7 Amazing and Versatile Medicinal Herbs Blooming in My Garden Now

Shi Yao Lian, Practitioner Buddha’s Alchemy

July 9, 2019

The summer herbal harvest is in full gear, and it’s sometimes a tough call which way to turn your attention. Not only are the forests, fields and coastlines full of amazing wild herbs, but now is the season of plenty in the herbal garden.

A versatile medicinal herb garden is the key to having a variety of herbs on hand, and being prepared to treat whatever little “nasties” come your way.

Here are 7 medicinal herbs blooming in my garden right now.

  1. Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

This warm and sunny annual self seeds prolifically in my garden every year. I can’t be without it. I simply let the seedlings get big enough for transplantation in the early spring wherever they pop up, and then transplant them to where I want them to grow.

Family: Asteraceae

Energy: neutral to warm, slightly acrid, bitter

Systems/Organs/Channels Affected: Liver, Heart, Lung (TCM); skin, GI tract, lymph (Western)

Main Chemical Constituents: carotene, calenduline, lycopine, resin, saponin, a bitter principle

Parts Used: buds and open flowers

Properties and Actions: vulnerary, emmenagogue, diaphoretic, alterative, analgesic, anti-fungal, astringent, lymphagogue, antimicrobial/clears Heat toxins, moves Blood (TCM)

Indications and Uses:

Calendula is known as a gentle Blood mover in TCM. As such, it can be used internally in formulas for breaking up Stagnation, clearing toxins, and relieving pain. Such uses include dysmenorrhea, varicosities, cardiac irregularities, lymphatic congestion, bruises, and external traumas.

Calendula makes a wonderful addition to skin care and wound healing products. It is healing to skin and mucous membranes, and soothes and assists in proliferation of new tissue. Lesions, burns, abrasions, fungal rashes and cuts are some of the many possible external conditions suitable for application.

Contraindications: pregnancy (internal use)

Calendula officinalis

Photograph by Dawn Bertram

2. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

To my delight, my 3 year old licorice plant bloomed beautiful delicate purple blossom on spikes this year for the first time. This fall will be a wonderful root harvest.

Family: Fabaceae

Energy: raw – neutral and sweet; stir-fried in honey – warm and sweet

Systems/Organs/Channels Affected: raw – all 12 channels especially Heart, Lung, Spleen, Stomach; stir-fried – Spleen, Stomach (TCM); adrenal glands, GI tract, lungs (Western)

Main Chemical Constituents: glycyrrhizic acid, glycyrrhetinic acid, glycyrrhizin

Parts Used: root

Properties and Actions: adaptogen, demulcent, Qi and Yin tonic (TCM), anti-inflammatory, expectorant, antispasmodic, calms Liver, drains Fire/Heat toxins (antiviral, antimicrobial)

Indications and Uses:

In TCM, licorice root (usually a species called Glycyrrhiza uralensis) is used either raw, or stir-fried in honey. It is included in small amounts in about 50% of TCM traditional formulations. In its raw form, licorice acts as a harmonizer and detoxifier in a formula, and helps to ameliorate any adverse effects from other herbs. In its stir-fried form, it is commonly employed as a Qi and Yin tonic to boost organ function, soothe and moisten tissues, and decrease inflammation and stress responses. Licorice is used to treat a variety of conditions such as vital energy and Blood deficiencies, weak digestion, GI tract ulcers and liver cirrhosis. Licorice is demulcent and because is nourishes Qi, it is a soothing remedy for dry lungs, sore throat, coughs, and conditions of weak Lung Qi like wheezing and shortness of breath.

Licorice is cortisone sparing and can be used when the body requires extra support maintaining adequate levels of cortisone, such as in sustained stress and adrenal fatigue. However, it has no measurable effect on other adrenal hormones such as those secreted by the adrenal medulla, and thus is not truly an adrenal tonic as commonly claimed. Overuse can result in symptoms similar to excess cortisone.

Contraindications: edema, swelling, hypertension, fluid stagnation

3. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

This “first aid kit in a plant” is a must have for the apothecary. Easy to grow and abundantly wild, it has a multitude of applications.

Family: Asteraceae

Energy: neutral, bitter, spicy, astringent

Systems/Organs/Channels Affected: Lung, Liver (TCM); circulatory system, digestive system, reproductive system (Western)

Main Chemical Constituents: essential oils, volatile oils (azulene, camphor, thujone), cineol, achilleine

Parts Used: aerial parts

Properties and Actions: diaphoretic, carminative, hemostatic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, emmenagogue, antiviral/releases Exterior Wind-Heat (TCM), antispasmodic, analgesic, stabilizes and binds (TCM)/sedative/nervine

Indications and Uses:

Yarrow is a great herb to have on hand for colds and flu, particularly those with symptoms of Exterior Wind-Heat invasion, such as high fever, thirst , thick coloured secretions, intense headaches, and body aches. Its diaphoretic action encourages sweating and release of Wind-Heat. As an emmenagogue, its Qi moving effects relieve dysmenorrhea, stuck menses, cramps and amenorrhea. It is frequently used in digestive bitter formulas and relieves digestive upsets like gas, acidity, gastritis and diarrhea. Yarrow is hypotensive and can be used in formulas for the heart and circulation with herbs such as motherwort and hawthorn.

