We had our first garden this summer. It was a great opportunity to make our dinner with fresh produce from our backyard. I was also inspired to turn our herbs into medicine. I took most of our peppermint, extracted the oils, and made it into a digestive aid. As I was working on it, it awakened something in me. Getting my hands dirty, plucking leaves off stems, and mixing the ingredients together made me so happy. It dawned on me that I've always been quite interested in this. Even in my childhood games. When I took baths as a kid, I would mix shampoo and body washes (which I now realize is an incredible waste of expensive things - sorry Mom) in the soap dish and pretend to make antidotes for imaginary people troubled by ailments.
It fascinates me that our bodies can heal themselves and plants growing naturally can aid them in that process. There was a time when we relied on nature for everything from getting our groceries to treating illnesses. As people born in a time and place where everything is so readily available and accessible, it can be easy for us to go through our life without experiencing the capabilities of the things growing in our backyard.
Throughout the year, I've been nurturing this interest. I'm still very green (pun intended) but have found some really neat ways to feel more connected with myself and the earth by using plants throughout my daily routine. Whether I'm using peppermint oil instead of Tylenol to relieve myself of a headache or chamomile in my bath instead of a bath bomb, using more natural solutions and relying on nature makes me feel grounded.
FIVE PLANTS YOU CAN
EASILY USE EVERYDAY
What it's good for: Lavender can pretty much do anything. It aids in the treatment of anxiety and depression, relieves muscle pain, treats hair loss, induces sleep, and smells really, really good. To name a few.
How I use it: My kid is known for being very "active", so catching her sitting still is a very rare moment. This meant putting her to sleep as a baby was very difficult. At 6 months, I was tired of waking up every half hour of the night, so I started rubbing lavender oil on the bottom of her feet. The first time I did it, it worked like a charm. She got dopey and mellow for the first time in her life. Needless to say it's become a bedtime ritual ever since. I also used the oil to stay relaxed throughout my labour, rubbed it on my wrists before leaving for the construction site (that is now our donut shop) in my late months of pregnancy, and put a few drops of the oil mixed with water it into spray bottles and spray it on our bed sheets.
What it's good for: Rosemary boosts your memory, stimulates circulation, reduces inflammation, increases focus, and has antibacterial properties.
How I use it: I've always been very forgetful and have a hard time focusing. I also have chronic issues with intense muscle pain. Sooo, rosemary is my friend. I have a rosemary plant on my windowsill and I take the needles off of it and throw them into a filter bag to make tea. I let it oversteep because I feel like I'm gaining more from it that way (could be in my head, I know) and then I chug back a mug of it. It's the nicest warm medicine. I do this so often that my poor little plant is getting pretty sad looking, so I'm going to have to pick up some rosemary and give it a chance to recover. (Which is also why the Internet provided the picture above.)
What it's good for: Chamomile is well-known for being used as a "sleepy-time" tea. Like lavender, it's very calming. It reduces levels of stress hormones, helps with sleep, and calms your stomach.
How I use it: I could drink chamomile tea, but I actually dump it into my bath instead. In my reading, I've seen it called the "soothing healer". It eases the tension in my muscles, makes my skin feels softer, and gets me ready for a good night's sleep. I also give Emelyn chamomile baths. Cause, like I said before, she needs some soothing.
4. PINE NEEDLES
What it's good for: Pine needles are a really potent source of Vitamin C + A. Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells and has antioxidant qualities that prevent diseases. It's also great for your circulation, respiratory health, vision, skin, and hair.
How I use it: I didn't discover the benefits of this one until I was setting up my tree a week or so ago. If you take the time to Google "pine needle tea", you will find story after story of people who have used this to solve some pretty major health problems. It's really, really good for you. My Christmas tree is a fake one from IKEA, so I steal needles from pine trees in my neighbourhood and put them into a filter bag to make tea. I'm hoping to keep up this ritual all year round.
What it's good for: Back in the day, if you had a cut, you bandaged it up with eucalyptus leaves wrapped inside. It speeds up healing and is a powerful antibacterial, and it's super easy to care for.
What I use it for: You can put it in your tea when you're sick, use it as a sanitizer when cleaning, or put it on your chest for respiratory troubles like asthma or a bacterial infection. I have an oil called "Thieves"; it's a mix of rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, eucalyptus, and lemons. It smells AMAZING, but all of the ingredients in it are antibacterials and immune boosters. Strangely enough, its name comes from a story of thieves who applied these substances to themselves before robbing piles of dead bodies during the time of the plague. Weird, but kinda cool. We rub it on Em's chest when she's sick, I clean the floors and Em's toys with it, and I diffuse it during cold seasons or people around us are getting sick.
Take the time to read about these yourself and tailor things to your own needs. If you're pregnant or have a certain condition, make sure you find out if and how to use each remedy safely. And, keep in mind, if you're not making your own oils and are purchasing them, don't buy ones that are just artificial fragrances. The real deal is more expensive but they are super potent and last a VERY long time. (Unless you're in a 40 hour labour and all you want is lavender oil. Ha...) The artificial scents don't have medicinal properties, so watch out for that. For 12 amazing plants to step up your garden for a thriving at-home apothecary, check out this post.
I'll leave you with this little gem from a book called "The Hidden Life of Deer" by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.
"We do not rule the natural world, despite our conspicuous position in it. On the contrary, it is our lifeline, and we do well to try to understand its rules."
Meghan Zahari is a donut shop owner by day and a writer by night. In between, she does photography and social media accounts for other businesses. Motherhood and emotions are a 24/7 gig. She lives with her husband, Brett, daughter, Emelyn, and cousin, Laura. (Plus, a pug and a puggle.) It’s a full life with a full house, so her introverted soul seeks refuge by hiding away with a book or watching Buffy or Grey’s.