To start, I looked for an appropriate forum for this subject and couldn't find a perfect one, so I'm putting it here in Organics, because that's the best way to grow your own Anything. (Maybe it is a subject that needs it's own sub-forum?)
2nd - standard disclaimer - always check with your licensed medical provider before starting a new substance -
And now the meat of it!
I have long been a student of what is often thought of as "alternative" medicine; finding the herbs, roots, flowers, barks and such that have been the basis for our current form of (Big Pharma) medicine. Until recently I have stuck to a few safe choices of herbs to cover what I have typically run into as a mom. Chamomile is great to settle nerves and an upset tummy. It also is soothing when consumed as a hot tea with milk and honey (probably the warm milk) to help one settle for sleep!
Spearmint is my preferred mint, but peppermint is also among my homegrown remedies for upset stomach.
I don't grow my own raspberry leaves, but I've used plenty in various teas, looking for relief from girl pains! Red Raspberry leaves are also rich in potassium, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.
Calendula flowers I do grow, and harvest, and dry. I use them in my all natural herbal ointment that can be used for just about anything, and just about everywhere you have skin!! (I find that needing to add to the label to avoid eating it must mean that there are more dumb/stoopid people out there than ever before!) I also use these flowers in teas just as a general tonic!
I think most folks who can keep aloe vera and are interested in natural options for medicines, do keep aloe growing somewhere nearby. I have 2 kinds; one is the "safer" variety that has little if any thorny parts. But I also have many plants of another, much more thorny variety. These are a remnant of my mother's yard, and they grow like weeds, sending pups off rapidly. In a single calendar year, after planting just 3, I had a whole patch of them. They work just as well as the non-thorny variety!
Of course I also gravitate towards garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cilantro. But while I've grown garlic and cilantro successfully, the ginger and turmeric were more difficult for me. I'm still not sure what the trouble was, how to fix it. They started growng, and I was excited to see them begin to sprout up. Then they just failed. I suppose it could be that I live in a very hot summer part of the United States (inland southern california).
I used to have a fennel plant that my children would nibble the seeds every year. I gathered as many as I could when they were ripe. I've added crushed fennel seeds to a tea as well, giving it a bit of black licorice flavor. Fennel helps with nausea, and can pass through breast milk to help settle a colicky baby, though by the time I was growing my own, there were no breast-feeding babies!
With my upcoming move to a very different environment (West Virginia), I have been researching many other medicinals I hope to grow or wild-craft some home remedies from. I have purchased plenty of comfrey, both leaf and root, and used it in that above-mentioned ointment. I have now ordered roots for that property and have had my daughter get them planted ahead of my arrival! They are looking good. I will divide them after I get there and put some just about everywhere for all the possible uses that comfrey is well known for, not just the medicinal qualities, but for critter forage and top-dressing green manure!
I understand there is a ton of Japanese Knotweed there as well, and it has some medicinal uses too! My research says that while not all parts are edible, those that are have a short window of usefulness. Gather young shoots in April and May, while they are still tender enough to eat. Most of it's medicinal properties are related to the Resveratrol content, which it is reported to have a cognitive impact, keeping brain pathways energized. AND it can be eaten by goats with no ill effects.
Elderberry will grow there, and I ordered a pound of them from a mail-order source at the beginning of this outbreak of Covid-19 to make a syrup for us if we should need it. I have ordered seeds sent to that daughter, but she is so busy there hasn't been the time to get them started! If you aren't familiar with Elderberry, it boosts the immune system. Elderberry is antioxidant, antiviral, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.
I look forward to growing hawthorn for the berries that are a heart tonic, and my own witch hazel.
Common Mullein is already growing there, and my daughter didn't know what it was before she cut it down, but did think to use an app to ID the plant. I'm finding it is a good herb to use for respiratory ailments. Sometimes as a tea/infusion of the leaves or flowers, sometimes as a root decoction, and even by smoking the leaves in an ordinary pipe to alleviate asthma!
