Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue to find these potent healers. Of course, he found America instead. Hippocrates, called the Father of Modern Medicine, believed this food was the best medicine.
But guess what? You no longer have to traverse oceans to find herbs and spices. You can grow many of them on your patio, or even an indoor shelf or table.
Fresh, raw herbs not only add flavor to meals without adding calories… they can also heal your body – often just as effectively as mainstream treatments, and without any negative side effects.1 Here’s a quick guide to how to grow your own. . .
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Which ones should you grow?
Between 1970 and 2005, Americans doubled their consumption of herbs and spices. The increasing popularity of ethnic cuisines helped spur this growth.2 We’re not a plain meat-and-potatoes country anymore.
But while you may enjoy eating Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and Asian foods, do you know which herbs and spices lower your cancer risk and reduce tumor size?3
Here are the ones that are easy to grow and have medicinal value. . .
Turmeric is arguably the most potent cancer-fighting herb. In fact, it outperforms many pharmaceutical drugs.4
Cancer tumors survive by feeding off a network of blood vessels. Turmeric’s powerful component curcumin chokes off cancer cells by cutting off their blood vessel network.5 Curcumin not only kills cancer cells, it also helps prevent more from growing.
Turmeric seems to be most effective at killing breast, bowel, stomach, and skin cancers. It also heals pre-cancerous colon polyps.6
Plus, it’s a general anti-inflammatory that eases arthritis and helps prevent Alzheimer’s.7
To incorporate turmeric into your diet, try dry-rubbing it onto chicken or vegetables. Or add a teaspoon or two to soups, sauces, or stews.8
How to grow:
Because it’s a tropical plant, turmeric won’t tolerate climates colder than 65 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s a must to keep it inside during cold weather.
Plant each root (tuber) 12 to 16 inches apart and 2 inches deep in loose potting soil. Point the buds or knobs up.
Keep the pot damp, but not sopping wet. Your plant will sprout best with morning sun and a little afternoon shade.
Leave a few plants in the soil after harvest for a new crop next year.
Basil kills viruses and bacteria, and prevents cell mutations and tumors.9
Research shows that tea made from holy basil shrinks and contains tumors in mice, according to Dr. Pratima Nangia-Makker, a researcher at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.
Based on her study, Dr. Nangia-Makker recommends drinking a cup of holy basil tea every day. Steep 10 to 15 fresh basil leaves in 2 cups of boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove the leaves before drinking.
How to grow:
Basil grows well in containers on a patio, in pots near a sunny window, or in your garden.
Plant seeds 18 inches apart and 1/4-inch deep. Choose a location that gets at least 6 hours of full sun a day. Water regularly, but don’t over-water. Remove buds before they flower to stimulate ongoing production.
The more leaves you harvest, the more the ones leave behind will grow. If you plant outside, harvest completely before the first autumn frost. In fact, you’ll want to harvest (or cover the plant) before nighttime temperatures drop below 40, as it’s not very cold-tolerant.
Since basil is an annual herb, you’ll need to replant each season.
Allium vegetables (garlic, onions, shallots, scallions, and leeks) contain natural plant chemcials called organosulfur compounds. This is what makes you cry when you chop them. It’s also what strengthens your immune system and helps prevent cancer, especially stomach cancer.10
Garlic also lowers your risk of ovarian, colon, breast, skin, uterine, esophageal, and lung cancers.11
In Japan, a study found that eating garlic reduced the size and number of cancerous growths in people with colon polyps. Crushed fresh garlic is the most effective, but you’ll need a lot of it… up to five cloves a day.12
How to grow:
Garlic is tolerant of frost, and also repels bugs.
Break cloves away from the bulb a few days before planting, keeping the papery husk intact. Plant the cloves in a sunny location with root end down, about four inches apart and deep enough that the top barely sticks above the ground.
In areas with hard frosts, you want to plant them about a month or six weeks before the ground freezes in the fall and use plenty of mulch. But garlic can also be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the late winter/early spring. Both are acceptable.
Water them every few days from mid-May through June. Cut off any flower shoots.
If you leave the smaller plants in the ground at the end of the season, you’ll get a new crop next year.
Note: Order bulbs from a non-GMO seed company or organic nursery. Grocery store garlic is treated to lengthen shelf life and won’t grow as well.
Fresh ginger contains a substance called gingerol. Dried ginger forms another substance called zingerone. Both gingerol and zingerone decrease inflammation and protect from cancer.
Ginger kills ovarian cancer cells better than traditional chemotherapy, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.13 Other studies show it stops tumors from growing in the first place.14
Plus, ginger helps relieve nausea, regulate blood pressure, and reduce arthritis pain.15
Try grating fresh ginger into lentils or rice when cooking. Or steep thin slices in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes for a cancer-fighting tea.16
How to grow:
Unlike garlic, you can plant ginger from your local grocery store. It’s best to use the greenish colored tips.
Ginger is susceptible to cold, so it’s best to plant it in a pot that you can bring inside once temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit
Ginger grows best in full shade with rich, loose soil (manure and/or potting soil is a must).
Plant early in the spring. Cut off a one- to two-inch piece with at least one bud (rounded point), and allow it to dry for a day or two before planting.
Once dry, plant each section one foot apart and one inch deep. Water thoroughly, but not too often.
Harvest your ginger when the foliage dies back in the fall. Leave a few smaller plants in the ground, for next year’s crop.
I’ve written before about the dangers of eating charred meat. Chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) form when meat is cooked at high temperatures (on the grill, for example). HCAs boost your risk of cancer.
But marinating your meat with oregano before cooking helps prevent HCAs from forming.
Oregano also acts as a natural disinfectant for your body, and helps to prevent the spread of cancer.17
How to grow:
If you start oregano from seed, germinate the seeds inside until the plants are about six inches tall – then plant them outside.
Oregano prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s drought-tolerant, so you only need to water occasionally. Remove flower buds before they bloom.
Since it’s a hardy perennial, oregano usually comes back year after year with little effort.
As with oregano, rosemary helps protect against cancer-causing HCAs when used as a marinade for meat.
Rosemary contains two powerful antioxidants that destroy HCAs, according to researchers at Kansas State University.18 These same two acids – carnosol acid and rosemarinic acid – also protect your DNA and prevent cancer cells from reproducing.19
Rosemary is most effective against leukemia and small cell lung, prostate, liver, and breast cancers.20
How to grow:
Outside in warm climates, rosemary can grow into a three-foot-high bush. But there’s no need for a plant that large to provide you with seasoning.
Plant rosemary seedlings two to three feet apart in full sun and well-drained soil. For best results, add a slow-release fertilizer or liquid fertilizer at planting and periodically afterwards. Allow soil to dry out between waterings.
Like oregano, rosemary is a perennial. It doesn’t necessarily need to come inside during the winter. But if you leave it outdoors, place it behind a protected wall and cover it with mulch to insulate the roots.
The Bottom Line
Not only will these herbs help you ward off cancer and protect you from other diseases, but they’ll flavor your foods in ways you’ve never experienced before if you haven’t used fresh herbs. Just go out and pluck them moments before using them. You can’t ask for fresher.
Plus, they’re a lot cheaper than the fresh herbs in your store’s produce section. So what are you waiting for? Get your new herb garden growing today.