Easy-to-grow medicinal herbs for the kitchen garden include 20 well-know plants that complement the vegetable patch. Be sure to download the Kitchen Garden Herbalist’s Materia Medica, a journal to keep track of your medicinal herb journey.
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I’m not a trainer herbalist. I have worked with many herbalists. More importantly, I have worked with many plants for many years. the information in this post is well researched and based on longstanding common knowledge of the relationship between people and plant medicine.
I wrote this post to help the kitchen gardener round out her garden plot with non-culinary herbs that will bring diversity, fragrance, color, and texture to gardens usually cultivated for culinary purposes.
If you are curious about these plants beyond their cultivation, do your homework.
There’s a lot of free and trustworthy information in books and online to help you in your amateur herbal interests.
I’ve also created the Kitchen Garden Herbalist’s Materia Medica, a free downloadable PDF journal to help you build a lasting and informed relationship with the medicinal herbs you choose to cultivate in the kitchen garden.
Be smart and be safe. Use the good sense Nature gave you when harvesting and using any medicinal plant in your seasonal kitchen.
What are medicinal herbs?
Medicinal herbs are plants that are used for medicinal purposes. Other types of herbs include culinary herbs, used to flavor food, and aromatic herbs, used to add fragrance. Medicinal herbs cover a wide range of types of plants. TheyFrom medicinal herbs for commerce
can be annuals or perennials; woody or herbaceous; sun-loving or shade requiring.
Medicinal Herbs for the Kitchen Garden
The term medicinal herbs is not a botanical category of plants, but rather a designation given to a plant that is traditionally known to have healing properties.
Phytochemicals, chemicals derived from plants, offer remedies for ailments as diverse as skin rashes, digestive issues, sleeplessness, and overstimulation. As human culture grew and long term relationships with plants developed, the link between a plant and its healing property became common knowledge. When these plants are cultivated in gardens, we call them medicinal herbs.
Adding medicinal herbs to the kitchen garden brings color, texture, and fragrance to the landscape. Medicinal herbs feed the soil and the pollinators as well as offer their healing properties to the gardener.
In addition, to have health benefits for humans, medicinal herbs are a lovely addition to the kitchen garden for several reasons. Medicinal herbs are often pollinator-friendly, nutritive additions to the compost heap and soil nourishing.
Why add medicinal herbs to the kitchen garden?
Adding medicinal herbs to your kitchen garden is a sustainability strategy that serves the health of the garden environment. It also provides homegrown ingredients for your own health journey.
Many, if not most medicinal herbs are perennial and help to stabilize and enrich the soil of your kitchen garden. They become part of your garden biome that attract microbes and beneficial insects to the ecosystem.
Finally, most medicinal herbs, especially native species, are easy to care for regardless of weather cycles. They offer a stabilizing force to your kitchen garden.
20 Medicinal Herbs for the Kitchen Garden
A combination of personal experience and research of trusted sources helped me to organize this list of 20 medicinal herbs for the kitchen garden. Be sure to read about each plant as I offer a photo image, description of optimal growing conditions, and reference traditional uses.
An interesting aspect of growing medicinal herbs in the kitchen garden is the relationship you will create over time with specific plants. When I have such experiences with the plants listed, I offer that experience up to you, dear reader, as well.
This Anise Hyssop was started in my edible landscaping garden 3 years ago. It reseeds itself every year and is a delight to pollinators of all stripes! When rubbed it does indeed smell of anise.
Besides all the winged friends it brings to the front porch every day from July to September, my favorite memory of the plant is when a friend concocted a simple syrup from the green leaves for cocktails. Both the flowers and the leaves are edible.
Anise hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, is an annual plant that grows 2-4 feet tall, and 1-3 feet wide. It is sprawling but doesn’t need staking. The stems are woody. Flower colors range from white to lavender. Hyssop is a member of the mint family.
Anise Hyssop is a flexible plant as it can grow in full sun or partial shade, and can take dry conditions once established. The roots don’t mind moisture as long as the soil drains well. As I said, it reseeds easily, so plant it where you don’t mind if it returns year after year.
Seed saving is easy as the abundant seeds resemble poppy seeds and are easily shaken from dry flower heads.
The most popular use for Hyssop is as the primary ingredient in Absinthe. It gives the drink its licorice flavor! It was the 2019 herb of the year.