Once I finally get to my new location in the hills of WV, I hope to greatly expand my experience and repertoire of herbal alternative medicines. I hope to create a minor apothecary available to us, and to educate at least 1 of the 4 grandchildren I will have access to! It's all about passing on the knowledge, right?
“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” —Ronald Reagan
Great topic Cindy,
What I have is too numerous to mention, but I'll give it a try. Houtuynnia COrdata, mushrooms, oregano, thyme, Siberian skullcap, self-heal, stinging nettles, rosemary, Japanese knotweed root for resveratrol, sage, honeysuckle, pomegranate, woad, and several others I can't think of right now.
Anne Miller - Thank you for that redirection. I never would have thought to look in KITCHEN as an appropriate location for the post. I will go check it out.
John Suavecito - Well, that's no fun! I'd much rather read about all the stuff you prefer along with the what it's used for and how to use it!
I didn't cover all my choices, just the most commonly used and a few of the new ones I want to begin growing and using.
My ideal would be a medium-sized skiddable structure where I can dry, store and concoct my brews. I want a good sized cabinet like one imagines seeing in an apothecary, with many drawers and cubbies - much like the old style of card- catalog found in libraries a few decades ago. Along one wall, space for the tools needed to make teas, tinctures, ointments, poultices and the like. Hanging from the ceiling, handfuls of various plants tied in small bundles and drying.
The grandchildren will come find me working in the apothecary and ask what each thing is for, and I will repeat myself a dozen times before one of them remembers what I've said. Or maybe they will find me out in the growing beds, whether they are near the house or down in the hollars.
Well, that's the dream anyway!
“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” —Ronald Reagan
Maybe not the most encouraging way to invite participation, but here goes.
I didn't have three weeks to do a complete post of herbs I'm growing, so I'll just go one herb at a time.
Houtuynnia Cordata-Fish mint. Vietnamese mint relative. Grows very aggressively. I would grow it in a pot or a raised bed, not in the open garden. Very effective anti-viral. Research shown in pub med, on Green Med Info and by Stephen Harrod Buhner. I love that I can make a tea out of the leaves, which tastes pretty good. Then I take the leaves and put them in whatever food I am eating like beans, soup, casserole, etc. I make a glycerite out of it every autumn because winter is when I need the most active anti-virals, and the leaves are all dormant during that part of the year. You could also make a tincture. Available at Strictly Medicinal herbs, which I recommend.
My favorites to grow are the ones I don’t go to any effort at all to grow (only to harvest) because they are weeds around here - mullein as already mentioned, St John’s wort for topical pain relief, valerian root for sleep and for making bitters (which I have not done but would like to). Some native wildflowers I gather for medicinal tea - goldenrod, yarrow, rose, self-heal. These are all plants showing up in my yard and garden, so it’s somewhat the case that I grow them… but I never had to get seeds or anything like that. I wish I had more mint-family plants, but my site is a little dry.
growing food and medicine, keeping chickens, heating with wood, learning the land
follow my plant obsession on instagram @mywildwisconsin
I live in the SW USA, so a lot of my choices have to be desert hardy, or I have to work REALLY hard to grow other ones. So some of my preferred choices are:
Mint - stomach, mild plant to bring fever up a tiny bit and cause it to break
Mexican elderberry - can use the same as elderberry found in the east
lavender - lots of uses.
St. John's wort - depression (heat wave killed my plant of this last. year and I'm pretty bummed about it, honestly.
yarrow, skullcap, chammomile, few others
yerba mansa - dry cough
yerba santa - not so dry cough
globemallow - also for cough
quince trees - leaves for a tea that helps with Diarrhea
cove's cassia (Senna covesii ) - helps with constipation
Guava trees - leaves can be made into a tea that has mast cell stabilizing compounds, which can help with inflammation or histamine issues.
