Garden Medicine: 3 Easy to Grow Herbs
As a clinical herbalist, I am often asked, “Do you grow your own herbs?!”
I LOVE to garden and yes, I do grow some herbs. Growing herbs is so wonderful.
Many are easy to care for, perennial, and beautiful, and using the garden harvest as medicine is simply a joy.
Do I grow all the medicine for my family and clients? Nope. I’m an urban herbalist and I don’t have the land or the lifestyle for growing swaths of medicinal abundance myself, but I love to grow a few favorites. Like a veggie grower who gets deep satisfaction from canning her tomato harvest, I get extreme pleasure filling jars with herbs I’ve grown and dried for tea, cooking or other potions.
If you want to create a deeper connection with herbs, I highly recommend getting your hands in the dirt and growing some. Where to start? Try these:
1. Lemon balm
These three plants are easy to grow and super useful. Lemon balm smells amazing and is loaded with an oil that has a calming, uplifting effect on mood. Calendula brings sunshine-y golden happiness to your garden and the blooms are effective healers of skin and gut. Thyme is a smell sensation, makes veggie and meat dishes sing with flavor, improves digestion and, and, AND is one the most terrific remedies to have on hand for winter respiratory illnesses.
I’ll write more about how to dry and prep and use these incredible plants. But for now, just plant them!
Tips for growing:
Lemon balm (Mellissa officinalis)- It’s often easy to get it free from a friend who has way too much. In this case, divide it and plant in a sunny place. Or find a small organic start from your garden shop. Consider a pot where it can be contained or a corner of your yard/garden where you are ready to let it go wild. It will grow and grow and grow, which I think is the plant’s way of saying, harvest me! Honestly, I’d put lemon balm tea in the U.S. water supply if I could…couldn’t we all use a little calming action on our nervous systems these days?
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) - Very easy to grow by seed. Toss some in a sunny spot and await magnificence in mid-summer. It will reseed year after year. This is another plant some consider weedy but the more blossoms the better, in my opinion. If I could get a container of calendula salve into every household, I would. It’s that great.
Thyme (Thymus officinalis) - So many varieties. Find a true Thymus officinalis. It will start small and soon spread, which is great because then you can clip it often, divide it and share with friends. Fresh thyme for cooking and dried thyme for tea - so simple, so good.
Buy your plant starts or seeds locally, if you can. Here in Seattle, you can find quality organic plants and seeds at spring plant sales, farmers markets, natural food co-ops and many garden stores. If you need to order online, you can’t go wrong with Strictly Medicinal Seeds. For the health of your own body and the earth, please buy organic and follow organic gardening principles!
And if you are hankering to add an herb gardening book to your collection, I love the new-ish Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer. It's not a home gardening book, but the growing and use advice from Jeff and Melanie Carpenter of Zack Woods Herb Farm is solid.
Tara Thomas is a clinical herbalist practicing and gardening in Seattle, WA.
Do you have a question for the herbalists? Go ask here!