Medicinal Herbs for your Garden

Turn your backyard or windowsill into a medicinal herb garden and enjoy the benefit of saving time and money while living a healthy life. Start with five basic medicinal herbs that include Echinacea, Chamomile, Yarrow, Lemon Balm, and Peppermint. These herb superstars are known to effectively treat common ailments such as insomnia, poor digestion, anxiety, muscle spasms, pain, infections, minor cuts, colds and flu, and inflammation.

You may think that growing medicinal herbs is difficult. Even the thought of preparing tinctures or teas from them may seem complicated and time-consuming. In reality however, you don’t need to have great gardening skills to successfully grow a few basic medicinal herbs. There’s also no need to become a trained pharmacist to understand how to prepare these herbs for use. Growing medicinal herbs is not only enjoyable but can also save you some money in the process.

The Five Basic Herbs

You will find that there is a wide variety of herbs that are easy to grow and easy to use which you can harvest and prepare for treating minor illnesses. In every medicinal herb garden, it is important to include Echinacea, Chamomile, Yarrow, Lemon Balm and Peppermint as your five basic herbs. These medicinal herbs are safe and effective for a great majority of people when they are used as poultices, salves or simple teas.

Echinacea: Super Immune-Booster

Products containing Echinacea are among the top-selling herb products in most health-food stores. Otherwise known as Echinacea purpurea, this herb is one of the nine species of North American perennial herbs that come from the genus of the Aster family. Its roots, leaves and even trees are used for making tinctures and capsules which you can easily buy in the United States. While most gardeners would collectively refer to this group as purple coneflower, it is Echinacea which emerged as the herb group’s most widely known and used common name.

For over 200 years, E. purpurea has been grown in flower gardens for ornamental purposes. The Plains Indians used the common prairie specie E. angustifolia (narrow-leaved purple coneflower) as medicine more than any other medicinal herb that are available. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this herb was widely known as an effective blood purifier and a cure-all for any type of ailment. Echinacea preparations enjoyed brisk sales through the 1920s from consumers and even among physicians. However, its use came to a halt right after the introduction of sulfa drugs while plant preparations shifted into creating synthetic drugs.

In Germany, at present, tinctures, extracts, salves, ointments and other medicine herb preparations of E. purpurea and E. angustifolia are used for making the immune system stronger in fighting against some bacterial and viral infections. The move came as a result of an extensive research that was performed for the past 30 years.

  1. Purpurea plants and seeds are readily available from both the nurseries and seed houses. This is because the seeds can germinate readily and plant propagation can be easily achieved by simply dividing the roots. This medicinal herb specie can do well in any properly-drained garden soil. They can tolerate half-shaded spot and is incredibly drought-resistant. In contrast, plants and seeds of the specie E. angustifolia are more difficult to find. Even the seeds tend to germinate much less readily.

Although majority of the references cited using Echinacea root for medicinal purposes, I usually make use of the fresh or dried flowers of the specie E. purpurea when making tea. These flowers have the same chemical components that are found in the root. During the summer or fall, I would normally make tea by preparing a chopped flower head and then pouring over it a cup filled with boiled water. Then I would allow it to steep while being covered for a period of 10 minutes.

Winter is the time when I would make a tincture out of the E. purpurea herb. First, I would chop an entire plant before placing it in a gallon jar that has a wide mouth. Next, I would pour in around one quart of water and one-fifth of 190-proof grain alcohol and make sure that the amount is just enough to cover the chopped plant material. Avoid using rubbing or wood alcohol in the mixture. After placing the lid, I would set the jar aside for a period of two weeks which should be enough to make the tincture ready to use. You can also expect the tincture to retain its effectiveness at least for one year. Whenever I feel like a cold is about to come, I just swallow around 1 to 2 teaspoons (30 to 60 drops) of the tincture as often as 4 or 5 times in a day.

Chamomile: Gentle Yet Powerful

Chamomile tea is one of the well-loved drinks enjoyed by many Europeans and Americans. This popular drink is made from the fresh or dried flowers of the annual Hungarian or German chamomile (Matricaria recutita, formerly known as Chamomilla recutita or M. chamomilla). English or Roman chamomile, which is the flower of the perennial plant Chamaemelum nobile, is not extensively sold in the U.S. for medicinal purposes albeit the plant itself is regularly grown in most herb gardens. Note that you can use Roman and German chamomile flowers interchangeably.

For centuries, people, particularly children, have used chamomile tea as a gentle solution for sleep. It is also used to aid digestion, relieve colic and promote urination. Chamomile tea is also great for washing wounds and sores. At present, official authorities (pharmacopoeias) of 26 countries gave their approval to the drink as a treatment against inflammation, tension, muscle spasms, colic and infection. So far, all of the chamomile uses have been confirmed according to the latest research except for claims on its sedative uses.

You can easily grow German chamomile from its seed. Usually, its daisy-like flowers would appear within a mere 6 weeks of planting. In other words, you can easily make up to two plantings in just one growing season.