Here in Grow Local, we talk a lot about edible plants for cooking, but many of the plants that are easily grown in Central Texas also have beneficial health properties. Below is a list of easy-to-grow, medicinal plants, all of which you can find growing in SFC’s Teaching Garden or Herb Garden. If you are interested in growing and using medicinal herbs and plants, remember to always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before using herbal products. If you would like additional advice on growing and using medicinal herbs, sign up for our Gardening with Herbs class, offered each fall.
Allium sativum (Garlic) Garlic, an immune-booster rock star, is taken widely during cold and flu season to keep the body healthy. It is best eaten raw or in capsule form as these are the most effective ways to get the highest amount of the active ingredient allicin to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Garlic’s other health properties seem endless. The root is used to treat gout, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, low blood pressure, and fungal and bacterial infections, to name a few. Adding the “stinking rose” to your cooking will enhance the flavor of the dish as well as provide you with immune boosting properties.
Calendula officinalis (Marigold) Calendula is most commonly used topically for wounds and skin trauma because it increases circulation to the area in distress. Its vibrant orange flowers are edible and traditionally used to dye food and to color hair. Calendula’s use as a food coloring in butter lead to it being used as a topical ointment for burns. Calendula is used as medicine by various cultures, including the Chinese, to move stagnant blood and increase circulation, and amongst Native Americans, to assuage ailments like occasional upset stomach.
Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel) Fennel has a wide range of health benefits including relief from anemia, indigestion, flatulence, constipation, colic, diarrhea, respiratory disorders, menstrual disorders and eye care. It originated in the Mediterranean, and those cultures have used it historically for culinary and medicinal purposes. In India, it is common practice to chew fennel seeds after meals to facilitate digestion and eliminate bad breath. As with most medicines, ingesting too much fennel can be dangerous, so use caution when consuming this herb.
Matricaria chamomilla L. (Chamomile) Chamomile flowers have been ingested as a tea for centuries to calm the nervous system and digestive tract. The flowers also sooth irritated skin and membranes and are often found in body care products. Chamomile has been used extensively in Europe to support digestive health, and in Southern Mexico, the Tzeltal Maya make a chamomile tea with orange and lime leaf to treat depression. This gentle sedative is helpful in getting restful sleep.