Native Americans used this hyssop in many ways. The Cheyenne drank a tea made from hyssop for what they called “dispirited hearts.” Yes, this herb is actually beneficial to heart health. Cree Indians included the flowers in their medicine bundles. The dried plant has been burned as a cleansing incense. As an herbalist, I like using it for coughs, chest colds, and fevers. With its abundant antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, it helps reduce fevers and is a good digestive aid.Countryside
Bergamot | Bee Balm
I love this plant because it looks like it fell from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book with its bushy cap and longneck of a stem. Bee balm, also known as Bergamot, smells spicy and is loved by pollinators of all kinds, including butterflies. Hummingbirds frequent my patches. I grow both the decorative varieties like you see in the photo above, as well as the native varieties that have a pinkish color to the flower.
Bee Balm, Monarda didyma, establishes well after the first planting and spreads easily. Be sure to plant it in a place where you don’t mind if it takes over, as it is a member of the mint family. It loves rich soil and bright sunlight. Bee balm grows to about 2-4 feet in height and brings a shot of high color to garden beds and lawn edges. You’ll want to pinch back the older blooms to encourage continuous blossoming throughout the summer.
My patches of bee balm often finish blooming in early August. They then have a second bloom in September if the season is rainy and warm.
Bergamot smells of orange and also has a strong herbal flavor some compare to oregano. From this memorable flavor and fragrance comes yet another name for this bright perennial – Oswego tea, named so for the Oswego tribe of New York who used it for tea.
Bee balm is antimicrobial and soothing, so it’s often used to treat colds and flu. It also has a soothing effect on the digestive tract and helps to treat indigestion, bloating and nausea. It’s more than just soothing on the digestive system and its antispasmodic properties also help it treat menstrual cramps as well as coughs. Externally, it’s used to treat scrapes, stings and rashes.practical self reliance
Oh what a sweet and sunny flower is calendula!
Calendula, Calendula officinalis, is easy to grow from seeds and the seeds are easy to save. It is a hardy annual that often reseeds itself if winters aren’t too harsh. This is another medicinal herb in the kitchen garden that needs pinching back frequently to maintain a steady stream of sunny blossoms.
Both the flowers and leaves of the plant are edible and make the most delicious addition to salads – a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy.
Also called pot marigold, Calendula has been popular in kitchen gardens since Shakespeare’s time. It’s been cultivated for so long that its origins are not known, but assumed to be southern England. Calendula likes moderate heat and full sun. If the late summer weather is too harsh for the plant, cut it back to about 3-4 inches and encourage a second fall bloom with a good watering.
Topically, calendula addresses myriad skin complaints, including rashes, stings, wounds, burns, abrasions, swellings, eczema, acne, insect bites, scrapes, bruises, chickenpox, cold sores, cervical dysplasia, diaper rash, cracked nipples from breastfeeding, and postpartum perineal tears.Chestnut school of herbalism
Catnip grows wild on my property. In the summer it stands like a huge bush in partially sunny spots. You can often see our gray cat, Pickles, sprawled and intoxicated underneath one any warm afternoon.
After all the reading so far, I think it’s time for a cat break. Here’s all you need to know about catnip to make you want (NEED) to add it to your kitchen garden.
Comfrey is one of the first medicinal herbs I added to my herb garden. I don’t grow it for its medicinal properties. Comfrey contains large amounts of trace minerals in its large leaves and I use it as mulch around fruit trees and other plants.
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a wonder plant. It is a dynamic accumulator, drawing minerals out of the soil and into the roots and leaves, a compost accelerator, a fine ingredient in liquid manure (comfrey tea), beneficial insect attractor, mulch, weed suppressant (we use it as a border around our veg plot to stop the paths getting overrun with weeds, biomass accumulator, livestock forage, human edible (comfrey fritters), a wound healer and it was traditionally called ‘knit bone’ by herbalists as it helps heals fractures.Permaculture UK
The botanical name for comfrey is Symphytum officinale. It is a member of the Borage family of plants and has the same color blossoms as the borage I grow for bees and my own salads.
I was gifted comfrey root from a friend when I first moved to the farm, and have gifted roots many times to others. It spreads prolifically by seed and by root. It likes rich, moist soil and loves direct sunlight. I know for a fact that it to grow exceptionally well in clay soil. If you want some and live nearby, leave me a note in the comments thread and I’ll hook you up!
Echinacea | Purple Coneflower
Echinacea is a medicinal herb for the kitchen garden that has something for absolutely everyone!
