Planning and planting a medicinal herb garden can take care of many of your wellness and healing needs. For centuries, herbs have been used to cure ailments and soothe sicknesses. Over time, medicinal herb knowledge has waned, but in recent years, we’ve seen a resurgence of those interested in growing medicinal herb gardens.
Planting a medicinal herb garden gives you control over the medicines that you use. If I make a cup of herbal tea, I like to know that the herbs inside are organic and free of any toxic chemicals. Plus, you save money by growing them in your backyard.
That’s not to mention that you create a habitat for birds, insects, and other animals. My herb garden is full of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators that help my vegetable garden grow and flourish. The benefits of having a medicinal herb garden seem to be endless.
How to Plan a Medicinal Herb Garden
Before you start planting, you need a plan. Planting a medicinal herb garden isn’t the same as planting a veggie garden; you need to pick plants with a purpose. You want to know that you’ll use them and that they’ll grow well in your area.
First, let’s look at a few questions that you need to ask yourself.
Do You Want to Plant in the Ground or Containers?
Some plants grow better – or worse – in containers or the ground. If you want to use containers only, make sure you look at herbs that are suited for pots.
Does The Herb Grow Well in Your Climate?
Thinking about herbs that grow well in your climate should be a given. If you try to grow any plant that isn't suited for the environment and temperatures in your region, you won't end up with a successful harvest.
What is Your Hardiness Zone?
In some areas, specific herbs can grow as perennials rather than annuals. Some herbs aren’t suited for different hardiness zones, so take a look and see what grows best in your zone. Find out your hardiness zone with our tool.
What Type of Ailments Do You Want to Use These Herbs For?
Perhaps most importantly, think about how you want to use herbs. Do you want herbs that can help you relax and deal with indigestion? Do you want to work on other issues, such as infections, bronchitis, and toothaches? It's essential to make sure that you pick, first and foremost, herbs that you will use. Then, you can start adding different ones that you aren't sure about but would like to try.
Sketch Your Herb Garden
Next, take some time to sketch your garden before getting your hands dirty. I like to make a few design sketches as I consider the mature height and width of the plant. For example, mint loves to spread, so it needs plenty of room to sprawl.
It's easy to want to jump right in but look at the space you have and how your sun rises and sets. You don't want to plant tall herbs on the east side of your garden the might cast a shade over sun-needing herbs. Tall herbs need to be planted on the west side of your garden.
You’ll also want to consider the soil and watering requirements for each plant. That allows you to plant them together based on their needs. If you have one water-craving plant amongst plants that thrive in dry conditions, you’ll find it’s difficult to maintain happiness for both.
The 7 Best Plants for a Medicinal Herb Garden
Here are a few of my favorite medicinal herbs that I grow in my backyard. Don’t worry; there are many more than this! You can find herbs that heal almost any ailment.
Almost everyone recognizes calendula if they spend any time learning about medicinal herbs. It can be found in topical ointments, salves, and creams. You can even make a diaper rash cream with calendula. In your garden, calendula will have beautiful golden flowers, and the petals are edible!
The flowers on the calendula plant can be incorporated into oils and salves. They have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, emmenagogue, and lymphagogue properties. You can use calendula to treat a variety of problems, such as:
- Healing wounds
- Dry skin
- Digestive inflammation
- Peptic Ulcers
Calendula prefers to grow in full sun and average garden soil. You can grow it from seed by either direct sowing or starting early inside. This herb also grows well in containers, which is why it's sometimes nicknamed “pot marigold.”
Echinacea is often called purple coneflower, and it’s one of the most popular garden plants. It displays purple flowers that attract butterflies and bees. Not only is it a beautiful plant, but it’s quite easy to grow. Echinacea can withstand drought, disease, and pest infestations.
For medicinal purposes, you can use the roots, seeds, and flowers from the echinacea plant. All of it can be used to create teas and tinctures. You can use echinacea to treat:
- Upper respiratory infections
- Sore throats
- Skin wounds
- Urinary tract infections
- Yeast infections
Echinacea is an herbaceous perennial that needs full sun to grow for best flower production. Space the plants 12-24 inches apart, and they’ll reach heights up to 6-inches tall. It grows in most garden soils, which is why it's a favorite in many areas!
