There are so many medicinal herbs to grow. It can be hard to choose when you are starting a herb garden or medicine wheel for the first time. Focusing on the ones that like the climate you are in will help save you a lot of time and energy. But it is also good to experiment to see which herb grows the best and which ones you actually like to use. Whatever herb that has been calling you is a great place to start. Also researching what medicinal herbs to grow in your region based on zone is helpful. And paying attention to what grows naturally in your area can help narrow down some good herbs to start with.
In Colorado we often see snow storms in April, May and even June. So frost tolerant plants are the easiest for us to grow. This selection of seeds are great to start in the spring time because they can handle unpredictable changes in weather. Depending on where you are you might be able to start a lot more this time of year. Direct sow these seeds in your garden or start indoors. I have had success with germinating all of these spring plants and I highly recommend trying them out for yourself.
Chamomile is a annual that self seeds and overwinters well. It is native to Europe and Northern and Western Asia. It grows well in many different environments which makes it one of the easiest medicinal herbs to grow first. The plant prefers full sun and cool garden soil for germination. Chamomile also does best in cooler climates and beds free of weeds. They do not compete well with other plants.
Sprinkle the small seeds into the soil and gently press them in. If you are sowing in early spring you will start to get blooms in early summer. Thinning is not necessary so use as much seeds as you need to have a large stock of Chamomile flowers that you can dry and use year round.
The difference from fresh or dried chamomile from the garden compared to anything you find in a apothecary is astounding. Everyone should grow their own chamomile because it is so much fresher than anything you would buy. Chamomile is a common herb used for calming the nervous system. Especially helpful when dealing with anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
Cleavers is one of my favorite medicinal herbs to grow and it grows naturally all over Colorado. From the mountain meadows to prairie fields. it prefers garden or woodland soil and is considered a annual. Germination can be tricky because it requires 30 days of cold treatment in the refrigerator. Cold soil in spring will help germination, you can plant the seeds directly in the garden or indoors. They can take up to 60 days to germinate. The seeds will respond when conditions are right. I didn’t have success with germination last year but I did do the cold treatment and have a few plants growing now. I am hoping the seeds I direct sowed in the garden last year will germinate this year.
Cleavers is used as a diuretic, vulnerary, hypotensive, lymphagogue, anti-inflmmatory, and support for the immune system. Soothing to the bladder and kidneys. It can reduce kidney stones and fibrocystic tissue. It helps with swollen glands and cysts. Even useful for skin irritations and eczema. The seeds can even be roasted and ground like coffee.
A stinging nettle patch is a beautiful thing to have on hand because the medicinal herb grows so easily and it is good for so many things. It is native to Europe and North America. It is a perennial that can grow up to 8 feet tall. They are dioecious plants meaning they have both male and female variations. It is not self fertile you will need both plants to produce seeds for the coming years. Typically you will find nettles all over the world along river or creeks. So it enjoys moist soil that is rich in organic matter and that is nitrogen rich. Find nettle naturally located in either sun or shade. Sprinkle the seeds on the surface, then press firmly, keep moist and in the light for best results.
Nettle is a favorite herb for most people and is considered a superfood that is highly nutritious. Medicinal properties include ant-inflammatory and astringent which help with allergies, UTI’s, and liver imbalances. And the root and seeds help with prostate inflammation. Mainly it helps fortify the body with chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, and protein. Helping to promote liver and kidney health which in turn restores overall vitality and well being. To most it is considered a tasty tea often thought of tasting like seaweed. It is also a great ingredient for food. Using it as a cooked spring green or adding it to soups is always a tasty addition. It is a common practice to cook with nettle in Europe. And it is a great medicinal herb that will begin to transform your food to medicine.
Once you put calendula in your garden it will never leave you. It becomes a great companion for all that grow it. And such a beautiful ray of sunshine in the garden. No one can deny their love for calendula. When planting the seeds you want to plant as early as possible in spring to help mimic the natural processes required for germination. Calendula seeds like cold and moist soil and should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked. They will reach maturity within 40 to 50 days and are considered an annual. There are over 100 varieties of calendula flower. They grow upright, bushy and up to 3 feet tall. The Erfurter Orangefarbige variety has the highest resin content and is the variety that herbalist choose most often.
Calendula is commonly used internally and externally with fresh or dried flowers. The blooms heal burns, cuts, and skin abrasions. By promoting cellular healing and helps fight off infection with its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. It is a common ingredient in liniments, salves, oils, creams, and serums. Internally it works with toning the lymphatic system and helps flush toxins. It is considered a cooling herb that is anti-inflammatory and bitter.
Motherwort is a hardy perennial that I planted last year that is now coming backup in my garden. Native in Europe, central Asia, and grows well in temperate areas of the US. It is a biennial which sometimes flowers annually. The plant prefers part shade to full sun. Regular garden soil works just fine and requires regular watering. Tamp the seed securely and keep moist for germination which occurs in 1 to 3 weeks. Direct seed or start in pots. 60 days until mature and ready to harvest. Motherwort can grow up to 7 feet tall and can make a great addition to a hedgerow.
