Complete Guide to the Beginner’s Apothecary Garden

Complete Guide to the Beginner’s Apothecary Garden

Home apothecary herbs

What is a Medicinal Herb Garden?

A planned medicinal herb garden is a collection of selected plants, herbs, and flowers that are grown for their natural healing properties for common illnesses.  What are the benefits of a medicinal herb garden?  Bottom line, cleaner living.  Modern society is seeking more natural remedies and steering away from added chemicals and artificial ingredients.  

When you plan an organic medicinal herb garden you have peace of mind that you are ingesting chemical-free and pesticide-free, natural compounds.  Wouldn’t you rather sip a cup of tea instead of taking a pill?  In this article, I will introduce you to 11 relatively common medicinal herbs to grow in your home garden and how to use them. 

Ancient roots

The history of using plants and herbs as medicine dates back over 5000 years to Mesopotamia.  The Sumerians documented on clay tablets information on their medicinal plants.  Similar findings in other ancient civilizations, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and China also document using herbs as medicines.

Modern medicine has advanced far beyond roots, leaves, and flowers for more complex compounds that cure and save lives.  These complex compounds are very necessary.

But what if you could relieve a headache with a cup of tea? Would you do that instead of taking a pill?  

That could be as simple as growing Feverfew in a pot on your patio and brewing a cup of tea after you pick a few leaves.  Simple and natural.

A medicinal herb garden requires a small amount of time to plan beforehand but the end results will leave you feeling accomplished.

Ready to learn more?  Read on.

 

Heads up: My posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission, which helps the flower fund. Thanks

Objectives:

  1.  What is a medicinal herb garden?
  2.  What are the benefits of a medicinal herb garden
  3.  How to plan, design, and layout a medicinal herb garden
  4.  Indoor vs. outdoor garden
  5.  11 medicinal herb must haves to grow in your garden
  6.  Additional reading & product recommendations
  7. Download the printable Medicinal Herb Garden Plan supplement

Plan the Layout and Design of your Medicinal Herb Garden

It is a great practice to plan your medicinal herb garden before shopping for plants and seeds.  There are a few decisions that need to be made first in order to move forward.  Indoor vs. outdoor herb garden?

This list of medicinal herbs can be grown in the ground or in containers as long as you have a sunny spot or (inexpensive grow light).  Some herbs can be planted together as long as you group them according to soil and water needs.  Read more about this in my article about Mediterranean herb gardens for instructions on container planting for herbs. I have chosen this group for their ease in growing in pots, availability, and ease of use in holistic remedies.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Medicinal Herb Garden

I have my herbs everywhere, in pots, in the garden landscape, propagating in water on my desk, everywhere! Once you start, you’ll be looking for places everywhere to grow more medicinal herbs.

I have three types of mint in a large 12″ pot. Lemon balm, oregano, lavender, lemon thyme, and parsley growing among the flowers.  In various large containers I have rosemary, English thyme, more lavender, cilantro, basil, dill, rosemary, & chives.

Design and plan your medicinal herb garden according to your needs and lifestyle.  If you are short on space, consider containers and vertical gardening.

Research your medicinal plants and learn about companion planting for the biggest beneficial boost to your garden and your health.

Be sure to check out the Additional Resources section at the end of this article and the link to download a free Plan for a Medicinal Herb Garden.  There are links for the beginner herbalist with instructions on how to create salves, tinctures, teas, infusions, and more. Don’t miss it.

 

11 Must Have Medicinal Herbs

Medicinal Calendula flower

Calendula
Calendula officinalis

General overview: Calendula is a cheery flower with orange and yellow blooms also called a Pot Marigold. This plant repels common garden pests and is a good companion plant to vegetables. It has a fragrant scent and attracts pollinators. Calendula blooms from Spring until the frost.

Benefits:

Usage:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-nausea
  • Improves digestion
  • Dried flowers in tea
  • Salves & Ointments
  • Poultices
  • Oil infusion

Lifecycle: Perennial

USDA Zone: 3-9

Planting: Seeds in Fall or Spring (after last frost)

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Sunny, will tolerate some partial shade

Water: When dry, drought-tolerant

Ht./Width: 18-24″/ 1-2′

Harvest: Deadhead flowers frequently to encourage blooms

Preserve: Hang dry or on a screen, store in an airtight container

Try:  DIY Calendula salve, great for skin inflammation.

