Many people often see their garden as an ideal spot to grow their own veg, but did you know there are a host of plants you can grow that offer various health benefits? We’ve put together a list of five medicinal plants you can grow yourself that can help ease migraines, anxiety, and even improve memory retention.

Feverfew

Some choose to grow this delicate white flower, similar to a daisy, for its aesthetics. Others, however, grow the plant to take advantage of its medicinal properties. Feverfew has been found to reduce the pain of headaches and migraines. Its active ingredients prevent platelets (small cells in the blood) from building up in capillaries and blood vessels. A build-up of these can often be the cause of headaches. You can pick the leaves and eat them however you like — try them on their own or in a salad.

The feverfew, which grows in a small bush at around 20 inches high, can rapidly spread if you don’t promptly remove the flowers. Sow the seeds either between February and May or between August and October. It’s possible to sow directly into a sun-exposed bed during warmer weather or in seed trays. Provide the seeds with plenty of water but do not make them too wet.

Basil

While you might be used to adding basil to your favorite dish to enhance its flavor, you should know it has other useful properties too. It has the ability to fight free radical damage and slow down the effects of aging. It does this by reducing oxidative stress through two flavonoid antioxidants — orientin and viceninare. Make pesto with it or add it to any Italian dish to reap the benefits.

You can begin to grow basil in your back garden by starting to sow the seeds of the basil plant indoors from late February to mid-summer. The best way to do this is to fill a small plant pot (3in) with seed compost, firm down and sow the seeds over the top. Unlike other plants where you may sow more seeds than you need due to some being lost at germination, you should only plant a few more than you need as most will begin to grow. Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, water, and place in a propagator. For those without a propagator, cover the pot with a freezer bag and secure with an elastic band.

As the seedlings grow and eventually become large enough to handle, place them in their own pot and add multi-purpose compost. Basil doesn’t deal well in colder weather, so make sure that you only place it outdoors when any chance of frost is gone.

Thyme

Like basil, thyme is another example of a medicinal herb that is commonly used in the kitchen while also holding many other useful properties. The essential oils of thyme (obtained from the leaves) can be used as a natural cough medicine and have been found to alleviate symptoms of acute bronchitis. It is also a good source of vitamins A and C — helping to boost your immune system. Dry out the leaves to make a beneficial thyme tea.

Unfortunately, due to slow and uneven germination, it can often be difficult to grow thyme from seed. Instead, buy the plant after germination or take cuttings from a friend. You should plant cuttings indoors six to 10 weeks before the spring frost and take them outdoors around two to three weeks before the last frost. These plants prefer well-drained soil; also, be sure to keep them well-trimmed.

Lemon balm

The lemon balm plant is another common garden plant that quickly spreads thanks to its high tolerance of many different conditions and its resistance to disease and pests. Many appreciate the essential oil of the lemon balm for its ability to ease anxiety. It does this by increasing GABA in the brain, which produces a sedative and a calming effect.

This plant doesn’t flower, and its deeply wrinkled leaves give it a similar appearance to a mint plant. You can start by planting the seeds indoors and keeping water levels low. Once the seedlings grow large enough to handle, take them outside to plant in the garden. Choose a cooler part of the garden where they can be protected by the sun at its peak.

Sage

Sage is another member of the mint family. While you’re probably more familiar with sage accompanying the turkey around Christmas time, there is also drink made with this herb that is called ‘thinker’s tea’ due to its ability to enhance mental clarity and improve memory. It has also been found to ease depression.

It is able to grow anywhere in the garden, but it’s said that its leaves are tastier when they have been able to grow under a lot of sunlight. Therefore, if you are planting indoors, place the pot next to a bright window. Like thyme, it’s best to plant sage from cuttings. The plant does not need a lot of water, so wait until the soil is dry before watering.

Of course, these are just five of the many medicinal plants available to grow in your garden. If you decide to start taking one of these plants as a supplement, do thorough research. If you are pregnant, check with your GP to be sure the plants are safe to consume and won’t have any adverse side effects. Happy planting!   

This article was created by Suttons, online retailers of vegetable seeds.

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