No one likes to get sick, no one likes to go to the doctor, and no one likes to swallow bitter pills and syrups in the hopes of getting better. If you’re reading this page, you’ve probably considered this and thought about how nice it would be if you had your own personal pharmacy right in your back garden.
Before modern medicine, before doctors and hospitals, and before antibiotics, people knew the powers of nature, and how to use plants to cure various ailments. Plants can be ingested, ground into poultices, and used as compresses and bandages to rid us of aches and pains, nasty symptoms, and a myriad of medical problems. Why would you not want to have a medicinal plant garden? There is no downside!
Below is a list of tips, suggestions, and ideas on how to make a garden that is both beautiful and functional. Elevate your tired lawn and shrubs to a new level with medicinal plants and explore the different uses they have!
Before You Begin…
- Plan out your design on paper before implementing any new additions. Look at websites and magazines for inspiration, look at photos, and figure out what you want to get out of your garden as well as how you’d like it to look. This will save you a lot of time and effort later!
- Consider the spread of plants. Do you want to have separate areas and beds for your medicinal plants or do you want to try and incorporate them more organically into your existing garden?
- Make a list of plants you are thinking of including so that you are not going into this endeavour completely blind. Below are some common choices for home medicinal gardens, and their uses:
Some Common Medicinal Plants and Their Uses
- Basil- this everyday kitchen favourite does more than just add flavour! It is also highly antimicrobial and can be used to help fight cold and flu symptoms and coughs, bronchitis, and sinusitis. It is also good for relieving headaches and stress when made into a tea. Basil has an energising effect which can also improve concentration and focus. Go basil!
- Calendula- Apart from just having beautiful golden flowers that attract bees and butterflies, calendula is also commonly used in ointments, lotions, and salves for topical use on skin irritations and conditions. It can help to soothe burns, and treat dry skin too!
- Stinging Nettles- This might seem counter-intuitive, but stinging nettles are more than annoying leaves that give you prickles! The sting goes away when the leaves are cooked or steamed, and apart from acting as a nutritious green, nettles are also full of vitamins and minerals, calcium, iron, and other helpful elements. Drunk as a tea, stinging nettles can help ease allergies and arthritis as well. Think twice before you think of nettles as nasty!
- Motherwort- Not just for mothers, motherwort is quite a bitter herb that is often made into a tincture to ease menstrual cramps, headaches, muscle aches, and anxiety. It is fast growing and easy to maintain, making it the ideal medicinal garden ally!
- Meadowsweet- Also known as Queen of the Meadow, this plant can be made into a tasty tea to treat heartburn, inflammation, peptic ulcers, and even fever. It also has delicate white flowers which smell amazing in gardens.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are so many more options out there, but hopefully, you get an idea of how many uses these kinds of plants can have. Now to move onto the planting!
Growing Your Medicinal Garden
- Start small and simple, making sure you can manage the plants you have committed to. If you overcrowd your garden, you might get quickly overwhelmed by pruning and maintaining.
- Healthy soil makes healthy plants which make you healthy! Many herbs do not need very rich soil but putting organic compost or manure in your beds will ensure a better yield. Remember: treat your plants well and they will treat you well in return.
- Think about whether you will be planting from seeds or seedlings. Some plants grow quite quickly and easily from seed, while others might be a better addition to your garden if grown from seedlings, or even cuttings from an original plant. Do your research and see what works.
- Make sure to listen to the instructions and advice provided for each plant you implement. A lot of herbs are very happy growing in pots, whilst some might require more space. Some plants like to be in full-sun whilst others can tolerate some shade.
- If you’re struggling to come up with ideas of what to plant, look in your kitchen cupboards! A lot of the herbs and spices we cook with every day have medicinal properties and can be incorporated into your garden.
- Remember that your garden can have its cake and eat it too. It does not have to be purely functional, it can be beautiful and inviting too. Think about adding herbs and plants that have exciting flowers or interestingly shaped leaves to give your garden some extra pizazz!
- Think about the climate, and what season you are planning to start your garden in, as starting in the wrong conditions could make it more difficult if not impossible for things to grow well.
- Finally, think about who will have access to your garden. If you are likely to have small children or pets coming and going through the space, then give some extra consideration to plants that have thorns, or stings like nettles. The aim of the garden is to heal, not harm after all.
It is not difficult to create a functional and successful medicinal plant garden, big or small if you have the right knowledge and inspiration. Before jumping into this project, make sure you have a firm grasp on what results you would like to see, what plants you want to include, and where you are thinking of placing things. From there, it’s just a matter of being patient, and being kind to your plants. Help them to help you!