Herbs That Grow In My Garden

Leilah's Garden in April

When I moved to Rim Country, Arizona, I had to re-learn all my gardening skills. Gardening in the high desert is very different than gardening in Canada, where I lived for for 18 years, or Switzerland, where I was born and grew up. Desert gardening is a humbling experience. Besides the extreme weather patterns, you will find that nature here pokes, stings, or bites you. Also, I did not know desert plants and how they could be used for medicinal purposes.  So, in 2002 I started my herb garden in Rim Country, letting nature guide me, as well as friends and family. Michael Moore's books were also very helpful, as these were the only books available on desert plants.

Here is the list of herbs growing in my garden:

Aloe Vera (take indoors in winter)
Fresh leaves can be split and the gel applied to minor burns, cuts, sunburns, scratches, skin irritations, insect bites and wrinkles. Aloe Vera juice can be used internally for ulcers.

Known to affect the urinary, female reproductive, digestive and respiratory systems. This anti-inflammatory herb is used to relax spasms, increase perspiration and to lower fevers. It is also known for its expectorant effect for coughs. But, angelica is best known for its candied stems.

Anti-inflammatory and fever reducer. The bark has aspirin-like properties, but does not irritate the stomach.

Basil (take indoors in winter)
This herb has been used for the mind and nervous system. It lifts the spirit, dispelling depression, bringing clarity of thought. Basil reduces mental fog associated with drug use, menopause and chronic stress. Anti-viral, carminative and galactagogue.

Batchelor’s Button
The American Indians used it for snakebites, insect bites and to treat insect stings. It can also be used for sensitive skin, and as eyewash, in distilled water, to relieve inflammation and irritation.

A nervine, anti-spasmodic and anodyne, betony is indicated for sore muscles, spasm or trauma. It relaxes the skeletal muscles; decreases muscular pain and relaxes muscle spasm. It can also be used in formulas for stress headaches, anxiety, torticollis and for fibromyalgia.

Blue Vervein
This herb can be added to sleep-inducing nightcap teas.

The root is medically employed as a heart stimulant, acting both as a cardiac tonic and as a diuretic. It can also be used for fevers, migraine headaches, bronchitis, asthma, colds and urinary complaints. Butterbur can be added to mucus reducing cough remedies.

Calea (take indoors in winter)
Use medicinally for stomach problems. It can also be smoked to enhance good sleep.

The flower of the sun (petals close when there is no sun); promotes tissue repair. For inflammatory gastric problem, including ulcers, diverticulitis, gall bladder inflammation, and as an antiseptic in skin healing formulas for burns, bruises, sprains, inflammatory eruption such as measles and chickenpox. It is also a strong anti-fungal, internal and external, for thrush, candida albicans, yeast infections, and athlete’s foot.

This is a mild sedative, useful for cramps and upset stomach; a children’s tonic. Stimulates appetite and digestion and is also known as “Nature’s Alka-Seltzer”. Several drops of the tincture on the back of tongue decreases the desire for cigarettes. Causes euphoria in cats. Externally, catnip essential oil has been effective as a mosquito repellent.

Celery leaf
Wild celery is rarely used for culinary purposes except for the seed.  Used for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and inflammation of the urinary tract. Mix with dandelion leaf to increase its potency.

Chamomile, Roman
A gastrointestinal tonic, has a gentle relaxing influence, and makes an excellent hair rinse.

Chinese Lantern
The fruits or berries are used as a diuretic, against bladder problems and gout. They are also lightly laxative and can be used to appease rheumatic pain. Contains a high amount of vitamin C. Clears fevers and resolves phlegm. The roots and leaves can be used as a bitter tonic.

Chives are used to stimulate appetite and to promote digestion, especially when poor appetite is due to a cold. Like onions, garlic, and leeks, chives contain health-promoting compounds that are believed to help prevent cancer and treat high blood pressure.

Cilantro leaves increase heavy metal excretion, especially mercury. The seed of cilantro is coriander and is used in cooking to prevent and relieve gas and nausea.  Aids in protein digestion and absorption.

Clary Sage
This beautiful plant is known for its mucilaginous seeds to clear and reduce inflammation of the eyes. Traditionally, it has been used for its antispasmodic, astringent and carminative properties. Fresh and dried leaves can be used as flavoring agents in herbal teas and other beverages, as well as in sachets and potpourris. Birds LOVE the seeds!

