The curative properties of some plants were known to people over 5000 years ago in the lands of Assyria, Egypt, India and China. In our lands herbs have been used since the time of the Thracians. They knew quite a number of medicinal plants – henbane, centaury, celandine, etc. In his work Enquiry into Plants, Theophrastus, also called ‘father of botany’, said that Thrace was the region richest in remedial herbs in the world of that time. The proto-Bulgarian healers were mainly the priests of the supreme god Tangra.
The healing effect of the herbs is due to the chemical compounds they contain, which have a beneficial influence on the human body. Alkaloids, compounds containing nitrogen, are the most active substances in herbs. Alkaloids occur as salts. More than 900 types of alkaloids, possessing high biological activity, are known to exist. Other active substances very common among herbs are glycosides, vitamins, enzymes, saponins, volatile oils, fats, waxes, phosphatides, carbohydrates, organic acids, plant hormones, etc.
Here are some rules for those who want to always have fresh herbs on hand and get a high yield:
Choosing healthy herb plants.
If you have decided to buy garden-ready plants, it is important that you choose them carefully. They have to be healthy specimens with well-shaped foliage, bright colour and sturdy stalks. Examine for pests. If one plant is infected, the others are very likely to get infected too.
Planting herbs in the right environment.
Get information about the kind of soil suitable for each individual plant. If rosemary likes dry and chalky soil and is planted in moist and humid soil, it will die within two or three weeks.
If herbs which enjoy full sun are put in dark, sunless places, they etiolate – they grow tall, thin and pale. Choose a place in full sun.
The correct way of planting. Overcrowding.
When choosing herbs, read carefully how much space the plant needs to develop properly. Pay close attention to the height and width of the fully grown plant. Overplanting is not only a waste of money; it doesn’t allow your herbs to grow a healthy root system, one that will help them survive the winter and expand during the following growing season.
Restrain the growth of the herb.
To allow a herb to grow fast and have neat foliage, you should cut off the leaves regularly. The cuttings are the fresh parts of the herbs which you can use in your cooking every day. If the plant isn’t constantly pruned, it will grow tall and spindly, with few leaves, and will eventually die. By harvesting regularly, you keep the herb in its growth stage for as long as possible. This promotes stem and leaves, keeps flowers from forming and keeps the herb producing for a longer period of time.Your herbs will look better and be healthier if pruned on a regular schedule.
Although most herbs have lovely blooms, after flowering they make seeds and their growing cycle is about to end. By pruning the plants, you will keep them from flowering and in this way you will have a longer growing season of the herb.
Pay attention to the smallest details.
It is important to watch the herb garden closely. This will allow you to notice a problem when it first appears, even when the plant may still look healthy. Watch out for damaged leaves, stems and disturbed soil around your herbs. If you find out that the leaves and stems are starting to turn pale or dark, or curl, you will have detected the problem early enough to save the plant.
Watering the herbs properly.
Although herbs are easy to care for, watering them is an important condition for ensuring a long growing period. Always water the soil, not the plant, because moisture promotes mildew and other plant diseases. Mulching keeps the moisture in the soil and may extend the time between waterings.
Sufficient protection of the herbs.
Although herbs are proverbially resistant to disease problems and mistakes, they may still arise. There are enough organic and homemade controls that are safe for the used plants and can protect them from pests. Organic gardening starts early before the plant is even in place. Using beneficial insects, peat and compost for good soil will ensure the growth of healthy plants.
Using herbs must by no means be an end in itself!
When wildcrafting herbs, it is necessary to adhere to certain principles in order to preserve the natural habitats of this incredible gift to mankind.