Planning a medicinal herb garden - Medicinal herbs to grow at home
Welcome back! If you are just finding this - I am bringing you along as I plan, plant, and implement a medicinal and wildflower garden in my front yard in Southern Saskatchewan. If you missed the blog on Planning a Herb Garden, you can read it here.
Today we are going to talk about Part 1 - DREAMING.
AKA I'm going to tell you about all the plants I want to grow and why. And hopefully this will help you to create a sort of matrix so you can decide what you want to grow too.
My garden will likely be different from yours because I will probably use some different/less common herbs that you will need. I'm a Medical Herbalist by trade, so not only do I want herbs that I can use for myself and my family, but I'm also thinking about what herbs I use the most often with clients.
Plus, I'm hoping that one day this can be a teaching garden. You see why this section is called DREAM lol.
Here is my basic method for selecting my plants:
Choose plants you love
Choose plants you need
Choose plants that will grow
Let's dive a little deeper and I'll let you know what I've got planned!
Choose plants you love
Ohhh this section could be pages long! But I'll try and keep it concise.
This is all about plants that are beautiful, or smell good, or just bring you joy in whatever way.
Beautiful Calendula will definitely feature in my herb garden!
I am focusing on plants that have gorgeous flowers that will look great but also attract bees, and other pollinators and beneficial insects.
Here's the current list:
Borage (Borago officinalis) - Beautiful blue-purple flowers that are edible and look great in Instagram posts (lol). Borage is medicinal, and has been used in inflammatory skin conditions (among many other thigs). The seed is high in essential fatty acids, and the bees absolutely love it.
Californian Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) - I love all poppies! The saturated colour of those delicate flowers is just to die for. Californian poppy is a smaller medicinal variety that has been used traditionally to support sleep, without the dependency issues that we see with opium poppies (Papaver somniferum).
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) - I have lots of experience growing this sunny little daisy-like flower so I'm feeling hopeful that I should be able to get some of this going! Calendula is one of my most-used plants around my home for alllll topical issues like little cuts, scrapes, and rashes (after cleaning them). It is anti-inflammatory and really helps with wound healing. In the garden it is a self-sowing beast, and it helps to deter pests.
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) - These tall flowers are related to Hollyhocks and while the colour of the flowers tends to be in the softer pink and whites, they are so pretty and will add some height. Medicinally, we use the root and sometimes the leaf of the plant for coughs or inflamed mucous membranes as it is full of a healing sort of goo called mucilage.
Choose plants you need
This is all about the most-used herbs for myself and my family, as well as for my clients.
Lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis) - Lemonbalm is one of my all-time favourite herbs and I use it ALL THE TIME both personally and with clients. It is amazing for calming anxiety and helping with digestion due to its antispasmodic properties. It has a lovely taste (not always the case with medicinal herbs!) and because it is part of the mint family it grows easily. It has lovely fuzzy leaves that smell lemon-ey and if it flowers (aka, if I don't harvest it all before that happens), then the bees will love it.
This Lemonbalm has gone to flower but you can still see the fuzzy, textured leaves.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) - Another tasty and nice-smelling plant! Peppermint is the classic digestion herb and also goes good in a cocktail, just sayin'.
Nettle (Urtica dioica) - Am I really going to plant stinging nettle in my front yard? Probably. Considering I drink like 500 cups of nettle and oatstraw infusion every week and put Nettle in most teas that I make for clients, it makes sense to grow it. Nettle is super high in nutrients and is anti-inflammatory. I adore it as a medicinal plant. My main concern is that my toddler or my neighbour's kids will run into it and get covered in stings, which are extremely unpleasant.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) - Another classic herb which calms both the nervous system and the gut and is a wonder with kiddos. Plus I can just imagine my little toddler running around with a chamomile daisy-crown and that's just a little bit swoon-worthy.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) - Traditionally used to support women's health, the cardiovascular system, and to calm the nerves, Motherwort is for those who mother everyone else and need a little nurturing in their own lives. The botanical name can be translated as "Lion hearted" which I think says it all. This plant has some pretty spikey bits on it tho so not sure if it's a good idea as it's not very kid-friendly.
Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) - I love Echinacea for immune support and respiratory issues, but I prefer using the root - and digging up, cleaning and drying roots is a pain. If I grow it (I have some seeds!) it will be for teaching purposes, plus it is a beautiful tall daisy-like plant.
Choose plants that will grow
Here is the part where I have to come back down to earth a little bit.
I feel super confident about my ability to grow Dandelions 😂
You see my front yard is north-facing AND there is a giant pine tree on the west side of the lot which shades a lot of the afternoon sun.
So I am going to have to spend the next couple months tracking the light and seeing where the sunniest spots are, and then otherwise selecting plants which will cope with a bit less sunshine.
There are a few medicinal plants which I love to use (but that are maybe a bit less pretty) that I know will do ok in the shade. Some of these are considered "weeds" lol but as long as I can get something to grow this first season I will consider this a success!
Chickweed (Stellaria media) - Chickweed is a low-growing plant that is totally edible - great in salads and for pesto. We use it topically a lot for hot itchy skin - think bug bites, heat rash, or any issue where the skin is hot and inflamed.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) - Hey, if Dandelion is what I get, then I will make use of it! The young leaves are edible (as they get older they are still edible, but just get really bitter) and are lovely support for the urinary tract. Dandelion is high in minerals due to its long tap root, and that root is also edible and great medicinally for digestion due to its bitter taste and high levels of prebiotic fibre. This review goes into great detail on how diverse and amazing the uses of Dandelion really are.
Pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea) - This is the "chamomile" that I grew up with - a low-growing plant that doesn't have the petals like other chamomiles, but still contains a lot of the similar properties. It is a Sask native and doesn't mind packed soil and less-than-perfect conditions so it might be a winner!
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) - A vine-ey like plant with peppery tasting leaves and beautiful orange and yellow flowers, I have had success growing nasturtiums in lower-light areas so I'm hopeful. Medicinally this plant is full of antioxidants and has been shown to be antimicrobial so is a good candidate for respiratory issues.
This list is far from exhaustive but I hope that it has given you some inspiration - or even just a little more respect for the medicinal weeds growing in your backyard!
Stay tuned for the progress on this project as spring emerges or subscribe to my newsletter to get more updates and tips as I learn along the way.
Want to see what my garden is currently looking like, and check out some inspo images of what I'd love to have? Check out my latest YouTube video on this now.