DIY Medicinal Herb Garden

It’s been a long time goal of mine to make a successful herb garden happen…

Something beyond the favorite cooking herbs – basil, oregano and cilantro. A flourishing medicinal herb garden, containing all the ideal “first-aid” herbs for a home.

Several years ago a sweet friend helped me take that first big step by sharing a variety of plant cuttings from her well established herb garden. This was my *very experimental* first year of learning about some of the more uncommon medicinal herbs. Let’s just say that I kept them well labeled, and observing their growing habits while researching how to harvest and actually use them was quite the educational experience. Some died off after that first year, others went on to thrive and multiply. I’ve established a much better understanding of what I want my herb garden to look like, what it should contain, and how much of everything I need {and can handle lol} with a large family and growing product line.

Choosing Your Medicinal Herbs

Like most things, growing a garden is something that takes time and will teach you a lot. You’ll observe and see what thrives, what struggles, and what requires the most care and attention. You’ll discover that sometimes a plant is not worth taking up garden space … and if you’re not careful some of the more invasive plants might take over large areas of your garden. Look out world!

Here are a few of my favorite herbs for the home medicinal herb garden. These are the herbs I’ve grown to love and use on a regular basis.

1 Plantain

Plantain is the ultimate “first aid” herb. Not only is it useful for cuts and wounds but ideally as an anti-inflammatory for insect bites and stings, as well as injuries that quickly lead to swelling. You can harvest the fresh leaves all year round and chew or crush them up to apply to the injured area. As weird as it sounds, I’ve actually harvested wild Plantain leaves while picnicking in the mountains and chewed them up for a cut lip that was swelling badly.

I find that Plantain herb THRIVES in our warm humid climate. The mulch garden has worked wonders for my Plantain patch, and each year the leaves come back larger and brighter in color. As fast as I harvest it seems to replenish. I probably have a patch of about 100 plants and it definitely keeps me on my toes! I dry the leaves to infuse into oils for the bases of my herbal salves.

2. Comfrey

Comfrey is commonly referred to as “bone-knit” because it is so incredibly effective at binding up and repairing broken bones, fractures, tears, cuts, etc. If I’m dealing with anything that relates such as a broken or fractured bone, cut, wound, etc. Comfrey is my go-to or at least one of the essentials on the list!

Comfrey grows beautifully without any trouble. However, the leaves often go missing – apparently something enjoys the flavor.

3. Calendula

Calendula is the “beautiful skin” herb {actually a lovely orange and yellow flower!}. I love to make it into a tea or infused oil for a skin moisturizer, or for an herbal hair rinse. Due to its gentle, mild properties it is a perfect herb for sensitive skin. This is one of my favorites for baby products. Check out all sorts of fabulous ways to use Calendula here.

Since it is an annual, I have to replant every year. I find that I can harvest a nice collection of flowers from each little plant. The more I harvest, the more flowers grow. So be sure to stay on top of harvesting the flowers when they are fully grown and open. I typically harvest 10-15 flowers per plant during the Summer. These love the sunshine {but need to stay well watered} so avoid those shady areas beneath trees or at the edge of the woods!

4. Mint

Peppermint and Spearmint are absolute favorites around here. Maybe for the guys it’s in the form of sweet iced tea during Summer. Personally, I’ve found that Peppermint provides incredible relief and healing for some of the most painful injuries {this one would be at the top of my list}.

Don’t be deceived by those adorable little plants you bring home. Given a few years they will quickly become little “fields” crawling across your garden. Be sure to trim them as they spread and plant them in an area where they can thrive without feeling overly crowded.

5. Yarrow

I’ve heard so many incredible stories where Yarrow saves the day. Persistent bleeding can be slowed or stopped with this happy plant. I’ve never actually had the opportunity to try it out {or cayenne which I’ve heard also works wondrously in such cases} – which I imagine is a very good thing. But yarrow is a great healing plant to have on hand. It spreads like Peppermint. I planted a collection of them in 2 areas and they have now spread to large patches.

These plants grow beautifully without much care or attention. I find that they work best in areas that get part sun and shade. You can harvest the leaves and the flowers during the Summer.

