Grow Your Own Pharmacy: 3 Must-Have Medicinal Herbs

‘Tis the season to be jolly and contagious. Winter seems to be a time when the cold and flu run amok through otherwise healthy communities. Already I’m seeing reports of entire families taken out at once, parents and kids laid up in a pile of tissues and blankets. There’s nothing fun about being sick, especially the feeling that conventional products are your only hope for a little relief.

Medicinal plants are an ideal way to give your body what it really needs — immune support — while also making you feel more comfortable. Although they’re not a quick fix like over-the-counter remedies, they will actually help you heal instead of just masking your symptoms. Homegrown herbal medicines can treat many of the same ailments as conventional remedies, but with very few side effects and at only a fraction of the cost.

If you’re ready to say goodbye to foul-tasting, delirium-inducing “medicines” like Nyquil and Sudafed, here are a list of medicinal herbs that you can grow right in your garden or window box. Also included are tips on how to use them to start feeling better fast. (Note: Do not use a medicinal herb or supplement without first talking to your health care provider, especially if you’re currently taking a prescription medication. Some negative interactions can occur).

1. Echinacea

Echinacea was highly valued as a medicinal herb by Native Americans and early American settlers who used it to treat weeping wounds, boils, abscesses and snakebite. Today, Echinacea is still one of the most widely used medicinal herbs. Echinacea is most commonly known as an immune system booster, but it’s also an effective anti-inflammatory and antiviral treatment for wounds. In your garden, echinacea will produce lovely purple and pink flowers in late summer. A review of 14 clinical trials found that echinacea reduced the odds of developing a cold by 58% and the duration of a cold by 1-4 days.

How to Use: Make the roots into a tea; turn the flowers into a tincture; make a salve or ointment.

2. Peppermint

Peppermint is a fragrant and easy to grow herb that has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. Its soothing properties make it an excellent choice for upset stomach, sore throats, heartburn and fevers. The oil that’s extracted from the peppermint plant contains lots of compounds. Menthol is the most abundant and pharmacologically important. In 2007, Italian investigators reported that 75% of the patients in their study who took peppermint oil capsules for four weeks had a major reduction in their IBS symptoms, compared with just 38% of those who took a placebo pill. Peppermint is high in vitamins A and C, as well as manganese. When applied topically, peppermint also has a soothing and cooling effect on skin irritations caused by hives, poison ivy, or poison oak.

How to Use: Make tea from dried peppermint leaves; make a tincture; take peppermint oil capsules; make a topical ointment.

3. Chamomile

Chamomile has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. Historically, chamomile has been used to treat many conditions, including aches and pain, upset stomach, the common cold, wounds, and burns. This herb also promotes relaxation and is widely popular brewed into tea as a sleep aid. The oil contains ingredients that reduce swelling and may limit the growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi. The tiny daisy-like flowers of German chamomile have white collars circling raised, cone-shaped, yellow centers and are less than an inch wide, growing on long, thin, light green stems. Chamomile is native to Europe, north Africa, and some parts of Asia, making it an easy plant to grow indoors or out.

How to Use: Make tea from chamomile flowers; make a chamomile tincture; add a few drops of essential oil of chamomile to hot water (or use tea) and breathe in the steam to calm a cough; make a paste by mixing powdered herb with water and apply to inflamed skin.

Related Reading:

Monarch Butterflies Use Plants As Medicine (Video)

City of Tulsa Rips Out Woman’s Edible And Medicinal Garden

Herbs That Warm Up Your Winter

All images via Thinkstock

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Nichola Mac D
Nichola Mac D2 years ago

ty for great article

Terry V.
Terry V.2 years ago

I'm allergic to Echinacea

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra2 years ago

Thank you Beth, for Sharing this!

katarzyna phillips

i use a few drops from a peppermint capsule on my dog's food to stop his bum gas from smelling so bad; and thyme either as a tea or as a steam inhaler works well for cold or throat pain/infection

Spirit Spider
Spirit Spider2 years ago

I love it all!!!! Any time of the year! :-)

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin2 years ago

Camomille will aslo bleach your hair. Not really a medicianl use, but nice for people with grey hair. It'll be blonde again!

Vicky P.
Vicky P.2 years ago


Pushpraj Singh
Pushpraj Singh2 years ago

thanks a lot for the wonderful info

Ana R
Ana R2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

George Boggs
George Boggs2 years ago

Any good books on herbs and growing them. Not mentioned in the article.