Grow Your Own Cure for High Blood Pressure

March 31st, 2014

High blood pressure getting you down?  Sometimes headaches and dizziness are telling signs of high blood pressure but often there are no symptoms and hypertension undermines your long term health.  The “silent killer”.

A good friend learned she had hypertension only with a visit to her doctor.  She discovered a cure in her garden that worked for her.  In Casey’s own words:


“In Nov. 2012, while living part-time in Costa Rica and working on a local, small farm, I noticed a pretty type of hibiscus in the garden that I did not recognize, very much resembling a Christmas tree with bright red balls. I discovered that this is the "flor de Jamaica" and the red balls are, in fact, the calyces that develop after the flower.  I had read that these could be a hypertension reducer and since I had been recently diagnosed with hereditary high blood pressure — my reading was 170/90 — I thought I would give it a try.  Upon returning to the US I found a supply of dried “flor de Jamaica” and began brewing hibiscus tea.  I drank about 1 quart per day of delicious lemon-flavored red tea for one month.  My numbers fell to 120/70, to the amazement of my blood pressure technicians.”




‘Western medicine’ relies on increasing technology to provide incredible health benefits and life extension.  But often these benefits are too expensive for patients.  Health care costs continue to grow much faster than personal incomes.  Because of the cost of technology-driven health care, and also because the health of the whole person is not always considered by allopathic medicine – which focuses on fighting disease with drugs and surgery, there is a growing interest in traditional healing practices.  ‘Eastern medicine’ employs ancient proven wisdom, an appreciation for body/mind/spirit linkages, homeopathic practices, as well as balanced nutrition including plants as healing agents.  

Some plants have tremendous and universal healing properties.  Others heal specific conditions.  Plant-based medicines are almost always much less costly than western medicine's pharmaceutical solutions.  Our gardens in Vermont and Costa Rica produce an abundance of healing food and herbs and Lynette (my wife) is an expert in growing and using these natural medicines.  Here are the top 10 medicinal plants she grows in our gardens and what she uses them for:


Vermont: Our top 10 “Monster Medicinals”

·      Elberberries for anti viral properties; they can effectively stop the proliferations of viruses including colds and flu

·      Gogi berries for anti oxidant properties and Vitamin B

·      Tomatoes for vitamin C and lycopene (eye health) but mostly because we love them.

·      Hot peppers for anti-inflammatory and vitamin C

·      Brazilian spinach for powerful green drinks

·      Perilla (aka Chinese basil) for asthama, colds and bronchitis, plus digestive problems including food poisoning and diarrhea.  

·      Cilantro for pulling and expelling accumulated toxins especially heavy metals

·      Holy Basil (aka Tulsi), a powerful antioxidant that’s antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory and reduces stress 

·      Oregano for anti viral properties, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal (GI) and urinary tract disorders

·      Garlic for hardening of the arteries, high cholesterol, heart disease and hypertension plus various cancers



Costa Rica: Our top 10 “Monster Medicinals”


·        Flor de Jamica ( Hibiscus Sabdariffa) for blood purification and blood pressure

·        Coconut (water, oil and meat) for everything!

·        Ginger for arthritis and other inflammatory ailments

·        Brazilian spinach for powerful green drinks

·        Aloe Vera for soothing and conditioning digestive track and intestines

·        Lemon grass, a superior anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory with anti-cancer properties

·        Curcumin rhizome (aka Tumeric) for anti inflammatory properties

·        Chia for Omega 3’s, intestinal health and fiber

·       Chaya  (aka the spinach tree), the Maya “miracle plant” for improved blood circulation, lower cholesterol, weight loss, improve memory and brain function and to combat arthritis and diabetes

·      Moringa, the “miracle tree” from India with health benefits in seeds, leaves, stems and roots, including anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and to relieve gout, diarrhea and various fevers


Our gardens are becoming like our own personal “farmacy”.  And some of these plants are beautiful additions to our garden, like flor de Jamaica.  In fact, even though flor de Jamaica is a tropical plant we have learned how to grow this shot-lived perennial in VT.  It takes a little extra effort but it’s fun to bring parts of our tropical “farmacy” north for the growing season.  Let me know if you’d like me to send you some flor de Jamaica seeds and growing instructions so you can add it to your own healing garden.  Email me at


Mycorrhiza Discovery: Can Healthy Soils Solve Climate Change?

February 24th, 2014

This diagram shows the movement of carbon between land, atmosphere, and oceans in billions of tons of carbon per year. Yellow numbers are natural fluxes and red are human contributions of carbon (both change CO2 in the atmosphere). White numbers indicate stored carbon. Climate change scientists focus on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere (800 Gt) and vegetation (550 Gt). But soil contains more carbon than air and plants combined (2,300 Gt). So, even a minor change in soil carbon could have major implications for the earth\'s atmosphere and climate.


