Medicinal Gardening

medicinal garden

We all know the health benefits of eating organic foods. So now that our cold crops are in and starting to grow, we have decided that it’s time to plant our first real medicinal garden. Our regular herb garden contains many herbs that are not only delicious but also have many healing benefits. In our everyday run-of-the-mill herb garden we have rosemary, parsley, peppermint, lavender, sage, chives, oregano and thyme. We utilize it daily throughout the year.

Alas, our medicinal garden is going to take a bit more effort. We will need to harvest the herbs, dry some of them for teas and tinctures and turn others into topical lotions and oils. Roots and flowers are harvested at different times of year for different purposes. Our learning curve is steep with this one but we are excited to replace the contents of our medicine cabinets with natural fixes.

In an effort to be more environmentally friendly, we are saying goodbye to the front yard and turning it into a lawn-free zone. This is a hard one for me because quite honestly I love lawns. Beautifully cared for pristine yards are my thing, so going native, as they say, is a whopper of a change. Our medicinal garden is going to line the walkway to our front door, not only making for easy picking but also becoming a bit of a metaphor for our new lifestyle; Welcome to Our Healing Home.

We have 64 kinds of seeds for our garden, all non-hybrid and heirloom.  No way we can take all of it on at one so we’re starting with a few important ones for our family.


Stinging NettlePhoto by Greg Fewer

Stinging Nettle–Stinging nettle is great for thyroid regulation, bronchitis and bladder stones. We have also found it to be very useful with breathing related asthma difficulties. It can be made into a tea or tossed right in with your salad.

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Echinacea–In addition to being an all-around immune booster, a tincture can be made for mouth aliments such as gingivitis, canker sores, toothaches, tonsillitis, and sore throats. A lotion with Echinacea will help with sores, cuts, acne, hemorrhoids, and
psoriasis.  Use a tincture to help with internal infections like urinary tract infections, influenza, respiratory infections, snake or spider bites, and swollen lymph glands.


Borage– Borage is a member of the comfrey family and is high in potassium, calcium and mineral acids. The leaf is used to strengthen adrenal function. Oil made from borage seed has the highest concentration of gamma linolenic acid and is very effectively used as an anti-inflammatory for chronic rheumatoid arthritis. The oil is also used for skin disorder like psoriasis and  eczema. It also greatly helps rehydrate sun-damaged and older skin.


Feverfew– Feverfew has been used as a natural fever-reducer as well as for digestive disorders, headaches and arthritis. Parthenolide is naturally found in feverfew. As parthenolide has been shown to induce apoptosis in cancer cells, this is a particularly exciting addition to our garden.

milk thistle

Milk Thistle– Milk Thistle has a unique ability to protect the liver. It is, in fact, the only thing used to treat poisoning with Amanita mushrooms. It is used to treat adrenal disorders and psoriasis (by increasing bile flow.) It also has an estrogen-type effect which is useful for men with prostate cancer as well as helping stimulate breast milk.


Yarrow– Yarrow can be used for a wide variety of things including use as an antiseptic. It improves digestion and helps to keep gallstones from forming. It is a natural and wonderful anti-inflammatory used for arthritis sufferers.

We’ll keep you posted on how we do and welcome any suggestions!


Pioneer Pumpkin Recipes

If I could pick only one food that epitomizes Fall, it would have to be pumpkin. It is one of those amazing foodstuffs that is equally delicious served savory or sweet. It’s no wonder that pumpkin was the veggie (although technically a fruit) that staved off starvation for the pilgrims, their first few months in the NewLand – it’s packed with life sustaining nutrition. Not only is it brimming with vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium, calcium and fiber, but it’s yummier than all get out. How can you lose? If I now shared that it was also low in fat, I’d bet you’d be grabbing your keys and heading for the market. Have a safe trip!

The key to making pumpkin more scrumptious is to remember that it can handle a lot of spice. In and of itself, it can be rather bland; however, paired with bold seasonings, you can do no wrong. For desserts, pastries & breads (including pancakes and waffles) think ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and clove. For savory dishes try using cayenne pepper, curry, and cumin along with your basic garlic and onion.

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds

Olive oil or butter

Salt and spices

1. Scoop the seeds out of a large pumpkin.

2. Rinse with water until almost pulp free (a little pulp adds flavor.)

3. For every 2 ¼ cups of seeds, you need 1 tablespoon of melted butter or olive oil and seasoning salt to taste. I like to use garlic salt or sea salt and cayenne pepper. But you can use anything that floats your boat. Toss seeds in butter and seasoning.

4. Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown.



Curry Pumpkin Soup


2 tablespoons of butter

8-oz. of fresh sliced mushrooms

½ cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon curry powder

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 tablespoon honey

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk

Garnish: chopped chives and sour cream

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Sautee mushrooms and onion until tender, stirring often.

2. Stir in flour and curry powder.

3.  Gradually add chicken broth. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture becomes thickened.

4. Stir in pumpkin, honey, salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add milk, stirring constantly until mixture is heated through.

6. Garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives

Asthma, Help! I’m Suffocating (Reiner)

We moved to Casa Grande, Arizona in the Fall of 1998. Sometime thereafter, breathing became more difficult for me. Since allergies had been a problem for me for several decades, it did not occur that some new problem might be developing.

Finding it difficult to breathe, particularly at night when it became necessary to get into an upright position, the need to see a doctor finally became apparent. I was spending more time in bed at night gasping for air than in bed sleeping. The Fall of 1999 I saw a doctor.

After careful examination the doctor said that it was asthma and gave me a prescription for an inhaler. I used it a couple of times and obtained some relief. but was concerned when an article I read described the alarming increase of people found dead with an inhaler in hand. About the same time, an article crossed my desk written by an M.D. from Texas proclaiming the wonder of cayenne pepper. It was all very interesting, but the most exciting part was his declaration that cayenne pepper could cure asthma.

The same day, cayenne pepper in hand , 100 capsules for $2.98 from Wal-Mart, I started a very successful protocol in use to this day.

The article cautioned that cayenne pepper should not be taken with caffeine or citrus. When carelessness led to forgetfulness, a severe cayenne stomach ache immediately followed and an important lesson was learned.

About 4-5 years later an inflamed bursa cause me considerable pain and research suggested that as long as nightshades were consumed (cayenne is a nightshade) one could not expect any relief from pain. A discontinuation of cayenne shortly resulted in the mother of all asthma attacks. Conclusion? It is better to suffer some pain and continue breathing than to be pain from but DEAD!

Today, thirteen years later, cayenne pepper is consumed daily, anywhere from 4-12 capsules taken with meals. And I breathe freely!

An aside from Whitney: Cayenne pepper is also great for circulatory health and has been shown to be very effective in reducing blood pressure. Somewhat paradoxically it is also a wonder at rebuilding the stomach lining and curing intestinal ulcers. It breaks up mucus and congestion in colds and flu. It has successfully been used to prevent migraines. It is an anti-infamatory and has been used for both arthritis and diabetes sufferers. It is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. But most exciting to my aging self, it is a fabulous metabolism booster. So whose stopping by the drug store today? Happy healing.