Medicinal Plants in the Garden

What are medicinal plants? When you think about medicine, what comes to mind first? Probably not plants. But there are a host of plants in the garden which are not only used by the pharmaceutical industry, but are also useful directly by homeowners. Warning: Medicinal plants are both useful and dangerous. This post is meant to inform about the potential use for garden plants, we are not responsible for what you do in your own garden or home.

Plants have long been used in a variety of ways over time. They have been used for food, clothing, building, and medicine. And they are still being used for all those things today. In recent years, plants as medicine has been making a comeback, especially among homesteading families and gardeners. With the deception of those wielding the power, it has become more and more important to have a stock of medicinal herbs and other plants in the home.

But what are those plants? And how do you decide which to grow? In 2023 my wife and I did our first wild plant collecting for medicinal use. Some of the things we gathered have been great a variety of ailments, from colds to fevers, and even for sores and cuts. I plan to continue more growing and collecting in the future.

Foraging For Medicinal Plants

One of the easiest ways to get your hands on some of the plants used for medicine is to forage them. Foraging is the art of seeking out plants, fungi, and other materials for use in the home or garden. My kids and I forage each year for blackberries, mulberries, and raspberries. There are a lot of these along the lakes of Northeast Kansas.

However, when you are foraging, think about your location. I live in the middle of a large farming community, so I have to be careful to forage areas away from chemically treated crop ground. But for me, that is fairly easy, I just go to the lake edges, and stay away from road ditches. In my own backyard and woods, no chemicals have been applied, so that is a good place too.

There are many different kinds of wild plants, both native and nonnative which have medicinal values. Native tribes of every continent have learned the value of plants over time. Many of their remedies are seen as quack medicine by the medical industry, but many others are actually applied by them. From the evidence I have seen, I would be more likely to trust the Natives than the doctors. But that is just me.

Weedy Medicinal Plants

Every region has different plants that can be used as medicine. Since I have not yet traveled extensively to other places, I cannot say what wild plants are in those regions. But I live and travel a lot within the Central Great Plains Region, and I know some of the medicinal plants found here. I will not go over all of them, but some of the more useful ones. Many medicinal plants have multiple uses.

  • Dandelion – used for heartburn, urinary problems, and soothing lungs. Also, the whole plant is edible. The leaves and roots can be boiled and eaten. Dandelion flowers can be eaten in salads along with fresh leaves. And the flowers can also be made into jelly, tea, or wine.
  • Broad-leaved Plantain – is used for bowel troubles, bee and wasps stings, as a laxative, and for urinary troubles. I personally have used plantain leaves for bee stings and it works.
  • Daisy Fleabane – is can be used for headaches, increasing urinary output, bronchitis, fevers, and colds. It is also a good pollinator plant for small bees.
  • Self-heal – is used for purging parasites, stomach cramping, liver trouble, and as a fever reducer.
  • Common Boneset – was used for treating broken bones, as a fever reducer, for purging parasites, as a laxative and a tonic, and for treating colds. It is also a great fall blooming pollinator plant.
  • Blue Vervain – is used for treating stomachaches, cloudy urine, and colds. It is also a good late summer pollinator plant.
  • Blackberry- is used for diarrhea, upset stomach, and as a diuretic. And, the berries are good fresh or in wine, pies, and jam/jelly.
weedy medicinal plants

Medicinal Plants In the Garden

You may be surprised to learn that most of the plants in your garden have medicinal qualities. However, a few of them also have poisonous attributes and need to be approached with caution. But there are a lot of landscape or garden flowers/trees/grasses which have multiple qualities making them desirable. There are medicinal plants all over the place. The following list includes plants which I would recommend growing for all their reasons, not just the medicinal ones.

Purple Coneflower

Used for centuries by all manner of Native Americans, and then pioneers, the coneflowers (purple, black-Samson, and pale purple) have multiple garden and medicinal properties. For medicine, coneflowers were used to treat snakebites, headaches, nausea, vomiting, toothache, stomach cramps, and enlarged glands. It has also been used to treat colds, fever, flu, upper respiratory infections, inflammation, and bronchitis.