The gardener gets to enjoy its endless beauty throughout the summer. Bees and butterflies enjoy its ever-flowing nectar. Goldfinches and other songbirds feast on its protein-rich seeds throughout the fall and winter.
If find echinacea returns easily, year after year and reseeds itself with equal ease. It loves direct sunlight and isn’t picky about soil quality. Its root system doesn’t tolerate being too moist, so make sure your echinacea bed drains well.
As with other medicinal herbs we’ve discussed, you can pinch back fading echinacea blooms to encourage continuous blooms throughout the summer and into the fall.
Echinacea stimulates the immune system by activating macrophages and elevating white blood cell levels in the body and can help inhibit the ability for viruses to enter and take over the cell. It is a fabulous antiseptic, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. Echinacea is traditionally used for the onset of colds & flu’s, sore throats, respiratory infections, cystitis and other acute infections.REBECCA’S herbs
All the Elder on my property is wild. It shows up along sunny borders and makes itself know in June with its mass of delicate white flowers.
A shrub-like tree, elder can grow as high as 12 feet. Beware when planting an elder, deer love to eat it. They love full sun and moist, well-drained soil. As with many of the plants in this post, I find they grow easily in clay soil.
The flowers are flavorful and often used to decorate wedding cakes. They look delicate but are quite sturdy. I use them to craft a cordial that flavors champagne and sparkling wine perfectly.
The elder is probably best known for its berries which are purported to be the best remedy and preventative for the common cold. Elderberries should only be digested once cooked as the seeds have are toxic, as are the leaves, bark, and roots.
You may have wondered, is that actually true? IT IS! Elderberries are chock full of vitamin C and anthocyanins, which are antioxidant. Both of these are great for supporting good health every day. But elderberries also inhibit the replication of the flu virus: which means you have fewer viruses to kill. Studies show that elderberries can reduce the symptoms and overall length of the flu, and inhibiting the ability of the viruses to replicate probably plays a big role in that.commonwealth herbs
Ginger and Turmeric
I’ve placed ginger and turmeric together in this list because they are tropical rhizomes that can be grown in pots in most regions. To get a decent growth and harvest from the plants, their roots should remain at 60 degrees or higher. They love rich soil and plenty of water. Fertilize once a week with liquid fertilizer for healthy plants with robust root systems. They love heat and direct sunlight.
Ginger is a warming spice that aids digestion. It’s a perfect flavoring for everything from teas to soups. I ferment the root to make a natural soda.
Turmeric is a wonder food. It contains a healing compound called curcumin, that is scientifically proven to help the body manage inflammation.
Yes, that’s me at a local lavender festival!
Every marriage has its struggles. For me and Bob, it’s about lavender. I’ve wanted to create a significant lavender garden for years. Bob has fought me every step of the way. Who knows, maybe this is my year!
Lavender is particular in a particular kind of way.
It doesn’t need rich soil. It actually doesn’t like rich soil.
What is needed is loose, well-drained soil. Lavender’s roots rot if they get too moist. After Bob, that’s my biggest problem growing lavender here. The clay holds the moisture more than lavender likes. So, they’ll have to grow in raised beds.
That’s ok, just about everything I grow is in raised beds for just that reason!
There are 45 species of lavender and about 450 varieties. While we’re negotiating the growing plan her on the farm, I’ve been running trials to see which varieties grow best in my gardens.
To date, the Provance variety does best. This is perfect because it’s also one of the best varieties for harvesting buds and creating essential oil.
Pollinators love lavender, and it brings outrageous color and fragrance to the kitchen garden.
Lavender is a gentle sedative and can help with anxiety, stress and insomnia. It is often used in formula for the herbal treatment of depression as it has more immediate effects as compared to many of the slower-acting tonic antidepressants and adaptogens. I combine lavender with lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) in tea to help lift the spirits. Lavender is also used to alleviate grief; it is often paired with the flowers of hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), rose (Rosa spp.), and mimosa (Albizia julibrissin).Chestnut School of Herbs
We interrupt this medicinal herb post for a brief tour of the lavender fields of Provence.
Lemon Balm takes over. I placed my first plant in a scrubby section of my herb garden that is hard to get to and maintain. within 5 years, the lemon balm too completely over with a root mass so thick I don’t have to weed that section of the garden. It’s yet another medicinal herb in the mint family, known to be invasive.
