How to Start a Medicinal Herb Garden

medicinalherbgarden feature

Herbal medicine has always been with us; in fact, humanity has survived for thousands and thousands of years — even prior to the advent of modern technologies and conventional medicine — because of it.

Today, the art and science of learning to heal with the use of plants is definitely gaining in popularity in large part due to it’s ease of use and affordability.

It’s no wonder that we all are eager to learn about these healing plants!

Many of you have asked if:

  • herbal remedies are safe?
  • what plants heal what?
  • are they really effective?
  • how should the plant material be used?

And then you wonder if they can be grown at home.

There are so many things we could talk about today (and many of these questions will be addressed in the coming weeks), but let’s begin with how to grow medicinal plants.

Remaining Connected

In days gone by gardens full of vegetables, herbs, and flowers were common place and existed as part of the landscape of the home. Many of these gardens were designed to include a section dedicated to medicinal herbs and healing plants of all kinds.

Tending the garden meant producing one’s own food and medicine — it meant learning the rhythms of the seasons. It was a link between humanity and nature.

Digging up a small area in the yard – or filling a few pots on the patio – and planting medicinal herbs can be revolutionary in helping us to remain connected.

Start Simple

When starting a medicinal herb garden for the first time it is wise to keep things simple and manageable.

If you do this, and experience success, you’ll more than likely be inspired and energized to continue!

Design

The design for your garden can include a simple raised bed devoted to medicinal herbs or feel free to add them directly to your landscape. For example, yarrow, echinacea, and Valerian are just beautiful when included in an existing flower bed.

Many medicinal plants make excellent companions to veggies and can be added to the corners of the vegetable garden. Plants such as thyme, basil, and calendula are perfect for this purpose.

Another great idea for garden design comes from Rosemary Gladstar and involves the use of a ladder or wagon wheel. She says to “lay an old wooden ladder or wagon wheel over well-prepared soil…plant a single type of herb in each rung. This simple and popular design is lovely, makes weeding easy, and allows the plants to grow fully.”

Soil

Herbs don’t require super rich soil; however, as any gardener knows, good soil is prized. Remember your soil is what nourishes your plants and the plants your body…so be good to it.

Feel free to amend the soil of your medicinal herb garden with compost and aged manure. Whatever you do, make sure that it’s organic. Read more here…

Plants

When planning your medicinal garden deciding whether to start plants form seeds or seedling comes down to cost and availability. Seeds are definitely the most economic way to go. I’ve only purchased strictly medicinal seeds from Horizon Herbs at Mountain Rose Herbs.

They are generally $2-$3 per pack and can produce several vibrant plants. However, the cons to starting herbs from seed is the slow germination rate. It can often take herbs 2-3 weeks just to start emerging from the ground.

As for seedlings, they do cost more up front, but this means your herbs will be ready to harvest sooner. The downside is good, organic medicinal seedlings are often hard to find. Tip: Keeping a garden binder is tremendously helpful when it come to planting. Click here to learn how to make your own garden binder.

And when considering what to grow healing plants in, the following tolerate pot culture and should grow well in a variety of containers:

  • basil
  • calendula
  • cayenne pepper
  • ginger
  • lavender
  • lemon balm
  • horehound
  • any type of mint
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • St. John’s wort
  • thyme

These plants are perfect for raised beds or the ladder/wagon wheel design:

  • all the plants listed above
  • chickweed
  • chamomile
  • garlic
  • feverfew
  • echinacea
  • licorice
  • plantain

And these plants get pretty big, so they need a bit more space:

  • yarrow
  • valerian
  • mullein
  • burdock
  • marshmallow

By starting your own medicinal herb garden this growing season you are taking one more step toward empowering youself to treat symptoms of the common cold, little skin irritations, a few chronic conditions, and minor bumps and bruises. Imagine your friends’ and family’s surprise when you tell them you grew it and made it yourself!

What medicinal herbs and plants will you grow this year? Share your tips for growing healing plants!

Be sure not to miss a post, click this link to receive my free eBook and Frugally Sustainable tips by email.

