Finally I'm able to post an update on our newest edition, an herb garden which will hopefully serve our family more and more over the years.
Knowing which medicinal herbs to grow and their uses can be daunting. Rather than overwhelm myself with all of my "wish list", I decided to start with a few basics I knew I would use and then I can add to the garden every year.
I recommend taking small steps so you can really dive in and use what you grow rather than trying to do it all at once! Even if you just learn to use 2 new herbs each year, that's great progress.
Home remedies are wonderful to have in a time of need, particularly for boosting your immune system. But as with anything else, it is not built up quickly!
With that said, here are the top 10 herbs we decided to grow this year. And note: there are many items on my list but these were chosen for us as a personal preference and in some cases, simply because other herbs I wanted were too hard to come by so I'll try again next year.
And as with all medicinal herbs, it is my recommendation to use them under supervision of a licensed practitioner or get your hands on some excellent books to help you learn. This is of course, not given as medical advice, only a listing of the top herbs we are using for our family.
Our Top 10 Medicinal Herbs to Plant
Bee Balm (Bergamot)
Tulsi (Holy Basil)
Marshmallow or Hollyhock
Knowing Which Herbs to Plant
Knowing which herbs to plant comes down to a personal choice. My recommendation is to look through the list of herbs and read about their common uses, then decide which herbs will help the majority of the issues you and your family face.
Planting herbs that you’ll use is top priority. If you don’t think you’ll use them, they can certainly brighten up your yard, but it’s always best to plant what you’ll use.
These recommendations are in no particular order, so let’s dive right in.
You’ll notice there are many culinary herbs that are also medicinal in nature. These are some of the easiest herbs to grow because you’ll likely have many uses for them, both to cook with, and to treat symptoms.
Some people need to be careful about planting peppermint because it can invade and spread all over your garden. I have decided to put all of my mint herbs in pots. I've also planted some Apple Mint and that is also in a pot to help contain it!
Peppermint is wonderful for upset stomachs and can even help with motion sickness. It’s a very cooling herb and wonderful made into an herbal tea or tincture.
Medicinal Uses for Peppermint
Cooling (hot summer day, cooling topically)
Headaches (topically and internally taken)
Calendula is well known for its soothing properties. You may find calendula in herbal salves, body washes and even shampoos. It has a beautiful flower so I love having it in my garden just to see it!
The flowers, which can vary in color, will drop their seeds and come back year after year. It’s easy to grow and is also a great pollinator because the insects like it.
Although the flavor of calendula isn’t the best on its own, when combined with something like peppermint it makes a great tea.
Medicinal Uses for Calendula
Anti-fungal (diaper rash)
Lymph stimulant (great for swollen glands)
Bee Balm (Bergamot/Monarda)
Also known as Bergamot or Monarda, Bee Balm is a wonderful plant because of its anti-microbial properties. This means it’s anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Anti-microbial plants are some of the best medicinal plants to grow because they can cover a variety of issues.
Medicinal Uses for Bee Balm
Relieves stomach cramps
Calms tissue while fighting microbial problems (great for children)
Tusli (Holy Basil)
This was brand new to me this year and I'm so excited about it! It is a favorite because of its culinary uses, Tulsi is an adaptogen which is great for energy. It helps you adapt during stressful times and helps regulate the stress response.
Medicinal Uses for Holy Basil
Promotes energy (who doesn't need more of this?)
Regulates stress response
Helps with focus and is very grounding
Anti-bacterial (great for use orally)
Probably one of the better-known herbs, Echinacea is great to use when building up your immune system (like if an illness is already touching you or your family).
This plant is best harvested the second year so it has time to spread. When you harvest echinacea, you pull it up by the root and harvest the whole plant. For this reason, you’ll want to allow your bed to expand and build up a bit before pulling it up.
You can use different parts of the plant, but the roots are the most powerful.
Medicinal Uses for Echinacea
Immune-stimulant (helps when used at the first sign of illness)
Anti-infection (topically and internally)
Oregano is a must have in our family because it’s so delicious on pizza! We use oregano in a lot of our cooking, but it is perhaps one of the most powerful herbs out there.
This is another herb that can easily take over an entire garden (I learned the hard way!) So now I have contained this in a pot!
This might be the best medicinal herb to grow because it’s anti-microbial so it will help fight against viruses, fungi, and bacteria. It’s also extremely high in antioxidants.
Medicinal Uses for Oregano
High in antioxidants
Every herb garden should have garlic and onions growing, even if you don’t like the taste in your food, their medicinal purposes are incredible. They are anti-microbial and help fight all kinds of illness. This we have planted in our raised beds rather than in our herb garden but it's such an important herb I couldn't leave it off the list.
Many people love to ferment garlic in honey and, at first sign of illness, eat a clove or two of garlic to help knock out the illness in a flash.
Medicinal Uses for Garlic
Infections in the skin
Hollyhocks are beautiful to grow in the garden, they’re a bit prettier than marshmallow but very closely related. You can eat all parts of the plant and the flowers really add a nice touch to salads.
Hollyhock is a mucilaginous herb, which means they have a thick gelatinous consistency (they “swell” in water). This is wonderful for soothing a sore throat and protecting irritated tissues.
Medicinal Uses for Hollyhock
Depending on where you live you might be able to forage for wild yarrow. If you can find it locally, by all means don’t plant it in your garden! I'm growing White Yarrow this year.
It is one herb I won’t be without because I have learned of how effectively it helps stop bleeding. With working on a farm, this is a great thing to have around. This will be my first year to try it.
Medicinal Uses for Yarrow
Reduce fever (by inducing a sweat)
Probably the most recognized use for chamomile is as a tea to promote sleep. It has a wonderful sweet flavor (some say almost like a pineapple) and is great to drink before bedtime.
Chamomile is a great medicinal herb to grow because it’s so soothing, it’s also wonderful for an upset stomach and gas pain.
It is an annual plant, so you’ll need to replant it year after year.
Medicinal Uses for Chamomile
Eye issues (conjunctivitis)
Fever reducer (when used as an enema)
Other items I am currently growing in my cottage/herb garden:
Purslane (for salads)
Cilantro (I dry it to have it to cook with year round)
Catnip (excellent in tea - not just for cats!)
Parsley (I dry it to use year round)
Basil (for Italian cooking)
A variety of flowers for pollinators and cutting!
Start small with just a few pots and learn what you can! Ready to start? Here is an excellent book to get you motivated to make your own herbal medicine cabinet! There are many others but this is one I have found very beneficial.