Tag Archives: herbal remedies

Getting Started with Herbalism

Herbalism can seem like a beautiful way to connect with nature and work on your wellness, but it can also be daunting and mysterious. How do people become herbalists? Where do you go to learn to grow and use herbs? Getting started with herbalism can feel overwhelming, but there are plenty of free ways you can get started with herbalism this summer. 

Here are some of my favorite herbal resources for growing herbs, preserving herbs, crafting herbal teas and tinctures, and everything in between.

A reminder that we’re not medical professionals, and none of this information is meant to diagnose or treat a medical condition.

Read, read, read.

There are so many cheap or free resources to help you get started learning about herbalism. I highly recommend reading as much as you can before investing in a class. Blogs, articles, and books are a great way to find information about growing and using herbs. Here are some of our articles on herbalism and our favorite books and other resources.

SESE Blogs
Blogs
Books
Free Materials

You may also want to check in with your local library! They probably already have or can get local field guides and books on herbalism, foraging, and wildcrafting through interlibrary loans. herb garden (herbalism)

Start an herb garden.

The best way to learn about plants is to grow them. Check out our article, Beginners Medicine Garden. Start your medicinal herb garden with helpful herbs like lemon balm, garlic, chamomile, calendula, and echinacea. Growing these and other plants will allow you to experiment with them as you learn and grow. 

Take a class.

Classes are great for several reasons. They often go more in-depth about actually putting your herbs to use. They also allow you to connect with teachers and other budding herbalists. Additionally, they can offer a sense of accountability on your learning journey. You can’t just keep putting off reading that chapter if you’re working through a scheduled class. 

A quick note about herbalism courses: be aware that there is no federal or state-recognized herbal certification in the United States. Having certificates from different schools or courses can aid you on your herbal journey, but you don’t need to be a certified or master herbalist to practice herbalism. Nor does one of these certificates qualify you to give medical advice.

Free options
  • Handcrafted Herbalism Mini-Course from The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine
  • Micheal Moore’s Online Lectures
Other classes, workshops, and apprenticeships
  • Online Herbal Immersion Program from The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine (check their others too)
  • The Indigi Golden Herbal Academy 12 Month Herbal Apprenticeship for Indigenous and Indigenous Reclaiming BBIPOC Folx
  • Introductory Herbal Course from The Herbal Academy

Be careful about social media.

Social media can be a wonderful place to learn more about herbalism and get inspired by others’ gardens, recipes, and projects. However, it can also have some negative impacts. 

First, know that not everyone is careful about the information they share. Always double-check that plants and recipes are safe with a trusted before using them on yourselves or others.

Also, be aware of the human tendency to compare ourselves to others. There are some absolutely stunning herbal Instagram accounts, but know that aesthetics aren’t the most important thing about herbalism. Your garden doesn’t have to be a perfect, weed-free spiral, your teas and tinctures don’t need to be in the cutest mugs and containers, and you don’t have to have a space in your home solely dedicated to your herbal practice. It’s fine to be inspired, but it’s also important to remember that none of these things make you an herbalist.

Support other herbalists.

It would be great if we all had the time and energy to grow and craft all the herbal remedies we needed. Unfortunately, for most people, that’s not possible. Whether you can’t produce that ingredient you want because of your zone or don’t have time to make your own tincture, it’s okay to purchase herbal remedies. Just make sure you do so responsibly.

Support small, local herbalists. Look for people who care about their communities and the land. You may even find local farms that grow some herbs you’re looking for at a farmer’s market. Avoid big corporations that are looking to capitalize on your desire for wellness. 

We encourage you to get started with herbalism. While it cannot replace modern medicine, it can be an important part of your wellness routine. It’s also a great way to connect with the land and is a lot easier than you might think. Did we miss any of your favorite resources? Let us know on Facebook or Instagram!

Create a Kitchen Herb Garden

Kitchen herb gardens pack a lot of flavor and value into a small space. Growing herbs is a great way to make your meals more flavorful and save money. Herbs can be planted right into vegetable gardens and make great companion plants. However, you’re more likely to include fresh herbs in your meals if you can step out your door and clip a few while dinner is on the stove. 

