Medicinal garden?


Premium Member
Jun 23, 2022
Temperate (all seasons)
I was wondering if anyone can give some suggestions for plants (herb, spice, whatever) to include in a medicinal garden. I am a former paramedic and would like to use natural health boosters and treatments. I already use some but am wanting to expand my medical garden. Any suggestions welcome!
I'm currently growing lemon balm and turmeric myself, both which have medicinal purposes.
What you wish to grow and what you can grow can differ depending on what climate you are in. But you could definitely consider these;
Lemon balm, turmeric, ginger, lavender, chamomile, garlic, ginseng, dandelions and mint.

You would be surprised as to how many "common" plants actually have medicinal benefits too :)
Thanks guys! I have many of those, although I just got the comfrey and haven't planted it out yet. I also have feverfew, echinacea, and a couple others I'd have to go look at the names of. 😊 I haven't heard of mugwort so I will have to look it up!
If there was one book I could recommend for the North American context it would be the 304 pages of Nicole Apelian and Claude Davis, The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies (2020).

This work contains 200+ weeds, plants, trees, fungi and other home remedies (e.g. charcoal, epsom, borax, diatomaceous earth), and instructions to make teas, salves, extractions, tinctures, balms, ointments, poultices etc. Also included is a quick-list of individual ailments (e.g. cancer, digestive, childhood, ear, eye etc.) with page and remedy references. It is beautifully illustrated and easy to navigate. The only downsides for this book is it lacks references or a bibliography to take the student further on individual topics, and it is geared solely towards herbal remedies common to North America, making it of less use in Oz (but its sections on apothecarial preparations are excellent, and some of the common plants were brought to Oz by the British).

For Australian audiences I would recommend the 303 pages of E. V. Lassak and T. McCarthy's Australian Medicinal Plants (2nd Ed.; 2011).

This work contains only Australian native medicinal plants and they are arranged according to medicinal function: Narcotics and painkillers; Headaches, colds & fevers; Tonics; Antiseptics & bactericides; Skin disorders; Digestion; Miscellaneous. This book is easily navigable, and has useful tables and excellent references/bibliography. The major flaw is the lack of photos/illustrations, meaning you will have to do additional preparation on a site like Atlas of Living Australia to acquaint yourself with the identifications of many of the non-illustrated plants.

Cheryll Williams' series, Medicinal Plants in Australia (2010-2013) is more detailed and has far more illustrations, albeit over 1200+ pages in 4 volumes.

Volume 1 is general "Bush Pharmacy", including items such as early colonial experiments with Sarsparillia, Sassafras, grass trees, Eucalyptus, flowers, nectars, lerps and bush drinks.
Volume 2 is dedicated to gums, resins, tannins and essential oils including eucalyptus, melaleuca, pines, myrtles and acacias.
Volume 3 contains elaborate details on toxic Australian plants, including cycads, blackbean, native sweet potatoes (Ipomoea), corrosives and fish poisons.
Volume 4 is an apothecary's guide, which includes dozens of old mixing tables for preparing various herbal medicines.

Williams' work seems a little more disorderly on first glance, but she does organise sections into useful tables for quick reference. There is, sadly, no quick reference section for specific conditions (which is what makes Apelian's North American book so excellent, as well as the general ailment organising principle of Lassak & McCarthy). However, Williams also has a truly massive bibliography in each volume for further study and learning.

All the best to a medicinally self-sufficient future free of crime & corruption!
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Thats so awesome! I just got the lost book about two weeks ago! 😊 I'm reading up on veggies and hugelkultur now, so it's in my stack to get to asap! Thank you for the info- I'm going to look into more resources to help me learn so I'm not so dependent on my "modern medicine" type training only! 😊

I just finished browsing Andrew Chevallier's The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants (1996). While an "older" book, it has great details, excellent pictures of all relevant parts of the listed plants, and instructions on how to prepare and administer each as a herbal remedy. Chevallier's work is general, covering the most important medicinal plants from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Oceania. It includes overviews of herbal traditions for each region. It's only lacking somewhat on references and further reading. It's a good general resource, although I think Apelian's exceeds it for quality.

There are other detailed works out there as well. Another recent acquisition of mine is Marilyn Barrett's Handbook of Clinically Tested Herbal Remedies (2006; 2 Vols) which details clinical successes and failures of 160+ herbal products developed from various plants. This book focuses less on the individual plants and more on their active biochemical properties as developed by various extant and defunct companies, tested on human subjects in controlled clinical settings. It's a different perspective showing that clinically not every herbal remedy "works", although some are quite potent indeed.
I will look into those books. I want general knowledge to begin so Chevalliers is a good start for me I think. Especially books that help identify plants. I am looking into some local books as well (as in South East Texas plant IDs) so I can start identifying more than just the fennel and Ivy we have all over 😊
My personal experience is start small and build your knowledge base by accretion, and practice weekly (daily is better). Firstly, think about the overall organising principle you want to build in your mind to organise what you're learning. For my botanical exploits, it is Latin genus names. I only have to think of the Latin genus name of the plants I've learned so far (e.g. Lomandra, Dianella, Acacia, Leptomeria) and all the information I've internally attached to that name comes pouring out. You can organise information by writing in a book alphabetically or topically (e.g. grasses, trees, flowers, vines), graphically (attach each thing you're learning to a particular picture, colour etc) or locatively (attach each memory to a set location you can access daily, e.g. a tree in your back yard with notches cut in the branches, a memory board, a window sill with marks on it, a beaded necklace, or landmarks on your daily walk, etc).

