Yesterday morning, my sister 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.
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.
Medicinal Plants List for Optimal Health
1. Kale (and other brassicas)
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.
2. Achillea (Yarrow)
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.
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?