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Herbs Gone Wild ~ Prickly Pear, Sage & Mint

These are three of my favorites and they grow like crazy, in spite of all my accidental attempts to kill them off. In fact, at one point I had completely given up and thrown these in the compost pit, only to find that they refused to die, so I moved them back to a forgotten corner of my garden/greenhouse and was rewarded with healthy, huge, happy plants!

Just so you know, all three of these herbs are available for purchase through our farm, Tranquil Haven Hollow.  You can find them (and lots more plants and seeds) at our Etsy shop.

Prickly Pear ~Opuntia dillenii

Prickly pear has been used by Native Americans throughout history in a variety of ways. It was a valuable year-round food source, as all aerial parts are edible and quite tasty. The long, rigid spines were used as needles for sewing. The inner gel can be used like aloe leaves for treating wounds and burns and the large leaves can be used as canteens.

The prickly pear will grow just about anywhere that it is sunny, but it won’t necessarily flourish or bloom unless it receives plenty of water. We have this stuff growing all over our property ~ along trails, in the middle of the field, along the edges of rocks and flower beds ~ but under the intense heat and sun of summer, it quickly withers and shrinks until the cool weather and rains return. The plant in the picture began as a single small pad that was withered and (we thought) dead. My husband tossed it in the scrap pile and it fell into a crack along the edge of the rock wall. Within a couple of months, it had puffed back up and rooted itself into the rock wall. The rock wall happened to be one of our gardens, so we watered it regularly. A couple of months later it was sprouting babies, then this beautiful flower appeared. I’m eagerly anticipating the fruit that is said to be quite yummy!

  1. Use this much as you would aloe vera. The inner gel is soothing to wounds, burns and other skin disorders and injuries. The gel also contains pectins and mucilage that promote digestive health and soothe and heal digestive disorders. It is believed to provide nutrients to the pancreas and liver, and helps maintain healthy blood-sugar levels.

  2. The flowers have been used to treat urinary disorders.

  3. It is anti-pyretic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic.

  4. The fruit, when baked and eaten is useful in treating asthma, whooping cough and inflammation of the lungs and bronchial passages

  5. The stem is a laxative

  6. The seeds kill/expels worms, and promote menstrual flow

Sage~salvia officinalis

Sage has been used for centuries by many cultures, for many reasons. Although it is best known as a culinary herb today, it contains many healing properties that make it a valuable addition to your medicine cabinet.

Sage prefers lots of heat, little water, and average (not rich) soil. To increase the essential oil and medicinal properties once established, give it some poor soil, forget to water it for long periods of time (until it starts to wilt), and tons of heat and sun.

A strong tea made from the leaves will help with skin ulcers, rashes and dandruff, and will also act as an insect repellent, both in the home and garden.

  1. It eases the pain associated with insect and animal bites.

  2. A sage and vinegar compress is very effective in soothing pain from injuries and bruises and it can be used internally and externally for bacterial infections.

  3. Sage reduces excessive sweating, particularly when caused by menopause.

  4. Sage is excellent for soothing nerves, and it is believed to be good for the brain, stimulating memory improvement. Recent research indicates that it may help in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

  5. It aids in digestion and is capable of boosting insulin activity and reducing blood sugar.

  6. Useful for drying up the flow of milk during lactation

  7. The primary medicinal components in sage are volatile oils, flavonoids, and rosmarinic acid. It is anhidrotic (prevents perspiration);antimicrobial. Antispasmodic, antifungal, antiseptic, astringent, diaphoretic, expectorant, nervine, and tonic.

  8. Sage oil can be applied directly to fungal infections fingernails and toenails, and mixed with a carrier oil to apply topically.

As a tea, let steep in hot water for 15-20 minutes. Drink or use it as a wash. Oil may be inhaled or applied topically. When applying topically, the essential oil should be diluted with a carrier oil to prevent irritation to the skin.

Mint ~Mentha Piperita

Peppermint has been used for more than 2,000 years as a medicinal herb. Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks made use of it in both medicine and food preparation.

Mint grows everywhere and is highly invasive, but it prefers a sunny location that is damp and warm. Extreme heat and dryness will cause it to become tall and leggy. It propagates by root division, so is best grown in containers or raised beds. It enjoys a certain amount of neglect and abuse.

Members of the mint family can be identified by their square stems and distinctive ‘minty’ scent.

  1. It is most well-known for its beneficial effects on the stomach and intestines. Mint dispels gas and bloating in the digestive system and is an antispasmodic, capable of relieving stomach and intestinal cramps and increasing the flow of all the digestive juices and promoting the flow of bile. At the same time, it relaxes the main muscles in the gut. It has a soothing effect on the lining and muscles of the colon, and helps stimulate and cleanse the liver and the gall bladder.

  2. Peppermint helps freshen breath and tone teeth and gums.

  3. Peppermint is also an antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and stimulant.

  4. It is a tonic for the entire system, making it excellent for helping to dispel nearly any illness. It is a mild pain reliever and fever reducer that works as well as aspirin. Good for any conditions of the heart, digestion and respiratory system.

Mint also makes an awesome alternative to caffeine-loaded tea or soda, as well as a great addition to any salad, and as a seasoning in soups, stews, stir-fries and any other dish.

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