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In Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies, Groves provides 23 garden plans specially tailored to address the most common health needs, along with simple recipes for using each group of herbs. Discover the three to six herbs that are most effective for what ails you, whether you’re seeking headache relief, immune support, stress relief, or a simple daily tonic. For chronic stomach problems, marshmallow, plantain, rose, fennel, and calendula make the perfect medicine, with recipes for tummy tea and gut-healing broth. Groves teaches you how to plant, harvest, and care for each medicinal herb, and in all of her plant suggestions, she emphasizes safe, effective, easy-to-grow herbs that provide abundant harvests and can be planted in containers or garden beds.
Dedicated to . . .
Mimi Mandile, my mother and number one fan, who introduced me to herbal gardening and still lets me raid her garden periodically, as well as to my ever-supportive father, Jim Mandile.
Harriet Bean, who lovingly planted many of the herbs on this property during the 30 years she lived here before us and still keeps in touch.
Shannon Groves, my awesome husband, who always believes in me, joins me on adventures, and shares this wonderful land with me, helping to make it even more beautiful each season.
My teachers: Nancy Phillips and Rosemary Gladstar, who inspired me to cultivate herbs in the garden; Michael Moore, for fostering a love for wildcrafting and medicine making; and Christine Tolf, for opening my heart to flower essences.
Reishi, my sweet rescue mutt, who keeps me company, reminds me to take breaks, and never misses the opportunity to stop and sniff the flowers.
Introduction: At the Garden Gate
Part One: Skills for Making Medicine
Chapter One: Growing, Harvesting, and Preserving
Chapter Two: Mastering Basic Remedies
Alcohol-Free Extracts and Sweet Remedies
Part Two: Remedy Gardens
Chapter Three: Daily Tonics
The Flavor Garden
Chapter Four: Energy and Relaxation
Relax and Restore
Chapter Five: Digestion and Detoxification
Chapter Six: Immune and Respiratory
Allergy and Sinus
Chapter Seven: Skin Care and First Aid
Insect Repellent and Bite Care
Chapter Eight: Pain Relief
Topical Pain Relief
Aches and Pains
Chapter Nine: Heart and Love
Gladden the Heart
Get the Blood Moving
The Woman's Garden
Part Three: Healing Garden Herbs
Commonly Used Herbs by Condition
Commonly Used Flower Essences by Condition
Herbs for Specific Climates
Measurements and Metric Conversions
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IntroductionAt the Garden Gate
Medicinal herb gardening usually begins with one of two questions: "What should I grow?" Or "How can I use the plants I already have?" Everyone loves a good "top five" list of herbs you must plant to serve your health needs. But if every herbalist created a top five list, you can bet those lists would differ vastly from one person to the next. The truth is that the best herbs for you to grow will depend on your health needs, your growing conditions, and which plants resonate most with you. When you connect with the plants in this way, you'll get so much more out of your very own remedy garden.
Why Grow Medicinal Herbs?
So many excellent companies already make and sell fabulous herbal products, why on earth go through the trouble to grow your own plants and make your own herbal remedies? This question never crossed my mind when I first began to explore herbalism. First, I worked the supplement aisles of a popular local natural foods store, then I put my shiny new journalism degree to work covering the "herb beat" for Natural Health magazine. I quickly learned which herbs you could use for what and realized I wanted to become an herbalist to understand the plants on a deeper level. But making my own medicine seemed unnecessary.
Lucky for me, I landed on study programs with herbalists who believed in getting your hands dirty: first with Nancy Phillips and Rosemary Gladstar (herbal farming and gardening advocates and gurus), then with my primary teacher, Michael Moore (a devout wildcrafter). I came home from herb school and realized: I need plants. I need to be connected with them. I need to be able to custom formulate remedies. Working with the plants directly and making my own remedies — including those for my clients — makes me a better herbalist, a healthier person, a more effective practitioner, and a more whole human being.
Believe it or not, the remedies you make from the plants in your backyard can be just as good as — and often superior to — products you buy. But that's not the only reason why you should grow your own herbal remedies.
What Is an "Herb"?
