Can we grow our own medicine? Believe it or not nature has supplied us with some very powerful tools for boosting our body's immune system. One of the best ways to harness the healing potential of food is to grow it yourself, in your own garden. But, before you get discouraged, you do not need a green thumb to turn these six seeds into robust herbs and vegetables.
Important tip: To make the most out of their healing abilities, eat your produce whole, fresh, ripe and raw.
Packed with goodness: This potent herb is anti-bacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal, and has been found to reduce inflammation too. Studies have also shown that garlic can reduce the risk of lung cancer, prostate cancer and osteoarthritis. According to preliminary findings, garlic may also lower cholesterol and blood pressure in people who suffer from hypertension.
Use it to avoid the common cold. If you feel like you are getting sick, mince fresh garlic and let it sit for 15 minutes, then swallow it as you would a pill. This is an extremely effective method of preventing a cold.
Easy to grow: In spring or fall, buy seed garlic (you can purchase it online, or get it from a local farmer. Gardening supply stores should sell it too).
For best results:
2. Broccoli sprouts
Source: Flickr, Danielle Scott
Packed with goodness: Broccoli sprouts are baby plants in their prime, making them 10 to 30 times more powerful than fully grown broccoli. Besides having a full profile of enzymes, vitamins and minerals, broccoli sprouts contain concentrated stores of sulforaphane, which helps mobilize the body's natural cancer-fighting resources, inhibiting tumor growth. The sprouts have also been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol, which helps protect against heart disease.
Use it to reduce symptoms of asthma and other respiratory disorders. Studies show that the compound found in broccoli sprouts, sulforaphane, reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the airways.
Easy to grow: Broccoli sprouts may be grown at any time of year.
Tip: Within 72 hours, your seeds should yield around 2 cups of sprouts. For best results and to retain much of its nutrients and sweetness, the tails or roots of the sprouts should be about 1/2 an inch to 3/4 of an inch long. Store them in the refrigerator in a covered container, where they will keep for up to five days.
Packed with goodness: According to two studies, the compounds found in mint (peryllyl alcohol, cartenoids and retinoids) may beat prostate and liver cancer. It has also been shown to lower inflammation and reduce seasonal allergy symptoms significantly.
Use it to ease digestion. Studies show that mint relaxes the muscular lining of the digestive tract, quieting cramps and gas, reducing abdominal pain. It has also been shown to work on people who suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
Easy to grow: A word of caution - Mint can get pretty invasive in the garden, but these simple steps should keep it under control:
Packed with goodness: Asparagus contains high levels of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that removes poisons from the body. Adding to its list of benefits, asparagus is also anti-inflammatory, which helps fight common chronic health problems such as type 3 diabetes (a type of Alzheimer's), heart disease and certain cancers. It is also rich in B vitamins, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, zinc, manganese, selenium and iron.
Use it when you are suffering from a hangover. Studies have shown that its extracts boost levels of certain enzymes that are key to breaking down alcohol.
Easy to grow: This perennial plant need only be planted once, and it will yield stalks for 25 years.
Packed with goodness: Due to its antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being a good source of beta-carotene and magnesium, basil protects cells against a number of diseases, including heart disease, asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Use it to soothe headaches. Basil contains eugenol, a component that has been shown to work in the same way as over-the-counter remedies such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Just chewing on basil will help dull the headache.
Easy to grow: There are well over 60 varieties of basil, but we recommend using sweet Italian, luscious, Thai basil or purple basil.
6. Red cabbage microgreens
Packed with goodness: The super-baby version of red cabbage (less than two weeks old) contains a six-fold higher vitamin C concentration and 69 times the vitamin K of the mature vegetable. Vitamin C is high in antioxidants, fighting inflammation and protecting the body from cell damage to help prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease. This super microgreen also contains collagen, which aids in strengthening muscles, skin, bones and other connective tissues. Being rich in vitamin K, red cabbage microgreens will help with blood clotting and bone building, preventing osteoporosis, atherosclerosis and cancer.
Use it to help prevent colds and flu. Being a fantastic source of vitamin C, red cabbage micorgreens will help boost the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells - protecting the body against bacteria and infections.
Easy to grow: Opt for red cabbage seeds or special microgreen seeds.
Packed with goodness: Chamomile is one of the best-documented medicinal plants in the world. It is high in antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. Preliminary findings also suggest that it may deactivate cancer cells. But, chamomile has been shown to speed up the wound healing process (particularly burns), prevent and treat colds, protect against bacterial infection, calm muscle spasms, ease an upset stomach and promote better sleep.
Use it as the ultimate chill-out tonic, soothing frayed nerves. According to a 2012 study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, German Chamomile has also been shown to relieve anxiety and reduce symptoms of mild depression.
Easy to grow: Chamomile is happiest when it is somewhat neglected.