Mountain Rose Herbs

Comments

  1. I purchased quite a few seeds for medicinals last year but never got to it. Perhaps this will be my year to do so. I have mullein, plantain, echinacea, chamomile, st john’s wort, and a couple of others. Already in the ground are rosemary, thyme, lavender, lemon balm, wild chamomile, stinging nettle, and mints (in pots). And I usually plant plenty of basil. Your post has encouraged me to get these seeds planted!

  2. Possum Creek Herb Farm grows many medicinal herbs along with many culinary herbs that also have medicinal properties.

    • Are you located in IL? OUTSIDE OF QUINCY? If so your dad worked with me;and was a wonderful preson and greatly missed. I’ve been to your place to get tomatoes—along time ago. If you are in the location I’m thinking of PLEASE send me your hours ect. THANKS

  3. Thank you for this post! I want to start growing some herbs in pots this year, just to try out and like you said experience success to get more motivation to continue.
    I love your blog, thank you for it!

    • That’s right Marina! Start this year with a few herbs you know you and your family will use. I wish you the best of luck :)

      • Campbell Welsh says:

        Hi Andrea, I’ve wanted to start an herb garden for such a long time, and the thought of a medicinal garden is fantastic. There was reference to a blog? How do I get to it? And, in the blog is there information on how to prepare the herbs for medicinal use? Thanks so much. Ready to start….slowly

  4. I have several of the items on your list that I’m planting this year. Some from seed and a few I received last week as starts (from Azure Standard). I planted mint last year but the neighbor’s goats got in the garden and had a feast on it (and everything else).

    What is that in the top picture?

  5. Excellent post..so glad you shared it! The list of herbs to grow is invaluable.

  6. to1drland says:

    I’m definitely going to start some new fresh herbs this year. Thanks for the suggestions on what to plant. :)
    For those of you who are considering planting lemon balm (or mint)- I’ve would advise against planting directly into a bed, It will take over the entire garden & be VERY invasive. (I’ve made this mistake & I’m still fighting it 5 yrs. later.)

  7. I decided to grow medicinal herbs this year too! Planted so far I have lavender, lemon balm, basil, Yerba buena, Angelica, and a few others. I’ve been using them in salads and teas, and will try making tinctures next. Also tried planting by lunar cycle, so we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for your post, more people should try herbal remedies instead of running to the pharmacy all the time.

  8. Be aware that mint and lemon balm can both be rather invasive. I just plant ‘em where that’s not a problem to other herbs and let them invade the lawn. I’ll mow ‘em down if necessary.

  9. Will you be posting ways to use these herbs? I planted a few that I will cook with but I’d love to plant a medicinal garden. I just don’t know how to use them.

  10. Love this post! Along with my other vegetables, I have caynne pepper, cilantro and calendula planted and am putting out the following plants this evening: rosemary, basil, couple of mint varieties. If all goes well I will work on adding to this next year.

  11. Love mixing my veggies w/ herbs….mostly culinary. I have a separate medicinal herb garden. Check out local historic gardens for more information on what medicinal herbs were in use in your area….I’ve found these places to be great sources of information.
    *anna

  12. I plant most of the things on your list, plus some. And I find it interesting just how many of the most beneficial plants spread quickly and are labeled invasive. Perhaps that’s Nature telling us we need to have more of these kinds of plants around.

    One thing I’m trying new this year is planting things whose roots will be harvested in pots and buckets. This should make harvesting them much easier, because all that I’ll need to do is tip the pot over and dump the plant out. No digging required.

