Planting Your Medicinal Herb Garden

medicinal herb

Nothing creates connection to Nature quicker than growing your own food and medicines. It’s spring! If you’re considering planting your medicinal herb garden as a way to develop that connection, read on! You will find that it also cultivates sovereignty because you will become more self sufficient, too. As an added bonus, getting your hands in the soil will help to keep your natural, healthy microbes up. So let’s get stared!

Planning Your Garden

Before you get started, you have to consider some things and make a few decisions.

  • will your garden be indoors or out?
  • is your soil suitable for what you want to grow or do you need alternative arrangements?
  • how is the sunlight?
  • what grows naturally in your area?
  • which herbs are most versatile and useful?
  • how much care do your plants need? Can you provide this?
  • will your chosen herbs grow well together?
  • how will you deal with pests?

Indoors or Out?

If you have poor soil, want herbs year round, don’t have a yard, have a window with strong sunlight for 6-8 hours, and don’t want to fuss with weeding, indoor herbs may be the way to go. Indoor herbs grow best when each herb has its own pot. You can also choose herbs that may not grow well with others because each pot will have its own soil. You can move them around so that shade loving plants aren’t near sun loving plants. Those that need lots of water are separated from those that only need a little. You can have lots of versatility with indoor herbs.

If you choose to put it outdoors, you can still use pots, create a small or huge garden, or incorporate the herbs into the landscape. Plants that spread out, like mints and echinacea, do better in pots to keep them contained, or in spaces all to themselves so they don’t take over other plants.

Dealing With Poor Soil

In the old days, gardeners would till the soil, add peat, vermiculite, compost, and other additives to make poor soil more productive. Many natural gardeners now opt for the no till method for its ecological benefits. Tilling destroys fungal networks and the sticky exudates of soil organisms that hold soil together. Tilling also destroys humus, the organic component of soil that is necessary for plant life. All you need to do is put down a layer of cardboard where you want to place your plants. Cover with 2 inches of compost. Put your seeds or starter plants in the hole, and cover with mulch.

There is no tilling required. Although weeds will grow here, they will be easier to pull out because the soil always stays loose. So don’t walk in your garden so it stays that way.

Situating the Garden

Be sure to situate your beds in a place where your plants are most likely to grow. Many herbs like full sun. Some are better in shady areas. Some will stay where they are put, and some spread out. Consider this when designing your beds. It’s also useful to put plants that inhibit insects or fungi near plants you intend to eat or use as medicines. For example, lavender, garlic, sunflowers, petunias, and marigolds are commonly used as natural plant protectors.

Which Medicinal Herbs to Plant?

When choosing medicinal herbs, you will want to consider what grows naturally in your area. While some herbs are well known for their medicinal properties, you might consider whether or not to import non-native species into your environment. Sometimes these can become invasive and disrupt the natural ecology. If you haven’t moved, your internal environment (microbes) evolved with your external environment, so chances are, what works best for you is something that grows locally.

A Beginner Herb Garden

For beginners who want a good variety of herbs that are easy to grow and use, I suggest planting: chamomile, echinacea, yarrow, lemon balm, and peppermint. You will recognize many of these as teas.

People all over the world have used chamomile tea for centuries to promote sleep, ease digestion, promote urination and relieve colic. It’s also used for washing wounds and sores. Other uses are : soothes inflammation, infection, colic, muscle spasms and tension. The pretty white flowers are also visually appealing.

Everyone knows about the immune boosting properties of echinacea. Echinacea grows easily once it’s started. It produces tons of seeds so it’s easy to keep going. It’s not picky about sunlight and can tolerate long periods of drought. You can use it fresh or dried in tea or tincture it for use throughout the year.

Yarrow is one of my favorites! It’s considered a weed so it grows just about anywhere, is very hardy, and I think it’s also really pretty. Use it to reduce inflammation and muscle spasms and relieve pain. Some say it helps with digestion and anxiety too. You can use it as a tea to help with colds and fever. It’s also very handy for stopping bleeding.

Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love lemon balm. Lemon balm reduce fevers and treat colds by inducing sweating; calms the digestive tract; relieves spasms related to cramps and headaches; and helps with insomnia. It also inhibits the growth of fungi and bacteria. Since it’s best used fresh or recently dried, and because it can take over and spread, you may want to grow this one indoors in a container. Or maybe put a little outside for the creatures to enjoy, too.

Peppermint is another one that can take over. Some people avoid it for that reason. It’s got such great healing properties that you might consider it though. Peppermint is widely used in tea for stomach complaints. People also use it for insomnia, nervous tension, colds (by inducing sweating, it was thought to purge the infection), cramps, diarrhea and nausea. Recent research has shown that the essential oil contains substances that relieve muscle spasms and inhibit the growth of bacteria and viruses.

