Tuesday, January 17, 2017

5 Perennial Medicinal Herbs You Should Plant This Spring



Why get medicine from the pharmacy when you can grow your own? These five herbs are safe to use and easy to grow, making them perfect for a beginner medicinal herb garden! 
While these herbs can be planted in a garden, most do well in less fertile soils as well, just throw some seeds and come back to harvest later! Not only will they all come back next year, but they will spready each year as they readily self sow, so plant them where they can stay and grow widely. These herbs are all hardy to zone three and flourish without much tending whatsoever. In fact, you might say they grow like "weeds". While many are easy to find growing wild, I suggest having your own patch nearby so you can harvest easily and to be sure there are no chemical residues on your herbs. The best part, though, is that you can probably collect seeds or rootstock from these plants growing wild and bring them closer to your home. These herbs are free, just like medicine should be! 

While I chose these herbs for ease of growth, I also chose herbs that I use every single week of the year because they are safe and nourishing. I go through a pound of dried nettles in a month (if I conserve them) so having an easily accessible patch of my own saves me a lot of money. Dried nettle leaf can cost upwards of $20/lb! 

Growing herbs and sharing them with our neighbors makes herbal medicine accessible and affordable to all!

nettle

Wood Nettle

Stinging Nettle (Urtica Diocia) 
To grow the first herb on our list, you do not even need a garden! A moist, partly sunny patch of woods is all you need for this hardy perennial to flourish. Choose your location carefully, though, as once you have nettles growing in an area, it is difficult to stop them. Once you have located a patch like this, work some rich, organic compost in the soil and direct sow seeds under 1/4” of soil in early spring. Seeds can also be sown inside and transplanted once the weather warms. Little maintenance is required as nettles’ sting protects it from deer browsing and its habit of growing in dense patches up to eight feet tall in a season reduces almost all competition from other plants.  Nettle thrives on nitrogen, though, so the occasional application of compost, while not necessary, will make your nettle grow wildly! If you haven’t tried nettle yet, once you do, you will want to grow as much as possible.

While some curse nettle’s stinging hairs, they are easily destroyed when cooked, crushed, or dehydrated. These stings are designed by the plant to repel voracious herbivores because they are carefully guarding a massive nutrient warehouse. Nettles are one of the most nourishing herbs in the world, containing high levels of calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, and sulfur. Nettles are also a good source of vitamin C, beta carotene, and B-vitamin complex, as well as amino acids and chlorophyll. They are also 10% protein! Nettles are considered a blood purifier and are a strong diuretic, making their appearance in very early spring a timely relief from a long, stuffy winter. They are used to support the lungs, kidneys, and liver, improve immune and thyroid function, and to promote blood clotting and hair growth. Some even claim (and I have found it to be true), that while the sting of nettle on the skin is painful and itchy at first, it is invigorating as it quickly passes. 

Nettle leaf can be used as a green vegetable, as well as a tea or infusion, before it flowers and goes to seed in mid summer. The roots and seeds are also used medicinally and the stem has a long history of providing fiber for cordage making, weaving, or sewing. To read more about nettle, check out my post about it here

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
Motherwort is often found in light, well drained soil in edge habitat, such as the unmowed edges around a building or roadside. It can be planted by seed or transplanted in poor, neutral soil when the soil temperature reaches 65-70 F. Once established, it self sows easily by seed. Growing in stalks up to five feet tall with pink flowers in whorls alternating with the leaves, motherwort should be harvested in mid summer when it is in full bloom. To harvest, snip off the top half of each stalk, leaving enough flowers beneath to sow more. 

Motherwort’s active constituents include the alkaloids (stachydrine, leonurinine), glycosides (leonuridin), flavonoids, diterpenes, caffein acid, tannins, and vitamin A. Like it’s name suggests, motherwort is comforting herb, used to ease anxiety and depression. Not only does it act as a mother to all, it also nourishes mothers specifically, aiding in fertility and to reducing anxiety around childbirth, postpartum depression, and menopause. It should not be used during pregnancy but does help to bring on delayed menstrual flow and reduces menstrual cramps. 

comfrey

Bees love comfrey too!

