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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Feb 19

The Medicinal Garden

Posted on February 19, 2016 at 11:25 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

A weekend planned with friends quickly dissolved with the start of a scratchy throat, achy body, and fever. The long holiday weekend was spent in bed nursing this malady instead of shopping, seeing a play, and whatever other mischief four women can get into in Reno.

I wandered about the garden in search of any shred of green herbs that could act as a healing tea. Alas, most everything in the garden was dormant. This increased my resolve to freeze herbs in ice cubes this summer for use when needed during the throes of winter.

As a second generation Italian-American, herbs and spices played a big part of staying healthy in my family. I remember all-too-well the stories my mom told of mustard plasters, concoctions using garlic, and other choice plants growing fresh in the garden.

Investigating herbal uses more thoroughly, I learned that many fresh herbs lose their punch when dried. For example, sage is a great herb to use for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. Fresh sage has a high concentration of oils that will release into teas to best benefit the person in need. However, those oils are lost as the leaves are dried.

Garlic, also high in both antibacterial and antiviral properties, can ward off illnesses by chewing a raw clove a day. My online research even suggested poking holes in the garlic cloves and keeping them in a bowl next to your bed at night to attain maximum benefit. I had to laugh, thinking the garlic would prompt anyone within range of the aroma to keep their distance, along with any flu bug they might be carrying. If memory serves, mom said she and her siblings were made to wear a necklace of garlic during winter to ward off illnesses.

Fresh basil is another great herb to keep on hand. It is suggested that basil has a calming effect on the stomach and it is often used for digestion, but it also can quell a cough by chewing a fresh leaf as needed.

Space constraints in this blog limit the number of medicinal plants I can address, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention using honey as the binder to sweeten herbs. While Mary Poppins sang, "a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down in a most delightful way," I would venture to guess that honey would work equally well to assist getting some of these herbs down.

Bee in lavender - e
 Bee in lavender
Consider planting some of these herbs for your summer garden. In addition to their medicinal uses, herbs also support the health of your garden by encouraging visiting pollinators such as honeybees. Who knows, the next step may be to install a few beehives!

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