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Pharmacy Garden Series

During my quest to have the ultimate homestead pharmacy in my backyard, I found all the information across the web to be overwhelming.

I decided I would do a lot of research to cross reference what I was reading and hopefully find the best list of medicinal plants for any situation I find myself in. So, I put all of my research into a series for others to enjoy, I hope you find it useful!

Getting Started

Growing medicinal plants in your garden is a great way to access natural remedies and improve your health and well-being. By choosing the right plants, growing and caring for them properly, and harvesting and storing them at the right time, you can create a thriving medicinal garden that provides a range of health benefits. Whether you’re dealing with stress, anxiety, digestive issues, or respiratory infections, there’s a medicinal plant that can help. So why not start your own medicinal garden today and discover the wonders of natural healing?

Growing and caring for medicinal plants

In terms of care, most medicinal plants are easy to grow and require minimal maintenance. Regular watering, pruning, and harvesting can help keep your plants healthy and thriving. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started:

  1. Choose the Right Location: Choose a location with the proper soil conditions and amount of sunlight. Most medicinal plants prefer well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight, although some, like chamomile and lavender, can thrive in partial shade.
  2. Start with Seeds or Seedlings: You can start growing herbs from seeds or seedlings. Seeds are cheaper but take longer to grow, while seedlings are more expensive but grow faster.
  3. Water Regularly: Herbs need to be watered regularly to keep the soil moist. Water them once or twice a week, depending on the weather.
  4. Fertilize Occasionally: Herbs need nutrients to grow well. Fertilize them once a month with an organic fertilizer.
  5. Prune Regularly: Prune your herbs regularly to encourage new growth and prevent them from becoming too woody.
  6. Pest Control: It’s also important to avoid using pesticides and fertilizers on your medicinal plants, as these can affect the plant’s medicinal properties. Instead, opt for natural pest control methods, like companion planting or handpicking pests.

Harvesting and storing medicinal plants

  1. Harvesting: When it comes to harvesting medicinal plants, timing is key. Most plants should be harvested in the morning, after the dew has dried but before the heat of the day sets in. For flowers, it’s best to harvest them when they are in full bloom, while for roots and leaves, it’s best to wait until the plant has matured. Cut the stems just above the leaves and hang them upside down to dry.
  2. Storing: To store your harvested medicinal plants, you can dry them in a warm, dry place, like an attic or shed. Once the plant material is completely dry, you can store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
  3. Using: You can use your herbs in various forms, including teas, tinctures, and capsules.

Using medicinal plants in natural remedies

Once you’ve harvested and stored your medicinal plants, you can use them to create a variety of natural remedies. From teas and tinctures to salves and lotions, there are many ways to use medicinal plants to treat common ailments and conditions.

To create a tea, simply steep the dried plant material in hot water for several minutes, then strain and drink. To create a tincture, soak the dried plant material in alcohol for several weeks, then strain and store in a dark, cool place.

To create a salve or lotion, melt beeswax and coconut oil together, then add the dried plant material and stir until well combined. You can also add essential oils or other natural ingredients to enhance the healing properties of your remedy.

Quick Guide To Medicine Making

There are several methods of medicine making, each with its own advantages and uses. By understanding the different methods of medicine making, you can choose the right one for your specific needs and herbs:

Infusions and Teas

What are they and how to make them?

The terms “infusion” and “tea” are often used interchangeably, but there is a slight difference between the two:

Tea: Generally, when people refer to “tea,” they are referring to a beverage made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. This includes green tea, black tea, oolong tea, and white tea. These teas come from the same plant but undergo different processing methods, resulting in different flavors and characteristics. True tea contains caffeine unless it has been decaffeinated. Herbal teas, also known as herbal infusions or tisanes, are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant but instead are made from other plants, herbs, flowers, or fruits.

Infusion: An infusion is a method of extracting the active compounds from herbs, plants, or other substances by steeping them in hot water. In the context of herbal remedies, an infusion typically refers to a preparation made from non-tea plants, such as herbs, flowers, or roots. It involves pouring hot water over the plant material and allowing it to steep for a certain period of time to extract the beneficial compounds.

In summary, tea specifically refers to a beverage made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, while an infusion is a more general term that can include both herbal preparations and tea made from other plants, herbs, or flowers. So, all teas are technically infusions, but not all infusions are teas.

Infusions are one of the simplest methods of herbal preparation, and are used to extract the beneficial properties of herbs. They are made by steeping herbs in hot water for a period of time. Infusions are typically used for teas, but can also be used for other purposes such as skin toners and hair rinses.

To make an infusion: You will need a teapot or a jar with a lid, a strainer, and dried herbs. Bring water to a boil and then remove it from the heat. Add the herbs to the water and let them steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain the herbs and enjoy your herbal infusion.