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
Comfrey is easy to grow from rootstock and flourishes in flower gardens, where its gorgeous pink flowers attract pollinators. Even if you just have one comfrey plant to start, the root can be split and replanted easily so that you will have copious amounts of it growing in just a few years. 

Comfrey is beloved by gardeners because it has such an incredible stock of nutrients in its leaves, stems, and flower stalks that it can be chopped up and used to fertilize other plants.  Herbalists know that these parts of the comfrey plant makes great fertilizer for our bodies as well. It is high in selenium, zinc, and many other minerals as well. Some of it’s important constituents include allantoin, antioxidants, carotenes, glucuronic acid, inulin, mucilage, phystosterols, rosmarinic acid, and tannins. Also known as knit bone, comfrey is used to heal broken skin and bones, as well as tendons and ligaments. It is said to make the skin soft and healthy. Comfrey leaf can be used as a infusion, poultice, or infused oil. Comfrey root may be toxic when used internally and should be avoided. 

Mint
From peppermint and spearmint to chocolate mint, pineapple mint, and even grapefruit mint, there are so many lovely types of mint to choose from and that list doesn’t even include others in the mint family, such as bee balm and catnip. While all of these mints taste different and even have differing medicinal constituents, they all have one characteristic in common: once planted, they grow like crazy! Luckily for you, this means you will be able to harvest it like crazy. I like to have mint growing in places that I go every day, simply because it brings me joy to see it. I take a sprig and chew it every time I walk by and it cleans my teeth, freshens my breath, and even more importantly, freshens my mood. Consider planting it near walkways so that your feet brush against it as you walk, releasing exuberance into the air and bringing you back down to earth to smell it. 

When choosing which variety of mint to plant, consider your needs. All mints are high in calcium and other minerals, but each has their own herbal use. Peppermint or spearmint are a great choice to oral health, whereas a culinary mint might simply bring you joy. Catnip and skullcap are great pain and anxiety relievers and aid in falling asleep. Do some research, maybe try planting a couple of different varieties. Just be sure to choose a variety that is hardy all winter in your area as some are more cold tolerant than others. 



Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
As anyone who has ever planted a hay field knows, the seeds of this attractive legume are cheaply and readily available and are sown easily by tossing handfuls over loose earth. Red clover is favored by farmers, and their livestock, because of its high protein content, but herbalists can’t get enough of the many vitamins and minerals these nutrition powerhouses pack. Red clover flower infusions are chock full of beta carotene, vitamin C, E, and B complex vitamins, biotin, choline, inositol, and bioflavonoids, as well as magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, and selenium. Some of red clover’s important constituents include ascorbic, chlorogenic, and salicylic acids, allantoin, antioxidants, and phytosterols.

While red clover is one of the most common herbs on this list and often easily found in farm fields, lawns, and roadside, you may want to plant your own patch for ease of harvest, to avoid chemical residues, to attract pollinators, and for its sheer beauty.  Harvest new red clover blossoms and dry thoroughly for year round use. Only use the flowering tops.  Be sure to leave some flowers for bees and so they can continue to self sow. Do not pick any flowers that are brown or partially brown as spoilage can convert harmless coumarin to dicoumarin, which prevents blood clotting.  




Resources Used:
http://www.susunweed.com/Article_Motherwort.htm
wildfoodshomegarden.com/stingingnettle.html 

Disclaimer: This blog is just my opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be accurage or complete. Do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog. If you click on any of the links in this blog, I make a small amount of money from it, at no extra cost to you. I am not sponsored by any of these companies, I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them. I am not a medical practictioner; consult a health professional before using any herbal remedies. I am not claiming to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any ailment.

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