Medicinal Herbs to Grow During Quarantine

My 2020 Pandemic Herb Garden

I moved last September and am starting a garden at my new home. I was planning to grow my favourite perennial herbs and lots of veggies, and when shopping online for seeds last month, I broadened my selection to include herbs that may be useful during this pandemic.  Here are my pandemic-specific choices for my quarantine herb garden.

Garlic
Allium sativum

This food/medicine would have been found in gardens centuries ago, and is documented as one of the primary remedies during the black plague and Spanish flu.  It is a must as part of the daily diet, 1 clove daily, raw, for prevention and more as needed when there are signs of infection (of any kind). I have stopped sore throats and colds from worsening on many occasions with the help of garlic. It helps to loosen phlegm and cough it up.  It contains organosulfur compounds which have been shown to assist with liver detoxification, inflammation, cancer prevention, anti-oxidant. Allicin, a sulfuric compound, is expelled by the body via the lungs, which helps to explain its use as a respiratory remedy. If garlic is too hot (pungent) a tincture or vinegar extract can be used. Other members of the Allium family share many of these benefits (onions, shallots, leeks).

Baikal skullcap
Scutellaria baicalensis

This is one of the herbs I stocked up on early, when the pandemic was beginning to spread from China.  It is an ancient remedy in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for treating a wide variety of ailments, including infections, cancer, liver disease and arthritis. It is currently being used by TCM practitioners in China to treat Covid19.  A beautiful, purple flowered perennial herb; its roots are harvested in the fall.  

Boneset
Eupatorium perfoliatum

Perennial, native to N. America, traditionally used by first nations peoples and introduced to early settlers. There is documented evidence of this herb being used in the US during the Spanish flu. It’s name is derived from its use to treat “breakbone fever”, the extreme aches and pains that accompany flu.  The aerial parts, taken as hot tea, are used to manage fever. It is also a bitter, used to stimulate liver and digestive function.  There are many other Native and traditional uses for this local “weed”.

medicinal herb elecampaneElecampane
Inula helenium 

I use this herb as a lung tonic and expectorant, to clear excess mucus from the lungs. It also contains volatile and bitter compounds, which stimulate digestion. The roots, harvested in the fall, are quite large; one to two plants yield enough root to make 3-5 litres of tincture. It is best to wait 2-3 years before harvesting; in the meantime it will add beauty, with its tall stem and yellow flowers that attract pollinators.

 

Horehound
Marrubium vulgare

This is a classic lung remedy, used for many centuries throughout the UK and Europe, to ease cough and congestion. The leaf is used, as an infusion, cough syrup or lozenge – it is one of the main ingredients in the Ricola cough candies.  As a member of the mint family, it is easy to grow, and will come back each year, producing a flower after the 3rd or 4th year.  It is an aromatic bitter, thus also helpful for indigestion and to enhance metabolism.  

Marshmallow
Althaea officinalis

I intend to grow this as a centre point in my garden, due to its beauty, and its medicinal and nutritional properties. It is a beautiful, bushy plant with edible leaves and flowers. The root and leaves contain a type of carbohydrate that is mucilaginous, especially when extracted with water.  This is a reliable remedy for irritated mucous membranes and dryness, thus helpful for treating sore throat, dry cough, ulcers and inflammation.  I appreciate it immensely due to the rapid relief it brings to these conditions.

 

Elder
Sambucus nigra/canadensis 

This was the first medicinal plant that I installed in my garden last fall; I have six elder trees, hoping they will produce an abundance of fruits and flowers for various medicinal preparations. Elderflower makes a sweet tasting tea, I use it in blends for managing fever, and as a gentle nerve and tummy relaxant.  The berries are effective against common cold and flu viruses; it is too soon to know if they are equally effective against Covid19, but I have and will use them as an immune stimulant at early signs of infection.

 

This pandemic herb garden will be a great start to my garden that will continue to be useful in post-pandemic times.

These are but a few of the medicines available for use during the pandemic.  I will grow others such as thyme, sage, yarrow, peppermint, hyssop, calendula, nettle and mullein, knowing they too will be supportive, when needed, for dealing with viral infections and possible ongoing manifestations of this pandemic.  

