Aloe  Aloe vera   

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Aloes are perennial tropical plants that do well in the house or in a shady place outdoors. This is an easy one to scorch if put in the sun without acclimating it. Aloes need well drained soil and benefit from something gravely in the soil mix, like calcined clay, “Turface” or unscented kitty litter. 

PART USED:  Inner leaf. Smells like chicken soup when you open it! The outer leaf is very gripping if taken internally.

FUNCTION:  The sliced leaf is used after spending too much time in the sun~very soothing and demulcent.

Angelica, A. Archangelica 

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Angelica is a biennial plant in the Apiacea and flowers in a stately umbel in the second year. It prefers damp places and gets 4-6’  tall in the second year when flowering.

PART USED: The root harvested in the fall of the first year or spring of the second year holds potent aromatics. I also like to use the above ground or herb portion, which has the same qualities only not as strong. The stems are hollow and can be candied, as it was used in the 1800’s as an after dinner digestif. The seeds can be used as well, but they are very potent!

FUNCTION: Mainly used as a digestif, with it’s strong aromatic qualities.

Arnica, A. chamissonis and A. montana

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Arnica montana or A. chamissonis are low growing perennial plants that spread slowly, but form a thick mat. A. Montana prefers dry, gravely soil while A. Chamissonis prefers richer, more organic based soil.

PART USED: flowers. Arnica blooms in early summer for about a month, so collect these twice a week or every other day to maximize flower production. They puff out into dandelion seed-like structures when dried, so would do well to dry in an airy bag, basket or made into an infused oil with fresh but wilted  flowers. 

FUNCTION: This is the prime topical remedy for relieving overworked or sore joints and muscles. It is a great companion for athletes or elderly- improves vascular function.

Ashwaganda, Withania somnifera

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Grown as an annual in the north, but perennial in it’s native India. A member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, (the same family as tomatoes and peppers), it creates small fruits, like tiny tomatillos, which contain seeds for the next years crop. Coming from the Ayurvedic system in India, Ashwaganda likes it dry and hot. I grow it on raised beds to provide proper drainage for it’s wellbeing.

PART USED:  The root is harvested in the fall, after a frost, but before the ground freezes. The tops will die back with the first frost, but will hold all the constituents gathered from the summers growth when harvested post frost. This root is not delicious, so I like to tincture it.

FUNCTION: Ashwaganda is one of the top selling adaptogens, or plants used to cope with stress. According to the National Institute of Health, “Being a powerful adaptogen, it enhances the body’s resilience to stress. Ashwagandha improves the body’s defense against disease by improving the cell-mediated immunity. It also possesses potent antioxidant properties that help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals.”

Astragalus, A. membranaceous

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE:  Astragalus is in the legume or Fabaceae family, and is an easy perennial to grow in zone 4.

It grows upright to about 15 inches. Since it is not showy, if I did not have an herb farm, I would tuck it into a sunny flower bed and surround it with beauty, then wait two or three years to harvest the root. The small pods can be collected when dry to harvest the seeds, which are also esteemed and added to root tinctures. I save them to replant next years crop. 

PART USED: The root is the part used. These roots grow straight down, are not very robust and it takes a lot of digging to collect them. After two to three years they are about an inch in diameter, with up to eight golden tap-like roots. They are delicious!

FUNCTION: Astragalus fortifies a healthy immune system. My favorite antidotal story is of my mother, a retired RN who was on dozens of medications was suffering from pneumonia for three years in a row. I told her about how this traditional Chinese herb is like a tonic for the immune system. She religiously took 2 drops in her orange juice every morning and did not even get a cold for over five years! I honor this plant tremendously!

Balloon Flower, Platycodon grandiflora

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This stunning balloon shaped flower opening to a periwinkle blue star graces upright, glossy foliage on a 15” perennial plant. This is a fine addition to any perennial border. It is a stroll stopper! Platycodon likes good, rich garden soil and responds well to fertile conditions. 

PART USED: The root is dug after the second or third season. Fortunately you can harvest some of the root, divide the plant and re-plant a portion to keep this plant around for years to come. 

FUNCTION: The Doctrine of Signatures ( a system of observing plants to discover their uses) shines true by observing the flowers as they expand into balloons. The root is a classic Chinese herbal support for a healthy lung function. 

Sweet Basil, Ocimum basilicum

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: What summer would come to perfection without sweet basil in the garden? Best used fresh the scent and flavor of this herb delights and excites. Basils prefer rich soil and would benefit from some organic fertilizer in the heat of summer, as they are fast growing annuals. Cut back below the flowers to keep continuous herbaceous growth throughout the summer. 

PART USED: Leaf. They are the first thing to get hit with frost, so make sure they are harvested to avoid this damage in fall.

FUNCTION: Basils increase joy by releasing great scent when you pick it, and making people smile when you bring it in the kitchen and add it to meals, marking a premier summer experience.

