London (change)
Mon 16°C / 13°C
Tomorrow 18°C / 10°C

Healing herbs

Unlocking the power of plants

A herb garden is not only a place of beauty, it's also a medicine chest, holding remedies to many ailments. Discover the healing properties of the herbs in your garden.

Find out how to... grow garlic

Until the 17th century, herbs were the principal ingredients of medicinal practice, but since then they've been replaced by synthetic products. Mind you, there are still many countries, such as India and China, where herbs are widely used as medicine.
You can easily alleviate many minor ailments using common garden herbs. However, I must stress if you're ill or have a known condition, do not self- medicate - go to a qualified herbalist or your GP to be treated.

Herbs to heal the body

Fennel seed head, photo by Lynn Keddie


When you're suffering wind or stomach cramps, a cup of fennel seed tea can ease the pain. Put one teaspoon of seed in a cup, pour over boiling water, let it stand, then strain before drinking. Chew fennel seeds after a rich or spicy meal to freshen breath and settle the stomach.


Eat two fresh leaves at the onset of a migraine. Eat them with bread, because they taste quite bitter.

French tarragon

The aniseed-flavoured leaves stimulate digestion and help the body to break down fatty foods that are high in cholesterol.
Garlic bulbs, photo by Sarah Cuttle


When eaten regularly, garlic can lower blood fat levels, including cholesterol, and reduce the chances of getting blood clots.


A tea made from hyssop leaves is an excellent tonic if you have a cough or cold, as it's a gentle decongestant and expectorant. However, avoid it if you're pregnant.


Try a cup of peppermint tea the next time you have indigestion or feel bloated after a meal. Put a handful of fresh or dried leaves into a mug, pour over boiling water, and allow it to stand for five minutes. Put a lid over the top to stop the steam dissipating the essential oils.


Tea made from fresh rosemary leaves helps stimulate the memory and clear a hangover. Drink in moderation, as too much can be harmful.

Herbs to mend the mind

Lavender stoechas ‘Papillon’, photo by Noel Murphy


Not only is it a tonic for the nervous system, it's also a calming sedative. Add a few drops of lavender oil or a handful of lavender flowers to a bath, or make a bath bag. Wrap lavender sprigs in a piece of muslin, tie it up and hang it under a running tap.

Lemon balm

A mild antidepressant, a restorative for the nervous system and a mild sedative, lemon balm can be enjoyed as a tea.

Californian poppy

When dried, the bright-yellow flowers can be made into a calming tea, which helps combat insomnia.


Like Californian poppy, a tea can be brewed from the flowers and used to ease insomnia. An antispasmodic herb, chamomile is also good for nervous stomach upsets when used in moderation.

You can read about Jekka's Herb Farm and her garden at the Chelsea Flower show in her weekly blog on this site.

Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Healing herbs
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

bulgaria 24/11/2011 at 15:27

very good to read about and try out

cybergarden 24/11/2011 at 15:27

I have rosemary growing wildly in my backyard. I also have lavender and spearmint growing in my garden.

kaycurtis 24/11/2011 at 15:27

great comments from people that know, the wonders of these herbs.

kaycurtis 24/11/2011 at 15:27

enjoy anything about herbs, really loved watching Chelsea on the TV thinking about it I saw more than if I actually went. congratulations to Jekka.

leggygirl47 24/11/2011 at 15:28

When you say "make tea" with would love to use my own herbs for medicinal purposes as well as decorative!

See more comments...