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A Home Tea Garden- 3 Easy to Grow Medicinal Plants

Brittney Offenburg, BS Nutrition & Dietetics student

As spring approaches the excitement for gardening begins to stir. The transition from winter into warmer days sparks our creativity about how we want our summer gardens to look. As beautiful as the winters are in North Carolina, I always look forward to the flowers returning, planting seeds and thoughts of harvesting. Let’s explore three herbs that will provide a bountiful harvest in your summer tea garden. 

Matricaria recutita

Matricaria recutita, more commonly known as Chamomile, is a hardy member of the daisy family. Characterized by its petite white petals, yellow center and feathery leaves, chamomile stands at heights of one to two feet tall. A lovely addition to any garden, chamomiles’ fragrance alone is worth growing. Grown easily in pots, between rocks or in garden beds; chamomile is able to thrive in multiple environments, including poor quality soil and very dry conditions. The roots are not deeply penetrating, rather skim along the surface of the soil making water collection easier during times of drought. Not a fan of frost or cold weather during germination, chamomile requires soil temperatures of at least 50 degrees to sprout.

Chamomile is known as the “compassionate lady of the composites,” providing many medicinal benefits that are gentle yet effective. Chamomile has the ability to calm and harmonize many different body systems, including the digestive tract, the nervous system and the mind. During times of emotional distress, chamomile's gentle ability to relieve restlessness has been traditionally sought after since the medieval times. A fresh infusion of chamomile’s flowers can support healthy lung function and relieve congestion in the lower respiratory tract. Typically taken as a tea, or water infusion, it’s no surprise over one million cups of chamomile tea are consumed everyday. This herb's ability to target different systems is quite remarkable, making it a versatile homegrown medicine to keep on hand. 

Ocimum tenuiflorum

Ocimum tenuiflorum, or Tulsi, is a member of the mint, or Lamiaceae family. With an alluring aroma, beautiful purple flowers and bright green leaves, the addition of Tulsi adds an element of peace to any garden. The herbaceous shrub grows to heights of two feet tall and enjoys the sunniest part of your garden. With minimal fuss, Tulsi sprouts easily from seed, and likes well draining soil. One should avoid planting Tulsi anywhere water may pool after summer rain storms. Like many herbs in the mint family, Tulsi grows quickly, is not picky and will provide many medicinal leaves to choose from. In colder climates, Tulsi will grow as an annual, but in warmer climates above 70 degrees Tulsi acts as a perennial with the ability to grow back year after year. This plant's adaptability in the garden comes as no surprise, especially when compared to its versatility as a medicinal plant. 

Native to India and widely used in Ayurvedic practices, Tulsi is referred to as the “Queen of Herbs.” Sought after for its adaptogenic properties, Tulsi supports the body in navigating stress and maintaining homeostasis. Perhaps the most magical part of this plant is the spiritual presence it holds within the Hindu community; a home is not complete unless a Tulsi plant is present. The innate wisdom passed down through Ayurvedic beliefs is proven to be true by current trials and studies. Reducing cortisol levels, supporting blood glucose levels and improving metabolic function are among many of Tulsi’s benefits that have been backed by modern science. The matching of innate wisdom and the scientific method are very powerful, proving the medicinal benefits of this plant to be true. The admiration of Tulsi for both spiritual and medicinal reasons make it a great addition to any garden. 

Leonurus cardiaca 

Another member of the mint family, Leonurus cardiaca is also known as Motherwort. Like most members of the mint family, Motherwort isn’t very picky about growing conditions. Drought tolerant and able to flourish in sun or shade, you can plant Motherwort just about anywhere. Similar to Tulsi, one of few things Motherwort asks for is well draining soil. This Herbaceous perennial grows to heights of five feet tall and will spread rapidly if not contained in a pot or raised garden bed. Characterized by square stems, opposite leaves and lilac colored flowers, this herb is often referred to as “Lion Heart.” This quickly maturing, slightly weedy plant will be sure to produce in your garden for years to come.

Given the latin name, it comes as no surprise that Motherwort has an affinity for the heart system. Leonurus can be calming during periods of restlessness and is typically taken as a heart tonic. One of my favorite aspects of Motherwort is the emotional offering it provides to a broken heart, providing support and grounding in times of need. Motherwort shows its affection towards our reproductive tract by supporting a healthy menstruation cycle and potentially relieving symptoms of PMS. Since reproductive health is such an important part of life, Motherwort is beneficial to any garden. 

Questions to Ask

What herbs grow well in your climate? What medicinal plants speak to you? These are important questions to ask yourself when planning for your summer tea garden. Will you grow in raised beds, or sow into the ground? Growing medicinal herbs can be intimidating at times, but it doesn’t have to be! Chamomile, Tulsi and Motherwort are three herbs that are simple enough to grow even for the novice gardener. There is something very special about planting and tending to your own medicine. Gardening is a wonderful way to bring us closer to nature, connect with plants, and learn more about their medicinal properties. 

Brittney Offenburg (she/her) believes in empowerment through education. She attended the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism where she studied medical herbalism and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She is a Clinical Nutrition Assistant.

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