Olive trees - leaves can also be made into a tea that has different mast cell stabilizing compounds, which can help with inflammation or histamine issues.
Sacred Datura - varieties exist all over the country by different names, but I don't know how many have similar properties - contact anesthetic, emergency-only help to slow down anaphylaxis (according to my local herbalist, this would be only used in an 'out in the desert, going into anaphylaxis, and you're about to die because you can't get meds/help' kind of situation, as you try to get back to civilization and medical help), but can also cause blindness, heart problems, and death if overdosed, so has to be used with caution. I use it for pain relieving properties all the time, though.
Camphorweed - great poultice for acute injuries with swelling.
desert tobacco - fresh leaf poultice for minor insect bites/stings, like ants Canyon bursage - anti-histaminic properties in the leaves, use for hay fever and hives.
Wild oregano - infused into honey, good for cough syrup
old man's beard (clematis drummondii) - migraine's - tea out of this is often used for stopping migraines that are just starting (in the beginning stages, like when aura's starting up) but doesn't do much once the headache really kicks in.
Passionflower - calms nerves/helps promote sleep
fig tree sap - good for warts, if applied a few times a day, like one would use an acid or something
garlic - lots of things
onion - lots of things
prickly pear fruit and pads - Inner pads are just as good for sunburn as aloe vera, maybe better. Also both are anti-inflammatory, but better as a consistent daily food to help keep inflammation lower rather than something to help with acute inflammation. May also help lower blood sugar levels - research is ongoing for this.
Mesquite trees - sap can be used to help with pink eye. Leaves can be used as a mild gargle and spit for minor sore throats.
creosote (Larrea tridentata) - Not the same thing as creosote tar. good anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Great salve from this that I use on wounds to help prevent infection. Being studied for uses that might help against skin cancer, even (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3138708/ ).
Oregano is so easy to grow and cheap to buy. I chop it up and put it in beans, or any casserole. It is an effective antiviral, adds antioxidants and flavor. I make a glycerite out of it in the winter.
Some plants will work better as a glycerite, some as a tincture. Some tincture will be best made with alcohol at 45 proof, some will need 90 proof and some will need half alcohol and half water. Some plants will work best as an infusion or a decoction, while an oil maceration or ointment will have its uses. Sometimes a fresh herb poultice will be called for. It all depends.
I grow very few medicinal plants because my back yard, 5 hectares of it is a magnificent herbal pharmacy. I live in south west France and the unspoiled meadow and hedgerows provide agrimony, couch grass, cleavers, red clover, daisies, wild rose, hawthorn, wild lettuce, chick weed, thistles, mallow, poppies, corn flowers, usnea barbata, wood betony, sanicle, burdock, plantain, wild thyme and marjoram, willow, yarrow, dandelion, willow herb, nettles, self heal, St John's wort, mullein, meadow sweet, coltsfoot, linden, elder, sweet chestnut, birch and pine trees, blackberries, and I could go on and on.
I am always in awe of mother nature's bounty. If I had to chose to grow a medicinal plant, I would go for Golden Seal!
Love is the only resource that grows the more you use it.
I don't have to plant hawthorn, the birds do it for me. Great heart medicine, in many traditions worldwide. I chop up the leaves and put them in many foods, all growing season. I have grafted a better tasting and larger berry variety onto my rootstocks. I harvest the berries in November and eat them for much of the winter. So easy!
Japanese Knotweed is horribly invasive in my area. Another way of saying that, a la Stephen Harrod Buhner, is to say that the beneficent universe sees how sick we are and is giving us lots of this medicine!
I dig it up now, during our summer heat. I look for the orange roots. I make sure that I am either killing or damaging the plant. If I leave the unusable parts of the plant out now, they will wither up and die away. I chop up the orange roots and make a glycerite. It is the main commercial source of the supplement "resveratrol", which is why red wine is good for you (it's not the alcohol!). I take the medicine all winter, then chop up another plant the next summer..