Planning Your Kitchen Herb Garden

Herbs are good candidates for various planting styles, allowing you plenty of flexibility for designing a garden that works for you. As I mentioned above, selecting an easily accessible site for your herb garden is my biggest recommendation. Being able to grab a few quickly will encourage you to use them more.

Permaculture enthusiasts may be familiar with planning your property in zones to maximize efficiency. In this layout, zone 1 is the closest to your home and typically includes herb gardens.

You should also consider sunlight when choosing a location for your kitchen herb garden. While a few herbs will tolerate some shade, most herbs thrive in full sun. If you have a partially shaded spot, you’d like to try herbs in consider parsley, mint, or lemon balm.

Here are a few ways to incorporate a kitchen herb garden into your landscape.

Herb Spiral

Using soil and stones, bricks, or another similar material, you build a spiral-shaped bed with the center being the highest. These spiral beds are both beautiful and efficient. The key idea is that the design allows water to flow down from the top of the spiral. Herbs that love it hot and dry like rosemary, lavender, and thyme can thrive at the top, while herbs that need more moisture, such as lemon balm, cilantro, and parsley, are planted near the bottom.

The rocks or bricks of the soil also help retain heat. It also creates little micro-climates, with some spots being more sheltered or shaded than others. 

Knot Gardens

Knot gardens are formal herb gardens that were first established in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Herbs like rosemary, lavender, marjoram, thyme, and lemon balm are planted in intricate patterns to create beautiful designs. You can use whatever herbs you choose; remember that some like lavender will retain their shape more readily than those like mint, which will tend to spread. Try to create your own design or gather inspiration from the internet.

Raised Beds

Raised beds are often good for herbs because they tend to heat up quickly in the spring and drain well. Additionally, they can be set up on any soil type and are typically easier to keep weed-free. If you’re considering building raised beds, we’ve discussed the pros and cons in more detail in a previous post. 

Container Gardens

If you don’t have a lot of space, you can grow herbs in various containers. Even some window boxes will afford you a small herb garden. Herbs generally do pretty well in pots as long as they have proper drainage and receive full sun. Various pots or containers can be used, including ceramic, terracotta, or even upcycled plastic containers.

Soil

Most culinary and medicinal herbs will do best in well-drained, rich soil. Broad forking your garden and adding a couple of inches of finished compost each year can significantly improve your soil health and herb garden yields. 

You should also consider having your soil tested. Most herbs will thrive in neutral to slightly acidic soil. Amending your soil so that the pH is between 6.0 and 7.5 is ideal. 

If you’re growing in containers, it’s generally best to use a potting mix. These mixes are designed to hold moisture and avoid compaction in container conditions. Without any additions, ordinary garden soil doesn’t provide optimal conditions for plant growth in containers.

Selecting Varieties for Your Kitchen Herb Garden

There are many herbs to choose from, whether you want to make soothing herbal teas or make your favorite dishes a little more fresh and flavorful. If you’re struggling to make decisions, the best advice is to start with herbs you already use or know you will use and add a couple more experimental varieties each year. Here are just of few of the many culinary and medicinal herbs you may want to include in your kitchen herb garden.

Culinary Herbs

  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Chives
  • Sage
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Rosemary
  • Dill
  • Lemon Balm
  • Borage

Medicinal Herbs

Note that many of the previously mentioned culinary herbs also have medicinal uses and vice versa.

  • Astragalus
  • Feverfew
  • St. Johnswort
  • Chamomile
  • Echinacea
  • Calendula
  • Catnip
  • Horehound
  • Valerian

Starting Herbs from Seed

Like flowers and vegetable crops, the requirements for starting herbs from seed vary from species to species. Some herbs like borage require light while germinating and should be pressed lightly into the soil. In contrast, others like echinacea have to go through a cold stratification to germinate properly. Be sure to carefully read each variety’s requirements for best results starting herbs from seed.

If you have other friends or neighbors that garden, you can also barter for starts of perennial herbs. Some like lemon balm and chives are easy to divide and transplant, saving you the work of starting them from seed. 

5 Ways to Use and Preserve Herbs this Summer

Summer is the season of abundance. It’s easy to get busy weeding, harvesting, and putting up vegetables but it’s also the time to think about herbs. Summer is the time to use and preserve herbs for the rest of the year. Here are a few ways to put up an herbal harvest.

