There are many amazing plants you can add to your medicinal herb garden, but we have five we’ve been growing for years. Two of the plants are lavender and calendula; both herbs take off during the summer months.
According to The Chestnut Herbal School of Medicine, here are five of the top picks for your medicinal herb garden.
1. Calendula (aka pot marigold):
We have an entire garden full of this herb. This one is pretty common and easy to grow.
The “petals” (technically known as ray florets) are edible, and the whole flower is an important medicinal herb for addressing skin conditions.
Incorporate Calendula flowers (whole, including the resinous green bracts into topical oils and salves for healing wounds, rashes, burns, and dry skin.
The flowers are absolutely beautiful.
“The leaves and flowers are a significant nervine sedative and are used to help promote sleep and alleviate pain, such as menstrual cramps and headaches.
Passionflower is a short-lived, perennial herb that will clamber gregariously over arbors and fences.”
The leaves and flowers smell like wintergreen and are used internally for inflammation, fevers, heartburn, and peptic ulcers. Meadowsweet is an excellent tonic for arthritis with its anti-inflammatory salicylates.
4. Stinging nettles:
Cook the leaves, and the sting goes away.
“The greens and tea of nettles are high in minerals, vitamins, and chlorophyll, namely Vitamin A and C and calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. The leaves and seeds are used medicinally in teas and foods for allergies, arthritis, and as a kidney tonic.”
5. Wild Bergamot:
“Wild bergamot is a close relative to bee balm (Monarda didyma). However, it is more likely to thrive in hotter and drier conditions.
Both bee balm and wild bergamot are essential medicines for Native American peoples. Use them medicinally to treat infections and digestive issues, such as gas and bloating. Wild bergamot is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and diaphoretic (brings on a sweat to break a fever).”
Interview with Dawn from Maple Twig Medicinals
Have you heard of nettles and elderflowers? Curious about why they’re so special? We interviewed Dawn from Maple Twig Medicinals a few years ago and thought this Q&A would be interesting for readers that want to know more about starting a medicinal herb garden.
Q 1. What inspired you to start growing medicinal plant starts, and why the Maple Twig name?
A. I have a background in farming and am inspired to grow medicinal herbs because I see community members empowered to connect to their health and have a reciprocal relationship with plants.
Maple Twig is the translation of my mom’s family name, Lonnqvist. I grew up producing honey and harvesting raspberries with my mormor and morfar (maternal and paternal grandparents) and believe that everyone has the right to access the plants their ancestors have used.
Q 2. Acknowledging that plant medicine is a storied culture that reaches back to our early years as humans, what do you feel is most important about it in the context of our modern lives?
A. There are so many ways that society disconnects us from each other and the living world. Power dynamics promote doctors and professionals to be the experts on our health. While modern medicine has a great role to play in community well-being, connecting to plants that have been used for ages puts some of that power back into the hands of the people.
I have several plant allies that I keep in constant “conversation” with, as I am sure you do as well.
Q 3. Would you mind sharing a little about some of your “go-to” herbal friends?
A. It’s really hard for me to hone in on just a few, but I love elderflower and berries building immunity, along with working through grief and connecting to the underworld. I also love nettles! Soups, tea, stocks, sautéed… it is a great plant to grow yourself because out in the wild it is over-harvested and grows prolifically in polluted areas where it takes up heavy metals.
Nettle provides a lot of good minerals but only if grown in good soil!
Q 4. Do you need to be an herbalist/naturopath to start a medicinal herb garden, and what do we need to know about welcoming these plants into our garden landscape?
A. Anyone can grow herbs! Many are very easy to take care of and are perennial, requiring a lot less water after getting established. I can see why the diversity of medicinal herbs can be overwhelming, but I would say if you have an interest, give it a shot! If you are worried about a plant spreading further than you would like, try a big pot! You can always transplant into the soil in the spring or fall if you find it will be manageable. Start slow and grow plants you genuinely want to use and for which you have a purpose!
Q 5. I really appreciate your mission to keep plant medicine alive and attainable at all levels of the socio-economic spectrum; can you tell us how you’ve arrived at a system that makes this possible?
A. Right now, this is obtainable through working a full-time job in a psychiatric ER (haha). Besides that, my medicinal herb plants are at fixed prices to community nurseries, so they don’t bump the costs to fit a more boutique price point. I greatly value trades, sliding scale for Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), open educational events, and donating plants and products to BIPOC groups as reparations.
I keep my costs low, mixing my soil, using recycled pots and building materials, and am all about finding great deals on Craigslist, NextDoor, Buy Nothing, and such. The Mercy Corps IDA award will help me grow my business while still being accessible and community-focused.
Q 6. What Medicinal Herb book do you make the most use of, currently?
A. I love “Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification” is a book by Thomas J. Elpel. Written by an herbalist, it helps you notice patterns in both medicinal applications and in growing and identifying herbs.
Q 7. Where can others find out more about you and any education or volunteer opportunities that become available?
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