Natural Herbal Remedies from the Garden

Harvest these natural herbal remedies for simple, homegrown medicine such as teas, poultices, immune-boosting soup and more.

| May/June 2005

  • Herbal Remedies
    Once you know how to process different plant parts, when to harvest the part of the plant you’re interested in, and the difference between using fresh and dried herbs, making homegrown medicine is all about being creative.
    Photo By Fotolia/jfunk

  • Tasty elderberries have powerful antiviral properties.
    Karen Bergeron,

  • Karen Bergeron,

  • Herbal Remedies

If you’re a gardener, the back yard in summertime is your supermarket and your playground. It also can be your pharmacy. Why stop at clipping flowers and picking tomatoes when you can make teas, bath products, poultices, oils and medicinal foods from the fresh herbs growing right outside your door?

Summer is the peak season for fresh, seasonal remedies to treat all the dings and scratches you and your family are likely to get from working in the garden, climbing trees, building forts and mixing it up with nature. It’s also the perfect time to take advantage of the garden’s abundance by filling up your medicine cabinet with remedies for the coming months. Imagine having a ready answer when someone in your family comes down with the flu, has an ear infection or just wants to pamper herself with an herbal bath.

If you keep in mind some general rules about how to process different plant parts, when to harvest the part of the plant you’re interested in, and the difference between using fresh and dried herbs, the rest is up to your creativity. Use the tried-and-true recipes featured in this article, then go into the garden and create your own based solely on which plants speak to you the loudest.

How to Harvest Herbs for Healing

The most important thing to remember is: you want to harvest a plant when most of its energy is in the part from which you are going to make medicine. For example, if you want to pick burdock roots to add to soup, you wouldn’t want to take the root when the leaves are just beginning to sprout, because the leaves are where the plant is concentrating its energy. The best time to take roots is early spring before the above-ground parts have begun to show, or late fall after the plant has gone to seed and its energy has traveled back underground.

Simple Medicine: How to Make Herbal Tea

Nothing could be simpler or provide you with more instant gratification than tea made with fresh herbs from the garden. There’s something tremendously satisfying about going into the garden and tearing off a few leaves here, a few flowers there, pouring some boiling water over them, and sitting down for a cup of freshly harvested tea in the middle of the afternoon.

According to Richo Cech, author of Making Plant Medicine (Horizon Herbs, 2000), the plants most appropriate for fresh infusions are angelica, calendula, catnip, dandelion, gentian, horehound, lemon balm, lovage, plantain, self-heal and thyme. This is not to say you can’t experiment with making fresh infusions of other herbs, though. Along the way, you’ll find that fresh herbs impart a far more glorious color to water than their dried counterparts.

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