Growing Medicinal Plants

Growing Medicinal Plants

One of my biggest regrets as a backyard farmer is that I didn’t start learning about medicinal plants until this year, 13 years after I bought this property.   It’s never too late to learn, however, so I’ll be dedicating a lot more of my time to this new area of learning from here on out.

I don’t plan on becoming an expert medicinal herbalist by any means, but I do hope to learn enough basics to do some of my own teas, ointments, lotions and tinctures from medicinal plants grown in my own garden.   To start I ordered several books at the beginning of the year on medicinal plants, and I’ve discovered plenty of excellent sources on the internet too.  I think it’s important to know what you’re doing when working with medicinal plants. After all, if these plants and foods are used for natural healing, then they are like any medicinal substance you put into your body, or on your body, and there can be negative side effects if not consumed or applied correctly.  Therefore, it’s important to be careful and follow directions and do it right.  It’s an area of study that I am exited about learning.

After some initial reading, I then made a list of the medicinal plants I wanted to grow in my yard, and I had to decide on which areas to grow them depending on the kind of soil and light that was indicated.  Not really knowing what these flowers looked like in full bloom, I just had to do some guessing and hoped for the best.  The first year taught me a lot, and now I know what changes to make next year. The ones I planted for the first time this year were:

Calendula
Chamomile
Lemon balm
Mullein
Borage

The row of Calendula (1st photo) that I planted alongside my raised beds was a perfect location for them, and they will remain there for next year’s crop.  I managed to get enough calendula from that row to make calendula oil that I can later use as an ingredient for salves and ointments for the healing of skin conditions and wounds.  I’ll write a more detailed post on what I’ve done with the calendula at a later date, as with the other plants I’m growing. I want to mention also that Calendula is the gift that just keeps on giving.  It is still going strong and blooming even in October.  I can’t believe I lived without it all these years!

I planted a small patch of Chamomile near the fountain (2nd photo) but I discovered that I need 30 times more than that. Next year I will plant a long row of chamomile along the other side of the raised bed.  The flowers are so small that you need a lot of them if you want enough to make chamomile tea frequently.  Chamomile is one of those flowers that some people can have a reaction to so it’s important to test for reactivity first before consuming too much.

I planted six lemon balm starts near the back of the fountain (3rd photo), and they did very well, so I’ll let them remain there for next year.  They are perennials, so they should come up every year.  They will need thinned out yearly to keep them contained just like the mint.  I’ve been using the dried leaves for tea that I make in my French press.  I also made a very tasty Lemon Balm Glycerite that is a tincture to help with calm and relaxation.  It can even be served as an after dinner drink.

The Mullein I propagated was planted too late out in my front yard so no flowers grew this year.  Hopefully, it will grow back up next year so I can experiment with that plant’s medicinal properties.  I’ll plant some more in the back too.

The borage (4th photo) is not only an attraction for bees, and visually appealing in a garden landscape, but it can also be used as a healing remedy for quite a number of health conditions, and it can be used in cooking. Like calendula it is also a long lasting flower that will keep blooming well into fall, so it is quite wonderful on many levels.

I haven’t done anything yet with the following medicinal plants that I already had in my garden except for the feverfew and mint. I chewed on a feverfew bud a couple times when I had a headache, and I do think it helped.  The mint I’ve used for tea.  I will definitely dig up a lot of dandelions this fall for the dandelion root to make tea and other concoctions.  The plants that were already here when I moved in were:

Dandelions
Feverfew
Mint
Lavender
St. John’s Wort
Echinacea (5th photo)

Unfortunately, when I first moved in 13 years ago, there was some chickweed all over the place too, but I thought it was a useless weed so I eradicate it from my yard early on.  I’m going to grow some this next year because I used a chickweed tincture that I got from a friend that was very effective for the itching condition I got again this summer from my garden. I want to make sure I always have some on hand.

As I already mentioned, I’ll save the personal details of what I am doing with my medicinal plants for later posts when I have actually had time to work with them.  This is just the first introductory post to explain what medicinal plants I’ve begun growing this year.

So, between the old medicinal plants that were already growing on my property, and the new ones I am learning to grow and use, I have quite a variety to work with that ought to keep me very busy in the next few years as I learn more about this area of natural medicine.  This next spring I will also try to propagate and plant marshmallow, valerian, and burdock.

Wish me luck!

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