The Best Medicinal Trees to grow at your home and garden
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Written by Avi Dew on Feb 17, 2021
The Best Medicinal Trees to grow at your home & garden
We don’t usually think of trees as a source of medicine, but medicinal trees are everywhere around us, hiding in plain sight. When knowing them and how to use them, another dimension of holistic view opens up to us. The medicinal trees hold cures in their leafs, flowers, bark, roots and their fruits
Here are 3 easy-to-grow and easy-to-use medicinal trees.
Moringa (Moringa oleifera)
Moringa oleifera is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree that is often called the drumstick tree, the miracle tree, the ben oil tree, or the horseradish tree. The tree is native to India but also grows in Asia, Africa, and South America. It is widely cultivated mostly for its young seed pods and leaves used as vegetables and for traditional herbal medicine. It is also used for water purification.
How to Grow Moringa?
Moringa is an optimal plant to start indoors or in your own backyard, depending on where you live. Direct exposure to sunlight, warmth and water with loamy soil is essential for this tree. For those who live in the United States, especially the southern and western states, you are fortunate and can grow Moringa outdoors.
It is recommended to grow itfrom seeds. Soak the seeds for 24 hours in water, and then remove the seeds pat dry with a paper towel. Put the seeds in a plastic sandwich bag and store in a warm, dark place like a dresser or closet. Sprouting times range from 3-14 days. Do not add extra water to the bag. Once the seeds have broken out from the skimmed shell, you will notice two shoots protruding from the seed. Do not let the shoots get too long as they may get fragile and break when handled. One of the shoots will have some frilled growth at the tip; this is the shoot that contains the first leaves (cotyledons) and should be the shoot exposed to the sun. Plant the seeds about ¾ inches underneath the soil surface. Make sure they get plenty of direct sun. Although the tree is drought tolerant, they may be watered daily, just don’t allow the roots to get soaked for extended periods of time by making sure the soil gets dry between watering.
It can be grown all year-round, in any tropical, sub-tropical, temperate or equatorial climate. For those who have a true winter, I suggest that you plant Moringa in pots, keeping them outside in the spring and summer and bring them inside when it gets cold. With the exclusion of tropical climates, Moringa goes dormant in the winter. When Moringa goes dormant the leaves fall off and branches wither.
How to Use Moringa and what is it good for?
Moringa has been used for centuries in different cultures due to its medicinal properties and health benefits. It has antifungal, antiviral, antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Almost all parts of the tree are edible, with regional uses varying widely;
Drumsticks (Immature seed pods)
Oil pressed from seeds
The immature seed pods, called “drumsticks”, are commonly consumed in South Asia. They are prepared by parboiling, and cooked in a curry until soft. The seed pods, even when cooked by boiling, remain notably high in vitamin C and are also a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
The drumsticks are prepared as a culinary vegetable, often cut into shorter lengths and stewed in curries and soups. The taste is referred as reminiscent of asparagus, with a hint of green beans, though sweeter, from the immature seeds contained inside.
In India and Bangladesh, drumstick curries are commonly prepared by boiling immature pods to the desired level of tenderness in a mixture of coconut milk and spices (such as poppy or mustard seeds). The fruit is a common ingredient in dals and lentil soups, such as drumstick dal and sambar, where it is pulped first, then simmered with other vegetables and spices like turmeric and cumin. Mashed drumstick pulp commonly features in bhurta, a mixture of lightly fried or curried vegetables.
Because the external covering is tough and fibrous, drumsticks are often chewed to extract the juices and nutrients, with the remaining fibrous material thrown away. Others describe a slightly different manner of sucking out the flesh and tender seeds and discarding the tube of skin.
The seeds, sometimes removed from more mature pods and eaten like peas or roasted like nuts, contain high levels of vitamin C and moderate amounts of B vitamins and dietary minerals. In Nigeria, the seeds are prized for their bitter flavor; they are commonly added to sauces or eaten as a fried snack.
Mature seeds yield 38–40% edible oil called ben oil from its high concentration of behenic acid. The refined oil is clear and odorless, and resists rancidity. The seed cake remaining after oil extraction may be used as a fertilizer or as a flocculent to purify water. Moringa seed oil also has potential for use as a biofuel. The edible seed oil may be used in condiments or dressings.
The leaves are the most nutritious part of the plant, being a substantial source of B vitamins, vitamin C, provitamin A as beta-carotene, vitamin K, manganese, and protein. The leaves are cooked and used like spinach, and are commonly dried and crushed into a powder used in soups and sauces or as a supplement for pets.
The leaves can be used in many ways, probably most commonly added to soups, such as the Filipino dishes tinola and utan. Tender moringa leaves, finely chopped, are used as decoration for vegetable dishes and salads, such as the Kerala dish thoran. It is also used in place of or along with coriander.
For long-term use and storage, moringa leaves may be dried and powdered to preserve their nutrients. Sun, shade, freeze and oven drying at 50–60 °C are all acceptable methods, albeit variable in their maintaining efficiency of specific micro- and macronutrients. The powder is commonly added to soups, sauces and smoothies. Owing to its high nutritional density, moringa leaf powder is valued as a dietary supplement and may be used to enrich food products ranging from dairy, such as yogurt and cheese, to baked goods, such as bread and pastries, with acceptable sensory estimation.
The roots are shredded and used as a seasoning with sharp flavor qualities deriving from considerable content of polyphenols.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
Cinnamon spice does not grow in the supermarkets; it is harvested from the bark of the cinnamon tree. Cinnamon is a large and impressive, tropical evergreen tree characterized by oval-shaped leaves, thick bark, and a berry fruit. It has tons of health benefits including lowering blood sugar. It’s a delicious spice adds a unique flavor to numerous meals and beverages when the bark and leaves are the primary parts of the plant used.
