Medicinal plants have been used for millennia, and science is just beginning to validate many of their traditional uses.
This basic overview of medicinal plants and their use focuses on herbs you can find or grow in the US, avoiding hard-to-find medicinals or those exclusively used in traditional eastern medicine. All of the herbs discussed here are common and readily available at health food stores, herbal apothecaries, and online ordering.
(If you don’t have a good local source, both common and hard-to-find herbs are available from Mountain Rose Herbs. For herb gardeners, Earthbeat Seeds has seeds for most of the plants discussed here, and they’re one of the best sources for the hard-to-find varieties.)
Many of the plants used for medicine are easy to find for free in the environment around us, whether it be at your local park or just your back lawn. Other’s take a bit more effort to find, and you’d need to venture into the woods or cultivate in a home herb garden.
By providing medicinal plants with pictures and descriptions, along with common uses and medicinal preparations, I hope to simply open your eyes to the wonderful world of medicinal plants growing all around us.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of their uses, and many traditional uses have not been validated by modern science. I’ve cited studies where possible, and as always, I’d encourage you to do your own research to validate anything you read here (or anywhere else).
I’ve been foraging wild medicines and treating my family with herbal remedies for the past 20 years, but I’m self-taught. Be aware that I am not a clinical herbalist, and this is based on my own research and personal experience using medicinal plants. I do not claim to have experience that’d qualify me to advise you on your health, and I’m only providing this as a reference to encourage a broader interest in medicinal plants.
Please use this as a jumping-off point, but always do your own research and verify anything you read with multiple sources.
It’s always possible to have an adverse reaction to any medicinal herb, and plenty of people are allergic to even gentle herbs like chamomile. Always consult your doctor or a certified herbalist before trying any new medicinal plant. Often, they can have unintended reactions in combination with other herbs and supplements, and many herbs have side effects even when they are effective for their intended purpose.
If you are seriously interested in herbal medicine, I’d suggest investing in a course in herbal medicine, and I’d recommend any of the online courses put out by the Herbal Academy of New England. Specifically, the introduction to herbal medicine course and the family herbalist group of courses.
Basic Herbal Preparations
Most people are familiar with herbal teas, but there are actually a number of different ways that herbs are used medicinally, both topically and internally. Not every preparation is used with every herb, but here’s a basic overview of some of the choices available:
- Fresh/Dried Herbs – Many herbs can be eaten right out in the garden, or added as dried herbs to simmering cook pots in the kitchen.
- Tea – Made by adding herbs to hot water, tea is one of the simplest herbal preparations.
- Infusion – A strong tea made with either hot or cold water. They’re often allowed to steep for many hours.
- Decoction – A very strong herbal tea made by reducing the “tea” often by as much as half its original volume to concentrate the medicinal constituents.
- Poultice – Herbs are finely chopped or pulverized completely before topical application. For example, a poultice of plantain herb is often applied for bug bites and stings.
- Tincture – An alcohol extract of fresh or dried herbal material. Most are single extraction tinctures made with just alcohol, but some use a double extraction method that first extracts with alcohol and then water to pull out both the water and alcohol soluble constituents. A reishi mushroom tincture is an example of a double extraction tincture.
- Infused Oil – Dried herbs are infused into a carrier oil, which can be used internally or externally. It’s most commonly applied topically or used to make herbal soaps, salves, or cosmetics.
- Herbal Salve -Made by adding wax to a herbal infused oil to create a semi-solid herbal preparation that’s easy to apply topically.
- Herbal Soap – Often made with herbal infused oil, a herbal soap is used topically to disinfect or treat skin conditions. They can also be made with herbal infusions, fresh herbs, or herbal tinctures like homemade witch hazel extract. This yarrow and witch hazel herbal soap is a good example.
- Infused Vinegar – Vinegar is used to preserve herbal material, and extract its medicinal components similar to a tincture.
- Oxymel – A mixture of herbs, vinegar, and honey that’s taken like a syrup. They’re generally a bit more pleasant than straight herbal vinegar.
- Infused Honey – A small amount of herbal material is added to honey and allowed to infuse. Usually 1 part herbs to 2-5 parts honey by volume.
- Electuary – A mix of honey and dried herbs, where enough dried herbal material is added so that the electuary can be formed into herb and honey packets or pills. It’s mostly herbal material, just held together with honey.
- Compress – A cloth is soaked in a cool herbal infusion, and then applied topically.
- Formentation – A cloth is soaked in a strong hot infusion, and then applied topically. Similar to a compress, but applied warm so the heat is part of the treatment. They’re most commonly used for pain relief.
- Succus – The freshly expressed juice of a plant, often taken by the drop in similar to tinctures. They’re not widely available since they’re perishable, but historically they would have been prepared fresh in season, and they can still be made easily at home.
Often in herbal preparations, herbs are mixed to complement and amplify the medicinal actions. If you’re interested in developing your own herbal formulations, I’d recommend taking this online course in Mastering Herbal Formulations from the Herbal Academy.
Medicinal Plants List
Obviously, this isn’t every medicinal herb on the planet, there are thousands of those!
These 100 medicinal herbs are all plants I’ve either grown, wild-harvested, or used in my own home.
They’re all readily available in the United States and have a long history in traditional herbal medicine. Many of those traditional uses are now supported by peer-reviewed studies, while others are currently under investigation.
This is just a list of medicinal plants, and I’ll talk you through each in detail below:
- Aloe Vera (Aloe vera)
- Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
- Arnica (Arnica montana)
- Ash Trees (Fraxinus sp.)
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
- Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus)
- Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera)
- Barberry (Berberis sp.)
- Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis)
- Bee Balm (Monarda sp.)
- Beech Tree (Fagus sp.)
- Belladonna (Atropa belladonna)
- Birch Tree (Betula sp.)
- Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)
- Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
- Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
- Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus)
- Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
- Borage (Borago officinalis)
- Burdock (Arctium lappa)
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
- California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
- Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
- Chickweed (Stellaria media)
- Clover, Red (Trifolium pratense)
- Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
- Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita and Anthemis nobilis)
- Crampbark (Viburnum opulus)
- Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
- Daisy (Bellis perennis)
- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
- Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
- Elecampane (Inula helenium)
- Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
- Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus sp.)
- Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)
- Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
- Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum)
- Foxglove (Digitalis lanata)
- Garlic (Allium sativum)
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Ginko (Ginkgo biloba)
- Ginseng (Panax sp.)
- Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
- Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)
- Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.)
- Hazelnut Tree (Corylus sp.)
- Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)
- Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
- Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
- Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
- Hophornbean Tree (Ostrya virginiana)
- Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
- Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
- Jasmine (Jasminum officinale)
- Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
- Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium sp.)
- Lady’s Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium parviflorum)
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Lemon (Citrus limon)
- Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus)
- Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
- Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Linden (Tilia cordata)
- Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)
- Maple Tree (Acer sp.)
- Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis)
- Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
- Mint (Mentha sp.)
- Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
- Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
- Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
- Nettle, Stinging (Urtica dioica)
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
- Passionflower (Passiflora)
- Pine Tree (Pinus sp.)
- Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea)
- Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
- Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)
- Rose (Rosa sp.)
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
- Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)
- Skullcap (Scutellaria sp.)
- Slippery Elm (Ulmus Rubra)
- Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)
- Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
- Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
- Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)
- Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
- Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)
- Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
- Veronica (Veronica officinalis)
- Violets (Viola sp.)
- Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa)
- Willow (Salix sp.)
- Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
Aloe Vera (Aloe vera)
Aloe is a common houseplant in colder regions or vigorous outdoor succulent in arid desert climates. It’s most commonly used fresh off the plant for topical complaints, so it helps to have some growing at home.
Studies show that aloe vera effectively treats minor skin issues such as psoriasis, dandruff, small cuts, and minor burns, including sunburn. Aloe vera can also potentially help prevent skin damage from UV radiation and other forms of radiation such as cancer treatments. (Source)
Internally, aloe juice used to be used to treat constipation, and it is, in fact, a powerful laxative. Some studies show that it can potentially cause issues taken internally, so it’s no longer recommended for internal use.
Aloe Vera Benefits
- Soothes skin after minor burns, abrasions, or sunburn
- Treats skin issues including psoriasis & dandruff
- Folk treatment for constipation (no longer recommended)
Growing & Using Aloe Vera
- How to Grow, Harvest, and Preserve Aloe Vera
- Homemade Face Cream with Aloe Vera
- DIY Hand Sanitizer Gel (with Aloe)
Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
Used as a medicinal plant since medieval times, Angelica is also a common garden perennial. These days it’s usually grown as an ornamental flower, but that doesn’t mean it’s not also a potent medicinal plant.
Studies show that Angelica is used for various medical ailments, such as malaria, anemia, fever, and arthritis. It also serves gynecological purposes, such as starting menstrual periods, and some regions use Angelica for its abortifacient properties. (Studies)
Angelica has been used for dozens of other ailments, such as heartburn, flatulence, and anxiety. The most common ways to use this medicinal plant is either as an herbal tea or a salve, but obviously, avoid it if pregnant.
- Used to treat heartburn, intestinal gas, and loss of appetite.
- Improves sex drive and increases urine production.
- Treats nerve and joint pain when applied directly to the skin.
- Reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms when used in aromatherapy.
Growing & Using Angelica
- How to Grow Angelica
- Foraging and Using Wild Angelica
- Candied Angelica Stems
- Angelica Seed Pound Cake
Arnica (Arnica montana & A. Chamissonis)
Arnica is a hardy perennial that grows well in temperate climates, surviving low temperatures and frosts. The flowers bloom throughout the summer; they look similar to daisies, making beautiful cut flowers for displays. It’s the flowers that are used for medicinal purposes, so collect them as soon as they bloom, giving them plenty of time to air dry.
When used topically, arnica has many benefits. Most people associate it with the premade gels and ointments you find at the store, but it’s possible to make your own at home. We make our own arnica oil and salve from arnica flowers grown in our garden to treat bruises, sprains, muscle aches, and joint pain. Some studies show that arnica might be a useful treatment for minor burns. (source)
The only safe way to use arnica is topical. It’s advised that you avoid ingesting arnica. The best ways to use it are a topical cream or ointment, or arnica oil is acceptable as well.
- Used to treat sore muscles, joint soreness, and swelling from broken bones.
- Decreases bruising when applied topically after an injury
- Eases the treatment of minor burns
- Reduces swelling associated with insect bites.
Growing & Using Arnica
Ash Trees (Fraxinus sp.)
Ash trees have a long history as a medicinal herb for Native Americans. Native trees reach up to 30 meters tall, growing for well over a century. Flowers appear on the trees from April to May. It’s easy to identify Ash trees; they have light grey bark and large leaves with four to eight lance-shaped leaflets.
Ash trees have fallen out of use in medicinal medicine, but these trees have many potential benefits. The Native Americans believed this healing tree cured snake bites, and each part of the tree had a particular use.
Evidence shows that Ash trees are used as a laxative and an anti-inflammatory treatment to soothe arthritis and bouts of gout. The bark of white ash trees treats dysmenorrhea as well as skin sores, lice, and itchiness. (Source)
Ash trees are currently threatened due to the Emerald Ash Borer, which may drive them to extinction within a few decades, so if you find healthy trees it’s best to enjoy them rather than harvesting them.
Ash Tree Benefits
- Ingest parts of the Ash tree to reduce cellulite due to its diuretic properties.
- Soothes swelling caused by arthritis and rheumatism when applied topically.
Growing & Using Ash Trees
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha plants are native in India and Nepal, but they grow in backyards easily. It’s a perennial, hardy herb to zone six; but we grow Ashwagandha as an annual in our zone 4 Vermont garden, harvesting the roots before the first frost.
Studies show that this ancient herb improves cognitive function and assists with memory loss. It’s useful in treating neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, and has anti-inflammatory properties that make it helpful in treating arthritis. (studies)
The properties of Ashwagandha are well-documented; it’s been used for over 3,000 years as a way to reduce stress and improve concentration. A study even suggests that this ancient herb may be used to treat depression. (study)
- Helps to reduce cortisol levels, lowering stress and anxiety.
- Increases testosterone levels and sperm count
- Reduces swelling to help fight infections.
Growing & Using Ashwagandha
Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus)
Astragalus is a herbaceous perennial native to China, reaching up to four feet tall with beautiful, small, yellow flowers from midsummer through late fall. Those living in zones 6 to 11 can grow Astragalus as a perennial plant dependably, but it’s survived the last three mild winters in our zone 4 garden, so worth a try in colder regions too.
It takes two years to harvest for the plant to have rootstock that is an adequate medicine-making, so growing it as an annual isn’t all that helpful.
Astragalus is an ancient Chinese medicinal herb with dozens of uses. Studies show that Astragalus may protect the body from cancer and diabetes, and it also has strong anti-aging properties. (Studies)
This powerful medicinal herb protects and supports the immune system, preventing colds and infections. It helps to lower blood pressure and can be used for minor wound care due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Protects the body from stress and diseases.
- Prevents and treats colds
- Lowers blood sugar, potentially treating diabetes.
- Reduces allergy symptoms in those who have hayfever or allergic rhinitis.
Growing & Using Astragalus
Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera)
Poplar trees are a North American native tree species with over 35 cultivars and an infinite number of hybrids. These are tall trees, reaching upwards of 50 feet or taller, and fast-growing. They love warm weather and moist soil, and most live, at least, 50 years.
Studies suggest that Balsam Poplar might help with weight loss and diabetes. The screening studies showed that this medicinal plant strongly inhibited adipogenesis, suggesting potential anti-obesity activity. These studies suggest that it might be useful in antidiabetic and anti-obesity therapies. (Studies)
Balsam Poplar, along with other Poplar species, is used as a stimulating expectorant to help with chest congestion. Use the buds to create ointment and salves as treatments for skin sores, rashes, and even frostbite. Applying Balsam Poplar ointment inside of the nostrils helps to relieve congestion from colds and bronchitis.
Balsam Poplar Benefits
- Treats sores, wounds, and arthritis as a salve
- Spread a salve over sprains or muscle pains.
- Helps to reduce coughing and chest congestion.
- Treats fevers
- Provides relief from menstrual cramps
Growing & Using Balsam Poplar
Barberry (Berberis sp.)