  13. I really enjoyed this post! Thank you! -barefoot mama

  14. I LOVE medicinal herbs! They have saved me from a life of agony and pain. A good tip for beginners who are interested in medicinal herbs: start with a small herb garden so you aren’t overwhelmed. At first only focus on one or two ailments in your family that you want to fix. For example, I have (USED to have, thanks for medicinal herbs!) bad headaches all the time. So I started by growing medicinal herbs that help headaches (including: lemon balm, chamomile, feverfew, valerian, passionflower, and lavender). Now that I understand these herbs, I am slowly expanding the ailments in my household that I am determined to fix! Next up: colds and flus… :)

    • Linda,Although I replied to you paterivly in a timely fashion, there may be some interest by others in the answers to your questions.First, I’ll be glad to look at any images you might have and take a stab at identifying. As you might be able to tell from the nature of this blog, I’m still learning the plants of Panama and am far from an expert. Still, I enjoy the challenge and if I can’t identify the plant from your images, I may be able to send you to a source that will be of help.Next, buying native plants is not always easy. MIDA is the best commercial source for these things that I know of. Most people get shoots or seeds of the plants they want from friends and neighbors. It’s possible that as interest in native plant cultivation grows, a new vivero focusing on them will open.Meantime, I encourage you to learn the names of the plants that you have on your property. You may already have some of the ones you’re interested in.Good luck!

    • Hi Raven, I also get headaches. Lately, everyday. I’ve tried the vitamins magnesium, b2 riboflavin and coq10. My neurologist says there is a pill with all of those vitamins and also an herb in it, called migra-relief. She also said there’s an herb, in pill form called butterbur that may help. I haven’t tried those yet. I’m really interested in how you use the herbs. Do you make tea with them and are they all used together, at the same time? Anything you can tell me would be greatly appreciated.

      Thank you, Priscilla

      • Rebecca K says:

        Priscilla,

        I suffered from daily and weekly chronic migraines for 35 years until I found medicinal herbs. Prescription medications made things worse and knew down deep that the Creator of our world created the cure and I had to find it. After many months of research and thanks to all the wonderful resources and people who have gone before us I have been migraine free for 4 months. I had forgotten how good it felt to go thru a day without pain.

        There are many herbs that are noted for headaches, but depending on what is the root cause of your headaches will determine which ones will be suitable for you uniquely. For me it was arthritic inflammation nerve and muscle related. Over the years i have used herbs in topical forms which gave temporary relief. I have since found the use of tinctures (mostly), infusions and decoctions. In my case a tincture combination of vervain, white willow, white peony, burdock, Kava kava, valerian, and devils claw. All of which can be purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs in herb or tincture forms. I made my own tinctures which MHR and their affiliates have put together some informative videos specifically for. Tinctures do take 6 weeks to make.

        I also highly recommend the book Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth by Dr. SHARON TILGNER.

        I hope this helps. I’m not affiliated with this or any site and am sharing from my personal experience. Using herbs I have been able help my elderly mother eliminate her need for prescription pain killers, blood sugar and anemia. I praise God daily for His gift of medicinal herbs.

        Becka K

  15. I buy the seeds and start in paper egg cartons or newspaper seed starters in early March! I just transferred seedlings to the outdoor garden today!!!! Can’t wait to add a few new ones you mentioned!! Would love to have some recipes for use posted!!!

  16. Rachel says:

    Yay! This is exactly what I needed! Thanks for providing such a great starting point for medicinal herbs. I’m going to share this post with my mom right away!

  17. Thanks for all of the information. I had planned to start growing some medicinal herbs this year along with my veggies…now more info on how to do it.

  18. Another great post, Andrea. Many of the herbs that you mention grow wild, and you might find them growing close to you, enabling you to transplant them to your own herb garden, either by digging up a plant in the spring or by gathering the seeds in the fall. Wild plants are usually highly medicinal, compared to their ornamental cousins — marshmallow compared to holly hock, or white yarrow compared to red yarrow, for instance. The other benefit to gathering wild plants, is that they are already acclimatized to your own growing conditions, whereas seed that you buy may not be.

    Thanks for the great article.
    Chris

  19. Hi! I have created a herbal plant garden with more than 250 varieties planted in one single garden .
    Also 27 worship trees of Zodiac signs have been planted for healthy life .
    I have also herbal plant nursery.
    The above garden is located At Pen,Raigad ,Maharashtra (India)
    The tree cover in my park is 01 tree=90 sq.ft land

  20. Crystal Doherty says:

    I recently saw where you can plant invasive herbs in containers in the ground in the garden to prevent their undesired spreading….sounded good! I think I will try it, so I thought I would share! :)

    • Watch out, I tried that with mint and it obviously didn’t read what I did because it spread all over the place by growing out of the pot at the top as well as poking through the bottom where I had drainage holes.