Holy Basil, Tulsi, ‘Blessed Badger’ 

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This selection of Tulsi, or Holy Basil comes from selecting my favorite Holy Basil plants over 12 years and saving the seeds. This selection happened when the industry started separating the Holy Basils into three species. I liked the old Ocimum sanctum with the wide leaves and intensely fragrant clove like flavor. Basils prefer rich soil and would benefit from some organic fertilizer in the heat of summer, as they are fast growing annuals. Cut back below the flowers to keep continuous herbaceous growth throughout the summer. 

PART USED: Leaf. They are the first thing to get hit with frost, so make sure they are harvested to avoid this damage in fall.

FUNCTION: Basils increase joy by releasing great scent upon harvesting, and makes people smile when you serve Tulsi tea.

I like this tea when I have writing projects or other concentrated jobs. Traditional in India, it is used to ward off ill health and nasty spirits. It is wonderfully delicious, bringing clarity, joy and benevolence fresh, dried in teas or tinctures. YUM!

Lemon Basil, Ocimum basilicum– Lemon flavored selection of sweet basil great used in salad dressings and marinades.

Lime Basil , Ocimum basilicum- Lemon flavored selection of sweet basil great used in salad dressings and marinades.

Basil, Round Midnight, Ocimum basilicum- Deep purple version of sweet basil is great for tinting vinegars a beautiful shade of fuchsia.

Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Native plant widely distributed through eastern North America. Will do well in most soils types, but needs full sun. M. fistulosa is the lavender flowers, while the more eastern species, M. didyma is red flowered.

PART USED: the above ground portion

FUNCTION: Monarda, a member of the mint family, is highly aromatic, with an oregano-like scent mixed with mint. It makes a strong tasting and warming tea useful in the cold winter months.

Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Boneset is the plant herbalists were taking about the winter of 2020! Known to be specific for what caused all the death and disruption, this old favorite popular plant from the 1918 pandemic made a revival this winter!

This native American plant grows in wet prairie areas and ditches ( in the rare areas that have not been over sprayed and manicured) across the midwest. Plant it where it will get plenty of water.

PART USED: the above ground parts

FUNCTION: Boneset is the plant herbalists were taking about the winter of 2020! Known to be specific for what caused all the death and disruption, this old favorite popular plant from the 1918 pandemic made a revival this winter!

Calendula or Pot Marigold, Calendula officinalis

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This bright and cheery Asteraceae sports brilliant orange and lustrous yellow flowers that bloom until frost- that is if you keep picking them throughout the season. We harvest ours twice a week or if I just had a couple plants, I would harvest every other day. Calendula would benefit from a boost of organic fertilizer half way through the season in the north. It does not like the heat, so grows well all summer in temperate zones, but it performs better in the spring or fall in the South.

PART USED: flowers

FUNCTION: Useful for all topical skin problems. Extracted as an infusion or a heated/ solar extraction in oil. This can be applied on skin directly or used in a bath. A poultice of the flowers can be applied directly on the skin and the flowers can be eaten in salads for a gourmet touch.

California poppy, Eschscholzia californica

 DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This bright and gorgeous orange flowering perennial is native to California’s Pacific slopes and mountains. This implies that California poppy likes good drainage and can take periods of drought and like any Californian, loves the sun! In colder climates it acts as an annual, which can reseed. Sow seeds in winter or early spring to mimic how it grows in it’s native habitat. It’s short stature makes it pleasant in a border, brightening it’s surroundings.  

PART USED: flowering tops

FUNCTION: Promotes a healthy nervous system and sleep pattern.

Chamomile, Matricaria recutica

 DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Chamomile is one of the most useful plants in any garden or landscape. It is generous in the north,  emerging as rosettes in the spring from roots set down fall. Chamomile quits blooming when the heat arrives, so harvest the flowers frequently thought the spring- every other day or at least twice a week. This will help ensure multiple blooms.

PART USED: flowers

FUNCTION: Promotes a healthy nervous system and sleep pattern. I find it very potent and will only take the tea at bedtime, or if I am not feeling well. Chamomile an immense history of uses, most commonly known as a tea to promote a peaceful spirit, and used topically when a cooling agent is advised. Peter Rabbits mom gave Peter a cup of chamomile tea to ease his stomach- offering another clue to this humble powerhouse  and generous gift from Nature.

Cilantro, Corriandrum sativum

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This popular culinary herb is esteemed in Mexican and Chinese cooking. A fast growing annual is best planted in succession ( every 2-4 weeks) to keep the aromatic foliage around throughout the summer and fall. The seeds are used as coriander, and are delicious cooked with dried beans. Coriander/ cilantro is generous and reseeds for next springs use. Soil type is not limiting, but as always with aromatic plants, full sun is essential for optimal growth.

PART USED: foliage and seeds

FUNCTION: Brings authenticity to salsas, bean dishes and spring rolls. Highly aromatic essential oils aid in a healthy digestive process.

