Food forest doesn’t only mean, that everything you grow there, is edible. There are plenty other uses of plants, that have a great value in our lives. When we follow the idea of being self-sustainable, we mean by that much more than food. Being able to help our bodies to stay healthy is essential part of that. In this article we are listing couple of medicinal herbs easy to grow in our food forest in central Portugal (zone 9).
List of medicinal herbs easy to grow in your food forest
1. Yarrow ( Achillea millefolium – L.)
My favorite ground cover layer! It’s spreading incredible well through the root system and doesn’t allow other weeds to come through. Leaves of yarrow are edible, can be chopped and add to salads. Pretty colors, most popular white and pink, will catch our eyes all summer. It’s a specially feminine plant, eases menstrual pain and balances the cycle. It is also famous for it’s abilities to stop the flow of blood from open wounds and has long history of use in first aid.
2. Lemon Verbena (Aloysia Triphylla)
This medium size bush is in favor of everybody, who just once smelled their fragrant. It’s so intense and pleasant, that it’s hard to imagine to be truth. Leaves are best to be just boiled in infusion for a cup of afternoon herbal tea. It has a gentle calming and digestive benefits. It’s also great for mothers, as it helps with lactation.
3. Nasturcium (Tropaeolum majus – L.)
Very popular herb among the gardeners, specially for it’s beautiful red edible flowers and spicy leaves. I love it in the food forest, because once established it will come back every year, self-seeding. It’s a perfect fruit trees companion. On top of that nasturcium also shown antibactierial properties on both internal and external infections.
4.Borage (Borago officinalis)
Borage is a must have for a permaculture garden. It’s not only great for our health, but also for other plants growing around it, providing vegetables with potassium and calcium. Especially strawberries love its company. Besides the lovely blue flowers are perfect to pick fresh and add to your salad. Borage oil is famous as medicinal herb for the skin treatment and infusion from the leaves may lift up the mood and is helpful in depression. It also eases menstruation pains.
5. Rue (Ruta graveolens – L.)
This lovely evergreen bush is been known mostly for its abilities to strengthen the eyes. But it’s as well anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic. The juice of the leaves can be also used in ear infections. However it should be consider as rare remedy, since in large doses it is toxic and it can also cause miscarriages. The scent of rue will also do a great pest control in the food forest.
6. Calendula or Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)
Wonderful flowers will make the eyes happy al over the season, specially, if regularly picked. Calendula self-seeds amazing and it’s very easy to care of. It’s a fantastic fruit trees companion, since it help to ripen the fruits. In medicine, it well known for any skin problems, often use in creams and oils. It is also great treatment for eye infections and it helps with painful menstruation.
7. Mugwort (Artemisia Vulgaris)
This lovely perennial bush is very vigorous and can be even grown as chop and drop plant. Mugwort has a long history of use in herbal medicine especially in matters connected to the digestive system, menstrual complaints and the treatment of worms. However it should be considered carefully, because it can be dangerous in large doses, specially for pregnant women. An infusion from it’s leaves drunk before the sleep can have an interesting dream enhancing abilities.
8. Marshmallow (Altheae officinalis)
As every malva family, marshmallow has a great function for soothing soar throats and respiratory problems. It is also great for chefs, as the leaves help thicken the soups and the root can be used as vegetable. Root itself is also knows for the digestive issues. Marshmallow is perennial herb and it will re-grow every spring time.
9. Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
Hyssop has a lovely fragrance both for humans and bees, so it is wonderful additive to the forest garden. It is often used as a spice, specially for meat. It helps very well with digestive problems and an essential oil from it is antiseptic. It’s evergreen, perennial and super easy with care.
10. Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Who doesn’t know our lovely sage! It’s always great to have it for a cup of warm infusion, when we are feeling ill. Some other benefits of sage are: antiseptic, heals sore throats, reliefs tooth pain, helps with anxiety and depression. My favorite mouthwash recipe contains sage, mint and cloves and it’s very easy to make as an alcohol tincture. If you never done tinctures before, HERE is a link that explains it very well.
11. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa – L.)
Alfalfa is large used as green manure crop, because of it’s nitrogen fixing abilities. It’s also perennial. It has also many health benefits, like reducing cholesterol, improving metabolic health and relieving menopause symptoms.
12. German Camomile (Matricaria recutita – L.)
Next to the Roman Chamomile one of the most popular medicinal herbs. It is particularly useful as a remedy for various problems of the digestive system, as a sedative, it is especially suited for young children. Its gentle healing and presence makes it a fantastic plant to have around. German Camomile is annual, but it comes back after the winter. It is good to leave some flowers at the end to encourage self-seeding. It loves sun and rocky, sandy soils, although in Portugal we still water it in the hottest summer days.
13. 26. Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum)
Such a joyful plant, that celebrates the summer solstice with its vibrant yellow flowers. Saint John’s Wort naturally loves to be on the edges of forests, so it is ideal for the forest garden concept. Once established, it doesn’t need any care. It is highly appreciated in medicine for it’s antidepressant and sedative benefits. As well as infused in oil is popular for skin burns and wounds.
Find out about our Introduction to Medicinal Herbs Workshop and let us know, if you would like to learn from us.
Interested in Forest Garden? Here you can find more info.