GARDENING: Learn how to grow herbs for health at Herb Day

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GARDENING: Learn how to grow herbs for health at Herb Day

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American Botanical Council has more than 20 gardens on its property. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

New stories flood the airwaves daily about the latest research on the preventative benefits of various foods and herbs. Words like antioxidants and phytochemicals have become part of the new health-aware lexicon of consumers.

As a result, more and more people are raising their own fruits and vegetables at home — to save money and to control the quality of what they eat. With this increased focus of the importance of disease prevention, there has also been a resurgence in the use of home-grown herbs, not just for culinary uses, but for overall health and medicinal purposes as well.

The use of plants to promote wellness certainly isn’t new. Prehistoric use of medicinal plants dates as far back as 60,000 years ago. Formal documentation of herbal remedies can be found as far back as 3000 B.C.

Just as growing your own vegetables can save you time and money and promote good health, raising herbs in your garden or on your windowsill can help you treat many common ailments. Readily available and easily grown, plants can help relieve problems from the common cold to inflammation, poor digestion and insomnia.

Our temperate Central Texas climate allows us to grow herbs outside almost year-round, and some can be grown inside as well. Herbs are easy to start from seed but manyalso can be purchased from local nurseries to grocery stores as starter plants to give you a jump on the process. Good potting soil, regular water and plenty of sunshine and you’re good to go.

Most medicinal herbs can be made into simple teas, poultices or salves. I remember my mother making soothing chamomile tea from the garden to help her sleep. Chamomile has been used around the world for centuries as a sleep aid or to help calm an upset stomach. It is also used in a variety of other ways for other ailments.

Because herbal and plant remedies are not regulated, it’s important to make sure you’re educated about all the potential benefits and risks associated with different plants and how best to use them.

More detailed information about medicinal and culinary herbs is available from the American Botanical Council. Established in 1988, ABC educates consumers, healthcare professionals, researchers, educators, industry and the media on the safe and effective use of herbs and medicinal plants.

ABC is located in East Austin at the historic Case Mill land grant homestead and is surrounded by medicinal and culinary-themed demonstration gardens. The property includes more than 20 gardens organized by body system, international cuisine, and ancient Chinese and Indian herbal medicine, among others. Trained council staff members offer guided tours to provide information and educate the public about medicinal plants.

“There is a growing interest in wellness and keeping our food and medicine local,” says ABC Education Coordinator Jenny Perez. “People want to know how they can stay healthy with the use of antioxidants or protective phytochemicals in their food. They’d rather prevent disease and instead incorporate beneficial plants as part of their daily diet or daily smoothie.”

ABC will celebrate the 12th annual Herb Day 10-4 p.m. May 6 at the headquarters, 6200 Manor Road. It’s a free event with herbal educational activities, including presentations from local and national herbal experts. At 10:30 a.m. Ellen Zimmerman, owner of Austin School of Herbal Studies and EZ Herbs, will lead a walk through the gardens. Nicole Telkes, author and director of the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine in Austin will lead the second herb walk at 1:30 p.m.

Mindy Green, aromatherapist, herbalist, author, educator, and owner of Green Scentsations, will give a presentationat 11:45 a.m. on on “Rose: Herbal Remedy, Aromatic Essence, and Culinary Delight.”

ABC’s founder and executive director, Mark Blumenthal will present “Humorous Health: Conventional and Alternative Medicine, Pharmaceutical Drugs, Diet, and Lifestyle as Seen through Cartoons” at 2:45 p.m.

“ABC looks forward to reaching out to the local community on HerbDay,” said ABC Special Projects Director Gayle Engels. “In keeping with ABC’s nonprofit educational mission, we get to introduce visitors to the beneficial plants we love and to the broad knowledge base of local and global herbalists.”

Plants, books, refreshments, and membership information will be available in addition to free sample issues of ABC’s acclaimed, full-color, quarterly, peer-reviewed scientific journal, HerbalGram, and other educational literature.

There will be live music throughout the day and special events for children including a May pole, an herbal art activity, and a seedling planting activity for the child to take home.

ABC’s website, abc.herbalgram.org, which includes a comprehensive collection of information about the use of herbs and medicinal plants.

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