Look to the garden, farmer’s market or refrigerator next time you are battling sore muscles, indigestion and headaches. These five foods fresh from the garden contain powerful pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
Mint — Infuse mint into your tea or ice water to refresh and rejuvenate. It also helps relieve headaches and general aches and pain. Grow this vigorous perennial herb in a container so it won’t overtake your other plants. And at the end of the season, root a few cuttings to start new plants to grow indoors. All you need are a sunny window, quality potting mix, and regular watering.
Hot Peppers — Capsaicin, the spicy element in chili, jalapeno, habanero and cayenne peppers, is a great pain-fighting tool and is often used in topical creams to help treat backaches, arthritis and muscle pain. Plant hot peppers after the soil and air warm, at the same time you are planting sweet peppers and tomatoes. They are ready to harvest when they are fully colored. Purchase extra hot peppers to dry and enjoy year-round.
Cherries — Manage muscle pain and inflammation with sour cherries. They are loaded with disease-fighting chemicals and antioxidants and help fight inflammation and relieve pain. Purchase plenty of cherries to juice, dry and preserve so you can enjoy their health benefits all year long. And consider planting a sour cherry tree in your backyard. Montmorency is the most popular sour cherry needing only 700 hours of air temperatures between 34 and 45 degrees to initiate flowering for fruit development. New hardier dwarf introductions from the University of Saskatchewan can be grown in colder regions including zone 2. Although it takes several years for cherry plants to start producing fruit, you’ll enjoy watching your tree grow into maturity and bear its first crop. Just make sure to cover the plants with netting so the birds don’t eat your harvest.
Ginger — Ginger helps reduce inflammation and combats migraines, muscle pain, arthritis and post-workout or post-gardening soreness. All this plus it helps fight nausea. Although it’s a tropical plant you can find plants or rhizomes (the part you eat) online. Or join other enthusiastic gardeners who have had success rooting the rhizomes they purchased at the grocery store to start new plants. Grow your ginger in a pot outdoors or sunny window alongside your other indoor plants.
Sage — Sage tea has long been used to soothe scratchy and irritated throats and showed positive results in a 2006 clinical trial. Harvest a few sage leaves, add hot water, and brew a bit for sore throat relief. Grow this herb in the garden or a container. It thrives in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Harvest leaves as needed throughout the season. Regular harvesting encourages more growth for future harvests. You can remove as much as one-third of the plant at one time for preservation.
So next time you’re feeling a bit of pain, pass by the medicine cabinet and look to the garden for a bit of relief. Even the simple act of tending your garden and harvesting produce can elevate your mood, lower your blood pressure, and start you on the road to feeling better.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including the recently released “Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, 2nd Edition” and “Small Space Gardening”. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” instant video and DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and her website is www.MelindaMyers.com.