It is beautiful to look at and lovely to smell in the spring and early summer. It burns out and creates seed heads for the remainder of the summer. If your lemon balm is in a high visibility section of your garden, cut it back at this point and keep watered to encourage a second growth.
My favorite use for lemon balm is in an herbal lemonade. Simply place the juice of 3 lemons in a quart of water. In a saucepan, bring the second quart of water to a boil and add a bunch of lemon balm and the lemon rinds. Simmer for 5 minutes and let cool. When cool, strain the water from the lemon balm and rinds and add to the lemon water. Sweeten to taste. Pour over ice and enjoy!
Use lemon balm to help ease anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, and headaches. It can even be helpful for those suffering with nervous heart palpitations. Similar to other plants in the mint family, such as rosemary and clary sage, lemon balm helps to restore those who are overwrought and exhausted. Rejuvenating lemon balm may be useful for easing parental exhaustion, for students studying for exams, and for overstimulated children. In particular, lemon balm can calm restlessness in children and help bring sleep to little ones who are so overtired that they are wired.the herbal academy
I’ve planted lemongrass a few times but have not been successful in adding it to my herb garden. Writing this post will finally force me to do some research to discover why this is!
Oh, now I see! I’m missing kangaroos! Watch to see what I mean.
You won’t find motherwort in my herb garden either. It’s not for any particular reason other than never finding its way onto my grow list until this year.
Motherwort is best started as a transplant in the kitchen garden because starting from seed requires stratification. This means the seeds need the experience of winter before they will germinate.
The process of stratification goes like this:
- Soak the seeds for 24 hours.
- Place them in a plastic bag with peat and sand, an equal amount of each.
- Place the bag in the refrigerator for 10 days.
- Check the seeds each day for growth. If you see a seed sprouting, plant it right away in potting mix.
- After ten days, start the seeds in potting mix as you would any herb seeds. Transplant after first true leaves appear.
Be careful where you plant motherwort as it is highly invasive and can quickly take over the area where it is planted. That being said, pollinators love it! So, give it room and help feed the bees. It grows readily in hardiness zones 4-8.
Motherwort gets its name from being used as a remedy during the postpartum period of childbirth.
Motherwort (Mother’s Herb, Wort=Herb). This perennial plant in the mint family is not only a beautiful flowering plant, but a beautiful addition to the materia medica of anyone wishing to gently tonify the female reproductive system and support healthy levels of stress, particularly those affecting Womengaia herbs
I have not grown mugwort, but have used it medicinally and with clients as a dream interpreter. Mugwort was a key ingredient in medieval beer recipes and is known for stimulating the dream life.
Mugwort seeds also need stratification, so consider finding transplants at your local farmers market or nursery if you decide to add this medicinal herb to your kitchen garden.
It has many similarities to motherwort in that it is also invasive. Plant mugwort in containers or in an area with deep borders if you wish to contain the plant. Also be warned, untrimmed, mugwort can grow up to 6 feet tall. I think I see an herbal border in my future!
Its botanical name Artemisia refers to the goddess Artemis, hinting at its divine origins. Named after the lunar goddess of childbearing and the wilderness, mugwort is steeped in much folklore about its healing virtues. It has traditionally held a powerful affiliation with the moon and was considered to be a prime herb for women. Artemisia vulgaris has been used to soothe the pain of childbirth as well as monthly menstrual cramping. It may also help to regulate the menstrual cycle to a normal, cyclical rhythm. Herbalist Matthew Wood says that mugwort will restore the injured female nature.flowerfolk herbs
Passionflowers, Passiflora incarnataare, so named because of their robust growth. The vining plant can grow up to 30 feet high and 8-10 feet wide. While the flowers look tropical, the plant can grow well in zones 6-10.
It’s the perfect plant for a pergola, treillis, or to decorate fencing.
They love full sun and moist well-drained soil. If you live in cooler areas, like me, mulch the plant to protect the roots during winter.
Passionflower moves excess energy from the upper body and redistributes it in the lower appropriately, giving the body a stronger rooted nature so it can thrive. That’s why Native peoples used it for conditions that included digestive upsets, like diarrhea and dysentery, particularly when they include fever and agitation. Passionflower’s antimicrobial action helps to fight off the invading germs while it cools the heat that’s built up in the Liver and Heart as a result of the body’s attempts to fight off the pathogen.the practical herbalist
Spilanthes, Spilanthes oleracea, is known as the toothache plant, the eyeball plant, and the peek-a-boo plant. It’s called the toothache plant because of its anticeptic properties that make it a perfect numbing mouthwash. Eyeball and peek-a-boo refer to its unusual appearance.