Good externally and internally to promote the healing of sores, bones, muscles and other tissues; root is high in mucilaginous properties. Contains allantoin.

Dandelion leaf and root
A nutritive herbal diuretic that increases elimination of urine without depleting potassium. Reduces uric acid. It is appropriate for long-term use for edema (cardiac, circulatory, PMS, pulmonary) and hypertension and has shown an ability to reduce weight. 7,000 units of vitamin A /ounce.  Balances electrolytes. Its botanical name “Taraxacum” means disorder and remedy in Greek. Aids with cirrhosis of the liver. Dandelion root is an excellent bitter tonic that stimulates hydrochloric acid, bile, liver, pancreatic and small intestine enzymes. It is indicated for chronic constipation due to poor digestion. Dandelion root stimulates the growth of healthy bowel flora. Excellent liver cleanser; lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.  Clears obstructions, balances enzymes.  Re-balances electrolytes.  Liver tonic.  

Desert Willow
Flowers are a good general tonic, for coughing, chest and lung tiredness. Leaves and bark are antiseptic, anti-fungal, re-balancing intestinal flora.

Has strong immune stimulating properties; useful in colds, flu, sore throat, infections, skin eruptions, allergies, viral disease and immune deficiencies. Blocks receptor site of the virus on the surface of the cell membrane preventing infection. Blood cleanser. Cleanses morbid matter from the stomach.

A hot tea has diaphoretic, (sweat-inducing) properties, useful for colds, flu, fever. A cool tea affects the urinary tract with its diuretic properties. It generally detoxifies matter that has been in the body for a long time and has hardened. Soothes inflammation, heals burns and cuts. Cleanses the skin, clears complexion of freckles and eases sunburn. Has a positive effect on many kinds of skin problems, such as irritated skin, roseacea, eczema and boils. Elderberry syrup and wine is the most popular cold remedy in Europe, and it is delicious.  For anemia, it is an excellent blood tonic. Elder berries and flowers have similar properties. Additionally, the berries are useful for rheumatism. For people with a sensitive and weak stomach it is too strong to use by itself. Always mix with other herbs. It increases digestive activity and secretion, materials are moved along at a better rate. Digestion is improved; congestion and stagnation are removed, decongestion of the liver is enhanced, which moves the stool.

Evening Primrose
Evening primrose blooms at night into the early morning. The whole plant has been used in the treatment of whopping cough, asthma, and for digestive problems. Compresses made from the leaves can be applied to rheumatic areas. In Mexico, people use evening primrose to make poultices to treat burns, bruises, sore throat, and chest congestion. And an infusion of the flowers are taken to treat kidney problems and menstrual cramps. To exfoliate my skin I use the seeds (seeds are high in Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids) mixed with my cleansing lotion for both face and body, especially the feet.

Aids digestion, gas and appetite; used with laxatives to prevent cramping. Increases peristalsis. Dispels worms. Excellent after radiation and chemotherapy. Absorbs the toxins.

Used for pain, migraine, headaches, chills, fevers, colds and inflammation from arthritis.

This gentle and safe herb relieves cramping with gas, a specific for kidney stones and obstruction or inflammation/ulceration in the bladder. Soothing and toning to the urinary tract, rebuilding and regenerating the kidneys.

This resinous herb has a toning effect on the lungs and the kidneys. Its stimulating action makes it useful as an antispasmodic expectorant and diuretic, good for asthma, coughs and pneumonia. Grindelia acts to relax smooth muscles and heart muscles. This helps to explain its use in the treatment of asthmatic and bronchial conditions, especially with associated symptoms such as rapid heartbeat and nervousness. Because of the relaxing effect on the heart and pulse rate, there may be a reduction in blood pressure. Externally, use the fresh plant as a poultice for dermatitis caused by poison ivy and poison oak, to reduce itching, and dry up lesions.

Cardiovascular tonic, bringing micronutrients to the heart, arteries and capillaries. Restorative to the cardiovascular system, strengthens blood vessels, for degeneration cardiovascular weakness. Mitral valve prolapse, cholesterol, hypo - and hypertension, fatty degeneration. Acts on connective tissues, supportive in chiropractic treatments, when there is an inability to hold spinal adjustments. Hernias, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, prolapsed organs, collagen deficiency.  Hawthorn berries for the heart, Hawthorn leaf and flower for blood circulation.   

