From olden times medicinal plants and herbs have played an important part in the life of man. They have been used as a remedy against numerous diseases, in sweet-smelling oils burnt in temples and in adding flavors to beverages and food.
Medicine production and manufacture by private people is, however, a thing of the past, and at present, the few herbs grown in gardens are luxuries rather than necessaries. There are still many plants that are well worth growing for private use for their medicinal qualities in addition to those we grow for ordinary purposes.
Here are the 18 most common medicinal plants and their uses:
The Anise (Pimpinella anisum), of which the seeds are used in medicine and the leaves for seasoning and garnishing, is easily raised on light rich soils, where the situation is moist and warm. The seeds contain aromatic and carminative properties, which make them valuable in cases of flatulence. Their aroma is agreeable and powerful.
The Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is now a naturalized plant in some parts of the hills and its cultivation. Its roots have been used as a purgative, and the gummy exudations of the stem as an emetic. The flower heads are used as a vegetable, and the plant is a very ornamental one.
3. Lemon balm
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), like mint in appearance, is also naturalized in rich moist spots in the hills, where it grows amazingly.
It is seldom used as a medicine, however, a decoction of lemon balm is a very agreeable drink. It has an aromatic flavor, and the leaves when rubbed give off a strong citron scent. It is propagated readily from pieces of the root.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum, Sweet Basil, and Dwarf Basil), are used for flavoring soup and salads, the young leaves being made use of for this purpose. They are easily raised from seeds sown on light rich soil and kept well watered.
Caraway (Carum carvi), the seeds of this plant, like those of Anise, are made use of, and their agreeable aromatic flavor is taken advantage of in baking and confectionery. The plant is readily raised from seed sown in ordinary soil.
Celery (Apium graveolens) is well-known as a salad, and as a flavoring agent. Celery is highly recommended for its health properties and is classified officially as one of the protective foods. It contains valuable mineral salts, also Vitamin B.
Celery is recommended by the dietetic profession as it tones up the nervous system, being alkaline it assists in removing rheumatism and sciatica. It clears the blood, tones the liver, regulates the kidneys. Celery with cheese is a favorite dessert and besides it can be used in salads or cooked in a dozen ways by the enterprising housewife.
Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), its medicinal qualities are still accounted high it might be found worthy of more notice than it receives at present. It will grow in any good soil but requires plenty of water during the hot weather.
Both leaves and flowers of the plant are used, but more commonly the flowers only; they are used as bitters when infused under the name of chamomile tea, and are still held in great repute for their tonic and stomachic qualities.
Hyssop has long been spoken of as a fragrant herb. The present plant has long been under cultivation in English gardens.
Its general appearance is not unlike the Savory, and its medicinal properties consist of essential oil of an aromatic flavor which is said to be mildly stimulating. It is easily raised from seeds or cuttings during the autumn or spring and succeeds in any good garden soil.
Lavender, one of the world’s favorite flowers for centuries, has been grown as much for its uses, in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, and sachets, which are just some examples, as for its beauty, and it still can fill multiple roles.
Lavender (Lavandula Spica) is grown as an ornamental plant principally. It will probably be grown as long as a scent producing agent. In medieval references to its medicinal use, spirits of lavender were used to treat palsies, vertigo, and convulsions while the leaves or an ointment of such was used to stimulate paralyzed limbs.
Special values of lavender in a garden, other than as an individual plant, were that it could be used to develop a border or a hedge or be planted as a feature of a herb or rock garden.
Marigold (Calendula officinalis) grows freely from seeds in any rich garden soil. The flowers when fully expanded are gathered and used in the flavoring of soups.
Marigolds make an excellent curative ointment. At least equal to the carnation in versatility must be the rose. History records many uses for this queen of flowers. Fable and fact endow the rose with powers little short of miraculous. Not only the flower, but every part, even the roots, were used for some purpose – medicinal, sustenance, romantic, and mystical.
