14 Medicinal Herbs You Can Grow
Here's an A to Z guide to medicinal herbs that may help relieve common ailments like indigestion, stress, anxiety, sunburn, headaches, coughs, colds, and more.
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Basil is a medicinal herb that may help with lack of appetite, cuts, and scrapes, as well as flatulence. A report published in 2016 in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, notes that basil, as well as parsley and spearmint, are traditional Persian medicines used to treat flatulence (intestinal gas). While it is not well studied, it can’t hurt to try it. Harvest the young leaves of this annual plant as needed. Here are the best herbs for your home garden.
Use the flower heads of this medicinal herb for infusions and salves to relieve indigestion and colic, anxiety, and tension, and skin inflammations and irritations. “With its apple-like scent, chamomile is both calming and uplifting,” says Jeanette Jacknin, MD, a holistic dermatologist in Solana Beach, California, and author of Smart Medicine for Your Skin. “It is said to help heal the skin by reducing dryness, itching, redness, and sensitivity in irritated and inflamed skin. Chamomile is included in many topicals for irritated itching problems including bug bites and contact dermatitis.”
Taking echinacea while you’re well may slightly reduce your chances of catching a cold, according to some research. A review of studies published in 2015 in JAMA noted that the evidence was mixed, with some studies showing a benefit and others not so much. Overall, echinacea may be associated with a small reduction in the risk of colds, but the “overall evidence for clinically relevant treatment effects is weak,” the authors concluded.
You can use the leaves and flowers of this medicinal herb for teas, or chew the leaves to ease headache pain. Research, including a Cochrane review published in 2015, have examined the daisy-like herb’s ability to help prevent migraines. Some research has shown no benefit of feverfew for migraine prevention compared with a placebo. However, the 2015 review suggested that over a 2-month period it might prevent 1 migraine compared with a placebo, although more research is needed. It may provide relief for arthritis, and reduce redness, as well as pain and inflammation for a variety of rashes such as contact dermatitis, insect bites, and rosacea, says Dr. Jacknin. Here are the herbs that could help keep your brain healthy.
With antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, this medicinal herb may be good for eczema and acne. “It’s also used to help treat wounds and itching, and ease diaper rash,” says Dr. Jacknin. “But large doses may cause skin irritations, nausea, and vomiting, so always start with a small amount of lotion on just one part of the affected area.”
Even smelling this medicinal herb may help you feel calm and relaxed. It also may ease pain and when applied to cuts and bruises functions as an antiseptic. “Lavender can be added to the bath or sprayed on bedsheets, used in aromatherapy or mixed into carrier oils and other lotions,” says Dr. Jacknin. “It’s reported to be a helpful aid for rapid healing and soothing if a diluted amount is applied directly on acne, burns, and insect bites. If you have low blood pressure, though, don’t use it in the bath as lavender oil lowers blood pressure as it helps to relax.”
A relative of mint, lemon balm is a versatile medicinal herb that may help relieve stress, anxiety, insomnia, wounds, herpes, insect bites, flatulence, and an upset stomach. It may also speeds the healing of cold sores. Don’t miss these insider tips to save money on gardening.
Medicinal herbs that have multiple uses are more bang for your buck. Marigold is one herb that may not only be good for sunburn, acne, and blemishes but also may soothe ulcers and digestive problems. “Marigold, or Calendula, is one of the best all-around skin remedies, good for minor cuts and burns, insect bites, dry skin, and acne,” says Dr. Jacknin. “Calendula tea can be used as an astringent facial rinse two or three times a day for acne. Many preparations are available over-the-counter as salves, creams, and lotions.”
If you have digestion or gas, sipping tea made of this medicinal herb might provide relief. It also may help soothe headaches, and peppermint oil has been shown to relieve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
Medicinal herbs like rosemary may help memory and concentration, improve mood—and sweeten breath. These are the surprising reasons gardening is one of the healthiest things you can do.
Sage’s genus name, Salvia, means “to heal,” reflecting its early use as a medicinal, not culinary, herb. Although there have been a few studies suggesting sage for sore throat, mood, memory, and blood cholesterol levels, the plant has not been clearly shown to be helpful for any health condition, notes the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
The active principle in thyme, thymol, is a strong antiseptic. If you suffer from coughs, congestion, indigestion, or gas, consider using this medicinal herb. These vitamins and herbs can help boost your sex drive.
St. John’s Wort
If you suffer from mild to moderate depression, you may have thought about trying St. John’s wort. The glossy leaves and yellow flowers are this medicinal herb’s active parts. However, the evidence is mixed as to its effectiveness and it can be dangerous when taken in combination with certain prescription antidepressants, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a federal agency. It can also interfere with the efficacy of other medications, including birth control pills, and heart, pain, and cancer medications.
Medicinal herbs aren’t the only natural ways to heal. Check out these other natural remedies that really work.
- Jeanette Jacknin MD, a holistic dermatologist in Solana Beach, CA, and author of Smart Medicine for Your Skin
- Wiadomości Lekarskie, "Studies on the antimigraine action of Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium (L.) Sch. Bip.)"
- Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, "Prevention and Treatment of Flatulence From a Traditional Persian Medicine Perspective"
- Harvard Health Publishing, "Gas (Flatulence)"
- JAMA, "Echinacea for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold"
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, "Peppermint Oil"
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, "Sage"
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, "St. John's Wort and Depression: In Depth"