Codonopsis, Codonopsis pilosula

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This completely hardy in zone 4 herbaceous vine is petite and potent. It will need a trellis or upright plant to grow on. Living in the Campanulaceae or Bellflower family, the flowers are intriguing to behold. Look closely into the cream colored bells to discover violet dots on each petal. Take a whiff and you may detect the surprise scent of ash trays! Codonopsis likes rich soil and since the part used in the root, looser soils are better for root expansion and harvesting.

PART USED: root

FUNCTION: Codonopsis root works like a gentle ginseng. Some common names should just go away, like the degrading sounding “Poor Man’s Ginseng” associated with this plant. Maybe “Gentler Ginseng” would be more honorable and descriptive.

Coltsfoot, Tullisago farfara

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Coltsfoot grows wild over much of Europe,  The name is derived from the horseshoe shaped leaves. It was so popular in Europe at one time that French pharmacists painted its flowers on their doorposts. It was brought to the American colonies with Europeans.

PARTS USED: Leaves, and sometimes the buds and flowers.

FUNCTION: and has been used traditionally to support healthy functions in the chest for hundreds of years. American colonists were known to wrap persons afflicted with whooping cough in blankets that had been soaked with a coltsfoot infusion. Coltsfoot contains mucilage and inulin.

Comfrey, Symphytum officinale

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This sturdy, energetic perennial is determined to never leave your garden once planted! In fact, watch where you wash the roots, you will probably create another comfrey patch there, unless you collect every bit of root, down to the 1/2 inch piece. Take this advise from the woman with ten comfrey patches! Now, I throw the comfrey wash water back in the original patch to continue it’s will to live there. Plant this spirited plant between a rock and a hard spot to encourage it to stay in place. Comfrey grows to two feet tall.

PART USED: root and leaf

FUNCTION:  It is extraordinary! When I had a dislocated hip, a comfrey poultice renewed my sense of comfort. When my dog had a four inch hole in her inner thigh from being stuck in barbed wire, comfrey poultice (with other herbs) amazed the veterinarians on how quickly and clean the wound self repaired.

Comfrey contains a component, allantoin, which speeds cell renewal.  Most constituents are contained in the roots, but also are in the leaves. The tannins in comfrey help to staunch bleeding and pull tissues together enough to not need stitches and amazingly the calcium like component binds the tissues so well that often there is no scar at all! The mucilaginous quality soothes skin conditions.

Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids,(PA’s) which in theory, can cause liver problems. You would have to consume a lot of leaves to cause damage. I feel comfortable drinking comfrey tea for an acute situation, just not over many months. Because comfrey is very high in protein, 35%, the same as soy beans, it has been used as an animal feed in Africa.

Topical comfrey is completely safe. I feel much of this controversy over the safety of comfrey’s PA’s is because herbalists are very cautious with their beloved healing herbs and err on the side of safety. I do wish the drug companies would be so cautious with their medicines. They kill people every day and there is not much done about it.

Echinacea, Echinacea purpurea 

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Beautiful and popular perennial native plant is esteemed for beauty, endurance and immune support. Excellent pollinator plant, and displaying beauty for weeks out of every summer, into fall, this is a top herb to grow in any garden. Echinacea purpurea is robust and prefers rich soil. E. pallida, the Pale Purple Coneflower, is native to Wisconsin and can take drier soils. E. angustifolia is the western species and grows in gravely and dry soils. Mine declined here each year with too much moisture in the soil.

PART USED:  leaves, flowers and roots

FUNCTION: Echinacea is well known for supporting a healthy immune system. It is most helpful when you feel like you may be getting sick. Echinacea has been proven to increase white blood cell activity, boosting immune response. Echinacea works both internally or externally. I have used it topically on tick bites with great results. Indigenous people called it “snake bite root” and found it effective against venomous snake bites. I collect the leaves and flowers for tea throughout the summer and the root in the fall or spring.

Elecampagne, Inula helinium

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Stately perennial growing erect to 3-5 feet, depending on soil and fertility. Named after Helen of Troy, considered to be the most beautiful woman of her time, this plant is held in high esteem. Topped with golden composite flowers, like Helen of Troys stunning hair. The root is highly aromatic and you can feel the expansion when you inhale it.

Part Used: root

FUNCTION: Demulcent aromatic heads straight for the chest upon inhaling or sipping on the tea. It is also preserved in tincture form. Elecampagne helps to support healthy bronchioles, trachea, and lungs.

Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This Mediterranean plant is a short lived perennial, but grown as an annual. Fennel can be direct planted from seed or from transplants. I use all above ground parts in cooking, salads and the seeds are like licorice candy, wonderfully refreshing while walking through the garden. All my kids like them fresh! If you don’t eat them all, you can collect these to plant next year. They do not reseed like their cousins, cilantro or dill.

PART USED: seeds and all above ground parts.

FUNCTION: This plant is an aromatic herb useful to support a healthy digestion. Fennel is a classic after diner digestif and  tastes great- sweet and refreshing.

Feverfew- Tanacetum parthenium

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Easy to grow European perennial bears small daisy like flowers which can be used in small bouquets. This makes it useful incorporated into flower beds. Grows up to 10 inches tall, with fern like foliage in any garden soil.

