Homegrown Herbal Medicines

Explore the many benefits of growing herbal medicines. Plant medicinal plants and herbs in your own backyard and start reaping the benefits of herbal medicines.


| June/July 2008



Yarrow and St. Johns Wort

Why not grow a few herbs at home? Many of these plants are both beautiful and medicinal, including yarrow(white flowers) and St. John’s wort (yellow flowers), which are pictured above.


Photo by Lynn Karlin

You might be surprised to learn that you can grow herbal medicines in your own back yard. Although many homesteaders embrace herbal medicine, not everyone realizes how well these traditional medicines work, or that you can grow them on your own land.

One obstacle is that many people still equate herbal medicine with superstition, thinking it’s all folklore, of no proven value. But if that were true, it would be a surprise to the big pharmaceutical companies that are scrambling to isolate and test the active components of many traditional medicinal plants and herbs. A number of powerful pharmaceuticals, for example, have been derived from wild yam. Willow and meadowsweet contain salicylic acid, with analgesic effects like aspirin — but with fewer side effects. Controlled experiments with valerian have supported its traditional use as a sedative to relieve spasms and induce sleep.

The other obstacle to home use of medicinal herbs is just the reverse — the assumption that herbal lore is so arcane that we inexpert homesteaders cannot hope to master it without years of study. If this is the case, I suggest you take a look at some common medicinal herbs, such as the list below. These herbs are from a very helpful book, The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green. He presents these “top 30” medicinal herbs, citing a list from the California School of Herbal Studies. Glance over these herbs, and you may find yourself saying one of the following:

“Hey, this looks easy!” Many of these plants are well known, and may already be growing in your landscape or garden. Blackberry, calendula, chamomile, comfrey and willow — who knew that these ubiquitous and unobtrusive members of our communities would be in a “top 30” list of medicinal herbs?

“Some of these are weeds, for heaven’s sake!” We’ve been conditioned to think of dandelion, plantain, stinging nettle and yellow dock as “the enemy” in our gardens and yards. Perhaps it’s time for us to revise our conception of “weeds.” The insistence of a plant on being a part of our local ecology suggests that we explore its role and contribution, rather than devise strategies to eradicate it. Any plant that offers to boost our health should be welcomed and honored, not denigrated as a “weed.”

“Hey, I grow that for food!” It’s too bad that in our time “medicine” has come to be understood as a powerful, out of the ordinary — and probably vile tasting — substance taken in a heroic intervention to cure illness. An alternative view has been available at least as far back as 400 B.C., when Hippocrates said, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.”

rodney
6/5/2013 12:53:42 PM

Excellent article by Harvey Ussery on Homegrown Medicine. I really enjoyed reading and re-reading it.

After talking with my medical doctors about the future of medical care once Obama Care begins I am convinced that the really smart thing for us to do is to research what are the best medicianal herbs and how to best use them. The plant our own medicianal herb gardens in our back yards.  I have planted my medicianal herbs in raised beds, just like I have my veggies in raised beds in my back yard. I have planted medicianal herbs best suited to fight: colds, flu, coughs, fevers and to build my immune system.


rodney
6/5/2013 12:43:45 PM

 I really do appreciate this article on Homegrown Medicine by Harvey Ussery. I do encourage Mother Earth to publish more like this.

After a recent conversation with my medical doctor concerning Obama Care and the restrictions it will bring. He has encouraged me to start my own medicianal herb garden best suited to help meet the fall cold and flue season needs.

I have planted my own raised bed Medicianal Herb garden in my back yard in addition to my raised bed veggie garden. 


solomon_1
9/6/2008 3:55:45 AM

solomon, pls read


jan_2
9/1/2008 8:54:44 AM

That was a wonderful article. I already have my list of books to look for in the library. I live in town and rent a duplex, so alot of garden is not possible. In addition to my tomatoes, squash, peppers and assorted flowers, I enjoy fresh parsley, rosemary, lemonbalm and chives. I am excited to try more herbs next spring. Thanks again for the great article. Its very helpful to us city dwellers who wish we were country dwellers.


penny_1
6/25/2008 9:52:04 AM

Knowing that this small 10 acres of woods, swamp and meadow has over 30 identified wild herbs, wild fruits and nuts, I decided early on to leave this land as is. With so many farmers spewing their toxic chemicals on their crops I felt that just to save this one little area was my way of thanking the Creator for my wildlife paradise. This article reminds me that we need to take only what is needed, leaving plenty for the deer, moose, bobcats, bear, grouse, and all to use. The rewards of being at one with the land is being constantly feeling that wonder full awe and thankfulness.






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