Barberry is a deciduous bush that thrives with little maintenance and adapts well in most gardens. There are over 400 species of barberry, and some of them, such as Japanese Barberry, are incredibly invasive, while others like European Barberry are grown in the garden for food and medicine.
All varieties grow best in full sunlight and well-draining soil, and they’re quite common in the wild since birds readily spread their seeds.
Studies show that barberry plants have several medicinal benefits. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and the plant can be used to treat liver disease, gallbladder pain, gallstones, and urinary tract diseases. (Studies)
Barberries have been used for centuries as a form of traditional medicine to treat digestive issues and infections. The plant contains several different antioxidants that could help to manage different conditions, such as diabetes or dental infections.
European barberry is often used in cooking, where it’s either dried and added to rice dishes (like raisins or currants), or made into a simple jam or jelly.
- Helps with digestive problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn.
- Treats skin conditions like acne, eczema, and minor wounds.
- Reduces the pain and redness of canker sores.
- Might reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Growing & Using Barberry
Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis)
Bay laurel is an evergreen tree that belongs to the Lauraceae family, known for its strong aroma and culinary uses. The tree has dark green oval leaves and grows well in USDA zone eight and above with full sunlight, but we’ve successfully grown them indoors for years. Make sure to enrich the soil with compost to help the trees establish.
Studies show that bay laurel has many components that make it a strong medicinal plant. It can be used to heal wounds, fight bacteria, stimulate the immune system, and reduce fungal activity. (Studies)
Bay laurel leaves are edible, used in soups and stews. Use both fresh and dried leaves for medicinal purposes, but drying the leaves increases the flavor. Try brewing an herbal tea with the dried leaves to treat an upper respiratory tract infection or settle an upset stomach.
My grandmother always told me that a bay leaf placed in a container of flour, rice, or pasta in the pantry would keep bugs/pests out, which is especially handy if you’ve had problems with weevils in the past.
Bay Laurel Benefits
- Historically used to treat different types of cancer.
- Treats upper respiratory tract problems.
- Eases arthritis aches and pains.
- Reduces stomach aches and stimulates the appetite.
- Create ear drops to relieve the pain from an ear infection.
Growing & Using Bay Laurel
Bee Balm (Monarda sp.)
Bee balm belongs to the mint family, ranging in color from bright red to pink and white. Most varieties are perennials, reaching up to three feet tall. Plant bee balm in an area with well-draining soil and full sunlight.
Bee balm has a long history in traditional herbal medicine, and as a kitchen herb. The leaves are used as a spice like oregano, and the flowers make a delicious tea.
Studies support many of these traditional uses of bee balm, showing that this medicinal plant has antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, and antispasmodic properties. It’s also shown to reduce insomnia. (Studies)
When used as an herbal tea, bee balm treats cold symptoms like congestion, headaches, and sore throats. Inhaling steam infused with bee balm clears the sinuses.
Bee Balm Benefits
- Treats bee stings and bug bites.
- Reduces anxiety and stress.
- Relieves upset stomach, gas, and nausea.
- Treats sore throats and mouth sores.
Growing & Using Bee Balm
Beech Tree (Fagus sp.)
The American beech tree is one of the easiest trees to recognize with smooth, grey bark. These trees are massive, reaching up to 80 feet tall. If you plan to grow a beech tree, make sure you select a moist, well-draining location and plan wisely. Beech trees live 200-300 years.
Studies show that Beech trees have potent medicinal properties, including antiviral, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties. Not only does the bark scavenge for free radicals, but it might be effective against all Candida species as well as E. coli. (Studies)
Both the leaves and the bark hold medicinal properties. The bark is antacid, antiseptic, expectorant, and antibacterial. When using internally, Beech tree bark treats toothaches and gets rid of congestion.
There are hundreds of beech trees in our woods, and we forage beechnuts each fall, which taste rich and buttery like pinenuts. Beech trees are also one of more than 20 trees that can be tapped for syrup, and they produce a rich syrup with a butterscotch flavor.
Lastly, they’re a host tree for edible and medicinal lion’s mane mushrooms, that are especially fond of colonizing beech tree groves. These mushrooms have been shown to improve concentration and reduce cognitive decline.
Beech Tree Benefits
- Regulates the digestive system.
- Reduces headaches and mild pain issues when used as a poultice or salve.
- Neutralizes free radicals that might contribute to cancer.
- Boosts kidney function and stimulates urination when used as a decoction.
Growing & Using Beech Trees
Belladonna (Atropa belladonna)
Belladonna, sometimes called Deadly Nightshade, is a perennial woody shrub that grows natively throughout Europe. European colonists brought the plants to North America; it grows wildly now in zones five through nine. Gardeners can grow Belladonna in well-drained soil with full sunlight to partial shade.
It’s essential to be prudent when using and growing Belladonna because of its well-documented poisonous side effects. All parts of the plant are potentially deadly, including the berry-like fruit. While the plant may not kill you, it does cause hallucinations and delirium, but antidotes have been developed.
Belladonna hallucinations are actually what gave rise to the popular myth that witches flew on broomsticks, as a belladonna salve can raise the heartbeat and cause hallucinations that can make you think you’re flying.
When I was just beginning my herbal journey, I read all manner of things about belladonna in old Medieval herbals and became incredibly interested in finding this medicinal plant. Old herbals are fun to read, but they’re not always the best source of accurate herbal information. I now know that it’s a good thing I didn’t find it, as it’s deadly toxic, and likely killed many patients when used in the middle ages.
Science shows us that Belladonna has several potential medicinal properties, and it potentially could be used to treat peptic ulcers and for pain relief. (Science) That said, the risks just aren’t worth the potential benefit, especially since there are so many effective medicinal plants without the same risks.
Though you’ll often see belladonna referenced in old herbals, which is why I’ve included it here…mostly as a warning. It’s incredibly toxic, and though there are some potential uses with precise dosing, I don’t recommend using it for any reason. Even topical uses can be toxic.
- None that warrant the risks of using this potentially deadly toxic plant.
Growing & Using Belladonna
Birch Tree (Betula sp.)
Birch trees grow best in colder regions throughout North America; hot, dry climates make it hard for them to grow. Around 18 species call this region home, and all reach heights between 50 and 70 feet. The most notable species of Birch trees feature light-colored peeling bark bark that makes it relatively easy to pinpoint.
Studies show that many species of Birch trees work to treat degenerative joint diseases. Some evidence suggests that these trees feature anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties that make them a useful medicinal plants. (Studies)
Herbal remedy users use Birch as a natural pain reliever because it contains salicylate, a compound also found in aspirin. It relieves inflammation and arthritis pain, as well as generalized muscle pain. Some suggest that Birch also helps to reduce fevers.
The trees are also host species for a number of intensely powerful medicinal mushrooms, and some foragers believe the medicinal compounds of the mushrooms were induced over time by their association with medicinal compounds in the birch tree. Some notable medicinal mushroom species that grow on birch include Chaga mushrooms, birch polypore, and tinder polypore.
Birch Tree Benefits
- Treats skin disorders, such as eczema.
- Helps to combat urinary tract infections and cystitis.
- Calms arthritis and gout.
- Fights against cellulite.
Growing & Using Birch Trees
- Growing Birch Trees
- Black Birch Herbal Tea
- Make Birch Leaf Oil
- How to Make Birch Bark Flour (Traditional Nordic Recipe)
Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)
Black Cohosh is a native medicinal plant that grows throughout parts of North America. It’s an herbaceous perennial that reaches up to four feet tall and spreads up to 22 inches wide.
It’s a common shade garden perennial, usually sold under the name bugbane at garden nurseries. From May to July, the plant produces wand-like flower stalks covered with cream to white flowers.
Studies show that Black Cohosh is most effective when used for menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, tinnitus, vertigo, nervousness, and irritability. Those studies also show that taking this medicinal herb showed no adverse side effects. (Studies)
We grow it in our moist shade garden, alongside blackcurrant (a tasty edible berry with medicinal properties).
Black Cohosh Benefits
- Provides relief from hot flashes and night sweats.
- Eases premenstrual syndrome and menstrual pain.
- May reduce inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Growing & Using Black Cohosh
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Black-Eyed Susan is one of the easiest perennial wildflowers to identify in North America. The plants reach up to three feet tall with a dark brown-purple center on a daisy-like flower. The flowers are often up to three inches in diameter. These flowers bloom from June to October, attracting pollinators from all over.
The roots are the most common part of the plant used for medicinal purposes, but the leaves have useful properties. History shows us that Native American tribes used Black-Eyed Susan to treat snakebites, earaches, and get rid of parasitic worms. (History)
Studies show that it helps to stimulate the immune system, similar to Echinacea, but even better. That means you can use this herb to treat the common cold symptoms through herbal teas or root infusions. (Studies)
Black-Eyed Susan Benefits
- Used to treat parasitic worms.
- Increase the flower of urine
- Treats earaches
- Treats minor cuts, sores, scrapes, and swelling from small injuries.
Growing & Using Black-Eyed Susan
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Black Walnut trees grow throughout central and eastern North America. These trees live up to 200 years, growing alongside many other native trees such as Sugar Maples and Hickory. Black Walnut trees are intolerant of drought and have one of the largest canopies out of all trees, stretching up to 100 feet.
It’s essential to be aware that Black Walnuts contain juglone, which is a chemical produced primarily by the roots of the tree to prevent competition. It’s toxic to nearby plants, effectively excluding competitors in a circle around the tree. The nuts and nut husks, which are used medicinally, contain small amounts and some people may have a reaction to it when using black walnut based remedies
Studies show that BlackWalnut has multiple medicinal properties, such as antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. That makes it potentially useful for many different ailments. (Studies)
The green hulls around the nuts are one of the few terrestrial sources of iodine, and they’re made into black walnut tincture and powder. It’s used as an iodine supplement, and to treat intestinal parasites in both humans and animals.
Black Walnut Benefits
- Combats food-borne illnesses, such as Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli.
- Might help you lose weight.
- Kills strains of Candida and other fungal infections.
- Has a mild laxative effect and encourages healthy bile flow.
Growing & Using Black Walnut Trees
Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus)
Blessed Thistle is an annual Mediterranean herb used for centuries as a medicinal plant. It’s an attractive plant that produces toothed leaves with spines and yellow flower heads. The entire plant, including the flowers, have a light down covering.
You can use the flowering tops, leaves, and upper stems as part of your herbal remedies. The leaves may be used fresh or dried. Over the years, Blessed Thistle has been used to treat various ailments, even used during the time of the plague.
Today, the most common use is to promote milk production in breastfeeding women and treat menstrual problems.
Blessed Thistle Benefits
- Increases milk production and treats pain menstrual symptoms.
- Increases circulation and treats hormonal imbalance.
- Enhances memory.
- Stimulates appetite and eases digestive problems.
Growing & Using Blessed Thistles
Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
Blue Vervain is a wildflower native to North America. It’s most often seen growing moist meadows, alongside streams, and other wild areas, producing bluish-purple blooms from midsummer to early autumn. This plant grows best in full sunlight and moist, but not swampy soil.
Studies show that Blue Vervain has a number of medicinal properties useful for herbal remedies. It can be used to treat anxiety, depression, menstrual disorders, abdominal problems insomnia. (Studies)
Used internally, blue vervain treats depression, fevers, coughs, cramps, and headaches. Used externally as a poultice or salve, it works on acne, ulcers, and minor cuts and scrapes. Taking too much can interfere with blood pressure medication or hormone therapy, so be careful.
Blue Vervain Benefits
- Pain Relieving and Anti-inflammatory
- Treats premenstrual syndrome
- Helps treat ulcers
- Treats anxiety and depression
Growing & Using Blue Vervain
Borage (Borago officinalis)
Borage is an herb that is native to the Middle East, reaching up to two feet tall. It’s typically grown as an annual, but the plants will self-seed and grow year after year if left in a particular area. In the summer, small, bright blue flowers appear, bringing pollinators to your garden beds.
Studies show that Borage seed oil is an effective treatment for various degenerative diseases. It’s believed that it may be used for therapeutic and preventative medicines for acute respiratory distress, rheumatoid arthritis, and menopausal-related symptoms. (Studies)
Herbal remedies use the flowers, leaves, and oil from its seeds. The oil is often used for skin disorders, such as eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, premenstrual disorder symptoms, and swelling. In some situations, Borage oil is added to infant formula for additional fatty acids that preterm infants need.
- Treats coughs, chest congestion, and fevers.
- Relieves depression and anxiety.
- Prevents inflammation of the lungs and throughout the body.
- Increases breast milk production.
Growing & Using Borage
Burdock (Arctium lappa)
Burdock originates in Eurasia, but it’s become naturalized in North America. It’s an herbaceous biennial known for its history of being an edible and medicinal plant. Burdock seeds grow easily almost anywhere; this plant adapts to most soil types and light levels. Once established, you don’t need to do much to take care of the plant.
Studies show that Burdock promotes healthy blood circulation to the skin surface, improving your skin’s texture and quality. That helps to cure skin disorders such as eczema. Burdock seeds have anti-inflammatory properties and might be useful to stop the growth of tumors. (Studies)
Burdock has many uses, and most of the plant is used to make medicine. The root can be used in culinary dishes, and the roots, leaves, and seeds contain medicinal properties.
We make burdock root tincture to use as an anti-inflammatory, and as digestive bitters. The whole plant is actually edible, and you cook burdock stems as well if they’re harvested at the right time. Prepared properly, they’re absolutely delicious.
- Increases urine flow.
- Reduces fevers.
- Used to treat colds and symptoms associated with colds.
- Helps with skin conditions, such as acne and psoriasis.
Growing & Using Burdock
- Growing Burdock Plants
- How to Cook Burdock Root
- Burdock Tonic Tea
- Dandelion & Burdock Herbal Bitters
- How to Make Burdock Tincture
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula is one of the best known medicinal plants, and a great place to start for beginning herbalists.
In warm climates, calendula is a perennial plant, but it’s usually grown as an annual throughout the US. Calendula grows well in full sunlight but tolerates partial shade. Ensure you select a spot with moderately fertile and well-draining soil; calendula won’t grow well in poor soil.
