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Growing Medicinal Herbs and Flowers in Your Garden

If you’ve been dreaming of building a DIY apothecary with jars of homegrown herbs and bottles of tinctures, you’re in the right place! Each of these medicinal plants has been used for thousands of years to heal and soothe, yet they’re surprisingly easy to grow. Find the right plants and learn everything you need to know to start growing medicinal herbs and flowers in your gardens this year!

Colorful medicinal flowers and herbs

All gardens can be therapeutic and healing in their own ways, but some gardens are even more soothing than others! Throughout human history and across the globe, people have used herbal remedies to treat a wide range of illnesses, injuries, and conditions. Although the face of medicine has changed drastically, many of us (myself included) long for more plant-based treatments instead of relying as heavily on pharmaceuticals.

From a gardening perspective, most of these herbs are very easy to grow. The majority of them are perennials or annuals that self-seed easily, and most of them prefer full sun (some will take a bit of shade) and well-draining soil. You can plant them in your kitchen garden, use them to fill space in your landscaping or set aside a bright, sunny patch just for your favorite herbs and medicinal flowers. No matter how you do it, they’re a great addition to any garden, and you’ll be pleased to have such special plants around you!

Note: None of the information below is intended as medical advice. Before using any herbs for medicinal purposes, please conduct your own thorough research and consider consulting a medical doctor or herbalist to help you use them safely.

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Best Medicinal Flowers & Herbs for Beginners

Whether you’re a beginner gardener, or just new to growing and using medicinal herbs and flowers, these plants are the easiest to grow. I bet you already grow many of these.

Calendula is one of the easiest herbs and most popular medicinal flowers to grow, and it’s a mainstay in many medicinal gardens for its skin-soothing properties and colorful blooms. In colder regions (zones 2-8), calendula is an annual, but it can be a perennial in warmer climates. It’s especially easy to grow from seeds and it makes our list as one of the best reseeding annuals.

Calendula Flowers
Calendula

Calendula flowers have been used since the 12th century for a variety of purposes, but these days, they’re generally used to soothe skin irritations and rashes. They can be steeped in oil to make a therapeutic balm or salve to heal burns and other wounds.

Lemon Balm – This citrus-scented member of the mint family is a very prolific herb known for taking over any patch of ground. However, this also makes it incredibly easy to grow year after year, especially in zones 4-9! I recommend growing it in a container so it doesn’t take over your garden. It’s also a must-have in any medicinal garden because the dried leaves are wonderful in herbal teas. Plus, lemon balm is known for being very relaxing without causing drowsiness, and it may even help with insomnia.

Lemon Balm with lemon balm tea
Lemon Balm Tea

Yarrow is one of the most eye-catching options on this list, with its frilly stalks and colorful flower heads. People have used the flowers, leaves, and stems for centuries to support digestive health, relieve menstrual cramps, as a styptic to stop bleeding, and much more. Fortunately, it’s very easy to grow. Yarrow is usually perennial and can thrive in zones 3-9, even in mediocre soil.

Bright pink yarrow
Yarrow

Chamomile – These tiny yellow and white daisy-like flowers pack quite a punch! They’re beautiful in the garden and have a lovely fruity scent, which attracts admirers and pollinators. Chamomile has also been studied quite extensively, and there is scientific evidence to support using it to improve heart health, support the immune system, soothe skin irritations, relax and calm nerves, and even soothe an upset stomach or stop vomiting. With so many benefits, this is one of the best medicinal herbs to have in every garden!

Chamomile flowers
Chamomile

Dried chamomile flowers are generally served in tea, infused in oil, and added to balms, salves, and tinctures. Both German chamomile and Roman chamomile are medicinal but have different properties, so it’s best to find the one that matches your specific needs. Chamomile is an annual, so either allow it to self-seed or plan on planting more each year. It does well in full sun in zones 2-9.

Tulsi, or holy basil, is an incredibly well-respected and powerful herb popular in Ayurveda, an ancient medical system from India. As an adaptogen, Tulsi targets whatever the body needs and can help with a long list of issues, including anxiety, coughs, parasites, diarrhea, fever, reducing stress, supporting healthy blood sugar, and much more. Holy basil is especially high in antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory properties that can promote health throughout the body.

Holy Basil Plant
Holy Basil

Like other types of basil, holy basil is usually an annual in the United States, so it is grown through seed or by cuttings. The leaves, flowers, and seeds are saved to make teas or tinctures, so save some seed for to replant next year.

Valerian – also known as heal-all, valerian is a versatile and easy-to-grow herb often used to treat insomnia, menopause, and a slew of other conditions. Although Valerian produces small flowers in various colors, it’s prized for its roots or rhizomes, which are often dried and added to tinctures.

Valerian flowers with a bottle of oil
Valerian

Valerian plants grow several feet tall, so they are a good option to plant behind shorter plants. Be sure to cut down the seed heads to avoid spreading. Valerian is a perennial in zones 3-9.

Sweet Alyssum – This plant with teeny tiny white flowers is most often used as a filler or to attract beneficial insects in your vegetable garden, but it can do so much more than that! The sweet scent is soothing on its own, but sweet alyssum has also been used as a diuretic, to fight scurvy, and to recover from stomach pains and coughs faster. Alyssum is an annual but, depending on your climate, it self-seeds very easily, so you can plant it once and enjoy it for years to come.

Sweet alyssum flowers
Sweet Alyssum

Lavender is one of my favorite medicinal flowers, and one of the most heavily researched options on this list. It’s a beautiful perennial that thrives in bright sun with well-draining soil, and it’s hardy from zones 5-9, with a few varieties that are hardy in zone 4. Most of us know lavender for its soothing scent and beautiful pale purple buds, but it also has a variety of edible uses and is very common in home remedies.

