Growing An Aromatic Herb Garden

The first or original aromatic herb gardens were developed by the Persians sometimes over 2,000 years back in the courtyards of their residences. Generally, these herb gardens were of square or rectangular shape and usually they were separated into four by streams that originated from a centrally located fountain. These enclosed scented herb gardens were called pairidaeza, which was derived from the word ‘paradise’. The Persians are known to be outstanding gardeners and their ‘paradise’ essentially included three major features – running water, aroma, and shade.

In fact, the Byzantine church was mainly instrumental in making the concept of such scented herb garden popular in the western regions of Europe, earlier in the structure of cloister gardens, which were soon found in all monasteries in the region. The concept of a walled, scented garden was readily accepted by the traditional Christianity during the medieval times. In effect, it was something familiar to observing the entire creation in a representational term. By now, the references in the Bible, since the Garden of Eden to the Song of Songs, had corroborated gardens like these in the form of illustrations of the Paradise itself.

Way back in 1260, a Dominican monk Albertus Magnus spelled out the prerequisites for developing ideal pleasure gardens. He specified that the scented herb gardens ought to have a fountain plus a lawn, comprising all perfumed herbs, for instance, sage, rue and basil and similarly, include every type of flowers, counting lily, violet, rose, columbine, iris and those similar to these blooms. In addition, Albertus also recommended that there ought to be a vast assortment of aromatic and therapeutic herbs at the back of the lawn. At the same time, he emphasized that the flowers should not be there just to please the sense of smell by their fragrance, but also to enliven the sense of sight by their color and beauty.

The crusaders had already introduced the rose into the western regions of Europe. Actually, the original connotation of the term rosary is said to be an encircling rose garden that is devoted to the Virgin Mary. While the initial rosaries were developed on the sacred or hallowed ground, paintings from the 16th century depict that the pattern was espoused in gardens owned privately, wherein the rose gardens, as well as arbors (retreats), were developed by the rich and royals.

Lilium candidum (Madonna lily), attractive and extremely perfumed, was among the other blessed flowers that were grown by the Christian church in the earliest times. On the other hand, in the gardens of the monastery, lilies and roses were grown in concert along with particularly fragrant herbs like rosemary and lavender. Historians who specialized on gardens are of the view that the medieval romance garden, as well as the Renaissance love garden, were mainly rose plus herb gardens, which were held in high esteem both for their visual features as well as their efficacy.

The era of Queen Elizabeth I’s sovereignty is considered to be the prime of such scented herb gardens. During this period, people took delight in pleasantly aromatic food, clothes, and rooms. It is documented that the mistress of one manor house during the Elizabethan reign cultivated aromatic flowers as well as fragrant plants in a private formal garden generally fenced by rose briers plus fruit trees for enjoying a walk as well as sitting in the garden. In addition, the aromatic herb garden was also utilized to supply the ingredients for the mistress’ still room. In her still room, the mistress made ‘sweet waters’ using rose petals and flowers of rosemary as well as curative lotions using the stems of the spikes of lavender and the Madonna lily. Scented herbs, such as rue and hyssop, were cultivated to cover the floors of rooms with a view to disinfect the air, while they’re dried up flowers were packed into pillows and cushions to support sound sleep.

A contemporary herb garden also comprises herbal plants, which are esteemed for their fragrant attributes. In fact, a scented herb garden is a place which you may possibly want to visit to relax yourself following a hectic day. Such a garden may perhaps be made up of a small number of pleasingly aromatic herbs grown in containers and placed in one corner of the porch, a vast garden having sitting area, or simply comprise numerous aromatic herbs grown along a preferred pathway in your courtyard.

It may be noted that the majority of the aromatic herbs usually emit their fragrance more when someone brushes against them or touches them. In addition, a pleasant waft will also transport the fragrant scent of the herb throughout the yard and to you. Remember this aspect when you are deciding on the place where you desire to have your scented herb garden. It would surely be an excellent idea to have it close to your home.

When we are talking about aromatic herbs, you may choose from a wide variety of them. Take into account that simply for the reason that a herb is aromatic, it does not imply that you will alone take delight in its fragrance. Prior to selecting as well as planting your desired scented herb garden, you need to take the aroma of every plant with a view to ensure that its scent gives you pleasure.