How to Grow Cinnamon?
Cinnamon plants, which eventually mature into trees, are familiar with tropical environment with warm or hot and moist weather. Cinnamon plants usually necessitate full sun, but in very hot and dry weather, they benefit from some afternoon shade. Cinnamon plants like it warm and humid. In their native habitat, temperatures that average 80 degrees Fahrenheit support healthy growth over the life of a cinnamon plant. Cinnamon plants like the regular rainfall they receive in the jungle, so you should try to recreate this with irrigation when rain is scarce. Keep the surface of the soil moist, and use mulch to keep the roots cool and moist.
The cinnamon spice you must be familiar with is actually dried pilled bark. A strong three-year old cinnamon plant is ready to harvest. Scratch away the outer bark until you see the yellowish-orange layer beneath, which is the cinnamon. Peel strips of this cinnamon layer with a sharp knife. The pieces must dry for about a week, and they will curl into the typical shape you see in stores as they dry.
How to Use Cinnamon and what is it good for?
From the Old Testament to the ancient Egyptians, many ancient cultures used cinnamon for anointing, preservation, and ingestion. Cinnamon was so highly valued in the Middle Ages it was considered a luxury merchandise and a status symbol. At one time, it was even more worthy than gold!
Ancient Chinese medicine has long relied on this spice as a warming and cleansing agent to treat the heart, lung, and bladder. (Chinese medicine uses Guizhi, made from the twigs of the cinnamon tree as opposed to the familiar cassia spice made from the inner bark).
Although the common use is the spice made from the tree bark, extracts from the bark as well as leaves, flowers, fruits, and roots of the cinnamon tree have also been utilized in traditional medicine across the globe for thousands of years. One of the most important active ingredients in cinnamon is cinnamaldehyde. It’s used in flavorings and fragrances, and potentially accountable for some of cinnamon’s health benefits.
Some research shows cinnamon capable of being good for people with diabetes. It may also lower cholesterol in people with diabetes.
Add a teaspoon of cinnamon to warm drinks to tone down cold and flu effects. Cinnamon is reviewed to have good anti-microbial properties, which can help your immune system fight against a cold or flu. It can help to deal with the growth of bacteria and fungus. By adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to hot water, you are making a soothing drink which won’t surely cure your cold but will undoubtedly help you feel better.
Add a pinch (or two or three) to drinks, recipes, or smoothies to get more anti-inflammatory benefits
It is often used in homemade tooth paste or powder for its capability to kill the bacteria responsible for tooth decay.
In homemade tincture cinnamon frequently added to increase immersion and absorption of the herbs, preserve and improve flavor.
It is familiar to use cinnamon tea, tincture, or powder externally on vaginal infections to speed healing.
As a skin soother you can mix some ground cinnamon with honey and apply on insect bites.
The cinnamon was a very important medicinal plant when I was studying at ‘‘Hoja Santa- Casa de los remedies’’ in Mexico. According to traditional Mexican Aztec medicinal use, cooking tea of cinnamon leafs and bathing with it helps improve blood circulation and helps regulates fertility problems for women. Moreover, using tea made from flowers as face and body wash is not only antibacterial and deep cleaning, it is also uplifting the mood and opens up the heart. The smell of the fresh or dried leaves have nothing similar to the bark in my opinion and has a unique pleasant sousing aroma.
Alder (Alnus glutinosa)
Alnus glutinosa, the common alder, black alder, European alder, European black alder, or just alder, is a species of tree in the family Betulaceae. The common alder is noted for its symbiotic relationship with the bacterium Frankia alni, which forms nodules on the tree’s roots. This bacterium absorbs nitrogen from the air and fixes it in a form available to the tree. In return, the bacterium receives carbon products produced by the tree through photosynthesis. This relationship, which improves the fertility of the soil, has established the common alder as an important pioneer species in ecological succession.
How to Grow Alder?
The Alder thrives in damp, cool areas like wet woodlands, marshes and the banks of streams or rivers. It grows well from seed, will tolerate a soil that is low in nutrients and can thrive in some rather unpromising looking locations. It will quickly colonise bare ground.
To grow Alder, you can collect cones and go through the process of separating the seeds, pre-soaking and sowing them. If you do choose to go down this route then you must be careful to always water the seeds you are waiting to germinate and the potted saplings well and consistently.
Alders can grow fast as long as they are happy in the location they have been placed in and receive enough water to sustain them, sun or partial shade is necessary.
How to Use Alder and what is it good for?
They produce small catkins that are edible as a protein-rich survival food, though they are bitter. Alder’s are tapped for syrup in the Pacific Northwest, in the same way as maple trees are tapped in the Northeast. The wood is used to smoke salmon for preservation.
Alder bark contains salicin, the same anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing compound in willow bark. A tea made from the leaves and bark is used to treat fever. The same tea is used externally to help slowly heal deep wounds. Its astringent properties help to draw the wound together. The astringent and anti-inflammatory properties of alder tea make it useful for treating hemorrhoids, and it’s also helpful for itch relief.
Some Native American tribes use an infusion of the bark to treat other types of itchy skin irritation, such as poison oak and insect bites.
A poultice of the leaves is applied to the breasts is used to suppress lactation, which can be helpful to prevent mastitis.
Medicinal plants and herbs are life changing when starting homemade growing and using. Trees, however, are way farther thinking. Not like basil or lavender that you plant and a couple of weeks later you can harvest, you plant a tree for years from now. You watch it grow, develop, changing according to the season. The benefits are amazing and consuming some nature goods upgrades your well-being, health and your connection to the universe as a part of nature. Trust me; one medicinal tree at your back yard, even if you only smell it daily, will be worthy then a shelf of nutrition supplement from the health shop.
* This blog is a recommendation and should not be considered as professional advice.
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