Medicinal Herb Gardens

19th Century Inspired Herb Garden at Champoeg State Park, St. Paul, Oregon


We consume herbs every day. Many of us are intimately aware of an herbs particular nuance, its flavor — which we like best, and which we like least.

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.

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.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine says this of herbalism:

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. Awareness of medicinal plants usage is a result of the many years of struggles against illnesses due to which man learned to pursue drugs in barks, seeds, fruit bodies, and other parts of the plants. 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.U.S. National Library of Medicine

I’ve always been fascinated with herbs. I can’t say why, exactly. Somehow they seem a bit mysterious; intriguing for their healing properties, that knowledge, historically, available only to a select few. Often their scents are alluring, the texture diverse, and their flowers, delicate and beautiful.

And they make the most fantastic knot gardens.

While traveling on spring break, we visited the historic Champoeg State Park in Oregon. While we’ve visited countless times over the years, I’ve yet to accomplish a visit while their living historians are working in the horticulturally accurate 1860’s Kitchen Garden, which will happen Saturday’s throughout July and August.


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.


Below is a list of common herbs found in historic medicinal gardens in the 19th century with a link to a detail page containing information of its particular properties. Herbs that were once prolific in 19th-century medicinal gardens are becoming at risk of extinction. To learn about which herbs are at risk and which are being watched, view “Planting the Future: Saving Our Medicinal Herbs,” a free e-book available at Google Books.

Medicinal Herbs Grown in 1860s Kitchen Gardens

Valerian Root
Golden Oregano


Written by 

Stephanie Wilson is an author, blogger, publisher, and former television news writer and producer. She lives in the Puget Sound area with her family.

2 thoughts on “Medicinal Herb Gardens

  1. Anonymous

    Interesting article!

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