Shelf Life: Infusions can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Decoctions

What are they and how to make them?

Decoctions are similar to infusions, but they are made by boiling the herbs in water for a longer period of time to extract the more potent medicinal properties. Decoctions are typically used for roots, barks, and seeds, which require a longer steeping time to extract their properties.

To make a decoction: You will need a pot with a lid, a strainer, and dried herbs. Add water and the herbs to the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain the herbs and enjoy your herbal decoction.

Shelf Life: Decoctions can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Tinctures

How to make them and their benefits

Tinctures are made by steeping herbs in alcohol, typically vodka or brandy. They are used to extract the medicinal properties of the herbs and are more potent than infusions or decoctions. Tinctures are typically used for internal use, such as in drops, and can also be added to tea or water.

To make a tincture: You will need a jar with a tight-fitting lid, alcohol, and dried herbs. Fill the jar halfway with herbs and then pour the alcohol over the herbs, making sure they are completely covered. Close the jar tightly and let it sit for 4-6 weeks, shaking it occasionally. Strain the herbs and store the tincture in a dark glass bottle.

Shelf Life: Tinctures can be stored for up to two years in a dark glass bottle.

Salves

What are they and how to make them?

Salves are used for external use and are made by combining herbs with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, olive oil, or beeswax. Salves are typically used for skin irritations, cuts, and burns, and can also be used for muscle and joint pain.

To make a salve: You will need a double boiler, a strainer, a carrier oil, and dried herbs. Combine the herbs and carrier oil in the top of the double boiler and heat it over low heat for 2-4 hours. Strain the herbs from the oil and pour the oil into a jar. Add beeswax to the oil and heat it until the beeswax is melted. Pour the mixture into a container and let it cool.

Shelf Life: Salves can be stored for up to six months.

Poultices

How to make poultices and their uses

Poultices are made by crushing fresh or dried herbs and applying them directly to the skin. They are typically used for skin irritations, bruises, and sprains.

To make a poultice: You will need fresh or dried herbs and a cloth or bandage. Crush the herbs and apply them to the affected area. Cover the herbs with a cloth or bandage and leave it on for 20-30 minutes.

Shelf Life: Poultices should be used immediately after preparing them.

Tools and equipment for medicine making

While medicine making can be done with minimal equipment, there are a few tools that can make the process easier and more effective. Here are a few examples:

  • Mortar and pestle: A mortar and pestle can be used to grind herbs into a fine powder, making them easier to extract their medicinal properties.
  • Cheesecloth: Cheesecloth can be used to strain infusions or decoctions, removing any solid particles from the liquid.
  • Glass jars: Glass jars are great for storing dried herbs or for making tinctures and salves.
  • Double boiler: A double boiler can be used to heat herbs and oils without burning them, making it a great tool for making salves and poultices.

While these tools are not essential, having them on hand can make the process of medicine making more efficient and enjoyable.

Safety precautions when making medicine

While making medicine from herbs and medicinal plants can be a safe and effective way to treat ailments, it’s important to take proper safety precautions. Here are a few tips:

  • Research the herb: Make sure to research any herbs or plants you plan to use and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any questions or concerns.
  • Use proper equipment: Use clean and sterilized equipment when making medicine to prevent contamination.
  • Follow instructions carefully: Make sure to follow the instructions for each method of medicine making carefully to ensure the safety and effectiveness of your remedies.
  • Label your remedies: Always label your remedies with the name of the herb, the date it was made, and any other relevant information.

By taking these safety precautions, you can ensure that your medicine making is both effective and safe.

Safety Precautions When Using Herbal Remedies

While herbal remedies are generally safe, there are some precautions you should take:

  1. Talk to Your Doctor: Always talk to your doctor before using herbal remedies, especially if you are taking prescription medications.
  2. Start Slowly: Start with a low dosage and gradually increase it to avoid any side effects.
  3. Be Aware of Allergies: Some herbs can cause allergic reactions. If you experience any symptoms, stop using the herb immediately.
  4. Avoid During Pregnancy: Some herbs can cause complications during pregnancy. Avoid using any herbs during pregnancy unless recommended by your doctor.

Storing and preserving your medicine

Proper storage and preservation of your herbal remedies is essential to ensure their potency and effectiveness. Here are a few tips:

  • Store in a cool, dark place: Store your remedies in a cool, dark place away from light and moisture to prevent degradation.
  • Label and date your remedies: Make sure to label your remedies with the name of the herb, the date it was made, and any other relevant information.
  • Use airtight containers: Use airtight containers to store your remedies and prevent contamination.
  • Check for signs of spoilage: Check your remedies regularly for signs of spoilage, such as mold or a rancid smell.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your herbal remedies remain potent and effective for as long as possible.

Pharmacy Garden Series: Plants to Grow For Your Medicinal Needs