Some Other Suggestions

The suggestions above cover a wide variety of ailments. However, if you want an herb garden that tackles specific complaints, here are some suggestions.

Herbs for immunity– Echinacea, elderberry, andrographis, astragalus, and garlic

Herbs for anxiety/sleep – ashwaganda, bacopa, chamomile, kava kava, St. John’s wort, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower, valerian

Fertility herbs– red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, stinging nettle

Women’s reproductive health herbs – black cohost, crampbark, motherwort, mugwort, calendula, chamomile, fennel, basil, wormwood, rosemary, rose petals, fenugreek, lavender, partridge berry

Herbs for pain– willow bark, turmeric, feverfew, ginger, thyme, ginseng, St. John’s wort, devil’s claw, oregano, botswelia. The best herb for pain will depend on the cause of the pain.

Herbs for infections- garlic, ginger, echinacea, goldenseal, clove, oregano, anise, myrrh, pau d’arco

Gardening is healthy. It gets you outside. You have a relationship to the plants that help your body thrive. You start to see how all of Nature is connected. Making your own medicines empowers you to take charge of your own health, too. It’s a beautiful thing to do for yourself and your family.

Healing The Natural Easy Way with Flower Essences

flower essences

I’ve got to tell you about my experience with Bach Flower Essences! It’s just too good to keep to myself.

I wanted to acquaint myself with the energy of more trees, but some of them aren’t local to me. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate so it’s not easy to be outside. I had the idea to use Bach flower essences to see if I could capture them that way. I thought I’d use one at a time for a week or so and see what I could notice.

I’m pretty chill and don’t really have the problems that most of these address, so I wasn’t sure I would notice anything at all. I picked Olive, White Chestnut, and Vine to start with. I took Vine while at a moon circle. Bach flower essences are homeopathy so I thought the effect would be subtle. It’s very diluted essence of a substance.

Nope! Not subtle! Within a few minutes I felt “different.” I couldn’t really tell how, just different. I dismissed it saying that it was probably placebo.

Vine is the “motivate, not dominate” essence. Like I said, I am pretty chill. I have strong opinions on what’s right for me, but I don’t really care what other people do. They are entitled to live their lives as they choose as far as I am concerned. I am not the one to tell people what to do, correct them, or take a stand on something that doesn’t affect me. So how would I even know that this Vine is having an effect?

Well, I noticed that at least three times during the first week after taking Vine that I witnessed someone else with strong feelings (it’s a full moon) trying to impose their point of view on others. Normally I would not engage. It’s not my business. Instead I spoke up for the other side of the issue and very gently neutralized the emotion.

I’m also laughing a lot. I laugh a lot anyway, but it’s insane how much more joyful I am now. Could flower essences do that? It appears so – even if you think you don’t have problems!

What Are Flower Essences and What Do They Do?

“Bach” is the name of the Englishman who invented them in the 1930s. Dr. Edward Bach was a consultant pathologist, bacteriologist, and homepath. He was not a robust guy. When he was only 31, he was told he had three months to live. He wanted to make a contribution to medicine before he died and spent the next 19 years creating his flower essences. He died a year after he completed his work.

While they are called “flower essences” most of the remedies are made from trees. They contain purified water, brandy, and the tiniest bit of a plant essence. Each one is aimed at an emotion or state of mind. It is said that they restore harmony to the mind and allow the body to heal itself.

How Do You Use Them?

Using them is simple. Just put two drops on your tongue or in a glass of water and sip it throughout the day. You can use up to seven remedies at the same time, but using more than two drops of each won’t help more. You may see results fairly instantaneously, especially with things like Rescue Remedy, or it may take up to three weeks to notice a difference. Every person is different. You can stop at any time. It’s not habit forming.

The Rescue Remedy blends have many different essences pre-mixed for you. The original one is for crisis situations. There is also one for sleep. I didn’t realize I had been using this for years with my animals. They work very well for nervous animals (like vet visits). It never dawned on me to try it with people!

Which One Do I Use?

Don’t make it complicated. Just get whichever flower essence calls to you. You’re not going to take something that hurts you. Trust your gut. It’s not rocket science. If it doesn’t feel like it’s for you, keep on walking. If you are not sure what to get, Rescue Remedy, Larch, and Vine are good places to start.

Here is a list of the remedies and the emotional situations they address.

