The great thing about gardening is that we can grow exactly what we want and need. This is as true for vegetables as it for plants in the medicinal herb garden.
Growing our own medicinal herb garden means we can plan and plant the useful herbs needed for the ailments and conditions we encounter most commonly in our homes. It also gives us a steady supply of herbs for dehydrating and remedy making throughout the year.
Herbs for the Common Cold
The common cold is, well, common. Thankfully, we can often find relief in the plants of the medicinal herb garden:
Sore throats whether from a cold or perhaps cheering too loud are common enough that having some kind of herbal remedy growing seems prudent. Sage, especially when combined with vinegar and honey in an oxymel, can often provide great relief.
For fevers, yarrow opens the pores and encourages sweating. Yarrow comes in a variety of colors and all can be used. Be sure to check your local area as in some cases it can be considered an invasive weed. If that’s the case for you, harvest from the wild.
To simply build and strengthen the immune system, elderberry and echinacea are the most common. But don’t forget about garlic and onions growing in your vegetable garden as well.
Herbs for Coughs
Coughs can come from allergies or colds. No matter how they start, we can often end them with a little help from the herb garden.
For a dry cough, use demeculatant herbs:
Violets are beautiful and often easy to grow as perennials if they don’t pop up easily in the wild. Violet leaves make a tasty syrup for treating those coughs.
Marshmallow grows tall and beautiful in most gardens. To treat coughs, the root is most commonly used so let it get established for about 2 years before harvesting a bit of root each and every fall.
When a trying to make those wet coughs more productive use expectorant herbs:
Bee balm is a lovely perennial that the pollinators will love as much as you do. It grows easily and requires very little from the gardener in most locations.
Horehound is not the best tasting of the herbs but it is often used in cough drops for its effectiveness. In warmer climates it is often self-seeding but in cooler climates it can be grown easily as an annual from seed.
Struggling with just constant coughing? Try growing herbs that are antispasmodic.
Look to the culinary herb garden here as thyme is quite effective.
Red clover works well as antispasmodic and can often be found growing in untreated lawns and other areas. It’s also prized for helping to build soil – so consider using it as cover crop for the vegetable garden and then harvesting for medicine later.
Herbs for Stress
Who doesn’t have stress or anxiety in their lives now and then? Herbs can great allies in the bumpier moments of life.
Lemon Balm is a mild remedy that can often soothe the frazzled nerves after a busy day. Part of the mint family, lemon balm tends to be perennial and almost invasive. Plant it wisely and be ready to thin.
St. John’s Wort has been studied and used for treatment of mild depression. It’s often helpful to those struggling with seasonal affective disorder too. In some parts of the United States, St. John’s Wort is considered a noxious, invasive weed. Double check the status before planting it in your herb garden. And if it is a ‘weed,’ feel good about foraging for it from the wild.
Tulsi a.k.a. Holy Basil is an adaptogen that can reduce stress and anxiety and makes for a delightful tea. In warmer climates, Tulsi can be grown perennially. For those of us in short seasons, it grows beautifully as an annual from seed.
Herbs for Sleep
For those nights when a little extra help is needed to fall asleep, consider growing:
Lemon Balm is a gentle nervine that also has a pleasant flavor making it wonderful for tea drinking and use in tincture.
Chamomile is often an ingredient in bedtime teas for a reason – it helps us all relax. It’s gorgeous in the herb garden too. Those flowers dry beautifully and easily. Roman and German are the two most popular types of chamomile. Both are easy to grow but remember that Roman is an perennial and German is a annual.
Valerian has been used for insomnia and relaxation for decades. While typically the root is used in tinctures and teas, the flowers and leaves can also be used for milder effect.
Herbs for the Skin
Our skin is our largest organ and it needs a lot of care. Herbs can often help soften dry skin, treat infections, defeat fungus, and much more.
Calendula is beautiful in the garden and can help soften the skin. It will often self-seed in most climates. If it doesn’t, saving the seed from one year to the next is super easy.
Lavender smells heavenly, of course, and is also anti-fungal and soothing.
Plantain soothes itchy skin and is a great treatment for bug bites and stings. In many areas, plantain will grow wild in untreated lawns. Consider that before planting it purposefully in the herb garden where the space might be better used.
Herbs for the Digestive System
Whether dealing with a stomach flu of some kind or simply overeating, we can all benefit from some herbs specifically for the digestive system now and then.
Mint is often used to settle upset stomach and nausea. It’s incredibly easy to grow (and sometimes invasive) in the medicinal herb garden, too.
Ginger too can often be a delightful and tasty way to calm upset stomachs. Depending on climate, ginger can be a bugger to grow but worth it.
Chamomile is a mild bitter that can often aid digestion after a big feast.
Seeds for the Medicinal Herb Garden
A great place to start when looking for seeds or plants for the medicinal herb garden is to ask other herb gardening friends. Most herb gardeners collect seeds from their plants each year and are happy to share. They’re also happy to share plants that need to be divided or pruned to keep from getting too big.
If MIGardener doesn’t have what you’re looking for Strictly Medicinal has a large selection seeds and plants for medicinal herbs.
A Word of Caution
Herbs are natural but that doesn’t mean they can’t also be harmful. Be sure to know about herbs and how they might affect you and your family. Some herbs can be harmful when combined with medications. Allergies need to be taken into account. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need to exercise caution. Some herbs should only be used sparingly and much more.
Be sure to double check and when in doubt see a trained medical professional.
Despite all those words of caution, planting a medicinal herb garden is sure to be rewarding. They tend to be beautiful and useful for our homes and our bodies.
If you need a little more direction on planting a medicinal herb garden, The Medicinal Gardening Handbook is a great resource.