Beneficial plants for what ails you |American Botanical Council |Central Texas Gardener


Thanks so much for sharing your garden
with us. And now we’re going to be talking about beneficial plants and
there are lots of them that we can be gardening with.
I’m joined by Gayle Engels from the American Botanical Council. And it’s great to have you here.>>Thank
you for having me.>>I’ve been excited about having the American Botanical Council in Austin
for a long time. You study the benefits of different herbs and
plants meant for people who are really passionate about using herbs, for example. It’s great to have an organization that’s
vetting all these things for us and actually doing the science part of it. I think that’s a real important mission that you’ve got. But you also love to garden and use these plants in the
garden. And you’ve brought today a very cool plant that we’re going to start our conversation off with. It’s a form of hibiscus and I
understand this is what they use to create the hibiscus tea.>>That’s
correct. This is hibiscus sabdariffa. Grows really well here. It’ll get about
three, four, maybe even five feet. And what you do is a lot people think
it’s the flower. But it’s actually the calyx, the part
that holds the pedals, that makes the tea. So you harvest it at about this stage, push the seed capsule out and dry this and then you make the tea out of it. It’s
wonderful tea. It’s refrigerant so it helps cool you down on
a hot summer day.>>We all need that in Austin.>>Absolutely
and it’s really good for hypertension too.>>Interesting.>>And it’ll lower blood
pressure.>>Which speaks tol the research that you do.>>That’s right.>>Because there are all these wise tales about this herb for this. That herb
for that, which you actually research that. It’s an important
part of your mission.>>Right. So what we really do is we report on research more than
actually doing primary research ourselves. And what we try to do is educate people
on the responsible use of medicinal plants. And we base that on traditional usage but more on the research that’s
being done currently on them. Because that’s the only way it’s going to be accepted into modern-day healthcare.
Is if we can prove to people that these things really do what we’ve been saying for hundreds of years
they do. Well, refrigerant and other benefits
as well for this one. It’s such a striking plant and I know the hibiscuses love the sun. I’m assuming that this one does as well. And maybe a little bit on the thirsty side?>>You know, it’s interesting. We
probably water the ones in the gardens when it’s really hot a couple times a week. Because then they produce more flowers and more calyces.>>And more refrigerant. Very good. Next to me is another arrangement with a couple of
different plants in it. We’re going to start with the one that’s on the top here, which is
lemon verbena. Which is a super popular plant for our gardens
here in Central Texas.>>It does really well.>>It does great here and what are its uses?>>Well, it makes a wonderful tea. It has got that lovely lemon flavor. And it’s because it’s got such a relatively hard leaf, it holds up to heat
better so that if you wanted to cook with something and actually maintain that lemon flavor,
it would be the herb that you would use. The lemon herb that you would use. But its medicinal uses are it’s really
good for digestion. It helps alleviate the digestive spasms that
you get. And it’s also good for the central
nervous system so it’s a very good plant for anxiety.>>Oh, really? Well, lemon verbena is the plant and it’s
a tough as nails Texas survivor, for sure. Beautiful plant. Right below it is a
form of basil. This is the holy basil, correct? Tell me a little bit about the benefits of this. I just had some with my Thai lunch, I
believe.>>Yes. So, there are a number of varieties of the holy basil. And this variety
is called kapoor. And we’ve grown all four of them. This is the one that does best in Central Texas, as far as we can tell. It’s more robust. It gets about two to three
feet tall. It reseeds freely so that you can dig it
up in the spring and give it to your friends. And it has this wonderful clover-like
fragranc and taste that comes from the eugenol
content in the plant. it’s really good for – it’s got so many
uses. It’s an analgesic so it’s good for pain. It’s anti-anxiety. It’s really good for
colds and flu, so if you had grown some this year you could dry it and make tea for
yourself through the winter. Like all the basils, it benefits from really hard pruning on a regular basis. So, you can cut it back by half, dry the tops
and then it’ll just come back fresh for you.>>Well that’s one the nice things about
basil. Very easy to work with and that periodic
pruning just really encourages the fullness of the
plant. And you get to harvest that much more.>>Right. And one of the things that we’ve noticed
about this particular one is that if you let it bloom and set seed,
like these cuttings are doing, all the energy is going into the
blooming and the seeding. So the flavor of the leaves is not going to
be as good. So if you keep cutting it back, then you’re always going to have fresh
tips, which are the best parts for making your tea or drying for use in the winter.
>>Well, that’s holy basil. Again, a very popular plant. Aloe vera is one of the first things when people think about beneficial plants, it’s often at the top of the list that people recognize.>>And I think a lot of people don’t
realize how well it does here in the landscape. You have to cover it if you’re going to have a hard freeze. So pretty much anything between 30, we
throw frost covers or blankets over it. But it makes beautiful blooms
and it blooms for a very long period of time.>>And blooms attract hummingbirds.
>>And if you plant it right outside your kitchen door, if you burn yourself you
just run out and break a leaf off and it’s magical.>>It works extremely well. And again, a great garden plant for Central
Texas. And there there are many different forms of aloe vera that you can grow here. And some actually are quite cold-hardy but they’re the minority.>>Right. This is the species that we think does
the best. All our others we keep in pots and move into the greenhouse.>>Okay. All right, so aloe vera. Now, there’s a plant on our list that I know nothing about. It’s called bacopa. Okay, tell me a little bit about it.>>Bacopa is a lovely plant. Originates in
India. It’s used in diabetic medicine which
is one of their traditional medicine paradigms for improving cognition and
memory. And it’s lovely, little, low-growing. Or it’ll spill over a wall if you want to
plant it that way or the side of a pot. And it’s covered in little tiny white
flowers all summer long. When you use it in a tea. If you
harvest it to use it in a tea, you’re probably going to want to mix it with something like
mint or lemon verbena or something that has a
nice flavor because it doesn’t have much of a flavor. A lot of the beneficial plants, if they’re not in the mint family. Just kind of have a grassy, green kind of taste. So mint is always
really good to grow a couple of different kinds of mints that you can mix. I mix mind with this when I make the tea because this is kinda tart. And the mint will sweeten it up a little
and give it a little bit different flavor and make it more palatable to a lot more
people.>>Great idea. So bacopa and, again, has many different uses. Now I want to tout your herbal-gram.
This is something that I know that you work very hard on. This is the
publication in the American Botanical Council. And who do you send it out to?>>Well, we send it out to all our members. We have a very small distribution in stores but it’s mostly a benefit of membership in the American Botanical Council. And we celebrated our 100th issue last November 1st at the same
time that we celebrated our 25th birthday. So we’ve been around while.>>And it is a great resource. It’s a beautiful little magazine. Really well put together so I hope
people will take advantage of it. And here in Central Texas people can also visit you directly, right?>>Yes. We would love to have people come visit. We’re in East Austin on Manor Road. We’re open Monday through Friday 9:00 to
6:00. You can come anytime you want for a
self-guided tour. If you want to bring a group out and
have a guided tour, you should call us and we’ll set it up. Yeah, we love to have
people out. We have one big event a year currently
and that’s the first Saturday in May. It’s Herb Day and we’ll have a big event
with plants for sale, books for sale, tours, lectures.>>Lots of great resources. It sounds like a lot of fun.>>It is a lot of fun.>>And that is again the American Botanical
Council located right here in East Austin and people can visit
it year round. It’s been a real pleasure visiting with you, Gayle. Thank you so much for sharing all your
information about these plants and many, many more folks can learn about. So, thanks for being a part of the program. >>Thank you.>>All right and coming up next is our friend Daphne.