Colds, upset stomach, problems falling asleep: many ailments can be successfully treated with herbal remedies. However, not all plants considered "medicinal plants" in folk medicine are recognized medicinal plants whose effectiveness has also been scientifically proven. This guide presents the best-known medicinal plants, which pharmacists also use to produce herbal medicines. Some can also be cultivated in the garden bed, tubs, and flower pots.
Medicinal plants, herbal medicines - what is what?
The terms "medicinal plant" and "medicinal plant" are often used synonymously, but a useful distinction has also been made:
According to this, medicinal plants are all plants that have or are supposed to have a healing effect.
On the other hand, medicinal plants are only those plants that pharmacists and pharmaceutical manufacturers also use, so their effect is primarily guaranteed - either through scientific studies or through long-term, well-documented experience.
However, suppose you get involved with plant medicine and find suitable remedies. In that case, you are faced with an overwhelming number of products that do not adhere to this distinction. In addition, herbal books and herbalism, in general, are experiencing a renaissance. Still, not all the remedies recommended in herbal medicine from earlier centuries should be used in good faith. Often the point has not been confirmed, or the effect is fragile. Risks and side effects that can always occur when a remedy works have also led to some traditional medicinal plants being replaced by other treatments.
The following distinction may serve as a brief orientation in the confusing realm of medicinal plant products:
Individually approved herbal medicines: generally recognized medically and well documented by scientific studies. These products go through an application and approval process and have an approval number.
Herbal medicines with formal approval: medically recognized, preparation is standardized. These products have a registration number, sometimes an approval number.
Traditional herbal medicine: derived from many years of successful application experience. No number in the designation, but references to conventional usage.
As you can see, this classification is always about specific products made from the plants, not about the plant's effectiveness in all conceivable preparations!
Some herbal medicines are so powerful that they need to be prescribed by a doctor. Most of them can be bought over the counter. Still, products with a precisely dosed, i.e., essentially guaranteed medical effect, are often only available in pharmacies since they require professional advice. Means for only mild symptoms that do not need advice are available in pharmacies, health food stores, and supermarkets.
Classic medicinal plants are also sold as food and as dietary supplements. Here one should consider that these products are not therapeutic but may only be traded to supplement the diet of healthy people. A medical effect is not to be expected. In particular, manufacturers are forbidden from claiming healing diseases in their advertising.
Make herbal medicines yourself?
Making medicine yourself from your garden or collecting wild herbs - wouldn't that be nice? It is discouraged for most plants, and with good reason, especially when it comes to internal uses. A self-made St. John's wort oil as a massage oil can't hurt, but nobody wants to make their heart remedy from a thimble! Even with supposedly harmless applications, it should always be considered that the active ingredients of the plants in your garden are subject to strong fluctuations, and we cannot determine their concentration at all.
We, therefore, agree with the advice of many herbalists to buy effective medicinal plants and preparations from them better in the pharmacy or the trade. Nevertheless, it is a pleasure to cultivate well-known medicinal and medicinal plants in the garden, in a bucket or flower pot. In the following 20 short portraits, you will always find a small tip for your cultivation.
A brief portrait of 20 medicinal plants
Since there are far more medicinal plants than can be presented in this limited guide, we have had to restrict ourselves to a small selection. To not let the order appear as an evaluation, you will find the plants arranged alphabetically.
Note: The - inevitably short - information on cultivation in the garden bed, tub, or flower pot is not recommended for self-production of the medicinally active ingredients. Their quality varies when you grow them yourself and cannot be determined with certainty. In any case, teas and preparations from pharmacies are preferable for use as medicines because only they guarantee the effectiveness and purity of the plant parts and practices used.
Effect: for sprains and bruises, decongestant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic.
As the name suggests, common comfrey (Symphytum officinale) has been used since ancient times to treat diseases and injuries to the legs, e.g., broken bones, joint problems, and dislocations. Alternative names are medicinal comfrey, harmful root, comfrey, or pain root. Comfrey is used exclusively externally since it also contains substances that can damage the liver in addition to the healing agents.
The plant: perennial, hairy perennial from the borage family (Boraginaceae), approx. 50 to 100 cm high. Soft, alternate leaves in an ovate-tapered shape ("lanceolate") up to approx. 20 cm long. Bell-shaped flowers in white, pink, crimson, and violet appear from May through August. Multiple colors on the same plant are possible.
Parts used medicinally: mainly roots and the turnip-like rootstock (extracts), the leaves/herb more rarely.
Application / Products: Ointments, pastes, and rubs as approved medicinal products. They are often combined with other extracts, e.g., from marigold and arnica. Also contained in cosmetic products, but not in a medically effective form.
