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Medicinal Herb Gardens Series

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We use herbs to flavor our food, every day. But what can herbs provide beyond flavor? We can learn a lot from the medicinal herb gardens of the past.

Medicinal Herb Gardens Series | 31Daily.com

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We consume herbs every day. Whether we know it or not.

Many of us can detect hints of herbal flavor in a recipe. We know immediately what we like, and what we don’t.

We can cook with herbs and know which dishes are best suited to particular herbs.

However, many of us know only what herbs can add to our culinary endeavors. We are largely unaware of how valuable herbs can be as natural methods to soothe ailments.

Short History of Medicinal Herb Use

Medicinal herbs and medicinal herb gardens have been cultivated for thousands of years. Their benefits documented throughout history. The oldest known list of medicinal herbs is Shen Nung’s Pen Ts’ao or Shennong Ben Cao Jing (c. 3000 B.C.), a Chinese herbal that is probably a compilation of an even older oral tradition.

The ancient Greeks and Romans were also known herbalists. The art continued throughout the Middle Ages, preserved in the monasteries of Britain and Europe, which served as early medical schools.

U.S. National Library of Medicine

The U.S. National Library of Medicine says, “Healing with medicinal plants is as old as mankind itself. The connection between man and his search for drugs in nature dates from the far past, of which there is ample evidence from various sources: written documents, preserved monuments, and even original plant medicines.”

And continue, “Contemporary science has acknowledged their active action, and it has included in modern pharmacotherapy a range of drugs of plant origin, known by ancient civilizations and used throughout the millennia. The knowledge of the development of ideas related to the usage of medicinal plants as well as the evolution of awareness has increased the ability of pharmacists and physicians to respond to the challenges that have emerged with the spreading of professional services in the facilitation of man’s life.”

Discovering Medicinal Herbs at a 19th Century Garden

Medicinal Herbs Garden Series | 31Daily.com

While traveling on spring break, we visited the historic Champoeg State Park in Oregon. A beautiful horticulturally accurate 1860s kitchen garden. Featuring a wide range of medicinal herbs.


I picked up a hand-drawn map of the still mostly dormant garden and was thrilled at the variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and yes … herbs available and readily used by 19th-century gardeners.

Herb Garden Design:

Medieval herb gardens:  The earliest formal garden to survive the Middle Ages, found on the St. Gall plan, dates to the ninth century. This master plan for an ideal Benedictine monastery includes a large, rectangular kitchen garden with 18 beds of vegetables and a smaller square garden with 16 beds of medicinal herbs. Both gardens are walled and are laid out in two parallel rows of rectangular raised beds, each bed devoted to a single species.

Medieval garden at Castelnaud la Chappelle
Dutch East India Company Garden Plan
Medieval Herb Garden at Lewes Priory Trust

Renaissance Knot Gardens: During the Renaissance, garden makers went beyond the basic forms of the medieval garden, organizing the squares and rectangles into more complex patterns. The knot, with its decorative interlacing bands of clipped herbs, became a feature of the pleasure garden. A geometric design within a square, rectangle, or circle was drawn on the ground, and each figure in the pattern was planted out with a single herb, closely clipped to maintain the design.

Herb Knot Garden at the University of Michigan

Herb Garden Plans

Herbal Remedy Gardens (Storey Books, 1999), by Master Gardener Dorie Byers (Amazon affiliate link). With more than 30 examples of garden plans and tips on caring for 25 medicinal herbs, this book belongs in any gardener’s library. The following is a simple corner medicinal herb garden plan with herbs specific to treating and preventing colds and flu.

Medicinal Herb Garden Series:

Below is a list of posts we’ve compiled on common herbs found in historic medicinal gardens. Each post contains information on the herb’s medicinal uses, growing tips, and more.

Medicinal Herb Gardens Series | 31Daily.com

Medicinal Herb Gardens Series

We use herbs to flavor our food, every day. But what can herbs provide beyond flavor? We can learn a ...

Medicinal Herbs: Yarrow

Yarrow antispasmodics, astringents, colds, fevers, digestive Yarrow is a plant that, well, almost resembles a weed because you will see ...
Medicinal Herb: Spearmint | 31Daily.com

Medicinal Herbs: Spearmint

Spearmint: primarily digestive, used to treat nausea and other stomach ailments History: As most of our medicinal herbs have, spearmint ...
Medicinal Herb: Marjoram | 31Daily.com

Medicinal Herbs: Marjoram

Marjoram: cold symptoms, cough, digestive ailments, lack of appetite, gas, and menopausal symptoms. Marjoram is one of my favored culinary ...

Medicinal Herbs: Peppermint

Peppermint: stomach ailments, IBS, nausea, indigestion, colds. Peppermint is one of those herbs that seem, well, very un-herb-like. We, or ...

Medicinal Herbs: Golden Oregano

Golden Oregano: antiseptic, stomach and respiratory ailments, anti-fungal, antibacterial, cancer. Oregano is one of those herbs that most everyone knows ...

Medicinal Herbs: Valerian Root

Valerian Root: sleep disorder, anxiety, headaches, depression, IBS. Valerian Root is one of the herbs I was least familiar with ...
Medicinal Herb Sage | 31Daily.com

Medicinal Herb Series: Sage

Garden Sage is an exceptional herb often associated with Thanksgiving and pale green leaves. It's distinctive aroma reminiscent of savory ...

Medicinal Herb Gardens | 31Daily.com


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