Evidence shows that calendula has antiviral properties, and it has numerous uses. Calendula might be used to reduce inflammation, control bleeding, treat acne, treat bee stings, and relieve a toothache. (Studies)
Most people associate calendula and skin problems. You can find lotions and ointments containing calendula to treat eczema, dry skin, rashes, and more. Calendula has been used to heal wounds and burns for centuries.
I make calendula-infused oil, which we apply directly to burns or chapped skin. Once you have an infused oil, it can also be transformed into calendula lotion or salve.
- Recommended for treating GERD and heartburn.
- Treats peptic ulcers
- Treats acute or chronically swollen lymph nodes
- Builds the immune system to prevent further infections
- Treats rashes, stings, minor wounds, burns, abrasions, swelling, scrapes, bruises, and more.
Growing & Using Calendula
- Growing Calendula
- Homemade Calendula Salve Recipe
- Herbal Digestive Calendula Tea
- How to Make Calendula Poultice
- Making Calendula Oil
- Homemade Herbal Shampoo (with Calendula)
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Growing California poppies in your garden bed add bursts of color without adding more work for you. Poppies grow along roadsides, reaching their peak in the spring, but the blooms last longer in areas with cooler summer. These plants are either fast-growing annuals (in colder regions) or tender perennials (zones 8-10) that require full sunlight and average to poor soil.
Studies agree with the historical use of California poppies as a sedative medicinal plant. It contains natural compounds that have sedative, anxiolytic, and analgesic effects. It’s debated whether or not it might be used in cases of depression. (Studies)
The parts of the plant that grow above the ground are generally considered safe to use for medicinal purposes, and California Poppy Tincture is readily available for purchase. It’s best known for treating insomnia, promoting relaxation and happiness. Other useful ways to use California poppy include nerve pain, mood disturbances, general aches, childhood bedwetting, and depression.
California Poppy Benefits
- Promotes healthy, restful sleep
- Calms and supports the entire nervous system
- Helps one relax when stressed.
- Treats nerve pain, such as sciatica and shingles.
- Used for toothaches, teething in children, and menstrual cramping.
Growing & Using California Poppy
Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
Most people think of cayenne peppers as the pepper used to make hot sauce, but these little chili peppers do more than that. Most cayenne plants are grown as annuals, reaching up to four feet tall. The immature pods are green but turn red when ready for harvesting. Growing cayenne peppers require a bit of summertime heat; this plant is native to tropical and subtropical climates.
Studies show that cayenne might promote vascular and metabolic health. The phytochemicals that create the spiciness of the pepper might modulate the metabolism. Experts are working to find a way to use cayenne to help with weight loss. (Studies)
One of the most well-known ways to use cayenne pepper is a natural painkiller for achy joints and muscles. Capsaicin is an active ingredient in different treatments for arthritis and muscle pain that you find at the store, and plain capsaicin ointment is a popular over-the-counter treatment for arthritis.
- Unclogs stuffy noses and sinuses, thinning mucus and letting it drain better.
- Improves circulation and vascular health.
- Increases digestive fluid production, delivering enzymes to the stomach.
- Reducing hunger, helping you feel fuller for longer.
- Reduces high blood pressure.
- Helps relieve pain when used topically
Growing & Using Cayenne
- Growing Cayenne Peppers
- How to Make Cayenne Salve for Herbal Pain Relief
- Making Cayenne Tincture
- Homemade Cayenne Pepper
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
In most places, chickweed grows naturally; it’s often considered a weed or unwanted plant. However, gardeners can grow chickweed purposefully since it’s a tasty edible weed, with potent medicinal benefits. Chickweed is one of the first spring weeds to emerge and can persist all winter in milder locations.
Studies show that chickweed is full of vitamins and nutrients, and it also exhibits anti-inflammatory activity and flavonoids, which are hypoallergenic and antimicrobial. It’s believed that chickweed contributes to the elimination of harmful cells throughout the body, including carcinogens. (Studies)
Chickweed helps when you’re feeling down and have mucus buildup. It’s known for being an expectorant, helping you loosen up the mucus with productive coughing.
- Soothes inflamed skin and joints.
- Treats respiratory tract illnesses that involve inflammation, such as bronchitis.
- Helps to heal wounds and infections.
- Alleviates skin problems, such as dermatitis, reducing redness, irritation, and itchiness.
Growing & Using Chickweed
- Growing Chickweed
- Foraging & Using Chickweed
- Making Chickweed Tincture
- DIY Chickweed Salve
- Making Chickweed Oil
Clover, Red (Trifolium pratense)
Red clover is typically grown as a cover crop, forage for grazing, or cultivated hay for feed. It tastes sweet due to the high sugar content. For livestock owners, it’s one of the easiest grains to grow. Sow seeds in an area that is either partial shade or full sunlight and wait 60 days to harvest.
Studies show that red clover extract helps with osteoporosis, menopause symptoms, and high cholesterol levels. We know that red clover contains isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens, a compound similar to the female hormone estrogen. (studies)
Historically, red clover was used for dozens of ailments. The Chinese brewed an herbal tea using dried red clover to support bronchial-respiratory health. The most common way to enjoy the benefits of clover is by drinking tea, but a tincture is possible as well.
Red Clover Benefits
- Supports proper lymphatic function and boosts your immune system.
- Decreases osteoporosis risk.
- Reduces menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
- Helps with anxiety and depression.
- Decreases vaginal dryness.
Growing & Using Red Clover
- Growing Red Clover
- Red Clover Tincture
- How to Make Red Clover Tea
- Using Red Clover for Food and Medicine
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
Comfrey is an herbaceous perennial that reaches up to three feet tall. It grows best in full sunlight or partial shade in well-draining soil. In the spring, comfrey plants bloom with violet, pink, or yellow flowers. This plant adapts well to multiple growing conditions and is downright invasive in our garden here in Vermont.
Studies support the historical uses for comfrey. Trials prove that comfrey treats pain, inflammation, and swelling of muscles and joints. It’s useful in the treatment of degenerative arthritis, sprains, contusions, and strains. (Studies)
Traditional uses of comfrey utilize the root and leaves of the plant. We know that comfrey has been used for over 2,000 years. It was typically used to treat inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and diarrhea, and other stomach ailments.
Most herbalists now caution against using comfrey internally, as it can contain potentially toxic compounds, but that varies dramatically by strain. Historically, specific strains high in medicinal benefits (but low in toxins) were cultivated in monastery gardens, but these days it’s hard to know the exact constituents of this common weed.
Best to avoid internal use, and stick with topical uses. That said, it’s incredibly effective for low back pain and other topical pain relief applications, and we make comfrey salve every year for our own use.
- Heals abrasive wounds.
- Treats osteoarthritis and small injuries, such as ankle sprains.
- Helps with upper and lower back pain.
- Treats stomach issues, such as ulcers, colitis, and diarrhea (internal use, not recommended)
Growing & Using Comfrey
Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
Cornflowers, also known as “bachelor’s buttons,” are a common annual flower, that generally self-seeds and returns each year. These blue flowers grow in full sunlight. You can plant the seeds in early spring because they tolerate the freezing temperatures. Gardeners love cornflowers because they make fantastic cut flowers (and they dry beautifully).
Studies have yet to prove the historical uses for cornflowers are true. We know that this medicinal plant was used to treat fever, constipation, and chest congestion. (Studies)
The part of the plant that is used for medicinal purposes is the blue-colored flowers. It’s used to reduce inflammation and diuretic properties. Not only is it full of potassium, but it also has mineral salts and calcium, along with flavonoids, which contribute to its medicinal value.
- Helps with fever
- Relieves constipation
- Reduces water retention
- Eases menstrual cramps
- Calms anxiety, stress, and depression
Growing & Using Cornflower
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita and Anthemis nobilis)
There are two kinds of chamomile – Roman chamomile and German chamomile. Roman chamomile is the true version, but German chamomile has the same herbal uses. The biggest difference is that the Roman version is a creeping ground cover and the Roman chamomile is upright, reaching up to two feet tall.
Studies prove that the historical uses of chamomile are valid, and it’s a staple in herbal apothecaries today. Chamomile helps to improve cardiovascular health, stimulates the immune system, and fights cancer. It also has well-known therapeutic effects, such as stress-relieving. (Studies)
The best part of chamomile to use is the flowers. The most well-known way to use chamomile is to calm the nervous system and digestive system. If you need to relax and drift off to sleep or to reduce stress, drinking chamomile tea is the perfect gentle herbal solution.
I’m particularly fond of our homemade mead with chamomile flowers added during fermentation. Medicinal ales, wines, and meads have a long and rich history, and this is one tradition I’m happy to keep alive. It tastes sweet and floral, and it’s the perfect nightcap after a stressful day.
- Decreases inflammation
- Calms irritable bowel flare-ups and tummy aches in children.
- Used to reduce teething pain in children
- Heals gastrointestinal ulcers
- Soothes skin rashes and irritation.
Growing & Using Chamomile
Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus)
Also known as highbush cranberry, “cramp bark” is the common name given to this shrub by herbalists that use the bark to treat cramps and spasms.
It has absolutely stunning flowers in the spring, followed by bright red berries that emerge in the fall and persist all winter long. It grows wild throughout much of the US, and we forage highbush cranberries, along with other closely related edible viburnums including nannyberry and wild raisin.
Cramp Bark adapts to most soil types but grows best in rich, moist, loamy soil. We mostly find it at the edges of drainage ditches, streams, and other lowlands as it thrives in wet soil.
Studies show that Cramp Bark contains compounds that enhance health, including antioxidants. This plant also contains esculetin and viopudial, which are known for being antispasmodic. That’s why this plant has been used for so long for cramps and spasms. (Studies)
I tried Cramp Bark Tincture a few years ago because I suffered from horrible menstrual cramps. The tincture worked well, easing my cramps and helping me feel much more like a human being.
The use of crampbark goes back before the middle ages, and it’s cultivated in monastery gardens throughout Europe for its effectiveness against cramps and spasms, menstrual and otherwise.
Cramp Bark Benefits
- Relieves cramps, including muscle spasms and menstrual cramps
- Acts as a kidney stimulant for urinary problems.
- Treats pain and swelling of the uterus.
Growing & Using Cramp Bark
Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
People rarely consider growing cranberry plants, but these woody, low-growing perennial vines grow all around the United States. Despite the belief that they need to be harvested in water, cranberry plants grow well on dry land. Ensure these plants have properly prepared soil with a pH of less than five and well-drained soil.
Most studies about the medicinal uses of cranberry plants revolve around UTIs. These trials show that those who have recurrent UTIs can experience a decrease by one-third with the use of cranberry products. Most studies are needed to determine the true efficiency of cranberries and urinary tract problems. (Studies)
Dealing with UTIs is the most common way to reap the benefits of cranberry plants. I know that I drink cranberry juice when I needed to get rid of a UTI, and it nearly always worked. (Be sure it’s a natural sugar-free cranberry juice, or simply the fresh fruit, as the sugar in cranberry juice cocktail will only feed the bacteria in a UTI.)
- Reduces the risk of recurrent urinary tract infections.
- Treats bladder and kidney diseases
- Increases a poor appetite
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Growing & Using Cranberries
Daisy (Bellis sp.)
When you imagine a daisy, you picture a bright, cheerful flower that makes everyone simple. These simple-to-grow flowers are hardy and drought-tolerant, making them perfect for new gardeners. It’s best to plant daisies in rich, well-draining soil and full sunlight.
While not many studies focus on daisy’s medicinal uses, one study showed that these plants have biphasic effects that reduce anxiety and stress. (Studies)
Historically, one of the best ways to use daisy as a medicinal plant is for bruising. It’s easier than Arnica to cultivate, and it helps with bruising during childbirth and general injuries. Daisy plants are known for their anti-inflammatory properties that help with the inflammation after a sprain or injury.
- Treats coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Acts as a drying agent.
- Gets rid of minor pain and soreness
Growing & Using Daisies
- Growing Daisies
- Making Daisy Tea
- Make Daisy Infused Oil
- Daisy Salve for Bumps & Bruises
- Daisy Lotion Bars
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Believe it or not, dandelions are an incredible edible & medicinal plant, from the root to the blooms. For those without dandelions growing everywhere, sow the seeds outside in the spring in a spot that has full sunlight or partial shade. They aren’t picky and are known to sprout from just about any sidewalk crack given the opportunity.
Studies show that dandelion has both antiviral and antimicrobial effects. That means it’s a potential antibacterial agent. It has the potential to fight against bacteria and viruses that might cause inflammation in the body. (Studies)
Dandelion is a well-known digestive herb, and a few drops of dandelion tincture can be taken before meals to prevent gas and after meals for heartburn.
It’s also known as a cleansing herb, that supports healthy liver and kidney function. Traditionally, it’s also been used to help build energy and endurance, which can be helpful after a long winter indoors.
As a gentle diuretic, dandelion is used as a treatment for UTIs and water retention.
Every part of the plant is edible, from its golden honey-flavored blossoms to its carrot-like roots. We cook it in all manner of dandelion recipes, trying out new ideas every year.
- Helps to control blood sugar and type 2 diabetes.
- Used as a diuretic to increase the production of urine.
- Treats chronic ulcers.
- Fights constipation and helps encourage healthy digestion
Growing & Using Dandelions
- Growing Dandelions
- Roasted Dandelion Root Coffee (or Tea)
- How to Make Dandelion Tincture
- Making Dandelion Oil
- Dandelion Salve Recipe
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
Many know of echinacea as Coneflowers, which are common garden perennials. Echinacea is a native North American flower that attracts bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. It’s an easy perennial to grow, reaching up to four feet tall. These wildflowers prefer well-drained soil and full sunlight.
Studies show that echinacea contains antiviral properties that might work against human and avian influenza strains. The studies focused on rhinovirus and different respiratory virus types, and it showed that echinacea has anti-inflammatory properties and fights against virus-infected cells. (Studies)
Most people associate echinacea with the common cold. While science has yet to prove that it’s a treatment for cold symptoms, many people swear by taking echinacea to reduce the severity of a cold and the accompanying symptoms.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Eases cold symptoms, such as runny noses, sneezing, and chest congestion.
- Boosts the immune system.
