In a BBC video, James Wong, an ethnobotinist and British television personality, discusses various medicinal plants you can grow in your own backyard and turn into useful household products and treatments.
“I want to make people think differently about plants,” Wong says in the video. He notes that he’s not against conventional medicine, pointing out that almost 50 percent of pharmaceutical drugs are based on chemicals that were originally found in plants. But why pay out big money when you can find the real thing growing in nature?
“Natural remedies are not some new hippy trend. They’ve been used for thousands of years,” he says. “It’s just that our culture has lost touch with how to use them.”
In this episode of the BBC series Grow Your Own Drugs, Wong gives tips on how to make medicinal products from a variety of exotic plants:
Green tea mouthwash: Although the plant is more often found in the tropics, Wong takes us to a tea garden in England, where it actually grows well in the wet climate. To prepare the tea, he picks the leaves, dries them in the sun for a few hours, breaks them up, then bakes them in the oven. Wong uses the tea to make a mouthwash, taking advantage of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. “It will work on everything from bad breath to sorting out plaque,” he says.
Olive leaf facemask: Olive leaves have natural antioxidants and can help keep your face feeling fresh and moisturized. “It does amazing stuff for your skin,” Wong says. The process is simple: He harvests the leaves, chops them up, covers them in boiling water and after ten minutes has an infused liquid. He then mixes it with clay powder for a base and adds some lemon essential oil to make it smell nice, and the mask is ready to go.
Aloe vera to ease burns: “If you’re only going to grow one exotic medicinal plant, this has gotta be it,” Wong says. He grows aloe plants in a pot in his yard and takes advantage of their cooling and anti-inflammatory action, making a remedy that can help with sunburns, heat burns and chemical burns. He simply cuts open a leaf and extracts the goopy gel, then combines it with calendula flowers to add antibacterial muscle. Next he freezes the mixture in ice cube trays so he has gel packs ready whenever he needs them.
Lemongrass insect repellent: This famous ingredient in Thai green curry has a plethora of medicinal uses, including repelling and killing annoying bugs like mosquitoes and biting flies. You can crush the grass and rub it on the skin directly, or make a spray combined with cloves and essential oils to amplify its effects. And you don’t have to travel to Southeast Asia to get some lemongrass — you can grow it in a glass of water right on your windowsill.
“Before you start growing, you need to know what you’re picking, how to use it and whether you’re allergic,” Wong says. “Once you’ve got that, get on out there and do it.”