Lavender plant
Lavender

For medicinal purposes, lavender is often distilled into an essential oil, but you can certainly use the dried flowers to infuse them into a soothing oil for skincare applications. Lavender is great for skin and can help heal wounds, soothe skin, and more. Some research indicates it may even be able to reduce pain after surgeries, as well.

St. John’s Wort – Many of us recognize St. John’s Wort, or Hypericum perforatum, from the supplement aisle but it’s a very easy perennial to grow in your own garden (zones 4-9)! In the summer, it produces lots of small yellow flowers that turn into attractive red berries in the fall.

St. John's Wort plant with yellow flowers
St. John’s Wort

Both the dried flowers and leaves are used in herbal remedies and have a long tradition of use spanning back to Ancient Greece, China, and traditional Islamic cultures. It is used to help with mild depression, and it may also improve the effectiveness of painkillers, reduce cholesterol, hasten skin healing, reduce symptoms of menopause, and more.

Feverfew – You can tell by the name that feverfew has been used for fevers, but that’s just the start! Feverfew was once so commonly used that it was called “the aspirin of the 18th century.” Some of the uses include treating migraines, stomach aches, issues with menstruation, toothaches, and more.

Feverfew flowers
Feverfew

Feverfew is a short-lived perennial in zones 5-8, which means it will come back for a second or third year in warmer growing regions. In colder regions, you can plant it each summer as an annual and it will generally reseed. The leaves are generally used either fresh or dried, and they’re usually sweetened to cover the bitter flavor. Dried flowers can also be infused in a tincture to use as an insect repellant.

Important: Because feverfew is so potent, it’s a good idea to study its benefits, uses, and contraindications before you start using it.

Echinacea (a/k/a coneflower) with vibrant pink flowers that are just as beautiful as they are practical. The flowers bloom all summer long and because they’re so tall, they’re a great option to plant towards the back of the garden. It’s also very easy to grow and perennial, tolerating cold winters in zones 4-9.

Pink Coneflowers
Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Plus, echinacea has been used for a whole host of health benefits, including improving the immune system, reducing pain and inflammation, treating urinary tract infections, soothing a sore throat, and faster recovery from colds. The flowers and leaves are usually dried and then added to teas or tinctures. Pollinators adore coneflowers!

Bee balm (or Monarda) is such a fun and colorful flower to add to your garden! It’s a member of the mint family, so it’s quite easy to grow and tends to be a perennial in zones 3-9. It has colorful spikes, which draw in hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators. Native Americans have long used it for its medicinal benefits, and most of our knowledge comes from their traditions. Most healers use the leaves and flowers to make teas, infusions, or even as a poultice to heal snake bites or to stop bleeding. Although fresh leaves can be used, most people dry the leaves to use throughout the year.

Red bee balm flowers
Bee Balm (Monarda)

Some of the benefits of bee balm include soothing indigestion and nausea, reducing fevers, healing sore throats and coughs, clearing lung congestion, and calming nerves.

How to Use Medicinal Flowers & Herbs

Now that you’ve grown all these amazing medicinal flowers and herbs what do you do with them?

Enjoy a sensory experience – Just like aromatherapy, walking through a cottage garden filled with flowers and herbs can be incredibly soothing and relaxing. This is definitely my favorite way to enjoy these medicinal herbs and flowers.

Dried flowers and herbs – Dehydrating is one of the easiest ways to preserve the harvest for future years. Many flowers can be air-dried by hanging them upside down, or you can use a dehydrator. Learn more about drying herbs and flowers in this post.

Rachael at Milk Glass Home has a great article about what to do with dried lavender. Check it out when you finish up here.

Infused oils – Once dried, infuse the dried flowers in oil to extract the plant’s medicinal benefits. These oils can be used on their own, like oregano oil, or they can be used in other homemade products.

Salves and balms – Infused oils can be added to salves or balms to soothe dry skin or heal wounds more quickly. You generally do this by gently warming the infused oil with beeswax and/or butters, like mango butter or cocoa butter, and then pouring it into a small container. Once the mixture cools and sets, it’s ready to use.

Making teas – Add your dried herbs and flowers to herbal tea or make your own therapeutic blends.

Tinctures – Most tinctures are made by infusing dried flowers in alcohol or glycerin to extract their medicinal properties. They can then be added to water or taken under the tongue, or you can make your own capsules.

Rosemary Gladstar is the queen of everything Medicinal Herbs and she is one of the most well-respected resources on the subject. Check out her medicinal herb books on Amazon

Juliet Blankespoor from the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine also has a plethora of resources and online training to help you learn how to use herbs safely and appropriately. Check out her signature book on Amazon.
Dried medicinal flowers and herbs. Some are hanging and some are in bags.

More Things to Consider With Medicinal Herbs and Flowers

Prioritize perennial plants. If you want to have a consistent source of medicinal plants on hand, look for perennials or plants that will self-seed. When properly cared for, these plants will continue coming back for years and years.

Be cautious. Like any medicine, too much of anything can be harmful. Learn about the proper medicinal uses and contraindications first. Consider taking a course or buying a book about herbal medicine to make sure you really understand what you’re doing.

Learn about proper preservation. To make sure your herbs are potent and safe to use, you need to know when and what to harvest and how to preserve them to get the most benefit. Some plants are best used dried, while others should be made into tinctures.  Again, it’s best to find a well-vetted resource to learn how to use the different herbs in your garden.

Do you grow medicinal flowers and herbs? How do you use them, or do you grow them simply for the sensory aspect? Please share your experience in the comments section below. We love hearing from you and we all learn from other gardeners’ experiences.

Happy Gardening, 
Julie

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Coneflowers in a mortar.

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