11. Opium Poppy
Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum) can be grown with ease by sowing the seeds where required. It is in common use as a medicine.
The opium poppy yields the drugs morphine, codeine, narcotine, papaverine, and opium. The plant is native to Mediterranean countries and southern Asia and has been cultivated for its opium since ancient times.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a common plant in our gardens. Rosemary also figured extensively in the religious ceremonies of ancient Europe including weddings and funerals, where it was used in churches as a visual decoration in garlands and burned as an air freshener.
A rosemary branch was also given to wedding guests as a symbol of love and loyalty. The aromatic and antiseptic properties of rosemary are underlined by its inclusion in the preparation of Eau de Cologne.
But the herb’s ancient reverence has been shown to have a scientific base. It has a special camphor, a volatile oil, a bitter principle, and a resin. Its strong antioxidant properties counter the odds in meat fats that would normally turn rancid and spoil the meat, which makes rosemary an excellent preservative and hence the connection with roast lamb.
As a tea, it soothes the nerves, relieves insomnia and mental fatigue and cures headaches. Rosemary acts as a circulatory and nervine stimulant, which in addition to the toning and calming effect on the digestion, makes it a useful remedy for people suffering from tension. The stimulant action of rosemary helps promote liver function, the production of bile and proper digestion.
Externally, the decoction of rosemary (or perhaps rosemary oil) may be used to ease muscular pain, sciatica, and neuralgia. When added to the bathwater it makes a most refreshing and invigorating bath for the tired.
It also is good for the hair and may be used to counter hair loss and battle premature baldness and often bobs up in good hair preparations. An infusion of the dried herb makes one of the best hair washes for the prevention of dandruff.
Rue (Ruta graveolens) was known as the herb of grace, as Rosemary was for remembrance. It is rather scarce as yet in gardens but is worth attention as an ornament. It has a strong, unpleasant smell, and a totter, acrid taste, and its power as an antispasmodic is said to be undoubted. It can be raised from seeds and cuttings.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a common and popular herb and has perhaps kept its place in the garden better than any other. It is of easy culture and is not particular about either soil or situation. The Salvia, or sage, is a large family of herbs, sub-shrubs, and shrubs belonging to the mint family that grows almost anywhere in the world.
Taken to England by the Romans who used it to flavor tainted meats, it became a favorite in monastery gardens. Its medicinal properties became valuable cures for many ailments – from broken bones to stomach disorders, to cure the palsy and to put fevers to flight.
15. Summer Savory
Summer Savory is an annual plant, to be raised from seeds sown at the beginning of winter or in spring on light rich soil. The winter Savory is increased by cuttings planted during the winter in a sheltered border, or if raised from seeds sown in the same way as for the summer kind. Summer savory planted between rows of beans will inhibit the bean beetle. Onions appreciate summer savory too.
Thyme (Thymus), this useful plant can be grown readily in any garden if slips are put in during the winter season. Like many other herbs, it requires to be cut before it is quite ripe to keep for use.
Thyme’s primary medicinal function is as an expectorant, which means it promotes spitting, and heavy smokers need to do a lot of spitting as their bodies desperately try to get rid of the build-up that comes with years of smoking.
Thyme is a good tonic for stomach problems such as flatulence, gastritis, stomach cramps, and painful menstruation. Its nervine properties also make it useful in combating convulsive coughs and other nervous complaints.
Thyme oil is particularly potent and has been used to battle paralysis, strokes, rheumatism, muscular atrophy, and sprains. Thyme is also a recommended remedy for alcoholism while thyme syrup is very tasty and supposed to counter colds.
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is a very handsome plant in the garden and can be grown without more than ordinary care. It is some times used in cookery and has a strong pungent odor.
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) produces a powerful bitterness. It is seldom used as a medicine, although possessed of both tonic and stimulative properties. Wormwood has an ornamental leaf and is used in making absinthe.