 

My garden will also include nerve tonics, my favorites being skullcap, lemon balm, oatseed and wood betony, for those stressful moments along the way.

 

The act of creating this medicine garden brings me peace of mind and hope, both important for optimal immune and mental health during these unprecedented times. I hope you have spaces to grow herbal remedies. Some of these herbs are growing at the Bloom garden, you are welcome to go on a self-guided tour. I look forward to inviting you to my garden once the distancing restrictions are lifted.  

 

Herbal Tonics for Optimal Health

You can What is a tonic?  Is it the same as a remedy? Read on to learn the difference between a herbal tonic and a remedy, and find Savayda’s favourite tonics for each body system for optimal health. 

Remedies and tonics are two different uses of herbal medicines. Some plants are both remedies and tonics, depending on how they’re being used and what they’re combined with. A qualified herbalist can determine how best to use a herb to either boost a bodily system or to treat a specific condition. For example, Hawthorn is a gentle tonic for the cardiovascular system, but can also be used to treat hypertension. Elecampane boosts lung health, but is also an expectorant and can be used to treat bronchitis.

 

Each herb has many phytochemical constituents, which means it has many potential uses, and many could be either a tonic, remedy or both. This whole-herb approach is very different than the allopathic approach, which separates and reduces the plants to single molecules, and aims to match each ailment with a specific constituent.

 

Herbalists are more comfortable with the complexity of both plants and people, and knowing which herbs to use and when, is the art and science of herb combining.

 

Tonics Optimize Health

 

A tonic is a mild approach that is used to restore and strengthen a system of the body or to promote optimal health and well-being. One way that tonics differ from remedies is that a tonic will give improvement even in a healthy state, whereas a remedy is aimed at treating a problem, but doesn’t alter an already-healthy system.

I like to compare herbal tonics to plant foods, we eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to supply us with the nutrients we need for basic healthy function.

 

A herbal tonic is generally thought of as a herb or combination of herbs that are gentle and nourishing, either to the whole body or to specific organs or systems. The mild herbs are used to promote a tonic action, often spread over many weeks or months to restore or support general health. They are used to bring balance to chronic conditions or to support general wellness and prevention of dis-ease.  

 

Herbal tonics can be taken periodically, rotating through different tonics for different systems. You could focus on a different system every month or every season.

 

A tonic may come in the form of a tincture, tea or herbal vinegar.

 

Tinctures are sometimes referred to as a tonic, which they may be in action, but tincture specifically refers to the preparation method of extracting the medicinal properties from herbs using alcohol. The terms tonic and tincture are not interchangeable.

 

Remedies Treat Ailments

 

Herbal tonics complement remedies. They help keep a healthy person healthy and offer support for the body’s systems, while remedies work to correct an imbalance or treat a specific ailment.

 

Like tonics , remedies come in different forms – teas, tinctures, syrups, etc, but the difference is that remedies offer a more direct input to the body’s healing processes.

 

Examples: St. John’s wort is a remedy for depression, calendula is a remedy for wounds, elderberry is a remedy for viral infections, turmeric is a remedy for inflammation.

 

Tonics as Remedies

In some cases, tonics can be an integral part of a remedy, and tonics can also supply a remedial action over the long them. Sometimes the use of general tonics can correct underlying problems, and long term use of tonics is one healing strategy.

 

This gentle strategy of long-term tonic use is ideal for people in weakened states, such as recovering from a major illness or surgery, children or the elderly. In these cases, the herbalist wouldn’t want to over-activate their system with strong herbs, so gentle remedies are better tolerated.

 

As an example, a herbalist might use tonics to support the immune and nervous systems of a patient undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, when their system couldn’t handle the addition of stronger treatments.

 

Savayda’s Favourite Tonics for Optimal Health for Each System

Hawthorn [Crataegus spp.] for the Cardiovascular System

Hawthorn is Savayda’s favourite tree. Named for its intimidating thorns, hawthorn is a very useful plant for heart health. It helps correct both high and low blood pressure, and strengthens veins and arteries. It’s a core herb to use for any cardiovascular conditions.