Most gardeners know about the importance of working with nature to increase soil health and thus the success of our gardens. But many gardeners do not appreciate the central role mycorrhizal fungi play for healthy plants and healthy soil.


There is a sort of biological magic that happens between mycorrhizal fungi and plant roots called symbiosis where the plant provides the mycorrhiza with the sugars they need to keep growing, and the fungi provide the plants with more efficient access to soil nutrients.  Mycorrhiza develop fungal "roots" that merge with the cell walls of the plant roots and grow into them, creating structures that allow for the transfer of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen from soil to the fungi to the plant.

Plants thrive with this extra access to nutrients, fueling better growth and increasing resistance to drought and disease.  Gardens look better and are healthier when mycorrhizal fungi are “symbiosis-ing” with plants and trees.  Plus, this increased vigor helps plants remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis.


Photosynthesis is the process that has led to the soil containing more carbon than the atmosphere and plant biomass combined.  Of course, this also means poor land use practices (deforestation, excess tilling and chemical fertilization, filling in wetlands, overgrazing, etc) increase greenhouse gases by releasing soil carbon.  And correspondingly, smart land use practices can accelerate natural sequestration of atmospheric CO2 in soils.  There is growing understanding that policies to protect and restore soil carbon should be top priority for dealing with climate change.

So, gardening, farming and land use that builds healthy soil are a key solution to climate change by storing excess CO2 in soil carbon through photosynthesis.  And recent research has discovered that some mycorrhizal fungi increase soil carbon storage by 70%.  These climate change-fighting fungi slow the decomposition of organic matter and thus build more quickly net carbon stored in the soil.


What if we fully valued the role healthy soil can play in reducing excess greenhouse gas build up, not to mention in creating resilient ecosystems, feeding us and conserving water resources?  What if we started behaving as if healthy soil is as important as clean air and water?   What if we understood that the “dirt’ we walk on may be the key to a better future?  Then, we may begin designating mycorrhizal fungi and other soil life as endangered species we should protect.


Red and Blue States Can Find Common Ground in the Garden

January 27th, 2014

For 30 years Gardener’s Supply Company has been committed to “Improving the World Through Gardening”.  But what does that mean and how do we communicate this message most powerfully to both Blue States and Red States? 

Last year The Nature Conservancy commissioned a national survey of voters to understand the best ways to communicate about land conservation and protecting nature. Here are three key conclusions from that research (and their connection to gardening):

1.    Talk about water first and foremost. Nothing is more important to voters than having abundant and clean water to drink.  Americans care deeply about water pollution and The Nature Conservancy believes that “protecting land around rivers, lakes, and streams, will keep pollution from flowing into these waters and prevent it from eventually contaminating our drinking water.”

How does concern over water apply to gardening and Gardener’s Supply?  We have promoted ‘waterwise’ gardening and landscaping from day one, promoting organic soil management to retain water, HydroGro hose for drip irrigation, rainbarrels, and now Snip’N’Drip.  We lead the US in efficient self-watering container gardening.  But there’s more we can do including leading the shift to organic lawn care thus reducing lawn chemicals, a main source of surface water pollution.

2.    Talk about improving human health by caring for the land. Americans want clean air and water and healthy environments, and we instinctively view land protection as having benefits for air, water, flora and fauna, and thus our own health. We recognize that nature is a source of our food, provides important medicines, and is essential for recreation.

       Gardener’s Supply always promotes good land stewardship and the idea that we can improve the environment and create healthier habitats “one backyard at a time”.  What other pastime delivers this benefit in every community, and what other home-based activity can empower “earth stewards” more than gardening?  Everyone is interested in better health and gardening can deliver this with nutritious food, outdoor exercise and a healthier “web of life” surrounding our home?

3.    Talk about the importance to our kids and grandkids of protecting natural areas.  Emphasize the importance of engaging with natural areas as a way of helping children spend more time outdoors. Of 18 conservation-related problems tested in The Nature Conservancy survey, “kids not spending enough time outdoors and in nature” rated as the most serious concern.  82% of American voters (rural Republicans as well as urban Democrats) are concerned about this problem.

The national Farm to School Network reaches over 20 million kids providing access to nature through school gardens and farm field trips plus by linking good health to good food through nutrition and cooking programs.  There are nearly 150 schools involved in Vermont and GSC has been a major supporter of this movement both here in Vermont and nationally.  There is more we all can do to support more children gardening, no matter the politics of our families or communities.

Personally, I am concerned about climate change, income inequality, decimation of nature by the human economy and other global challenges.  But “when the world wearies and ceases to satisfy there is always the garden” is still a truism for me.  And gardening can be a bridge uniting all gardeners, regardless of our politics, to work toward a better world in our homes and communities.