Some of the most common medicinal herbs can be easily grown at home, regardless of where you live or level of experience. There are as many reasons to grow an herb garden as there are gardeners. “What exactly is a medicinal herb?” beginners often ask. In truth, most herbs have therapeutic properties and can be included in a medicinal herb garden. Culinary herbs such as parsley, sage and mint fall into this category. Do not be fooled by their great flavor; growing them gives you the dual benefit of improving your health and enhancing your meals.
When you begin growing herbs, you must choose a location for them. Most herbs are not fussy as long as you take care of a few essential needs. Generally, herbs need only good, well-drained garden soil or potting mix and require only very light applications of fertilizer. They all need a place to live and grow – a permanent formal herb garden, mixed into a border of flowers, sharing space in the vegetable garden or in a simple pot on your porch or balcony. Herbs can even be successfully grown indoors on a windowsill. They vary in size, so learn their mature height and width when selecting a planting site. Some herbs creep along the ground while others may develop into good-sized shrubs. Medicinal herbs such as lavender delight the senses by blooming profusely and offering both fragrant leaves and flowers.
Most varieties of medicinal herbs will readily grow in an appropriately sized pot or container with good drainage. Growing herbs in pots affords you the ability to move tender herbs indoors during harsh weather. It also allows you to grow plants that will not thrive outside if you have a climate with severe winters.
Many types of herbs will grow continuously if they do not go dormant for the winter. No matter where you decide to grow them, as long as they receive four to six hours of direct sunlight daily, most herbs will produce very well. If you grow your plants indoors, provide them with a southern or western exposure. During the winter provide them as much light as possible; you may consider using grow lights.
When starting out, the easiest and arguably best way is to obtain started plants. Although many herbs grow readily from seed, some (even common popular types) are notoriously slow or tricky to start. These days nurseries, garden centers, hardware stores and even supermarkets sell herbs in small pots, six-packs or flats. This is not only convenient, but reduces the time the impatient beginner has to wait until harvest.
There are annual, biennial and perennial herbs from which to choose. Popular herbs like calendula and basil are annuals and will die after one season. Parsley is a biennial. Aloe vera and lavender are perennials, which will thrive in one location for years.
Chamomile, mint, catnip and lemon balm are easily grown, picked and brewed into healthful teas. To help soothe minor burns and skin irritations, break off a leaf of aloe or mash some calendula petals and apply to the affected area. A pot of living herbs strategically placed in a room, a handful of fragrant petals tossed into your bath, or some freshly picked herbs strewn in your linen drawer are wonderful sources of homegrown aromatherapy.
Maintaining good health is often the impetus for growing your own medicinal herbs. Health is an important matter, and growing your own medicines is a project that should be undertaken very seriously. You may find when you begin learning about medicinal herbs that you are met with numerous warnings, cautions, and advice about their possible dangers. Never fear! There is a wealth of popular herbs that are considered safe and effective. You can start with a few. Use and enjoy them. As your knowledge expands, so can your garden.
Learn about the herbs you wish to use and the conditions you wish to treat. Study them. Read and compare information. Make sure your sources are trustworthy and knowledgeable. There are plenty of books available, and there is an abundance of information online. Know the properties of your favorites and their side effects, if any. Treat the subject of herbal medicine in a serious manner; herbs can be as powerful as prescription drugs. Always let your doctor know which herbs you are using. Start small and expand slowly.
Do not be overwhelmed by the idea of growing your own medicinal herbs. Their culture and care is simple, even for the complete novice. As your plants grow, so will your understanding and appreciation of their many benefits.