 

echinacea medicinal herb

Echinacea
Echinacea purpurea

General overview: Echinacea commonly referred to as Purple Coneflower is native to North America. This large purple bloom attracts pollinators, makes a great cut flower and is self-seeding. All parts of the plant and roots can be utilized.

Benefits:

Usage:

  • Immunity boosting
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Skin antiseptic
  • Dried flowers in tea
  • Salves & Ointments
  • Can be used fresh

Lifecycle: Perennial

USDA Zone: 3-9

Planting: Seeds in Fall for cold stratification or in Spring (after last frost). Roots can also be used for propagation

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Sunny, will tolerate some partial shade

Water: When dry, drought-tolerant

Ht./Width: 18-24″/ 1-2′

Harvest: Flowers & roots

Preserve: Hang dry or on a screen, store in an airtight container

Try: Echinacea tea: 1/2 cup plant matter (flowers, leaves, stems) fresh or 1/4 cup dried steeped in 8 ounces of boiling water for 15 minutes.  Add mint or lemon balm to improve the taste.

 

Peppermint
Mentha x peperita

General overview: Peppermint, a member of the mint family, is native to the Mediterranean & Asia. This heavily scented herb repels garden pests and produces an edible flower. It is a prolific grower and might be best contained in a pot.

Benefits:

Usage:

  • Aids digestion
  • Anti-nausea
  • Decongestant
  • Upset stomach
  • Dried or fresh in tea
  • Salves & Ointments
  • Infused honey
  • Essential oils

Lifecycle: Perennial

USDA Zone: 3-11

Planting: Plant seedlings after danger of frost has passed.

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Sunny, will tolerate some partial shade

Water: When dry, drought-tolerant

Ht./Width: 18-24″/ 1-2′

Harvest: Flowers & roots

Preserve: Hang dry or on a screen, store in an airtight container

Try: Mint infused honey: Fill any sized mason jar halfway with fresh mint.  Pour honey over the mint leaving 1″ of head space in the jar. Turn the jar over daily to gently mix. Ready to use in 1 month. Great to soothe indigestion and an upset stomach.

 

Chamomile medicinal herb

Chamomile
Matricaria recutita

General overview: German chamomile is a prolific plant with happy, fragrant, daisy-like blooms. Native to Central & Southern Europe, it attracts pollinators and spreads freely. (Consider a container planting)

Benefits:

Usage:

  • Anti-stress
  • Improves sleep & relaxation
  • Improves digestion
  • Dried flowers in tea
  • Salves & Ointments
  • Oil infusion

Lifecycle: Perennial, aggressive self-seeder

USDA Zone: 4-9

Planting: Start seeds in Spring (after last frost)

Soil: Well-drained, shallow root system

Light: Sunny, will tolerate some partial shade

Water: When dry, drought-tolerant. (Water regularly during seed germination)

Ht./Width: 1-2’/ 1-2′

Harvest: Deadhead flowers frequently to encourage blooms

Preserve: Hang dry or on a screen, store in an airtight container

TryChamomile tea1/2 fresh chamomile flower heads (1/4 cup dry), add 8 ounces boiling water and steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain and enjoy. Mint is a nice addition as well.

 

lemon balm medicinal herb

Lemon Balm
Melissa officinalis

General overview: Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and native to Europe and the Mediterranean region. It has been in use for over 2000 years for culinary and medicinal uses. It smells like lemon and tastes like mint!

Benefits:

Usage:

  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Anti-spasmodic
  • Anti-histaminic
  • Calms nervous system
  • Anti-depressant
  • Helps insomnia
  • Anti-pyretic
  • Loses potency when dried, Use fresh leaves
  • Fresh in teas, cooking
  • Balms
  • Infused honey
  • Infused vinegar

Lifecycle: Perennial

USDA Zone: 4-11

Planting: Seedlings in Spring (after last frost), root division

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Sunny, will tolerate some partial shade, give more shade in hot climates

Water: Moist

Ht./Width: 12-24″/ 1-2′

Harvest: Leaves are best before flowering

Preserve: Hang dry or on a screen, store in an airtight container

Try: Lemon balm tea: Steep 1/2 cup fresh leaves in 8 ounces boiling water for 5-10 minutes, strain, serve.

 

Medicinal oregano herb

Oregano
Origanum vulgare

General overview: Oregano is an ancient plant used for thousands of years for it's medicinal and culinary properties. Native to Southern Europe & Central/Southern Asia. Also known as Wild Marjoram.

