Healing Herbs: Cultivating a Garden of Medicinal Plants

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Discussing the benefits and uses of growing your own herbs for health.

If you’re not growing herbs, you’re missing out!

Fragrant, tasty, and beautiful… These are three words that come to mind when I think of herbs

Herbs are some of my favorite plants to grow. They are a delight to the senses and are versatile in their uses. I smell them as I walk through my garden, pick leaves to enhance the dishes I create in my kitchen, dry plant matter for my apothecary, and admire their contributions to my garden. 

I grow them in planters, raised beds, and the ground (depending on the herb), and many grow back year after year. 

One of the best qualities herbs have to offer us is their medicinal benefits. That’s right – the plants we grow can improve our well-being.

Yerba buena, a mint

Healing herbs I grow in my garden

I have always been drawn to plant medicine, but 2021 is the year I decided to expand my herbal understanding and herb garden. Before then, I had a small herb collection: A rosemary, mint, rosebush, lavender, and a few others. I brought some raised beds into my garden and had prime real estate to experiment with, and decided I would use the space for more herbs.

Now, I never miss an herb section when I visit a nursery because I never know what I could find and bring home!

Some of my favorite healing herbs to grow include:

• Mint (specifically peppermint and yerba buena)

• Lemon balm

• Catnip

• Chamomile

• Rosemary

• Tulsi/holy basil

Why do I like these herbs & how do I use them? Great question! I use the mint for its refreshing & uplifting taste, as well as its digestive benefits. Lemon balm is a calming herb that is known to tone the nervous system. While catnip excites cats, it’s a mild sedative for humans! Chamomile is another calming herb, and has supported my family through headaches, stomach aches, and stress. I dry the flowers and store them in glass jars for when I need them. Rosemary has anti-inflammatory benefits, and it’s just tasty! I like to use it freshly picked from the garden. Finally, I grow holy basil because of its unique divine smell, and because it’s an adaptogen – it helps the body regulate stress. 

Roses have a long history as a healing herb

These are only some of the many herbs I grow, and I recommend them to anyone who is interested in growing herbs in their garden. I do caution you to research the plants and where you are growing them, because some plants (like those in the mint family) can spread and take over, while others like holy basil can grow prolifically from seeds after it flowers. 

Although these dried herbs are widely available online, there is something special about growing them myself. I am more connected to my harvest. I respect the plants more because I know the time and energy that went into growing them, and I know exactly how they were grown. Every meal is improved with home grown thyme or rosemary, and a cup of tea with home grown chamomile is bound to be extra healing.

Native herbs growing in your garden

Did you know that many of the “weeds” growing in your garden are native medicinal plants? It can seem like we’re encouraged to remove anything from our gardens that we didn’t plant ourselves, but many (if not most) of those persistent plants that always show up are an important part of our ecosystems. And many of those plants have healing properties, waiting to be put to use. 

I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the plants growing in your yard, and there are several ways to go about this. 

1. Look for foraging experts in your area who specialize in the native plants, like Dr. Mark “Merriwether” Vorderbruggen in Texas

2. Look for books written on plants native to your area

3. Use plant identification apps to learn what a plant is, and then research that plant through reputable sources 

Common medicinal plants that grow in my garden include chickweed, cleavers, and dandelion. I wasn’t aware of how much medicine I had in my yard before I began learning about healing plants. 

Before you go chewing on the mysterious plants in your garden, there are a few things to consider:

1. You need to be 110% of your plant identification

2. It’s best not to consume a plant that has been targeted with herbicide

3. You need to ensure you are preparing the plant properly

Do not let your excitement to harness the power of healing plants get in the way of your safety! Many plants have toxic lookalikes, and you must be safe in your consumption.

Dandelion growing in my garden

Plant medicine is our birthright

Plant medicine lost public appeal for several decades in the US, but it’s growing in popularity again. We evolved alongside plants, and have a rich history of using them to promote well-being. At the very least, incorporating the sensory benefits of herbs into your everyday routine is bound to uplift your mood and enhance your life experience. They’ve made a difference for me, and I don’t plan to stop growing or enjoying them anytime soon! 

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