Grow these plants and herbs to unlock their natural medicinal powers
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The mother of all medicinal herbs, motherwort makes up for its spiky, gangly looks by remedying almost anything that ails you. From aches and pains to stress and tension, a tincture of this bitter, but curative, herb will soothe and restore.
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A common ingredient in many organic, plant-based salves, calendula’s scented oils are anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory. Homemade creams from this plant’s gorgeous orange flowers are perfect for homemade diaper rash concoctions, lip glosses, and healing balms.
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Somewhat trickier to grow than the other herbs on this list, ginseng likes rich, moist, cool soils in part shade. Succeed in establishing it, however, and you’ll have an herb desired around the world in many different cultures for its ability to reduce anxiety, stress, and high blood pressure, and to improve overall health and longevity.
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Stinging nettle is a highly useful medicinal plant—if prepared wisely. Cooking in hot water rids the plant of its stinging hairs and creates a nutritious soup rich in vitamins A and C, as well as calcium. What’s more, making nettles a regular part of the diet helps quell allergies and arthritis. Careful where you plant nettles, however: The plant’s underground runners mean it spreads quickly in almost any garden setting.
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An easy-to-grow succulent for gardeners in the frost-free climes, aloe is perhaps best known as a salve for sore or sunburnt skin. Rub the broken leaves directly onto burns, bites, or blisters, or turn it into a salve by adding beeswax and olive oil. Even if you don’t live in USDA zones 9 or higher, you can grow aloe too—in a moveable ceramic pot.
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Thomas J. Story
One of the oldest and most popular garden herbs, peppermint is a cure-all when it comes to digestive ailments. Imbibed as a tea, this fragrant perennial calms upset stomachs, relieves gas, and alleviates nausea. The cooling effect it has on skin also helps with burns, bites, or other irritating rashes. A note of caution: Be sure to plant this herb in a pot, otherwise it will take over the rest of the garden.
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Thomas J. Story
A pungent, less unruly member of the mint family, hyssop is a pleasure to grow in freely-draining sunny gardens where it will self-seed and attract a flotilla of bees. An excellent expectorant, antispasmodic, and cough suppressant, a tea of hyssop can be used to quell the symptoms of almost any respiratory ailment.
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Broadleaf plantain will probably turn up in the garden at some point, whether you like it or not. A common weed across the United States, this lowly, homely little plant boasts incredibly anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Smash the leaves into a poultice and it’s the best cure on the block for bee stings.
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Another multi-purpose, easy-to-grow herb used for everything from arthritis to menstrual pain, comfrey is most commonly used topically nowadays. A poultice of this perennial aids in regeneration of tissue in the ligaments, skin, and—some believe—the bones. Soak the leaves in water for a week and use the “tea” as remedy for garden plants suffering from fungus or just needing an extra boost.
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Linda Lamb Peters
A tincture or tea of rosemary packs a healing punch. Anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and one of the most powerful antioxidants in the herb world, rosemary is also easy to grow. The oils of this fragrant Mediterranean native are curative for muscle aches and painful arthritis, too.