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Growing Herbal Helpers at Home
Herbs are normally thought of as a culinary addition to transform a boring dish into an amazing meal, but many of them are easy to grow, easy to maintain and bestow a number of health benefits.
The pharmacy of the future will not dispense pharmaceuticals, but instead nutraceuticals. A great way to start this movement is in the comfort of your own home, by growing herbs in your kitchen.
Kitchen medicine is the pharmacy of the future, and dispenses plants rather than pharmaceuticals. Plus, when is the last time your prescription refilled itself with a little water and sun? Growing herbs is a great way to move towards a more sustainable future, and away from the frustrations of the pharmaceutical industry.
The pharmaceutical model that our healthcare system is based upon does not ground itself in prevention of disease, but rather the creation of lifelong customers. The doctor writes a prescription, you pick it up from the pharmacy, the pharmacist asks you generic questions, hopefully insurance covers at least a small fraction of the cost, you go back home with less money, but more frustration. Pharmaceuticals are not personalized medicine, but a generalized approach to symptom management without any actual resolution of disease. If said prescription doesn’t do its job, you’re either prescribed a higher dose, or a different medication, with its own laundry list of side effects. But keep in mind, this model has only been in place less than a hundred years, and before that we relied upon natural medicines. Never in our human existence have we lacked a synthetic chemical or analogue as the so-called cause of our disease. But rather we lack nutrients, complex biochemical compounds with more intelligence than anything we could ever try and replicate on a chemical level. Numerous prescription drugs, including chemotherapeutic agents, have “borrowed” their chemical structure from nature, but tweaked just enough so it could be patented. Prior to the instillation of the pharmaceutical model, our medicine was found all around us, and still is.
Our co-evolution with plant species was absolutely essential to our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development, that has spanned millions of years. Plants have assisted us in times of need - whether as food, medicine, shelter, clothing, or enlightenment. But where along this journey did we diverge from our botanical companions? When did we become so disconnected? I guess the more important question is, how can we return to this source of innate wisdom? While many of us have house plants (and this is a great start), perhaps it’s time we find room in our homes for herbal helpers. Herbs are much more than a garnishment on a plate, they can be the unsung hero of virtually any dish, while conferring a plethora of health benefits. No longer do culinary and medicinal herbs have to live in separate realms, and our homes should be the catalyst of this convergence. Plus, when’s the last time your prescription refilled itself and magically showed up at your door? Plants are a self-perpetuating prescription that grow in the convenience of your home, and require little more than sun, soil, water, and love.
Growing Medicine at Home:
Whether you’re an experienced gardener, or first-time plant person, growing herbs at home can be incredibly fun and relatively effortless.
Location, Location, Location:
First and foremost, locate a sunny spot, windowsills work perfect. Most herbs need at least 4-6 hours of sunlight per day. So windows facing the south or southwest are preferred, with north facing windows being the least desirable. East and west facing windows can also do the trick.
Pick Your Planting Container:
Most herbs can thrive in containers, and can be easily moved outdoors for some direct sunlight when the temperatures are right. Containers should have holes or perforations on the bottom to assist with drainage. Let your imagination run wild with items you have around the house that you can repurpose into chic planters. Thrift stores also have great items that with a few holes drilled in the bottom can be gorgeous plant homes.
Sifting Through Soil:
There is a big difference between potting soil and what is found in your backyard. Plants in containers need adequate drainage and most yard soil is far too dense for container gardening. Soil is very important because it nourishes the plants, which in turn nourish you. Many garden supply stores carry pre-made potting mix, but be sure to read your labels and look for soil that is not treated with pesticides or herbicides.
Choosing seeds is perhaps the most important step. There are so many GMO seeds on the market, it can be hard to tell which companies are reputable. Key terms to look for are “heirloom”, “non-GMO”, and “organic”. These words mean the genetic makeup of the seed has not been altered, and are the best for you and the planet. There are several companies who sell high-quality heirloom seeds, like Baker Creek, and Seed Savers Exchange. Receiving the Baker Creek catalog in the mail is better than Christmas, your eyes will light up when you see the vibrant colors of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs, that you can grow in the comfort of your own home.
When to Water:
Some plants need to be watered daily and love moist soil, and some prefer more dry soil. While this is dependent upon the plant species, a good rule of thumb is to stick your finger in the soil to check the moisture content. If the soil is dry, then your plant could use a good watering - generally enough to see some water draining out the bottom. If the soil is still slightly moist, then you can probably wait until the next day to water. Just like us, plants thrive best with filtered water, as tap water can contain an improper balance of minerals and be high in fluoride, chloride, pesticides, and heavy metals.
Starting out with one herb may be the best option for someone who is starting to green their thumb. But if you’re feeling viridescent, try starting your herbal home apothecary with this herbal trio: basil (anti-diabetic), oregano (antimicrobial), and rosemary (the herb of remembrance). Tip: basil prefers more water than rosemary and oregano. Fortunately, the three herbs recommended to start your herbal home apothecary are fairly hardy and grow well indoors. Locate a sunny spot, a windowsill works perfect, and watch the magic happen. Visit with your plants daily to observe how they’re growing, and while there is no scientific evidence to this statement, there is years of gardening wisdom from my grandfather - talking and singing to your plants helps them grow, and be more vibrant. So say hello to your new best friends - your herbal helpers!