Easiest Medicinal Herbs to Grow

Use this guide to grow and use medicinal plants such as echinacea, tulsi and chamomile.

| May/June 2016

Over the past 20 years or so, more people have become aware of herbs’ ability to increase our health and well-being. Unfortunately, with this growth, we’ve also seen an increase in supplements made with low-quality herbs that are irradiated, sprayed, and grown in unsustainable or unethical ways, especially from large chain retailers. While there are more and more options worth buying all the time, you can save money by growing some of your medicine yourself.

In addition to saving money, making and using our own medicines can be a fun and empowering way to bring health and wellness to ourselves, our families and our communities. Cut a bouquet of lavender spikes to put in a vase next to your grandmother’s bed to help her relax. Make an extract of echinacea to help your family get through cold and flu season. Dry some chamomile, tulsi and nettle, and combine them with other herbs for a nourishing and tasty tea blend to sell at your local farmers market. There are countless ways we can share plants’ healing gifts with others through our own gardens.

6 Medicinal Herbs You Should Be Growing Now

Here we focus on some of the easier medicinal herbs to grow and those whose harvest and methods of use are simple and likely to bring you success. They all grow well in most parts of the country, and pack a serious punch when it comes to medicinal compounds.

1. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

German chamomile, a must-have for every herb pantry, is productive and highly medicinal. It is an anti-inflammatory nervine that has a calming effect on the nervous and digestive systems, and it’s safe for children and adults who are in a weakened state. Chamomile has antiseptic properties and is used topically in washes for skin, eyes and mouth. Its essential oil is useful in creams, oils and salves. When brewed as a tea, the sweet little blossoms bring a sense of well-being. Chamomile can also be formulated with other herbs and taken in extract form as a digestive, a sleep aid and an overall nerve tonic.

Planting Considerations

• Self-seeding annual that grows tenaciously in many environments but prefers cooler climates
• Pest- and disease-resistant
• Prefers full sun; can be grown in partial shade in hotter climates
• Likes well-drained soil with good fertility, ample moisture and lots of organic matter
• Will self-seed but may not outcompete weeds; direct-seed in the fall or early spring (cover lightly); thin plants to 10 inches apart
• Blooms early to mid summer

Harvest and Use: Many large commercial growers of chamomile sacrifice quality for expediency by using combines to harvest the flowers. Hand-harvesting chamomile blossoms retains more of the essential oils and medicinal compounds. Pick blossoms by hand during full bloom every seven to 10 days during peak bloom time. Flowering may slow down during hot, dry spells and then resume when cool weather returns.

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