Agrimony – happy on the outside while crying on the inside

Aspen – fear of unknown things

Beech – intolerance

Centaury – the inability to say ‘no’

Cerato – lack of trust in one’s own decisions

Cherry Plum – fear of losing self control or doing harm to yourself or someone else

Chestnut Bud – failure to learn from mistakes

Chicory – selfish, possessive love

Clematis – dreaming of the future without working in the present

Crab Apple – the cleansing remedy, also for self-hatred

Elm – overwhelmed by responsibility

Gentian – discouragement after a setback

Gorse – hopelessness and despair

Heather – self-centredness and self-concern

Holly – hatred, envy and jealousy towards others

Honeysuckle – living in the past

Hornbeam – tiredness at the thought of doing something

Impatiens – impatience

Larch – lack of confidence

Mimulus – fear of known things like spiders, retirement, or dating

Mustard – deep gloom for no reason

Oak – the plodder who keeps going past the point of exhaustion

Olive – exhaustion following mental or physical effort

Pine – guilt

Red Chestnut – over-concern for the welfare of loved ones

Rescue Remedy– a blend of 5 remedies that help with crises and emergencies, helps with emotional overwhelm

Rescue Remedy for Pets- for nervous or aggressive pets, also helps with easing transitions

Rescue Remedy for Sleep– to promote deep, natural sleep

Rock Rose – terror and fright

Rock Water – self-denial, rigidity and self-repression

Scleranthus – inability to choose between alternatives, indecisiveness

Star of Bethlehem – shock, grief

Sweet Chestnut – extreme mental anguish, when everything has been tried and there is no light left

Vervain – over-enthusiasm

Vine – dominance and inflexibility

Walnut – protection from change and unwanted influences

Water Violet – for private, self reliant people who appear aloof, proud, or distant

White Chestnut – ruminating, intrusive thoughts

Wild Oat – uncertainty over one’s direction in life

Wild Rose – drifting, resignation, apathy

Willow – self-pity and resentment

Are you in? Comment below about your experiences. I’d love to hear.

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Magical Herbs for the Summer Solstice

magical herbs

We’ve been talking about magic a lot on Pan Society. Perhaps because we are upon one of the most magical times of the year, Summer Solstice. So, it’s a good time to talk about some of the magical herbs that are associated with this time of year.

Getting to know the plants, their properties, and associated gathering times is a great way to step into the wheel of life. In many cultures, this time of midsummer is a great time to give thanks. The earth is fertile and abundant and sharing her gifts with us. Her magical plants are part of that wonderful harvest. This is a time for gathering above ground plants, so let’s look at what’s available now.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s wort is the most common magical herb. It’s bright yellow, star shaped flower looks like the sun and is traditionally the most important and first gathered. We can trace the tradition of gathering St. John’s wort now back to ancient Greece. However, it’s found throughout the world even still today.

St. John’s wort is used in modern times mainly as an anti-depressant. In the ancient world it was promoted for its wound healing properties. It may also have anti microbial properties. It’s most often used as a tea, but is also hung as an adornment over icons of St. John the Baptist on midummer (June 23 or 24th) to honor him and banish evil from home or places of worship. In Wales, it is hung throughout the house to bring in peace, prosperity, health to the animals, and a bountiful harvest.

If you want to get really traditional, you can harvest this while naked! Like many of the Pan Society holy days, Summer Solstice has a fertility component. It’s a prime time for love magic. Many of these charms and rituals use St. John’s wort to protect against heartbreak and give one the courage to make a move.

Sunflowers

The second most popular plant associated with the Summer Solstice is the sunflower. Could there be a more obvious connection than the sunflower? They bring bright and cheerful energy like the sun. As they grow, they turn to face the sun, following it as it moves across the sky. They remind us to look up. Turn towards the light.

Sunflowers are prized for their food and oil. They are also a source of yellow and orange dye. Medicinally they have antimalarial properties. Magically they are used for bringing fertility, good luck, truth, loyalty, and honesty. Like the sun, they hide nothing and spread cheer, so it’s easy to see how these association came to be.

Stonecrop, Vervain, and Yarrow

These herbs are still gathered in Celtic lands and hung about the house for protection against the evil eye and death. The Summer Solstice is a liminal time when the veil between worlds is thin. Spirits are about.

It’s helpful to understand the animist views on death as a time of transition to really understand this, but the short version is that if spirits don’t fully cross over – because they are restless about how they lived, they are not well tended by the living during their transition to the Other World, or they just haven’t been dead long enough – they can “pollute” the living. These herbs help to purify spaces and keep them away.

Rosemary, Thyme, Marjoram, Hyssop, and Sage

After the coming of Christianity, the Summer Solstice observation was moved to midsummer’s eve (June 23) and made into a saints day, St. John’s Day. This was done historically in many cultures when the conquering culture came to new lands as it made it easier for the new religion to take hold. In Provence, France the gathering of rosemary, thyme, marjoram, hyssop, and sage was part of this celebration. They infused them to heal the body and spirit.

