There are well over 5,000 species of plants that are either medicinal, useful, or edible. Herbalism as a discipline is probably as old as humanity, and still practiced world wide today. These herbal approaches to medicine come to us from the medicinal or apothecary gardens. Some of the gardens still in use today date as far back as the 1600’s like The Chelsea Physic Garden in London. If you are considering starting an apothecary garden this Spring we have some important information for you.
Be Cautious of what you plant
Planting deadly nightshade, larkspur, monkshood, and mandrake side by side with your periwinkles, campanula, and peonies is a recipe for disaster. If you are new to gardening you should be sure to label everything you plant and keep a distance between your “poison plants” and the rest. Take care of the plants in your garden. Learn about their properties and what they need to thrive, but also be absolutely 100% positive that you’ve got the right plant before you try to use it for anything.
Before you start a garden
A medicinal herb garden requires a small amount of time to plan beforehand but the end results will leave you feeling accomplished. Design and plan your medicinal herb garden according to your needs and lifestyle. If you don’t have a yard or are short on space, consider containers and vertical gardening. Research your medicinal plants and learn about companion planting for the biggest beneficial boost to your garden and your health.
Best Plants for beginners
Calendula – Calendula officinalis – Pot marigold: Calendula is a bright flower with orange and yellow blooms that repels common garden pests and is a good companion plant to vegetables. It has a fragrant scent and attracts pollinators. Calendula blooms from Spring until the frost and have many uses including being anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-nausea. You can use its dried flowers in tea, ointments and poultices.
Lemon Balm – Melissa officinalis: Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and native to Europe and the Mediterranean region. It has been in use for over 2000 years for culinary and medicinal uses. It smells like lemon and tastes like mint and is an Anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-spasmodic, anti-histaminic that can also calm the nervous system help insomnia and be used to aid as an anti-depressant. Best when used fresh you can add it’s leaves to your tea, or in your cooking. It is also common to infuse it into honey.
Yarrow – Achillea millefolium: Yarrow is a powerhouse plant, improving the soil surrounding it and attracting pollinators with it’s flowers. The white & pink varieties are used medicinally. Achilles was said to use crushed Yarrow leaves to staunch bleeding. It can also be used as a pain reliever that will lessen menstrual cramps and improve digestion. You can add its dried flower stalks to tea, make tinctures and poultices, or just add some of its leaves while cooking.
Modern medicine has advanced far beyond roots, leaves, and flowers for more complex compounds that cure and save lives. These complex compounds are very necessary. So make sure you are still seeking out proper medical care and letting your doctor know what you are supplementing with your garden to make sure everything is safe.