Part Used: flowering tops

FUNCTION: The name stems from the Latin word febrifugia, “fever reducer.” The first-century Greek physician Dioscorides prescribed feverfew for “all hot inflammations.” Also known as “featherfew,” because of its feathery leaves.  The foliage is extremely bitter, like other specific herbs used to allay head discomfort. I have sold this plant to many who used it in the traditional way to eat a leaf a day to stop recurring migraines with great success and relief.

Geranium, Rose, Pelargonium graveolens, ‘Attar of Rose’

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Tender perennial grows great in the garden and on a sunny spot indoors all winter. It is a joy to caress the soft leaves and release the scent of roses with an earthy herbaceous undertone- the perfect balance of aroma! One plant harvested in the fall could fill a bushel basket since it grows so prolifically all summer long, spreading to 20” and growing 15” tall. Harvest 2/3rds of the plant before the frost and bring indoors in the winter. Do not let it get too wet, as it does not like “wet feet”, preferring dry between waterings.

PART USED: foliage

FUNCTION: Rose Geranium scent seduces us to bring it up to your nose, and it’s softness suggests to rub it on your skin.

It is the ultimate in skin care, offering astringency with a moistening quality. This is perfect for mature skin, but useful for all skin types. It has been shown to be effective as an insect deterrent, too. 

Ladies Mantle, Alchemilla vulgaris

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This gorgeous perennial is like lace on the border of your garden. For years I pondered the latin name, “Why is the the common plant of the Alchemist?” Rosemary Gladstar taught that the dew collected in the leaves could heal eye concerns and was potent magic. Loving the sound of that, kept pondering, “what else?” Years later naturopath Robin DiPasquale told me that the alchemists collected this dew to make their medicine. Yes! Water set out overnight collects prana, life energy, and dew is highly energetic. Thinking further, the water was very polluted in old England and the water collected from Alchemilla vulgaris was pure and energized, offering a source for medicines made by the alchemists. 

Ladies Mantle spreads into larger clumps over the years. 

PART USED: above ground parts and dew collected in the leaf cups in the morning.

FUNCTION: A wonderful astringent and plant used topically and internally as a toning astringent like raspberry leaf.

Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This abundantly generous hardy perennial may be my favorite herb. Melissa’s bestows as many functions as her prolific seasonal growth. Some even criticize her abundance because they have not learned the secret of harvesting before flowering. Melissa reseeds, but does not spread from underground stolons like mints. She is spreading because you forgot to harvest the herb at the proper time, just before flowering! 

Melissa handles most soil types and does well in rich soil. An easy crop to get two harvests in a season, it is beneficial to add some organic fertilizer after the first harvest to offer a boost and rejuvenate soil fertility. Melissa grows to 15” and you can cut back ten inches for harvesting. 

PART USED: the herb, or above ground part. Best harvested just before flowering.

 FUNCTION: Delicious herbaceous lemony flavor makes this herb a great base for teas. Rudolf Weiss in his book “Herbal Medicine” says Melissa is one of three herbs that are useful to promote a healthy digestive process. There are slight bitter components in Melissa to support digestion. Lemon balm has been proven in double blind studies to shorten the duration and lessen the symptoms of the herpes virus. Melissa also supports a healthy nervous system and we all need help with that!  Known historically as the “Gladdening Herb” lemon balm assists as a compass of life, keeping joy throughout our days.

Lemongrass, Cymbopogon flexuous

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This tender perennial grows two to four feet with long days and warm summers in the north. 

It grows in clumps, not spreading underground. Organic and rich soil with plenty of moisture will increase growth.

It does well as a potted plant through the winter, too. You can keep this plant going as long as you are willing to bring it indoors for winter. Lemongrass can be divided each spring into several plants.  

PART USED: Leaves are great for teas and leaf bases are cut like celery and used in asian and tropical recipes.

FUNCTION: Wonderful lemon flavor without the acid of citrus. 

Lobelia, L. inflata 

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Native plant to the Great lakes region. Grows in rich woodlands, open woods and woods edges. 

Easy annual to grow in a garden in full sun or partial shade. Grows to about 12” tall and is petite. Lobelia is a member of the Campanulacae family.

PART USED: flowering plant, or above ground portion

FUNCTION: Known by native people as asthma weed, Indian tobacco and puke weed, lending clues of it’s power. One of Samuel Thomson’s, (famous nineteenth century eclectic physician) remedies. Extremely relaxing, so in cases of extreme tension like coughing, asthma or anxiety, this can relax the muscles and spirit to help to bring in balance.

Lovage, Levisticum officinale

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Hardy and stately perennial, growing up to four feet tall. Grows well in any garden soil and looks good as a backdrop to a perennial border. 

PART USED: Above ground portion in soups and stews. Stems can be used like straws for a fancy Bloody Mary, adding it’s pungent celery on steroids flavor. 

