10 Medicinal Herbs You Can Cultivate in Your Backyard
By Juliet Blankespoor
Health is wealth, and while you can’t grow a money tree, you can nurture a garden of natural remedies. For thousands of years, healers have planted their most-used holistic helpers in the soil just beyond their doorsteps. The wisdom in this is two-fold: Not only do we need our medicines close at hand, but the presence, aroma and beauty of herbs bring comfort to those who are sick and to those who heal.
Herb gardening is experiencing a renaissance right now, as herbalists and home medicine makers choose a steady and self-reliant way to access healing plants. The truth is, nothing compares to the freshness, quality and economy of homegrown medicine.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
Motherwort is one of the easiest herbs to grow. It is one of my favorite tincture remedies for anxiety and stress. Motherwort is a short-lived perennial herb; plant it in full sun to part shade.
Hibiscus, Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
Crimson crowns, both succulent and tart, adorn the glossy stems of this tropical shrub. Roselle tea is heart-healthy; it lowers cholesterol, prevents atherosclerosis and is rich in vitamin C. Grow in full sun and compost-amended soil.
Holy Basil, Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)
Holy basil is highly aromatic and uplifting; its leaves and flowers are used in medicinal teas for elevating energy and enhancing mental clarity and focus. Plant in full sun in average to moist garden soils.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Passionflower is native to the southeastern United States and bears gorgeous flowers. The leaves and blooms are used to help promote sleep and alleviate pain. Attach the climbing vines to a trellis in full sun.
Echinacea or Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Echinacea is one of the most popular medicinal ornamentals. The roots, seeds and fresh flowers are all medicinal and can be made into a tingly-tasting, immune-stimulating tea or tincture. Plant in full sun for the best flower production.
Elderberry (Sambucas nigra var. canadensis)
No herb is steeped in folklore like elderberry. The tea, syrup and tincture contain powerful antioxidants and antiviral qualities. It is a fast-growing shrub, flowering and fruiting at a young age and will grow in most climates and soils. Water regularly.
Spilanthes, Toothache plant (Acmella oleracea)
Spilanthes is an interesting herb to behold and taste. I often add it to formulas with echinacea as an immune stimulant for the common cold and flu. It does well in average to rich soil and in full sun; water during dry spells.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula is one of our most familiar and beloved herbs. It works wonders as a topical salve for healing wounds, rashes and dry skin. Prefers full sun and average garden soil.
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)
Nettles is a highly revered, nutritious spring green rich in minerals, vitamins and chlorophyll. Use the leaves in teas and foods for nutrient density, allergies and as a kidney tonic. Plant in full sun to part shade, amend the soil with compost or fertilizer and keep in mind that it spreads.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
I use lemongrass as a tasty medicinal tea for headaches, insomnia and indigestion. To keep this warm-weather native happy, situate lemongrass in full sun and rapidly draining soils.
Juliet Blankespoor is the Founder and Director of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine and the author of The Healing Garden: Cultivating and Handcrafting Herbal Remedies—a gorgeously detailed herbal reference, decadent cookbook and garden manual all in one. Juliet partners with two Atlanta nonprofits, the Herbalista Community Clinic and Grow Where You Are Farm, to increase access to herbal education and herbal healthcare. www.chestnutherbs.com, www.healinggardengateway.com