- Lowers blood sugar levels.
- Lowers the chance of catching a cold by 50%.
Growing & Using Echinacea
- Growing Echinacea
- How to Make Echinacea Infused Oil and Salve
- Making Echinacea Tincture
- How to Make the Perfect Cup of Echinacea Tea
Elecampane (Inula helenium)
Elecampane is a perennial herb with a long history full of medicinal uses. It looks similar to a sunflower plant with tall stalks and bright yellow flowers and seed heads. Elecampane is easy to grow, and it grows wild all over our land. While it does produce yellow flowers, it’s typically grown for its medicinal properties.
Be sure to plant it in full sunlight and expect flowers to bloom from the summer to the fall.
Studies show that elecampane has antimicrobial and antibacterial effects. It was tested against strains of Staphylococcus, including antibiotic-resistant and sensitive strains. In the future, elecampane might be used as infection control for these different strains. (Studies)
The dried roots and rhizomes are the parts of elecampane that are used for herbal preparations. It’s best to collect these parts of this herb in the fall or early winter.
I make ours into elecampane syrup and candied elecampane root for wintertime coughs.
- Used to treat coughs associated with asthma, bronchitis, and whooping cough.
- Promotes mucus discharge.
- Helps treat indigestion and other digestive problems, such as heartburn.
- Relieves muscle spasms and tensions.
Growing & Using Elecampane
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Elderberry is a large bush that is native to the United States that produces bluish-black fruits. Elderberries make wine, juice, jelly, and jam; the berries are bitter, so they’re typically mixed with sugar. Growing elderberries is easy! They tolerate a large soil range, including poor soil, but they don’t like drought conditions.
Studies confirm the traditional use of elderberries to work against the common cold and influenza. The trials show that using elderberry helps to reduce a cold’s duration and severity. (Studies)
Elderberries have experienced a revival in the last few years as more people take elderberry syrup to reduce cold severity and to boost immune systems. The berries and flowers are full of antioxidants and vitamins that help your body recover and stay healthy, potentially reducing inflammation.
- Helps get rid of constipation
- Treats joint and muscle pain
- Takes care of headaches
- Reduces fever and stress
Growing & Using Elderberry
- Growing Elderberries from Cuttings
- Foraging Wild Elderberries
- How to Make Elderberry Tea
- Elderberry Jelly
- Make Your Own Elderberry Tincture
- Elderberry Gummy Bears
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus sp.)
Eucalyptus is known for its menthol-like scent and being used in multiple herbal remedies. It grows well indoors; most gardeners think that they can’t grow it, but this plant handles growing indoors well so long as it has full sunlight. Be careful growing eucalyptus if you have dogs or cats; this plant is toxic.
Studies show that eucalyptus oil reduces pain, swelling, and inflammation. One clinical trial showed that clients who used eucalyptus oil inhalation after a knee replacement surgery faced decreased pain levels and blood pressure. (Studies)
Most people use eucalyptus to treat chest congestion; you can make a homemade chest rub with eucalyptus oil. It helps to clear out your sinuses, reducing mucus and stuffy noses.
- Decreases cold and congestion and expands the bronchi in your lungs.
- Decreases inflammation, relieving headaches.
- Improves asthma symptoms.
- Improves dry skin and dandruff.
- Reduces overall pain levels and blood pressure levels
Growing & Using Eucalyptus
Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)
Evening Primrose is native to North America; depending on the variety, they can be biennial, annual, or perennial. The plants reach up to six feet tall and 24 inches wide with a basal rosette surrounding a central flower stalk. It gets its name because the flowers show late in the day on the first day, but they do open mid-morning the next day.
Several studies focused on the effects of evening primrose, looking at the uses for premenstrual syndrome, hot flashes, cervical ripening, and more. The studies confirmed that evening primrose helps to improve women’s health when used regularly for several months. Evening primrose offers benefits over a long period instead of an immediate response. (Studies)
The most common way to use this medicinal plant is through evening primrose oil, which comes from the flower’s seeds. Traditional uses of this plant include treating sore throats, digestive problems, and bruises, but that’s not the only way to use this plant.
Evening Primrose Benefits
- Reduces skin inflammation and dry skin.
- Treats eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions.
- Reduces PMS symptoms, like depression, bloating, irritability.
- Reduces the severity of hot flashes.
Growing & Using Evening Primrose
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Feverfew belongs to the same plant species as chrysanthemum, native to native Central and South Europe. The plants reach about 24 inches high with small, white, daisy-like flowers with yellow centers. Ensure the spot is funny with plenty of hours each day, and feverfew grows best in loamy soil but isn’t too picky.
Recent studies confirm many of the traditional uses of feverfew. This herb has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic properties. These findings confirm the traditional uses of fever to treat headaches, fevers, common colds, and arthritis. (Studies)
As you might have guessed based on its name, feverfew has been used to treat fevers, headaches, and arthritis. In most cases, feverfew leaves are dried to be used in medicine, but fresh leaves are also used.
- Treats and prevents migraine headaches
- Reduces fevers
- Helps regulate menstrual periods
- Treats arthritis
- Helps with nausea and vomiting
Growing & Using Feverfew
Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum)
Flax was one of the first crops used for fiber until cotton took its place. Even though it’s typically grown commercially, you can grow flaxseed in your garden. It’s a cool-season plant that needs to be planted in the early spring. Pick a sunny planting site with rich soil for optimal growth; add plenty of compost for fast growth.
Studies indicate that flaxseed is one of the richest sources of soluble fiber, antioxidants, and high-quality protein. Scientists confirmed that this food reduces the risk of cardiac and coronary disease, cancer (including breast, colon, and ovary), and a few other health risks. Using flaxseed regularly keeps you healthy! (Studies)
Most people think of flax as a healthy food. It’s full of fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids. It’s known for reducing health problems, such as liver disease, cancer, stroke, and depression.
- Reduces inflammation
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Lowers the risk of strokes and heart attacks
- Naturally lowers blood pressure
Growing & Using Flaxseed
Foxglove (Digitalis lanata)
One of the prettiest flowers that you can grow in your garden is foxgloves. The flowers are tubular blooms that are biennials, living for only two growing seasons. Some species are perennials, depending on your climate. Foxgloves need full sunlight to grow but tolerate partial shade, so long as the plants have well-draining, rich, loamy soil.
New studies investigate foxgloves because they contain a chemical called cardiac glycosides, which is proven to treat heart failure. Using foxglove might be useful for treating heart disease and other cardiac problems. (Studies)
Since many parts of the foxglove plant are poisonous, I don’t recommend using this herb unless directed by a professional, and even then, I’m not sure I’d risk it personally. Be very careful with this herb, and don’t attempt to self-treat with foxglove.
The root is the most commonly used part of the foxglove for its medicinal properties.
- Used in heart medications
Growing & Using Foxglove
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic seems intimidating to grow, but it’s actually quite easy. Most garlic types are planted in the fall and harvested in the following midsummer. All garlic types require a sunny spot with fertile, well-draining soil with a pH range between 6.5 to 7. Adding compost helps to create the best environment for growing garlic, as they’re heavy feeders.
Scientists are working on several studies to understand better how garlic works as a medicinal plant. Recent evidence supports the use of garlic for its different compounds that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Garlic also has antibacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-tumor properties. (Studies)
One of the best ways to use garlic is as a natural antibiotic. Garlic concentrate is effective at fighting bacteria. Try applying it to a wound or blemish that needs to go.
I was a swimmer in high school and college, and I know from experience that warm garlic oil is an excellent treatment for ear infections and swimmer’s ear.
- Fights bacteria.
- Treats ear infections
- Heals minor cuts and injuries
- Reduces the risk of heart attack while improving heart health.
- Prevents a range of cancers.
Growing & Using Garlic
- How to Grow Garlic
- DIY Garlic Oil for Ear Infections
- Garlic Salve for Colds and Coughs
- How to Make Garlic Tincture
- Fermented Garlic Honey
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Growing ginger starts with sourcing ginger rhizomes. Look for large roots, measuring four to six inches with multiple fingers on it. Make sure the soil is amended with compost and plant ginger roots in the early spring. These plants grow up to four feet tall.
We grow ours outdoors in summer, and then as a houseplant during the winter months.
Studies indicate that many of the traditional uses of ginger are true. While more studies are needed, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that help alleviate pain and swelling associated with arthritis. It’s also helpful to reduce vomiting and nausea associated with pregnancy and chemotherapy. (Studies)
The best-known way to use ginger is to treat stomach aches and nausea. Drinking ginger tea and ginger ale helps eat the discomfort during a stomach virus. It also works on seasickness!
- Calms a queasy stomach
- Reduces muscle pain when used over time
- Reduces swelling associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Improve blood sugar levels
- Eases menstrual cramps
Growing & Using Ginger
- Growing Ginger
- How to Make Ginger Tea
- Hot Ginger Poultice to Relieve Menstrual Cramps
- How to Make a Ginger Tincture
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
Gingko trees are large, deciduous shade trees that are commonly found throughout China. Take care when planting these trees; they live for hundreds of years. They are drought and pest resistant, so making sure you provide regular watering and a well-balanced fertilizer until the tree reaches maturation.
Studies on Ginkgo focus on this medicinal plant being used on degenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular disease. It’s also possible that this medicinal plant protects against neurological and cardiovascular problems as well as cancer. (Studies)
Traditional Chinese herbal remedies used the leaves and seeds from this tree, but modern uses often focus on ginkgo extract made from the leaves. (Female ginko trees are less common in the US, since they make a mess with their nuts each year.)
The nuts treat coughs, fevers, toothaches, and more.
- Reduces inflammation associated with arthritis, irritable bowel disease, and heart disease
- Improves blood circulation and heart health
- Reduces anxiety and stress
- Reduces symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline
Growing & Using Ginkgo
Ginseng (Panax sp.)
Ginseng is a popular medicinal plant that grows throughout North America and Asia. It grows as a perennial plant in many areas, popping up in the wild throughout wooded areas with sloping terrain. The hardest part about growing ginseng is that it has particular woodland soil requirements, so it’s not something you can just grow in your garden.
Studies discuss the possible effects of using ginseng on cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and the immune system. In folk medicine, ginseng was believed to be a cure for all diseases and a source of longevity. While science doesn’t back up that claim, it does prove it can help your heart health, which will help you live a longer, healthier life. (Studies)
Ginseng comes in two varieties: American and Asian. The American ginseng has relaxing agents, and Asian has stimulating effects. Both have compounds that help to reduce inflammation and increase antioxidants at the cellular level.
- Reduces inflammation
- Helps to treat eczema
- Improves your overall mood, reduces anxiety, and lowers stress levels.
- Strengthens the immune system.
Growing & Using Ginseng
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Goldenseal is an herbaceous perennial that grows throughout North America. It prefers to grow in rich, densely shaded forests, emerging in the early spring. Herbalists can grow Goldenseal in rich, well-drained, loamy soil, so long as the site has 70 to 75% shade. Provide plenty of compost to improve the soil.
Few studies focus on the actual efficiency of goldenseal as a medicinal plant. It’s believed that goldenseal kills bacteria and treats eye infections and urinary tract infections. More studies are needed to prove whether or not these properties are true. (Studies)
Despite the lack of scientific proof, herbalists still believe that goldenseal is a useful medicinal plant. It’s regularly used to help with digestion, soothing upset stomachs, and killing bacteria. Goldenseal is believed to be a natural antibiotic as well.
- Improves the immune system and boosts white blood cells.
- Treats hay fever, colds, and influenza
- Treats upper respiratory infections and eases sore throats
- Disinfect minor cuts and scrapes
Growing & Using Goldenseal
Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)
Ground Ivy comes from Europe but now is naturalized throughout North America. It grows best along the roadsides, pastures, orchards, and agricultural fields. It’s considered a troublesome weed, but ground ivy grows well in damp, rich soil. It’s particularly fond of moist shady sections of lawn, and it grows prolifically on the north side of my house.
Not many studies focus on the medicinal benefits of ground ivy. It’s believed to be useful when applied directly to the skin to treat minor wounds, ulcers, and other skin conditions. However, more proof is needed before these traditional uses are validated by modern medical science. (Studies)
Despite that lack of scientific evidence, ground ivy has long been considered a medicinal plant. The plant and leaves are dried to make herbal remedies to treat a range of ailments, including mild lung problems, coughing, and bronchitis.
Traditionally, ground ivy was used to make medicinal beer (known as gruit), and as a result, it also goes by the common name ale hoof (because of its hoof-shaped leaves).
Ground Ivy Benefits
- Reduces coughing and bronchitis
- Treats arthritis and mild joint pain
- Gets rid of ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Helps to ease stomach problems, diarrhea, and constipation
Growing & Using Ground Ivy
Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.)
Hawthorn trees are perfect for urban property owners because they grow up to a maximum of 30 feet tall, rather small for a tree. All varieties require full sunlight and well-draining soil for optimal growth. Otherwise, Hawthorn trees tolerate most soil types and pH ranges.
Current studies focus on understanding the medicinal properties of hawthorn and how it might be used to fight against cardiovascular disease. Most results offer positive outcomes and show that adverse reactions are infrequent and mild. These studies suggest that hawthorn might be a safe, effective treatment against cardiovascular disease. (studies)
Hawthorn bushes produce tiny berries that are full of nutrients with a tart, tangy taste. These berries are an herbal remedy used to treat digestive problems, high blood pressure, and heart failure.
- Reduces inflammation linked to type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers.
- Treats high blood pressure
- Treats digestive issues, including stomach pains and indigestion while also reducing constipation
- Decreases anxiety symptoms due to a mild sedative effect
Growing & Using Hawthorn
- Growing Hawthorn Trees
- Foraging Hawthorn for Heart Health
- Hawthorn Berry Tincture for a Healthy Heart
- Hawthorn Berry Tea
- Hawthorn Berry Syrup
- Hawthorn Jelly
Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)
Sometimes called Stinky Bob, Herb Robert is an attractive herb known as an ornamental plant with medicinal properties. Herb Robert has lacy, defined leaves with five-petaled pink flowers. They’re tiny, but absolutely beautiful.
The problem with Herb Robert is that it spreads prolifically if not controlled, and it grows wild throughout the woods on our land.
