Favorite herbs for the garden

Favorite herbs for the garden

Honestly, I'm more of a forager than a gardener.  I love hiking and foraging is a kind of walking meditation that I really enjoy.  I have chronic pain (and little kids!) that makes intensive gardening difficult. So. The gardens around my house are almost totally made up of perennials that come back every year or annuals that self sow. Easy. I'm also choosy about what I weed, letting the dandelions, violets, wood sorrel, purslane, wild grapes, and others stay in the garden until I'm ready to harvest them for food or medicine. I'm ruthless about thistles and grass, and obviously the poison ivy. Most other plants are welcome to stay. 

Here are my five favorite SUPER-EASY-TO-GROW-IN-THE-GARDEN (or window box or pots) medicinal herbs. 

Bee balm. Also known as oswego tea, wild bergamot, or monarda.  Because this herb is not easy to find dried, attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and grows easily in all kinds of conditions, it's one I always recommend for a garden. The firework flowers open mid to late summer and can be added to salads or teas along with the leaves. Mildly drying, stimulating, and warming, it supports digestion, is relaxing, has volatile oils that can help stave off infection, and tastes great. While not at all minty, it is a type of mint and will spread.

Lemon balm. An herbalist friend once described this as "sunshine in a cup." And it is in that it tastes summery and brightens up a low mood.  Relaxing and cooling, it can help relieve tension, especially a tense stomach, making it great for digestion. I love munching on it while I weed or throwing it in a hot mug of water for a quick tea while I'm harvesting.  Also a mint, this one can totally take over a garden if left unchecked. 

Peppermint. Do you see a pattern here? I love mint family plants because they do so well without much support. They're also incredibly potent and produce a lot of leaves and flowers to make medicine with. Plants that require the digging of roots are often fa less prolific, and to harvest the root you typically have to kill the herb and plant a new one. Peppermint is one of the most intense mints. It's an amazing digestive aid, working as an anesthetic to the stomach lining. High in volatile oils, it's relaxing and also helps with some types of headaches when smelles, drunk in a tea, applied as a compress to the head, or used in a foot bath. I could go on and on about this plant that can fill a garden on the side of a house within a couple of years. 

Sage. Mine took a year or two to take off in my shady garden but now it's massive and so happy. This is one of those herbs that can be both cooling or warming, stimulating or relaxing, depending on what the body needs to find balance. It's drying and antimicrobial and is excellent at stimulating digestion and breaking up fatty foods. I love drinking a honey and sage tea or a sipping a sage oxymel when I have a sore throat. It makes a difference so quickly.

Oregano. I love using my food as my medicine. I really load up my salads, meatballs, sauces, and dressings with an unreal amount of herbs. They taste better but they're also delicious medicine that way. Oregano is stimulating and warming. It's fantastic at keeping us healthy and vital and helping us get better if we do get sick. It's a low maintenance ground cover that will take over an area within a few years, though not with the same aggression as the bee balm, lemon balm, or peppermint. 

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