Herbalists define "herb" broadly to include any plant or plant part used to promote health. Even mushrooms (completely different creatures entirely) become honorary "herbs." But if you're talking to a botanist, an "herb" refers only to leafy plants that die back in winter and lack woody stems (as opposed to shrubs and trees). Horticulturists and garden centers may also use this definition and/or limit "herbs" to culinary plants, often with subdued leafy mounds of growth. For a chef, "herb" refers to the leaves of culinary herbs, as opposed to seeds, roots, and barks, which are spices. Herbalists are generalists. If it grows from the earth and helps us feel better, it's an herb.
Top six Reasons to Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies
- Freshness. Freshness matters, as does the ability to make things exactly the way you want them. This, on a chemical level, is what makes your remedies stronger than what you buy.
- Less expensive. You can make potent remedies for a fraction of the retail cost. That 1-ounce bottle of tincture that cost you $15? You can make 16 ounces for less. Teas are practically free.
- Customization. Don't simply stuff your pantry with as many remedies as you possibly can. Think critically about the best plants for you (which is what this book is about). Start with small quantities, gradually building an herbal medicine cabinet tailored exactly to you and your family. You can also craft your own blends, which are often more effective than prefab store-bought formulas, and they're fun to create. The recipes in this book serve as a starting point.
- Self-sufficiency and empowerment. Being able to step into your backyard or open your medicine cabinet when you aren't feeling well, take a plant, and feel better — that's what it's all about. You don't need to run out to the store. It's right there for you and your family. The more you learn the plants and gain confidence in your skills as a home herbalist, the stronger you will feel in your ability to make yourself, your family, your community, your landscape, and the planet healthier.
- Sustainability, stewardship, and confidence. When you grow your own herbs, you not only ensure you have access to amazing quality plants whenever you need them. You develop a connection with the plants themselves and gain confidence in the quality and identity of the herbs you use. You promote sustainability for plants that might be grown and harvested unethically in commerce, and you become a steward of your land and the plant kingdom, a reciprocal relationship where you help the plants and they help you. In doing so, you also provide food, habitat, and diversity for a deeper ecology on your property that includes birds, bees, butterflies, mycelia, and earthworms.
- Connection. Plants are much more than a source of medicine; they have personalities. When you grow, harvest, and make medicine with a plant, you get to know your medicine on a deeper level. It means more than white or green powder in a pill. You commune with the individual plants and your local ecosystem at large. Nature heals, whether you're nibbling on some Korean mint or simply looking out the window at its beautiful purple blooms and the bees pollinating it.
What's in a Name? Latin Names and Plant Families
I've included the genus and species for every herb in the plant profiles. These two names together identify the exact plant in question. If you're purchasing starts or seeds, use the Latin name to ensure you're getting the plant you want. Common names can be misleading. (And labeling mistakes happen, so you'll still want to confirm the plant's identity before you harvest it.)
Often, multiple species can be used interchangeably, which is indicated by "spp." as in "Monarda spp." for bee balm. In the description, I'll suggest specific favored species (such as M. fistulosa) to seek out. Plants with an "" between the genus and species (such as peppermint: Mentha piperita) are hybrids that won't grow true to seed, but you can propagate them by other methods like root division and cuttings. Plants with a long history in horticulture — like calendula, elder, rose, and echinacea — may have many varieties developed for ornamental purposes. Unless I've specified certain varieties in the profile, stick with the original plants for optimal medicinal potency.
I've included the plant family because I want you to gradually learn and recognize plant patterns and family resemblances. You'll often find similar physical features, growing conditions, and/or medicinal properties among various plants in the same family. Popular plant families in the medicinal garden include mint, rose, daisy, and parsley.
You Don't Need a Green Thumb — or Even a Garden
You definitely do not need to be an amazing gardener or have perfect growing conditions to add herbs to your landscape. Herbs are far more forgiving than vegetables and flowers, and less tasty to the local fauna. In fact, if you've got soil in your yard, you probably already have medicinal herbs whether you've planted them or not. The plant world is generous that way. If your home doesn't include a patch of soil to tend, you can bring it in with containers inside, on the steps, and along the driveway. Or you can ask friends, neighbors, and local organic farmers if you can harvest some of their herbs or weeds.
I chose the herbs in this book specifically because they're easy to grow (or thrive abundantly, wild, in backyard environments), incredibly useful medicinally, safe, and easy to harvest and use to make remedies. I have a close, personal relationship with these plants, having cultivated or wildcrafted all of them numerous times in my 25 years working as an herbalist, particularly the 13 years that I've tended them on my property.
