Containment is a good opportunity to start an herb garden

Through Duncan Guy Apr 4, 2020

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Durban – Covid-19 containment is a good opportunity to start an herb garden if you haven’t already.

So says Jane Griffiths, a food gardening author born and raised in Pietermaritzburg, who recently published Jane’s Delicious AZ of Herbs.

“Eating organic herbs and vegetables from our own gardens will boost our immune systems, helping us to avoid disease or not get so sick if we catch something,” she said, adding that the herbs could be grown in the smallest spaces, “even a sunny window sill”.

The book, which begins with a quote from Hippocrates – “Food Be Your Medicine” – is rich in information about the healing properties of herbs, tackling ailments ranging from depression, migraines and nausea to mouthwashes.

Griffiths’ journey of looking at his garden for welfare began at the other end of the scale: his father was a pharmacist.

She has childhood memories of her father making pills, as they did back then.

Gardener and author Jane Griffiths has produced a handy guide to herb gardening, Jane’s Delicious AZ of Herbs. Photo: Keith Knowlton.

“There was something magical about the pestle and the mortar and the smell of the ingredients. As I played hide and seek among the cavernous shelves, while Dad measured out the healing concoctions, I fully believed that there was a cure for everything.

“Unfortunately, I was wrong. Science, for all its progress, does not have all the answers, ”said Griffiths.

“Realizing that modern medicine is as fallible as its human practitioners, I began to explore a more holistic approach to healing.”

She said that when she started growing her own vegetables and herbs, it was a natural step to experiment with making ointments, lotions and potions.

“Mom’s old double boiler was taken out of the closet and put to good use to melt beeswax and shea butter.

“Bountiful crops of herbs have been chopped, macerated, dried, soaked and spread. Doing everything from delicious body creams to healing tinctures, I began to follow in my father’s footsteps.

Griffiths said asking her what her favorite medicinal herb is was like asking someone to name their favorite child.

“But I would probably choose turmeric as my best medicinal herb. It’s easy to grow, although it takes a bit of patience at first, and it’s a lovely addition to the garden, with large, green, strappy leaves and gorgeous blooms.

“It is a particularly effective anti-inflammatory and inflammation is the cause of many diseases, especially those related to age.

“It is not soluble in water – to get the maximum benefit from it, turmeric should be mixed with a fat (oil, butter or milk) and heated.

“Taking a little black pepper with it increases its effectiveness.”

His book, A How-To Guide, also covers the culinary and household properties of over 80 different herbs.

Jane’s Delicious AZ of Herbs: A Guide to Growing Herbs Holistically in South Africa, (Sunbird Publishers) retails for R285. For more information see

The independent on Saturday

Terri S. Tomasini