Freshly pressed leaves and their juice are used externally to soothe skin conditions, including burns, wounds, ulcers, insect bites, sore nipples, inflammations, hemorrhoids, eczema, fungal infections, as well as itchy and burning parts of the skin. Infusions are used internally to treat inflammations of the mucous membranes and has long been used to treat dysentery, diarrhea, worm infestations, and for heavy menstrual bleeding. Gargles of the juice may be used to treat throat inflammations, including tonsillitis and stomatitis (inflammations of the oral cavity.  Traditionally, the leaves were chewed to relieve toothache and the juice sniffed to stop nosebleeds.    

Cough, hoarseness, lung problems. Horehound candies and syrup are soothing and especially good for children. Dilates blood vessels.

This herb has many uses. It is an anti-viral, especially effective for inhibiting herpes and influenza viruses. This fragrant herb is a carminative, emmenagogue and diaphoretic. Hyssop can be used for intestinal viruses, colds, flu, nausea, flatulence and delayed menses. It has also been used for sleeplessness and nervousness.

This sweet tasting fruit is nutritive, an anti-hepatotoxin, a Chi tonic and a nervine. Used for weakness, irritability, and to stabilize the nervous system.

Juniper berry is a strong diuretic and urinary antiseptic useful in bladder and kidney conditions, especially when chronic. The berry of Juniper stimulates hydrochloric acid production in the stomach, especially when the digestive system is stressed out. Juniper berry increases the elimination of metabolic waste (uric acid), gout) and promotes the vital force within. According to Native American traditions the smoke of the juniper leaves helps to clear away feelings of fear, failure and stagnation. Fresh or dried leaves are tossed onto the hot rocks in the purifying sweat lodge ceremony. Medicine men brush away the disease with a burning/smoking juniper twig on patients recovering from illness. Use the smoke of juniper and pray for its assistance in overcoming worry and defeatism.

Juniper (Cedar Berry)
One-seeded juniper berries are used for urinary tract infections, cystitis, saunas, incense, increases HCL and for diabetes.

Lady’s Mantle
Known as a woman’s herb. A good reproductive system balancer for young girls (menarche). Tonifies the uterus, especially after childbirth. Monks collect dew from lady’s mantle to make holy water, which cleanses all illnesses. Useful for women who have a hard time accepting pregnancy and the “mantle” of motherhood.

Lemon Verbena
Known for its antiseptic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, digestive, emollient, insecticide and stomachic properties. It is famous for banishing depression due to its tonic, soothing effect on the parasympathetic nervous system. Regulates the digestive system, especially for easing stomach spasms and cramps, and for nausea, indigestion and flatulence. Stimulates the appetite. A cooling action on the liver mitigates inflammation and infection, as in cirrhosis, and could be beneficial in cases of alcoholism. Helpful for bronchitis, asthmatic coughs, as well as nasal and sinus congestion. Calms heart palpitations; may deal with nervous insomnia. Its reputation as an aphrodisiac probably stems from its ability to calm underlying tension. Reduces puffy eyes.

Lemon Balm
Melissa is a Greek word and means “Bee”. Lemon balm strenghens the nervous sytem, the heart and the stomach area. It loosens harden mucous in the digestive tract and soothes the mucus membranes. As a nervine, it eases digestive tract spasms and is also helpful for nervous tension, depression, migraine, anxiety, as well as heart palpitation and insomnia.  The tea brings comfort to women after giving birth, strengthens the emotional heart to prevent postpartum blues. A good tasting remedy appropriate for children’s colds, stomachaches and headaches. Lemon balm can also be used on the skin, as a wash or spritzer to eliminate all sorts of skin conditions.

Traditionally used as a flavoring in fine liquors. Promotes digestion, congested liver, stimulates appetite for those who have lost interest in food, relieves water retention, and improves circulation. The French consider lovage to have powerful antitoxic actions against poisons and as an anti-psoriasis ingredient. Anti-parasite, vermifuge, especially against tapeworm.

Cleanses the urinary tract of bacteria which may having been laying dormant in the body (re-occurring kidney and bladder infections). Acidifies urine. The fruits are very much like tiny apples in texture and are sweet. You can make jam with the berries.

