Life conditions – including hypertension, diabetes, liver and heart problems – have a direct relationship to what is consumed by the human body. The concept of nutri-gardens, or poshan bagichas, was popularized as part of the government’s National Nutrition Mission efforts. Giving a family easy access to herbs, fruits and vegetables, nutri-gardens can make quality nutrition as easy as harvesting fresh, pure produce from your kitchen or patio garden – without the labels of expensive store. In addition, nutri-gardens give communities access to locally available herbs and products.
Although there are several Indian herbs known to help with various ailments, not all herbs have strong research evidence to confirm their effectiveness. If you are looking to grow a nutritional garden for health, here are some of the herbs you should choose.
Essential herbs for heart health
Indian ginseng, popularly known as Ashwagandha, is rich in nitrates and potassium. Research studies have shown good evidence for Ashwagandha in reducing total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL levels and in managing cardiovascular disease. These benefits may possibly be mediated by nitric oxide. Ginseng grows best in dry regions, but can also be grown in your garden. Seeds can be sown directly outdoors and will germinate in 20 days.
Garlic, a common household herb used in the kitchen, is also well known for its health benefits, from curing a cold to preventing heart disease. It contains an antioxidant called allicin, which acts as a free radical scavenger and thus reduces vascular oxidative stress and prevents cardiovascular disease. There is strong research evidence for its anti-hypertensive properties, which are mediated by vasodilation via increased nitric oxide production. It is important to note that garlic is commonly used in powder form in research studies, so the effectiveness of 2-3 pieces of fresh garlic may differ.
Additionally, garlic adds flavor to low-salt diets that are commonly prescribed to people with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Plant individual garlic cloves after preparing the soil; a clove will become a plant, so pot accordingly. Garlic needs a lot of sun to grow, so it is ideal for most parts of India.
Turmeric is a medicinal plant widely used as a spice in Indian cuisine and is also well known for its health benefits. Curcumin is the anti-inflammatory compound found in turmeric, which gives it its bright yellow color. Curcumin has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels by reducing intestinal cholesterol absorption and hepatic cholesterol synthesis. Turmeric grows from rhizomes, which can be found at some nurseries or ordered online. Sow it deep in a large, spacious pot, so the tubers have room to grow under the soil.
Essential herbs for diabetes
Fenugreek seeds, or methi, are a rich source of soluble fiber which lowers blood sugar by slowing the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. Adding at least a teaspoon of ground fenugreek powder to your oral drinks or mixing it into flour paste can improve blood sugar levels. A sun-loving plant, fenugreek is easy to grow during the summer months using readily available seeds.
Bitter gourd, known as karela in Hindi, contains three different antidiabetic compounds, vicin, lectin, and the insulin-like compound polypeptide-p. Together they help lower blood sugar. From seed, it grows as a vine in the nutri-garden and is best left to grow upright. Bitter gourd requires lots of sun.
Indispensable herbs for liver disease
Milk thistle is a medicinal plant. Its leaves are used in Ayurvedic healing practice and the seeds are used in medicines. It can be used to treat various health issues. Various studies have been conducted to test its effect on liver disease and some of them report decreased death rates from liver disease. It is known to reduce hepatitis C-related inflammation and protect against liver damage. This plant can grow in most places, even if the soil is poor. The seed needs slightly cooler temperatures to grow.
In addition, studies on the effect of curcumin (present in turmeric) show a moderate replication of hepatitis B and thus help in the treatment of liver diseases.
In addition to growing locally sourced herbs and plants, one should consult a doctor to manage an existing health condition. Discuss with your doctor or physician as some of them may have side effects and drug interactions.