant is 2 – 3 years old and has had time to mature. You can use the fresh roots or dry them first. Dry them in a well-ventilated room, out of direct sunlight for 2 weeks. Cut the roots into small pieces before drying.

Decoction tea

A decoction tea is a simmered herbal tea that is made with the harder parts of plants (roots, seeds) that don’t infuse readily when steeped in boiling water. You can use fresh or dried echinacea root. Add 2 tsp of echinacea root to 1 cup of water and bring to boil in a saucepan. Allow it to simmer for 15 minutes and then strain. You can drink up to three cups daily.

Tincture

For a therapeutic dose of echinacea, you may need a liquid tincture which is more potent. You can buy one off the shelf at a health shop or get a qualified herbalist to make a formula tailored to your needs.

To learn how you can use herbs to improve your health, here are some resources and courses:

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