Some of my fondest childhood memories are of days spent at my grandfather’s vegetable plot. I can recall one particular occasion in mid-autumn when he went outside to pick beetroot leaves, coughing and spluttering all the while. His intention was to use them to make tea for a chest infection he couldn’t shake. Like many of his generation, he had a lingering mistrust of doctors. Whether or not it worked, I don’t know.
Though we often forget that plants hold powerful medicinal qualities, it’s something that our hunter-gatherer forbears understood all too well. The connection that man holds with nature, and in particular with plants, is something that’s deeply innate. There’s now even a whole academic subject, ethnobotany, that explores this millennia-old relationship.
Indeed, it’s not difficult to picture a prehistoric human peeling bark from a tree, or cracking open fruit husks in search of seeds, or crushing leaves into a poultice, all in an effort to make medicine.
And the wonderful thing? You can do it too – easily and with little effort.
In fact, scientists have conducted numerous studies exploring their potent pharmacological effects. One botanist in particular who has tried to counter the misconception that plant medicines are too mild or weak to have any real effect is James Wong. In an article in The Telegraph, he was quoted as saying:
…up to 50 per cent of over-the-counter medicines are based on chemicals that were first isolated from plants. “Aspirin, for example, is made from the same chemicals that were first isolated from willow, which has been used for thousands of years as a painkiller.”
Yes! Plants are momentously forgiving and will thrive as long at they have a few basic needs met. Whilst this article is focused on growing herbs in pots, either outdoors, on a bright windowsill or in a conservatory, if you do want to plant them outside, they’ll be perfectly happy in the ground.
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