Grow herbs for health and happiness
I’ve been growing herbs for a few years now and I really enjoy it. If like me, you live in an urban environment with limited outdoor space, growing herbs is a great introduction to gardening, which according to numerous research studies, has been shown to have a significant positive impact on our health and wellbeing.
What’s wrong with our health?
Globally, the prevalence of the so-called lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes, and obesity, is becoming a major public health issue. For example, it’s estimated that worldwide, approximately 415 and 350 million people presently suffer from diabetes and depression respectively, and hence both are costly to national health care budgets.
Can gardening help?
In 2017 an analysis by the University of Exeter (UK) and University of Tokyo (Japan) of 21 studies of the benefits on human health of gardening, confirmed that daily contact with nature has a long-lasting and deep impact, particularly in relation to the lifestyle diseases listed above. Which suggests that regular contact with nature can promote human health and can be used as a form of preventive medicine. So gardening, even if confined to a windowsill, can improve our health. See the full report here:
I use gardening as a form of mindfulness - taking some time away from the every day to engage with nature. As I carefully place my seeds in their plastic container, and pot-on the seedlings a few weeks later, gently lifting them by their bright new leaves so as not to damage their delicate stems, the horizon in my mind seems to become smooth and level like the open sea. At this point I have entered what psychologists call 'flow'; a term used to describe a person’s state of mind when they are completely absorbed in an activity. The feeling of flow is closely associated with mindfulness.
Anxious people often feel overwhelmed by what’s happened in the past, or worried about what could happen in the future, and gardening can be a good way of focusing on the here and now, and regaining a sense of control... and it’s a lot more affordable and accessible than many other forms of therapy.
So if you want to relax and unwind, as well as feel a sense of achievement, why not buy a couple of packets of seeds and start by growing your favourite herbs? I’ve picked five that require a minimum of fuss, and can be grown at any time of year in individual pots on your windowsill. As well as being good for your health, they will add new and interesting flavours to your salads and cooked dishes, and are a much cheaper option than buying cut herbs from the supermarket.
Basil is known to calm nerves, is a good source of fibre, and has a detoxifying effect on the liver. It’s a very good source of vitamin A (through its concentration of carotenoids such as beta-carotene), and not only protects the cells that form the lining of numerous body structures from free radical damage but also helps prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol in the bloodstream. Basil oil has also been found to help clear skin blemishes, thanks to its powerful anti-inflammatory activity. The plants like plenty of sunshine and regular watering.
Don't leave this common garnish sitting on the side of your plate! Parsley is full of nutrients. It contains vitamins A and C, and just one tablespoon offers more than half of our recommended daily intake of vitamin K, a nutrient that's essential for healthy blood. It also contains volatile oils that have been shown to inhibit tumour formation and flavonoids that function as antioxidants and help prevent oxygen-based damage to cells.
This tasty herb is part of the onion family and can help boost our immune system. Multiple studies even suggest that eating allium vegetables, a category that includes garlic and scallions in addition to chives, is associated with a lower risk of developing certain cancers, including those of the prostate, stomach, and breast.
Mint is a rich source of vitamin A, providing more than half of our recommended daily intake in just two tablespoons, and is good for the breath, digestion, nausea, headaches, respiratory disorders, and asthma. It’s an extremely invasive plant, so if planting out in the garden... keep it in its pot to prevent it getting out of control!
Easy to grow with unique flavours, this classic herb is excellent for soups, stocks, pastas and more. According to research, sage is an outstanding memory enhancer and is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also used to manage digestive problems, including loss of appetite, flatulence, gastritis, diarrhoea, bloating, and heartburn. It doesn’t like wet roots, so grow in well-drained soil and take care not to over-water.
- Sow into 7 - 10cm pots.
- Fill with good quality seed sowing compost.
- Place pots in the warmest part of the house until seedlings appear.
- Then transfer pots to the windowsill.
- Water and harvest regularly.
- Feed occasionally with a fertilizer suitable for edible plants.
- Give them your love, care and attention!
I wish you the best with your gardening endeavours. I'm certain you will find it extremely rewarding as well as relaxing and soothing for the soul.
Why not share your photos
If you do give it a go I’d love to hear how you get on and maybe even see a few photos of your beautiful herbs.
Thank you for reading this blog post, if you have any ideas for future posts, please do let me know. I would love to hear from you - contact me.