#4) Are You Planning an Medicinal Herb Garden?

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by: Yaakov Levine, NTP

The information provided in this article is intended to give a general overview of the topic and is not intended as medical advice. For information specific to your situation, or health concerns, please consult with your medical doctor.  

Nutritionally Speaking: Article #4, Are You Planning an Medicinal Herb Garden?

Have you planned for this season a medicinal herb garden along with your favorite heirloom tomatoes and squash? It is always fun and tasty to snip some culinary herbs as a mentioned in a favorite song of mine: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Growing medicinal herbs is also rewarding, and with some reading you can make your own herbal concoctions  such as  infusions, salves, and elixirs. Studies show that  those relaxing minutes spent tending to the garden support our health and longevity.

A local naturopathic doctor, herbalist, farmer and educator has written an herbal medicine guide for both novices and experienced herbal medicine makers. Her book, (in it’s second printing) Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth by Dr. Sharol Tilgner is available at many area libraries, book stores and from amazon.com.

Included in this book is the most up-to-date detailed information on 190 valuable herbs including dosage, specific indications, general uses, active constituents, and contraindications. As noted herbalist Paul Bergner states in the forward, “ Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth is broad enough in scope that it contains within it material enough for three books”.

There is an introduction to the actions and uses of medicinal herbs, a concise materia medica containing descriptions of each herb. Next we find a complete section of herbal formulas organized by body systems. There is also a step-by-step guide to making your own herbal preparations. This book also includes an appendix, which includes useful harvesting and preparation charts.

For the beginner this text starts off with a description of the properties and actions in our bodies of the individual herbs. For example, along with a list of Anti-inflammatory herbs is a description of the various ways these herbs can help reduce inflammation. In the Dictionary of Herbal Preparations Dr. Tilgner describes various types of preparations including information that will help the reader determine which preparation is best for a particular situation.

The Materia Medica is a detailed description of each herb, including the parts used, taste/smell, whether it is cooling or warming, and a description of the herbs constituents. Also a farmer, the author includes information for those interested in growing these herbs. She includes the various uses of the herbs and ends the section for each herb with contraindication and any applicable herb/drug interaction data.

There truly is enough information for at least three books here, and the section about Herbal formulas could certainly stand alone as a useful guide for practitioners and lay people alike.  As a nutritionist I appreciate that Dr. Tilgner has started this section with formulas that support the digestive system. I have often stress that we look at our digestion first as we strive to be our healthiest.

In her illustrated section on making herbal preparations you will find detailed instructions to make any of the formulas found on the preceding pages. The easy to follow instructions will assist the experienced herbal medicine maker and beginners alike. The useful Herb Chart for harvesting and preparation of liquid extracts tells us when to harvest, which part of the plant to use, and whether to use fresh or dried herbs.

As a physician, herbalist, and farmer Dr. Tilgner has presented us with a comprehensive, easy to use guide to medicinal herbs that will be an important addition to any library. Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth is an important guide as we learn how to take care of our families and ourselves. Enjoy the planning process of your own garden – then reap the rewards a few months from now! Plant starts are now available at area many Farmers’ Markets and garden supply stores.

You do not have to limit your herb garden to one time harvests, many plants are perennials, they return each year or may need multiple years of growth if you want to harvest some of the roots for use. We recently planted three trees on our property, a hawthorn, gingko, and linden. These all produce flowers, leaves and or berries that support cardiovascular health. My family history has heart disease as a factor, so I will make medicine from the bounty of these trees. There is a many treasures available for us in the plants and herbs described in Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth  and most love our climate.

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

–Sophia Loren

For addition information about herbal medicine or this text, contact me at nutritionallyspeaking@gmail.com (541) 895-2427 or send me a tweet @yaakovntp.

Yaakov Levine, NTP