FUNCTION: Used in cooking and great dried for winter use as a celery substitute. A little goes a long way with lovage! 

Meadowsweet, Filipendula rubra

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Very hardy perennial plant that likes wet places. Grows from underground stems, spreading just enough to make a statement, but not so much as to be weedy. Gorgeous and fragrant flowers are produced mid summer beckoning it’s pleasant common name. Glows to 3-5 feet, depending on moisture level. Does not like to dry out! Easy to divide clumps in spring or fall.

PART USED: Part Used: flowering tops

FUNCTION: This plant is rich in salicylates, thus an effective analgesic. Useful internally for headaches or topically for overworked joints and muscles.

Mint, Peppermint, Mentha piperita ‘Blue Balsam’

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Peppermint is an aggressively spreading perennial, completely hardy and likes wet places.

This is a selection I made of the best flavored peppermint from my 39 years of herb collecting. The flavor is fresh and not pungent. The color is deep and rich. You will favor this peppermint out of all the rest!

PART USED: above ground portion

FUNCTION: great flavor for teas.  Use mints as a base for teas to mask the flavor of more medicinal tasting herbs and roots. Helpful after meals to assist a healthy digestive system.

Mint, Spearmint, Mentha spicata, ‘Scotch Spearmint’

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Spearmint is an aggressively spreading perennial, completely hardy and likes wet places.

This is a selection I made of the best flavored spearmint from my 39 years of herb collecting. The flavor is refreshing- not pungent. The color is mid green. You will favor this spearmint out of all the rest!

PART USED: above ground portion

FUNCTION: great flavor for teas.  Use mints as a base for teas to mask the flavor of more medicinal tasting herbs and roots. Helpful after meals to assist a healthy digestive system. Spearmint is a lighter mint than peppermint, so is preferred by some.

Motherwort, Leonuris cardiaca

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This hardy perennial reseeds, but not aggressively. Motherwort begins it’s growth as a soft and sweet looking rosette, then shoots out it’s flowering stalk, with sharp edges around the flowers. This observation begets the folklore of assisting women in their gentle beginnings of womanhood and later in life, when women may draw sharper boundaries and may prickle unwanted company!

PART USED: Flowering herb

FUNCTION: Relieves emotional irritation quickly. This was my favorite nervine when I had young children and would quickly soothe my spirit. A bitter herb useful for maintaining healthy digestion or liver function.

Mugwort, Artemesia argyi ‘Moxa’

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This is the artemesia used to make moxa, the smudge stick-like burning wand used in acupuncture to move blood. The fuzz found on the leaves underside was rolled off and made the original moxa. This is the most beautifully scented perennial artemesia. This spreads vigorously and needs to be planted between a rock and a hard place, like next to my driveway to hold in check. A. argyi grows to 4-5 feet tall.

PART USED: above ground portion

FUNCTION: This scented artemesia is used in smudge sticks. I also use branches in linen closets and with bedding, towels or packed woolen sweaters to keep moths away and to benefit these items with this earthy, delicious scent. 

Mugwort, Artemesia vulgaris

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This is an aggressive plant that spreads through underground stolons and by reseeding. It grows to about 3-5 feet tall and does well in wet or dry areas. It would be well suited to container gardening to hold it in check.

Harvest as it is coming into flower to capture it’s best qualities and to prevent it from re-seeding.

PART USED: above ground portion

FUNCTION: This common mugwort is the highly energetic plant used to assist dreaming. A very bitter herb, it is useful used to assist a healthy digestive process. Just nibble a leaf before a meal, or process as a tincture. Not a delightful tea!

Mullein, Verbascum thapsus

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This naturalized European native is a multi-use biennial. The rosette of leaves develop in the first year, then the second year flowering stalks reaching 4-5 feet shoot up creating yellow flowers. Mullein can take dry, gravely soils and reseeds if the flowers are not harvested. 

PART USED: leaves and flowers

FUNCTION: The leaves are useful for lung issues. Traditionally, the leaves were lit and the smoke inhaled to assist tight lungs, but they are also useful in teas. The flowers are collected and sun infused in oil to protect and balance ear conditions.

Nettles, Urtica dioica

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This is a slow spreading perennial growing to 2-4 feet tall. Nettles prefer rich soil and plenty of moisture and sunlight to develop robust clumps. Nettles spread by seeds and stolons. This is the plant that stings, so approach with caution. Legend says that if you harvest it directly, with bare hands, it will not sting you, but stings harshly when you brush up to it unknowingly. Sounds unlikely, but have found it true for me. Perhaps because my fingers are so callused from gardening for 4 decades, I can harvest bare handed! I recommend to harvest with pruners or scissors directly into your basket.

The stinging hairs (trichomes) become amenable when put in boiling water and mostly peaceful when dried.

PART USED: young shoots as a steamed or boiled potherb or “green”, root used to maintain healthy prostate, seeds contain essential fatty acids and are used as an adaptogen, stem is a classic fiber source, hence the name “nettle”, as twisting into fibers.

