As part of a project designed to sow ideas, grow inspiration and cultivate futures, 300 London schools are growing their own picnic this summer and their reward could be a £500 voucher from GardenSite.
More than half of the medicines we use today are derived from plants and Nathan James Dodd recently visited the famous Chelsea Physic Garden in London to gain inspiration for his own medicinal garden.
Extracts from plants as diverse as foxgloves and pineapples, camellias and artichokes have been, and continue to be used, in many parts of the world.
For example, you're probably more familiar with acetyl salicylic acid than you might think.
Used for over 2000 years, it relieves aches and pains, reduces inflammation and fever, and has evolved from a plant source – willow tree bark - and is the active ingredient in Aspirin.
The plants I have listed are easily obtainable and not difficult to grow. You'll find many in your garden already.
Whether you grow from seed or plug plants, all that's needed is a relatively fertile, well drained, soil that gets the sun for at least half the day.
You don't even have to grow them together, with good foliage and attractive flowers many will not look out of place in an ornamental flowerbed.
Try these top ten readily available medicinal plants:
Garlic: Excellent to relieve colds and flu with antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties
Peppermint: Helps with indigestion and relieves upset stomachs
Rosemary: Eases fatigue, calms digestion and has anti-depressive qualities
Lemon Balm: A relaxant to cure headaches and migraines and now thought to aid memory
Lavender: Has been used to relieve stress and anxiety and a multitude of other ailments
Parsley: A very nutritious herb that is said to help with urinary and kidney problems
Evening Primrose: The oil is used to help menopausal problems and eczema, and may even relieve hangovers
Calendula: Has a long history in the treatment of wounds and soothing the skin
Thyme: Used for intestinal problems, as an antiseptic mouthwash and anti-fungal applications
Echinacea: Said to ward off infections and can also be employed as a laxative
They can of course also be grown in window boxes, pots and planters filled with compost, in fact for an invasive plant such as peppermint, this would be preferable.
Container growing is also a good solution if you have limited space. A collection of different sized pots and planters will prove an attractive addition to patio or decking.
Some of the plants and herbs can be continuously harvested while for others it is an annual event. Then you have to decide the best way to use them.
For many different ideas I can recommend James Wong's book 'Grow Your Own Drugs' which is based on his TV series.
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