The Chinese knew the benefits of medicinal plants thousands of years ago. Herbs like anise help to ease a cough, while cardamon and catnip settle an upset stomach. Other herbs are used today to help alleviate pain, like licorice, or reduce stress, like lavender and chamomile, and strengthen the immune system, like echinacea. You can grow medicinal plants in your backyard garden or in containers on the patio. The plants are used fresh or dried in teas and tinctures for medical applications. Warning: This is for informational purposes only and not meant as medical advice. As with any medical drug, talk to your doctor before using medicinal plants.
Choose a sunny location free from standing water to grow the medicinal plants. Remove the sod from the area and till the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches. Remove any rocks, sticks and other debris from the soil. Mix in an all-purpose organic fertilizer or organic matter with the shovel. Avoid using chemical fertilizers on plants grown for human consumption.
Space the medicinal plants at a distance of 12 inches from each other. Set the plants at the same depth they were planted in the container. Water the plants thoroughly, soaking the ground to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Continue watering each day until the plants establish themselves in the soil.
Cultivate the medicinal plants for the entire growing season. Pinch the ends of the stems to promote bushier vegetation. Pinching also keeps the plants from going to seed.
Cut 6- to 8-inch sections of the medicinal plant stems and form the cuttings into bundles. Tie the ends of the stems together with twine. Hang the cuttings upside down in a cool, dry place until the stems are dried. For medicinal plants grown for their roots, dig up the plant and cut away the foliage from the roots. Wash the roots thoroughly. Place the root sections on a screen in a cool area, away from direct sunlight, until they are dried.
Remove the dried leaves from the stems and place them in sterile, air-tight containers. Store the containers in a dry, dark place until ready to use. Store dried roots in the same manner until ready for use.
Mulch the medicinal plants before cold weather occurs to protect them over winter. In the spring, remove the mulch and allow the plants to grow again.