Gardening with Healing Plants

A woman extracts essential oil from a flower.

Gardens are bountiful in many ways, but a healing garden is a cultivation of healthful resources. Healing plants are more than just the latest trend in the alternative medicine field; they are historic, literally ancient, curatives for a vast array of rare and common ailments. Many of today’s commercially based medicines are actually derived from some very common garden plants.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Rachel Klein adds, "Plants with healing properties can be found everywhere. In fact, you'd be surprised at how many healing plants you already have in your garden and never even knew."

A Word of Caution

Of course, always check with your doctor and never allow home remedies to be a substitute for professional healthcare. These remedies have been historically helpful in treating and relieving the symptoms of many ailments, but serious conditions always demand trained care.

TIP: Rachel reminds you, "If you are pregnant, have been diagnosed with a serious medical condition, or are taking prescription medication, consult a physician before taking any herbal remedies. For topical remedies, it is always wise to test a small patch of skin for allergy before applying completely."

Choosing Your Plants

TIP: Rachel advises, "Some healing plants are uncommon and should be purchased specifically to supplement a healing garden. Some, however, are extremely common and may already be a part of your home garden."

When selecting plantings, consider what troubles your family periodically. A typical set of conditions could be something like this: Grandfather has gout, Grandmother suffers from arthritis pain, Mother gets migraines, Father feels melancholic from time to time, Son has acne, and Daughter seems to catch every cold. Garden plants can aid all of these very common problems and many more.

TIP: Rachel suggests, "Once your garden is coming in nicely, you will no doubt be eager to reap the benefit of your own personal pharmacy. However, each plant, used to treat specific conditions, still needs to be prepared correctly for medicinal use. Some work best brewed in teas, others mixed with different ingredients, and some need to be cooked or dried. Information on these recipes can be found online, but for a reliable and comprehensive guide, it is recommended to buy a book on the subject, or take one out from your local library."

Aloe Vera - This succulent soothes and promotes healing of wounds, burns, inflammation, or infection.

Angelica - This is a medicinal herb that was known for its healing qualities as far back as the fifteenth century. While women have prized it for its ability to promote good menstrual flow and to aid in the relief of muscle spasms, angelica is also helpful for asthma and bronchitis sufferers. Also, the plant’s stems are frequently used in cooking recipes simply for flavor.

Arnica - European folk medicine often used a lesser-known herb called arnica to treat pain from bruises, sprains or swelling. As this is a toxic plant if ingested, be sure to use it only for compresses or poultices.

Basil - With far more uses than simply to flavor your spaghetti sauce, this highly helpful herb belongs in every kitchen and healing garden for its use as a fever reducer. Basil leaves may also be rubbed on irritated skin to relieve stings or bites from garden insects or mild skin irritations. Basil is sometimes used as an analgesic or to lower blood sugar.

Cardamom - This eases stomachaches.

Celery - That vegetable so attractive to nosing garden rabbits has surprising medicinal properties too. Gout, rheumatism and arthritis may each be treated with celery--the seeds in particular are valuable for their healthful benefits.

Chicory - As well as adding flavor to coffee, chicory aids in digestion, is a mild laxative and anti-rheumatic.

Dandelions - Though normally thought of as an annoying weed, they are also a known diuretic and source of potassium. They can be applied topically to relieve symptoms of eczema, or taken internally to treat arthritis and intestinal disorders.

Dill - The first record of dill's healing ability goes back to c 1500 B.C. when the ancient Egyptians discovered that dill is a helpful pain killer. Today, dill is used to promote good digestion and to relieve gas. Sufferers of bad breath should consider chewing dill seeds to freshen their mouth naturally.

Garlic - This major contributor to the world of healing plants counteracts many infections, particularly those most common to the nose, throat and chest, colds for instance. Garlic combats bacteria as well as parasites. It can help lower blood pressure as well as lower blood sugar. It has many more healthful properties and is a top choice for any healing garden.

Lavender - With its high anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, lavender eases the pain of rheumatism. It also has mild antidepressant properties.

Lemon Balm - This antiviral used to treat herpes outbreaks and can be made into a tea to treat stress.

Lemon Thyme - This can be used as a digestive aide. It also works as a natural antibiotic and was used for centuries to treat wounds.

Marjoram - This herb treats tonsillitis, bronchitis and asthma.

Motherwort - This calms anxiety, relieves muscle spasms, useful for fertility/pregnancy issues.

Mustard - There are many folk remedies that employ mustard to treat arthritis, inflammation and toothache. Mustard also has many culinary uses in the kitchen.

Parsley - This can be eaten to relieve symptoms of urinary tract infections.

Peppermint - Recent studies have shown that peppermint has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It is used to treat indigestion, sore throats, toothaches and colds.

Purple Coneflower - This boosts the immune system.

Radish - Most people only eat the rhizomes, but you can eat the peppery leaves as well. Radish aids digestion.

Rosemary - A recent study found that the carnosic acid in rosemary may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. It improves memory and circulation as well as relieving sore throats and sore gums.

St. John’s Wort - This is best known for its antidepressant capabilities. For this reason it flies off the shelves along with valerian at vitamin and health food stores. As a healing plant in your own garden, it is also helpful to relieve menstrual cramp pain.

Wormwood - A component of the infamous concoction known as absinthe, wormwood actually has many fine attributes despite its bitter flavor. It is useful for the releasing of gallstones and is known to relieve stomachaches.