3 Children's Herbs for the Garden
Now that the weather is warmer and summer is upon us, I'm sure we've all been dreaming up our gardens and maybe even starting some seeds indoors. I love planning our garden and bringing Jude along with me to get her hands dirty! It's such a cool process to watch a seed begin to grow and flourish into a full blown plant. If you can handle the dirt being everywhere, and the odd pack of seeds being dumped all over the place, then gardening with your toddler is such a wonderful activity.
As we plant each seed, I like reviewing with Jude what we love about that particular plant and why we include it in our diet.
Here are three of my favourite herbs for children's gardens that are nourishing, gentle and calming.
1. Echinacea (Echinacea agustifolia) - This is one of the most popular herbs used for its ability to help the body fight infections. There is also a growing body of research to back this up, showing that Echinacea increases macrophage and T-cell activity, helping our immune systems. It has been shown to be safe for all ages, including children and can be a helpful ally for colds/flu and infections. Plus, its cone shaped flower, adds beauty to any garden.
Growing Echinacea: Most commonly known as the coneflower, this herb is pretty easy to grow and boasts a beautiful purple coneflower (E. purpurea is the purple coneflower). Echinacea prefers to be planted in full sun.
It is best to wait to harvest the root until the plant is at least 3-4 years old. At which time you can harvest and prepare for tinctures or decoctions.
Note - because Echinacea is known to stimulate the immune system, it is best to avoid if you have an autoimmune condition or take immunosuppressant drugs.
2. Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) - A calming and soothing nervine, chamomile is widely used by Herbalists for children's teething, anxiety, colic, inflamed skin and general irritation. Clinical studies have also shown this plant to offer nervous and digestive system support, making it a wonderful nourishing drink for an anxious child. A mixture of chamomile and lemon balm also make for a calming bedtime drink. According to Herbal Queen Rosemary Gladstar, Chamomile flowers have rich amounts of azulene, a volitile oil that acts as an anti-inflammatory and anti-fever agent.
Growing Chamomile: Chamomile can be easily grown from seed, started directly in the garden in dry, well-drained soil. This plant prefers full sun. You can harvest the flowers when they are fully open.
3. Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) - A wonderful children's herb, Lemon Balm is a gentle and calming nervine. It is rich in volatile oils that have been shown to calm both the nervous and digestive systems. It can be helpful for mild fevers, as well as for anxiety and insomnia. It is also an antiviral making a great addition to daily routine, as our children are coming into contact with germs daily.
Growing Lemon Balm: While Lemon Balm is a perennial, in most parts of Canada it is an annual due to our colder temperatures. Grow in moist, well-drained soil with a little bit of shade, though this plant does love the sun. You will love the flavour and fragrance of this nourishing plant in your garden.
Harvest the leaves at any time during the growing season, but note that leaves are more flavourful before the plant begins to flower.
Now, even though I haven't mentioned this herb in my top 3 for gardening with kids, I can't go without mentioning it because its a daily staple in our house. I left it out only because, when in the garden this nutritious herb can sting, so you may want to plant it out of reach of the kids. If you haven't already guessed it, I'm talking about Nettle (urtica dioica).
First off, lets talk about the sting which comes from the formic acid on the stem and the underside of leaves. Simply cook, dry or mash the leaves to destroy the sting. Nettles are one of my favourite herbs all around. They are a rich source of vitamins A, B, C, E, K and minerals like iron, manganese, potassium and calcium. Widely used for aches and pains, and relieving symptoms of hay fever, Nettle is also a nourishing tonic helpful for allergies, and balancing blood sugar.
Nettles can be enjoyed fresh in salads, steamed or dried for teas. You can also easily access the nourishing benefits of Nettle in our Queen of Green powder.
Whatever you're planting this spring, I hope you take time to appreciate the beauty all around you.