FUNCTION: Nettles have a medicine kit full of uses. Vitamin and mineral powerhouses, they make a delicious power packed infusion. Taken in the spring pollen time, they have been reported to offer some relief. You can “urticate” your congested joints and muscles by brushing fresh nettles on them to promote blood flow to the area. The spring shoots are a delicious spinach substitute, with a bit more fibrous texture. Our family loves them this way!

Oregano, Greek, Origanum vulgare

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This spreading, low-growing perennial is a favorite culinary herb. Oregano grows to about 10 inches, so could be placed on the border of a garden. Completely hardy and reliable, oregano responds to fertile soil, and needs full sun to create that pungent, aromatic and delightful fragrance and taste.

PART USED: above ground portion

FUNCTION: Oregano has a potent storehouse of phytochemicals with various health enhancing capabilities. Rosmarinic acid is a powerful antioxidant, with anti bacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory activity. The flavone Luteolin in oregano and other Mediterranean herbs act as antioxidant, anti imflammatory, anticancer, antispasmodic and antimicrobial. That is why oregano oil became so popular about 12 years ago. I do not endorse taking essential oil internally, so would recommend you make a fresh tincture of your oregano, with 65-75% alcohol.

Parsley, Curly, ‘Afrodite’, Petroselium crispum

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This biennial is grown as an annual, although occasionally overwinters for next springs harvest before it goes to seed. Parsley is for festivity, and I always plant it by my front door, both for the energetic and the easy access to add it’s refreshing vitamin power to salads, smoothies and meals. Parsley prefers rich soil and will take a frost. You can harvest until the snow flies!

PART USED: leaf and stalk

FUNCTION: Parsley contains flavones similar to oregano, but also apigenin, a flavone round in the Apiaceae family with anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. Parsley is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins K,C, and A with folate and iron. Parsleys volatile oils qualifies it as a “chemoprotective” food.

Parsley, Italian, Petroselium crispum

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: similar to curly parsley, but tends to bolt in the heat of summer, making curly parsley a better choice when keeping parsley through hot summers until late in fall.

PART USED: leaf and stalk

FUNCTION: See above

Turkey Rhubarb, Rheum palmatum

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Hardy perennial with foliage growing to 18” tall and flowering stalk to 3-4 feet. Turkey rhubarb looks like a rougher version of the edible petiole version of rhubarb. Grows very similarly, but the flower is more beautiful, flowering a creamy white stalk that lasts for about a month. May re-seed gently if the stalks are not cut back before seeding.

Part Used: Root

FUNCTION: Used in small amounts to maintain healthy bowel function. 

Too much can cause cramping, so best blended with carminative herbs such as fennel.

Rosemary, Arp, Rosmarinus officinalis

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Tender perennial that can be enjoyed for several years by implementing my tricks. Pot your rosemary in a larger pot, but not too large that it looks ridiculous, first year could be placed in a 6” pot. Bury the pot in a sunny place to let the rosemary thrive all summer. Rosemary needs full sun and constant moisture, but not sitting in water. In the fall, before a hard frost, lift out pot and let acclimate to being out of the ground, then harvest some of plant to dry and maintain a shape of beauty. Move to a sunny spot indoors. This should be watered twice a week, because by the time it wilts, it will be too late. Do not over or under water. In the spring, trim to encourage growth and beauty. Pot into a larger size pot and plant potted rosemary in the ground. Repeat as stated above. I have had rosemaries live to 10-15 years with this method.

PART USED: the leaves. The stems have been used as sticks for shish-ka-bobs.

FUNCTION: Used for flavor and to aid healthy digestion, but is a powerhouse of phytochemicals to maintain a healthy inflammatory response, and is a tonic to the circulatory and nervous system. It is wonderful in cooking, beverages and topically, especially  in baths for a gentle stimulating treatment. I like any left over tea to use as a hair rinse, too. 

Rue, Ruta graveolens ‘The Herb of Grace’

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This hardy perennial has gorgeous blue green foliage with artfully shaped small lobed leaves. Flowers are yellow and it grows to about 15 inches. It can take most soil types, from rich garden soil to very well drained soils.

PART USED: above ground portion

FUNCTION: Popular in Central and South America, where it is used for spiritual healing. I have participated in a rue ritual that precipitated a cure of a boil on my elbow going away by just eating a partial leaf every day for 7 days. Extremely bitter and cooling, it get’s your liver moving to assist in what ails you! I eat a small portion of a leaf a few times a week to move my blood and assist in liver function. Rue carries a high vibration and is used in the southern countries to ward off evil.

Sage, Salvia officinalis

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Sage is a perennial that likes good drainage and full sun. Plant on hills or in lighter soils. Grows to about 10-12 inches and flowers are a beautiful light purple. Best to harvest right before flowering, but leave a few flowering stalks to eat on salads and as a garnish. They are amazing!

PART USED: leafy above ground portion

FUNCTION: The Latin name for this plant is “the official healing plant”. Salvia means “to heal” and officials means “official”.

