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    Which Herbs Help Relieve Stress?

    herbs-stress-reliefTwo of my favorite herbs are lavender and rosemary.  Not only do they have many uses as home remedies for minor ailments and for handcrafted beauty products, they can be grown in your own garden.

    There are a number of health benefits from growing your own herbs. There is a healing and relaxing effect from simply gazing at plants and natural landscapes.  It has been found that office workers benefit from the simply adding a plant to their workspace. Sitting in nature and quietly observing and enjoying the natural beauty of trees, plants and flowers has been shown to have a measurable effect of reducing the symptoms of stress, including lowering cortisol levels.

    In addition to the benefits of having a beautiful garden sanctuary, however small it may be, getting our hands in the soil is relaxing.  Working in the garden also is a good way to get quality exercise as an alternative to a gym workout.

    Your herb garden can be scaled down to any convenient size, or even designed as an indoor garden at a window. Anyone can benefit from the health benefits of gardening, including those with physical limitations. A garden, patio or window sill garden can be designed for those with physical limitations. For those who cannot bend down to work their garden at ground level, there are a number of designs and finished products for raised garden beds that are at waist height or wheelchair accessible.

    Which herbs help relieve stress?

    The first herb to consider is one of my very favorites. Lavender is one of the most ancient and revered medicinal herbs.  It is a member of the mint family that is a vigorous perennial that will grow easily in your home garden. A native of the Mediterranean coastal ecosystem, India and the Middle East, it was highly valued for its medicinal properties in the ancient Greek and Roman times. Its native habitat is typically hot, dry and sunny conditions, and is well adapted to drought conditions.

    Lavender is a very versatile herb, and is especially well known for its ability to sooth frazzled nerves and calm an overactive mind.  It eases muscle tension and is one of the primary herbs that massage therapists use in massage lotions and oils to aid in relaxation and bring relief to tense muscles. It is also antimicrobial and can be used as first aid for minor cuts and injuries.

    My favorite lavender tea is to take one and a half tablespoons of any of the mint family, and add a pinch or two of fresh or dried lavender blossoms.  The mints can also be grown very easily in your garden or patio, for a never-ending supply of delicious fresh tea leaves.  It is so easy to grow that it can become invasive; so many gardeners prefer to confine their mint in pots or boxes so they don’t spread over a large area of ground and overwhelm your other garden plants. Peppermint is also very soothing and calming, and has many healing qualities, including being strongly anti-microbial.

    Common lavender is also known as True Lavender or English lavender – Lavendula angustifolia. There are many varieties of lavender, with varying heights and shapes. All have the distinctive scent and healing qualities.  Planting lavender in your yard not only provides fragrant flowers for herbal preparations, but is beautiful addition to your landscape. It is also an excellent plant for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard.

    English lavender is a perennial, meaning that it continues growing year after year rather than needing to be re-planted every spring.  There are varieties that grow tall and make an excellent mid-sized planting in the landscape.  Other varieties have variations such as a mounded shape, fern-like foliage, or dwarf growing habit.  Lavender is a great landscaping plant for dry slopes and embankments. Once established it will not need additional fertilization or watering.  However, you may want to prune it back each year.

    The second garden herb I want to introduce is Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis.  This lovely garden plant has a long history of use as an herbal remedy, as it has a wide range of health benefits. Rosemary is anti-inflammatory and is used to relieve muscle tension.  The scent of lavender or rosemary significantly reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol.  For this reason, essential oil of rosemary or lavender is used in a diffuser to help bring relief for stress and anxiety. Rosemary helps relax tense muscles, improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Studies show that rosemary has anti-cancer properties and is antimicrobial.

    Other benefits of the herb Rosemary are that it improves concentration and memory, and has benefits for nerve and brain health.  It has been used traditionally for its anti-spasmodic action as a treatment for stomach and intestinal conditions.

    To make a soothing tea, simply harvest the fresh leaves, pour boiling water over a tablespoon of the fresh or dried leaves, and steep for ten minutes. Rosemary may be combined with other herbs such as lavender to make a flavorful home remedy for stress and muscle tension.

    Rosemary is a wonderful plant that is easily grown in your garden.  In addition to being beautiful and easy to grow, Rosemary also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. In North America, it is hardy to zone 6; in more northern regions it will need to either be brought inside for the winter, or else replaced with new plants in the spring.

    When taken indoors, it will need a well-drained potting soil, and a sunny location. Although the plant will not grow well if it is over-watered, it is very sensitive to the very dry air typical of indoor winter conditions.  It will need to be misted or otherwise protected from the evaporation from the leaves that occurs when indoor air is very low humidity.  Most homes in winter conditions when the furnace is on have a lower humidity than desert air.

    The simplest way to start is to get your Rosemary from a local garden center.  Most gardeners prefer propagating with root cuttings because it is easily done and starting this plant from seeds take a long time to germinate, and in order to germinate at all, the seeds are somewhat sensitive to the temperature and moisture.  Often only 10% or less of the seeds will germinate. Rosemary also responds well to being pruned back in the late fall.

    These are two of my favorite garden herbs.  They are medicinal, culinary and also can be used for sachets, home-crafted natural cosmetics, body washes and hair rinses. They will grow in your garden or in a container on the patio.  Rosemary can even be grown indoors, and will grow to some size in a larger container which you can put on a caster so it can be moved about with ease. It can be pruned to keep it from getting legging and overgrowing the container. There is something very satisfying about picking your own fresh herbs that you’ve grown yourself, and preparing a soothing anti-stress tea.

    I would love to hear about your experiences growing medicinal herbs.  Please write in with your ideas in the Comments section below.

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