If you've ever shaken your fist at your bookshelf and wondered why Harry Potter isn't real, we have some good news for you. Tragically, Harry Potter is not real. But you can work some real-life magic by whipping up a potion crafted from herbs. There’s an herbal remedy for any number of maladies, and it’s actually a fun hobby to pursue. It’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor first, but if pharmaceuticals aren’t helping your eczema or achy joints — consider taking a lesson in potions.
Herbalists and herbalism have been around for thousands of years. The first recorded instance of herbalism appears 5,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, where the Sumerians kept a written record of plants. Modern-day herbalists can be found in every city, and natural medicine has been making a big comeback in recent years.
An amateur herbalist doesn’t need formal qualifications to reap the benefits of herbal medicine. With the right tools and a few essential medicinal herbs, you can start practicing natural medicine at home.
A Field Guide
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a natural wealth of local flora and fauna, take advantage of it!
Nearly every area will have a unique field guide dedicated to trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Search Amazon to find the right one for your city.
A Recipe Book
Grab an encyclopedia of herbal medicine either online or from your local bookstore. It’s a great way to get an introduction to herbs and basic remedies.
A Patch Of Dirt
If you don’t have a yard or outdoor garden, consider building an indoor herb garden in a well-lit area of your home. You can use pots, or even mason jars.
A Quality Cheesecloth
Most organic grocery stores sell cheesecloths. It’s an essential tool for straining your herbal brews.
A Mortar And Pestle
When it comes to extracting the freshest essences out of medicinal herbs, this ancient kitchen utensil still does the job better than a food processor.
Depending on the type of botanical concoctions you intend to produce, you may require other tools, such as a double boiler, funnels, slow cookers, specialty knives, and mason jars.
Medicinal Herbs Every Herbalist Should Have In The Garden
Aloe Vera (A. barbadensis)
Aloe vera can easily be kept as a houseplant, and you’ll be surprised at how often occasion calls for it.
Aloe Vera Benefits
- Speeds the healing of burns, cuts, and wounds. Aloe vera contains antimicrobial properties, which ward off bacteria and fungi
- Relieves skin conditions like sunburn, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, and insect bites
- Relieves constipation if orally ingested
- Eases irritable bowel syndrome
- Treats stomach ulcers
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)
You may need to hunt down marshmallow seeds online, but this handy herb is relatively easy to grow. Although better known for once being an ingredient in the sugary treat, marshmallow’s use as a botanical healer can be traced back to Ancient Greece. Its Latin name stems from the Greek word althein, which means “to heal.”
Although the flowers and leaves are also used in herbal medicine, marshmallow root can be used for a variety of ailments.
Marshmallow Root Benefits
Marshmallow can be used to treat:
- Coughs and colds
- Urinary tract infections
- Respiratory infections
- Kidney stones
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Crohn's disease
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)
Although holy basil is closely related to the standard sweet basil, it contains many more medicinal properties.
Holy basil is one of the most sacred plants in India, in part due to its rich history as a medicinal herb. It’s antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory.
Holy Basil Benefits
Holy basil can be used to treat:
- Common colds
- Digestive problems
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
The benefits of chamomile tea are well known, but you can easily make your own chamomile tea with fresh flowers plucked from the garden. Add it to an infuser teapot with a sprig of mint for a delicious tea.
Chamomile can be used to treat:
- Digestive problems
- Stomach cramps
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Stomach ulcers
- Allergies and rashes
- Skin conditions (including dark circles under the eyes and wrinkles)
- Diabetes management
Burdock (Arctium lappa)
Burdock is a detoxifying herb and medicinal plant. Burdock root is a powerful ingredient that can be brewed in a tea, or eaten as a vegetable.
Burdock Root Benefits
For thousands of years, burdock root has been used to purify the blood and is believed to eliminate toxins from the bloodstream. It can also be used in the following ways:
- Lymphatic system strengthener
- Defense against diabetes
- Cure for skin ailments like psoriasis and eczema
- Natural diuretic
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Feverfew is a staple of natural medicine. It’s so potent that pharmaceutical giants are researching its key ingredient, parthenolide, in the treatment of cancer and inflammation.
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves digestion
- Relieves symptoms of arthritis
- Soothes muscle pains
- Relieves menstrual cramps
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Gardeners often try to remove this painful weed, rather than encourage it! But don’t banish stinging nettles from your garden just yet. Despite the painful rash they cause if they come into contact with your skin, they’re actually a medicinal plant. After being cooked, they can be eaten in a salad or used in a tea. Handle with caution and use rubber gloves when harvesting nettles.
Stinging Nettle Benefits
- Promotes lactation (yes, really!)
- Stimulates hair growth and improves complexion
- Controls blood sugar
- Relieves diarrhea
- Assists with osteoporosis and arthritis
- Relieves symptoms of hayfever