Yesterday morning, Haley had an interesting encounter with a sniffling boy and his grandmother.
It prompted us to put together a short medicinal plants list of 5 plants you may want to consider for your own organic garden.
While sitting on a bench at the park, a sweet, older woman sat down beside me with her grandson. The poor little guy had bright red eyes, a runny nose and was coughing up a storm.
“It’s that time of year again” she turned and said to me. “All the little ones are coming home from school with a cold.”
But grandma was armed and ready. She had tissues hanging out of every pocket and a purse full of remedies.
I watched her sort through a little bag of wrapped candies and choose one. “Echinacea” she said. “Maybe you should have one, too.”
Echinacea can be good medicine if you get a quality brand or grow your own quality echinacea. I doubt those candies offered much power, but I smiled and accepted her offer.
Click for video transcription
Phil: Hey guys, it’s is Phil from SmilingGardener.com and today we have a medicinal plants list that we put together for you, and Haley is going to tell you why we started thinking about this.
Haley: Well, okay, I started thinking about this yesterday because I went for a walk in the park right beside my house and I sat down on a bench to take a rest and this woman, an older woman, had sat down beside me and she had a little -- her grandson with her.
And this little guy was just covered in sickness, like runny nose and eyes and all this kind of stuff. He looked like he had a cold or a flu and this grandmother, she was so sweet, she was just totally ready to tackle this and she had like a little bag of candies and she was kind of sorting through these candies, try to pick the right one and she found one. She says to me "it’s Echinacea."
So it got me thinking that even across the ocean, there are a lot of plants that medicinally offer the same properties. So we thought it would be worthwhile to discuss some of them.
Phil: Yeah and so we started talking about it and what it really reminded me of - and this is kind of the most important part of the blog we put together I think -that what got me really excited when I started studying organic gardening was the idea of growing really nutrient dense food and growing any kind of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and mushrooms, whatever you do, if you can learn to create really good soil and grow that really nutrient dense food, then you are going to be getting just natural pharmaceuticals really; the same kind of stuff that are used in things like aspirin, anti-inflammatory things, all kinds of natural drugs really that will prevent disease and just help you be overall healthy.
So I got really excited about that, but then we were talking about today and we were talking about how there are some plants that are especially medicinal. So what we did is we put together a list of five, we just picked five really that I have in my garden and that I have used in the last week or so.
And to keep this video short, we are just going to cover one of them in the video and the other five will be on the blog. So if you are watching this on YouTube, I’ll put a link below and you can go, check it out. So many other ones are pretty cool; we have like a -- we have a leafy green, we have a flower, we have a bulb, we have a weed. So we have some cool ones.
But we are just going to about another one today. So Haley, you picked one that you really liked, right?
Haley: Yeah, I thought it would be cool to mention fennel because fennel is really awesome for relaxing the tummy. It helps aid in digestion. So if you have fennel tea or phenol seeds, it’s really good to maybe, for example, get a cup of tea, have that before a meal or after meal, especially if you have something heavy, it’s really good to help settle the tummy.
So if you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant, you’ve probably seen that they have little dishes of seeds for you after dinner maybe covered in like a sugary coating, something like that. Well, those are fennel seeds and it’s a practice in India to eat them after a heavy meal to help aid in digestion.
Phil: Yeah and yet the thing I like about fennel too is in the garden, it’s just a great plant for attracting beneficial insects, it may be a perennial where you live so it comes back every year or even if you live in a cold climate, it will self seed quite readily and same with dill, it’s related to dill.
So I actually tend to grow more dill because I like it a little bit better in cooking but more of a medicinal plant is the fennel and yeah, I think that’s the one we wanted to cover.
So we had a question we were going to ask people?
Haley: Yeah, we were going to ask you guys -- why do I always forget these questions?
Phil: I don’t know why you forget this one because all we are asking people is what medicinal plants they like to grow and --
Haley: Yes, I think I even wrote it down.
Phil: You know like what’s medicinal about it and just tell us whatever they want about it because obviously there are tens of thousands of these; we just took five. So we’d like to hear what plants, yeah, people like to grow.
Phil: Yeah, so if you are not on the blog, check it out because one weed that we wrote about is one that I sometimes use in this ice cream that I make. So I have a little recipe for that on the website too.