Benefits:

Usage:

  • Antibiotic
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Strong antiseptic
  • Improves digestion
  • Anti-fungal
  • Respiratory ailments
  • Immunity booster
  • Used in cooking
  • Infused oil
  • Infused honey

Lifecycle: Perennial

USDA Zone: 5-10

Planting: Seeds in Spring (after last frost), just barely cover. Seedlings

Soil: Well-drained, light

Light: Sunny, will tolerate some partial shade

Water: Moist

Ht./Width: 8-14″/ 18″

Harvest: Leaves best before flowering.  Best eaten fresh.

Preserve: Hang dry or on a screen, store in an airtight container

Try: Infused oregano oilLet the fresh oregano wilt overnight prior to use, the moisture can affect the oil.  Using a clean jar fill halfway with oregano and pour olive oil over it leaving 1-2 inches of head space in the jar. Turn over daily to distribute. Ready in 1 month for use.

 

feverfew medicinal herb

Feverfew
Tanacetum parthenium

General overview: Feverfew is an attractive plant with blooms similar to daisies. Native to Southeastern Europe, it is a self-pollinating reseeding plant. It has a citrus scent that repels bees, plant accordingly.

Benefits:

Usage:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Anti-depressant
  • Migraines & headaches
  • Arthritis
  • Anti-pyretic
  • Blood thinner/ anti-platelet
  • Improves digestion
  • Dried leaves in tea
  • Salves & Ointments
  • Extracts
  • Fresh leaves

Lifecycle: Perennial

USDA Zone: 5-10

Planting: Seeds in Spring (after last frost)

Soil: Rich, well-drained

Light: Sunny, will tolerate some partial shade

Water: Moist, drought-intolerant

Ht./Width: 8-24″/ 1-2′

Harvest: Leaves the 2nd year when blooming

Preserve: Hang leaves to dry or on a screen, store in an airtight container

TryInstructions for Feverfew tincture by the 104Homestead.com 

 

Yarrow
Achillea millefolium

General overview: Yarrow is a powerhouse plant, improving the soil surrounding it and attracting pollinators with it's flowers. The white & pink varieties are used medicinally. Achilles was said to use crushed Yarrow leaves to staunch bleeding.

Benefits:

Usage:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Pain reliever
  • Improve wound healing
  • Anti-pyretic
  • Lessen menstrual cramps
  • Improve digestion
  • Dried flower stalks in tea
  • Tinctures
  • Poultices
  • Cooking with fresh leaves

Lifecycle: Hardy Perennial

USDA Zone: 3-9

Planting: Seeds in Spring (after last frost)

Soil: Well-drained, rich

Light: Sunny, will tolerate some partial shade

Water: When dry, drought-tolerant

Ht./Width: 2-4’/ 1-2′

Harvest: All parts of the plant can be used

Preserve: Hang dry or on a screen, store in an airtight container

TryCold & Flu Tea by HerbalAcademyNE.com

 

Lavender medicinal herb

Lavender
Lavandula angustifolia "true lavender/English hybrids"

General overview: Lavender is an ancient, Mediterranean herb that is used the world over in cosmetics, perfumes, aromatherapy, & even in Egyptian mummification practices.

Benefits:

Usage:

  • Anti-anxiety & Anti-stress
  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-spasmodic
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Improves insomnia
  • Dried flowers in tea
  • Salves & Ointments
  • Tinctures
  • Oil infusion
  • Essential oils
  • Natural skin care

Lifecycle: Perennial

USDA Zone: hardy to zone 8

Planting: Seedlings in Spring (after last frost)

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Sunny, will tolerate some partial shade

Water: When dry, drought-tolerant

Ht./Width: 12-18″/ 1-2′ (needs good air circulation in humid climates)

Harvest: Cut flowers down to woody stem, cutting into the woody stem can kill the plant.

Preserve: Hang dry or on a screen, store in an airtight container

Try: Lavender Tea: Steep 3 teaspoons dried lavender flowers per 1 cup of boiling water, strain, serve. Also great poured into the bath!

 

Rosemary medicinal herb

Rosemary
Rosmarinus officinalis

General overview: Rosemary is an ancient herb in the mint family that is a medicinal powerhouse. It has fragrant leaves and edible flowers. Start with large plants for this slow-growing herb.