Yarrow should be in every herbal first aid kit. It is a great styptic/hemostatic, treating acute mild bleeding of wounds, nosebleeds and varicosities. It can also be used internally to arrest hematuria, GI bleeding and metrorrhagia.

Contraindications: pregnancy, with anticoagulants

Achillea millefolium

Photograph by Dawn Bertram

4. Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis)

A pretty perennial herb well known for treating headaches.

Family: Lamiaceae

Energy: cool, bitter

Systems/Organs/Channels Affected: Liver (TCM); nervous system, digestive system (Western)

Main Chemical Constituents: tannins

Parts Used: aerial parts

Properties and Actions: nervine, astringent, antispasmodic, alterative, bitter tonic, carminative, calms the Liver (TCM)

Indications and Uses:

Wood betony is best known for its application for headaches and migraines. Tension, stress and nervousness often cause vertex headaches, for which it is particularly effective. Historically, it was part of a famous headache herb snuff formula.

Digestive disturbances due to anxiety and nervousness can be treated with wood betony, as can neuralgia and rheumatism.

Wood betony’s astringency makes it antidiarrheal and effective for healing wounds and varicosities, and it could be employed in hemostatic formulas.

Contraindications: pregnancy (internal use)

5. Motherwort (Leonorus cardiaca)

I love working with motherwort. The leaves are so velvety soft, in contrast to the sharp burrs around the flowers. It kind of reminds me of emotional states of the heart (which is one of motherwort’s target organs) – sharp and prickly, or soft. Motherwort is a must have in the herbal garden.

Family: Lamiaceae

Energy: cold, bitter, spicy

Systems/Organs/Channels Affected: Liver, Heart, Bladder, Kidney (TCM); nervous system, digestive system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system (Western)

Main Chemical Constituents: bitter glycosides, leonurin, alkaloids, tannin

Parts Used: aerial parts

Properties and Actions: nervine, astringent, antispasmodic, emmenagogue, hypotensive, cardiac tonic, sedative (calms Shen), diuretic, analgesic invigorates Blood and dispels Blood Stasis, drains Dampness, clears Heat toxins (TCM)

Indications and Uses:

Motherwort is best known for its gynaecological uses and as a cardiac tonic. In TCM, it is classified as a Blood moving herb. Its properties make it ideal for encouraging menstruation, dispelling clots, easing cramps and pain, and treating dysmenorrhea and amenorrhea. It is often combined with dang gui in TCM for menstrual irregularities.

The same Blood invigorating properties make motherwort an ideal heart tonic. It is often used for heart palpitations, hypertension, tachycardia, cardiac edema, CHF, MI, atherosclerosis, and lipidemia.

Due to motherwort’s ability to move Blood and toxins, and relieve pain, other uses in TCM include hyperthyroidism, neuralgia, rheumatism, infertility, and swellings and abscesses.

Contraindications: pregnancy

6. Elecampane (Inula helenium)

This beautiful giant is often grown as an ornamental in gardens. My Elecampane is finally going to bloom this year. The buds are just about to give way to gorgeous yellow blooms. It’s 3 years old, and about 10 feet high, and the largest leaves are at least 2-3 feet long. Really something to behold. Give this lady plenty of room in the garden. I still haven’t figured out how I am going to harvest the root!

Family: Asteraceae

Energy: warm, acrid, bitter

Systems/Organs/Channels Affected: Liver, Lung, Stomach, Spleen (TCM); respiratory system, digestive system (Western)

Main Chemical Constituents: volatile oils including helenin, elecampane camphor, azulene, resin, inulin

Parts Used: root

Properties and Actions: expectorant, carminative, stomachic, diuretic, cholagogue, antitussive, anti-parasitic, transforms Phlegm, regulates and tonifies Qi (TCM)

Indications and Uses:

Elecampane is suited to conditions of Dampness and Phlegm due to its drying and expectorant qualities. It treats respiratory conditions such as coughs , asthma, pleurisy, bronchitis and infections. In addition, it is rejuvenating to the Lung Qi.

Elecampane also clears Phlegm from the digestive tract. It is a digestive aid and especially warming to the Spleen when dry fried. It can be used to treat nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, dysentery, cholecystitis, gallstones and intestinal worms. Its anti-parasitic property makes it useful in treating malaria.

Elecampane can be used externally to relieve neurogenic pain such as sciatica and rheumatism.

Contraindications: pregnancy, lactation, large doses can cause gastric upset

7. California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

Another beautiful and very useful self seeding flower to have in the herbal garden, California poppy is gentle enough for use with children.

Family: Papaveraceae

Energy: cool, bitter

Systems/Organs/Channels Affected: Liver, Heart (TCM); nervous system (Western)

Main Chemical Constituents: isoquinolone alkaloids, rutin, quercetin

Parts Used: whole plant or aerial parts

Properties and Actions: nervine, sedative, calms Liver Wind and Heart Shen (TCM), anti-spasmodic, hypnotic, febrifuge, analgesic

Indications and Uses:

California poppy is a favourite nervine and gentle enough to use for children. It treats anxiety, insomnia, and nervous tension. Its analgesic and antispasmodic properties make it useful for respiratory, urogenital and GI spasms, neuropathy, toothache and headache.

Contraindications: pregnancy (uterine stimulant)


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