In the garden: Comfrey grows well in relatively moist, nutrient-rich soil. The plant thrives in light shade under trees and shrubs and in sunny locations when the soil is sufficiently moist. Loved by bumblebees and only able to be pollinated by them due to the twisted flowers. It tends to increase and cannot be transplanted. Because of the long taproot, comfrey can only be cultivated in tall tubs!
Effect: Leaves and herbs relieve cystitis, urinary tract infections, body aches, joint inflammation (rheumatism, arthritis), and roots help with benign enlarged prostates.
The common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is known today as a robust wild plant that is often fought as a "weed." Because of its wealth of vitamin C, minerals (iron, potassium, and magnesium), and secondary plant substances have been increasingly used as culinary herbs in recent years, e.g., in nettle soup, spinach, or smoothie. The nettle was already known to the Greeks and Romans as a medicinal plant. In the Middle Ages and even by Pastor Kneipp, whipping with nettles was recommended for joint pain.
The plant: perennial herbaceous plant, depending on the nitrogen supply in the soil, the species represented in Europe reach heights of growth between 40 and 150 cm. The stinging hairs on the shoot and leaves protect against predators. The stinging nettle shoots are usually unbranched. The small white flowers appear in the leaf axils between July and October. Tiny nut fruits (seeds) then form.
Parts used medicinally: leaves, whole herb, roots, seeds.
Application / Products: As a tea and tea mixture (kidney and bladder tea), capsules, dragees, drops, and juice (traditional medicines), as well as root extracts as pharmacy-only medicines, often in combination with sabal fruits. Stinging nettles are also widely used in dietary supplements, but hardly any medicinal effects are expected here.
The plant is considered a nitrogen indicator in the garden and grows primarily in humus-rich, nitrogen-rich soil, both in the sun and in the shade. It doesn't have to be specially cultivated but appears by itself - often to the chagrin of gardeners.
Effect: expectorant for colds, coughs, catarrh of the upper respiratory tract, antispasmodic. They are externally used against muscle pain and rheumatic complaints.
The blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) is native to Australia. The Aborigines used it for dental hygiene, respiratory problems, and to repel insects. Eucalyptus has been known in Europe's folk medicine since 1870 and is used to treat colds, asthma, and gastrointestinal complaints.
The plant: is an evergreen tree that proliferates at two meters per year and grows up to 60 meters high. The leaves have a blue frosting and are rounded to oblong when young. The narrower, crescent-shaped mature leaves grow up to 25 cm long and hang vertically from the tree. Eucalyptus is grown commercially in Spain, Portugal, southern France, and Italy.
Parts used medicinally: dried senile leaves, essential oils from fresh leaves, and twig tips.
Application / Products: Ointments, drops, oils for rubbing and inhaling, oil baths, bath additives, scented oils, and cosmetics. For medical use, only choose medicines! Otherwise, observe the individual product description, which must describe precisely what the respective preparation is suitable for.
In the garden: Since the blue eucalyptus is not hardy and grows too quickly, it is not suitable for cultivation in beds or containers. Alternatively, plant the cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii), which can overwinter outdoors in warm locations with winter shelter. Its pretty leaves spread a fresh scent that keeps insects at bay.
Effect: calming, stress-reducing, relieves tension, restlessness, and nervousness, promotes falling asleep and sleeping through the night.
The real hop (Humulus lupulus) has been cultivated since the 8th century. Monks and nuns cultivated it in monastery gardens, not as a medicinal plant but as a component of drinks. Plant experts also discovered hops as a medicinal plant at this time, allegedly to alleviate liver and gallbladder problems. Hops have only been known as a sleeping aid and nerve-busting drug since the 18th century, but hops are mostly known for beer, traditionally brewed from hops, malt, water, and yeast.
The Plant: Hops are fast-growing climber that grows three to six meters tall or ten meters in commercial cultivation. It belongs to the hemp family (Cannabaceae) and flowers from July to August. The leaves are multi-lobed and have high ornamental value. Native to the temperate regions of Europe and Asia, it occurs wild, especially on banks and in riparian forests. The shoots twist clockwise around supports, fences, bushes, and trees on chin hairs. There are male and female plants; the wind does pollination. The unripe, green fruit clusters resembling cones, which are colloquially known as "hop blossoms," are harvested.
Parts used medicinally: green infructescence (cones, "hop blossoms") of the female plants.
Application/products: loose as tea and in filter bags. Sleeping and calming teas usually contain valerian, lemon balm, and passionflower hops in mixtures. Hop preparations are also available as medicinal products in drops, dragees and tablets, ointments, and baths. Hops may also be contained in food supplements, where other health-promoting effects are often advertised (e.g., as "radical scavengers"). The dosage does not necessarily have a calming effect.