Benefits:

Usage:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Anti-aging
  • Improves memory, mood, immunity, and blood circulation
  • Pain & headache relief
  • Promotes healthy gut flora
  • Diuretic
  • Leaves in tea
  • Extracts
  • Fresh or dried
  • Oil infusion

Lifecycle: Perennial

USDA Zone: Hardy, prune before freeze

Planting: Large seedlings, slow growing plant

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Sunny, will tolerate some partial shade

Water: When dry, drought-tolerant

Ht./Width: 3-5′

Harvest: Stems in Spring & Summer

Preserve: Hang dry or on a screen, store in an airtight container

TryRosemary lemonade by Pinetreefarmhouse.com

 

thyme medicinal herb

Thyme
Thymus vulgaris

General overview: Thyme is an ancient herb that is versatile in culinary and medicinal uses. Documented use by Egyptians over 3000 years ago, it is native to the Mediterranean region. Thyme attracts pollinators with it's pink flowers.

Benefits:

Usage:

  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-septic
  • Anti-fungal
  • Expectorant
  • Relieve gas, colic, bad breath
  • Relives sore throat, coughs
  • Dried or fresh in tea
  • Salves & Ointments
  • Syrups
  • Oil infusion

Lifecycle: Perennial

USDA Zone: Freeze/drought tolerant

Planting: Seeds in Spring (after last frost)

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Sunny, will tolerate some partial shade

Water: When dry, drought-tolerant

Ht./Width: 4-12″, spreads

Harvest: Trim branches

Preserve: Hang dry or on a screen, store in an airtight container

TrySweet Lemon Honey & Thyme Cough Syrup at Reformationacres.com

 

Additional Reading & Resources

Websites:

Mother Earth News is my personal authority for all things natural.  Subscribe to their site!

How to make infused oils, honey, tea, salves, tinctures, & extracts! Read this article.

Best herbs for pain relief, read more here.

The Herbal Home; How to build your home apothecary, another great article of where to begin.

Start Up Guide for the Home Herbalist

Chesnut Herbs has a great article featured more medicinal herbs.

Another great article at Healing Harvest Homestead featuring medicinal herbs.

Books and Products:

Purchase seed kits and garden products at Botanical Interests

I hope you have enjoyed learning about medicinal herb gardens. If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe to my newsletter with the subscribe button in the menu.  I do not send spam emails because I can’t stand them myself.  Go ahead, take a chance, subscribe!

If you would like to download this information in an 11 page supplement, click the box above.  This is a free download and perfect for adding to the back section of my Garden Planner.  If you would like to see the Garden Planner download please click here.

I am committed to keeping your e-mail address confidential. I will not sell, rent, or lease my subscription lists to third parties,or provide your personal information to any third party individual, government agency, or company at any time unless compelled to do so by law.

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical doctor, and in no manner, stated or implied, is any statement made in this article meant to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any illness. Please seek medical advice from a professional before using herbs or essential oils. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. 

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10 Replies to “Complete Guide to the Beginner’s Apothecary Garden”

  1. What an AWESOME post! So informative and inspiring! You have truly inspired me to start working on my own little Apothecary Garden!

    1. To write this, I had to research deeper than my surface knowledge of these plants. I learned so much and was also inspired. I currently have the following growing, sown, or ordered: milk thistle, marshmallow, valerian, chamomile, calendula, lemon balm, oregano, rosemary, lavender, peppermint, sage, thyme, chocolate mint, & sweet mint. It’s very exciting.

  2. Since today was National Herb Day…your post on the herbs really appealed to me. Great information and wonderful freebies…Thank you!

    1. The printable has a handy guide with design ideas for grouping these herbs in containers. This will give you a good starting point to begin learning. I challenge you to pick one and go for it! Thanks for coming by Leslie! Happy growing.

  3. I love your article! I have almost all of those herbs growing in my yard except yarrow (which I have tried several times to get to grow and it just won’t). I am so impressed with all the info you presented with each herb and the layout of your article. I am going to come back and reference it. I have been growing Feverfew for years and never remember to use it in a tea when I have a headache. Thank you!

    1. I’m glad you liked it! There’s a link at the end to get a free download with all of those plant profiles on it for easy reference. Not that I would mind you coming back here!

      1. I really want to grow yarrow and feverfew. Maybe next year, this year there are tons. Chamomile, calendula, oregano, lemon balm, thyme, rosemary, lavender, basil, cilantro, dill, milk thistle, valerian, peppermint, sweet mint, chocolate mint, lemon thyme, and marshmallow! Some of these are new to me, so we shall see.

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