There are a multitude of important skills one may need to bring to the table when SHTF. While many are “top-list” and cliché, I fear that a few important abilities have been discarded or perhaps subconsciously abandoned. There were others, however, that disappeared for more shady reasons. Such as today’s topic: The knowledge of medicinal plants in the home garden.
Sure, you may find a few today, hidden away in “classic” shelf decoration; the Foxfire Books 1-9, tied together with a leather belt and bronze buckle, catching dust on some fashionable millennials “for looks only” bookshelf, in some downtown apartment overlooking the city… You get my drift.
When we think back nearly two-hundred years, we can see many “real world” life skills that held much importance. Granted, due to the natural evolution of man and technology, some of those skillsets became obsolete and for a good reason, be it for safety measures or lessening of physical labor (to certain extents…).
Since the very beginnings of time, all walking forms of life have sought medicinal uses from the earth’s greenery. In today’s pharmacies, the majority of popular pharmaceuticals are amalgamated in labs. On a good note, there are still vast numbers of marketed remedies whose medicinal contents are accrued from natural plants. On an even better note, you don’t even have to rely on mass-sold products for all-natural based medicines.
When it comes to growing your own medicinal herbs as well as brewing teas or tinctures, it may seem a bit daunting and especially time-consuming at first. However, in all honesty, you are not even required to be a “skilled” gardener to grow a few simple medicinal herbs with success. Nor is it necessary to be a full-on pharmacist to prepare them for use. Not only will the process of growing your own help to enjoy and learn yourself, but you will also be saving money!
I would offer a “top-ten” best herbs list, however, I fear that list would only exist in a perfect world; who is looking for that anyway? The bottom line is that your medicinal garden will have to be totally tailored to your particular area, climate, and health concerns. The goal of this article is simply to inspire you in learning the skills needed to produce your very own medicinal herb garden.
Fortunately, most herbs are not dreadfully difficult to grow, not requiring too awful much of a green thumb to master them. However, they are plants, meaning you will have to mindfully acquire a small amount of gardening wisdom (which is a ton of fun all in itself). Realistically evaluate your level of growing experience and knowledge, and properly put in the work/time needed to brush up your skills. Trust me, one day (even before SHTF) it will come in handy.
A cool piece of side-history: It has been said that the doctrine of signatures if that God made a plant to cure every sickness; and one way to find out what plant cured what, one could see that the plant looks very similar to the ailment. Again, this is simply a cool piece of history. I would not personally suggest going about finding medicinal uses from plants using this method. These were common methods for Moravian gardeners from the 1700’s.
Most plants and herbs that can be grown in your medicinal garden can be used in combination with one another to provide medicine for a specific ailment. Lemon balm, lavender, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, rue, sage, scorzonera and sorrel were all used to treat epilepsy. English daisy, elecampane, scabiosa and oregano were used to treat coughs.
Here are where things can turn tough. Decisions, decisions. There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of plants with medicinal values. As mentioned above, your climate, soil type and several other growing conditions can only support but so many of those many varieties. There will still be many, many great herbs to choose from, so just how can you compile a list?
You can start by contacting your local agricultural department, local grower’s clubs/classes, or local gardening publications, and getting information on growing in your area. Ask questions such as “What herbs can grow under our area’s growing conditions”, “Do I need a greenhouse or a special micro-climate for any of these herbs?”.
Typically, if you buy plants or seeds from a local nursery, chances are that they are only selling ones that are natural to the location. Still yet, it never hurts to ask questions. You may even need to do a bit of experimenting, but in time you will figure it out.
Another thoughtful tactic is to rummage through your herb shelf to make a list of the ones that you use most frequently.
Think about your families most immediate needs. Are there any ailments that are regular in your household? Does a member of your family have regular headaches?
Most public libraries and bookstores offer many wonderfully written herbal-how-tos and dictionaries that tell the multiple uses of each plant. These will be handy in selecting the herbs that are most suitable for your needs and region.
It may be that you only want to cultivate the herbs that relieve simple ailments. This can be done fairly easy, and with only a beginner set of skills. It can be quite the task to take on when it comes certain medicinal herbs and plants. Some plants, such as foxglove and male fern or bloodroot and rue, are gorgeous plants, but are far too powerful to use safely as remedies, unless, of course, you are a trained physician, pharmacologist or herbalist.
Related article: The Most Useful Methods To Prepare Medicinal Herbs
Things to Consider About How Many Medicinal Herbs to Grow:
- How many people are you growing medicine for this year? Growing only what you need should be an important aspect of any sort of garden (granted, leftovers can make excellent gifts for neighbors or even in the compost bin). The amount of each plant required to grow will need to be sort of pre-counted.
