Feeling stressed? Have a headache that just won’t go away? How nice would it feel to walk into the garden rather than the pharmacy to treat common ailments?
Traditional plant medicines have been used for centuries to treat everything from fungal infections to insomnia. Many of these herbs are surprisingly easy to grow and care for, whether you have a large yard or just a patio.
Here are eight effective, beautiful and easy-to-care-for medicinal herbs you can grow in your own garden.
Calendula is a beautiful, yellow-orange flower with a long list of medicinal uses. Taken orally as a flower tincture or tea, it can ease digestive upset, muscle spasms and soothe ulcers. More commonly, this plant is made into a topical oil or salve to treat burns, wounds, bug bites, herpes and other skin diseases, frostbite and certain types of tumors.
Calendula is a hardy annual that is easy to grow from seed. It does well in full sun and part shade, and prefers cool weather. Sow early and often for a display of beautiful golds, yellows and oranges throughout the spring. Once established, calendula will happily reseed itself year after year for a continued harvest.
Chamomile, a relative of the common daisy, has long been celebrated for its use as a sleep aid and relaxant. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that work to ease digestive upset and diarrhea. For many people, it can help lower blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and may even fight certain types of cancer.
The dainty flower heads are harvested, dried and used to create teas or tinctures. You can easily grow your own sleepy-time tea by planting German or Roman chamomile seeds. The former is an annual most commonly used for making tea, while the latter is a low-growing perennial. Both plants enjoy full sun to part shade and flower readily throughout the spring and into summer.
Echinacea is well known for its ability to boost the immune system, but this celebrated medicinal herb can do a lot more. Echinacea is known to help lower blood sugar, reduce anxiety and inflammation, improve skin health and reduce wrinkles, and suppress cancer cell growth. All parts of the plant, including the roots, are used to make powders, extracts, tinctures and tea.
Also known as purple coneflower, Echinacea is especially easy to grow. It is a hardy perennial that prefers full sun and is drought and disease-resistant. These bright purple flowers feature plump orange centers and are a favorite of bees and butterflies.
Just about everyone knows the relaxing scent of lavender. Its natural calming properties make it a great choice for reducing anxiety, depression and restlessness, and for promoting a healthy night’s sleep. Lavender can also promote healing, reduce pain, fight fungal infections, and help balance hormone-related emotional swings.
Lavender is most commonly used as a topical oil or in aromatherapy. The dried flowers can also be added to the bath and to tea. To grow your own lavender, choose a variety that is hardy to your climate. All types produce the most flowers when given plenty of light and fertile soil.
This citrusy mint plant provides a ton of health benefits. It has an uplifting flavor and has been shown to improve mood, relieve stress, reduce anxiety and improve sleep. Studies also show lemon balm can improve cognitive function and memory. It has pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory properties that can ease stomach discomfort, menstrual pain and headaches.
There is a lot to love about lemon balm, including how easy it is to grow. It prefers full sun but can tolerate some shade, and it will thrive in any soil that isn’t soggy. You can add dried or fresh lemon balm leaves to your tea, cocktails and salads, or grind it into an aromatic salve.
Rosemary is a powerful plant that has long been used in cooking and as a medicinal herb. It is high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, and can be used to lower blood sugar, support cognitive function and improve mood. It is also antimicrobial and may be helpful in fighting infection, especially those in the gut.
Rosemary is a woody, aromatic plant that thrives in warmer climates. It can grow quite large—up to five feet—but can also be kept in containers if properly pruned. Rosemary prefers full sun and fast-draining soil. The thick leaves are often dried and added as a spice to meals, but they can also be used in teas or to create tinctures and extracts.
Outside of the culinary world, sage is best known for its use in smudging, but this woody bush can do more than cleanse an old house. Sage is especially effective for supporting oral health and fighting throat infections. It can also reduce blood sugar and bad cholesterol, ease estrogen decline in premenopausal women, support cognitive function and fight certain cancers.
The velvety leaves of sage are dried to be used in teas and as a spice in cooking. They can also be used to make tinctures and extracts, while the woody stems are rolled and burned for their purifying qualities. Sage is a hardy perennial that produces beautiful purple, blue, white or pink flowers. This herb is easy to grow as long as you offer it plenty of sun and well-draining soil.
Also known as Johnny-jump-ups, violas are popular as an edible flower used to decorate salads and cocktails. Beyond looking adorable and tasting great, they also feature many health benefits. They have anti-inflammatory properties and are often taken as natural painkillers. When dried and added to tea, they can help with respiratory ailments and sore throats, or they can be worked into salves for treating minor wounds and aches.
These delicate flowers are a great addition to any garden and are especially great for containers. They flourish in bright sun to part shade and will bloom in both the spring and fall in mild climates. These short-lived perennials are easy to care for and come in a wide variety of delightful colors.