5 Medicinal Plants that My Grandmother Grew in Her Backyard
Granny was a farmer. She and Papa had a small farm and grew most of their food. They purchased flour, coffee, and sugar, but most other foods came from the farm. She also had a medicinal garden and grew her medicines there. I don’t remember her ever going to the doctor, but I’m sure she did for major illnesses.
Her medicinal garden included these five plants that she believed in. She also used garlic, onion, and other herbs that she grew in her vegetable garden. These five were grown for medicinal use only and she taught me to use them as well. They were the basis of our everyday medicine.
St. John’s Wort
Granny grew St. John’s Wort for menstrual cramping and the symptoms of menopause. She would make a tea from the leaves and drink it three times a day for symptoms. As she grew older she began using the tea and the topical oil for nerve pain of neuralgia, muscle pains, back pains, and body aches.
She also whispered to me that it was good for hemorrhoids, reducing the inflammation and pain.
As she grew older, my grandmother began using St. John’s Wort to treat arthritis, rheumatism and gout. She drank the tea as before, two to three times a day, every day. Over time, it greatly reduced her pain.
St. John’s Wort has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that treat chest congestion, speeds healing of infections, including colds and the flu.
The herb is known to have additional uses including: removing fluids and detoxing the body, treating childhood bedwetting, and lowering blood pressure problems. It is also reported to help in alleviating the symptoms of mild opiate withdrawal.
My grandmother grew a stand of aloe vera in a corner of her Georgia farm. Every time I visited, she would make sure I had a pot to take home. The stuff grew well in South Carolina where I grew up and at my current Florida home. Over the years, I have used the gelatinous sap repeatedly for sunburns, burns, skin abrasions and wounds, and other skin problems.
Aloe vera is also edible and can be used internally to soothe the intestinal tract. Take it with meals to relieve reflux and heartburn, or use the juice to relieve cramping, flatulence, and abdominal pain. It is also a natural laxative, so you should start with small doses.
The plant is reported to lower blood sugar in diabetics taking just 2 tablespoons of the juice or pulp. I have not tried it for this purpose, but I certainly would try it if I were diabetic.
Granny loved peppermint. I think this was her favorite herb. She would often just pick a sprig and eat it. The trick to growing peppermint is to plant it in moist, rich soil and keep it moist but not wet.
Granny used peppermint mostly for indigestion, stomach aches, flatulence, intestinal, and liver problems. She would sip on peppermint tea throughout the day for stomach problems. It stimulates the release of bile in the body. It also contains anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties that treat the causes of the illness while soothing the intestinal tract.
Stomach and Menstrual Cramping
Peppermint oil relaxes the muscles of the stomach and uterus to relieve cramping. It is useful for treating diarrhea, spastic colon, IBS, and Crohn’s disease. To relax the bowels and stomach, sip on peppermint tea throughout the day.
Headaches and Migraines
Granny also used peppermint oil, 1 drop diluted in a teaspoon of olive oil and rubbed on the forehead or on the scalp over the painful areas.
Granny called this plant nosebleed plant. It has many different uses, most notably its ability to stop bleeding quickly. If one of us got a cut or wound, granny would clean out the wound and sprinkle it with dried yarrow. She would dress the wound two or three times a day until it healed.
Yarrow’s healing effects extended below the skin as well. She would use it on bruises, sprains, hemorrhoids, and itchy skin.
For fevers, colds, and the flu, granny would give us a piece of raw yarrow root to chew on. It made us sweat, reducing fevers. It is best used early in the illness to open pores and clean toxins from the body.
In granny’s garden, evening primrose was as much an ornamental as a medicinal plant. She grew it along the fence line where it thrived. The flowers open for only one or two nights, closing in the morning. The flowers were beautiful, although short lived.
We were a family of mostly women, so it makes sense that she would grow evening primrose. The plant is known for balancing the female hormones, treating symptoms of PMS, including headaches, bloating, acne and moodiness. It is also said to be helpful in treating Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS.) Women with PCOS who take evening primrose are more likely to conceive and carry a child to full term.
Granny would also use a poultice made from evening primrose root to treat skin problems including piles and wounds. It reduces inflammation and helps the skin heal.
My grandfather swore by evening primrose oil for treating his hair loss. He rubbed the oil on his hair every night and felt that it helped his hair grow back in when he started to go bald.
Granny also took evening primrose for the treatment of her arthritis. She felt that it relieved her arthritis pain when taken daily.
These are the remedies that grannie used regularly. We knew that if we got cut, we should bring in an aloe leaf when we came in. These remedies were part of our every day knowledge.
Unfortunately, so many of us have lost that knowledge. The younger generation rolls their eyes at me when I try to tell them how to use these amazing plants. They would rather run to the doctor and take a pill. I like the natural remedies and I encourage you to learn more about them. I believe the natural remedies to be more healthful for the body when taken correctly.
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