Plant a pharmacy

We highlight the four most versatile herbs and how to grow them.

Wild mint

Latin name: Mentha longifolia subsp. capensis
Characteristics:
This perennial herb is extremely aromatic with a typical mint flavour. It grows to a height of about 80cm and boasts slender leaves, as well as sprays of fine, pointed, white or purple-pink flowers that appear at the ends of the upright stems.

Growing tips: These plants grow in most climatic regions but prefer moist soil and full sun or light shade.
Uses: Fresh leaves are used to make an infusion to treat lung ailments, insomnia, constipation and menstrual pain. The leaves can be placed under the bed linen if someone has difficulty breathing, while the twigs and flowers are ideal for flower and herb posies.

Bulbine
Latin name: Bulbine frutescens and Bulbine logopus
Characteristics: Bulbine frutescens (also known as creeping copaiba or cat's tail) has fleshy grey-green leaves and star-shaped yellow flowers and Bulbine logopus has orange flowers with fluffy stamens. The flowers are borne on long stems and protrude from the tufted plants.

Growing tips: These plants are popular among gardeners, especially in mass plantings, because they are hardy, do not need much water and flower profusely when they are planted in full sun. Grow the plants from seeds and cuttings or by dividing existing plants.
Uses: The leaves are filled with a clear sap or jelly and can be mashed and used as a hot compress to treat abrasions, wounds and sunburn. You can also simply break off a leaf and rub it on chapped lips, mosquito bites, eczema, pimples and fever blisters. It also helps stop small cuts or grazes from bleeding.

Purple wild garlic
Latin name: Tulbaghia violacea
Characteristics: Purple wild garlic grows in tufts and has grey-green leaves that smell like garlic when crushed. The purple-pink flower heads are borne on graceful, long stems. They attract a large variety of butterflies but repel aphids and snakes.

Growing tips: The plants are drought and frost resistant and look lovely in the foreground of shrub beds, along footpaths, in rose gardens or in patches in rockeries. They flower all summer until late in autumn and do best in full sun or light shade.
Uses: Traditionally, wild garlic is used to treat asthma, rheumatism, fever, colds, high blood pressure and TB. The leaves can be eaten in salads or other dishes and the root tubers are traditionally carried in a small bag around the neck, which apparently also keeps vampires at bay.

Honey everlasting
Latin name: Helichrysum patulum
Characteristics: This lovely garden plant has soft, felt-like aromatic leaves. They are a deep green on top and covered with a whitish felt. The large, flat flower heads consist of a dense collection of small creamcoloured flowers with a fresh honey scent.

Growing tips: Honey everlasting is extremely hardy, unafraid of drought or cold, and likes full sun. Grow it from cuttings and divide the adult plants.
Uses: In the past, the aromatic leaves, twigs and dry flowers were used as bedding because they repel parasites and insects and ensure a good night's sleep. The leaves are boiled in milk to treat colds and coughs, while the steam can be inhaled to relieve pain. Leaf compresses are also used on wounds to prevent infection.

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Clever gardening

2009-04-06 08:26
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