Elder

If you don’t want to be the object of someone else’s spells, gather some elderberry. Elderberry isn’t yet available where I am, but in places where it is, it’s used for warding off enchantments. If you want to see the fey, sit under an elder tree on the Summer Solstice. The spirit of Elder is a gatekeeper between the realms of life and death. Apparently she can also open doorways to the non-apparent world.

Fern Seed

Another way to avoid enchantments is to make yourself invisible! That’s fern seed’s traditional use. If you collect the seeds at midnight on midsummer, you can also wish upon them.

Lavender

Summer is the season of heat and fire. Lavender’s blue flowers help to cool things down. The flowers are strewn in the Summer Solstice bonfire to bring peace and serenity to the celebration. They can cool down anger and irritability as well. Adding it to your bathwater can help you sleep.

Mugwort

The Summer Solstice happens as the Sun is entering the sign of Cancer. Cancer is ruled by the Moon. So although it’s mainly a solar holiday, it does have a lunar component too. In keeping with the idea of balance, this is appropriate. And mugwort is a moon herb.

The Summer Solstice is a time for divination. Peering into the unknown is a strength of the moon. Mugwort leads the way by opening the psychic channels. Drinking mugwort on the night of the Solstice can help you see into the darkness. Placing the leaves under your pillow can give you prophetic dreams.

Strewing mugwort into the Solstice bonfire can cleanse and heal.

The moon is feminine, and mugwort is also used to help regulate female hormones. This can help regulate menstruation and reduce heavy periods. When used in moxibustion, it moves energy out of the body and relieves pain.

Mullein

Mullein is another plant with bright yellow flowers that glow like the sun. This is traditionally burned in the Solstice fire for protection. The ashes are gathered and used in protection rituals and for healing charms throughout the year.

Mullein is best known as a cold remedy and is often combined with Elder and drank as a tea. It can also be used topically for healing dry skin. As a compress or salve, it can be used on boils, bruises, inflammation, eczema, joint pain, sciatica, and hemorrhoids. If you have an ear infection, mullein and garlic steeped oil placed in the ear will reduce pain and heal the infection.

Whether your Summer Solstice includes any casting of magic, I hope it’s a magical day. Be sure to also check out our article about Summer Solstice recipes!

Enjoying the Beauty of the Trumpet Vine

trumpet vine

Have you seen the profusion of trumpet vines (Campsis radicans)? These amazingly bright flowers drip beautifully from above bringing an abundance of hummingbirds with them. But other animals benefit from them too. White tailed deer eat them. Birds make their nests in the leaves. The American goldfinch eats the seeds. Ants, bees, and butterflies eat the nectar. So, while some find it invasive and undesirable, the wildlife certainly doesn’t. However, as beautiful as it is, you might be careful where you plant it. It can choke out trees. Aggressive pruning is required in the fall to keep it under control.

Medicinal Properties

The trumpet vine has more to offer than just its beauty. The root can be used as a diaphoretic, which means it induces sweating. This helps the body detoxify. The root is also used for wound healing and reducing inflammation. Be careful when handling as some people may develop a rash when touching this plant.

Magical Properties

Many animists want to use whatever plants that surround them in rituals so it’s good to know the magical properties of the trumpet vine. As always, you can use your senses (vision, taste, hearing, smelling, and touch), or just meditate on any plant, to figure out the properties of a plant. So let’s look at what we can observe. The plant blossoms from about May to October. They grow fast and spread out widely. They are heat, cold, and drought tolerant. Flowers are very showy. They are also hardy. Few insects or diseases attack them. Jupiter rules trumpet vines. Trumpet vines are of the Earth element. Orange is the color of the sacral chakra.

You can use this plant when you need resilience, strength, expansion, or to be seen. They can bring stability and longevity to you or a situation.

How to Use Trumpet Vines in Ritual

  • Adorn your altar with them.
  • Meditate on them to receive their wisdom.
  • If you are donning ritual clothing, you could make a crown of flowers to complete your ensemble.
  • Sit beneath their shade and listen to them speak.
  • Place them on your sacral chakra and let them balance and infuse you.

I don’t know any trumpet vine lore. She has cousins with lots of colorful tales, but I don’t think any of her own.

Of course, you don’t have to use flowers in ritual or medicine at all. You can simply enjoy their beauty and the beauty of the hummingbirds that they attract. However, doesn’t knowing about their energy help you to appreciate how they move through the web of life?

What a wonderful world we live in. I hope you are enjoying seeing spring unfold. I’d love to hear what’s happening where you are. Feel free to comment below.