When early pioneers crossed the west in covered wagons, they brought with them seeds to grow herbs. These settlers grew herbs both to season their food and to use as medicine. Today you can grow your own medicinal herbs for home use. Most medicinal herbs such as coneflower (echinacea) or marigold (calendula) require the same growing conditions that culinary herbs require. The strength of medicinal herb will vary depending on the vigor of the herb, time of harvest and preparation practices. You should consult a doctor before taking a medicinal herb for serious health conditions.
Select a location for your garden that receives at least six hours of sunlight daily and has well-drained soil. Herbs, such as lavender, will develop root rot if it sits in standing water. Herbs grown in low light conditions become leggy.
Break up the soil to a depth of 12 inches with a rototiller. Spread organic amendments such as compost and peat moss over the surface of the soil in a 4-inch layer. Mix these amendments into the soil with the rototiller.
Plant herb seeds in drill holes or furrows. The seed should be planted between two and four times as deep as the width of the seed. Seeds that are fine as dust, such as chamomile, should be mixed in a salt shaker along with sand and then shaken out along the surface of the soil. If a seed is planted too deeply, it may not reach the surface of the soil before it runs out of energy.
Dig a planting pocket for transplanted herbs that are twice as wide as the herb, but no deeper. Place the root ball of the herb into the hole and cover it with soil. Mulch around herb transplants and sprouts to prevent grass and weeds from becoming established and competing for resources of food and light.
Check the soil of your herb garden daily and water as needed. The soil should remain as damp as a wrung-out sponge.
Harvest field-grown herbs, such as milk thistle, dandelion or burdock, the same season that they are planted. Perennial herbs, such as St. John's wort, can be harvested year after year.