Sage contains a wealth of well being- with antiseptic, astringent, digestive and anti-inflammatory actions. I like any left over tea to use as a hair rinse, too. 

Sage, Red, Salvia milhiorrhiza 

  Sages need full sun and well drained soil. Average fertility works- they do not need rich soil. 

PART USED: root, harvested after 2-3 years, but is marginally hardy in the midwest, so needs a heavy layer of mulch over winter.

FUNCTION: Popular Chinese herb for moving blood and calming the spirit. It is cooling and bitter. 

Skullcap, Scuttelaria lateriflora

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: A hardy perennial does not grow vigorously, so needs mulching to grow a productive crop.

This Lamiaceae grows to about 10-12 inches and spreads timidly with underground stolons. It stays close to the mother plant so is not as aggressive as other mints.

Part Used: the herb

FUNCTION: Extremely useful plant for relief of stress. Skullcap is well known for relieving pain from neuralgia, sciatica, and peripheral nerve pain. Skullcap relieves the mind from chatter, inducing a more relaxed sleep and calming the spirit. 

Skullcap is a wonderful nervine. It soothes nervous tension, while renewing the central nervous system. Useful for exhaustion or depressed states, excellent and safe for PMS. Restores nerves- promotes clear thinking- not overthinking.

Sorrel, Rumex scutatus

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Looking for sour in a leaf? This is a nice, tidy, culinary Rumex.  French Sorel soup is a classic!

It is a hardy perennial and grows to about 8-10 inches, with a taller flowering stalk that should be removed if you want to keep the leaves producing.

PART USED: leaf, especially in spring

FUNCTION: good addition for a sour flavor. The species, scutatus refers to vinegar.

Southernwood, Artemesia abrotanum AKA Tangerine Artemesia, Lad’s Love

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Upright and hardy perennial growing up to 4-5’ tall. Does well in most soils, gets taller with more moisture. Very ferny and soft foliage- it is fun plant to pet, releasing it’s fresh and almost tangerine like scent. Not as bitter scented as other artemisias.

PART USED: above ground portion

FUNCTION: can be used as a vermifuge, or for removing worms, but not as strong as the other astemesias. Better used in bouquets and packed with sweaters or linens, releasing it’s fragrance, while repelling moths.

Spilanthes, Acmella oleracea, Toothache Plant, Eye Ball Plant

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Spreading annual plant that grows about 6-8” tall and spreads about 12” across. It makes a great border, sporting it’s yellow round flowers, sometimes turning orange on the bottom. I like to think of it as a teenage party plant because if you eat a pinch of florets, it makes your mouth buzz intensely and you want to drool, making laughter and a memory! Spilanthes appreciates moisture and full sun.

PART USED: above ground portion

FUNCTION: Called “Toothache plant because of it’s numbing sensation when sibling on florets. High in natural plant chemicals called alkamides which play a vital role in our immune systems.

St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Potent naturalized perennial, meaning that the Europeans brought this to the U.S. And it spread into nature. Luckily, it blends well, or we would call it invasive. Grows in meadows, along tracks and in dryer areas. It is in full bloom in Europe on St. John’s Day, June 24th, so full bloom in zone 4 is around the fourth of July. That is the time to collect the flowering tops. Yellow flowers top the foot tall plants making a lovely perennial on it’s upright, tidy stalks. 

Part Used: flowering tops

FUNCTION: St. John’s wort captures the summer sun and can be bottled for winter use, when our moods are clearly lacking sunshine. The warmth of this bright golden flowers help to melt away tension in muscles and topically, St. John’s wort oil promotes healthy muscle function. Collect these flowering tops when they are in full bloom. You can dry them for winter teas, tincture them for easy use when you are not reacting to the blessings in your life as you could, or this fun experiment. Although St. John’s wort flowers are yellow, you can feel like an alchemist by collecting these flowers fresh, wilting them, and putting them in a clear jar. Cover with a light oil like sunflower or almond and set in the sun, This will turn a bright red! This “red oil” was in most homes in the 1800’s to be used topically for those hard working immigrants – our European forefathers and mothers, that made the U.S. what it is today.

Stevia, Stevia rebaudiana

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This tender perennial can be brought in during winter and brought out the next summer, if you want to keep it going. Stevia is as tender as basil and cannot take a frost. Height reaches 12-15 inches before it flowers small white blooms in later summer. If you can collect seeds from these fading flowers, know they are worth about 50 cents each! Stevia likes rich garden soil and full sun. 

PART USED: above ground portion

FUNCTION: Data shows this plant to be from 30-200 times sweeter than sugar. I know adding one fresh or dried leaf to a cup of tea makes it taste sweet! It is delicious fresh and can be added to tomato sauces to modify the acidity. Fresh stevia has none of the metallic aftertaste of the highly processed product that comes in packages of white powder. There is some research connecting stevia to tick bites. 