Fragrant Herbs for the Garden

As mentioned above, there are assortments of aromatic herbs from which you may choose for your scented herb garden. Below is a list of such scented herbs which most people believe have a delightful fragrance. However, this list should never be considered to be a complete or final catalog of scented herbs, as there are a great many amazingly aromatic herbs which may be compiled in a list in this article. It is advisable that before you purchase any herb, you should personally examine every herb by rubbing a leaf of the plant and inhaling its aroma to ensure that it releases an aroma that you may find to be delightful. The fact remains that the same aroma is not preferred by everyone and this is something which makes the world revolve.

Generally, people consider basil to be a herb that is mostly used for cooking. However, the irrefutable fragrance of this herb is pleasing as well as comforting. Catnip is another herb which emits a pleasant aroma, you ought to be conscious that the kitties in your neighborhood would also get pleasure from this plant and may perhaps result in some kind of a untidiness in your desired scented herb garden.

Cultivating catmint has a special reward and that is the loaded scent of cinnamon. This herb is really an attractive addition to any scented garden. While Nepeta Grandiflora comes to flower first and is generally incorporated in early collections, Nepeta siberica flowers during the later part of summer and is generally incorporated in the later classifications. Following the blooming of both these herbs, cut them to a height of a couple of inches, as this will encourage fresh growth as well as flowering for a second time. Several beneficial butterflies and insects visit these plants, which are frequently used in the form of an under planting for white as well as pink roses.

While most people usually think that the herb chamomile is used for preparing tea, it may be noted that this herb is also attractive and the flowers, as well as foliage, have a marvelous scent enlivening your garden.

Special mention needs to be made regarding Roman chamomile, which is among the small plants that are loaded with the aroma. Having the aroma that has a resemblance to a Jolly Rancher bitter apple candy, Roman chamomile makes a fragrant vivid green cover for the ground in places having cool summer climatic conditions. In England, this herb is frequently used to jam the fissures between the blocks of the pavement. In addition, Roman chamomile, which is also known as the English chamomile, is also used in the form of a path cover or maybe in the form of a soft cover for a bench.

In addition, you may also use Roman Chamomile to prepare an aromatic alleyway or a pleasant scented amaze grown among other plants in the garden. In case the herb is able to push its way against other plants in its vicinity, Roman Chamomile may even grow up to a height of a foot when it is in bloom.

Feverfew is another herb that has gorgeous flowers, but the majority of the plant’s aroma is released by means of its foliage and making it a pleasant inclusion in any scented herb garden. On the other hand, lavender has always been a preferred herb for gardeners growing scented herbs. The leaves, as well as the flowers of lavender, give off a potent, but comforting aroma.

The herb lemon balm derives its name from the plant’s leaves, which possess an aroma similar to that of lemons. Numerous herbal gardeners actually admire the fresh fragrance of this plant. Recognize the value of the fact that lemon balm multiplies very fast and has the aptitude to invade your garden rapidly provided its growth is not kept under control.

Mint is also an aromatic herb which may be somewhat invasive, but still, it is favored for its fresh fragrance. There are various species of mint and you may choose from spearmint, peppermint, orange mint or chocolate peppermint for growing in your scented herbal garden. Provided you restrict the growth of the different species of mint in different areas of your herbal garden, each species will be capable of releasing its distinct aroma.

Scented geraniums do not blossom very frequently nor are they eye-catching like their cousins, which are just known as geraniums. However, they emit an amazing fragrance which makes this species among the most excellent plants to be grown in any scented herbal garden. In fact, there is an assortment of scented geraniums for you to choose from for your garden. The wide variety of scented geraniums comprises cinnamon, apricot, lemon, apple, ginger, orange, nutmeg, rose, strawberry, and peppermint are only among a few of them. One needs to touch the leaves of this plant for them to emit their rich fragrance, therefore ensure that you grow these scented plants close to the boundary of your scented herbal garden. It may be noted that scented geraniums are subtle plants and in most places, they would require moving indoors during the winter months.

