Motherwort, or lion heart, is part of the mint family, and is a lovely plant that is so easy to grow. I always feel the garden is well protected with the healthy stand of motherwort to overlook the garden from the edges. I harvest the young leaves and flowers t hrough t he s ummer for f resh t incture. This is a great medicine for anxiety, especially PMS-induced anxiety and anxiety with heart palpitations. Motherwort can be helpful for other PMS and menopausal symptoms, such as irritability, hot flashes and insomnia. When my partner, Gus, asks me if I’ve taken my motherwort, that’s my hint that I need an attitude adjustment. I often use motherwort in heart formulas for preventing heart palpitations, reducing stress and lowering high blood pressure. I really love this plant and its medicine.
Mullein (Materia medica) is a calming & soothing plant that is great for upper respiratory conditions. Saponins, chemical constituents in mullein leaf and flower, act as an expectorant helping to break up congestion, creating phlegm and moving it up and out of the body.
Nettles is the plant that I dream of all winter long. I eagerly await for the snow to melt and make way for the nutrient-dense young leaves of nettles. I love eating the young leaves in the spring and harvesting the plant throughout the season to dry for tea, oils, soup stocks and vinegars. Regular use of nettles will support the adrenal system and nourish the kidneys and heart. Nettles have been known to boost energy levels and balance blood sugar levels. Nettles are also helpful with chronic skin issues, such as eczema and psoriasis, and I also like to use nettle-infused vinegar as a hair rinse.
Peppermint and other mints are easy plants to grow and have in your garden. They also make a lovely plant for container gardens. They easily spread, so keep an eye on this one, as it can get out of hand. Peppermint is such a delicious aromatic plant. I love its cooling energetics and use it to relieve nausea, cramping, gas, bloating, intestinal spasms and menstrual cramps. It makes a wonderful tea and I find it to also be uplifting.
Red clover is a plant that we use as a cover crop here on the farm for its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, but it’s also an incredible medicinal. We harvest the blossoms when they’re beautiful and vibrant and dry them to use in tea and vinegar. I use red clover for lymphatic congestion, swollen lymph nodes, skin issues and cleansing the blood. Red clover has been used for hot flashes during menopause as well as for circulation and thinning the blood. If you live near an organic farm, you should check to see if they grow red clover as a cover crop. If they do, it’s worth asking whether they’d let you harvest some of the red clover blossoms. Harvesting and drying your own means you’ll have good-quality flowers throughout the winter season. You can buy it, but it tends to be expensive because it’s so labor intensive. If you do buy it, I suggest purchasing from a smaller local herb farm or Healing Spirit Farm, Zack Woods or Oshala Farm.
Reishi is a polypore mushroom, and here in Maine, the beautiful fruiting body, Ganoderma tsugae, grows on fallen hemlock trees. It is distinctively unique from other polypores as it grows on a stem. I love using reishi for many things, including allergies and tension, as well as for immune and heart support. Reishi is a heart tonic that helps lower blood pressure, reduce pain caused by angina and may have the potential to help prevent arteriosclerosis and lower triglyceride levels, which can contribute to strokes and heart attacks. Reishi is not edible but is a wonderful medicine. In order to extract the medicinal properties from it, reishi should be cooked at a simmer for at least 4 hours, which makes it great for soup stocks. To make a tincture, you would want to first cook the mushroom and then use the marc and combine the water, alcohol and marc to then macerate together for 4 weeks.
Wild beach rose, Rosa rugosa, grows all over the Maine coast, and we grow it in abundance here on the farm. Rose has a long history of being associated with the heart, through poems, stories, tales, songs and tattoos, of course. Rose is a wonderful heart tonic and nervine, which has a supportive effect on the physical heart; I also like to use rose for its energetic effects on the heart. It can be beneficial for broken hearts, grief and depression. I harvest the flowers fresh and tincture them immediately in alcohol and honey or dry them for later use in tinctures and teas. If you don't have access to lovely wild roses, then I suggest getting organic, as these plants are heavily sprayed.
Rosemary is an incredible herb that most everyone has in their kitchen. We grow rosemary in the hot and well-drained areas on the farm. We harvest it in the fall and dry it for tea, soup stocks, oils and honey. Rosemary is a fabulous herb to use regularly in your meals, especially in the colder months. It’s warming and stimulating and has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It’s also a wonderful plant for uplifting the spirit and mood. I like to use rosemary as a brain tonic and for helping with focus and mental clarity. It can be supportive in anxiety formulas and to help alleviate stagnant depression.
Schisandra is a great herb for supporting and protecting the liver, blood and circulation. This is a great herb for vitality, rejuvenation and to increase energy. It makes a great brain tonic and I like to use if for clarity and concentration. This is a plant that grows in Maine. We don’t have schisandra vines on the farm yet, but will this coming season! We use the berries to make tinctures, syrups and vinegars. The berries can be pretty intense in flavor. They carry all five tastes, although I’ll say that I never get beyond the sour, bitter, pungent flavor.
Tulsi, also known as sacred basil or holy basil, is a wonderful annual here in Maine. This plant is so easy to grow and a favorite for pollinators. It’s a plant that I recommend everyone should grow and it grows well in containers. As with its cousin, culinary basil, you pinch the flowers to keep the plant bushing and branching out. I use the leaves and flowers all summer long to make into refreshing teas and drinks using our vinegar shrubs. Tulsi is a wonderful medicinal plant. I use it for uplifting the spirit and clearing the mind. This is a wonderful brain tonic for helping clear mental fog, bringing on clarity and focus but not in an overstimulating way. It’s calming and supporting to the nervous system, and I like to use it in formulas to help relieve anxiety. It’s also great for the digestive system, relieving gas and bloating, and for immune support.
Turmeric is an herb that I often use. I eat it regularly. We don’t grow it on the farm, but other farmers are growing it in Maine and other New England states. Eating turmeric is my number one way of using it. I add it to many foods, smoothies, cookies, soups, curries and golden milk drinks. If I’m not eating it, I like tincturing it. Turmeric is an herb that can be tough for our bodies to absorb, so it’s important to add either ginger or black pepper to your formula too. I use turmeric for supporting the liver and aiding in detoxification, and it’s great for digestive support and soothing the gut. I also like to use it for keeping general inflammation in the body at bay, especially digestive inflammation and in the joints.
Yarrow is a perennial that grows wild here in Maine and many other places as well. Before buying the farm, when we looked at it, I remember feeling so happy and safe seeing all the wild yarrow on the land. I like to use yarrow energetically in the form of flower essence, infused oil, hydrosol and as a balm for protection, keeping clear boundaries and not taking on the energies of others. We harvest the flowers and leaves throughout the summer when they’re most vital and dry for teas, oils and tinctures. This is a great herb to use at the onset of a cold or flu. Yarrow can be beneficial for people dealing with IBS, Crohn’s, colitis, leaky gut and SIBO. It’s useful for heavy menstrual bleeding and cramping, and I use it topically for bruises and sprains.