6. Echinacea

Echinacea is my favorite immune-booster herb. I make a fabulous Wellness Tea that starts with a base of Echinacea and Mint. I have never successfully grown more than 1 plant, but then I hardly put effort into it after the first batch of seedlings didn’t make it. This will become an area of greater focus going forward, simply because of how much I use Echinacea and love it! The fruit is in the results – and Echinacea has worked wonders in preventing sickness as well as reducing the effects and bringing about speedy healing.

7. Arnica

My #1 go to herb for swelling, inflammation and bruising! If I’ve got a bone or muscle issue, something beneath the surface that is injured that I can’t get to easily … Arnica! Also fabulous for healing cuts and injuries. NOT an herb to ingest or use orally.

Arnica is HARD to grow. I planted several seedlings which doubled in size. But they never produced flowers or grew larger after that. I have a feeling my area doesn’t provide the best of growing conditions for it to thrive in.

8. Chamomile

Chamomile is a very gentle mild herb – great for all skin types and for babies! The plants grow easily and like to crawl out and up in long stems. In the Spring you can collect TONS of tiny daisy-like flowers in the early morning. I love these flowers for tea, as well as to infuse for healing balms.

——————-

There are a lot of other GREAT herbs to consider! Lavender, Lemon Balm, St. John’s Wort, Self-Heal, Feverfew, Mullein, Horsetail … and the list goes on. The more you use herbs and get to know their healing properties, you’ll collect a list of favorites. ❤

Planting Your Garden

My first year of herb gardening consisted of free plants from my friend’s herb garden, along with some small plants I purchased at an herb festival. Each year following I opted to start from seed, purchasing organic herb seeds from Mountain Rose Herbs. I choose to start from seed because while it’s harder, it’s much more cost effective.

Most of these herbs listed above are going to thrive in warm, sunny areas. Full sun or part sun. I learned the hard way that there’s not always sufficient “ideal space” and as I cut corners to fit extra plants I ended up losing a lot of those. You’ll discover what thrives where, through trial and error.

I use the Back to Eden gardening method, based off the film by Paul Gautschi. I so admire and respect this man and his love for God. He has studied and used this gardening method for a very long time {20 something years I believe} with fabulous results. Today he grows fruits and vegetables that have exceptional taste and quality. People visit his farm to taste his produce and learn more about his methods. He makes some great points that can be observed in nature and are proven through his gardening results. We’ve seen quite the difference since we started mulch gardening in 2012. Today our red rocky clay soil has been transformed into rich black soil. Each year we lay more mulch on top, and the soil continue to improve – as well as our gardening results and harvests. It’s worth the time and effort! Some of the benefits include less weeding {and the few that grow are usually very easy to remove}, few bugs {a healthy organically grown plant does not attract bugs as much as a weak plant that is being treated with chemicals in order to thrive}, and such loose fabulous soil that can be managed with bare hands and/or a rake! I also find that the mulch holds water and provides water as the plant needs. Once you’ve established a seedling and planted it you only have to water a few times. Healthy growing plants will rely on the water that the mulch retains after it rains.

Harvesting

The more you harvest, the more you can harvest. The truth is, as you pick those flowers and leaves, the plant is stimulated to produce more in a hurry! Don’t over-pick. You don’t want to strip the plant of all it’s leaves or flowers. But an established plant can replenish nicely, even if you take a large amount.

Harvest in the morning while it’s still the cooler part of the day. Leaves can be harvested at their peak, when the flowers are beginning to bloom on the plant. Or you can gather the flowers when they are full and opened.

What I’m not going to use fresh, I dry. You can dry the leaves or flowers by laying them out in a single layer on a baking sheet or other hard surface. They should dry within several days or a week. You can also hang bundles of herbs {still attached to stems, such as peppermint or lavender} facing down. These may take a bit longer to fully dry.

Using Your Herbs

Ready to use your your garden herbs to make something medicinal?

Fresh leaves and flowers can be crushed and applied topically. You can also make them into a tea for topical use, or to drink. I infuse most of my herbs to create healing balms.

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