Fences, privacy screens, and pergolas can be quickly covered with hops in the garden. The shoots are deciduous, annual, and increase, so they also like to overgrow nearby bushes and trees. You can also use the pretty cones for arrangements if you use female plants!
Effect: digestive and antispasmodic, for flatulence and a feeling of fullness, expectorant for colds, runny noses, coughs.
Common fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is considered one of the oldest spices in the world. It was already 3000 BC and used in Egypt as a spice and medicinal plant. In ancient Greece, fennel tea was recommended to nursing mothers to stimulate milk production. The effect on digestive problems has been known since the Middle Ages, and this has been confirmed to this day.
The plant: Fennel belongs to the umbel family (Apiaceae) and blooms from July to October in the form of many small yellow flowers on double umbels up to 15 cm in size. Garden fennel (Vulgare) developed from wild fennel, which is found throughout southern Europe, and three varieties of it are cultivated:
- var. Vulgare, the bitter fennel with bitter-sweet and slightly hot-tasting fruits;
- var. dulce, the sweet or Roman fennel with pleasantly sweet-tasting fruits;
as well as var. azoricum, the vegetable or onion fennel, whose leaf sheaths are fleshy and thickened at the base of the stem and are popular as vegetables.
Common fennel grows as an annual to perennial plant with many branches. Sweet fennel can grow over two meters high, bitter fennel around 1.25 meters. The flowers develop into split fruits that can grow up to 12 mm long.
Parts used medicinally: dried split fruit/seeds (also used as a spice), essential oil.
Application/products: loose, as a sachet and instant tea against flatulence/stomach complaints, often combined with caraway and aniseed, which have a similar effect. Bitter fennel tea is usually sold in pharmacies, but only sweet fennel tea is available in stores. Essential oil is also available. There are drops, syrup, lozenges, and sweets for colds.
In the garden: Instead of the medicinal and spice plant, the annual bulbous fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum) is usually grown in the garden and eaten as a vegetable. Sweet fennel and bitter fennel, on the other hand, are biennials, so they need patience, a location in full sun, and lots of warmth so that the seeds can ripen. Deep, nutrient-rich, well-aerated, well-drained soil is also required.
Effect: calming, relaxing, reducing stress, promoting sleep
Valerian (Valeriana Officinalis) has been used as a medicinal plant for thousands of years. In ancient times and the Middle Ages, preparations made from valerian were used to treat all imaginable ailments and diseases, from side stitches to the plague, and as "love magic." The calming, relaxing effect for which valerian is well known today has been confirmed since the 19th century.
The plant: a robust, herbaceous perennial that can grow up to 1.50 m tall. The leaves are reminiscent of ferns and grow up to 20 centimeters long. The inflorescences with many small white to pink flowers appear between May and July, sometimes even into September.
Parts used medicinally: the excavated rhizome, some substances with a wide range of effects, are only created when they dry.
Application / Products: As a tea, often combined with plants that have a similar effect (hops, lemon balm, etc.), as a juice, tincture, dragees, bath additive, scented oil, and as a component of various dietary supplements.
In the garden: Real valerian grows on moor meadows, on river banks, and stream banks. So the soil should be well-drained and constantly moist. Cultivating the attractive, hardy perennials in beds and planters is possible, provided the appropriate moisture is reliably provided (irrigation system, frequent watering, pond edge).
Unique feature: has a euphoric effect on cats!
Effect: prevents age-related vascular changes (arteriosclerosis), reduces cholesterol and blood pressure slightly, and dissolves small deposits in the veins. Garlic relieves coughs and colds in colds.
Today, most people only know garlic (Allium santorum) from the kitchen. Its popularity as a seasoning vegetable has been increasing for years. The range of ailments and illnesses against which garlic was used by Sumerians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans was once quite large, namely against skin diseases, coughs, snake bites, and worms, but also as a laxative. In the Middle Ages, healers believed that the fragrant onion helped against plague and cholera. Louis Pasteur discovered the antibacterial properties of garlic in the 19th century. In World War I, wounds were treated with garlic.
Garlic - a miracle tuber? After all, scientific research has been confirming the effect on blood pressure and arteriosclerosis since the 1930s. Recent studies have also shown that people who eat garlic regularly are less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases.