Studies show that it’s possible that Herb Robert can be used for kidney and bladder problems. It might reduce the swelling of the kidney, bladder, and gallbladder. It also might be used to prevent the formation of kidney, bladder, and gallbladder stones. (Studies)
Traditionally, Herb Robert was viewed as an herb with antiseptic properties and treated upset stomachs and nosebleeds. The leaves are edible; they’re used both dry and fresh to create an herbal tea. The leaves also can be crushed and rubbed on your skin.
Herb Robert Benefits
- Gets rid of headaches
- Treats sinus problems and congestion
- Eases discomfort associated with arthritis and sciatica.
- Relieves a sore throat and mouth
- Treats mosquito bites and other insect bites.
Growing & Using Herb Robert
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
Horehound belongs to the mint family. It has crinkled, hairy leaves and known for being a hardy perennial plant down to USDA zone 4. Horehound plants grow well from seeds, cuttings, and division. These plants grow well in full sunlight and well-drained soil.
Despite having a long history of being a medicinal plant, few studies focus on the usefulness of Horehound and its safety. Most studies throughout history involve the use of Horehound on mice rather than humans, so little is truly known. (Studies)
While science isn’t showcasing this medicinal plant’s usefulness, all parts of the plant above the ground are used to make medicine. It’s traditionally used to treat digestive problems, such as bloating, gassiness, indigestion, loss of appetite, and constipation.
It’s perhaps best known as a cough suppressant, and it’s most commonly made into syrups and herbal cough drops.
- Relieves constipation, bloating, and gassiness.
- Treats lung problems such as coughing, whooping cough, asthma, and bronchitis.
- Reduces menstrual period pain.
- Increases urine production
- Takes care of skin damage, ulcers, and minor wounds.
Growing & Using Horehound
Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
Horse chestnuts shouldn’t be confused with ornamental chestnut trees; these fruits aren’t edible. Instead, horse chestnuts are large, flowering trees, similar to buckeye trees. These trees thrive in USDA hardiness zones 3-8, preferring well-drained soil and full sunlight.
Recent studies look at the effectiveness of horse chestnut seed extract to improve chronic vein insufficiency. The evidence from several studies indicates that this medicinal plant might be as effective as compression stockings when used to treat CVI. Small amounts of research have looked at horse chestnut seed extract to treat male infertility and irritable bowel syndrome, but the results are inconclusive. (studies)
Herbalists swear by horse chestnut as a way to treat inflammation due to its potent anti-inflammatory properties, and I’ve had a number of people tell me they’ve used it to treat arthritis pain with great success. This medicinal plant contains aescin, which is proven to reduce inflammation due to injuries.
Horse Chestnut Benefits
- Reduces hemorrhoids
- Reduces cancer cell growth
- Lowers leg swelling
- Reduces the swelling and discomfort of varicose veins
Growing & Using Horse Chestnuts
Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
Growing hollyhocks adds impressive, beautiful flowers to your garden. The flower stalks reach up to nine feet tall. These plants require full sunlight and well-drained, rich soil. Never plant hollyhocks in dry soil; they won’t grow well.
The part of the plant most often used for herbal remedies is the flowers. It’s most often used to prevent and treat breathing disorders, like asthma, and digestive tract problems. Apply hollyhock to the skin to treat ulcers and swelling, such as inflammation due to arthritis.
When preparing hollyhock, avoid exposing the plant to high heat and alcohol because it decreases the healing properties. Cold infusions are safest for preparation.
- Treats breathing disorders like asthma
- Helps calm digestive tract problems like constipation or diarrhea
- Eases skin pain or conditions that cause discomfort, like eczema
Growing & Using Hollyhock
Hophornbeam Tree (Ostrya virginiana)
Hophornbeam is quite a name, but it’s often called an Ironwood tree. It’s named this because the seed looks like hops, which are used in beer production. Hophornbeam trees have very hardwood, reaching up to 20 feet tall in 30 years. This tree grows well in full sunlight but tolerates partial shade.
Both the wood and bark are used to create medicinal remedies. Use the bark to create teas or infusions to treat aches and pains. It helps with sore muscles and arthritis.
- Relaxes and soothes sore muscles
- Relieves toothaches
- Treats coughs and colds
- Treats rheumatism
Growing & Using Hophornbeam Trees
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Some consider Horsetail to be an annoying weed, but this medicinal plant is easy to grow. It’s typically found in wet or boggy areas, and it grows well in poor soil. So, if you have areas where you struggle to grow plants, consider Horsetail. Just be sure to give it plenty of space to spread out.
Studies suggest that Horsetail plants work as a diuretic. The studies focused on using this plant on people who had a history of uric acid kidney stones. Taking Horsetail helped increase urine output, and some other studies suggest that this plant has antioxidant properties that might stop cancer growth. (Studies)
Horsetail grows wild in the sandy soil by our pond, and where it can accumulate silica into its tissues from the sand. That high natural silica content makes it useful to treat osteoporosis, as well as joint issues.
It also helps to lower blood pressure, relieve sore throats, and treat burns and wounds.
Historically, horsetail was used as a scouring weed, as the high silica content made it handy for washing dishes, and it’s often readily available on streambanks and pond beaches.
- Encourages the growth of hair, bone, and nails
- Heals mouth and throat problems
- Takes care of viral infections
- Treats digestive problems.
- Builds the immune system
Growing & Using Horsetail
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
Hyssop is a flowering herb that has flavorful leaves and spikes of blue, pink, or red flowers. It’s both beautiful, and especially attractive to pollinators.
The plants reach large sizes, so it’s best to grow them in containers to limit their spread. Hyssop plants prefer growing in areas with full sunlight or partial shade and well-draining soil that’s amended with plenty of organic matter.
Studies focused on Hyssop, and the extracts and essential oils that come from the plant showed that it has insecticidal, antifungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. Some evidence shows that Hyssop has antifungal and antimicrobial activity against many food-borne pathogens. (Studies)
Hyssop is often used because it’s a stimulant and expectorant, known for treating colds, coughs, chest congestion, and other lung problems. It’s a versatile herb that can be used against many ailments, which is why all herbalists need to make sure to include it in their herb gardens.
- Treats coughs and chest congestion
- Effective against toothaches and nervous disorders
- Reduces digestive problems
- Treats asthma
- Gets rid of roundworms
Growing & Using Hyssop
Jasmine (Jasminum officinale)
Jasmine plants have some of the most beautiful, fragrant blooms, growing naturally in warm, tropical climates. The smell of jasmine is often used in teas, candles, soaps, and more. Growing jasmine at home is possible if you love the aroma if you live in a warm area. Make sure the plants have full sunlight to partial shade with well-draining, moist, fertile soil.
Studies show that jasmine essential oil has antibacterial properties and supports treating ulcers, removing corns, regulating menstrual flow, and more. The studies also show that jasmine might be able to fight against bacterial strains such as E. coli. (Studies)
In most cases, the flower is the part of the jasmine plant that makes medicine. It’s often used to help people relax and decrease stress, but the aroma also is an aphrodisiac that heightens sexual desire.
- Treats liver disease, liver pain
- Takes care of diarrhea
- Reduces risk of heart disease
- Improves short term memory
- Improves mood and decreases stress and anxiety
Growing & Using Jasmine
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
Jewelweed belongs to the Impatiens family, but it’s a wildflower that you can find on stream banks and bogs. Wild jewelweed attracts pollinators, bees, and butterflies. Like other Impatiens, jewelweed prefers partial to full shade with rich, organic soil that stays moist. The best way to germinate jewelweed seeds is to keep them in the refrigerator for two months before planting, a cold stratification process.
Studies show that jewelweed is an effective treatment against poison ivy dermatitis. This is the most common use of jewelweed throughout folk medicine, and the evidence does support its use for those who suffer from rashes caused by poison ivy. (studies)
Native Americans used jewelweed in many folk remedies. The sap from the stem and leaves relieve itching and pain from ailments when applied topically. The most common ailments that jewelweed treats are hives, poison ivy, stinging nettle, and other skin sores and irritation. It’s said that the sap also has anti-fungal properties, treating athlete’s feet.
- Takes care of skin rashes caused by poison ivy
- Treats mild digestive disorders
- Promotes healthy blood flow
- Reduces post-childbirth pain and joint pain, as well as bruises and swelling.
Growing & Using Jewelweed
- Growing Jewelweed in Your Garden
- How to Make An All-Natural Jewelweed Poison Ivy Salve
- Jewelweed Tincture Recipe
- 6 Ways to Preserve and Use Jewelweed
Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium sp.)
Gardeners usually plant Joe pye weed for the butterflies, and it’s an absolute magnet for pollinators. A few years back, we broadcast seed in all the low, moist spots on our land to help support our honeybee hives. They took beautifully, and thrive without any care.
It’s an herbaceous, late-blooming perennial wildflower that’s native to the United States. This plant reaches up to seven feet tall and four feet wide at full maturity, so make sure you have the space to grow it. Pick a spot that has full sunlight or partial shade, along with rich and moist soil.
We know that Native Americans used this medicinal plant as a diuretic and treatment for kidney stones and gall stones, which gave rise to the common name “gravel root.” Beyond that, it was also used to treat fevers, colds, flu, and as a topical treatment for burns (source). Unfortunately, with so few studies it’s hard to know if these traditional uses are backed by modern medicine.
There is some evidence that Joe Pye Weed can be used to treat gall stones (source) and potentially gout. Other sources suggest that it might have antifungal properties (source), but again, modern studies of this plant mostly don’t exist.
Typically, the leaves and stems are harvested in the summer and stored for later use after drying. The roots can be harvested in the fall, and fresh flowers make a delicious herbal tea. When dried, it has a scent and taste similar to vanilla.
Be aware that joe pye weed may contain alkaloids that are potentially harmful to the liver, so use with caution and only under the supervision of a doctor/herbalist.
Joe Pye Weed Benefits
- Used as a diuretic, treating kidney problems, painful urination, and more.
- Treats fevers and colds
- Induces sweating
- Reduces pain and swelling in rheumatic joints
Growing & Using Joe Pye Weed
Lady Slipper Orchids (Cypripedium parviflorum)
Most people associate orchids with tropical locations, but there are cold hardy orchids that grow in the woods of the US. Lady’s slipper orchids are even reasonably common along hiking trails and moist woodlands here in Vermont, and I’ll often see their wild blooms in the summertime.
Apparently, they can be successfully cultivated in gardens, so you don’t have to find them in the wild. Look for transplants from commercial growers and plant them in a shady area with well-drained soil.
Few studies have focused on the effects of lady slipper orchids. We know that Native Americans used these medicinal plants to reduce fevers, headaches, menstrual cramps, and labor pains. It’s often called “Nature’s Tranquilizer” due to its sedative qualities. (Studies)
One of the most popular ways to use this medicinal plant is by drinking a lady slipper orchid tincture to take care of insomnia, anxiety, and emotional tension. Native Americans collected the roots, dried them, and ground them into a powder.
With so little known about this wild plant, please use with caution.
Lady Slipper Orchid Benefits
- Reduces muscle spasms and pains
- Calms anxiety and stress
- Reduces depression
- Treats insomnia and emotional tension
- Lowers hyperactivity in children
Growing & Using Lady Slipper Orchids
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Without a doubt, one of the most well-known medicinal plants is lavender. Originating in the Mediterranean region, lavender is known for its bluish-purple color flowers, strong fragrance, and medicinal properties.
Growing lavender as an annual is possible in most areas, but it’s only a perennial in warm climates. It grows well in most soil types so long as it has plenty of sunlight and proper drainage.
Some studies focus on lavender’s calming effect, showcasing that this medicinal plant reduces anxiety and stress with any sedation or risk of dependency. For some, using lavender essential oil might be a considerable alternative for treating anxiety disorders. (Studies)
One of the most well-known ways to use lavender is to help treat insomnia and reduce stress and anxiety. Lavender is an effective herbal remedy to help improve sleep quality as well as a simple way to destress after a rough day.
- Treats insomnia
- Treats blemishes and inflammation caused by acne.
- An effective remedy for postoperative pain
- Reduces blood pressure and heart rate.
- Reduces menopausal hot flashes
Growing & Using Lavender
Lemon (Citrus limon)
Lemon trees are surprisingly easy to grow, and we have several large trees indoors here in Vermont. Lemon trees are cold-sensitive, so they need to be protected from frost. Depending on your location, lemon trees might need to come inside to overwinter (as we do here).
All lemon trees need full sunlight for adequate growth and grow lights can really help when they’re kept indoors.
Lemons are some of the most versatile fruits that you can have in your kitchen. Not only can they be used for dishes and cleaning, but they also have medicinal properties.
Recent studies show that lemons contain high levels of phenolic compounds, including flavonoids and phenolic acids. It’s believed that lemons have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticancer, and antiparasitic properties based on new trials. (Studies)
- Prevents kidney stones and increases urine output
- Helps your body absorb more iron and prevents anemia
- Prevents some forms of cancer
- Treats damaged hair
- Relieves respiratory problems and breathing issues
- Treats throat infections
Growing & Using Lemons
- Growing Lemon Trees
- Making Lemon Infused Oil
- Making Lemon & Lavender Bath Salts
- 20+ Ways to Preserve Lemons
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus)
Lemongrass is a tropical herb with a strong citrus flavor. As the name suggests, it’s an ornamental grass that grows in clumps that reach three to five feet tall. It’s best to plant lemongrass in the spring after the danger of frost passes. Make sure it grows in an area with full sunlight and well-draining, fertile soil.
We grow lemongrass outdoors in the summer months and then bring it indoors in winter.
Studies show that lemongrass has a number of phytoconstituents, such as flavonoids, that lead to multiple medicinal properties. Lemongrass is known to have antispasmodic, hypotensive, analgesic, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties. Another study indicated that lemongrass essential oil has potential as a treatment for fungal infections and skin inflammation. (Studies) (Study)
One of the most well-known ways to use lemongrass is as a way to reduce inflammation. Lemongrass has anti-inflammatory compounds that help reduce inflammation throughout the body. That means it helps with problems such as arthritis and heart disease.
