Growing your own herbal medicine offers so many beautiful rewards. There is the joy of connecting with nature while co-creating with the very herbs that keep you healthy and well. Here is a rundown of the best medicinal herbs to grow in your garden.
These plants were chosen primarily because they are easy to grow in most gardens. Equally as important is that they all have a wide variety of common uses. Many will be familiar to you as culinary herbs and can be used in that way too. They’re all very safe.
Many of them are so beautiful, you would plant them in your garden just for the stunning colors and shapes alone!
This list of the best medicinal herbs to grow in your garden is ideal for those just beginning their herbal journey. When you cultivate your own herbs, you won’t have to worry about positively identifying the plants as you would with plants growing in the wild. You will also know how the plants were grown, ideally organically without herbicides and pesticides, and away from pollutants.
Calendula is one of the most beautiful herbs to have in the garden. It’s cheery and bright. It’s also one of the most useful. It can be used fresh right out of the garden or dried for later use. Calendula is sometimes called pot marigold but it is not to be confused with the garden variety of marigold. Look for Calendula officinalis.
Internally, take calendula as a tea or tincture for lymph congestion. It’s also an effective antibacterial.
Externally, it can also be used for lymph congestion by applying as a massage oil to the congested area. Calendula is one of the best skin healing herbs and is a wonderful addition to aging skincare cream recipes and wound healing recipes. It encourages cellular repair and growth while also having antiseptic qualities.
Echinacea is also called purple cone flower and is common to many ornamental gardens. The large, showy purple blooms are quite attractive and easy to grow. They are perennial and will also self propagate by seed. Medicinally, you can use all parts of the plant: flower, leaf, seed and root. The species Echinacea purpurea is the largest and most beautiful of the Echinaceas.
Echinacea is one of the top immune enhancing herbs, raising the body’s natural resistance to infection. Take it as a tincture or tea at the first sign of cold, flu, or any respiratory infection. It can also be used externally as an antiseptic for sores, cuts, bites, stings and infections.
It’s important to grow this plant yourself since it is being overharvested in the wild due to popular demand.
There are many varieties of basil but it’s usually sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum, that is used medicinally and for culinary purposes. Basil has a distinctive flavor and aroma that is so loved by many.
It’s most known for its aid in digestive issues, easing gas and stomach cramps, as well as helping with nausea. Basil can be eaten or taken in tea for this purpose. Use it the same way as a mild sedative for nervous irritability, fatigue, anxiety, mild depression and insomnia.
Externally, use fresh leaves as a poultice for insect bites and stings. Simply mash or chew a few leaves and apply to the skin. Leave it on for 15 minutes then repeat if necessary.
Lavender is one of the most beautiful aromatic plants and is one of the most essential herbs to have in the garden. It’s quite easy to grow if you find a nice sunny, warm location. There are many varieties, but most often Lavandula officinalis or Lavandula angustifolia are grown. Some varieties are more hardy than others. It’s best to purchase plants when beginning rather than starting from seed.
Lavender is a relaxing, calming and uplifting herb with mild anti-depressant activity. Use it for tension, stress, insomnia and headaches. Some also use it for digestive issues. Take it in a tea or tincture. An oil can be made to use externally as an antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic for many ailments of the skin.
Harvest when buds are just starting to open.
Lemon balm has a delicious lemony flavor. You will want to be sure to grow Melissa officinalis. This herb has a tonic effect on the heart and cardiovascular system. It also is a gentle and effective nerve tonic, useful for tension, general exhaustion, stress, anxiety, grief and mild depression. It can be helpful for children with ADD, ADHD or nightmares.
For those with digestive issues related to tension, this is an excellent herb for stomach distress, gas and dyspepsia. It has helpful antispasmodic effects.
Take as a tincture, tea, bath or add to salads, soups, smoothies and grain dishes.
Lemon balm is a fast growing perennial which will also self-sow. You can harvest the leaves at anytime during the growing season.
Marshmallow is a quick growing perennial with beautiful velvety gray-green leaves and striking pink flowers. The botanical name is Athaea officinalis. It grows tall so its best to plant it further back in the garden.
Marshmallow is a nutritive tonic with mucilaginous properties. Mucilaginous means slippery and gelatinous. This texture is useful for soothing and lubricating irritated and inflamed tissues. In particular, it’s used for dry coughs. It also has an affinity for inflamed or irritated conditions of the digestive system such as gastritis, peptic ulcers and colitis. Many find it useful for urinary infections as well.
The root is the primary part of the plant used, however, the leaf and flower are also sometimes used. Cold water infusions are the best to get the most mucilage from the plant.
Cayenne is known as well for its fiery flavored culinary uses as it is for it’s medicinal uses. Cayenne warms the system, getting the blood circulating through cold fingers, toes and extremities. It gets the digestive system moving too.
The fruit, or chili, of the plant has a long history for strengthening the heart and helping to lower cholesterol. The ways to take cayenne internally are numerous and usually through our food. Many also use it topically to reduce nerve pain due to arthritis, bursitis, muscles and joint pain. Just be careful not to get cayenne into the eyes or other sensitive areas.
Cayenne is a fairly easy to grow annual which needs a long, warm growing season.
Garden sage, Salvia officinalis, is one of those infamous remedies for sore throats. It’s also useful for laryngitis, tonsillitis, bleeding gums, canker sores or any other inflammations of the mouth. Use it as a spray, gargle, mouthwash or swab.
A lesser known use is for hot flashes, fevers and excessive sweating such as night sweats as it helps to cool the system. Nursing mothers find the drying quality helpful for weaning toddlers and drying up milk production. Sage also helps to digest fatty meats and lower cholesterol.
It’s best to buy plants from a nursery when starting out. Sage is very safe and easy to use. Harvest the aerial parts just before it blooms.
Chamomile is a well-known and gentle herb. It is an excellent remedy for children or elderly whose systems are compromised. That being said, it is also an effective remedy for just about anyone. It’s most useful in three areas: relaxing, digestive and anti-inflammatory.
As a relaxing herb, it helps calm where there is stress, anxiety and insomnia. For digestive issues, drink chamomile tea for colic, gas, indigestion, gastritis or any stomach disorders with tension or inflammation. As an anti-inflammatory it’s used for arthritis and other joint pains and swellings.
Chamomile flower is versatile in its use. It can be used as a tea, massage oil, poultice or bath. There are both German and Roman chamomiles with slight differences in taste and action.
Garlic is one of the best medicinal herbs to grow in your garden and one that most herbalists could not be without. Many people think of it as a culinary ingredient, but it is simply loaded with medicinal uses. It’s most valued for boosting the immune system and is excellent for cold and flu. Externally, it’s antimicrobial for all types of skin infections.
It helps keep the heart and blood healthy by maintaining good cholesterol levels and reducing incidences of stroke. It also lowers blood sugar levels.
Plant it in the fall for a spring harvest or early spring for a fall harvest. The bulbs produce flowering stalks called scapes which can also be used. You can pickle the garlic for a great tasting snack or easily incorporate into all kinds of cooked foods. Be sure to save some of the best cloves for the next planting season.
To learn more about using herbal medicine, check out these online herbalism courses.