Make Way for Healing: 8 great medicinal herbs
Here at the Seed Library, we lovingly refer to the seed farm as Fit Farm, where a day's work is a workout. It's also our way of thinking of the holistic benefits of the farming and gardening lifestyle. Spending a good amount of time outdoors, in the dirt, with a healthy amount of sunshine can be a healing and transformative experience. But it doesn't end with the work itself. Often our farm work chatter turns to the healing properties of the plants themselves, especially those we turn to to calm our nerves, relieve stomach upset, boost our immune systems, and promote wellness.
We've always chosen to add our favorites, new and old, to our catalog. Below are our top 8, most used and talked about. Whether you are growing for your household, a CSA or market, consider adding the following to this season's garden plan, and reap the rewards of your work in more ways than one.
My personal all time favorite plant, I was first introduced to it when I interned at the Four Winds Farm in Gardiner, NY. Once established, it is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring. The plants are so fragrant that brushing up against them releases a sweet anise scent into the air. The sweet flavor makes a great tea, which is perfect since this plant's healing properties include relief of stomach upset and sore throats. Also a great plant for pollinator attraction.
Live farming or homestead lifestyle, and you might really want to establish a patch of Arnica! The dried flowers of this plant can be transformed into a healing salve to relieve achy muscles. Meadow Arnica is the "lowland" dweller's alternative to Mountain Arnica, the medicinal flower grown at high altitudes. We contracted this seed from a certified organic seed grower in Maine, and are so delighted to have it in our catalog this year. The seed is in short supply, so be sure to get your order in early.
6. Black Cumin
The oil from this Love-in-a-Mist relative is high in Omega-6 fatty acids. The seeds are taken as an anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, and as an anti-gassing agent. Since they are a relative of Love-in-a-Mist, the pretty, though demure, ethereal blooms will add a nice touch to the landscape. Shop Black Cumin seeds here.
Another great soothing herb, calendula help heal tired and weary hands, especially that have been sun-soaked and over worked. Pictured above, Flashback Calendula is both stunning, in double shades of pink, yellow, and orange, and useful. Shop yellow-hued calendula here if your main use is salves.
Like several other medicinal flowers, calendula has triple value, as a beautiful plant, medicinal, and edible. The flavorful petals are an excellent addition to summer salad mixes, Flashback being a great choice to add a splash of color.
The immune boosting properties of this native perennial are not disputed, though the frequency with which this valuable plant should be taken has caused much discussion. The beneficial properties don't end with it's value to the human immune system, but extend to the ecosystem as well. As a native wildflower, this plant attracts and feeds native species of bugs and insects as well, a great choice for borders, ornamental plantings and the edges of vegetables gardens.
As with other traditional culinary technique, the use of epazote to flavor black beans doesn't simply make them taste better, it also relieves the flatulence often associated with the consumption of beans. In large quantities the seeds can be used to expel intestinal worms, though this is not a recommended use. Epazote is quick to set seed, but the best culinary use is of the leaves before flowering, so cut it often and dry to have a nice supply of this interesting and valuable herb.
Catnip is a great treat to grow for cats, but it is also a wonderful perennial herb for the garden. Its fragrant flowers attract many beneficial pollinators. Plus, catnip is a medicinal herb for humans, too. It's used as a very mild sleep aid in the form of catnip tea.
Tulsi, considered a sacred plant in the Hindu religion, has been cultivated for at least 3000 years. Known as the "Incomparable One," "Queen of Herbs," and "Elixer of Life," the scent, as well as preparations of the plant have been used to heal for centuries. Today's plant scientists have classified Sacred Basil as an "adaptogen", a substance that helps us adapt mentally and physically to stressful circumstances. The delicious, sweet tea, made from the dried leaves, is used to promote longevity. Whether seen as a physical or spiritual aid, this plant adds a sense of balance and an extraordinary aroma to your garden.