For centuries, people would go to their garden instead of their medicine cabinet for remedies to solve their ailments. Today, the use of medicinal herbs and spices is still valued, and there is growing support for their use. Generations ago, some herbs and spices, such as garlic and turmeric, were actually well-known and used chiefly for their healing properties over their culinary flavors.
In approximately 4,000 BCE, Ayurvedic medicine was a primary system of health and well-being throughout what we now call India. Cinnamon, cardamom, and turmeric were heavily used to treat a litany of ailments, including indigestion, colds, nausea, and depression.
Let’s look at some herbs and spices you can plant, grow in your own garden, and use to support your health today.
Plant It Right
Origanum vulgare is a flowering plant in the Lamiaceae or mint family. It is commonly known as oregano. Oregano comes from the Greek words oros, which means mountain, and ganos, which means joy. It is hands down one of the hardiest and easiest to grow plants in your garden with minimal upkeep. Plant in a sunny spot; however, in the more southern part of the United States, it benefits from a little afternoon shade. Water thoroughly and only when soil is dry to the touch. Space plants 8-10 inches apart. Oregano can grow up to two feet tall and spans about 18 inches across. If you are planting oregano in a container, be sure the pot is about 12 inches in diameter.
"Oregano is a powerful botanical or plant medicine. It possesses antiinflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties."
Oregano is a prolific grower, so give it room to spill over its container. It grows nicely with other culinary herbs such as basil, rosemary, sage, garlic, and thyme. Don’t forget that young children love digging in the dirt, so take advantage of this by having the whole family get involved in planting and maintaining the herb/medicinal garden. Of course, oregano is great for Greek and Italian dishes—both vegetarian and meat— and is a great addition to salad dressing.
Oregano is a powerful botanical or plant medicine. It possesses anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties. The plant is standardized to thymol and carvacrol, which are largely responsible for its medicinal activity. I have personally treated hundreds of patients over the years with this powerful plant.
One of my favorite recommendations is to use the oil as an immune-boosting herb at the onset of a cold or flu. I would caution users to dilute the oil or use an encapsulated form. While learning to use oregano, I ingested a dropper full of a high-potency oil. The good news is that I never did get a cold, but the liquid was so caustic I had a sore throat for three days after.
Oregano is widely used for its antifungal activity especially against Candida albicans. Over the past 15 years of clinical practice, many patients have presented me with symptoms of yeast overgrowth including skin rashes, digestive gas and bloating, intense sugar craving, brain fog, and fatigue. In addition to recommending a diet that starves the yeast, I always include a strong antimicrobial compound, and oregano is one of the main herbs that really packs a punch. Some patients prefer to only change their diet, and they typically take longer to recover than those who take the herbal supplements. I recommend the encapsulated, standardized version as a single herb. I often combine it with other synergetic functional foods such as garlic, which is rich in vitamins B6 and C, and thyme because it offers good levels of vitamin A, iron, copper, and manganese. Many fungal infections have been cured with this amazing plant medicine.
Take It up a Notch with Garlic
Allium sativum is a species in the Amaryllidaceae or onion family. It is close relatives with shallots, leeks, chives, and onions. It is commonly known as garlic, and it is one of everyone’s favorite flavor enhancers. Garlic is known for its pungent flavor and aroma. Garlic can be planted in the spring, but fall planting is recommended for most gardeners across the country. Break apart cloves from bulb a few days before planting, but keep the papery husk on each individual clove. Plant four inches deep and six inches apart. Garlic grows best in fertile, well-drained soil with near neutral pH. If your soil is clay, rake up raised rows or mound to insure that garlic has good drainage during cold days of winter.
Keeps Away More Than Vampires
Garlic has been used medicinally for over 5,000 years, and its uses predate written texts. It possesses antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, hypolipidemic, fibrinolytic, and immune-stimulating properties. The bulb is the most commonly used portion of the plant containing the teardropshaped cloves underneath the white paper-like skin. Garlic is a rich source of vitamins B6 and C, as mentioned before, but is also rich in minerals such as selenium, manganese, phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron, and copper. Its active ingredient is allicin which is a sulfurcontaining compound known for its distinctive smell and taste.
Garlic is widely studied and has shown support for heart function, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. It can also act like a blood thinning agent. I have seen patients who took garlic supplementation achieve normalization of their lipid panels. Garlic has even been shown to get rid of more than just vampires. It can reduce bad cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides and support the increase of HDL, the good cholesterol, to healthy values.
"Garlic is a rich source of vitamins B6 and C, as mentioned before, but is also rich in minerals such as selenium, manganese, phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron, and copper."
It is best to take garlic for at least three months before retesting labs. My grandfather would eat a few fresh garlic cloves daily and swore it made him strong and healthy. As a kid, I thought the powerful smell was his cologne only to find out later it was his garlic habit that made him, at times, smell like a pot of spaghetti sauce.
I also use garlic with patients for its immune support. It is a very warming and pungent herb, so it is best not to use it if you have irritability, hot flashes, or skin rashes. But for the patient that is cold and deficient, garlic can warm you from the inside out. It is good to take garlic for a few weeks before cold and flu season as a natural immune booster. Garlic is a great anti-microbial and has been used historically for many types of infections. I recommend fresh garlic if patients can tolerate it; otherwise, there are many potent, encapsulated formulations that are readily available.