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Growing for the Medicine Cabinet: Aloe and Other Healing Plants

Before you head to the drugstore, take a walk in your garden and harvest these useful remedies for minor health problems. If you are not already growing them, find out your USDA zone and give them a try.

Medicine Garden

Aloe Vera

What’s special about it? It contains over 75 healing compounds, including glycoproteins. Aloe vera penetrates deeply into skin and enhances the absorption of vitamins C and E.

What does it do? Aloe vera can speed the healing process of minor burns and skin irritations.

How do I use it? Break off aloe leaf, slit open, and remove gel. Apply liberally to skin in affected area.

Any considerations to be aware of? Do not use on open wounds.

Can I grow it? Aloe vera can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 8 to 11. Outside of these zones, it should be grown outdoors in a pot in the summer and moved indoors for the cooler weather.


What’s special about it? Calendula petals contain high amount of flavonoids and is thought to have antioxidant compounds and anti-inflammatory properties.

What does it do? Can relieve inflammation of mouth and throat.

How do I use it? Pour 1 cup boiling water over 2 teaspoons of petals. Steep for 10 minutes and then strain. Drink as a tea or use to gargle or as a mouthwash.

Any considerations to be aware of? Some people exhibit an allergic reaction to calendula in high doses.

Can I grow it? Calendula is a warm-season annual in most areas. It is a short-lived perennial in zones 9 and up.

Lemon Balm

What’s special about it? The leaves of lemon balm contain eugenol, terpene and tannins. For more about lemon balm, read the Top 3 Healing Herbs.

What does it do? Thought to have a calming effect, helping to reduce stress and anxiety, and promotes sleep. Lemon balm may also ease indigestion and have antiviral effects.

How do I use it? Steep ¼ to 1 teaspoon of dried lemon balm or 5- 6 fresh leaves in hot water for 5 minutes. Strain and sweeten if desired and sip as a tea up to 4 times daily.

Any considerations to be aware of? Generally considered safe.

Can I grow it? Grown as a perennial in zones 4a to 9b.


What’s special about it? Contains thiamine and germanium, and is a potent antimicrobial.

What does it do? Can ease sinus congestion and help combat colds.

How do I use it? Eat 1-2 cloves daily. For relief of a sore throat, stir 6 freshly pressed garlic cloves in warm water, gargle twice daily for 3 days.

Any considerations to be aware of? Can interact with Warfarin.

Can I grow it? Garlic can be grown in most areas, but is planted at different times depending on your zone. Check local planting calendars for best times to plant in your area.


What’s special about it? The oily resin from the root, (called gingerols) has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Fresh and dried ginger root have proven therapeutic for digestion issues and headaches.

What does it do? Can be a remedy for easing nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach. Fresh ginger tea can help relieve cold and flu symptoms.

How do I use it? Peel fresh roots, chop in blender, and freeze in a plastic bag. Pull out as needed. For tea, steep ¼–½ tsp dried ginger or 1 tsp fresh ginger root in 1 cup hot water for 10 minutes. Strain and sweeten, if desired. Drink 1–2 cups per day.

Any considerations to be aware of? Safe in small amounts; heartburn and stomach upset can occur with high doses. Pregnant women should not take more than 1,500 mg per day of dried ginger.

Can I grow it? USDA zones 7 or higher can grow ginger root in the ground. In zone 6 or below, plant ginger in a pot and bring it indoors for the winter.

Note: This article only provides general guidance about the helpful properties of these plants, and does not constitute medical advice. If you have a serious health condition, consult a physician.

About the Author:

Angela Judd

Angela Judd is an avid vegetable, flower and fruit tree gardener. A mother of five children, she enjoys growing and preparing food from the garden for her family. She is a certified Master Gardener. She shares inspiration and tips to help home gardeners successfully grow their own garden on Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.



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