Spring is almost upon us and it’s time to start planting. Below is a list of 10 herbs that are a must have for any healing witch’s apothecary. Don’t have a yard to grow your herbs? No worries, there are several links down at the bottom of this page with information for gardening in containers and small spaces.
Botanical Name: Calendula Officinalis
Otherwise known as pot marigold, calendula is a must have for treating skin conditions including insect bites, sunburn and general irritation. It is often found in ointments used to treat and dress wounds and is gentle enough for children, infants and sensitive skin. In addition to skin irritation, calendula can be used to treat many oral conditions, reduce eye inflammation and is often used to break a fever. Please note, African Marigold is commonly found in nurseries but isn’t the same as Pot Marigold and should never be used for medicinal purposes.
St. John’s Wort
Botanical Name: Hypericum perforatum
St. John's Wort is a calming herb that effectively treats and reduces symptoms of nervousness and anxiety. It is also very useful for the treatment of headaches that accompany depression or lethargy and for the treatment of depression overall. It is anti-inflammatory and when used externally can help to reduce swelling and muscle inflammation. Please note, St. John’s Wort is a very powerful antidepressant and should not be taken with other antidepressant drugs.
Botanical Name: Rosmarinus officinalis
Rosemary is a common herb found in kitchens around the world but it has many healing benefits aside from being a tasty addition to this evening’s dinner. To start, rosemary is one of the best herbs for treating headaches and clearing mental fog and fatigue. It’s a great tea to drink in the afternoon when your mind starts to get tired or when you need to focus. It is an astringent herb that helps to treat gas and stomach disorders especially when combined with fennel and/or mints. Externally, rosemary is antiseptic and useful for treating burns or used in ointments to reduce joint pain. An infusion of rosemary can be used as a rinse to treat dandruff. Simmer fresh rosemary in a pot of boiling water to clear the air of germs and bacteria.
Botanical Name: Lavandula species
Lavender is the all-purpose herb used to treat everything from skin irritation, upset stomachs and for fighting the flu. If you could only pick one thing off of this list, lavender would be it. Lavender is a soothing herb that can calm nervousness, reduce insomnia and reduce headaches especially when an infusion is added to a warm bath. It is antiseptic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal making it an all around good choice to provide relief for colds, the flu and bronchitis. Lavender can also provide great stomach relief and help to stimulate appetites when recovering from illness. Externally, lavender is wonderful for softening skin but especially helpful for treating insect bites, burns, cuts and general aches and pains.
Botanical Name: Salvia officinalis
Sage tea has been used for centuries to treat symptoms of menopause and menstrual cycles however, sage should never be boiled but removed from heat just before it reaches a boiling state. It is a restorative herb and a disinfectant that is commonly used as a rinse for the mouth (especially for gum ulcers), throat (especially for tonsillitis and laryngitis) and as a stimulating shampoo for increased hair growth.
Botanical Name: Tanacetum parthenium
Feverfew is the best herb for treating headaches and especially for migraines. In fact, many studies have found feverfew to be more effective for treating headaches than aspirin and ibuprofen. Because it is anti-inflammatory, it is commonly used to treat arthritis and to reduce cramps during menstrual cycles. Externally, feverfew can be infused in oils and added to creams and ointments to treat varicose veins.
Botanical Name: Valeriana officinalis
Valerian has an all out soothing effect on the nervous system and is a powerful sedative and sleep aid. What makes it so special is that it quickly helps one to fall asleep without the groggy feeling in the morning that many sleep medicines can cause. It is also a useful herb to keep around for those suffering from panic attacks or jitters.
Botanical Name: Chamaemelum nobile
Also a sedative, chamomile is wonderful for treating insomnia. However, it is better used for treating nausea and indigestion as it has a very calming effect on the stomach. It is very useful and safe for children and can calm a hyperactive child when added as an infusion to a nightly bath. Externally, chamomile is one of the best herbs for sensitive skin as it effectively soothes skin irritation and inflammation. Used as a steam, chamomile can be useful in the treatment of asthma and sinus trouble.
Botanical Name: Marrubium vulgare
Horehound is one of the best known remedies for cough and chest infections. It is best used right when you feel a cold coming on however, can also be used to expel mucus once a cold has taken hold. Drink this tea several times a day to reduce cough and to break a fever. Externally, horehound can be made into an ointment to treat a rash and itchiness.
Botanical Name: Thymus vulgaris
Thyme is a simple, easy to grow herb with a long history of treating wounds, burns, asthma, cramps, coughs and sore breasts from breastfeeding. A tea made from thyme can be used as a germicide and was once used as just that during World War 1 to treat soldier’s wounds. It stimulates circulation and can be used to increase energy or to provide an uplifting effect for depression. Use it as a compress to treat sore breasts.
Sources and Suggested Reading
Weiss, Gaea and Shandor. Growing & Using the Healing Herbs. Emmaus, PA, USA: Rodale Press
Antol, Nadine Marie. Healing Teas. USA: Avery Publishing
Houdret, Jessica. The Complete Book of Herbs & Herb Gardening. London, England: Hermes House
Links to Small Space and Container Gardening