by Dr. Aparna Bapat, BAMS
Springtime brings new life to our garden and we see herbs and plants growing everywhere. We can select a few and cultivate them for medicinal uses in healing common ailments at home. All these can be easily grown in a small kitchen/ patio garden in planters and enjoyed throughout the year in warm Florida weather.
Cilantro – Fresh Cilantro leaves are aromatic, have cooling and refreshing quality and are used raw in salads and garnishing. They can be used in smoothies and drinks along with their stems for their beautiful green color and digestive qualities to beat the summer heat. They can also be blended in a yogurt drink called lassi along with Himalayan salt- a popular summer drink in India. This helps in chronic indigestion, acid reflux, excess sweating, headaches, burning eyes, skin irritation and many more heat-related problems.
Mint – The strong aroma of peppermint and spearmint can be felt even when you hold the leaves in your hand. These just grow wild in summer in most places and can be used in cooling yogurt dips, smoothies and garnishing for fruit salads and fruit juices. Mint chutney- a pesto-like dip is made using fresh mint and lemon and is very popular with Indian snacks. Mint is digestive, soothing for stomach aches, mouth and breath freshener, relieves gas and bloating, mint oil is used topically for swellings, and headaches. Spearmint, a stronger variety in taste and sharpness, is used in congestion, cold, cough and mucus to remove toxins in the respiratory system.
Ginger – This is a rhizome and can be used as fresh or dry powder. Fresh ginger root is available all year round and is very digestive, heating, helps to relieve gas, bloating, constipation, headaches and mucus congestion, cough, fever, improves poor circulation, fat metabolism, and much more. Ginger can be used fresh or as dry powder daily to make digestive teas. Ginger oil is used for joint pains and swellings and is very effective as anti-inflammatory in many herbal formulations. Ginger can be used in cooking vegetables, grains, lentils and beans and this makes the food tasty, and easy to digest. Ginger teas, ginger cookies, ginger candy are popular in colder places and winter months.
Holy Basil – Tulsi or holy basil can be abundantly grown all year round indoors and outdoors in Florida weather. It is a must-have plant in every traditional Indian home due to its numerous medicinal uses. The leaves are very aromatic and can be used fresh and dry. Tulsi tea bags sold in most health food stores became very popular during covid times for use as an immunity booster in cold, fevers, cough, congestion, removal of blood toxins, anti inflammatory actions, and much more. Eating about 5 fresh tulsi leaves daily can keep one away from most illnesses and hence it’s used and worshipped daily in Indian culture.
Curry leaves – This is a tropical plant and can grow bigger like a tree or can be grown as a small plant in a planter. The leaves are very fragrant and impart strong flavor and medicinal qualities to the food. It is very popularly used in Indian curry sauces, rice dishes, chutney recipes and in dry spices mixtures to cook with food. Curry leaves are digestive, carminative, good for strengthening liver enzymes and detoxifying liver and digestive system, used in diabetes, lipid disorders, hair growth and many other metabolic problems.