I didn't come to this land with gardening know-how, and even though many herbs already grew on the property, I've had my challenges: poor, acidic, sandy soil; early frosts; legions of hungry critters; and shade from enormous pines around and throughout the yard. I don't have a lot of time to tend to my plants or spend hours harvesting and processing them. I'm eternally grateful for mulch, timed drip irrigation, and low-fuss plants that produce plenty of medicine without much effort.
Most of the herbs in this book will thrive in a pampered garden bed with full sun, rich soil, and regular doses of water. But many herbs adapt to a wide range of conditions and neglect yet still produce year after year. You won't find any divas (sorry, ginseng) or plants that require colossal time or effort for a puny harvest (goodbye, astragalus and nigella) in this book. You'll learn basic gardening know-how in chapter 1. For the land-challenged, check out your container options.
What Should You Grow?
Here are the things you'll want to consider when choosing your herbs.
Herbs that address your health needs. What types of health benefits would you like in your life? Do you want herbs that taste good and look beautiful? Weeds that nourish your body better than store-bought vegetables? Something to help you sleep? First aid remedies for your little ones' boo-boos? Think about daily tonics as well as the ailments you and your family face most often and start there.
Plants for your growing conditions. Whether you garden in New Mexico or New Hampshire, you could grow almost all of the herbs in this book with soil amendments, irrigation, and careful placement. But start with what you've got versus what you can create. If you've got a shady yard, opt for plants that thrive in dappled sunlight. A hot climate? Go for tropicals. Dry? Low-water plants. Soggy? Find some herbs that like wet feet. You'll have more success with these plants and can always expand as your garden and skills grow.
Herbs that resonate with you. This may be the least tangible thing to learn because it's solely dependent on your individual relationship with individual plants. Use your intuition to see which plants call to you. When you try them, see if they resonate — even if you don't notice a major "effect" right away, you'll usually sense that you generally like or don't like how you feel when you take them. Which herbs actually have the desired outcome? Does valerian lull you to sleep or make you feel agitated? Does nettle make your body sing with nourishment or feel drained from peeing all day? You want to know this before you plant a huge patch of it and put up a half gallon of tincture or tea. Play with the plants, start with small quantities, and tune in to what your body tells you it likes best.
Also bear in mind that your herb garden does not need to begin with a hundred plants. Start with one to five that really call to you, get to know them really well, then expand from there.
How to Use This Book and Choose Your Plants
I don't know your growing conditions or which plants resonate with you, but I do know which easy-to-grow plants tend to work best for specific body systems and everyday health concerns. Whether you're a newbie or already have some gardening and herbal skills up your sleeve, it helps to start with a body system approach. This is the same approach I took in my first book, Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care, as well as my Home Herbalist Series study program. Rather than choosing from a laundry list of plants, target a particular purpose, and then look at each plant's nuances. What are each plant's specific indications? What side benefits does each plant offer? What are the cautions? Where does it like to grow?
Even though this book is organized into "gardens" for each health topic, I don't necessarily expect (or want) you to plant every single one of the featured plants in one plot in your yard. Feel free to pick the ones that seem best suited for your health needs and the growing conditions on your property. It may make sense to plant the herbs you choose in different places in your yard. Nettle stings and spreads while calendula needs a full-sun pampered garden bed. Just because different herbs blend well in a tea doesn't mean they play nice next to each other in the garden. You'll be better off foraging for nettle if it grows wild nearby or planting it in a damp, part-shade, out-of-the-way spot where it won't sting you every time you pop into the garden for some culinary herbs.
Most of the herbs in this book will grow well in temperate gardens from USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9 with moderate moisture, decent soil, and partial shade to full sun. Within one yard you'll often have microclimates of shade, soil, and moisture where you can tuck plants into their niches. But if your yard has very specific site specs — really cold, hot, dry, wet, relentlessly sunny, or shady — check out the site suggestions to hone your plant selection and read the profiles in part 3 for more tips.
Plant ID and Safety
Medicinal herbs, particularly those covered in this book, generally have a solid safety record with rare and minor side effects. That said, I encourage my students and readers to empower themselves by sticking with some basic safety rules.
