Are you interested in HERBS?  Then you might find one of these articles handy:

Weston A. Price: Introducing the “Real” Way of Eating by Karyn Sweet

Live Long and Prosper: Global Secrets to Attaining Old Age

Got (Real) Milk? by Karyn Sweet

Homesteader-cise: Health, Fitness on the Homestead by Jan R. Cooke

Honey Health: Honey in Home Remedies and Skin Care by Karyn Sweet

But Eating Healthy is So Darn Expensive... Isn't It? by Mallorie Flynn

Medicinal Herbs: Kitchen and Field by Lisa Maloney

Catch the Feverfew by Gay Ingram

Forage for Borage by Gay Ingram

Artemisia: Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder by Gay Ingram

Say "Yes" to Oregano by Gay Ingram

Chive Talkin' by Gay Ingram



Your Medicinal Garden: Ten Herbs to Plant This Spring by Karyn Sweet 

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Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)

Photo by Greg Fewer

Stinging nettles may be the single most useful herb.  It is nutrient dense and it helps to heal an amazing array of disorders.  Best of all, it can be eaten like spinach, it's easy to find, and it's free.  Some of the disorders that nettles can help heal are: bladder stones, sinusitis, hyper and hypothyroidism, fever, bronchitis, infections, and eczema.  This is just a partial list; you can't go wrong if you decide to use nettle for any ailment you have.

Nettles are most often found in shady, wet places, usually near a stream or pond.  If you're not sure you have found nettle, just touch it – you'll know beyond a doubt!  In fact, the Romans used to whack stems of nettle against sore, arthritic joints as therapy.  The easiest way to plant this herb is to start with a piece of root or a runner from an established plant.  Because of nettle's sting and because it may become invasive, it is advisable to plant it off the beaten path or in containers.  Nettle will lose its sting when dried or cooked.  Horizon Herbs also sells nettle plants and seeds, as do growers at herb plant sales.

Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)

Echinacea is a prime support for the immune system.  As such, it should be widely used for any type of infection.  A tincture or decoction could be used for infections of the mouth, such as gingivitis, canker sores, toothaches, tonsilitis, and sore throats.  A lotion with echinacea will help with sores, cuts, acne, hemorrhoids, and psoriasis.  Use a tincture to help with internal infections as wide ranging as urinary tract infections, herpes, influenza, respiratory infections, snake or spider bites, and swollen lymph glands.

Echinacea adores sunny places and is native to the Great Plains.  The soil should be dry and fertile and the roots should not sit in water for any great length of time.  Echinacea grows easily from seeds and also self seeds well once it is established.  Plant the seeds as soon as the soil can be worked and when one or two more frosts can still be expected.  Thin the seedlings to 18 inches apart and protect the young roots from rabbits and hedgehogs.  Water the young plants well and weed thoroughly since they are not competitive.  Once established, however, echinacea is fairly low maintenance.  You can also plant two months before the last frost date but the plants won't bloom for the first year.  The plants bloom between June and October; harvest the flowers when they fully bloom and harvest the roots in the fall.

Elder Tree (Sambucus nigra)

Okay, while not exactly an herb, planting an elder tree on your land is a wise investment for your family's health (and for your property's beauty).  Elder has a wide range of medicinal uses and the bark, flowers, berries, and leaves can all be used.  The bark helps one to “clear out”; it is a purgative, emetic, and diuretic.  Internally, the leaves act in the same way as the bark but they can also be used externally to heal wounds and to soothe dry or irritated skin.  The berries and flowers are both extremely useful in fighting colds, the flu, respiratory infections, congestion, and fevers.  Studies in Israel have proven that elderberries are powerful medicine against the flu; this may prove to be important as we begin dealing with potent strains of influenza that don't respond to allopathic medicine.

To make a syrup, pour two cups of boiling water over ˝ cup of dried elderberries, cover, and let soak overnight.  The next day, simmer for 30 minutes.  Puree the mixture in a blender while adding ˝ cup of honey.  Pour the syrup into a clean bottle and refrigerate.  It will last for a month or it can be frozen.  Take ˝ to one teaspoon every 2-3 hours if you have cold or flu symptoms or take one dose daily as prevention.

Elder can be grown from seed, simply plant the ripe berries one inch deep in pots outdoors.  When they have grown to a size that allows you to manage, plant in semi shade.  Elder can also be propagated from a cutting or even a broken twig.  Elder will tolerate most soils; if you have a chalky site then Sambucus nigra is very good.  Don't eat the berries raw and be sure to only use elderberries that are black (red elder is toxic).  The elder grows more like a large shrub than a tree and some suggest pruning it deeply in the fall so it doesn't become unmanageable.  The flowers bloom in late May and into June.  Look for the berries soon after so you can get to them before the birds and squirrels do.

Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)

Ginseng is just plain useful in helping you get through life.  It is an adaptogen, a term for an herb that helps the body deal with stress.  Ginseng restores flagging energy, promotes optimal health, and helps one to feel more alert and capable.  Like other adaptogens, ginseng helps normalize body functions.  It can reduce high blood pressure or elevate low blood pressure or it can heighten sensitivity while lowering feelings of anxiety.  Ginseng has also been used as a male tonic.

Please, please, please don't harvest wild ginseng.  Here in the Appalachians we had (have) "Sang" hunters that had a special knack for finding patches of ginseng.  However, wild ginseng is endangered.  Buy cultivated dried ginseng from reputable sources such as Mountain Rose Herbs or, better yet, help return ginseng to the forest by planting your own!  In fact, ginseng is a growing market and you might be able to start a small home business.

If you decide to grow ginseng, keep it in a mostly shady area.  You can order seeds and rootlets from or beg for berries from a reputable grower.  Plant the seeds and cover them with about one inch of rotten leaves or mulch.  Plant the seeds in the fall and they will sprout up in the spring.  If you plant seeds in small plastic trays or peat trays, you can transplant them when they grow to a couple of inches high.  When planting in pots, use pots that are at least 8 inches deep and use only plastic pots so they don't dry out as easily.  You should be able to harvest the roots in about three years or more.  If you plant a little bit each year, you will have a steady supply of ginseng.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Licorice is an effective support for the endocrine system.  Our endocrine system is under constant assault – the adrenals have to produce too much adrenaline, the ovaries or testes receive too much estrogen from our environment, and the pancreas has to deal with too much sugar from the American diet, just to name a few problems.  Licorice can help the endocrine system regain balance and this, in turn, can help your body regain harmony.

Licorice can be tricky to grow.  It prefers warmer areas, zones 7 - 10, but some people grow it in colder areas by mulching it heavily in winter.  It is better to propagate it from a piece of root but seeds can be purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs or  It prefers full sun to partial shade and dry-ish soil.  The roots can be harvested in two to three years.

Most of the plants I have shared with you are easy to grow and harvest.  Not only are they beautiful in your garden but they can be added regularly to your food and drinks.  Enjoy your new garden knowing you have taken one more step to self-sufficiency!  



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