The plant: Garlic is a bulbous plant that grows to a maximum height of 70 cm. The first shoot grows from the planted toe; the leaves are directly attached to the stem and taper to a point. The reddish-white flowers appear in summer. Instead of fruits with seeds, tiny brooding bulbs, called bulbils, develop within the inflorescence. But the garlic also multiplies via the onion in the soil. The stalks wilt at flowering, and the clove then develops into a bulb, which in turn has cloves.
Parts used medicinally: the garlic cloves, cut, dried, powdered. Garlic extracts with oil and distillates are also used.
Application / Products: Tablets, capsules, dragees, drops, and juice made from pure garlic (medicinal products). For example, some traditional medicines combine with plants with a similar spectrum of activity, such as hawthorn. In addition, many garlic preparations are traded as food and dietary supplements. Here it depends on the dosage, e.g., whether a preventive effect can be expected. Fresh garlic is also always a viable alternative, as long as you can get used to the vapors through your skin.
In the garden: Garlic is very easy to grow, just put a clove in the bed in autumn or spring, and you're done! Warm soils in a sunny location allow it to thrive.
Effect: herbal antidepressant for mild and moderate depression and depressive moods. Against symptoms of mental exhaustion, for better well-being during nervous stress, even with mild gastrointestinal complaints. Preparations in oil used externally help with sunburn, minor wounds, and skin inflammation.
St. John's wort, or spotted St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum), was used to treat wounds and minor burns in ancient Rome as well as in the Middle Ages. It was only in the 19th century that a Swabian doctor and poet (Justinus Kerner) reported on the mood-enhancing effect of St. John's wort, which was forgotten again when chemical psychotropic drugs came onto the market. Since the 1980s, however, St. John's wort has been prescribed again for mild and moderate depression because the effect has now been medically proven.
The plant: Originally native to Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia, St. John's wort can now be found almost anywhere globally. It grows wild on roadsides, dams, and in sparse forests on dry and calcareous soils. The maximum 60 cm high herb leaves are "spotted" or look as if they were perforated. These are the glands that contain the active essential oil. The alternative names "Walpurgis herb" and "solstice herb" refer to the flowering period, which begins around St. John's Day (June 24).
Parts used medicinally: dried stem tips the fresh flowers are used for oily preparations ("St. John's wort oil").
Application / Products: Preparations that act as herbal antidepressants are prescription drugs! Without a prescription, but only in pharmacies, you can get medicines for milder depressive moods. Traditional pharmaceuticals are intended for other uses; their dosage is insufficient for depressive moods. It would be best to be careful with dietary supplements because healing effects are often claimed here that would not be permissible for a dietary supplement. The providers are also often silent about dosages, as well as about possible contraindications and side effects.
In the garden: St. John's wort likes poor soil and sunny to partially shaded locations, e.g., at the top of a herb spiral. It also fits into the perennial border, where runners ensure that they grow more extensively year after year. As a native wild plant, many insects like to visit the flowers, and the fruit capsules provide food for birds later in the year.
Effect: anti-inflammatory, perfect when used locally in the mouth and throat area. Helps with superficial wounds, skin irritations, and sunburn. Inhaled chamomile calms the respiratory tract when you have a cold. Taken internally antispasmodic, relieves indigestion and helps with bloating and flatulence.
The natural chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) was already revered by the ancient Germans, Egyptians, and Greeks as a cult and medicinal plant. They used the medicinal plant to treat flatulence, liver problems, and inflammation. The monastery medicine of the Middle Ages then discovered chamomile as a helpful remedy for respiratory diseases.
The plant: Herbaceous, richly branched perennial that grows up to 50 cm high. Natural chamomile belongs to the daisy family (Asteraceae); its flowers (similar to daisies) consist of white ray florets surrounding a core of yellow tubular flowers in a circle. The flowering period extends from May to September. In contrast to other, mostly odorless types of chamomile, the scent of natural chamomile is intense. Originally native to southern and eastern Europe, it is now found throughout most of Europe and western Asia. It prefers to grow on fields, fallow land, and rubble dumps.
Parts used medicinally: Dried flower heads. Goods in pharmacopeia quality only contain flowers, no leaves and stems! Leaves and stems are also permitted as food but are not medicinally effective.
Application/products: primarily tea as a drink, infusion for douches, poultices, and sitz baths. There are loose goods, tea bags, and instant tea, although the quality varies greatly depending on whether you buy it from a pharmacy (as medicine) or in stores (as food). There are also over-the-counter and over-the-counter products in drops, tinctures, and ointments for ingestion, inhalation, and external use. Chamomile is also a component of cosmetics and bath additives, but you cannot assume any medically relevant effects here.
Effect: calming, anxiety-relieving, against irritability and nervousness, makes it easier to fall asleep.
The passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) owes its name to the complex shape of the flower, which - with some religious fantasy - is supposed to represent the suffering of Christ: In the three scars, they recognized the nails of the cross, they saw the side crown as a crown of thorns, they interpreted the five stamens as stigmas. American immigrants were fascinated by this symbolism, while the Native Americans made quite improper use of the edible fruits of the passionflower. In the 19th century, homeopaths in the USA used passionflower as a medicinal plant to treat nervousness and insomnia. In Europe, doctors used them as a sedative during World War I.
The plant is a perennial, woody climbing plant that develops shoots up to five meters long. The three-lobed leaves with serrated edges are arranged alternately. Tendrils form in the leaf axils, which the plant uses to hold onto the structure. From July to September, the long-stalked, spectacular flowers appear there, reaching a diameter of up to 18 cm depending on the species. Then edible fruits form, which botanically are assigned to the berries.
Parts used medicinally: all aerial parts, stems, leaves. Blossoms and - depending on the harvest time - also fruits.
Application/products: as a dried herb, loose and in teabags. Tea blends with valerian and hops are standard. Finished medicinal products also usually contain combinations of passionflower and other plants with a similar effect. Dietary supplements containing passionflower are also traded. With nutritional supplements, a medicinal product may be possible but not guaranteed.
Passionflowers are mainly native to tropical and subtropical countries in the garden, so they are not hardy here. However, they are often cultivated in containers and can be outside from early summer to autumn. They prefer a bright and sunny location with an even water supply. The soil should always be slightly moist. Large and heavy planters are ideal; a climbing aid can also be integrated into this. The plants can certainly grow larger but are then shortened to the height of the trellis before wintering so that they can be transported.
Effect: calming, relaxing, reducing stress, increasing concentration. For restlessness and difficulty falling asleep and nervous stomach and intestinal problems. As an additive bath good against states of exhaustion.
Natural lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) only became known as a medicinal plant in the 12th century. Hildegard von Bingen used the herb against head lice, and Paracelsus used it as a nerve agent at the beginning of modern times. Garlic was also thought to help with bloating, cramps, and anxiety, not so far removed from today's uses. However, it indeed failed as protection against plague and cholera in the 16th and 17th centuries!
The plant: Lavender is an evergreen semi-shrub and grows to about 60 centimeters high. Numerous branched, partly woody stems arise from the root. The grey-green leaves are narrow and pointed. From June to August, the bluish-purple flowers appear, which are arranged in a spike-like form and exude an intense fragrance. Lavender belongs to the mint family and is native to the Mediterranean region. There it grows wild, especially on dry, sunny slopes.
Parts used medicinally: fragrant flowers, flowering twig tips, and the distilled essential oil.
Application/products: loose flowers in pharmacopeia quality, also as teabags. Often used together with plants that have a similar effect as sleeping and calming tea blend. Lavender oil in capsules is also available as a medicinal product. The famous lavender baths are commercially available in many variants. Here, however, the caring effect and the scent are more important. Whether the dosage is sufficient for calming is questionable.
In the garden: Lavender needs a sunny, warm location and, as a weak feeder, sandy-gravelly, at best medium-heavy soil. It is also cultivated in pots and tubs, where special care must ensure good water drainage (drainage layer!). Lavender also cuts a fine figure as a scented shrub on dry stone walls and rock gardens!
Effect: against problems falling asleep and staying asleep, nervousness, stress, and restlessness, antispasmodic, also against stomach and intestinal issues, as well as colds. Some studies have shown effectiveness against cold sore blisters.
The lemon balm (Melissa Officinalis) is a natural bee pasture because of its rich flower nectar. Her name "Melissa" means "honey bee" in Greek, as the ancient Greeks had already noticed. Lemon balm was already known to them and the Romans as a soothing medicinal plant. It was also recommended against scorpion stings for treating wounds and as a sitz bath for menstrual cramps. From the 16th century, it was used as a remedy for insomnia and stomach problems, for which it is still widely used today.
The plant: Originally native to the eastern Mediterranean region, the herbaceous perennial can be found in all warm areas of Europe today. The lemon balm grows wild, especially in forest areas and on forest roads. Its heart-shaped leaves are opposite on upright, square stems and exude an intense lemony scent. In the second year, between June and August, the yellow flowers of the lemon balm appear.
Parts used medicinally: the fragrant leaves, gently dried.
Application/products: many approved medicines, e.g., drops or tablets containing the extract of the leaves. Often combined with plants that work together in a meaningful way, such as valerian, St. John's wort, and passionflower. Lemon balm is often a component of gastrointestinal and calming teas against cold sores as a high-dose ointment. As a dietary supplement, capsules are usually offered that contain no extract but ground leaves. A medical effect is hard to be expected given the inevitably low dosage of active ingredients.
