Medicinal plants grown in your own gardens can reduce your dependence on drugs, if not completely eliminate them. But growing random herbs with medicinal properties doesn’t help.

It is a common myth that all herbal preparations are safe by virtue of being natural. This is far from true. A typical example is foxglove or Digitalis purpurea. It has a positive effect on heart function, with the cardiac drug digitalin extracted from the plant. However, ingesting any part of the plant can induce nausea and vomiting, and can even lead to total collapse from digitalis intoxication and death.

Accessibility is another issue, as in the case of rosy periwinkle Catharanthus roseus/Vinca rosea from which anticancer drugs vinblastine and vincristine are obtained. You don’t benefit from growing this plant unless you are an experienced herbalist who can put it to good use. Otherwise, it will just remain a display specimen in your garden. You need to grow plants whose goodness you can access through simple preparations such as teas and infusions, poultices and powders.

Some medicinal plants are to be used for treating specific ailments, while others have a generalized positive effect on our health when used regularly. Many herbs belonging to the latter group have found their way into our culinary scene as flavoring agents. Your medicinal garden should ideally have such plants that have practical uses for the common man besides being easy to grow.

Here’s a practical guide to a few of the accessible herbs that have stood the test of time:

1. Aloe vera

Aloe vera is well known as a skin-friendly plant. It is one medicinal plant people really make use of, since it is generally safe and requires no processing before use. It is a must-have in every garden whether you grow it in pots or in the ground.

Aloe vera plants grow well in a sunny location in warmer areas where there is not much danger of killer frosts. Being a succulent, this drought resistant plant requires very little care and thrives in poor soil. It suckers freely, so you can start with just one or two plants sourced from a reliable supplier. There are several aloes around; not all of them are edible or have the medicinal properties attributed to Aloe vera.

The jelly-like, colorless pulp of mature leaves can be applied to minor cuts and burns and to dry, inflamed, or damaged skin due to eczema or other skin conditions. It is an excellent moisturizer with anti-inflammatory and mild antimicrobial effect. The leaf pulp can be eaten too. Regular use can prevent constipation and relieve other digestive problems, including ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.

2. Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)

This natural hybrid of spearmint and watermint is widely use in dental hygiene products, mouth fresheners, soothing balms and candies. Quite possibly the oldest medicinal herb to be used by man, there’s evidence that peppermint has been used for thousands of years. Grow it in a part of the garden where the plants are assured of water and give it plenty of room to spread.

Sip a tea made of a handful of peppermint leaves to calm stomach upsets and relieve pain and discomfort due to gas. Carry a few sprigs of peppermint when you travel.  Sniffing on it every now and then will prevent nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness.

The active ingredient menthol found in abundance in peppermint, as well as in many other aromatic members of the mint family, has a cooling effect on the skin. Make a poultice of the leaves and apply it on the skin to relieve itching and burning resulting from skin allergies and inflammatory conditions. It has mild analgesic action, and relieves headaches and muscle cramps.

3. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

This perennial herb with tiny, aromatic leaves is a great addition to any medicinal herb collection. Thyme is easy to grow in a sunny location and thrives between rocks and boulders, braving summer heat and winter freezes. The characteristic scent of thyme comes from the volatile oil containing thymol, which gets released at the slightest touch. Many herbs contain this powerful antiseptic phenolic compound, but thyme oil has more than 50% thymol content.

Use an infusion of thyme as a gargle to get rid of bad breath and mouth sores. It can help with tonsillitis and laryngitis. Crushed fresh thyme applied on the neck is said to reduce throat infections. Inhaling the vapors reduces nervous exhaustion.

The most important use of thyme is to treat respiratory tract infections. Thyme extract is taken orally to relieve bronchitis, chest congestion, asthma, and whooping cough. A teaspoonful of thyme extract mixed with equal amount of honey can be given in divided doses to young children.

Read more: http://www.naturallivingideas.com/medicinal-herb-garden/