More Information About Medicinal Plants
The top 15 list of medicinal plants for your garden
Items in this medicinal plants list combine great looks and medicinal value...a win-win.
- Achillea (Yarrow) - A medicinal herb for fever, colds, etc. and with colorful flowers
- Agastache (Hyssop) - A medicinal plant for congestion, depression and with colorful flowers and fragrant foliage
- Amorphophallus konjac - A chinese herb for losing weight with a cool looking leaf and large bizarre flower
- Athyrium filix-femina (Lady Fern) - A European herb and fern used for pain relief from giving birth and lactation
- Curcuma longa (Turmeric) - An herb from India for indigestion and an anti-inflammatory with large tropical foliage and bizarre flowers
- Cypripedium parviflorum (Ladyslipper Orchid) - A native US medicine plant used as a sedative and a hypnotic with highly sought after flowers
- Echinacea (Purple Coneflower) - A native US herbal medicine for colds and respiratory infections with pretty purple flowers
- Epimedium (Fairy Wings) - A chinese herb used as an herbal Viagra plus it has wonderful springtime flowers
- Helleborus (Lenten Rose) - A European medicinal herb used as a purgative and a great winter flowering plant
- Lavandula (Lavender) - An Aromatherapy / calming agent with attractive and fragrant flowers and leaves
- Nepeta (Catnip) - An insect repellent and calming agent with fragrant foliage
- Oenothera (Evening Primrose) - Anti-inflammatory, pain reducer and brilliant yellow flowers
- Rosmarinus (Rosemary) - Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and also a culinary herb with evergreen foliage
- Thymus (Thyme) - Treats diarrhea, flatulence, and is a diuretic and a great groundcover too
- Zingiber (Ginger) - An asian medicinal herb for nausea and with large tropical leaves.
A short history of medicinal plants and herbs
Although physic gardens were recorded as early as the 1330's the most famous medicinal plant garden was the Chelsea Physic Garden, started in 1673 in London. The most famous botanists of the era, whose names today are echoed in countless garden plants, worked at these gardens with their primary goal being the collection of medicinal plants used by apothecaries of the time. People such as Joseph Banks (Banksia), John Bartram (US explorer), Mark Catesby (as in Sarracenia x catesbaei), Samuel Doody (Doodia), William Forsyth (Forsythia), Carl Linnaeus (creator of modern plant taxonomy), William Houston (who discovered Buddleia and had Houstonia named for him) and John Miller (author of "The Gardener's Dictionary") all studied medicinal plants and herbal medicine at the European physic gardens.
On the other side of the world from the European physic gardens, traditional Chinese herbalists also used local plant species in chinese herbal medicine. Chinese medicinal herbs were used to balance yin and yang and to manipulate the five cardinal functions of the qi. Today, in the Far East, there is a branch of herbal medicine called "traditional Chinese medicine" (TCM) that uses chinese herbs to heal, revive and restore balance. There are 50 fundamental medicinal plants in TCM, and thousands of minor ones. Many of these plants are wonderful ornamental garden plants that can be used strictly for their looks or as part of a traditional Chinese herbal medicine garden - an oriental physic garden if you will. Similar herbal medicine histories developed throughout Asia, Japan, India, and other exotic locales. Even today, there are thousands of vendors of chinese herbs online, so TCM is still a wildly popular subject.
At the same time in history, across the Pacific, Native American shamans used North American native plants to heal various new world maladies, and when the Europeans first arrived, the native americans shared their medicinal plants with them. Some of these plants were sent back to the European physic gardens, completing the global circuit. Wherever humans have lived, they have employed local medicinal plants to treat illnesses.
In the era before modern science, controlled experiments, hypotheses, statistical analysis, etc., humans often used the physical appearance of a plant to determine its medicinal use...whether it actually worked or not. Primitive cultures assumed that the creator imbued medicinal plants with signs or clues as to how humans should use them. For example, a plant with spotted, lung-shaped leaves was used to treat tuberculosis and was given the name Lungwort (Pulmonaria). Aristolochia was often called birthwort because the oddly shaped flowers reminded some medieval apothecary of a birth canal...unfortunately this plant is quite toxic and poisoned countless pregnant women. This philosophy is called the "Doctrine of Signatures" and many historical medicinal plants were given names based on the heavenly "signs" in them. Many plant names today still bear these doctrinal names...Hepatica (Liverleaf). Sanguinaria (Bloodroot), Eupatorium (Boneset), Dicentra (Bleeding Heart). However, the doctrine of signatures is nothing more than the wishful thinking of medieval cultures. Many traditional "medicinal plants" actually have no effect or are extraordinarily toxic (Sanguinaria, Digitalis, Aconitum, Convallaria).
Today there are thousands of species of plants that are popular in ornamental gardens that unbeknownst to their owners also have a history of use as medicinal plants. We have culled through our enormous plant catalog to gather a list of the medicinal plants for sale here at Plant Delights. Some of these herbs are no longer used for medicinal purposes, having been supplanted by less expensive synthetic medicines or less toxic compounds. Our advice regarding how to use medicinal plants is to plant two and call us in the morning.
Check out our blog entries on herbal medicine.