In the garden: Well-drained, slightly moist soils that are not too poor in nutrients are ideal. Sunny and sheltered locations are preferred. Lemon balm is also very easy to keep in flower pots and planters! An optimal plant for the insect-friendly garden and balcony is always an enrichment for the kitchen.
Effect: considered a "heart care product" for the elderly heart. Slightly lowering blood pressure is good for the mild heart and circulatory weaknesses and slows down the heartbeat while increasing the amount of blood pumped by the heart, which leads to a better oxygen supply.
Two types of hawthorn are known and used: the single-lobed hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and the very similar two-lobed hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata). Both types belong to the typical hedge and bush plants of Europe. In ancient times and the Middle Ages, hawthorn treated diarrhea and menstrual cramps. Its use as a heart remedy has only been known since the second half of the 19th century. Its effects have been scientifically researched since 1930.
The plant: Hawthorn belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae) and can grow up to eight meters high. The branches are thorny; the leaves are lobed and toothed or smooth-edged. From May to June, white flowers develop in numerous umbelliferous panicles. After fertilization, the red stone apple fruits develop.
Parts used medicinally: Leaves and flowers.
Application / Products: Hawthorn is not poisonous, so there are many medicinal and nutritional supplements, including over-the-counter medicines. It is available as a loose tea and in sachets, tablets, and dragees. If you buy medicines in the pharmacy, you can find the exact dosage and get advice. Jams and fruit spreads have no medicinal effect.
In the garden: Since the hawthorn bush grows very large, it is more suitable for parks and more significant garden landscapes. It is considered important bird protection and feeding tree and is used as a free-growing hedge or solitary tree.
Effect: externally to heal sunburn, minor inflammations, and small wounds; many years of experience also speak for the impact against inflammation in the mouth and throat.
In the garden: Marigold (Calendula officinalis) has been used as a medicinal plant for a comparatively short time. Hildegard von Bingen was the first to describe them as helpful for indigestion and inflammation. When a healing effect became known, the plant was then considered a versatile medicinal plant in the high Middle Ages, e.g., against liver diseases, jaundice, heart problems, plague, and cholera.
The plant: Marigolds are part of the daisy family and originally come from the Mediterranean region. They are annual, herbaceous, upright, and bushy summer flowers that sometimes even survive mild winters. Depending on the location and variety, they grow 20 to 60 centimeters tall and have angular, branched stems. Their flower heads appear from early summer until the first frost. After flowering, they produce small fruits/seeds that can be harvested and sown the following year.
Parts used medicinally: the flowers only. Basket bases and basket covers must not be included if they are of pharmacopeia quality.
Application/products: alcoholic tincture and dried flowers are available in pharmacies. Wound ointments and wound essences are known as approved medicines from homeopathy and anthroposophy (= particular areas). Most marigold preparations are ointments and cosmetics for sensitive, dry and chapped skin. Dosage information is usually not found.
Marigolds are grown in many gardens for their bright flowers in the garden. It is easy to care for as a typical cottage garden plant and thrives in sunny locations on well-drained soil. Its yellow-orange-red flower heads do well in ornamental beds, but they also like to grow in mixed cultures with vegetables.
Effect: Applied externally, blood circulation in the skin is stimulated. Pain-relieving for sore muscles, joint pain, and rheumatism. Internally for indigestion, spasmodic gastrointestinal complaints, and flatulence. Appetizing.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) is mainly known as a kitchen spice. Although it grows wild in the Mediterranean region, it was hardly known as a medicinal plant in ancient times. Only one source from the 1st century (Dioscurides) mentions it as a warming plant and helpful against jaundice. Instead, rosemary had cultic significance because it was dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite. Rosemary has only been known and used in Europe as a delicious, digestive, and wound-healing plant since the 16th century.
The plant: Rosemary is the Mediterranean, small evergreen shrub that can grow to over a meter high, depending on the location. The needle-shaped leaves are dark green and leathery. When crushed, they smell intense, spicy, and fresh. In spring, short shoots grow from the leaf axils and clusters of up to 10 pale blue, pink, or white-lipped flowers. A four-seeded nutlet then develops in the remaining calyx of the flower.
Parts used medicinally: the leaves only.
Application / Products: Baths and ointments are available as medicines, as pain and rheumatism ointments, mostly in mixtures with lavender, camphor, and menthol. A wide range of massage oils, bath additives, and scented essences are also available in the sports and cosmetics sector. Unfortunately, essential rosemary oils offered in the trade are often counterfeited or blended with cheaper oils, as laboratories found in selective tests. High-quality oil of pharmacopeia quality is available in pharmacies, and of course, it is correspondingly more expensive.
