For centuries, people have used herbs both to nourish and to heal the body. In addition to adding flavor to food, many herbs are high in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties.
While many grocery stores sell fresh herbs, it is easy and inexpensive to grow your own at home. In fact, most herbs do well in a backyard garden or even on a sunny windowsill.
Here are 11 of our favorite medicinal herbs to grow at home.
Fragrant and easy to grow, basil is a tasty addition to soups, sandwiches, and many Mediterranean dishes. The herb also contains oils and flavonoids that help protect the body from illness and infection.
Basil contains vitamins A, C and K, copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron and helpful omega-3 fatty acids. As a medicinal herb, basil can work as anti-septic for cuts and scrapes, and it can offer relief from headaches, flatulence, and a lack of appetite.
Grow your basil plant from seed in a warm, sunny location, and keep the soil moist. An annual plant, basil is quite sensitive to cold. Indoors, keep it away from drafty windows and outdoors, cover it on days when the temperature dips below about 50 degrees. Simply snip the leaves for use.
Known as a soothing tea, chamomile is another easy medicinal plant to grow at home. In addition to its calming properties, chamomile provides relief for an upset stomach and can ease skin irritations. Chamomile also has been used for centuries as a gentle way to calm colicky babies.
Chamomile plants prefer full sun and can grow to about 18 inches tall. German chamomile is easy to grow from seed, and after the first season, the plants self-sow freely.
The pretty daisy-like flowers appear within six weeks of planting, allowing two plantings in one outdoor growing season. German chamomile prefers a cool climate, full sun and neutral to slightly acidic, well-drained soil.
Place the blooms in a warm, dark place to dry.
Known for its healing properties for treating the common cold, Echinacea (also known as coneflower) is useful both as a tea and in a tincture form.
You can use fresh flower buds to make a tea that helps prevent and treat cold and flu symptoms. Making a tincture involves steeping the flower buds, roots, or both in pure, concentrated alcohol for four to six week weeks, and then removing the liquid.
The purple plant grows to about two feet tall and requires full sun. Echinacea is biennial and flowers only in its second season.