I have a four step process of attaching information to each botanical I am trying to memorise.

ID - Learn key identifying features: common names, leaves, roots, flowers, seeds/fruit, bark, seasons, colours, variants, Latin taxonomical name(s); locations.
FOOD - Which parts can be eaten, if any? Which parts should be avoided? Any special processes involved? Recipes.
MEDICINE - General use, e.g. antibiotic, antihistamine, diuretic etc.; extraction techniques, e.g. poultice, tincture, tea, salve etc; dosage, e.g. 1 tsp dried leaf per cup boiling water, etc; mechanism of action (this last category requires advanced knowledge in chemistry and cellular biology), e.g. ACE2 receptor binding agent, protease inhibitor.
OTHER USES/INFO - Fibres, cordage, shelter, ash/charcoal, toxins/poisons, look-alikes, etc.

Let me illustrate. When I first started my native foods journey two years ago, I could only ID a few common Australian plants I learned during my childhood: lomandra, eucalyptus lerps and lilly pilly. Let's take how I have expanded my knowledge of lomandra over the last 2 years.

ID - I started with consistently identifying lomandra. A 1.5-2m (5-6 ft) tall, strappy grass with spiky flower heads; green peppercorn-like seeds which turn orange (some species, black). Every time I went for a walk around my local area, I would ID which tall strappy grasses were definitely lomandra, and which strappy grasses were NOT lomandra (even if I could not ID the look-alikes at that time - I knew they were NOT lomandra by the key identifying features). I recorded in a book the general locations I have found lomandra so far. This last step of recording locations becomes less important with truly common plants, but uncommon or rare plants should definitely have their locations recorded so you can find them again if required.

FOOD - Once I could ID lomandra at will and tell it apart from look-alikes (even if I could not ID the look-alikes), I researched food uses of the plant. Starches and carbs in the white leaf bases; seed kernels which can be harvested in Jan-Feb and ground into flour. I then wandered my local area and harvested these parts, trying them out and seeing how they can be prepared and cooked.

MEDICINE - I have not yet found any medicinal uses for lomandra during my readings. However, I noted the green seed husks when crushed in water emit a very fragrant odour. This is set aside for future research.

OTHER USES/INFO - Strappy leaves used for cordage and basketry. Leaves could be confused with Dietes lily, which is poisonous.

Practice and continual reinforcement is a key. Go for walks around you local neighbourhood or in local national parks and start with the basics: ID plants. Once you start building up a bank of reliable identification experience, start explaining (to yourself or whoever is with you on your walks) what FOOD uses the plant has. Once you can do this without referring to notes, start adding MEDICINAL and OTHER uses or info, such as poisonous look-alikes (if any). In this way you continually accrete information, building on what is already there, whilst building a reliable system of instantaneous recall so the information is ready for when it is needed. Obviously everyone has their own ideal method for learning; mine is pure brute force and reinforcement by repetition. Others prefer making nonsense narratives, ditties or poems to help them remember.

Half the excitement, besides getting around in nature, is when you come across a plant and think to yourself, "I'm pretty sure this is [plant]...." Take a photo with your phone, go home, skim a botany book and aha, yes, I was right! Or no, I was wrong, it was this other one.

Learn. Recall. Build. Recall. Master.

Do this for a few decades and you'll become a walking encyclopaedia, just like the elders of the ancient cultures I admire and respect (as we all should).
Honestly nearly every plant on the planet has a medicinal use bar GMO crops. Some of the very best are common weeds. Dandelion, rumex species, centella species (also marketed as gotu kola to give you the idea it's exotic rather than an extremely common weed), plantain species and elderflower thistles. All of which are endemic almost the entire planet. I eat all of these on the regular and haven't been sick in in 30yrs (I'm 50). When the coof was going around and a coworker coughed directly into my face with spit everywhere, I got a headache but was mowing the lawn the next day. That was it.

Health, as opposed to treating illness is about what you consume and do daily. Better to have health than a remedy for sickness. If I had to choose just one it would be dandelion. Bllood fortifier, renal protective and all round superfood, all you have to do to get this one is fail to pull it up when it grows in your garden. I now have 20 mature dandelions in my garden and they are my go-to for salad greens. Dandelion and centella, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil in a blender makes a pretty good pesto that I slather on everything including pizza or mix in with egg mayo.
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centella species (also marketed as gotu kola to give you the idea it's exotic rather than an extremely common weed)
I'd absolutely love it if you can post some actual pics of Centella. I'm aware of this plant but always thrown off by the massive variation in leaf shape of various Aussie Centella species, and an internet image search does not help much. I have not yet utilised it yet, but I know where it grows wild near me... I'm just cautious in my ID - is it really Centella or not?
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