Wild ways: Grow your own medicinal herbs

Gaby Wieland

HERE’S one very simple way to give yourself a summer health boost — grow parsley in a pot on your kitchen windowsill, writes Clodagh Finn.

Increasing the number of vitamins and nutrients in your diet can be as simple as that, says naturopath and herbalist Gaby Wieland.

Parsley is a nutritional powerhouse and by simply adding it to smoothies, juices or pesto, you’ll get an extra shot of vitamin C, B, A, iron, chlorophyll and folic acid, along with a wide range of health benefits.

Here are just some of them. Parsley can help to reduce water retention, balance blood sugar and protect blood vessels.

Its high vitamin C content also helps to neutralise the free radicals that cause disease and it’s good for the immune and digestive systems too.

“Herbs transform a dish in terms of flavour, but they also bring a wide range of nutritional and medicinal benefits,” Gaby Wieland tells Feelgood.

Basil
Basil

She has always been convinced of the value of natural remedies, a belief that has deepened since she moved to Ireland from Germany with her husband Hans and their children in 1985. 

They were looking for a more sustainable and simple way of living and set up Cliffony Organic Farmhouse Cheeses in Sligo in 1987.

Gaby, a trained nurse, then decided to pursue her love of herbs and enrolled in the College of Naturopathic Medicine in Dublin and qualified after four years in 2004.

She and her husband now run courses at their Neantóg Kitchen Garden School. 

Neantóg is the Irish word for nettle, a powerful herb which is a blood tonic among other things.

“It doesn’t taste too good, so I mix it with other things,” Gaby says.

She uses herbs extensively in her cooking — in smoothies, juices, stews, salads — and has gathered her recipes into a book, The Neantóg Cookbook, which is now in its fifth edition.


She also uses herbs in a range of teas. Lemon balm is a favourite. It has a really calming effect on children, she says, and it restores energy but in a balanced way.

A growing number of people are now interested in trying natural remedies. “People are much more open to trying things now,” says Gaby, who has seen a marked change over the last decade.

In that time, the benefits of herbs have also been backed up by hard scientific evidence. According to the Journal Of Nutrition, for instance, clinical trials found that garlic reduced cholesterol and that it also had a role to play in fighting heart disease.

Another study found that oregano was very high in antioxidants, outstripping some fruit and vegetables, while essential oils of oregano had powerful antiviral and antifungal properties.

Here is how other herbs can boost your health, according to the website loveherbs.ie which encourages us to incorporate more herbs in our daily diet.

Basil:

Rich in essential oils such as eugenol, citronellol and linalool, all known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. The herb is also high in vitamin A which can combat ageing. Other vitamins and minerals include: Vitamin K, C, magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium.

Rosemary:

Rosemary is a great source of iron, calcium and vitamin B6. It has also been shown to improve digestion and enhance memory and concentration.

Thyme:

Thyme really packs a nutritional punch. An excellent source of vitamin A, iron, manganese, copper and dietary fibre, it is also a powerful antioxidant that aids your digestion.

Tarragon:

Adds a unique flavour, but also a healthy dose of iron and antioxidants. Because it is rich in potassium and Vitamin A, it’s also good for your eyes.

Sage:

Sage has many benefits. It is rich in vitamins A and K as well as volatile oils and flavonoids which have antiseptic and relaxing properties. Sage has also been shown to enhance memory.

But don’t limit yourself to cultivated herbs, says Gaby Wieland. In the wild, sweet cicely (which can help with diabetes), wild garlic, hawthorn and elderflower all have a number of benefits.

She runs a series of wild food foraging workshops to help people find, identify and collect wild herbs and also to learn about their medicinal benefits.

The next one takes place on Saturday, June 15 and leaves from Neantóg Kitchen Garden School in Cliffony, Sligo at 2pm. The three-hour workshop costs €45. For details see: www.neantog.com

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