- Do your research. Check a plant out in at least three different sources to get a sense of what it can be used for and any potential safety issues. Incorporate a mix of mostly herbalist/clinician perspectives with some evidence-based/scientific ones. You can safely use only this book, but you'll gain even greater insight into herbal medicine by gathering a variety of perspectives.
- Listen to your body and intuition. Ultimately, your own experience with the plant will determine which herbs work best for you. Intuition can guide you to which plants to try (assuming you've also done research, especially for safety), then tune in to your body to determine whether or not the plant resonates and if it has the desired effect.
- Correctly identify your plant. Mistakes happen. All the time. Garden centers mislabel plants, something unexpected may grow where you planted seeds, friends share improperly identified plants from their garden, and so forth. It's most important to key out and identify plants you wildcraft, but always double-check new plants in the garden that you haven't used before. Get yourself a good field guide. One of the most common, lethal mix-ups is to mistake foxglove leaves for mullein, comfrey, or other plants. Identification is unfortunately beyond the scope of this book, but you'll find information about how to identify plants on my website (see Resources).
- Check for herb-drug reactions. If you're on any medications, check for any potential interactions with herbs. You can ask your pharmacist to check it in the pharmacy's database. If you're on several medications or ones like blood thinners that interact with many herbs, seek an herbalist or naturopathic doctor's guidance on what herbs you can safely take, and keep your doctor in the loop.
- Start low, work up. Using the dosages in this book as a general guide, start low and work up. Start below the recommended dose, especially if you're a "sensitive person" — just a few drops of tincture or sips of tea. This way you can gauge your response and ensure the plant agrees with you. Work your dose up to the recommended range. If it doesn't seem to work, increase your dose (within the range). If it still doesn't work, try another plant or seek professional guidance.
- Know your limits. Self-empowerment doesn't mean you need to know and do it all. Get regular checkups and develop a good health care team that you trust to refer to, especially in potentially dangerous, life-threatening conditions (e.g., copious bleeding, anaphylactic shock, difficulty breathing, serious acute infections, severe dehydration, heart attack) as well as conditions that don't respond promptly to natural therapies. These are times to turn to modern medicine, not your garden.
How Herbal Medicine Works
In herbal medicine, we aim to get to the root of the problem and choose herbs that help bring the body back into balance, alongside diet and lifestyle changes. While this book will introduce you to safe, effective herbs for common health concerns, I delve much more deeply into healing in my first book, Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care. There, I discuss each body system in depth, with protocol points for various conditions. While both books can be used independently, the two work particularly well as a companion set. In one, you'll understand each body system and see the big picture. Here, you learn how to grow, harvest, and use the plants, and you get many more recipes to inspire you in your healing journey.
Part OneSkills for Making Medicine
ChapterOneGrowing, Harvesting, and Preserving
Herbal gardening may seem daunting, but these plants are generally easier to grow than food crops, flowers, and ornamentals. Cultivating your own herbs helps you connect with your medicine and ensures you have easy access to high-quality plants that suit you best. With very little effort, you can grow and make medicine with benefits that exceed those of what you buy in the store. Here are a few pointers on getting your green thumb going.
Planting, Care, and Maintenance
Of all the plants you could grow, herbs tend to be the least fussy. Most of the plants in this book thrive in a plush, vegetable-worthy garden bed with rich, well-drained soil, regular watering, and full sun. Yet they'll often tolerate drier and poorer soils, partial shade, and other less favorable conditions. Herbs will meet you where you're at, but you can make them even happier by understanding each plant's favored habitat and tending to your soil ecology. This approach takes time, but it's not that difficult or expensive.
“The incredible array of herbal remedies and recipes, easy gardening guidelines, and beautiful plant photography make this one of the best DIY herb books ever. I will use it again and again as reference guide, and highly recommend it for everyone interested in medicinal plants and herb gardening.” — Rosemary Gladstar, herbalist and author
“With Maria’s thorough and practical guidance you’ll soon have your hands in the dirt, the sun on your face, and baskets brimming with your herbal harvests. Whether you are just starting an herb garden or you’ve been at it for years, this is the book to inspire and inform you along the way.” — Rosalee de la Forêt, RH(AHG), author of Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal
- On Sale
- Apr 2, 2019
- Page Count
- 336 pages