10 Plants to Improve Your Health & Well-being

Plants are fantastic healers. I have been amazed again and again by the power of medicine made in the kitchen with my two hands. Tinctures, teas, infused oils, salves poultices and flower essences are medicinal preparations that are powerful healers and can easily be prepared at home with no special tools or gadgets. If you can make dinner you can make medicine.

Learning to work with plants to treat everyday ailments and improve your health and wellbeing is easier than you think. It begins with the plants around you and trust in nature's innate wisdom and the healing capacity of your body. They are intertwined in every way. Let your curiosity guide you.

Here is a list of the 10 easiest plants to work with to get your growing season off to a fabulous start. Some are considered weeds and others are easy to grow in your home garden.
1. Calendula

(Calendula officinalis) is a lovely annual often referred to as pot marigold (not related to the marigold we all know). It grows in full-sun to light-shade and well-drained soil, where it self-sows and produces year-after-year once established. The sticky resins you feel on your hands when you harvest the blossoms are an important part of the medicine. Calendula is essential to any healing garden.
Primary uses:
>> One of the best all-around, skin-healing plants
>> Lymphatic (increases lymph circulation)
>> Boosts the immune system
>> Great for baby, body, and facial care products

Tea, Tincture, Infused Oil, Salve, Poultice
2. Elderberry

(Sambucus canadensis) is another powerful plant with modern research to back up its centuries of folk use. Elder is considered a safe and effective remedy for children, too. It is an easy-to-grow, hearty shrub that prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Lovely fragrant June blossoms give way to prized dark, purple berries in August. Positive ID is a must

Primary uses:
>> Immune booster specifically to support the body in fighting off the cold and flu viruses
>> Has an overall tonic effect on the body and is particularly helpful for both the respiratory and digestive tracts

Tea, Tincture, Infused Oil, Salve, Syrup
3. Lemon Balm

(Melissa officinalis) is a delightful perennial plant for zones 4 -10 that is easy-to-grow and a pleasure to work with. It is generally safe for children, as well as adults. Regular harvesting keeps the plant from taking over the garden. It prefers full-sun to light-shade with average to dry fertile soil.

Primary uses:
>> Calms nervous tension and uplifts the spirit
>> Fever reducer
>> Mild sedative effect that promotes sleep + relaxation
>> Antiviral
>> Topical for cold sores
>> The fresh leaves make the best hot or cold tea.

Tea, tincture, infused oil, salve
4. Yarrow

(Achillea millefolium) also referred to as ‘wound wart’ and ‘carpenters weed’ is famous for its amazing ability to staunch bleeding. It grows in Zones 2-9 and is happy in most soils while preferring full to part sun. Yarrow is a wildflower that has made its way into garden stores with a variety of colors. The white yarrow is traditionally used medicinally and is often hard to find in local nurseries. A must for your herbal first aid kit!

Primary uses:
>> Blood Stauncher
>> Bruise Remedy
>> Fever Reducer
>> Hemorrhoids
>> Antiviral

Tea, Tincture, Infused Oil, Salve, Poultice
5. Chamomile

(Chamomilla matricaria) is a versatile easy-to-grow annual, which is well-known to many as chamomile tea. It is not fussy about soil conditions but prefers full sun but tolerates some shade. I have had luck starting the tiny seeds indoors, but they can also be placed directly in the garden. This plant will also self-sow if left to seed in the fall.

Primary uses:
>> Stomach aid both for upset and nervous stomachs
>> Nourishing and relaxing to the nervous system
>> Promotes sleep
>> Anti-inflammatory and natural antihistamine
>> Generally safe for babies and young children

Tea, Tincture, Infused Oil, Salve, Poultice
6. Dandelion 

(Taraxacum officinale). A well-known beauty that does not get the respect it deserves. This common weed actually has centuries of use as a medicinal plant all the way from the ancient Greeks to current day. It is one of the first greens to pop up in the spring, is abundant, and makes powerful medicine – what's not to love!

Primary uses:
>> Key ingredient in many bitter recipes
>> Spring greens for their gentle tonifying and detoxifying effects
>> Root is used to treat liver problems and enhance blood
>> Diuretic
>> Nutritionally full of vitamins and minerals

Tea, Tincture, Infused Oil, Salve, Food
7. Red Clover

(Trifolium pretense) is a short-lived perennial member of the pea family that attracts pollinators and improves your soil in addition to its health benefits. It grows in most soils and can be sowed easily from seed. It can also reseed itself. Fresh flowers are super-nutritious, tasty, and make a beautiful addition to salads or can be eaten right off the plant.

Primary uses:
>> Blood purifier and tonic
>> Lymphatic; swollen glands or cysts
>> Nutritious wild food

Tea, Tincture, Infused Oil, Food
8. Chickweed

(Stellaria media) grows as a weed in many gardens and yards all over the US. It prefers moist, shady locations, is cold tolerant and will die back in the heat of the summer to return again each fall. It easily self-sows. The trick is to harvest the top 3 inches of the plant for the tenderest greens. Chickweed has volunteered itself in every garden I have had. Positive ID is a must as it has a couple of look-a-likes and two different varieties.

Primary uses:
>> Truly delicious and highly nutritious edible
>> Skin healing and cooling for eczema, rashes, burns & rheumatic joints
>> Helps speed fat metabolism

Tea, Tincture, Infused Oil, Salve, Poultice, Food
9. Plantain

(Plantago major) It is an abundant perennial and is said to be one of the most common plants on earth. You can find it growing in the most inhospitable of places and it seems to follow people wherever they go. I do not see this plant in the deep forest. Kids (and some adults) love the ‘spit’ poultice made from these leaves. Plantain is the one of the best herbal drawing agents and if you do not yet know this plant highly recommend learning it!

Primary uses:
>> Effective herbal band-aid for cuts, stings & bites
>> Skin remedy for nettles stings and poison ivy
>> Excellent drawing agent for cysts, splinters, dirty wounds & infections

Tincture, Infused Oil, Salve, Poultice
10. Nettle 

(Urtica urens) is a super nutritious wild edible that also has a long history of use medicinally. It is packed full of vitamins and minerals and is a primo edible. Also called stinging nettle due to the tiny hairs that inject formic acid into the skin on contact. Cooking or drying the nettle will deactivate the sting. This perennial plant spreads by runners and seeds and if allowed to grow in your yard is kept in check by regular harvesting.

Primary uses:
>> Blood building spring & summer tonic
>> Blood deficiencies including anemia
>> Gout remedy
>> Allergy remedy
>> Intentional stinging of the body for relief of rheumatism, arthritis, and to increase circulation

Tea, Tincture, Food

If this list feels too long then choose one plant to get to know this summer. Learn how to identify it, where it likes to grow, what it tastes and smells, its medicinal uses and preparations. Watch it throughout the growing season. Sit next to it. Draw it. Meditate with it. Work with its medicine. Getting to know one plant deeply is often more useful than getting to know many plants broadly. Have fun with it. Let nature ignite your curiosity and heal your body.

For further study & research, books are available at Jewelweed.

Plant ID; Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs (Eastern addition if you are in Minnesota).
Medicine Making & Herbal Uses: Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This post is for educational purposes and not intend to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. For those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or on any medications, please consult with a qualified health professional before beginning any new herbal or plant products.