For as long as people have been on this planet there have been herb gardens. Plant species with special attributes were dug up and planted near one’s shelter. Even the prehistoric people engaged in this activity. I was asked recently what medicinal herbs I would want in my herb garden. Since I already have more than one planted with non-indigenous plants, sharing those would be easy.
Regardless of what types of plants you choose for your herb garden there should be at least one plant that will treat each one of the following common ailments:
Fever – febrifuge – Feverfew, Chamomile, Basil, Chrysanthemum, Fennel, Tarragon, Sage, Marigolds, Borage, Endive, Chrysanthemum, Sunflower, Rose of Sharon, Barley, ST. John’s Wort, Lemon Balm, Yellow Sorrel, Wood Sorrel, Cinquefoil, Plum, Peach, Nectarine, Kudzu, Oaks, Black Locust, Spinach,
Swelling from injury/allergic reactions/illness – anti-inflammatory – herbs include Comfrey, Feverfew, Basil, Ginger, Asparagus, Burdock, Chrysanthemum, Cilantro, Fennel, Mints
Coughs – Expectorant and or antispasmodic Expectorants – includes Ginger, Sage, Thyme, Wild Cherry, Mints (all except pennyroyal) Horehound, Horseradish, Barley for tender/sore mucous passages, Onion, Garlic
Anti-tussant – stops coughing – Lemon Balm, Onion, Garlic, Wild Cherry, Horehound, Elecampane, Mulberry, Catnip, Coltsfoot, Bergamot
Congestion – Decongestant – Lavender, Eucalyptus, Mints (all but pennyroyal) Raspberry, rinds and oils of citrus fruits, Club Moss, Oak
Diarrhea – antispasmodic anodyne and alterative – includes Yellow Dock, Blackberry, Black Raspberry, Gentain, Ginger, Smooth Sumac, Speedwell, Oak, Walnut, Chamomile,
Vomiting – antiemetic and or antispasmodic – Day Lily, Mints (all but pennyroyal) Black Raspberry, Blackberry, Quince, Rhubarb, Echinacea, Speedwell, Ginger, Chamomile,
Pain – analgesic or anodyne – these herbs will help reduce pain – Chamomile, Lavender, Feverfew, Passion Flower and Wintergreen, Day Lily, Willow, Skullcap, Valerian, Earache pain Mullein,
Wound care including cleansing and infection prevention – antiseptic astringent – herbs include Yarrow, Calendula (including Marigolds,) Basil, Aloe Vera, Onion, Garlic, Plantain, Oak, Sage, Tabasco Pepper, Gentain, Vinegar, Hyssop, Elecampane, Lavender, Walnut, Horehound, Bergamot, Thyme, Rhubarb stems, Clary Sage, Sphagnum Moss, Nasturtium, Mullein, Echinacea, Smooth Sumac, Arnica, Yarrow. Any plant that has a high Vitamin C content is a good choice to use for cleaning wounds such plants include all fruits, high acid vegetables and some flowers.
Nerves – nervine – Valerian, ST. John’s Wort, Arnica, Chamomile, Carnations, Lavender, Lobelia, Catnip, Skullcap
Cramps – antispasmodic herbs include Chamomile, Basil, Sage, Peppermints (most all the mints) Blackberry, Black Raspberry, Cilantro, Chrysanthemum, Fennel, Ginger, Catnip,
Burns – plant used to clean wound, poultice plants plus mucilage filled plants to reduce water loss from seeping wounds (burns ) Jewelweed, Oat, Barley, Lentils, Parsnip, Sweet Cicly, Comfrey, Mints (all except pennyroyal) Parsley, Sheep’s Sorrel, Burdock
Not all of the plants listed are domestic, most however are. Many are culinary spices and food plants; if you are growing them in the kitchen herbal garden they do not need to be in the medicinal herbal garden. Read through the list and find one plant that has many uses then put that one down on your herbal medicinal garden plants. Once you start the list it will be easy to limit your herbal garden to ten plants.
A ten plant herbal garden will require about 8 square feet once the plants are established. Continual pruning during the growing season and a heavy mulching after they have died down will keep them manageable. An organic fertilizer can be added on top of the snow (rabbit scat for example) or just before spring breaks to give them a boost. Some plants like comfrey will quickly spread and may interfere with the ability of other plants to survive.
Comfrey, rhubarb, horseradish and the mints (mints need to be at least 100 ft apart or they will cross pollinate ok if you like mixed mint) should be planted alone and allowed to spread out as they need or want to.
I have the following plants in my herbal garden:
Comfrey, Bergamot, Lavender, Skullcap, Valerian, Verbena, Yarrow, Horehound, Coltsfoot, Echinacea, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, 3 types of Mints, Ginger, Hyssop.
I have a culinary spice garden that can if needed provide medicinal preparations.
I also have a multi-use flower garden and day lily’s grow on every fence row, field edge and animal shed and pen. Sedum has also been planted freely. Roses both domestic and wild are spaced here and there since the petals of all roses are edible, the petals make such nice additions to baths and soaps and the hips contain a natural emollient which is very useful when making salves and liniments.