In the garden: As a Mediterranean plant, rosemary is not hardy in our latitudes. The "Arp" and "Blue Winter" varieties should be exceptions, but they also need winter protection in the first few years! A sunny but wind-protected location on a house wall is best. It can also be kept in planters and flower pots: during the summer on the balcony and terrace, before the frost, the plant must then be moved to bright, frost-free winter quarters.
Effect: for colds against sore throats, as a rinse against inflammation in the mouth, inhibiting bacteria and fungi. As well as indigestion, bloating, and flatulence. Studies show effects against excessive sweating.
Common sage (sage officialis) is also known as kitchen sage and garden sage. It was already used in ancient Egypt as a remedy for infertility. In ancient times, the aromatic plant was used to treat digestive problems, injuries, asthma, coughs, gynecological diseases, and toothache. The name "Salvia" comes from the Latin salvare = to heal, which indicates its great importance as a medicinal plant. In the Middle Ages, sage was one of the 24 medicinal herbs grown in monastery gardens.
The plant: The evergreen, aromatic-smelling semi-shrub grows up to approx. 70 cm high. Over time, the strong twigs become lignified, and side twigs with felty hairs grow on them. Stems and leaves are felty hairy. The opposite leaves are grey-green and narrowly elliptical. The light to blue-violet flowers is in the upper leaf axils. Common sage belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae), blooms between May and July, and attracts bees and bumblebees. It is native to the Mediterranean countries, where it thrives wild in sunny, dry locations.
Parts used medicinally: only the leaves and the extracted essential oil.
Application/products: dried leaves as a tea and for infusions, often as a mixture with other herbs. Aqueous-alcoholic extracts and distillates are available in pharmacies as medicines for gargling and brushing in the mouth and throat. Tablets and lozenges containing sage extract or essential oil are popular "candies" for coughs and sore throats. Cosmetic preparations and toothpaste with sage do not have a comparable medicinal effect because the dosages are too small. Warm sage tea stimulates the appetite; cold tea helps against excessive sweating.
In the garden: a sunny, warm location is a must, e.g., relatively high up in the herb spiral. The soil should be dry, calcareous, and well-drained. Waterlogging is poison for sage, as it is for all Mediterranean, drought-loving plants. Natural sage is also well suited for cultivation in tubs and flower pots. It is best to use herbal soil that is leaner and more porous from the start. Sage needs good winter protection outside to hibernate!
Effect: Root extracts have been proven to work against menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disorders, and mood swings and can be used as an alternative to synthetic hormones.
Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) was used by Native Americans as a medicine against snake bites and to help women give birth. White settlers adopted the "Native American woman's root," which is why it became an official remedy in the USA in 1820 but later disappeared from the pharmacopeia. Black cohosh experienced a renaissance in the 1950s and 1960s when its estrogen-like effects were researched. But interest waned again as the chemical industry developed its hormone therapies. Their importance has increased again in recent decades. Many women are asking about herbal remedies and considering them instead of hormone therapy.
The plant: Black cohosh is a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and is native to eastern Canada and the United States. It can reach a height of up to two meters and grows as an upright stem with bipinnate and tripinnate leaves. From the end of June to August, the grape-like inflorescences develop.
Parts used medicinally: the rootstock.
Applications / Products: There are numerous medicines with pressed dry extract as tablets and dragees. The evaluation of various studies has shown that only preparations whose section has been produced with isopropanol or ethanol work, all of which are approved medicinal products. Combinations with St. John's wort are helpful for mood swings.
In the garden: as a magnificent perennial, the black cohosh is an eye-catcher in beds and borders. It prefers to grow in the light shade of trees and tolerates sunnier locations if the roots are always sufficiently supplied with moisture. The soil should be rich in nutrients and humus and well fresh.
Coneflower - Echinacea purpurea
Effect: Prevention and treatment of colds, including infections of the urinary tract and bladder infections. The strengthening effect on the immune system is scientifically proven. Studies have shown that the active ingredients (alkamides) act directly against colds and flu viruses.
External applications help poorly heal wounds, as echinacea inhibits inflammation and germ growth and stimulates skin formation.
The red or purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) should not be confused with the familiar yellow coneflower (Rudbeckia) of the same name. Based on the optics, both are not as closely related to each other as one might think. The purple coneflower is native to North America, where it has always been considered a proven remedy by the indigenous peoples. Echinacea is said to help against toothache, wound healing, and snakebite. At the end of the 19th century, a resourceful German sold the first coneflower medicine, "Meyers Blood Cleanser," in the USA against rheumatism, neuralgia and snake bites - with great success. Echinacea later became known in Europe, and commercial cultivation began in 1939.