Anise hyssop is neither a mint nor a genuine licorice, but this herb certainly enhances the fragrance of licorice candy to your scented herbal garden. In addition, licorice mint (anise hyssop) is a wonderful culinary herb and may be used for cooking or dried up to prepare a tea. You may try to infuse some amount of this herb in milk and freeze it to prepare an ice cream. Usually, shear licorice mint returns to the ground following flowering during mid spring and again appears in the form of a small green hedge for the remaining growing season. Alternately, you may allow the plant to provide for little birds and disperse the seeds of the plant for a crop of seedlings to appear voluntarily during the subsequent spring. Whatever you may do, this plant will keep on enhancing the aroma of the herbal garden till frosting. Generally, the plants wither away and return to the ground when it frosts. Ensure that you mark the place where you are growing this plant so that it is not removed prior to its re-emergence during the next spring.

This list is likely to help you to start work on your scented herbal garden. However, always bear in mind to spend some time to personally inhale the smell of the entire herbs that are obtainable from your neighborhood gardening center prior to deciding on the specific herbs you would like to grow in your personal scented herbal garden. In fact, it will not be a very easy task choosing the herbs you would prefer to grow because there are far too many varieties available.

Uses, Chemistry, and Pharmacology of Lemon Balm

  • Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis, Lamiaceae)

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis, Lamiaceae) is widely used in European traditional medicine and Iranian traditional medicine (ITM) for various diseases, as well as being consumed as a salad vegetable and food flavoring. The authors searched unpublished old texts and several databases of published literature to review the botanical characteristics, traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, and toxicity of lemon balm.

Lemon balm, also commonly known as balm and bee balm, is a perennial lemon-scented herb. The Eastern Mediterranean region, Western Asia, Southern Europe, Caucasus, and northern Iran are considered its areas of origin, but it grows worldwide. Its medicinal properties were first documented by Dioscorides (40-90 CE), who recommended a leaf decoction for spider, scorpion, and dog bites, and for amenorrhea, dysentery, mushroom poisoning, scrofulous tumors, and other indications. Paracelsus (1493-1541) prescribed lemon balm for nervous system disorders. Since 1984, it has been listed in the German Commission E monographs and is included in several pharmacopeias. In Danish folk medicine, lemon balm is used for sleeplessness caused by heartbreak or melancholy; in Austria, its essential oil (LBEO) is used for gastrointestinal, nervous, hepatic, and biliary problems. Lemon balm was used by Avicenna (981-1037) for all diseases caused by black phlegm and black bile. He attributed its antidepressant effects to its aroma. The plant has also been reported to be used as a cardiac and gastric tonic, memory enhancer, wound disinfectant, and for certain eye diseases. It is most often used in multiherb preparations, with varying dosages. It is a component of about 400 ITM medicinal preparations.

Lemon balm’s main active components are volatile compounds, triterpenes, and phenolics. LBEO, widely used in the pharmaceutical and food industries, is considered to be responsible for lemon balm’s antibacterial and antifungal effects. Obtained from fresh or dried flowers, leaves, and branches, LBEO is expensive due to its low yield; it comprises only 0.02-0.30% of plant material. While its composition varies by region and climate, most studies report that LBEO contains oxygenated monoterpenes, including the citral isomers geranial and neral, as well as citronellal, geraniol, and geranyl acetate. The main triterpenes in lemon balm are ursolic and oleanolic acids, with reported biological effects including antifungal, cytotoxic, and hemolytic activities. Antioxidant and antimicrobial effects also are attributed to its triterpenes. Phenolic compounds in lemon balm, including derivatives of benzoic and caffeic acids, likely exert antioxidant and free radical scavenging effects. Lemon balm’s rosmarinic acid (RA) component, with four hydroxyl groups, may be a stronger antioxidant than vitamin E or Trolox. Many flavonoids, including flavones, flavanones, flavonols, and flavanols, are found in lemon balm, with numerous biological effects.

