With cold and flu season always seemingly around the corner, and now with Covid-19 looming over us, we need to find different ways to boost our immune system. What better way than to grow our OWN garden of immune boosting herbs? We’re decreasing our carbon footprint, increasing the plant-based movement, and benefiting the earth! It’s also a great project that gets you touching the land and can be a family project as well!
To plant and grow your own immune-boosting herbs, decide whether you want to do it outside in a garden or in pots that you can put outside on a balcony or a deck, or in a sunny spot inside.
The first group of immune boosting plants listed are herbs that are easy to grow, either inside or outside, and can be used as teas, tinctures and/or oils. The second group take longer to grow but may be more powerful based on clinical trials. The second groups are roots and generally speaking, roots have more benefits than the leaves or flowers of a plant. If you start your root plants now, they should be ready for the next cold and flu season!
Below are the basics whether you are planting outside in the garden or in pots:
- Proper amounts of sunlight
- Proper amounts of water
- Adequate drainage
- Quality soil
Echinacea has been used as medicine for centuries. Research shows that Echinacea has a positive effect on the immune system because it increases the number of white blood cells, which fight infections.
Echinacea grows in the U.S. and Canada, and. Many of us may already have it growing in our yards! There are nine species, and a couple of the most common varieties are Purple Coneflower and Black-Eyed Susan. You can use the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots are used to make supplements, liquid extracts, and teas.
Echinacea likes full sun to part shade and should be planted in fast draining soil and watered deeply. Echinacea can also be grown in a container, as long as the container is deep enough to accommodate the plant’s taproot. If you plant your Echinacea outside in the garden, top dress of finished compost. If you plant in containers, use a weak solution of fertilizer twice a month.
Basil contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties and is useful in combating stress, reducing fever, boosting the immune system, and is beneficial for the gastrointestinal system. It also supports the heart, liver, and eye health.
Parsley is highly nutritious and has several health benefits. It is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and has anti-bacterial properties. It supports eye, heart, kidney, and bone health.
Basil and parsley can be planted together. Both like consistently moist soil and lots of sunlight. They thrive in both the garden and in pots. You can either plant from seed inside before the spring season begins, or by starts at your local nursery.
Rosemary is an evergreen herb that is high in antioxidants, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory compounds, so it is super immune-booster.
Sage is used for decreasing excess mucus in the lungs and sinuses. It is cooling, drying, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial. Sage tea is a great gargle for sore throats, and is an excellent cough remedy when mixed with honey and vinegar.
Thyme is another outstanding remedy for coughs. It is full of oils that break up congestion in the lungs and help to make coughs more productive, fight bacteria and viruses. You can easily add it to cough any cough remedy and cough and cold teas.
Like Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme, Oregano is intensely aromatic, warming, and antibacterial. It is so powerful that it can ward off a sinus infection or a cough. Oregano oil can be used on the skin, and taken orally in drops under the tong, or taken in capsule form.
Rosemary, Sage, Oregano and Thyme all prefer dry soil and lots of sun. They can all be planted together in the garden or in a single pot!! Note that these herbs are best grown from cuttings taken from mature plants, because they will take far too long to grow from seed.
Garlic has been used for both food and medicine for centuries. In addition to being antimicrobial, it promotes digestion through stimulating bile in the live, and may help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Garlic-infused oil is used to help to combat ear infections, and as a topical rub for coughs and colds.
Garlic can be planted outside in the garden or in pots. If you are planting in the garden, Plant cloves in mid-autumn in a sunny location with rich, well-drained soil. Garlic may begin growth late in fall or early in spring. If you are planting in pots, use mix as damp as a wrung-out sponge before placing it in the container. Fill the container to within about 2 inches of the rim. Break the garlic heads apart, being careful to keep the papery wrapper around each clove intact. Plant the cloves about 5” apart and 3” down in the soil. The garlic may sprout in the fall and then die back during the winter. Whether you plant outside or in pots, in the spring, the garlic will sprout and you will get to experience the wonders of Garlic Scapes, the green shoots coming from the garlic bulbs under the ground, which can be used in cooking and eaten raw in salads, etc. Like Garlic, Garlic Scapes can also provide immune system support and reduce inflammation.
