Growing a Medicinal Herb Garden

Discover five plants and learn how to use them in your medicine cabinet.

| March/April 1997

  • Grow lemon balm for its healing powers; when blended with other tea herbs, this fragrant plant adds a fresh, cheery note.
  • Drink a cup of peppermint tea three times a day to aid digestion; the essential oil also is antispasmodic, antibacterial and antiviral.
    Photo by Rob Cardillo
  • In Europe, chamomile is so widely used that it's often called the "ginseng of Europe," a reference to that mainstay of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
    Photo by Susan A. Roth
  • Echinacea purpurea has been grown as an ornamental in flower gardens for more than 200 years.
    Photo by Susan A. Roth
  • Yarrow leaves were reputedly bound on the battle wounds of Achilles’ soldiers to stop their bleeding during the Trojan War.
    Photo by Jerry Pavia

Save time and money by stocking your backyard or windowsill gardens with five basic medicinal herbs. These superstars will treat common ailments such as colds and flu, inflammation, minor cuts, infections, pain, muscle spasms, anxiety, poor digestion and insomnia.

Growing medicinal herbs may seem difficult, and preparing teas or tinctures from them might appear complicated and time-consuming. But the truth is you don’t have to be a skilled gardener to grow a few basic medicinal herbs successfully or be a trained pharmacist to easily prepare them for use. In the process, you may save some money and enjoy yourself.

Five Basic Herbs

There are many easy-to-grow, easy-to-use herbs that you can harvest and prepare to treat minor illnesses. Every medicinal garden should include chamomile, yarrow, lemon balm, echinacea and peppermint. These five basics are safe and effective for the vast majority of people when used as simple teas, poultices or salves.

Echinacea: Super Immune-Booster

Echinacea products are among the top-selling herbs in health-food stores. In the United States, you can buy tinctures and capsules made of the leaves, roots and even the seeds of Echinacea purpurea, one of nine species of perennial herbs in a genus of the aster family that occurs only in North America. Many gardeners know this group collectively as purple coneflower, but echinacea has emerged as the group’s most widely used common name.

(See an image of echinacea growing.) 

E. purpurea has been grown as an ornamental in flower gardens for more than 200 years. The Plains Indians used narrow-leaved purple coneflower (E. angustifolia), a common prairie species, as medicine more than they did any other plant. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this species was widely touted as a blood purifier and “cure for what ails you.” Sales of echinacea preparations were brisk through the 1920s, even among physicians, but the herb fell into disuse soon after the introduction of sulfa drugs and a shift from plant preparations to synthetic drugs.

1/20/2018 6:16:33 PM

In today's society foods are so process and it hard not to buy them because their cheaper than organic. Seven in the family makes for at a minimum 700$ a month and its not all the good stuff either. I use herbs instead of medicine just my preference not telling anyone else to do it. But, I am as healthy as a 30 year old. Echinacea is the first thing on my shelf in a tincture. Thank you for making gardeners aware that they can grow it themselves, dry it and put it into a tincture.

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