It’s amazing the things that we have growing in our garden that are so good for us, delicious and beneficial for our health. 

And while we trust medicines, we can be slow to take a few leaves from the ground and eat them, or make them into a therapeutic tea.

Cheap, free, and foraged food is waiting for the taking and there’s quite literally no better time than now to make the most of nature’s free abundance. 

Another herb that’s leaping out from the hedgerows is cleavers — also known as the sticky back.

These plants are light and fluffy in appearance and funny because when you throw them at someone they stick to their clothes... ah the days before mobile phones.

Sticky backs are good for cleaning out the lymph vessels and you can make a powerful juice by putting them into a masticating juicer (the type used for juicing wheatgrass) along with dandelion leaves and nettles.

These are strong astringent herbs and will make a diuretic juice or tea if you pour boiling water over the leaves and leave them to infuse in a pot for 5-10 minutes.

Did you know that a commonly growing herb in your garden that helps with anxiety is the deliciously scented lemon balm? 

The cleaver or sticky-back is a great herb for cleansing the lymphatic system.
The cleaver or sticky-back is a great herb for cleansing the lymphatic system.

This can quickly be turned into a soothing tea and a simple tisane made from rosemary can help with chronic stress and adrenal fatigue, while mint is more than a tasty digestive remedy, it also helps you to relax. 

If you are going through tough times and find that your morning coffee is making you feel stressed, maybe swap one or two cups for some delicious tea. 

Mint also works well for anxiety.

Many people pick up herb plants in their supermarket basket like basil, parsley and coriander, plants which quickly die as they are generally grown in hothouse environments so they can’t really hack it in the real world.

It’s easy to get these plants to extend their lives when you bring them home so you get more from them than just that one bowl of pesto or sprinkling of parsley for your scrambled eggs.

Simply tap the plant out of it’s little pot and then loosen up the roots with your fingers, pulling off some of the ends. 

The plant will get a little wake up call and send some energy into the roots quickly. 

Now get a larger pot, fill it with soil and repot your single herbs in here, pressing the soil in around it well and then water the plant. 

It’s also good to give the whole thing a little haircut which also gives it a boost. 

Delicate herbs like the ones I just mentioned do better indoors a they are plants from hot countries so keep these on your window sill. 

Hardly perennial herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage can be potted straight into a bigger pot outside, or into the soil. 

They benefit from a good haircut at the end of each growing season as this will help to stop them becoming woody and keep their foliage nice and full.

Growing just a few herbs will take your cooking to the next level and save you lots of money on those overpriced packets of the cut varieties. 

Try to buy herb plants from Irish sources like Horgan’s which are available in many supermarkets and reasonably-priced. Otherwise get them from small, organic growers at your local food market.

Herbfeast 2016

If you just can’t get enough of this herby stuff there is an event to beat all herbaceous events taking place in Cork in May. 

Herbfeast is a three-day herb conference aimed at the herb-interested community at large and it’s for herbalists and anyone who has a budding interest in the subject.

Interest in herbal remedies is growing and Herbfeast has an exciting line-up of speakers and events for anyone looking to improve their lives through accessing this natural and available form of therapies.

Ireland has a rich and abundant range of herbs growing which are just waiting to be used. 

This three-day event has a fascinating line-up of talks like ‘Lesser used Irish herbs — a pharmacy at the doorstep’ with Vilma Matuleviciute.

A glimpse of our herbal heritage is offered by the well-known herbalist Kevin Orbell McSean, while Anne Marie Reilly’s talk is called ‘Herbal and nutritional approaches to the treatment of PCOS, (polycystic ovarian syndrome)

A very special additional workshop called ‘Herbal foot care for hard-working feet and mobile medicine’ is one of the main attractions. 

This is a full-day workshop with Lorna Mauney-Brodek, focusing on the Harriet Tubman Free Foot Clinic, a collaborative care clinic in Atlanta, Georgia, blending herbal and conventional therapies. 

The foot services clinic provides whole-body health benefits such as stress reduction, immune support, pain relief, and emotional support. 

Foot problems affect so many and the workshop covers issues such as fungus, ingrown toenails, calluses, corns, blisters, diabetic ulcers, and more.

Herbfeast takes place at the Scala Retreat and Conference Centre in Blackrock, Cork, from May 27-29 


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