Growing your own medicinal herbs is easier than you might imagine. From an indoor seedling to an outdoor plant, you need nothing fancy – just good organic soil, water, sun, and some old containers. You can even plant your herb garden in old coffee tins with a few holes punched in the bottom or to make them extra elegant, try planting them in old garden furniture or wooden tubs. These herbs are not only fragrant and beautiful to look at, they offer surprising health benefits as well.
Here are 5 awesome medicinal herbs to grow and utilize today:
Thyme comes from the Greek word, ‘thymus,’ which means courage. It has been passed down from healer to healer for centuries. Its medicinal uses are numerous – from helping with depression to treating epileptic seizures. In the middle ages it was sprinkled on floors with lavender to keep bad smells away. If made into a poultice, it can be used for skin irritations. The herb also has antifungal, expectorant, diuretic, antibiotic, antiparasitic, and antiseptic uses. Lastly, thyme is a wonderful for detoxing the liver.
It is a very simple herb to grow, too. Perfect for containers in urban settings or along garden edges in more rural areas, thyme does best in full sun. Just start seedlings indoors and move them outside after the danger of frost has passed. It prefers a soil pH of 7.0, but it will grow well even if your soil isn’t this alkaline. Different thyme grows well in different zones, so check a gardening site to find out the best place to grow yours. Check out the health benefits of thyme here.
Also known as the common herb, Salvia, sage was once named ‘Herb of the Year’ by the International Herb Association. Its medicinal qualities are far reaching. Ancient Egyptians used it to aid in fertility, while others use it to stop excessive menstrual bleeding. The herb strengthens the nervous system, sharpens the senses, aids in mild stomach upset, can improve mental clarity, lower blood sugar levels in diabetics, and may even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
A beautiful plant that flowers with different colored petals, from pink to white to blue in the summer, sage has both an aromatic and slightly bitter taste. Sage seeds only take 10 days to a month to germinate. Just plant them in containers, or space them about 24 inches apart, and 1/8 inch deep straight into your garden soil. It grows well in zones 5 to 9. Sage requires plenty of sun, well drained soil, and air circulation.
This herb grows like crazy in full sun and offers innumerable medicinal benefits. It is also a favorite to use in different recipes, from pesto to delicious basil and goat cheese omelettes. Basil is full of vitamin K and manganese, while its flavanoids, orientin and vicenin are excellent at protecting white blood cells and even your DNA. The flavanoids protect cells from radiation and oxidation. The volatile oils, which contain estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene,myrcene, and limonene are also wonderful, natural antibacterial agents.
Basil is also an anti-inflammatory herb. It helps with cardiovascular disease through providing the body with magnesium, and with 60 varieties, you can plant enough basil to host a gastronomical feast. It is a bushy plant and will need enough room to spread its branches, or you can simply grow it in a container in your home in front of a window that gets full sun. Planting your seeds indoors will give them an extra boost, even if you plant to transplant outdoors. They like well-drained soil, and if you add some organic compost, they’ll grow very well. Basil doesn’t like the cold, it’s a tropical plant, so if you grow indoors, put them near a heating vent if you live in a colder climate.
An astringent, diaphoretic, and stimulant, rosemary was used by ancient civilizations to strengthen the memory and provide headache relief. It is also helpful as an anti-spasmodic and can aid people who suffer from asthma. This herb grows in a profuse shrub that can be used to cover large areas of a garden, or again, in a container in smaller spaces. It trails well over walls and lattices, too.
All culinary rosemaries derive from Rosmarinus officinalis, a medium-tall shrub native to Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean. It’s best not to over-water this herb. Make sure you have good air-circulation to prevent loss of leaves and fungal growth and the soil should be well drained to protect the roots. Check out rosemary health benefits here.
Aside from smelling delectable, a University of Maryland study has shown that peppermint is wonderful for upset stomach. Harnessing antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, peppermint can also be used to treat diarrhea, flatulence, menstrual cramps, and even the common cold. It calms the muscles of the stomach and improves the flow of bile, which the body uses to digest fats. According to Mother Earth News, “peppermint will grow almost anywhere that’s out of the hot sun, but it prefers moderately rich soil and at least partial shade.”
Because it spreads vigorously by underground runners, you might want to cultivate yours in containers (at least four inches in depth) or — in the garden — in beds surrounded by boards buried about 6 to 8 inches in the Earth (beds help keep the mint from taking over your growing plot). The herb needs an inch of water a week to grow well. To promote bushier growth of the plant, snip off tender buds.