Haley: Cool! All right, see you guys.
This made us think about the natural medicines of plants. Plants are full of compounds and energies that can improve our health and even heal us in miraculous ways.
Like the lady who provided the candy for her grandson, plants are the original providers of all our drugs.
Are you growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, seeds and mushrooms in your organic garden?
And using important soil- and ecosystem-building methods in order to grow the most nutrient-dense plants possible, like the methods I teach in the Academy?
If so, you’ll be getting natural doses of the same medicines that are used in common over-the-counter drugs, but you’ll be bypassing all the bad stuff that results from using synthetic versions of these compounds.
When you do that, all food plants you grow will be medicinal in that they provide you with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, etc. to help you be healthy and disease-free.
But there are some plants that are especially medicinal.
What follows is a list of 5 easy-to-grow, common medicinal plants I have in my garden and have actually used in the last week.
If you’re in a temperature climate like the U.S., you can probably grow them, too.
Kale gets a top spot on our medicinal plants list since it has so much to offer. And it’s super easy to grow.
It has fiber, minerals (lots of iron, calcium and magnesium), vitamins (especially A and C, which are both immune-boosters), antioxidants and essential fatty acids. Not to mention protein - 20% protein by calories!
Massage it with salt before you use it to turn it from a somewhat unpalatable leaf to a tender, delicious salad green. I didn’t really enjoy kale until Heather taught me that trick.
And go for other brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. They all have a high level of sulforaphane - a really powerful cancer-fighting compound - and other antioxidants.
This is a great herbaceous perennial to include as part of your medicinal plant list.
It has long-lasting flowers which attract loads of beneficial insects and it looks beautiful in the garden.
Yarrow has a long list of medicinal uses. The leaves are used as an astringent to stop bleeding and close up wounds, so it’s great for cuts (like when you stab your hand with a thorn from a red currant plant).
Making it into a tea can provide benefits to your tummy by stimulating digestion (and helping with menstruation for the ladies). To make the tea, harvest the leaves before flowering and then dry them.
This is another species which will attract butterflies and other beneficial insects into the garden, and it's a perennial that self seeds, so leave a few flower heads there to drop.
It’s most famous for aiding digestion. Ever wondered what those seeds are you get after your meal at an Indian restaurant? Fennel!
The seeds are easy to harvest (just cut and dry the flowers heads) and can be munched on raw or made into a tea to enjoy after a meal.
The seeds are also perfect for freshening the breath so keep a dish around the house and eat a small handful as you please.
I know dandelions are weeds in the lawn, but they’re also nutrient accumulators, meaning their roots seem to help pull up minerals such as maybe calcium and potassium from down in the soil.
Different parts of this medicinal plant can be harvested for consumption. The root of the plant is useful to improve digestion, and also as a mild laxative.
Every day, I use sprouts and other herbs - sometimes including just a small amount of baby dandelion greens - to make my version of ice cream. Per person, put 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup of frozen berries (raspberries are the best), 1-2 cups of sprouts/greens and probably 1-2 Tbsp of water or EM or aloe vera juice into a food processor, blend them up very well, and eat. When you get the texture right, it’s almost as good as real ice cream!
Just dry the root and make tea, and same goes for the leaves. Here’s a recipe from Heather on how to make a herbal detox tea with dandelion root and some other medicinal plants and herbs. You don’t have to use all of the ingredients - even just dandelion is okay.
Or eat the freshly harvested leaves in a salad or smoothie. The leaves are full of vitamins, iron, beta-carotene, fiber, calcium, phosphorus and on and on. Plus they’re a good source of protein.
Garlic is another deserving member of our medicinal plants list.
Not only does it attract beneficial insects, but it also repels some not-so-beneficial insects, so using it around your organic vegetable garden is great.
It’s a known antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral and also is said to help prevent some cancers and heart diseases!
And research suggests eating raw garlic will help to lower high blood pressure. Crushing or pressing garlic makes the enzymes and antioxidants more active and beneficial for you.
The best part is, garlic is super easy to grow and can be used in numerous ways in your kitchen. I harvested my 150 bulbs last month for use over the next year.
Obviously this is a very incomplete list of medicinal plants, but a good start to add to your repertoire. What other medicinal plants do you grow?