When you’re hoping to get sleepy, there is nothing better than sipping a cup of chamomile tea. Dried or fresh chamomile flowers have long been used for their medicinal purposes. While most people associate chamomile with sleepiness and relaxation, there are other uses for this herb, such as:
- Wash Wounds
- Treat sores
- Muscle Spasms
Chamomile grows quickly from seeds. The daisy-like flowers appear within a few weeks of planting outside. It prefers partial to full sun and well-draining soil.
Aside from tea, you can make an herbal bath with chamomile or a chamomile tincture. Don’t discount using chamomile in salves and ointments as well. It’s a soothing, versatile herb that belongs in all medicinal herb gardens.
Who doesn’t love an easy herb to grow? Motherwort fits in that category, plus its a highly versatile medicinal herb. You can use it for a variety of ailments, such as:
- Menstrual cramps
- Muscle sprains
- Body aches
- Eases hot flashes and hormonal irritability
- Strengthens contractions during childbirth
Motherwort has a seriously bitter flavor. Drinking a cup of motherwort tea isn’t on my list of favorite things to do, so I opt to use a tincture. Despite its flavor, motherwort has long been associated with some great benefits, especially those linked with women. If you have hormonal hot flashes or hormone-induced irritability, motherwort might be your friend.
It's an herbaceous perennial that needs full sun to part shade. It's hardy to zone 4, and each plant needs to be 18-24 inches apart. Motherwort reaches heights of 3 to 5 feet tall.
5. Holy Basil
Closely related to common basil, holy basil is native to India and popular as an herbal tea. It has aromatic and anti-microbial properties that are perfect for treating colds and other ailments. Holy basil is known for its adaptogenic effect that impacts energy and mental clarity. We all need an uplift during our day.
A few other ailments that you can use holy basil for are:
Since holy basil originates in India, it's perennial in zone 10 and warmer. Everywhere else, holy basil is grown as an annual, reaching a few inches tall and 6 to 12 inches wide. This herb needs full sun and average to moist soil. You can quickly grow this herb from seed inside and transplant outside.
6. Spilanthes aka Toothache Plant
Planting spilanthes in your garden adds a bit of uniqueness and fun. Also known as the toothache plant, spilanthes has unusual golden, globe-shaped flowers with a red center.
The uniqueness of this herb doesn’t stop there. Spilanthes is one of the strongest saliva-promoters. Even a small nibble causes your mouth to drool, and that tingly numbing sensation is why it helps to relieve toothaches. You can use it in tooth and gum formulas. It’s also anti-microbial.
Spilanthes is an annual plant that grows in average to fertile soil. It requires full sun and water during dry periods. When in full maturity, the plant is about 1 foot tall and wide.
7. Wild Bergamot
Adding wild bergamot to your garden adds an invitation for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to stop by. It's a close relative to bee balm, but it prefers hotter and drier conditions. If you don't have those conditions, bee balm might be more up your aisle. Both are essential medicinal herbs that have long been utilized by Native Americans.
Wild bergamot has anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and diaphoretic properties. You can use it for a variety of ailments, such as:
- Respiratory congestion
I like wild bergamot because you can use it in a variety of ways. Add the leaves and flowers to a pot of hot water for steam inhalation for upper respiratory congestion. You can enjoy it as a tea or prepared as a tincture.
Wild bergamot is an herbaceous perennial that reaches heights of 3 to 4-feet tall and as wide as you'll let it spread. It requires full sun and well-draining soil and thrives in USDA zones 3-8.
Don’t feel limited! There are dozens of other herbs that you can grow in your gardens such as mullein, lavender, yarrow, feverfew, and lemon balm. Adding a medicinal herb garden to your backyard can give you natural ways to help your sicknesses and ailments without requiring pharmaceuticals or a trip to the doctor. Saving a little bit of money doesn’t hurt either.