In addition to the physical heart, hawthorn also offers support for the emotional heart. It is good for protection and resilience when going through emotional difficulty.

Oatseed [Avena sativa] for the Nervous System

 

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Oatseed comes from the same plant as the oats commonly used for food in oatcakes and granola, but oatseed refers to the immature green, milky seed, before it matures into cereal oats. Oatseed balances the nervous system from the extremes of anxiety or depression and restores strength and energy to the nervous system when exhausted.

Raspberry Leaf [Rubus ideaus] for the Uterus

Good as a tea or herbal vinegar, raspberry leaf is used as a tonic post-partum or in late pregnancy. It’s also beneficial for women who are having some menstrual difficulties. It gives strength to the uterus so it functions better, and results in fewer menstrual cramps, and faster recovery, restoring tone to the uterus.

Partridge Berry [Mitchella repens] as a Fertility Tonic for Both Men and Women

Traditionally used to improve fertility due to its influence on normalizing endocrine hormones in both males and females.

Damiana [Turnera diffusa] for Prostate Function

Damiana is a mild hormone normalizer and general restorative for men.

Horsetail [Equisetum arvense] for Skin, Hair & Nails

High in silica and other minerals, horsetail is the best tonic for strengthening brittle nails and fine hair. It delivers required nutrients, acting like a food that encourages growth and strength.

Elecampane [Inula helenium] for the Respiratory System

A warming herb that soothes bronchial tube linings and acts as an expectorant for lung cleansing, and has a relaxing effect on smooth tracheal muscle.

Gotu Kola [Centella asiatica] for the Brain

Gingko biloba is often championed as an exceptional herb for the brain, but it is actually more of a remedy than a tonic. While Gingko biloba has direct action by improving blood flow for focus & memory, it is usually taken when there’s a deficit. In contrast, Gotu Kola can be taken in a healthy state, and also improves mental functioning. Gotu Kola is not too stimulating, and is more stabilizing and good for overactive or underactive brains.

Dandelion [Taraxacum officinalis]  for Digestion

Its bitter taste signifies its effect on the digestive system. Bitters tune up and gently stimulate the whole digestive system.

Astragulus [Astragalus propinquus] for Immunity

Astragulus helps to ensure that the body’s white blood cell count is where it should be. Produced in bone marrow, white blood cells are a critical part of the body’s defense system and should be ready to be called into action when needed.

Milk Thistle [Silybum marianum] for the Liver


Milk thistle is like nutritive food for the liver, helping to restore liver cells and protect them from damage.

Blueberry [Vaccinium] for the Eyes

You’re probably aware that blueberries are a powerhouse of antioxidants but did you know they’re also good for your eyes? They contain anthocyanadins that strengthen the blood vessels in the eyes, and can reduce the risk of cataracts and glaucoma.

Nutritive Herbs for the Musculoskeletal System

The best tonic for the musculoskeletal system is proper nutrition, and there are many herbs that can help you make sure you get your vitamins and minerals. Nettle, dandelion leaf, horsetail, and plantain are great spring greens that can be eaten whole, or made into mineral-rich vinegars. You can forage lots of nutritive herbs. Check out our Foraging Guide.

Adaptogens for Your Whole Being

Adaptogens behave like tonics, helping the whole body to resist stressors of all kinds, whether physical, chemical or biological. These herbs and roots have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions to promote optimize health, and are having a renaissance today. Common adaptogens include eleuthero, withania and schizandra.

 

Conclusion

Tonics are a wonderful first foray into the world of herbal medicine, and a great way to optimize your health. 

Remedies and tonics are not the same thing, but they can complement each other or be used for different purposes. Tonics are more nutritive and balancing, remedies treat specific conditions. Tonic herbs are generally safe for use for self care, but make sure you check for contraindications before taking any new herb. Although they are generally gentle for healthy bodies, the plants can still have strong effects that may interact with other medications or conditions.