Number 6-10 of the 20 Must Have Herbs for Every Garden
Thanks for joining us this is week 2 of the Essential Herbs Series. I’m sharing my top 20 Must Have Herbs for the Garden. You can expect to find some fun and useful ideas to get you growing and using herbs. Every day we use herbs. They flavor our food, beautify our garden, and aid in natural family health. They are certainly handy to have around.
This weeks herbs are once again in alphabetical order.
Each recommended herb will have a general description about why I include it in my garden and a link for information about how to grow it, how to cook with it, how to preserve it and at least one medicinal thing you can do with it. You are going to love it!
20 Must Have Herbs for your Garden (in alphabetical order)
Herbs 6 through 10
6. Comfrey -is a perennial and a fast grower. It will become invasive, so plant it where you want it or contain it in a big pot. The leaves can be harvested at least 4 times a year, with first cuttings usually ready by mid-spring. Cut the leaves back to about 2 inches above the soil or take individual leaves as they get hand size. You can count on another cutting every 6 weeks until early autumn when you should leave plants to leaf out and build up winter reserves. It can be used as a compost activator and if you make it into a tea it makes a wonderful soil amendment. Comfrey is not for internal use.
From the Herbal Academy of New England HANE: Externally, comfrey fomentations has been used to treat sprains, swellings, and bruises, as well as boils, abscesses and gangrenous ulcers. Comfrey is also used in a wide variety of cosmetics and is considered an anti-inflammatory ally in dealing with troubled skin.
Comfrey’s reputation as a wound healer is reflected in the etymology of its name. Interestingly, comfrey comes from the Latin conferva, which means to “grow or boil together.” Symphytum, which means “come together,” also offers insight into comfrey’s efficacy as a wound healer.
7. Echinacea –Also known as coneflower is an easy to grow perennial that likes full sun and adequate moisture. The flowers are recognizable by all and attract butterflies to the garden.
From HANE: When using Echinacea to address a virus, timing and delivery are everything. Echinacea as a definite anti-viral with the caveat that it must have direct contact with the virus right before or at the moment of infection, which typically presents as a tingling sensation in the throat. Doing so, Buhner says, will allow Echinacea to strengthen the cellular bonds in the mucus membranes, preventing the virus from penetrating deeper into the tissues (Buhner, 2012). Direct contact with 30 drops of tincture must be undertaken every hour until symptoms are reduced. The efficacy of this method has never been formally studied but I have found it effective when treating colds at first onset and personally have found Echinacea less effective at addressing colds once they are established. Buhner also recommends direct contact at the back of the throat with Echinacea for bacterial infections like strep throat and tonsillitis.
Pamela at Flower Patch Farmhouse is growing some beautiful cone flower varieties to attract butterflies. Evergrowing Farm has detailed instructions about how to sow, grow, harvest and make a tincture from it. Echinacea is best known as a cold fighter, aiding in daily immune support. Thank Your Body is using it their recipe for Flu Fighting Tea.
8. Garlic – This essential herb is a must for every garden. Not only does it taste good (garlic confit) it’s good for you. Even small space gardeners can pop a few bulbs into a pot on the deck and enjoy it. Besides the typical bulb found in the grocery, there are a surprising number of varieties to try growing yourself. Garlic has leaves that are long, narrow, lightly ribbed and thin, like grass. The underground part is called the bulb, which is a compound of bulblets called cloves held together by a thin, paper like, covering. 5 Reasons to Grow Your Own Garlic and 6 Easy Ways to Store Garlic for the Winter.
From HANE: Garlic has wide ranging effects on the cardiovascular, digestive, and respiratory systems as well as on the liver. When garlic is damaged by being cut or chewed on by insects or mammals, the plant interprets this as a predator. The sulfur-rich compounds in the cloves are activated by oxygen and an enzyme that converts the amino acid alliin to allicin and other isothiocyanates; these protective compounds hold the true medicinal power of garlic. To harness those protective compounds for yourself, chop or crush garlic and let it sit and oxidize for 3-5 minutes before taking it internally or adding it to a meal. Heat deactivates this process, so allowing the clove to sit for a bit before cooking allows you to get the most medicinal bang for your buck.
Grow A Good Life talks about how to plant garlic and The Prudent Gardener is growing her own garlic too. Sensible Gardening gives us a tutorial on curing garlic so it gets that paper thin skin and it is one of the main ingredients in my favorite cold buster recipe – fire cider. If you are interested in canning and pickling garlic this video from Growing a Greener World is for you.
9. Lavender – There are many types of lavender. Some get long stalks. Some get really big flower heads. Some are taller than others. All lavender is fragrant. In fact, lavender is known medicinally to sooth and calm nerves. It is also antiseptic and makes a good addition to your herbal first aid kit. It requires full sun and free-draining lean soil, with little amendments. Cutting back after flowering may encourage a second bloom.
Due to its antibacterial and antiseptic properties, lavender is useful for disinfecting cuts, wounds, and sores while it soothes pain and aids healing. It also soothes the itch and pain of insect bites. As a burn treatment, lavender essential oil reduces the severity and scarring of the burn and speeds healing. For the purpose of treating burns, the essential oil of Lavender can be applied neatly (directly to the skin without dilution in a carrier oil) after the burn has been cooled. Diluted in water and used as a spray, antioxidants in lavender oil also reduce skin damage from sunburn while it cools and soothes pain.
See instructions to harvest and dry lavender in this post at PreparednessMama and for something fun you can learn to make a lavender wand (and get a lavender shortbread cookie recipe too). Confessions of an Overworked Mom uses lavender to make this handy headache salve and Condo Blues is making a lavender oil extract to use in natural cleaning preparations. And finally, Jillian in Italy made blackberry lavender jelly using this recipe.
10. Lemon Balm – There really are no directions about growing lemon balm. It will grow even if you don’t want it to. It’s a member of the mint family – so keep it contained. It is a perennial and will self-seed every year. Just like She Wears Many Hats knows, it can become a pest if you let it. (I hope she dried all of that!) For the best lemon flavor, harvest leaves just as the flowers are beginning to form. Cut a sprig of Lemon Balm any time to add lemon to your tea or salad.
Lemon balm is a lovely ally for those with sleep disturbances, especially in combination with sedative herbs like valerian and passionflower. As a carminative, lemon balm relieves digestive upset relative to anxiety or depression. The antispasmodic nature of lemon balm is thought to stem from the volatile oils citral and citronellal.
Lemon balm is not often the first herb one thinks of as an anti-microbial, however, the essential oils of lemon balm have shown antibacterial activity, and studies of topical applications of lemon balm on herpes simplex sores have been shown to improve healing time and prevent recurrence.
Hopefully you’ve learned to grow a few new herbs for your garden and found some wonderful culinary and medicinal recipes to help you be self-reliant and prepared. (plus, you probably found a few new bloggers to follow) Next week the essential herbs series continues with number 11 through 15 and you will have five more fantastic herbs and recipes to try.
Stop by the other Essential Herbs Posts
Week 1 – 1. Aloe, 2. Basil, 3. Calendula, 4. Chamomile, 5. Chives
Week 2 – 6. Comfrey ,7. Echinacea, 8. Garlic, 9. Lavender, 10. Lemon Balm
Week 3 – 11. Lemon Verbena, 12. Lovage, 13. Mint, 14. Oregano, 15. Plantain
Week 4 – 16. Rosemary, 17. Sage, 18. Stevia, 19. Thyme, 20. Yarrow
Week 5 – My Favorite Herb Bloggers Roundup
What do you like best about these 5 essential herbs? Please share your favorite uses in the comments section below.