Plants aren’t just for decorating borders or feeding your family. You can also heal wounds, cure headaches and ease indigestion using things growing right in your own garden. Teas, tinctures, and oils from medicinal plants offer up natural alternatives to the stuff you find at the local pharmacy. You might already have a few of them growing in your yard right now.
While you may have sustenance covered with your garden, no self-sufficient lifestyle is complete without a few medicinal plants to help keep you well. We'll show you what plants you need to grow your own little mini-pharmacy right at home.
1. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
If you're like me and you’re not fond of rosemary’s pungent aroma, you can grow and use it for medicinal purposes instead.
Hardiness: This popular herb is a perennial in zones 8 and up.
Use: Rosemary oil has useful anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties when you apply it topically. In tea form, rosemary is hailed as a valuable memory booster.
Cautions: None of note.
2. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Consisting of little button flowers that resemble daisies, feverfew is easy to germinate and grow from seed.
Hardiness: Feverfew is perennial in zones 5-9.
Use: There’s some evidence that supplementing with feverfew can reduce migraine attack frequency. As a migraine sufferer myself, I’m always skeptical of so-called natural remedies, but there’s evidence that parthenolide, which feverfew contains, is an effective preventative. Of course, results vary widely. As any migraine sufferer knows, what works for one person may not work for another, unfortunately.
Cautions: Watch out for a number of unpleasant, but non-serious side-effects ranging from indigestion to nausea. Allergy sufferers should avoid consuming feverfew. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should speak to a doctor before supplementing with feverfew.
3. Aloe Vera (Aloe vera)
Aloe is a widespread ingredient in skin lotions and creams, and there’s a good reason for it. It works wonders on the skin.
Hardiness: This tender plant is perennial in zones 10 and up, but it also grows well indoors.
Use: Use the slimy gel-like interior to treat a number of conditions from sunburns to stings.
Cautions: None of note.
4. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Hardy enough to survive most winter conditions, this perennial plant has been used medicinally for centuries.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 4 through 9.
Use: Valerian is a useful sleep aid and relaxant. It also helps relieve indigestion.
Cautions: If not properly pruned and cared for, valerian has the potential to become invasive, which you especially don't want because it smells awful. People have reported mild side effects such as headaches and indigestion.
5. Beth root (Trillium erectum)
Also known as red trillium, this medicinal plant has many uses. It was once widely used by Native Americans to aid with birth.
Hardiness: This pretty plant is perennial in zones 4 through 9.
Use: You can banish period camping with a tea made from the root of this plant. It's also useful for indigestion and breathing troubles such as asthma.
Cautions: None of note.
6. Aconite (Aconitum)
Also known as Wolfsbane, this plant is topped with pretty purple flowers.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 2 to 9.
Use: Aconite has sedative properties, as well as the ability to treat headaches. It is a powerful medicinal plant and should be used with extreme care.
Cautions: POISONOUS – this plant is not to be used without a physician’s supervision.
7. Sushni (Marsilea quadrifolia)
Delicate clover-shaped leaves make up the sushni plant. You can eat the leaves, too, but the plant is more commonly known for its brain-boosting properties.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 8 and up.
Use: This plant has sedative properties that are helpful for battling insomnia. It has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
8. Wooly Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)
Often treated as a weed, this fuzzy plant isn’t necessarily a nuisance if you want something that is a handy wound dressing.
Hardiness: Wooly lamb's ear is perennial in zones 4 through 9.
Use: This plant isn’t meant to be eaten or used to make tea. Instead, the soft leaves were once used to cover and bandage cuts and scrapes, and you can still use it that way today. It's the original band-aid!
9. Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum)
A tough-to-grow perennial that is native to woodland habitats.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 5 and 6.
Use: This plant is useful for healing skin abrasions and relieving pain associated with wounds.
Cautions: Watch out, many parts of this plant are poisonous, including the berries.
10. Elecampane (Inula helenium)
The tall flowers make this an attractive addition to the garden. Hardy and low-maintenance, they are best kept protected from strong gusts of wind.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 3 to 8.
Use: Elecampane is useful as a cough suppressant, in addition to providing relief from indigestion.
11. Allheal (Prunella)
The perfect plant for your bee-friendly garden, and it's likely you already have some growing on or around your lawn.
Hardiness: Allheal is perennial in zones 4 to 9.
Use: The name says it all. Once used as a cure-all, the plant has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.
12. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
I love lemon balm! It’s one of my favorite perennial plants. It smells divine.
Hardiness: This easy to grow perennial is hardy in zones 5 through 9.
Use: As a tea, lemon balm is a great all-around soother. Use it to relax, or relieve your tummy troubles.
Cautions: Grows fast and spreads quickly. Consequently, you should treat it like mint and grow it in containers or in an area where you can control it.
13. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Mmmmm licorice. It’s a fragrant and incredibly versatile medicinal plant.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 7 through 10.
Use: You can heal tummy troubles and acid reflux with a bite from this plant. Additionally, many parts of the plant can be used for culinary or medicinal purposes.
14. Pig’s Ears (Cotyledon orbiculata)
Sort of shaped like pig’s ears… if you stare long enough. This plant is an easy-to-grow succulent.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 7 to 10.
Use: Pig's ears are a natural wart remedy. Using it requires a lot more patience than a visit to the podiatrist, however!
15. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus)
Enjoyed by koalas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, eucalyptus is a native of Australia but has found a home in many parts of the U.S.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 9 and 10.
Use: Eucalyptus oil has strong anti-bacterial properties. It's also an oft-used ingredient in lozenges or cough syrup.
16. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
Wort… not wart. St. John’s Wort is easily found almost anywhere. You’re likely to spot it in supplement form at the pharmacy.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 4 through 8.
Use: Used most often as a natural remedy for mental health issues like anxiety or depression, it is also useful as an anti-bacterial agent and used topically can help treat and heal wounds or other skin abrasions.
Cautions: None of note.
17. Rue (Ruta graveolens)
You don’t eat the pretty flowers of this plant, but you can munch on the leaves by adding them to salads or other prepared foods.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 5 through 9.
Use: Rue is a headache reliever, but don’t expect it to cure a migraine.
Cautions: Pregnant women should avoid this plant
18. Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea)
Gosh, I love succulents. They’re the cutest of plants. Roseroot is no exception, and it’s incredibly hardy.
Hardiness: Perennial up to zone 7.
Use: Roseroot has restorative abilities. Similar to ginseng, it is thought to improve mental functioning. It has multiple other applications, from treating burns to relief for indigestion.
19. Mullein (Verbascum)
This grows on my lawn without me even lifting a finger. I used to look at it as a weed, but I’m a little kinder to the plant now.
Hardiness: Mullein is a biennial.
Use: It is used as a treatment for respiratory ailments. The soft leaves are similar to lamb’s ear and can be used to cover and treat skin abrasions.
20. Goji berry (Lycium barbarum or Lycium chinense)
I bought my first goji berry plant earlier this year. The nursery where I bought it had it labeled as a super grower, super food, and super all-around plant. At least, that’s what I recall. So far, it’s growth has been less than stellar, but I’m hopeful that next year it will flourish. Regardless, it is good to keep in a medicinal plant garden.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 4 through 7.
Use: Hailed as a superfood, the berries of this plant are full of anti-oxidants. The nutrient-packed berries may help with a slew of issues from high cholesterol, to diabetes. These little round immune boosters are even thought to ward of cancer. Though I wouldn’t recommend them as an alternative to treatment, as part of an otherwise healthy lifestyle, snacking from the goji plant might give you a little extra helping hand.
21. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Used to make one of my favorite herbal teas.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 5, 6, 7, and 8.
Use: Its anti-inflammatory properties can help allergy sufferers, women with heavy, painful periods, and people living with arthritis.
Cautions: Watch out, it grows like a weed!
22. Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
For some reason, the name of this plant creeps me out. But, don’t let the name scare you off because it's a handy medicinal plant to keep around.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 3 to 9.
Use: Helpful in regulating digestion. Also a natural cure for intestinal worms….perhaps that’s where the name came from?
23. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
Another one you’re likely to see in supplement form at your local pharmacy, you can grow your own supply right in your garden and enjoy the stunning fall display as an added bonus.
Hardiness: This tree is perennial in zones 5 through 9.
Use: Another medicinal plant with brain-boosting powers, it also helps with memory and otherwise improves brain function.
Cautions: It can be a fussy tree to grow in some areas.
24. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
A helpful addition for the gardener wanting to attract more bees. In addition to its medicinal properties, it also features pretty delicate flowers.
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 3 through 10.
Use: Used to treat diarrhea and other digestive issues, though the evidence is mostly anecdotal. More research is required to ascertain the effectiveness of yarrow as a medicinal supplement.
25. Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
A medicinal plant with culinary and medicinal uses, it smells of mint and is easy to grow.
Hardiness: This sturdy herb is perennial in zones 6, 7, 8, and 9.
Use: Drink pennyroyal tea to relieve a mild headache.
Cautions: Not for use by pregnant women. Be aware that overdose is possible. It can also be potentially toxic if ingested. Speak to a physician before using it.
26. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis)
Witch hazel grows wild across the U.S. so you might be able to find a ready source without even having to plant it. It's invaluable to have around the house.
Hardiness: Witch hazel is hardy in zones 3 – 8.
Use: Apply topically on cuts, bruises, and other skin disorders.
Cautions: You should only ingest witch hazel in small amounts as too much can harm the liver or cause nausea. Pregnant women shouldn't ingest at all.
27. Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Stinging Nettle may not be the first plant that comes to mind for planting in your garden, but it is incredibly useful to keep around.
Hardiness: Grows well in zones 3 – 10.
Use: Stinging nettle is good for treating PMS, stomach issues, and eases birthing pains, among a host of other ailments. Topically it can alleviate eczema symptoms and heal burns.
Cautions: If you've ever brushed against stinging nettle in the wild, you know it hurts. Wear protective clothing when working with mature nettles.
28. Mint (Mentha)
You couldn't ask for a more pleasant plant to keep around the garden – if you don't mind keeping it under control. Not only does it smell good and make a tasty tea or garnish, but mint also has tons of uses medicinally.
Hardiness: Grows well in zones 3 – 10.
Use: Mint can help IBS and allergy sufferers. It also relieves muscle pain, indigestion, and ulcers.
Cautions: Mint can be a challenge to keep under control in the garden. Plant in pots or an area where you don't mind it spreading.
A Word of Caution
Careful. Do your research and speak to a health professional before consuming medicinal plants and herbs to prevent drug interactions and avoid allergic reactions. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid consuming medicinal plants unless okayed by their doctor.
Treat ailments and conditions with natural remedies at your own risk. Using medicinal plants is not a substitute for a visit to a healthcare professional. Always ask your doctor before supplementing with medicinal plants, especially if you are on medications, have a condition that's being treated by a doctor, are pregnant, nursing, or have severe allergies.
Have you ever planted something expressly for medicinal purposes? If so, do you have a favorite medicinal plant in your garden? Let us know in the comments!