lemon-balm-flowers-img-e1474270692497Traditional uses of lemon balm have been supported by its pharmacological anxiolytic effects, possibly due to gamma-aminobutyric acid transaminase (GABA-T) inhibition and/or reduced levels of corticosterone. In vivo studies were supported by two human clinical trials; however, more randomized clinical trials (RCTs) are needed to better understand its mechanisms of action. While animal studies support lemon balm’s use as an antidepressant, studies to date used doses so large as to be unfeasible for clinical use. Antidepressive effects of lemon balm need more study, especially the monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) inhibitory activity of compounds other than RA. Neuroprotective effects of various fractions of lemon balm have been demonstrated in vitro and in vivo, with significant protection against oxidative stress and amyloid beta (Aβ)-induced toxicity. Benefits to mood, cognition, and memory also have been supported in vitro, with acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition seen as especially relevant. RCTs confirmed lemon balm’s benefit for some symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment. Lemon balm’s cardiovascular, cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral, antispasmodic, antiangiogenic, and antiepileptic effects all have support in various research models, with the general proviso that many doses used in animal trials cannot realistically be applied in clinical practice. Results need to be supported using lower doses of lemon balm extracts.

lemon-balm-flowersThere are few pharmacokinetic studies of lemon balm, with most focusing on its hydrocinnamic acid derivatives, especially RA, absorbed via paracellular diffusion. Much remains unknown about the bioavailability of lemon balm extracts and components. Microbial metabolites of RA may account for many of its activities. While lemon balm has been reported to be relatively well tolerated in humans when used for up to eight weeks, some adverse effects have been noted with both oral and topical administration. Care should be exercised with regard to high dosage or prolonged use until in-depth evidence from toxicity and dose-escalation studies are available. Current evidence suggests that a daily oral dose of 600 mg lemon balm extract is possibly safe and effective in treating memory, mood, and cognition problems, and topical formulations containing 1% lemon balm are effective in treating very early stages of herpes simplex virus 1 and 2.

Future research needs include mechanisms of action, efficacy, and proper dosages for other ethnomedical uses of lemon balm, as well as proof-of-concept clinical trials evaluating its usefulness as an adjunct to conventional treatment for depression. In vitro studies reveal lemon balm’s inhibition of several human cancer cell lines, but a great deal of research needs to be conducted before any clinical applicability could be assessed.

What Are Nervine Herbs?

Nervine herbs – ranging from skullcap to oats, linden, lemon balm, chamomile, and rose, to name a few – rebalance internal tension helping to support a calm, even response to the stresses and challenges of everyday life. While they are gentle and mild in their actions – certainly not full-on sedatives – this is actually an advantage. You don’t see dependence develop, and they can be used throughout the day as well to help keep stress and occasional anxiety at bay without making us feel sleepy at work. You can see how they make an excellent complement to the adaptogens: by decreasing our perception of stress, nervines spare the adrenal response from being invoked for every little annoyance that crosses our path. Save the stress response for what really counts! And with adaptogens on board, make sure that, even when that response occurs, it’s not overdone and recovery can happen well. One plant – tulsi, or holy basil – is one of my favorites because its rich aromatic profile has a pronounced nervine effect, while its less volatile chemistry has well-documented adaptogenic action. It’s the best of both worlds – which is probably why tulsi is so revered in the Ayurvedic medical system.

Our two adrenal glands are located on top of each kidney. From this perch, they not only have access to a rich blood supply but are also close to the site of fluid and mineral balance in the body. This makes sense given their role: they participate in the stress response, of course, but are also involved in energy, libido, lean muscle growth, immune response, blood pressure, blood sugar, and water balance. So you can see how the hormones secreted by our adrenal glands have far-ranging effects: from the short-acting jolt of adrenaline to the longer-term influence of cortisol, which modulates metabolism in the liver, reduces our sensitivity to insulin, and suppresses inflammation (and immunity). We think of the adrenal glands as producing stress hormones, and this is true – but while we can perceive the effects of acute stress (heart racing, clammy hands, perhaps some anxiety), it is the more subtle ongoing hormonal activity of the adrenals that ends up having more profound effects on energy, metabolism, sleep, and mood. Unfortunately, this is hard to see until it’s gone: when our adrenal function begins to drop off, we notice fatigue, lack of motivation, metabolic slowdown, sleep disruptions, and more pain.