      • Yes, be sure to plant mint in pots with saucers on the bottom to keep the roots from escaping. Occasionally pick it up to make sure the roots haven’t found their way to the ground. I had one potted plant get its roots in the ground and run close to 10 feet until it found an unobstructed area to surface.

  21. Turmeric is a great addition to any medicinal herb garden. It doesn’t produce seeds though, so you’ll have to find the rhizomes at an organic shop. The ones you buy in grocery stores will sprout too, but how organically they were grown is questionable.

  22. Ravi Kolekar says:

    We at FLAME college, Pune develop Herbal Garden (Medicinal Plants). We have 150 species of medicinal plants on ground with signage’s. Also we develop Butterfly garden & Organic Vegetable in our Organic Farm. We start to sale of Medicinal Plants form our nursery, If any help please contact me about medicinal plants. Mobile: 9049004801, Email: ravikolekar@gmail.com. Warm Regards

  23. I am going to start my first herb garden this summer and I really appreciate this suggestion list. Now I just need to find out which ones will grow well in my part of Ontario. Thanks for the info. I am so excited to get started this spring. :)

  24. Ashley Baccus says:

    My mother and I started using medicinal herbs several years ago; they are absolutely wonderful!! I do have a question, it’ll sound like a stupid one; do peppermint and spearmint have the same properties? I have quite a bit of spearmint growing now. I don’t want to go out and buy peppermint, plant it and find out that these mints do the same thing?

    • Hi. Spearmint is usually more of a culinary herb, whereas peppermint has more medicinal benefits. I have several varieties in my yard. They may hybridize themselves if they are in close proximity, but that’s okay with me. They have so many benefits, for the stomach, for their cooling action, and they make a great insect repellant. I ‘ve learned so much about it, and use it every day. I want to always have some available in my garden.

  25. I like planting things and I have a garden of my own especially full of roses, but I would also like to have an organic herb garden behind my kitchen which I could spice up my meal when cooking. A year ago, I don’t know the right way of planting it, which was very disappointing but now, I know the way of planting, maintaining, harvesting, and storing. I will try those starting from next week and I will share the result with my friends.

  26. Hi Andrea, your blog post is short sweet and simple. I like the way you’ve promoted the idea of medicinal herb growing and your ideas are interesting and insightful. However I do think it would have been a good idea to address those questions at the start of your blog, such as what can these herbs be used for and do they actually work? Answering these before describing how to directly plant a herb garden may have increased your post’s effectiveness and readability. I like that your blog’s look is quite simple and not over saturated with moving web graphics. However a few simplistic and stylised designs in the background would increase the blog’s aesthetic appeal. Use of colour in the page may also have added a bit of excitement to the page. Furthermore a few more images of actual herb gardens themselves and perhaps some process photos would have made the post even easier to understand. Overall, the clarity of your writing style is the perfect balance of instruction and colloquialism. Great job Andrea!

  27. I’m trying to start a medicinal herb garden and wanted to see if anybody recomends books or other resources that would be helpful. I really just have a basic understanding and know very little history. Thanks so much for any help.

  28. Wendy Wolfe says:

    Andrea, thank you for the encouraging post! I have been following you for a while now and want to say how much I appreciate that your blog is FULL of information regarding the use of the herbs mentioned in this recent post( as well as other herbs) ! I have gained much confidence with the knowledge I have gleaned from you. I would encourage all your lovely readers to FULLY EXPLORE THIS SITE. It is fantastic! You will not be disappointed, I can assure of that!
    Warm Regards~
    Wendy

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  30. Melissa says:

    Will any of the herbs in your container list grow alright indoors?

  31. Here’s a link for growing several of the most useful medicinal herbs in a border that will produce gorgeous long season of bloom: http://blueheron.hubpages.com/hub/The-Medicine-Garden-Best-Medicinal-Herbs-to-Grow-in-the-Home-Garden

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