Ayurvedic Practitioner Leslie Thorn on Creating a Medicinal Garden
A backyard medicine cabinet.
Illustrated byYuiko Sugino
Valley-based Ayurvedic practitioner and wellness lifestyle coach Leslie Thorn believes that a medicinal garden is akin to having a potent medicine cabinet at your fingertips.
“Our ancestors understood that healing is an intuitive process and used medicinal plants as part of their everyday lives to recalibrate their health and prevent disease. Medicinal gardens are relatively easy and inexpensive and plants make the freshest medicine. When you build a sacred relationship to your garden, it gives back to you with abundance.”
She says it is not necessary to have full sun to grow medicinal herbs. “Some of my favorite herbs, such as lemon balm, peppermint, red raspberry and ginseng, actually do well in the shade.”
Leslie follows seasonal cycles with planting starting in the spring. It’s also the time for picking flowers and making flower essences. In the fall, medicinal roots are ready to harvest, and she makes immune-boosting tinctures and syrups. Here she shares seven key plants—along with some recipes—whose benefits range from relieving menstrual cramps to boosting immunity.
1. Holy Basil
Benefits: decongestant, treats acne, reduces respiratory infections, pain reliever, anti-cancer, lowers blood pressure
“This sacred plant is known in India as tulsi, which means ‘the incomparable one.’ It is commonly used in Ayurveda for tea, but can also be used as a tincture, infusion or essential oil.”
Benefits: loaded with vitamins, enzymes and minerals; strengthens hair and nails, builds milk supply in lactating mothers, rebuilds tissue, anti-inflammatory
“Nettles is one of my foundational plant allies because it is so rich in nutrition. I make overnight infusions using a large handful of dried plant material in a quart-size mason jar of cold water.”
3. Red Raspberry Leaf
Benefits: strengthens the uterus, relieves menstrual cramps and menopause symptoms, improves labor and delivery (always check with your doctor before taking any herbs while pregnant)
“Speed up your metabolism with this delicious tea: Use 1 teaspoon dried crushed red raspberry leaf per 8 ounces of boiling water. Steep five minutes or more, strain and drink.”
Benefits: helps with anxiety, stress, fear and panic attacks; helps build muscle, increases sperm count, improves erectile dysfunction, regulates menstrual cycles
“This is a staple Ayurvedic herb and the supreme tonic of the nervous system. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon powder to turmeric-spiked milk before bedtime to get a great night’s sleep.
Benefits: supports immune health; antiviral, antibacterial and deep lung tonic; great for asthma patients, helps expel mucus
“For honey cough syrup: combine 1 ounce dried elecampane root to 2 cups water. Bring to boil. Simmer until water reduces to 1 cup. Let cool. Strain. Add 1/2 cup raw honey to 1 cup elecampane mixture. Stir and refrigerate. Adults take 2 teaspoons hourly; children over 2, take 2/3 teaspoon.”
Benefits: blood purifier, aids lymphatic drainage, increases absorption of nutrients, moves things along the digestive tract
“I use the leaves for poultices to treat acne and reduce wrinkles.”
Benefits: healing, cell regeneration
“I make a tea with the leaves to heal ulcers. I also combine it with calendula and lavender and make a deliciously intoxicating salve that speeds up the healing of wounds, burns and fractures.”
For more on Leslie’s practice, go to lesliethorn.com