Medicinal plants don’t have to be exotic specimens that grow in jungle climates, and they aren’t always ancient herbs propagated by our ancient ancestors. In fact, you may already be growing some of the best medicinal plants, as many are not only useful but highly ornamental. Here are our top 5 medicinal plants.
1. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) – Also known as coneflower, echinacea is a beautiful but rugged perennial that reaches mature heights of 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm.). Suitable for USDA zones 3-8, echinacea grows in plenty of sunlight and nearly any well-drained soil. Medicinally, it is used to build immunity and relieve symptoms of chest colds and other upper respiratory ailments. Echinaea may also promote healing of minor wounds and skin irritations.
2. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) – St. John’s wort is well known for its ability to treat mild depression and insomnia, and the oils are used to relieve sunburns and minor wounds. However, gardeners love this bushy perennial for the fragrant, bright yellow flowers that appear in midsummer. St. John’s wort is suitable for growing in USDA zones 4-8.
3. German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) – If you want to grow chamomile for its medicinal qualities, plant German chamomile (not Roman chamomile, a perennial most often grown as a groundcover). You’ll love the masses of small, daisy-like blooms, and while chamomile is well known for its relaxing properties, the herb is also beneficial for tummy aches, hay fever, and many other ailments. Although German chamomile is an annual, it usually self-seeds.
4. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) – A flowering plant that produces gorgeous, bright yellow flowers, ginger is commonly used to treat a host of tummy problems, including diarrhea, gas, morning sickness and motion sickness. It may also relieve muscle aches and arthritis pain, and many proponents think it may lower heart attack risk and improve blood sugar levels. Ginger is a warm climate, sub-tropical plant, but if you live north of zone 7, you can plant ginger in a container and bring it indoors for the winter.
5. Garlic (Allium sativum) – Garlic is usually planted in fall, but you can also plant this trouble-free member of the allium family after the last frost in spring. Rich in antioxidants, garlic is believed to combat the common cold, purify the blood, improve cholesterol levels, lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, and promote healthy skin and hair.