The plant: The plant's Latin name, "Echinacea," is derived from the Greek echinos = hedgehog. Presumably, because the flower heads of the coneflower resemble the prickly back of a hedgehog, the perennial grows up to 80 cm high. It belongs to the daisy family (Asteraceae) and flowers from May to August. The plant has erect stems and bears ovate leaves with serrated edges. The flower heads consist of a cone-shaped pedicle covered with scales and tubular disc florets. The marginal florets appear linear and pale purple.
Medicinally used parts: the active ingredients are in all aspects of the plant. The dried herb and roots are used. The same applies to the pressed juice from fresh, flowering plants, which is the subject of most studies.
Application/Products: Pressed juices and tinctures, tablets, and ointments are available as medicines, usually made from the herb. Combinations with the related purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) and other plants with similar or supporting effects are common. Dietary supplements and lollipops sold as food usually do not contain a sufficient dosage for the medical impact.
In the garden: The purple coneflower is a popular, long-flowering garden perennial that loves rich soil in a sunny to a partially shaded spot. The flowers feed bees, bumblebees, and butterflies, and even in winter, the seeds provide food for birds.
Effect: for respiratory diseases, expectorant for coughs, bronchitis, whooping cough. Anti-inflammatory (oral mucosa), good against bad breath. When used externally, thyme promotes blood circulation in the skin.
Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is mainly a hot and aromatic herb from Mediterranean cuisine. The Greeks and Romans probably used it as a medicinal plant for respiratory diseases. Still, it is clear which type of thyme the historical sources describe. In the Middle Ages, Hildegard von Bingen used thyme against whooping cough. Since the 16th/17th, Since the 19th century, it has been a medicinal plant generally recognized in herbalism.
The plant: Thyme is an intensely scented shrub that grows up to 30 cm high. It belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae). Its many tiny purples and pink or white flowers appear from May to October. It is native to central and southern Europe, growing on dry grassland and rocky slopes.
Parts used Medicinally: Primarily the leaves, which contain most ingredients. Flowers and buds may be present, but not the woody stems. The essential oil extracted from the leaves is used in many products.
Application / Products: Many cough teas contain thyme, often combined with plants with similar effects. Only if the quality is medicinal can you be sure that natural thyme and no other kind were used. Cough syrups and tablets are also available as medicines. The market also offers a wide range of over-the-counter products, both as food and as dietary supplements. Thyme oil for inhalation should only contain natural thyme and no other oils with artificial components!
In the garden: Thyme is a popular kitchen herb cultivated in pots on the windowsill, but usually only there during the season. The garden is a famous ground cover with a Mediterranean flair and serves as a renowned bee pasture. The true thyme only survives the winter with good winter protection or in warmer locations.
Effect: against inflammation of the urinary tract, bladder weakness, kidney stones
The actual goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) grows wild in Europe. Still, the increasingly widespread Canadian goldenrod has been almost superseded here (Solidago canadensis). They are found in large numbers on fallow land, mountains of rubble, forest areas, and roadsides and are therefore considered by many to be a nuisance weed. The Germans already used the goldenrod as an essential medicinal plant for treating wounds and the natives of North America. From the 16th century, the diuretic effect came to the fore in Europe, which is still mainly used today. Both species of goldenrod work, but the effects of the European goldenrod are better documented.
The plant: Perennial herbaceous perennial with erect, rod-like stems in clumps that grow up to about one meter high. The Canadian variant grows up to two meters high. The goldenrod produces slightly branched cup-shaped inflorescences between June and September, grouped like grapes. The flower heads of the Canadian goldenrod, on the other hand, form spreading panicles on which the yellow flowers are lined up.
Medicinally used parts: all above-ground parts contain the active ingredients in production quantities. Therefore, the proportion of stems in teas and preparations is not a measure of quality.
Application/products: mainly teas (e.g., kidney-bladder tea or metabolism tea), drops, tablets, and capsules. Goldenrod is often mixed with other diuretic plants such as birch leaf, horsetail, and couch grass.
In the garden: The Canadian goldenrod often finds itself in the garden. It is considered a problematic neophyte, but it is pretty popular with native insects and wild bees. If you want to settle goldenrods first, it is advisable to cultivate the actual goldenrod, as this usually has a disadvantage compared to the Canadian. Goldenrod prefers dry, calcareous, and rather heavy or loamy-sandy soils in sunny locations but also grows in less optimal places, where it then remains smaller.