- How many different plants will be taking up space? More often than not, it comes down to just how much space you have to grow things. If space is of abundance, you may be a bit more frivolous; it there is simply never enough space, frugality will be your saving grace. (In example, fennel takes up a lot more space than thyme, both vertically and horizontally.)
- How much of the area in your yard or plot or container garden is a good match for the plants you want to grow? Can you make the necessary adjustments to hold and be sufficient for the herbs you want to plant and grow? Is there enough sunlight in areas and shade in others? Is there usable soil already there or will you need to add compost and fertilizer?
Keep in mind that you are going to be saving money by stocking your windowsill, container garden, or backyard gardens with a few essential medicinal herbs. Just in case you forgot that perk.
Now that you have that nice little incentive back from the crevices of your mind let’s get down to the nitty-gritty…
Depending upon which superstars you decide on, they will treat common ailments such as colds and flu, minor cuts and lacerations, inflammation, infections, pain, anxiety, poor digestion, acne, bruises, insomnia and muscle spasms, just to name a few. These natural cures will come in handy when there is no doctor around.
A handful of medicinal plants:
The plants listed here are basic, and easy to grow; again, keep in mind, the purpose of this article is to inspire you to do the research necessary to grow precisely what you need. Don’t forget, there are many herbs that can be potentially dangerous and should only be used by trained herbalists. When it comes to misapplication or overuse, any substance can be harmful.
*You may find in your studies that some physicians even doubt the medicinal value of any herbs, despite centuries of use. Be mindful in your studies.
Uses: This fine herb can be celebrated as one of the more popular medicinal plants. It is known for its antiviral and immune-enhancing; it is also popular for relieving colds and upper respiratory infections.
Prep: Tea: Simmer 1 tsp dried and sliced root in 1 cup water for 10 minutes. Strain. Drink 1-3 cups per day. Tincture: Take 5 ml 3-6 times per day at onset of cold symptoms.
Affects: Rare allergic reactions.
Uses: Garlic is a potent antimicrobial; it is often used to ease sinus congestion, stave off travelers’ diarrhea, and combats colds.
Prep: Eat- one to two fresh cloves daily. Capsules- Take 4–8 milligrams of allicin per day.
Uses: is known to be a gentle calmative; it eases tension, upset stomach, and colic; even topical creams can be used for fever blisters.
Prep: Pour one cup of boiling water over five or six fresh (1 tsp dried) leaves. Steep for 5 minutes, strain and sweeten, if desired. Drink several times per day.
Uses: Protects the liver from damage caused by environmental toxins, medications, and alcohol. Recent studies suggest it protects the kidneys similarly. Talk about a real natural SCORE!
Prep: Extract- Take 400–700 mg per day in divided doses. When you get this extract, it is guaranteed to contain a minimum of 70% silymarin.
Affects: None known.
Uses: Aloe is a skin-friendly plant. The pulp of mature leaves can be applied to minor cuts and burns and to dry, inflamed, or damaged skin due to eczema or other skin conditions. It is a great moisturizer with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effect. The leaf pulp can be eaten too. Regular use can help to block constipation and relieve other digestive problems.
Prep: Requires no processing before use.
Affects: Considered generally safe.
Uses: Amazingly considered a weed, but it has several medicinal properties including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing ability. Also helps with the symptoms of diarrhea. Used on wounds, insect bites and skin sores for pain relief and to promote healing.
Prep: Tea- Boil two cups of water and pour over one cup of fresh leaves.
So there you have it; just a handful of herbs, a few grains of sand from an endless beach. Hopefully seeing their healing properties will encourage you to look into a more extensive list.
Designing the garden:
From spiral shaped to semicircles, the designs you can use for your medicinal gardens are as many in count as the potential plants you could grow in them. While some plants will do better in the sun and the others in more shade, the design and layout of your herbal garden does not really matter, aside from aesthetic views that is.
You can even design your own container or raised-bed garden. Simply allow your imagination to flow. Bear in mind that you should make yourself aware of what plants do well next to one another in soil, and which need more sunlight versus shade, and any details pertaining to the plant’s necessities for successful growth.
If you have never really grown much stuff in your life, don’t overdue yourself by trying to grow a ton of varieties. If you begin now, before SHTF (if there is a such thing as before…), try only growing one or two plants to get a feel for it. Choose some that are useful every day and which are considered easy to grow.
Surely it will not take long for you to realize if it is for you or not. Keep in mind all the wonderful benefits (aside from the mystical medicinal uses) such as money saving and self-advancement that come along naturally.
This article has been written by Jonathan Blaylock for Prepper’s Will.