adrenal-infographicIt is this last piece that usually serves as a good indicator that our adrenal function is sub-optimal: if we recover more slowly from vigorous exercise, feeling more fatigue – and crucially, more pain – after a big hike, or an extra-long jog, it can often mean that our reserve of adrenal hormones is flagging. This ability to recover and feel ready again is a key piece of the adrenal response, and, as it turns out, to healthy sleep patterns, too. When our adrenal health is solid, hormone secretion rises in the pre-dawn hours, helping to boost our energy and mood and reduce symptoms of inflammation, right before we wake up. As a result, we wake feeling ready to go! But as adrenal health deteriorates, affecting our ability to recover, we wake feeling more sluggish, noticing more pain. This is because adrenal hormone levels haven’t had a chance to build up to good levels overnight. During the day, as we experience stress, they try to catch up – and often do – but by now it’s late evening and time to go to sleep. The higher evening hormone levels make it hard to get to sleep, and our crucial recovery time is disrupted – further depleting adrenal reserves. It’s the classic “wired and tired” picture, where hormone secretion has shifted from high-AM and low-PM to low-AM and high-PM.

Adrenal hormone secretion is controlled by a few different organs. The kidneys themselves trigger the release of hormones that balance fluid and sodium levels. The nervous system, in response to the daily sleep/wake rhythm and to environmental stressors, regulates the secretion of hormones like cortisol, DHEA, and adrenaline. If we are to support adrenal health, we often work with herbs that affect water balance in the kidneys and the perception of stress in the nervous system, because this “upstream” strategy takes the burden off the adrenal glands and allows them to replenish their reserves of hormones. When addressing adrenal health as part of having good energy, healthy sleep patterns, and a balanced stress response, we turn to herbal adaptogens and nervines.

Siberian ginseng - AcanthopanaxAdaptogens have broad-ranging effects, but this is mostly because they affect adrenal hormone secretion. In general, we can think of adaptogenic herbs this way: they set an “upper limit” on the signals the nervous system can send to the adrenals, making it harder for the body to crank adrenal response up to 100%. Some herbs, like licorice, keep adrenal hormones in the bloodstream longer: this lets the brain know that there’s plenty of response happening, and it doesn’t need to stimulate more. Others, like Rhodiola and eleuthero, help balance out excessive adrenal stimulation while at the same time containing chemistry that supports the activity of attention- and alertness-enhancing brain pathways. The net result: we feel more alert, but at the same time don’t produce excessive, unhealthy levels of adrenal hormones. Contrast this to the action of stimulant drugs (like amphetamines, or even caffeine): they increase brain alertness, but also crank up adrenal secretions. This is why stimulants make us feel awake, but also sometimes jittery, cold, and clammy: these last effects are the result of excess adrenal hormone secretion, and you’ll never feel them from adaptogens like Rhodiola or eleuthero.

schisandraberry_textOther adaptogens are more calming in nature: they still help set an “upper limit” on adrenal hormone secretion, but also encourage deeper, more refreshing sleep and lack any of the activity on alertness pathways in the brain. By supporting more effective recovery during times of rest, adaptogens such as ashwagandha and Schisandra allow the body to bounce back and we can really notice this during the day: a balanced mood, energy level, and inflammatory response. It’s interesting to note that these herbs won’t ever make you “sleepy” directly: their effects, due in part to limiting the body’s ability to “overdo” the stress response and make sure our adrenals secrete hormones at balanced, healthy levels, are to get us into a more restful place during the evening and nighttime hours, so recovery and sleep can actually take place.

rhodiola_rosea_a2When you put it all together, using adaptogens and nervines to help support healthy energy, mood, libido, and inflammatory response become fairly intuitive. First, learn to recognize the signs of shifting adrenal hormones: feeling unrefreshed in the morning and “wired but tired” in the evening; noticing more inflammation and longer recovery times after vigorous workouts; relying more on stimulants during the day and sedatives at night. Next, develop a relationship to more alertness-enhancing adaptogens, like Rhodiola and eleuthero, during the morning hours. I often recommend one dose on waking, and another right before lunch. This will help support good adrenal activity when you need it most, while also making sure that the adrenals don’t overdo it. Additionally, especially if sleep patterns are being affected, consider some more calming, restorative adaptogens, like ashwagandha or tulsi, in the afternoon and evening hours. Finally, have a good nervine formula on hand to try during the day, especially if you feel a lot of tension and irritability. Their gently supportive, soothing actions will insulate the adrenals from the stress of the little things in life. But if you support excellent adrenal health, you’ll find yourself turning to these nervines less and less: a great sign that tonic herbalism has worked its magic yet again.