**We’re gardeners, not doctors. Please consult a physician about using herbal remedies especially if you’re nursing, pregnant, or on any medications.**

Herbal Teas

One of the easiest ways to preserve herbs is to dry them for tea. For best results check out our guide to harvesting & preserving herbs which you can find here. Here are just a few of the easy to grow herbs you can use for tea and their properties. For more ideas check out our medicinal herbs section.

Herb Part of plant Traditional Uses/Properties
Lemon Balm Leaves  Sedative, calmative, carminative, anti-viral
Echinacea Leaves, flowers, roots Immuno-stimulant, anti-viral, bacteriostatic
Calendula Flowers  Anti-inflammatory, soothes sore throats, soothes skin irritations when applied topically or added to a bath
Valerian Roots  Tranquilizer, calmative
Lavender Flowers Carminative, antidepressant, calming tonic for the nervous system
Roselle  Calyx Lowering blood pressure, anitmicrobial, diuretic, high in vitamin C
Skullcap Leaves, stems, flowers Nervine tonic, sedative, anti-spasmodic, used to revivify, calm, and nourish the nervous system
Chamomile Flowers Soothing, carminative, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-spasmodic, anti-microbial, can be used internally or for skin irritations
Mint Leaves Calming, spasmolytic, carminative, expectorant properties, used externally for skin irritations

Tinctures

Preparation

Many herbs can be easily processed into effective tinctures. Add clean chopped herbs (roots, leaves, stems, berries, and even bark depending on the plant) to a glass jar. Depending on the species, part of the plant, and whether it’s fresh you should fill the jar anywhere from 1/3 to 3/4 of the way full.

Cover with high-proof alcohol. Any will do but many people prefer vodka so the flavor of the herbs comes through. The jar should be fairly full of herbs but they should move freely when you shake it. Remember that dried material will expand once you add the alcohol.

Set the jar somewhere dark, cool, and dry for 6-8 weeks. Every few days give the jar a shake and check for evaporation. You may need to top off your jar to keep your herbs covered and prevent mold growth. After you can strain and bottle your tincture. It will last a long time as long as you keep it in a cool, dry, place. It’s a good idea to use a brown glass bottle to keep sunlight out.

This article from Mountain Rose Herbs is a great source for making tinctures.

Using Your Tincture

Many people take tinctures plain using an eyedropper. However, they can also be added to teas, seltzer water, or cocktails. When using tinctures it’s important to note that they’re more concentrated than an herbal tea.

Popsicles

Some herbal teas also make excellent popsicles. Try mixing lavender, lemon balm, mint, or roselle tea with honey or maple syrup and small pieces of fresh fruit to freeze for a refreshing treat.

You can use paper cups and popsicle sticks or find reusable molds at your grocery store or online. Some places carry stainless steel molds for those looking to avoid plastic.

 

 

 

 

Vinegars

Making herbal vinegars is a lot like making tinctures. They can be used medicinally and are excellent for homemade dressings and marinades. Garlic, chives, thyme, ginger, sage, hot peppers, turmeric, and nasturtiums are all excellent choices but you can use a variety of herbs, plants, and fruit to create your own unique flavor. You can also use a variety of kinds of vinegar like apple cider, champagne, rice, or red wine vinegar.

In a glass jar, mix about 1 cup of herbs to every 2 cups of vinegar. Don’t use a metal lid as the vinegar may corrode it. Leave in a cool, dry, dark place for up to a month for strong flavors, shaking it every few days. When the mixture has reached its desired flavor you can strain and bottle it.

Incense

Culturally incense is sometimes used for ceremonies or cleansing spaces and the mind. Even if incense isn’t part of your culture it can be a great way to make your home smell nice. Making your own incense can also allow you to enjoy the fragrances of your garden right through the winter!

This article by Rosalee de la Forêt at Learning Herbs has a wonderful tutorial to walk you through the process. You’ll need fragrant dried powdered herbs (like rosemary, lavender, or sage), a botanical gum (to glue the herbs together), and water.

Summer is a busy time for everyone but if you want to make the most of the herbs you grew it’s time to put up the harvest. Try one of these 5 awesome ways to use your herbs and let us know how it goes on Facebook. We’d love to see how your projects turn out!