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Condition - Cottage gardens for Immune health!

By Jenny Bodenham BA (Hons) DipION MBANT

Maintaining a healthy immune system is important all year round, not just during the winter months. Being in crowded places, travelling on public transport, eating out and even going shopping or going to work or school can make us vulnerable to attack from bacteria and viruses at any time of the year. It is, therefore, vital to keep your immune system fighting fit!  The plant world has traditionally supplied us with foods to support healthy body systems. 

Plants such as hibiscus may be beneficial in maintaining healthy immune defences. Hibiscus is known to support the upper respiratory tract and digestive system, especially when excess mucous is a problem. It is considered to be a general tonic because of its astringent properties and the powder from the flowers and roots of the hibiscus plant are usually drunk as a reviving tea. Hibiscus has also been found to contain beneficial bioflavonoids and proanthocyanidins. These are compounds which have antioxidant activity in the body and so help protect against free-radical damage.  Studies have shown that bioflavonoids also help the body to absorb and utilise vitamin C more efficiently. 

As well as providing flavour to our cooking, culinary herbs, such as rosemary, sage, marjoram and thyme, are also reputed to have health-giving properties. Rosemary, which in culinary use enhances many dishes, including chicken and lamb, has long been used with the aim of supporting good health. Indeed, usage of rosemary dates back to 500BC, when it was used as a culinary and medicinal herb by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Rosemary is considered to be beneficial in assisting digestion and may also have antimicrobial properties.  

Sage is known to support both the immune and digestive systems. It is also often used in gargles and mouthwashes and a tea is commonly prepared from the leaves. 

Marjoram has long been prized for its stimulating and tonic properties. It is known to support healthy mucous membranes of the nasal and bronchial passages. It is also thought to aid the digestion. Tea made from marjoram may have the ability to stimulate perspiration. 

Another well-used culinary herb is thyme. Its distinctive aroma and taste make it a welcome addition to salads, soups, vegetable and meat dishes. With its high content of volatile oil, thyme is reputed to support the digestion and is known to support the respiratory tract and for its reputed antiseptic properties. 

So many positive benefits, it is no wonder that cultivating a herb garden is becoming an increasingly popular pastime for the green-fingered among us! 

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