Shrubs and Perennials for the Medicinal Garden
Gardening is itself medicinal, as anyone who has dug in the dirt to plant something green and growing knows. Now imagine the added benefits of planting a medicinal garden where you’ll be growing your own herbs for your own remedies! Many common garden plants have medicinal qualities and here are ten of our favorites…
Prefers full sun, can grow in a variety of soil conditions, and has low water requirements. The most common species is echinacea purpurea. E purpurea has a broad leaf and is the easiest and fastest to grow.
Echinacea has a well researched reputation for enhancing immune function. There are multiple studies suggesting echinacea also relieves pain, reduces inflammation, and has hormonal, antiviral and antioxidant effects. For this reason, echinacea is recommended to treat a large range of infections, inflammations, hay fever, cold sores and slow-healing wounds. It has been shown to reduce the length of a cold.
Elder blossoms and berries are excellent remedies to have on hand for the cold and flu season and are safe for adults and children alike. Elderflower is also anti-inflammatory and expectorant, and helps in cases of colds, sinusitis and sinus allergies to reduce inflammation of sinus tissue and allow for the movement of congestion.
Elder flower can be removed from the base of the flower cluster stalk. Only remove a few clusters from the shrub, so it can produce berries later in the year. Berries should be fully ripe before harvesting – do not pick green or unripe berries. Harvest the berry stalk and then separate the berries from the stems. The flowers are used dried and the berries are used cooked. The fruits appear in late autumn as branching clusters of glossy dark purple or black berries.
3. Hop Vine
Humulus lupulus, or hops, has a long history of use as an herbal supplement. A traditional beer ingredient, hops was originally added to help preserve beer as well as add more flavor. It is a very strong sedative herb, and a cup of tea with hops in it, or a few droppers of a tincture blend with hops, is sure to relax the nervous system and leave one feeling drowsy. Hops encourages sleep and relaxation, stimulates the liver, can be used as an antibacterial wash, and is also in natural deodorants to help reduce unwanted scent.
Hops grow happily in part-sun and fertile, well-drained soil. You’ll have your best crop in full sun but if you are growing them as a privacy screen or decorative wall vine then part-sun is just fine. Always amend your soil and water regularly until your new plant is established.
You can read more about all things hops in our blog post .
“Growing Hop Vines in the Garden”.
Lavandula angustifolia is loaded with other powerful antiseptic properties. Historically, lavender has been used as an antiseptic dressing for wounds and utilized for parasite resistance. It also functioned to ward off diphtheria, typhoid, pneumonia, staph, strep and many other flu viruses. In a tincture, this herb has a strong capacity to alleviate mood disorders and inconsistencies, increasing health and overall quality of life. The fragrance of lavender has been known to reduce nervousness, anxiety and restlessness.
Lavender is easy to grow, highly disease resistant, drought tolerant, deer proof and attracts butterflies.
5. Lemon Balm
It works its cool charm on many of the body’s systems. In the nervous system it can relieve nervousness, depression, panic attacks, insomnia and help with headaches. Cardiovascularly, lemon balm can calm anxiety and heart palpitations and reduce a fever. The digestive system will benefit when there is an upset stomach. It’s also said to boost memory and work wonders on cold sores, burns, blisters and stings. For children it can be a great nighttime herb to help ease tension, aid in good sleep and can help prevent nightmares.
The best time to harvest Lemon Balm is early summer onward but before it flowers. Lemon Balm is a perennial growing to about 5 feet tall with tiny white flowers and deep veined and toothed leaves. Being in the mint family it is known to take over a garden if left unattended, so perhaps try planting it in a pot to keep it in check.
Althaea officinalis is commonly known as Marshmallow or Blue Malva. It’s a tall perennial with thick, downy-soft leaves, with toothed margins that are 2 – 3 inches in length. The root is white and the flowers are generally a pale pink. The plant resembles hollyhock (Althaea rosea).
Both marshmallow leaf and root are used in herbal preparations. Herbal formulations are made from either the dried root or leaf (unpeeled or peeled). Use internally for dry cough, respiratory tract mucous membrane inflammation, peptic ulcers, constipation, urinary tract inflammation, any situation where additional moisture is needed. Use topically for abscesses, as a poultice for skin inflammation, burns, and other wounds.
7. Oregon Grape
Mahonia aquifolium or Berberis aquifolium is a member of the barberry family. Commonly called Oregon Grape, it’s an evergreen herbal shrub native to western North America. Its leathery leaves resemble holly and it produces yellow flowers followed by blue berries. Native Americans traditionally used Oregon grape to treat digestive problems and inflammatory skin conditions. It makes for an excellent replacement for the endangered and expensive Goldenseal. Parts of the plant used are the root (dried), root bark, rhizome (dried), and very rarely the leaf.
Oregon Grape is hardy in zones 5-9. These undemanding plants can be grown in almost any light, from full sun to dense shade, but will grow best in partial shade. They tolerate a wide range of soil types, but thrive in humus rich, slightly acidic, evenly moist but well draining garden soil.
Many herbs are easy to grow, and this is definitely true for peppermint. Square stems tend to run rampantly over — and under — soil. In small garden spaces, it’s best to tuck peppermint into a pot to curtail its wandering ways. Perennial in zones 3-11, you can plant in full sun to part shade.
Peppermint helps to open up and clear the entire airway system, from the sinuses to the deep lungs. It also works notably on the digestive system, helping to dispel gas, nausea, and upset stomachs. Peppermint has shown health benefits for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), nausea, skin conditions, headaches, cold, and flu. Applying diluted peppermint oil onto the forehead has been found to be effective in the treatment of a tension headache.
Nausea and vomiting, or emesis, are common side effects for cancer patients during chemotherapy. Some studies have found that peppermint helps to alleviate symptoms.
9. Rose of Sharon
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a very beautiful, slow-growing, deciduous shrub producing luxuriant blooms during the summer. The flowers come in a variety of shades of blue, violet, pink, mauve, red, and white. They are a treat for the eye and beneficial for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
Medicinally, Rose of Sharon’s flower buds contain mucilage, a gooey medicinal compound made of polysaccharides, found in most species of the mallow family. Mucilage can be used to heal burns, wounds, gastric ulcers and internal and external inflammation and irritation, such as sore throats or urinary tract infections. The root bark is used in Chinese medicine as an anti fungal remedy. It is also said to calm the nerves. The number one health benefit known to science from consuming Rose of Sharon is that it lowers blood pressure.
Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium), an herbaceous perennial with feathery silver foliage and tall flower stalks. Because common yarrow is drought-tolerant and grows well in poor soil, it’s ideal for xeriscaping. Yarrow prefers full sunlight, but it can grow in partial shade. If the plant doesn’t get enough sunlight, the long, thin stems can get quite leggy and straggly.
Yarrow has a strong licorice-like scent and a mildly sweet flavor that’s similar to tarragon. People mainly use this herb to make salves and balms to heal wounds, stop bleeding, fight infections, reduce swelling and bruising, heal scars, and treat skin problems.
*Excessive use of yarrow for an extended period of time may cause allergic reactions like headaches and sensitivity to light.
(This blog is for educational purposes only. It does not provide medical advice. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.)