There are many reasons to love Motherwort. It has been one of my favorite medicinal herbs to grow because of its many uses. Great for toning and strengthening the heart and circulatory system. It is a powerful heart tonic that make people feel hopeful and full of life. It is also a strong nervine that can alleviate melancholy and reduce tension. Relaxing the muscles and easing menstrual discomfort and cramping. By also strengthening and restoring the female reproductive system. It can also aid when transitioning through postpartum or menopause helping alleviate hot flashes and emotional fluctuations. As a bitter tonic it aids in digestion and tones the liver.
6. Mugwort (Zone3-9)
Common mugwort also known as wormwood is another perennial that is coming back up in my garden. The plant prefers sun to part shade in garden soil and will even grow in gravel or waste places. Tamp the tiny seeds securely on the surface keep moist for germination in 1 to 3 weeks then it will grow 3-4 ft tall.
Mugwort is used as a vermifuge, bitter tonic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, emmenagogue, and antioxidant. But it is most known for its dream inducing effects. It helps promote proper digestion, appetite, and menstruation. It is also commonly used for moxibustion, which is burning the herb near acupuncture points in Chinese medicine. This helps clear out stagnation throughout the body.
Burdock is a biennial that grows as a annual in other zones. It is native to temperate Europe and Asia. The seeds should be sown in spring and they will produce roots you can harvest from summer to winter. Even when harvesting the roots the plant will come back. It becomes very weedy so only plant if you really like burdock and are commited to digging the roots. I planted burdock in my garden for the first time last year and harvested a decent amount of roots from two plants and now I can see it coming up again.
Burdock root and leaf can be used as food and medicine. It is known as a pre-biotic due the high inulin content and is great for the digestion system. As a antioxidant it supports a healthy functioning liver. Burdock can also stimulate the flow of lymphatic fluid and supports the secretion of toxic by products from cells. Commonly used for colds, flus, candida overgrowth, colitis, and skin problems. Along with arthritis, sciatica, gout, and menopause. It helps strengthen the uterus. And can help fight against tumors and relieve pain due to cancer.
Oregano is a great culinary herb and medicinal herb that grows very well in the dry climate of Colorado. It is native to Asia, Europe, and northern Africa. The plant is a perennial that prefers full sun and mesic dry soil. As a medicinal herb it is used for colds, flus, indigestion, and helps fight off free radicals.
Oregano is a antioxidant, hypoglycemic, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, carminative, expectorant, antiseptic, anti-parasitic, and anti-fungal. Internally it is used for indigestion, flu, colds, fevers, bronchitis, and asthma. Externally you can make a poultice for bronchial spasms, arthritis, and muscular pain.
9. Rosemary (Zone 6-12)
Native to the Mediterranean, rosemary is a woody perennial. But it should adapt to whatever climate it is in. The plant prefers full sun and semi dry soil. The seeds are light dependent for germination and can be seeded in the spring directly in the garden. The seeds like temps around 55 to 60 and need to keep evenly moist to help ensure germination. Rosemary is known to help stimulate circulation and is a powerful antioxidant.
It is a nervine, astringent, diuretic, carminative, emmenagogue, cholagogue, choleric, antispasmodic, antioxidant. Hepatoprotective, anti-bacterial, antidepressant, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial. Anti-diabetic, anti-nociceptive and a cognitive enhancer. As you can see rosemary helps in many ways. It is great for nerves, muscles and blood vessels especially in easing circulation and soothing nervousness. Used for stomach, headaches, indigestion, circulatory weakness, low blood pressure, stress, and illness. Rosemary provides cognitive and emotional support as well. Rosemary can treat stomach cramps and flatulence. It also stimulates the appetite and gastric juices for proper digestion.Making it one of the best ally’s to have in our garden and our kitchen.
Astragalus is a long living herbaceous perennial native to China and grows well in cool temp zones. It is part of the Fabaceae family aka the bean and pea family. This medicinal herb grows up to three feet tall and the tap root takes 4-5 seasons to grow. Astragalus grows best in full sun in well drained soil. The seeds must be scarified on medium grit sandpaper for germination. Direct seeding in early spring is helpful for a 20 day cold period. Moist refrigeration and cold soil is recommended for germination then it will germinate within 3 to 10 days.
In TCM, astragalus is used to increase vital energy and to protect against illness. Astragalus is adaptogen most commonly used in Asia. It is rich in immune stimulating polysaccharides and helps treat immune deficiencies. And is very helpful for those undergoing cancer treatment and radiation. It helps the body heal toxicity and nourishes the body especially when dealing with stress. It also stimulates white blood cell production in bone marrow, reduces tumor growth, and strengthens the blood and improves cardiac function. The root is most often cooked in broth with vegetables and medicinal mushrooms for a herbal infused meal.
That rounds up some of my favorite spring herbs to grow. I will share a list of summer medicinal herbs later in the season stay tuned! And let me know what your favorite herbs you are growing this year. I would love to hear what you are having success with.