If you love medicinal herbs in teas and tinctures, you might be interested in welcoming some of these useful and beautiful plants to your garden or windowsill this season. So many medicinal herbs are easy to grow—or may even already be growing in your garden!
One of my most treasured rituals during our short growing season is poking around the garden seeking fragrant medicinal herbs to add to my teapot. I grow abundant lemon balm, violets, catnip, and yarrow to make a soothing herbal tea blend for unwinding in the evening. As I learn more about the usefulness of medicinal plants for supporting health, I’ve added to my medicinal herb plantings, making room for chamomile, tulsi, and peppermint in my garden beds. I use many herbs fresh, while some get dried and stored for winter. Others steep in alcohol or vinegar to become medicinal tinctures or oxymels.
Below are seven easy herbs you can grow this season for tinctures or tea. No garden space? You can grow them in pots on a balcony or windowsill, or buy them loose, as bagged tea, or already tinctured for you.
Some herbs are annuals, so you’ll plant them from seed or buy them as plant starts every season. Others are perennials, which can be trickier to start from seed but may often be obtained as divisions from other gardeners or purchased from your local garden center.
Some medicinal herbs are commonly mistaken for weeds. When you pull them from your lawn or garden bed, you can use them in teas and tinctures as well. Here’s what to know about foraging common wild plants like dandelion, violets, yarrow, and nettle.
What to do with your homegrown medicinal herbs? You can enjoy many of these tasty herbs fresh in hot tea or as delicious herbal iced tea, or you can dry them for future use. You can also extract herbs by steeping them in vinegar or alcohol to make DIY herbal tinctures.
Medicinal Herbs to Grow in the Garden
Also known as holy basil, Tulsi is an annual herb you can grow from seed or from purchased plants. The seeds can take a few weeks to germinate and need warm temperatures, so they’re usually started indoors in climates with shorter growing seasons.
Tulsi often tops lists of adaptogenic herbs for its long history of use to help balance the body and help it deal with stress. Research suggests tulsi has antimicrobial properties and may benefit metabolism and help eliminate toxins.
Leaves may be harvested throughout the season to steep fresh, or you can dry them on a screen and keep them in an airtight container for up to a year. When you run out of homegrown tulsi, there are numerous pre-bagged options in delicious blends that include rose, raspberry peach, and chai. Tulsi may also be tinctured.
A favorite herb for relaxing evening teas, chamomile flowers are also lovely blooming in the garden. Chamomile is often used to promote sleep, but research is also exploring its anti-inflammatory properties and effects on digestive and cardiovascular health.
German rather than Roman chamomile is usually grown for tea. This self-seeding annual may protect the vegetables you’re growing from destructive insects, so consider tucking it in various places around the garden. Seed packets contain hundreds of tiny seeds, so you can grow abundant chamomile to enjoy fresh or dried.
If you want to stock your cabinet with chamomile, grow a big patch and dry the flowers before storing. You can also buy chamomile loose or in tea bags. Chamomile is often blended with other relaxing herbs or tinctured.
This sunny annual flower is easily grown from seed and makes a gorgeous addition to the flower bed or veggie patch, growing copious orange blooms you can harvest over the course of the growing season. Flowers should be picked just as they begin to open, and should get harvested regularly to encourage more blooms. Calendula self-seeds readily, so you may find it has planted itself for you in subsequent seasons.
Calendula is also a popular medicinal herb used to support the immune system and add valuable antioxidants to cooked dishes and herbal tea. I love to add the colorful fresh flowers to my herbal tea blends and salads in summer, and the dried blossoms are sunny additions to winter teas and soups. Some herbalists recommend cooking with dried calendula flowers to help alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder in winter. You can also make or buy calendula tincture
Herbalists advise that the sticky green base of the flower contains much of calendula’s medicinal compounds, so for herbal preparations, be sure to include it. For cooking, use only the petals.
A popular herb grown for its minty flavor, peppermint is also a go-to for soothing an upset stomach. Besides being delicious, peppermint tea may also help relieve congestion, and it’s one of the herbs included in Gypsy Cold Care tea because of its benefits for cold and flu symptoms.
Peppermint is a perennial, so it only needs to be planted once and will come back year after year. Note that like many mints, it can spread aggressively and should be planted in a contained space or in an area you don’t mind it taking over.
Fresh peppermint can be used for herbal teas, and you can dry some for wintertime use. You can also make to enjoy in delicious recipes like minty cacao balls and minty hot cocoa long after the garden has gone to sleep for the winter.
5. Lemon balm
This lemony member of the mint family makes a soothing tea beloved for its delicious flavor and relaxing properties. Researchers are exploring lemon balm’s effects on anxiety, nausea, viral infections, menstrual cramps, and other complaints.
Not as aggressive a spreader as other mints, lemon balm can get invasive in warmer climates and will plant itself in different parts of the garden if you let it set seed. Keep cutting its lemony shoots if you don’t want to expand your lemon balm patch. A hardy perennial, lemon balm can be grown from seed, plant starts, or divisions from another gardener.
One of the most-used herbs for stress, lavender’s signature soothing scent is lovely in an aromatherapy eye pillow or in a homegrown tea blend. A tender perennial, lavender is best grown from a plant start or division, though it can be started from seed.
Harvest lavender just before the buds begin to open by snipping off whole stems. You can use fresh lavender buds in tea and cooking, but lavender is typically enjoyed dry. Hang bundles of stems upside down until fully dry, and then strip buds and store in an airtight container. You can also keep the buds on the stem and place the dried bouquet in a vase, where lavender will slowly release its soothing fragrance.
Usually considered a culinary herb, thyme has medicinal uses as well. Thyme has antimicrobial properties and is often used to address symptoms of cold and flu or other infection. Thyme tea made from dried thyme leaves is a popular remedy for relieving coughs, congestion, and sore throats.
Thyme makes a beautiful perennial groundcover you can spread throughout the garden. Its plentiful purple flowers attract droves of pollinators, which also helps to boost yields in the veggie patch.
The easiest way to add thyme to your garden is through a plant division from a fellow gardener or as a plant start from your local nursery, though it can also be started from seed.
Thyme is an exceptionally hardy plant and will stay green well after frosts have killed off other garden herbs. Harvest leaves as needed, and dry plenty for use in winter. You can also make or buy a thyme tincture for cold and flu season.
Whether you try growing just one or several, homegrown medicinal herbs can enliven your garden and your teapot. Growing herbs is fun and rewarding and will help stock your home apothecary with delicious herbal remedies for months to come.