- Reduces anxiety and stress
- Helps to reduce the spread of infections such as thrush which is a fungal infection.
- Blocks pain
- Reduces bloating and stimulates the kidneys to release more urine
Growing & Using Lemongrass
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm is a vigorous perennial herb related to mint. Lemon balm reaches two feet tall and wide, blooming throughout the summer and fall. Plant this herb in full sunlight with well-drained, sandy soil.
Studies support many of the traditional uses of lemon balm. Evidence shows that lemon balm has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. It might be able to treat oxidative diseases and help fight certain cancers from developing. (Studies)
Many herbalists rely on lemon balm as a way to improve mood and cognitive function. It’s believed that lemon balm helps to soothe stress symptoms while helping your body to relax and boost your mood.
Beyond its uses as a medicinal plant, it’s also delicious. It has a lovely lemon taste that’s excellent in summertime ice tea and wintertime hot tea.
Lemon Balm Benefits
- Reduces anxiety
- Improves cognitive function
- Helps to relieve restlessness and sleep disorders such as insomnia
- Treats cold sores when applied topically
- Reduces abdominal pain and discomfort associated with indigestion
Growing & Using Lemon Balm
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Licorice candy is flavored with the root of the licorice plant, or at least it was historically. The candy, infused with medicinal herbs, was used to treat digestive ailments.
As the saying goes, a little sugar helps the medicine go down, and a little after-dinner candy digestive was always popular with even the most reluctant patients.
These days, licorice is corn syrup and artificial flavor, so it’s not much help.
It takes several years to harvest the roots, but if you’re patient, you can have the ultimate homemade candy. Licorice root needs plenty of water and sunshine, and sandy soil for optimal growth.
The active components of licorice have made it useful to treat gastric problems and many respiratory diseases. It’s been shown to be anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and antispasmodic, leading to its use in comforting respiratory teas. (Studies)
Another study shows that licorice extract could be an effective treatment for atopic dermatitis used topically. (Study)
Be aware that licorice is known to increase blood pressure, and its full effects on the circulatory system are still under investigation. Avoid it if you have any heart, blood pressure, or circulatory issues.
Licorice Root Benefits
- Traditionally used to improve digestion & to treat respiratory issues
- Eases eczema and resulting symptoms, such as itchiness, redness, inflammation, and scaling.
- Might treat hepatitis C
- Kills bacteria in the mouth that causes tooth decay
- Treats sore throats
Growing & Using Licorice Root
- Growing Licorice Root at Home
- How to Make Licorice Oil for Eczema
- Licorice Bitters Recipe for Digestive Problems
- How to Make Licorice Root Tea
Linden (Tilia sp.)
Linden trees are medium to large trees that are perfect for urban landscapes because they handle different conditions. Plant linden trees in the fall in a spot that has either full sunlight or partial shade along with well-draining soil. Linden trees prefer a neutral to alkaline pH range but tolerate acidic soil.
Studies look at the possible relaxation effects that come from drinking linden tea. This is a folk remedy that uses the flowers to relieve anxiety, and research indicates that these properties might be worth investigating. Some varieties of linden trees offer sedative properties. (Studies)
The studies support the most common uses for linden – soothing anxiety and mental stress. Adding linden tea to your daily to-do list can help induce a state of relaxation for your body and mind. Everyone needs relaxation in their life!
- Protects the skin from aging
- Induces sweating to release toxins from the body
- Reduces fevers
- Treats other symptoms of the common cold and strains of influenza
- Soothes sore throats, and inflamed respiratory tracts
Growing & Using Linden
Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)
Lotus are the beautiful flowers that you see floating on water and ponds. They come in white, red, pink, lavender, blue, and more. Without a doubt, the lotus is the most beautiful aquatic plant, closely related to water lilies. It’s best to plant lotus in a container in an area that receives six hours of sun per day, or if you happen to have a pond as we do, you can grow lotus from seed directly in the water.
Studies indicate that lotus plants contain many constituents, including flavonoids, making them beneficial medicinal plants. The whole plant has astringent, emollient, and diuretic properties that can treat diarrhea, tissue inflammation, and more. More studies need to be completed to find all of the benefits of a lotus plant. (Studies)
Traditional Chinese medicine used lotus plants to stop diarrhea. Drinking lotus tea can help stop diarrhea in its track while soothing the abdominal discomfort associated with it.
Most studies focus on the Eastern species (Nelumbo nucifera), but the north American variant (Nelumbo lutea) may have similar properties. We grow those in our pond, and they’re one of the many perennial vegetables grow on our land.
- Reduces inflammation caused by a physical injury or trauma
- Treats stubborn acne and unclogs your skin’s pores
- Helps to regulate menstrual cycles and reduces excess bleeding
- Soothes coughing
Growing & Using Lotus
Maple Tree (Acer sp.)
Maple trees come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re all best known for producing the sap needed to make maple syrup. These trees need a sunny location for optimal growth, but they’re readily available for purchase as ornamental trees in garden centers.
Interesting studies show that maple trees, including the branches, leaves, and sap, might be a key to regulating blood glucose levels. Studies show that maple trees have different healing and medicinal properties throughout the entire tree that counteract inflammation, which leads to a variety of diseases. (Studies)
Maple Tree Benefits
- Used for eye irritation
- Heals external wounds and abscesses
- Treats internal hemorrhages
- Reduces chest congestion
- Treats kidney stones and gout
Growing & Using Maple Trees
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)
Who knew you could grow marshmallows in the garden? Historically, marshmallows were both flavored and thickened with marshmallow root, which contains natural mucilage that would give marshmallows a fluffy texture. These days they’re made with gelatin instead, but back in the day they were actual medicine for sore throat and cough, imagine that!
Marshmallow is an easy herb to grow in your garden, even with little care. They grow in tall flower spikes that reach up to six feet tall. Marshmallow seeds require cold stratification for good germination.
Studies show that marshmallow preparations might help soothe irritated mucous membranes, treating asthma, bronchitis, coughs, sore throats due to their natural mucilage content. (Studies)
The leaves and roots are the parts of the plant used to make herbal remedies. The roots and leaves are known to treat pain and reduce inflammation throughout the respiratory tract. It can be used for dry coughs and also inflammation of the stomach lining.
- Soothes sore throats
- Treats digestive problems like heartburn, stomach aches, and the occasional problems
- Heals eczema and sunburn
- Treats stomach ulcers and constipation
Growing & Using Marshmallow
- Growing Marshmallow Plants
- Making Marshmallow Root Tea Recipe
- Homemade Healthy Marshmallows
- Marshmallow Cold Infusion
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
Milk thistle is a tricky herb to grow for beginner gardeners, but it’s well known for its medicinal properties. This plant is highly invasive, so keeping its spread limited is crucial. It grows in most types of soil, even poor soil. Scatter seeds after the last frost in an area that receives full sunlight.
Milk thistle contains a chemical called silymarin, which is said to treat ailments involving the liver. That’s why milk thistle is often called the “liver tonic.” More studies are needed to show actual evidence of milk thistle’s effects on problems such as gallbladder disease, liver disease, and more. (Studies)
The traditional uses of milk thistle surround liver and gallbladder issues. Natural treatments, including milk thistle, treat cirrhosis, jaundice, hepatitis, and gallbladder disorders.
Milk Thistle Benefits
- Stimulates bone mineralization and reduces osteoporosis
- Reduces symptoms caused by cancer treatments
- Boost breast milk production
- Decreases acne
- Lowers blood sugar levels
Growing & Using Milk Thistle
- Growing Milk Thistle in Your Garden
- Milk Thistle Liver Tonic
- Making Milk Thistle Extract
- How to Make Milk Thistle Tea
Mint (Mentha sp.)
There are dozens of different mint species to grow in your garden, from spearmint to apple mint and everything in between. All mint types are fast-growing, spreading plants that need to be developed in containers or areas in your garden bed that you don’t mind losing to mint plants. Plant your mint after the final frost in your area in an area with well-draining soil and full to partial sunlight.
Studies reviewing peppermint, when consumed as an herbal tea or essential oil, show that this medicinal plant has antimicrobial and antiviral properties, and it’s used topically as a pain reliever. It’s also a common ingredient in headache salves, where it’s applied to the temples.
It’s an effective treatment to relax gastrointestinal problems and respiratory tract issues. Some trials completed show that peppermint oil might be useful against irritable bowel syndrome. (Studies)
The most common use of mint is for nausea and stomach aches, and mint tea is often recommended for treating morning sickness.
- Relieves indigestion and an upset stomach
- Improves brain function and concentration
- Topical antimicrobial and pain reliever
- Improves cold symptoms, eliminating congestion
Growing & Using Mint
- How to Grow Mint in Your Garden
- Making Fresh Mint Tea
- Homemade Mint Extract Recipe
- How to Make Peppermint Tincture
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
Motherwort is a perennial herb that is most often found in the wild near streams and rivers. This herb is perfect for ornamental landscapes because it reaches up to four feet tall and blooms from mid to late summer. Ours quickly grew to 6 feet tall by 4 feet wide in its second year, and it’s completely covered by pollinators all summer long. Be sure to give this maintenance-free perennial lits of space to spread!
Studies confirm that motherwort contains a range of compounds, including flavonoids that prove some of this perennial herb’s traditional uses. These trials confirm that motherwort has antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic activity. (Studies)
All parts of the Motherwort plant that are above the ground are safe to use to make medicine. Motherwort is most commonly used for heart conditions, such as heart failure, irregular heartbeats, and anxiety-induced heart symptoms.
- Easing intestinal gas
- Used for the absence of menstrual periods
- Helps with an overactive thyroid
- Treats itchiness and shingles
Growing & Using Motherwort
- Growing Motherwort in Your Garden
- Basic Herbal Preparation with Motherwort
- Making Motherwort Tincture
- Motherwort and Lemon Balm Brew
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Mugwort was one of the most common medicinal plants used during the Middle Ages; it was believed to have protective powers. It’s a large, herbaceous plant that belongs to the daisy family with sturdy, woody roots. Mugwort needs full sunlight and slightly moist soil that drains well. It tolerates partial shade but not soggy, wet soil. It’s common to see it growing along roadsides throughout the US.
Studies show that mugwort has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties. Mugwort has a range of biological activities due to different compounds that make it fantastic as a medicinal plant. More studies are needed to understand the effects of mugwort fully. (Studies)
Mugwort has a range of possible uses. One of the most popular reasons to use mugwort as a medicinal plant is to promote regular menstrual cycles. It’s also said to calm anxious nerves.
- Increases urine output
- Repels insects
- Eases digestive tract problems, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation
- Treats headaches
- Helps with fatigue and other sleep problems
Growing & Using Mugwort
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Mullein is mostly considered a wild herb nowadays, but it was used for centuries as a medicinal plant. It is an easy to grow herb that has colorful flowers. There are hundreds of species; some are biennials, and some are perennials. Mullein grows well from seeds and cuttings; start seeds indoors in the early spring. Be sure to plant in full sunlight.
Studies investigated the medicinal uses of mullein, which has been used to treat inflammatory disease, asthma, coughing, headaches, and more. More studies support these folk medicines through increasing trials. (Studies)
The most common way to use mullein as an herbal remedy is to treat ear infections. You can buy mullein drops or make them at home if you grow mullein. It’s believed to be an easy treatment that kicks ear infections fast.
- Reduces coughing and congestion
- Treats bronchitis
- Eases constipation
- Helps with sleeping problems
- Treats migraine and pain from inflammation
Growing & Using Mullein
- Growing Mullein at Home
- Making Mullein Tea
- Earache Oil with Mullein Flowers
- How to Make Mullein Tincture
Nettle, Stinging (Urtica dioica)
Have you ever pulled weeds and yanked out something that caused your hand to go numb and tingle? That is stinging nettle! While it often grows like a wild weed, stinging nettle can be grown purposefully for its medicinal uses. Stinging nettle is a hardy plant that grows in poor soil from full sunlight to partial shade, so long as it has moist soil.
Studies show that all parts of the stinging nettle plant have medicinal benefits, including antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. The most common way to use this medicinal plant is as a diuretic and treat painful muscles and joints. (Studies)
One of the best ways to use stinging nettle is to reduce inflammation throughout the body. It helps to reduce inflammatory hormones throughout your body, making it useful if you have inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis.
Stinging Nettle Benefits
- Treats UTIs and kidney stones
- Reduces an enlarged prostate
- Relieves sore and inflamed muscles
- Eases constipation
Growing & Using Stinging Nettles
- Growing Stinging Nettles in Your Herb Garden
- Stinging Nettle Tea Recipe
- Nettle Salve for Arthritis and Joint Pain
- Foraging Stinging Nettles
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Most people associate oregano as a culinary herb that you might use in Italian dishes, but this herb also is a medicinal plant. Oregano needs to be planted in the spring after the final frost passes. Plant this herb in a sunny spot with well-draining soil. The only time oregano should have partial shade is if you live in a warm climate.
Studies show that oregano has antibacterial properties when used in the essential oil form. It’s effective against certain bacterial strains, such as E. coil and 20 other strains. Evidence shows that essential oregano oil might be an effective alternative antibacterial treatment for antibiotic-resistant strains. (Studies)
One of the best ways to use oregano is by using oregano oil. It’s a natural antibiotic and antifungal agent. It can be applied, diluted, to minor cuts and injuries to help prevent infection. Oregano oil also can be used on fungal rashes and infections.
- An effective antibiotic against common bacteria
- Treats yeast infections
- Protects against leaky gut syndrome
- Reduces inflammation
- Effectively reduces pain and discomfort
Growing & Using Oregano
- How to Grow Oregano in Your Garden
- Herbal Oregano Tea
- How to Make Oil of Oregano
- How to Make Oregano Tincture
Passionflower (Passiflora sp.)
Over 500 species of passion flowers grow throughout the world, both as annuals and perennials. All produce exotic flowers that only stay open for one to two days. Those living in USDA zones 5-11 can enjoy these tropical flowers, so long as you provide full sunlight and rich, moist soil. Growing up in California, I’d pick exotic-looking passion flowers growing along fences as I walked to and from school.
