Spring is officially here, and if you're anything like me, the warmer days pull you outside with an overwhelming desire to get your hands in the dirt! As you're planning and preparing your garden and flower beds, there are certain plants you can grow which are not only lovely, but useful as well. These plants also get bonus points for being easy to grow.
Ten healing herbs to grow in your garden
Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)
Peppermint is a hardy, beautiful plant that has many medicinal uses. You can eat the leaves fresh or use them to make a tea. Peppermint is commonly used to treat digestive issues including bad breath, heartburn, indigestion and diarrhea, and even sniffing the fresh leaves can help keep nausea at bay. Peppermint tea either ingested or applied to the skin may also be used to cool a fever. Peppermint contains some analgesic properties, and can be used as a mild pain reliever to treat headaches and sore muscles. Peppermint is also a pest deterrent, so planting it near your doors or windows may help keep spiders and mice from entering.
Echinacea (Echinaces Purpurea)
The purple coneflower Echinacea is a not only a beautiful flower for cutting, but also powerful herbal medicine. Echinacea's immune-system-boosting properties enable the body to fight bacterial and viral infections. Commercial Echinacea products are in high demand during cold and flu season, and are considered safe and effective for treating colds and flus by many health professionals. The roots are the most powerful medicinal part of the plant, so save the flowers for a table boquet and harvest the roots in the fall for your winter teas. Of the many different purple coneflowers native to North America, Echinacea Purpurea is the species considered by herbalists to have the medicinal properties desired. These biennial plants flower only in the second season, but you can often find potted second season plants at your local nursery.
This hardy, prolific plant may be considered a weed in some areas of the country, but don't let that deter you from including this useful plant in your garden! The allantoin in Comfrey can aid tissue repair and regeneration.The roots and leaves are traditionally used to treat ligament injuries, bruises, hematomas and broken bones. In fact, Comfrey's common names include boneset and knit bone. Although Comfrey has a history of being used internally, only topical application is recommended today. You can crush the leaves to make a healing poultice and apply it to wounds.
Lavender (Lavendula Angustifolia)
While lavender is worth growing for its lovely aromatic flowers alone, it is also a great herb to have on hand. Inhaling the fragrance of lavender flowers may bring relief from headaches and depression. Lavender's properties as a relaxant are widely recognized, and it is one of the most common essential oils on the market. Add a handful of these tiny flowers to bathwater, place pouches of dried flowers under your pillow, or infuse lavender flowers in a massage oil to enjoy the relaxing benefits. Make the best of the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of lavender by infusing the flowers in witch hazel and using it as a tonic to clear acne, treat bug bites, soothe burns, and accelerate wound healing.
Calendula (Calendula Officinalis)
Calendula's cheerful yellow and orange flowers are a delightful addition to any garden. Commonly called Pot Marigold, Calendula is incredibly adaptable and does not require a lot of maintenance. This lovely flower can be grown in containers or beds in full sun to shade conditions. Calendula is best known as a first aid remedy for cuts and wounds because of it's anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and astringent properties. Make a tea, salve, or oil infusion out of calendua flowers and use to disinfect minor wounds and to treat almost any problem related to the skin, including sunburns, acne and blemishes, or cuts and bruises.
Plantain has a bad reputation as a common weed to most people, but Ralph Waldo Emerson said that a weed is simply 'a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered', and we're certain that if people knew about the usefulness of plantain, they may be glad to find it in their lawn or garden! Plantain is an incredible remedy to treat bug bites, stings, rashes, and cuts. Because Plantain grow wild in most of the United States, you're never too far from a plant that can help ease the discomfort of a bee sting or mosquito bite. You can use the crushed leaves as a poultice or make a tea and apply it to skin afflictions.
Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis)
Lemon Balm is a bright, cheerful little plant that makes a lovely addition to any garden or flowerpot arrangement. Lemon Balm is a calming herb that has been used for centuries to relieve stress, anxiety and insomnia. Because it is a member of the mint family, it is also used to improve appetite and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion including gas, bloating, and colic. The bright aroma and mild flavor of Lemon Balm leaves make a delicious tea that can be used before bed to promote restful sleep. Lemon Balm tea can also be used topically to shorten the duration and severity of cold sores.
Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium)
This long-stemmed flower has long-lasting blooms that are a lovely addition to flower beds and table bouquets. Yarrow is also beneficial to gardeners because it improves soil quality and repels some insects. Yarrow comes in many colors from yellow and pink to red and white, but the variety with white flowers and silvery leaves is most commonly used medicinally. The bitter-flavored leaves and flowers of yarrow are used in teas and tinctures for relieving fevers, cleansing the blood, and shortening the duration of cold and flu. Applied topically, the leaves are also used to stop bleeding and relieve the pain from minor wounds.
Cayenne (Capsicum Annuum)
Cayenne's bright colored fruit and vibrant green leaves add a welcome pop of color to any garden, and a dash of spice to any dish. Cayenne is an incredible herb with more uses than most people realize. Many of the healing benefits of cayenne pepper comes from its heat, and the stimulation that occurs in the body as a result. Cayenne may help boost metabolism, lower blood pressure, relieve pain, improve circulation, and improve digestion. Considered a catalystic herb (which means it promotes assimilation of ingested substances), It is an essential in every herbalist's garden and medicine chest.
Lobelia (Lobelia Inflata)
Lobelia has a long history of use as an herbal remedy for respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and cough. This powerful anti-spasmotic herb can be made into tinctures and poultices for use as a topical treatment for muscle cramps, gallbladder spasms, and asthma attacks. Ingesting Lobelia is not recommended unless under the care of a health care provider, but topical application is quite effective. Lobelia Inflata can be a difficult herb to find at your local nursery, but Lobelia Cardinalis can often be obtained as a somewhat less-effective substitute.