Grow your own natural boosters

1 April 2010

Flowers and herbs have been known for their beneficial properties for centuries - but while most of us would head for the chemists for a natural health boost, there's no reason the green fingered can't grown their own.

We've tracked down a couple of window-box wonders to try, as well as some cheats if your gardening talents aren't so hot. But if you are taking any other medication, do check with your GP before trying natural remedies, even ones you've cultivated yourself.

Marigolds

The petals of this yellow flower have been used in Chinese Medicine to treat everything from gastritis to eczema, but it's the natural carotenoids which set it apart. These powerful antioxidants, called luteins and zeaxanthins, can help protect against eye damage.

Grow your own: Sprinkle the spicy, peppery tasting petals on salads or rice dishes.

Cheat: Ocuvite Complete, £14.95, contains eye-protecting lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as essential fatty acids and vitamins.

Evening primrose

Another yellow flower, this is most commonly linked to PMS, but has also been used as a treatment for skin conditions, high cholesterol and circulation problems.

Grow your own: Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has used various pieces of the plant in his cooking. Try roasting the seeds for around 15-20 minutes and use them in bread or sprinkle over salads.

Cheat: Evening primrose oil is widely available, and has been found to improve eczema and soothe inflammation. Try Efamol Pure Evening Primrose Oil, £8.99, or Seven Seas Evening Primrose Oil plus Starflower Oil, £7.49.

Berries

Nothing says summer faster than a bowl of strawberries and raspberries, while blueberries' health properties are so well-known they've been dubbed superfoods, thanks to their high level of anthocyanins, the antioxidants which give the fruit its colour.

Grow your own: Get your immune system in check with a handful of fresh berries, blended with skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurt and a handful of oats for an antioxidant boost, plus an added helping of probiotics and calcium.

Cheat: Selenium-ACE plus Vitaberry, £5.95, delivers the equivalent natural antioxidants of three portions of fruit, as well as vitamins A, C and E.

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