Studies looked at how passionflower extract might help sleep, and the results indicated that it induced a significant increase in total sleep time. Taking passionflower extract before going to sleep decreases periods of wakefulness and fewer periods in rapid eye movement. (Studies)
Passionflowers are most commonly used as a way to reduce anxiety and depression. It works well to reduce anxiety before a surgical or dental procedure, plus it’s safe and has little to no side effects. Some herbalists believe that it also helps with insomnia, stress, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Passion Flower Benefits
- Relieves anxiety symptoms
- Improves short term memory
- Helps improve the quality of sleep
- Reduces menopausal symptoms, such as anger, headaches, and depression
- Reduces inflammation
Growing & Using Passion Flower
- Growing Passion Flowers
- How to Make Passion Flower Tincture
- 5 Benefits of Passion Flowers and How to Use It
- Passion Flower Tea Recipe
Pine Tree (Pinus sp.)
Pine trees are often grown for timber or as windbreaks, and few people realize they’re both edible and medicinal. The great thing about growing pine trees is that they need little to no care once established. Plant your new pine tree in an area with plenty of sunlight and rich, well-drained soil.
There are so many ways to use pine as a medicinal herb. The sprouts, needles, and bark are used in herbal remedies. One of the best things to try is to make homemade pine cough syrup that reduces respiratory tract swelling, coughing, and bronchitis.
Pine needle tea has long been used as a treatment for scurvy, as the needles contain vitamin C.
Pine resin salve is used topically for its antimicrobial properties, as well as for pain relief.
Studies in rats found that pine extract has antidepressant activity, but further studies are needed to entirely understand how this works and whether it’d also work in humans. (Studies)
Pine Tree Benefits
- Reduces fevers
- Takes care of stuffy noses
- Reduces upper and lower respiratory tract inflammation
- Eliminates infections
- Heals muscle pain and nerve pain
Growing & Using Pine Tree
- Growing Pine Trees
- Pine Needle Cough Syrup
- Pine Needle Tea
- Pine Resin Salve
- Pine Bark Bread
- How to eat a pine tree (Edible & Medicinal properties)
Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea)
Pineapple weed is one of the first weeds that new foragers find. It grows nearly anywhere, including areas that no plants should grow…like cracks in the sidewalk or asphalt. It’s an edible, medicinal plant that looks like wild chamomile. The best way to identify pineapple weed is by its lacy foliage and little yellow flowers.
Studies show that pineapple weed contains many of the same compounds and chemicals as German chamomile. The trials found nine compounds shared, which means this invasive plant also has some of the same calming and relaxing properties as chamomile. (Studies)
Pineapple weed looks like chamomile, and it can be used in the place of chamomile in different herbal teas. Since it has similar effects, drinking pineapple weed tea helps to relax you and reduce anxiety. It also enables you to sleep and battle back insomnia.
- Helps you relax and promotes healthy sleep, reducing insomnia.
- Heals digestive problems
- Treats common colds
- Acts as a mild pain reliever
Growing & Using Pineapple Weeds
Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
Don’t confuse the herb plantain with the banana-looking fruits. Plantain the herb is a different plant with medicinal properties. It’s a perennial plant that grows anywhere and is typically considered to be a weed. Growing it requires little effort, so long as you plant plantain in full sunlight and any soil, in many of the same places you’d find dandelions.
One study indicated that plantain has wound healing properties that increase collagen production. At the same time, plantain weed reduces inflammation while blocking microbial growth and reducing pain. (study)
It’s most commonly used externally to treat wounds, and many herbalists call it nature’s band-aid.
Plantain is also used internally. The traditional way to use plantain herb is to treat coughs and chest congestion, along with nausea, heartburn, and constipation. Try drinking a cup of plantain tea to help reduce congestion and stuffy noses.
- Treats diarrhea and constipation
- Heals bites, cuts, and scrapes
- Treats poison ivy
- Decreases inflammation while accelerating wound healing
Growing & Using Plantain
- Growing Plantain Herb in Your Garden
- 10 Things to Make with Plantain
- Plantain Herb Benefits, Recipes & How to Identify
- Plantain Salve
Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)
Growing Queen Anne’s Lace (also known as wild carrot) adds a bit of classic beauty to your garden. It’s a timeless biennial with a vintage feel, producing wide, lacey, clustered flowers and ferny green foliage. The plant reaches up to six feet tall when grown in full sunlight and well-draining soil. It’s easiest to grow these flowers from seeds; simply spread the seeds over the ground, and this low maintenance plant will grow on its own.
Few studies look at the real benefits of Queen Anne’s lace. We know that it’s likely to have antiseptic properties because of its high volatile oil content. During the American Civil War, it’s believed that this plant was used to treat soldier’s wounds. One study supports this plant’s use in herbal remedies, showing that it has treated coughs, diarrhea, malaria, and an antiseptic agent. (Study)
Historically, queen Anne’s lace seeds were used as a contraceptive when taken at the right time of the month, and it’s best avoided altogether if you’re pregnant (or trying to become pregnant).
The best way to prepare Queen Anne’s lace is in water-based preparations, such as teas and infusions. Hot water is most effective at extracting the compounds needed to enjoy the benefits of this medicinal plant. The flowers, leaves, and roots all have medicinal properties.
Be careful, Queen Anne’s lace looks quite a bit like poison hemlock, which is deadly in very small amounts.
Queen Anne’s Lace Benefits
- Calms muscle cramping
- Helps get rid of gassiness
- Increases urine output and helps to flush toxins out of the body
- Stimulates the circulatory system throughout the body
- Stimulates the thyroid, adrenal glands, and sex hormone production
Growing & Using Queen Anne’s Lace
- Growing Queen Anne’s Lace in Your Garden
- Traditional Uses of Queen Anne’s Lace
- Queen Anne’s Lace Tea
- Wildcrafted Queen Anne’s Lace Soda with Peaches
Rose (Rosa sp.)
Roses are one of the most iconic flowers that you can grow in your garden, symbolizing love and romance. Growing roses is possible if you have a sunny location in your garden with well-draining soil. Roses require regular fertilization, water, and yearly pruning for proper growth. It’s worth it!
While more studies are needed, current clinical trials proved that rose oil has physiological and psychological relaxing, analgesic, and anti-anxiety effects. That means rose oil can be used to help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress while also encouraging your body to relax. (Studies)
Roses are most often used for skin conditions, in particular issues that cause inflammation of the skin. Rosewater or rose oil helps to soothe skin irritation, eczema, or rosacea. At the same time, roses help to improve your complexion and reduce skin redness.
Rose hips (or the fruits of rose bushes) are edible, and I think they’re delicious right out in the garden. They’re usually dried and added to herbal immunity tea blends because of their high vitamin C content.
Since they’re edible flowers, they’re also used in the kitchen in all manner of delicious rose recipes.
- Soothes sore throats
- Prevents and treats infections
- Treats pink eye cases
- Helps wounds heal faster while fighting off infections
- Reduces depression and anxiety
Growing & Using Roses
- How to Grow Roses at Home
- Making Homemade Rose Oil
- Rose Milk Tea Recipe
- How to Make Homemade Rose Water
- Homemade Rose Cordial
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Chances are you recognize rosemary as a culinary herb that you might use in your chicken dishes, but it’s more than that. It’s a powerhouse medicinal herb that grows well in containers and herb gardens. Most rosemary varieties grow best in well-drained, loamy soil in an area that receives at least six hours of sun each day.
Studies support many of the traditional uses of rosemary. New clinical trials show that rosemary contains compounds that might combat Alzheimer’s disease. While more tests are needed, this herb helps reduce brain inflammation and different pathologies. (Studies)
Rosemary is known to help reduce stress and anxiety. Drinking rosemary tea or inhaling rosemary essential oil aroma helps boost your mood while decreasing anxiety and improving your memory. It can help to stimulate brain activity as well!
Smelling rosemary is said to relieve nausea and seasickness, and it worked wonders for me while I was pregnant with my first child.
- Lowers high blood sugar levels
- Protects the health of your brain, potentially reducing neurodegenerative diseases.
- Protects vision and eye health
Growing & Using Rosemary
- How to Grow Rosemary in Your Garden
- How to Make Rosemary Tea
- Making Rosemary Tinctures
- Rosemary Infused Olive Oil
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Sage is a fantastic culinary herb that works well or meat and bean dishes, as well as Thanksgiving stuffing. It also contains various medicinal benefits that mean it does double duty. Sage is a hardy perennial herb with greyish-green leaves and spikes of flowers in multiple colors. It must be planted in full sunlight and well-drained soil for optimal growth.
Studies show that sage is a natural, effective treatment for a range of ailments. This herb has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antitumor properties. It’s proven to help treat minor health problems as well as some complicated problems, like diabetes. (Studies)
One of the effective ways to use sage is to ease menopausal symptoms. The natural decline in estrogen leads to a range of symptoms that are far from pleasant, such as hot flashes, excessive sweating, and irritability. Sage has estrogen-like properties that make it possible to ease these uncomfortable symptoms.
- Reduces blood sugar levels
- Improves brain function
- Alleviates diarrhea
- Supports bone health
- Combats skin aging
Growing & Using Sage
- Growing Sage in Your Herb Garden
- How to Make Sage Tea
- Making a Sage Tincture
- 5 Uses for Sage Herb and How to Make a Sage Oxymel
Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
St. John’s Wort is a small shrub with cheery, yellow flowers that bloom from midsummer until fall until berries appear. This medicinal plant grows in USDA zones 3-10, preferring shaded locations. It’s not particular about soil type; it grows in sand, clay, rocky soil, and other soil types. That makes it perfect for beginner gardeners.
Studies show that St. John’s wort is just as effective as some prescription anti-depression medication. While more studies are needed, it’s proven to affect those suffering from depression and anxiety. (Studies)
Topically, it’s also used as an oil or salve for nerve complaints, and my dad says St. Johns Wort really helps with neuropathy.
The most common use of St. John’s wort is a natural depression treatment. Many people, myself included, have used this medicinal plant to help decrease anxiety and improve moods. It’s a practical choice for some people, taken in either a capsule or tea form.
Saint John’s Wort Benefits
- Treats depression and sexual affective disorder
- Reduces anxiety and menopause-related symptoms
- Treats PMS symptoms
- Might reduce viral infections
- Help people stop smoking
Growing & Using Saint John’s Wort
- St. Johns Wort Identification and Uses
- How to Grow Saint John’s Wort in Your Garden
- Simple St. John’s Wort Oil
- St. John’s Wort Oil & Salve for Tired Muscles
- St. John’s Wort Tea Recipe
Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)
Sea buckthorn is a hardy perennial shrub that produces large amounts of delicious berries. It wasn’t as popular until recently when permaculture gardeners found out this is also a nitrogen-fixing plant and valuable for gardeners. It’s best to propagate sea berries from cuttings taken from the plants, which helps determine whether the plant is female or male. You need both.
Studies show that sea buckthorn is full of fatty acids, and evidence shows that it can be used for skin and mucous disorders, such as wounds and infections. Due to its diversity of fatty acids and composition, it’s believed that this fruit has many different benefits. (studies)
Sea buckthorn shrubs are best known for their edible berries. They can be used to make jam or eaten fresh, but they’re not popular for fresh eating because these fruits are tart. The berries are rich in omega-3 fatty acids along with amino acids and antioxidants.
Sea Buckthorn Benefit
- Promotes heart health
- May protect against diabetes
- Helps your wounds heal more quickly
- Reduces inflammation
- Protects your skin against sun damage
Growing & Using Sea Buckthorn
Skullcap (Scutellaria sp.)
There are two different types of skullcap herb: Chinese and American. American skullcap is native to North America. The herb produces bluish-violet flowers that bloom from May and September. It prefers to grow in full sunlight to partial shade and well-draining soil. Planting skullcap requires stratification for at least one week before sowing.
Studies look at the different uses of skullcap herbs as medicinal plants. Traditional uses say that skullcap works for diarrhea, dysentery, hemorrhaging, inflammation, and respiratory infections. It’s believed that the flavones inside of the herb create antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, and anticonvulsant properties. (studies)
Skullcap contains scutellarin, which is a flavonoid compound known to be a sedative with antispasmodic effects. It’s most commonly used as a relaxant to treat anxiety, nervous problems, and convulsions. It has a long history of being used as a medicinal plant, and it’s still used in commercially available tinctures to promote sleep.
Controversy surrounds it because it was once believed to be a treatment for rabies. Though it doesn’t actually work against rabies, and nothing does short of emergency medical attention, it still goes by the common name “mad dog skullcap.”
- Treats insomnia and increases the quality of sleep
- Decreases anxiety
- Reduces fevers
- Treats allergies
- Stops skin infections and inflammation
Growing & Using Skullcap
Slippery Elm (Ulmus Rubra)
Slippery elm is a tall tree that lives up to 200 years, but it’s being devastated by elm diseases these days, so it’s important to harvest responsibly (if at all).
The inner bark from this tree contains mucilage, a slick and slippery substance when mixed with water. The most common use for slippery elm is to relieve coughs and sore throats. The bark also is said to treat gastrointestinal disorders including constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. (Studies)
It’s believed that slippery elm has anti-inflammatory properties and demulcent effects.
Slippery Elm Benefits
- Treats coughs and bronchitis
- Reduces diarrhea
- Relieves irritable bowel syndrome
- Treats skin abscesses and ulcers
Growing & Using Slippery Elm
- Growing Slippery Elm Trees
- Slippery Elm Tea Recipe
- 8 Slippery Elm Bark Benefits
- Harvesting & Using Slippery Elm
Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)
Staghorn sumac is a native tree to the eastern United States that produces yellow-green flowers in the summer and bright, red berries in the fall. The shrubs reach up to 25 feet tall and 30 feet wide. Staghorn sumac trees grow in poor or average soil, so long as it has proper drainage, and the shrubs need full sunlight or partial shade.
Parts of Staghorn Sumac have been used for hundreds of years in different herbal remedies. Studies looked at this tree as being a source of natural antioxidants. The results showed that Staghorn Sumac is a potent antioxidant that protects humans against DNA damage and suggests lowering blood pressure. (Studies)
The most common way to use this tree is to help with runny secretions from head colds and reduce coughing. Drinking Staghorn Sumac tea is supposed to help to relieve uncomfortable symptoms associated with colds and congestion.