Ginger has been shown to help kill viruses and has been said to combat chills and fever. The sesquiterpenes, compounds in Ginger that can help by acting as antioxidants to protect us against harmful microbes and assisting in cellular repair. They also kill the virus that causes the common cold! Ginger is also a great source of Zinc, which is a critical nutrient that we all need to stay healthy. Zinc helps the body to fight off invading bacteria and viruses, and it helps wounds to heal.
You can grow Ginger in pots and outside in the garden. It does require a bit of time before you can harvest your Ginger, but it is an interesting, fun project in and of itself! It is as simple as taking some fresh Ginger root-what we eat is actually the Rhizome vs. the roots that grow out from the Rhizome-with some well-developed “eyes” that look like little horns at the ends of the Ginger “fingers” .and planting it in the ground or in a pot. You can either break the Rhizome into smaller pieces, or simply plant the whole Rhizome. Plant your Ginger 2-4 inches deep, with the “eyes” facing up.
Whether you grow your ginger root in a pot or in the ground, you do need really good soil to start with. It needs to be rich enough to feed your ginger, it needs to hold enough moisture so it doesn't dry out, but it needs to be free draining so the ginger roots don't become water logged.
The best planting time is late winter/early spring. Make sure you select a spot where the plants get plenty of light but not direct sun, and that is protected from wind.
Ideally, you would wait a year or 2 before harvesting, but if you just can’t wait, usually it takes eight to ten months to get to the point where the leaves have died and you can dig up the whole plant and harvest the Rhyzome. If you grew your Ginger in a pot, you can just empty the whole pot vs. digging.
You can then pick out a few Ginger pieces that have lots of “eyes” and immediately replant them. You can store your freshly harvested Ginger by peeling off the skin with the tip of a spoon, and storing it in the freezer!
Astragalus is an herb that has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a remedy for stress and illness. Recent research shows that astragalus is an effective for immune support, too. People who took astragalus extract saw a significant increase in immune cell activation within 24 hours.
Astragalus, like Ginger, is a longer-term investment for your immune-boosting garden. You grow it from seed, and can grow it outside in your garden, and you can also grow it in pots.
You first need to prepare the seeds. In order to speed up the germination of the seeds, you scrape off the hard seed coat by rubbing the seeds lightly on sandpaper. Be careful not damage the inside of the seed when you scrape the coating.
The next step is to soak seeds in warm water overnight. After that, the seeds must be first planted indoors in a small pots or seed trays that are at least 2 inches deep. Plant seeds an inch deep and water the soil slowly. Keep the soil evenly moist but not damp until germination occurs. It would be better to keep the pot in a place that receives morning sunlight. Once the seeds germinate and the seedlings are a few inches tall, transfer them to larger pots. Plant them outdoors in the spring when the danger of frost is passed and in an area that gets plenty of sun.
And now the care, watering, feeding and pruning-and waiting-begins! Be sure to use organic fertilizer so that the roots will be free of toxins. You can harvest the roots after the plant is three years old. Harvest no more than 30% of the smaller roots, leaving the main root intact. After harvesting, clean and wash the roots with warm water, slice and dry them for later use.
Astragalus Root can be used by adding it to any soup preparation. Just add it to whatever broth you are making. Be sure to remove the root pieces from the broth before serving! It can also be used to make tea, either on its own or with other teas or herbs.
Don’t have time to wait for your Ginger Rhizomes, your Astragalus or other immune-support plants to grow because you need powerful immune support right now? While you are waiting for your immune-booster garden to be ready for harvest, try IN:MOTION! I have included both Ginger and Astragalus, along with 10 other herbs like Chaenomelis Fructose, which helps to regulate the immune system, in IN:MOTION. Not only does IN:MOTION help with pain and inflammation, it provides powerful immune support that is right at your fingertips. No growing or harvesting necessary!
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