Sweet Annie, Artemesia annua 

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This annual artemesia produces wafts of refreshing ambrosia-like fragrance with a waxy/oily feel that scents your fingers when you stroke it. This is a great organic olfactory exchange. Sweet Annie grows to 3-6 feet in full sun and can take most soil types. When re-seeding, it comes up mid summer and fills in the late summer garden. This may be useful around peonies or lillies that have bloomed and left some space afterwards. This will be an easy one to save seeds for the following year, but you can also expect to see some re-seeding.

PART USED: above ground portion

FUNCTION: Historically, A. annua was used for malaria.

Thyme, Thymus vulgaris

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Thyme is a Mediterranean herb, which means it likes moisture, but needs complete drainage.

Mediterranean herbs grow on rocky slopes, but get enough rain to keep the roots moist. (When you want to know the culture or how to grow a plant, look at it’s native habitat.) Plant thyme where it will get plenty of drainage. This perennial herb is hardy to zone 4, but it is beneficial to mulch over the winter to prevent the plants from heaving out of the ground. Low growing thyme makes a great border, adding utility and beauty, especially when clipped.

Part used: the leaf and stem

FUNCTION: Thyme is generally used as a culinary herb and overlooked as a medicinal herb. Dynamic and generous it its applications, thyme is one of my favorite herbs. The genus Thymus is derived from the Greek word meaning “to fumigate” implying the strong cleansing quality. I included this potent liberally in my foods and teas during March and April 2020. It helps to maintain healthy lung function, and it’s terpenes expand like eucalyptus dispersing it’s expansive and cleansing qualities- ahhh!

Creeping Thyme, Thymus serpyllum, Mother of Thyme, Elfin Thyme

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Creeping thyme is the prostrate version of thyme and is a little weaker in constituents for culinary or medicinal use. Other information is the same. Creeping thyme makes a hardy, aromatic and durable ground cover. 

Holy Basil, Tulsi, ‘Blessed Badger’

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This selection of Tulsi, or Holy Basil comes from selecting my favorite Holy Basil plants over 12 years and saving the seeds. This selection happened when the industry started separating the Holy Basils into three species. I liked the old Ocimum sanctum with the wide leaves and intensely fragrant clove like flavor. Basils prefer rich soil and would benefit from some organic fertilizer in the heat of summer, as they are fast growing annuals. Cut back below the flowers to keep continuous herbaceous growth throughout the summer.

PART USED: Leaf. They are the first thing to get hit with frost, so make sure they are harvested to avoid this damage in fall.

FUNCTION: Basils increase joy by releasing great scent upon harvesting, and makes people smile when you serve Tulsi tea.

I like this tea when I have writing projects or other concentrated jobs. Traditional in India, it is used to ward off ill health and nasty spirits. It is wonderfully delicious, bringing clarity, joy and benevolence fresh, dried in teas or tinctures. YUM!

Valerian, Valeriana officinalis

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This hardy perennial grows by underground stems and spreads, making larger clumps, but is not aggressive, unless you let it re-seed. It is starting to spread around my countryside, so I think birds are eating the seeds and spreading them around. Cut off the light purple flowering tops, if you want to avoid creating an “invasive species” in your area. The flowers are deeply aromatic, though, so you can use them for bouquets! A common name is “Garden Heliotrope”, named after the charming, old fashioned, purple flowering plant, and valerian is reminiscent of that scent- yum! Valerian grows to about 15 inches and is mainly upright. 

PART USED: root

FUNCTION: Valerian is famous for making ones nighttime experience more relaxing and restful. It has also been used in times of extreme stress to stay calm. This aromatic root circulates heart chi and relieves irritability and anxiety, releases constraint, calms spirit and promotes rest. About 10% of the population is adversely affected by valerian, causing them to get agitated. I find these people to be more sensitive and etherial. 

Wormwood, Artemesia absinthum 

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: This hardy perennial with silver gray foliage grows to about 3 feet tall and makes a beautiful and aromatic background to a perennial border. It is not picky in it’s requirements and can take poor or rich soils. It does not spread like other artemisias, and will re-seed but not aggressively. If you cut it back, when the small yellow flowers appear in mid summer, it will not re-seed at all. 

PART USED: above ground portion

FUNCTION: This is the herb used in the famous Absinthe alcoholic beverage. It is very bitter, so useful to assist a healthy digestive process. It is a good base herb to create your own digestive bitters.

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

DESCRIPTION AND CULTURE: Yarrow is native to all northern continents and is found in meadows, open woods and areas with mild disturbance. It can take dry soils, but grows well in rich organic gardens, too. Rigidly upright, creamy white flowers top these 1-2 foot tall plants in early summer. The latin name comes from Achilles using this plant in battles to staunch wounds. Millifolium means thousand leaves, referring to the fine and many dissections on the leaf. 

PART USED: above ground portion

FUNCTION: This plant was held in high regard in herbal knowledge throughout Europe and America for millennia. How lucky it grows throughout America and can be found when accidents occur when camping or on outings! Put a leaf on a wound before a bandage to improve results!