Spilanthes loves it warm and grows best in zones 9-11. So, if you are in a cooler climate, like me, you’ll need to keep it as a potted plant. Start it from seeds indoors and don’t bring it outside until June.
If planting in the garden, the plants should be placed a foot apart. They prefer direct sunlight, and well drained soil. It get to about a foot tall and two feet wide. It is sprawling!
The leaves are edible and often added to salads.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum, is a familiar medicinal herb, known to many for its effects upon the symptoms of mild depression.
St. John’s Wort is one of the easiest plants in this list to grow. It doesn’t have demanding soil requirements but loves to be kept moist. It prefers partial shade. This medicinal herb can grow from zones 6-10. They can grow to 3 feet tall and just as wide.
In addition to its mental health benefits St. John’s Wort is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and has been used as a sedative, expectorant and astringent. It is said to benefit treatments of lung conditions, bladder issues and even diarrhea.St. John’s Wort is used, medicinally, in many ways: In teas, tinctures, lotions and salves, powdered is put into capsules.imperfectly happy
I’ve grown white sage for years, although it is not in my garden now. I smudge the house frequently and am still burning my own sage.
Sage is a perennial herb that grows easily in most climates. It is fragrant and both a medicinal and culinary herb. White sage is the variety used specifically to create sacred smoke.
For many, sage is known as a medicinal herb that elicits feelings of warmth and comfort. Its medicinal properties can also lower cholesterol, rebuild vitality and strength that has been lost during an illness, and is a tonic for the liver. Sage is helpful for women’s health issues such as menstruation and night sweats (Glastar, 2012).For others, sage is a simple culinary herb used in savory, mouth-watering dishes such as butternut squash ravioli with sage butter, or stuffed mushrooms with sausage and sage.herbal academy
My witch hazel, Hamamelis japonica, is a Japanese variety that I planted in 2010 back when I really knew next to nothing about growing at scale or with a plan. It was a tiny little stick but now is about 10 feet high and just as wide around. they can easily grow to 25 feet.
The first thing I loved about my witch hazel, besides being in love with the thought of having one, was that it blooms in February. The blossoms are colorful and fragrant, a much-needed addition to my life that time of year.
Plant witch hazel as you would any shrub. It grows well in clay and acid soil generally speaking. Be sure to give them plenty of room, as they become sprawling over time.
In case you are curious…
And, many of us have grown up using Witch Hazel from the pharmacy as a toner, especially during the summer months.
Witch hazel is one of our most classic astringent and anti-inflammatory herbs. It has a special affinity for toning and strengthening the blood vessels, veins, mucous membranes, and skin.Chestnut school
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, grows wild on my property. It’s a lovely lacey white and I’m completely smitten with it!
It’s a perennial herb that prefers direct sunlight and dry soil. While I find yarrow all over my property, it prefers the rocky slope of our pasture.
While you can start yarrow from seeds, it is probably best to purchase one transplant for your garden and give it plenty of room to spread out over time. If you do start from seeds, keep them moist and in a warm sunny spot until you see growth.
Once planted, your yarrow patch will need very little care unless you have a particularly wet season.
Yarrow has a vast array of medicinal properties. The volatile oils work as antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and diuretic agents. The tannins are aggressive astringents. The alkaloids are both hypotensive and hypoglycemic. Yarrow even has coumarin in its cells which works as an anti-thrombotic to reduce high blood pressure. The bitter compounds the tongue detects are due to flavonoids such as saponins and unpleasant tasting but powerful alkaloids like achilleine, trigonelline and betonicine. These are the secrets to yarrow’s actions in the digestive system, tissues and the blood stream.the practical herbalist
Trusted Grow Guides for Medicinal Herbs
So, now you have a short and sweet introduction to 20 medicinal herbs for your kitchen garden. As with any project, a little upfront learning can go a long way in saving you time and money with garden projects.
Here are a list of my favorite books and online resources for growing medicinal herbs in your garden spaces.
Online Resources for the Medicinal Herb Gardener
My go-to herbal resources
You’ve seen many of these trusted resources used in the medicinal descriptions of the herbs listed above.
The Materia Medica for the Kitchen Gardner
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