Staghorn Sumac Benefits
- Reduces runny noses and chest congestion
- Strengthens the kidneys
- Helps to manage blood sugar levels
- Relieves muscle pain
Growing & Using Staghorn Sumac
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Most people recognize tea tree as an essential oil typically used for cleaning. Melaleuca is an evergreen shrub that’s native to Australia. If you live in zones 9-11, it’s possible to grow this plant outdoors, but everyone else can grow tea tree indoors.
Studies support the long-held belief that tea tree oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. More evidence is needed to show how it works against bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. However, we know that tea tree oil effectively reduces inflammation and treats harmful microbes. (Studies)
Most herbalists use tea tree oil as an antibacterial agent to treat acne, lice, fungal infections, athlete’s foot, and insect bites. It should be used topically.
Tea tree oil shampoo also helps to treat dandruff.
Tea Tree Benefits
- Treats acne and dandruff
- Combats nail fungus
- Natural insect repellent
- Cleans minor cuts and scrapes
Growing & Using Tea Tree
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme is another popular culinary herb with a strong scent and flavor. There are ornamental and culinary thyme varieties to grow, but all are low-growing hardy perennials with small leaves and woody stems. Thyme grows well in full sunlight because it thrives in heat. Make sure the soil drains well.
Studies look at thyme and thymol, which is one of the significant constituents of thyme essential oil. It’s believed that this compound has antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic properties. (Studies)
Time is sometimes used in over-the-counter acne medication. Thyme has antibacterial properties and compounds that help to fight off acne, and using thyme salve or thyme tincture are both used topically for that purpose.
Natural disinfectants often use thymol, and it’s the main active ingredient in popular brands of antibacterial surface wipes.
My favorite way to use thyme is as a cough and congestion remedy. One cup of thyme tea and I’m clear as a bell.
- Lowers your blood pressure
- Alleviates coughing and congestion
- Boosts your immune system
- Disinfects your home
- Boosts your mood
Growing & Using Thyme
Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)
Tulsi is known as holy basil or sacred basil, and it’s a perennial tropical plant that can be grown anywhere regardless of your climate. Gardeners should start tulsi seeds indoors six to 12 weeks before the final frost date. It needs warm temperatures to germinate, so a heat mat is a good option.
Studies support many of the reported uses of tulsi on humans. The evidence shows that tulsi is a safe herbal remedy that might regulate glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol. (Studies)
All parts of the holy basil plant contain adaptogen, a natural substance that helps your body adapt to stress while encouraging mental balance. Decreasing stress and anxiety are two of the best ways to use tulsi.
- Treats minor wounds and promotes healing
- Kills off fungal infections
- Works against mouth ulcers and acne
- Lowers your blood sugar
- Eases anxiety and stress
- Reduces inflammation
Growing & Using Tulsi
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric is a perennial herb related to ginger, and you plant pieces of the rhizomes, which turn into above-ground foliage. This herb requires eight to ten months without frost from planting to harvesting. Outside the tropics, turmeric is usually grown indoors as a houseplant, and we always have a few growing indoors at our house.
Studies show that turmeric contains curcumin, known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s believed that curcumin helps with arthritis, anxiety, exercise-induced inflammation, and muscle soreness. Turmeric is proven to help people with a range of health conditions. (Studies)
The best way to use turmeric as a medicinal plant is as a natural anti-inflammatory compound, usually taken internally. It also helps to heal wounds, so spread it over minor cuts and scrapes. Be aware that it will dye your skin yellow when used topically.
- Reduces inflammation throughout your body
- Lowers your risk of heart disease
- Prevents and treats some cancer
- Helps to Alzheimer’s disease
- Treats depression
Growing & Using Turmeric
- How to Grow Turmeric in Containers
- Warming Turmeric and Cayenne Pain-Relief Balm
- Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Tea Recipe – Golden Milk
- Making Turmeric Tincture
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian is a powerful herb that has potent medicinal qualities, and it’s found in both flower gardens and in the wild. The herb has pale pink or white flowers with long leaves, but the roots are the plant’s therapeutic part. This vigorous grower will self sow regularly, and it’s tricky to keep it contained. Needless to say, it’s very easy to grow.
Studies suggest that valerian improves sleep quality. The evidence shows that patients taking valerian had an 80% chance of improving their sleep than those not taking valerian. (Studies)
Valerian root is best known as a remedy for insomnia. It’s known for improving sleep or the quality of sleep. This medicinal plant is also known to be a safe alternative to prescription anxiety drugs.
I keep a bottle of valerian tincture on hand for sleepless nights, and it’s helped me quite a few times.
- Treats stress, insomnia, and anxiety
- Heals the nervous system and digestive system
- Natural sedative and pain-reliever
- Eases headaches
- Relaxes anxious and restless pets
- Minimizes hot flashes
Growing & Using Valerian
- Foraging Valerian for Better Sleep
- Growing Valerian in the Garden
- How to Make Valerian Tincture
- Making Valerian Root Tea
Veronica (Veronica officinalis)
Veronica, often called speedwell, is an easy-to-grow perennial that displays tall spikes of purple, blue, pink, or white petals. The plant reaches one to three feet tall, blooming from spring to fall. Veronica grows well in moderately fertile, well-draining soil in full sunlight. Make sure to mix compost into the soil before planting.
Studies prove that veronica contains over one hundred phytochemicals. Evidence from clinical trials shows that veronica may be used as a treatment for inflammatory disorders. This medicinal plant has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties. It also may be used as an effective natural food preservative. (Studies)
Veronica has many benefits. Try gargling to treat sore throats and mouth sores. Apply veronica poultice or salves on the skin to heal wounds, skin problems, irritation, and itchiness. This plant also helps to heal stomach and intestinal wounds.
- Treats arthritis, muscle, and joint pain
- Takes care of respiratory problems
- Eases sore throat
- Reduces muscle and joint pain
- Increases your appetite
Growing & Using Veronica
Violets (Viola sp.)
Wild violets cover your yard in purple-blue flowers in the spring, which self-seed each year. Growing violets purposefully is easy; they work well as ground cover and grow well in containers. Gardeners plant violets anytime throughout spring and fall, enjoying light shade but thriving in sunny locations. Violets prefer moist and well-draining soil.
Studies show that violets have antifungal and antibacterial properties that are useful in treating different microorganisms. Violets contain cyclotides, which create a defense system that finds specific targets. It accesses other layers of tissues; there are many possibilities. (studies)
The leaves and flowers are edible and medicinal, but some experts say that the yellow violets aren’t edible. Most herbalists make infusions, syrups, poultice, and salves out of violets. It’s most commonly used as a treatment for respiratory problems, taken as a tea or syrup. Traditionally, violets have been used as a pulmonary remedy for a dry cough, as well as bronchitis and whooping cough.
- Treats coughs, bronchitis, whooping cough, and other respiratory problems.
- Reduces swollen lymph nodes
- Relieves hemorrhoids and varicose veins
- Eases dry, chafed, or cracked skin
- Treats insect bites and eczema
Growing & Using Violets
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)
Watercress is a perennial plant best known for its peppery leaves and stems, typically added to salads for a burst of flavor. The plant grows well from seeds, transplants, or cuttings, so long as you have a sunny location and consistently moist soil. Watercress grows well in containers or garden beds.
The best part of watercress as a medicinal plant is that it’s packed full of antioxidants that protect cell damage caused by free radicals that cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress includes illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Including watercress in your diet helps to lower your risk of these health problems.
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces the risk of bone fracture
- Lower’s glucose levels and increases insulin sensitivity
- Protects eye health and lowers the risk of developing cataracts
Growing & Using Watercress
Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa)
Wild lettuce is a spring-planted annual that overwinters in some areas as a biennial. This wild plant is the most cold-hardy variety of lettuce, but it turns bitter and tough. It goes well in spring or fall in either garden beds or containers. Keep the soil warm to encourage faster germination.
Few studies focus on the medicinal benefits of wild lettuce. One study found that wild lettuce contains a compound called lactucin, which has a sedative effect in low doses. In larger amounts, lactucin also helps to relieve pain as well. (Studies)
The most common way to use wild lettuce is as a pain reliever while relaxing respiratory problems like asthma and whooping cough. It has sedative effects that are said to treat anxiety and hyperactivity. It also treats skin conditions and disinfects wounds.
Wild Lettuce Benefits
- Treats whooping cough and asthma
- Helps with insomnia and restlessness
- Eases painful menstrual periods
- Treats urinary tract problems
Growing & Using Wild Lettuce
Willow (Salix sp.)
Over 300 willow species exist; each has its features, ranging in different shapes and sizes. Willows grow best in moist, well-draining soil in full sunlight. Some varieties prefer to grow in damp soil near water, such as beside a stream, but don’t plant them near a house because the root systems are invasive.
Studies show that willow contains an active ingredient called salicin, which has been used for years as a natural pain reliever. The evidence gathered confirms why willow has a long history as a way to reduce pain. The chemistry behind willows led to the discovery of aspirin. (Studies)
The best way to use willow is to treat pain, whether you have lower back pain or lasting pain from arthritis. It treats pain similar to aspirin, so if you want a way to stop taking pain medication, consider using one of the several forms of willow bark, such as capsules. Willow also relieves menstrual cramps and reduces fevers.
- Relieves menstrual cramps
- Reduces fevers
- Reduces inflammation and pain from arthritis and back pain
- Combats joint pain
Growing & Using Willow
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
Wintergreen is a small plant with mint-scented leaves and edible berries that is native to North America. This plant grows in shady or partially sunny areas, spreading out like a green foliage mat with red berries. Wintergreen prefers to grow in moist, acidic soils; it won’t grow in hot, humid conditions.
Studies show that wintergreen oil contains a natural ingredient called methyl salicylate, closely related to aspirin. When applied to the skin, wintergreen oil has analgesic properties that make it a natural pain reliever. It’s an option for those with backaches or discomfort from arthritis. (Studies)
Wintergreen is most often used to treat pain, such as headaches, nerve pain like sciatica, arthritis, and menstrual cramps. It’s not uncommon to find creams and topical treatments that use wintergreen as an active ingredient to treat achy joints, sore muscles, and lower back pain.
Though wintergreen has been used as a food for many generations, modern science is beginning to question the safety of wintergreen oil, which is extracted from the plant. High doses can cause severe side effects in adults, so use in moderation.
- Relieves headaches
- Eases arthritis, nerve pain, menstrual cramps
- Reduces inflammation and fevers
- Relieves stomach aches and gassiness
- Treats lung conditions, like asthma
Growing & Using Wintergreen
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Witch hazel is a small tree that produces fragrant yellow blooms, often found in woody areas. The shrubs often reach up to 30 feet tall and are grown for their beautiful winter color and fragrance. Witch hazel shrubs prefer growing in moist soil in partial shade or full sunlight.
Many studies focus on the different witch hazel effects, finding that it has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anticancer, and other properties. One research shows that witch hazel ointment treats minor skin irritations. That’s why stores sell various products using witch hazel to treat skin problems and irritation. (Studies)
Witch hazel has many practical uses, including treating insect bites, sunburn, hemorrhoids, and irritated skin. The witch hazel compounds help reduce inflammation that treats skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, or psoriasis. Witch hazel also helps to reduce the swelling and inflammation of hemorrhoids.
Witch Hazel Benefits
- Reduces skin redness
- Provides relief for irritated and sensitive skin
- Reduces the itchiness, redness, pain, and swelling of hemorrhoids
- Treats acne
- Soothes sore throat
Growing & Using Witch Hazel
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow is a plant native to North America that grows nearly anywhere. It’s a hardy, versatile perennial with flower heads full of tightly-packed flowers with ferny foliage. The flowers range from yellow, red, pink, white, or any shade. Yarrow grows best in full sunlight for compact growth; partial sunlight results in leggy stems.
Studies show that yarrow contains high levels of flavonoids that help it reduce oxidative stress and hypoglycemic activity. The plant has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic properties, which means yarrow has dozens of different potential uses. (Studies)
Yarrow has been used for thousands of years, dating back to Achilles in Greek mythology when it was used to treat soldiers’ wounds. Treating wounds is the most common way to use yarrow as ointments or poultices. Since this medicinal plant has anti-inflammatory properties, it aids in wound healing.
- Heals wounds
- Reduces inflammation
- Treats digestive issues like ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, bloating, and constipation
- Alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Reduce symptoms of brain disorders, such as epilepsy or Alzheimer’s
Growing & Using Yarrow
- Growing Yarrow in Your Garden
- Identifying and Using Yarrow
- 50+ Ways to Use Yarrow
- How to Make Yarrow Salve
- Yarrow Tea Recipe & How to Use Yarrow
Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)
Yellow dock is a perennial herb often considered a weed that grows wild throughout North America. It’s most commonly found in fields and disturbed areas, such as pastures. Since yellow dock is invasive, this plant spreads quickly. It prefers moist soil and either full sunlight or partial shade.
There aren’t too many studies that focus on yellow dock. Traditional herbalists use this herb to maintain and treat digestive health. It’s believed that yellow dock contains oxalic acid that eases abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. (Studies)
Yellow dock has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant, using the leaves and roots to create herbal remedies. The most common uses for this herb is to improve digestion, remove toxins, and relieve constipation. This herb is believed to help liver and skin problems, along with inflamed nasal passages and sinuses.
Yellow Dock Benefits
- Eases poor digestion problems
- Treats arthritis and sore muscles
- Handles fungal infections and other skin conditions
- Acts as a mild laxative effect
Growing & Using Yellow Dock
As a final reminder, please don’t try any new remedies, herbal or otherwise, without consulting a doctor or clinical herbalist. Many of the remedies discussed here can have side effects, and/or interact with other medication. Some also have toxic look-alikes, so be 100% sure of your identification if you hope to harvest from the wild.
Finally, remember that I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on the internet. This is designed to pique your curiosity and hopefully engage you in all the potential medicinal benefits of the plants around you. Do not take it as an attempt to diagnose or treat any illness, and always double-check with multiple sources rather than just taking my word for it.
Looking for more herbal guides? Read on…