In the garden it attracts a wide range of pollinators and is a host plant for checkerspot butterflies, the wavy lined emerald moth, and various flower moths. There are many cultivars available and can be planted in a range of garden types.

purple coneflowers are medicinal plants


Oregano is not only a culinary plant, but medicinal as well. It has been used to treat bronchitis, asthma, coughing, diarrhea, indigestion, stomachache, and menstrual disorders. The essential oil of oregano has been reported to be the most curing oil for sickness, headaches, flu, and colds. It is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. In the kitchen, oregano is used to flavor a variety of Italian and pasta dishes, as well as meats.

In the garden, both the culinary and ornamental oreganos are attractive to many pollinators and can be used for bed borders and edging.

oregano is one of the best medicinal plants


Who does not love the new colors of the Proven Winners yarrows? Anyways, yarrow has long been considered a medicinal plant, being used for earache, nosebleeds, toothache, fevers, colds, and as a tonic. It is also used for digestion issues, cramps, and bleeding. And the leaves and flowers can also be used in salads or to replace a vegetable in a spicy dish.

In the garden, yarrow is a good massing perennial which attracts many pollinators and has a long bloom period. It is a tidy plant, flowering in full sun. You can plant yarrow in a variety of garden styles.


Butterfly Milkweed

Not only can you find this medicinal plant in many gardens, it is also widely spread across eastern North America in prairies and glades. For medicine, it has long been used for stomach problems, gas, bloating, bladder troubles, lung troubles, and fevers. Also, it can relieve or cure rashes, snow blindness, and sore throats.

In the garden butterfly milkweed is a host plant for the Monarch butterfly, and several moths. It attracts a large range of pollinators including many large butterflies, bees, and wasps. It is a fairly tidy plant and can be planted in many garden styles.

butterfly milkweed


One of the best plants for bumblebees, there are now many different cultivars to go with the 5 species native to the Central Great Plains. Medicinally, beebalm has been used to treat headaches, stomachaches, gas, nausea, vomiting, bronchitis, coughs, fevers, and lung problems.

In the garden beebalm is a pollinator plant for bumblebees, honeybees, other bees, wasps, and butterflies. It is deer and rabbit resistant as well. The newer cultivars and colors make it an addition to almost any full-sun garden style.

beebalms are medicinal plants


Surprise! This large shade tree has many valuable benefits. Cottonwoods produce sticky flower buds which can be made into balm of Gilead. This is in turn used to treat inflammation, eczema, sunburn, rashes, whooping cough, kidney troubles, colds, bronchitis, rheumatism, and scurvy.

In the garden, besides being a shade tree, cottonwoods are host plants for over 300 species of lepidoptera, as well as many other insects. The cotton from the seeds is used in various places for stuffing pillows and mattresses. And the wood of cottonwoods is used for making pallets or burned for ash for various purposes. Also, the inner bark is a great fire starter.


Other Medicinal Plants in the Garden

The above plants are just some of the more valuable medicinal plants in the garden. There are A LOT more. But if you want to get more into medicinal plants and growing them, I recommend the following resources:

  • The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies by Claude Davis
  • The Natural History of Medicinal Plants by Judith Sumner
  • Medicinal Plants of the Prairie by Kelly Kindscher
  • The Holistic Herbalism Podcast
  • Home is Where Our Heart Is

Common Plants

  • Culver’s Root
  • Elderberry
  • Black Walnut
  • Basil
  • Chokecherry
  • Rosinweed
  • Calendula
  • Queen Anne’s Lace
  • St. Johnswort
  • Agastache
  • Mountain Mint
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile


There are a variety of medicinal plants which can be found in your garden, if only you look. If you are looking to add more to your homesteading stock or just to the garden to help combat colds and other maladies, there are many resources available. I know that if you are wanting more information, it is out there. And I hope that you all will keep growing your garden knowledge.

Happy planting!

author of medicinal plants in the garden

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