Useful for treating coughs and asthma. Strengthens the stomach and intestines, good for high blood pressure. Marjoram or sweet marjoram is better to use in cooking than oregano.

Anti-microbial, astringent, demulcent, nutritive, eyewash, fuel, chewing gum, dye.

Milkweed or Pleurisy (Asclepias tuberose)
Good for dry coughs and congestion as it will remoisten the lungs making expectoration easier. Use with Vitamin C to see the best result. Pleurisy is helpful when there is a tight chest and where breathing is difficult and painful, due to intercostals muscle congestion. It is successful for pleurisy, pneumonia, pericarditis, and bronchitis. Expels mucus, slows rapid pulse and reduces respiratory pain.

Mormon Tea
Bronchial dilator, decongestant, coffee replacement, stimulant.

Nervine, for heart palpitations, when feeling overwhelmed by too many activities. A female tonic (improves blood flow to the female organs); sedative for hysterical complaints, tachycardia, nervous pulse. Culpepper says, “…it is calming to the trembling heart…dispelling of melancholic vapors from the heart.”

Mullein Flower
Mullein flower has been used for treating sinus infections, earaches and otitis media as well as sore muscles.

Mullein Leaf
The leaves of mullein are used as a demulcent and expectorant useful when the lungs and bowels are irritated. Whooping cough. Good for bleeding lungs, asthma and pleurisy.

Mullein Root
Used for various colon conditions, such as colitis, polyps, etc., it also increases digestion and assimilation. Mullein root balances the amino acids in the body and in doing such, increases neural-peptide activity, which in turn tells the body to work more efficiently. Mullein root balances the inner active processes of the gastro-intestinal system. In the lining of the intestinal tract there is an acid balance that is very intricate, very vital to the assimilation of nutrients etc., which Mullein root harmonizes and balances.

Neutralizes uric acid. Shrinks inflamed tissues. Brings back natural hair color. Increases thyroid function. High in Vitamin K. Guards against excess bleeding. Good nutritive and high mineral content; provides iron for the production of red blood cells. Nettles are also high in calcium and magnesium.  High in natural antihistamine and good for allergies.

Has astringent properties and good for shrinking hemorrhoids, to stop bleeding, and to treat diarrhea and dysentery. Can also be used as a gargle. Acorns can be ground into a powder. High in carbohydrates, fat and protein. Apaches use acorns to make a delicious dumpling soup.

Onions are highly valued herbs possessing culinary and medicinal properties. Onion may be beneficial for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, especially since they diminish the risk of blood clots. Onion also protects against stomach and other cancers, as well as protecting against certain infections. Onion can improve lung function, especially in asthmatics. Make onion pack for sore throats and coughs.

The name oregano has caused confusion over the years because you don’t come across simply one oregano or even just a few, but rather a whole genus of herbs, all which have been called oregano because of their culinary use. Marjoram looks very much like oregano, and it’s in the same genus. Oregano, Origanum vulgare, grows wild in the mountains of Greece. Derived from Greek oros, meaning mountain, and ganos, meaning joy, “Joy if the mountain”. Herbalists have made infusion of the leaves for indigestion, coughs, headaches, and to promote menstruation. Oregano has been describes as a tonic and stimulant. Chew oregano leaves if you are visiting someone in a sickroom or hospital, as a preventative.

Not just a common nutritious culinary herb, parsley is also known for its medicinal qualities. It can be used for edema, bedwetting, frequent urination, gas, infant colic (via breast milk) and bilious colic.

A sedative, antispasmodic and nerve sedative useful for mild depression, insomnia, nervous headache, neuralgia, teething in children, muscular/nerve pain, facial tics, pain and stiffness in the neck, pelvic and spasmodic pain. It is specific for people who cannot go to sleep because of mental chatter or worry.

Stimulates vascular and cerebral circulation and lowers blood pressure. Has also been effective for migraines, for impaired memory and cognitive function. It is especially effective with ginkgo. Stimulates pancreas and may be used for diabetes.

Pine tips and pine needles are useful for the respiratory system. The resin of pine can be applied to wounds for its antiseptic properties. Drink as a tea for its vitamin C content.

Being high in chlorophyll and allantoin, it is an excellent wound healer, for abrasions, rashes and insect bites. Internally, it is healing to GI tract inflammations from stomach and duodenal ulcers, gastritis, to dysentery and ulcerative colitis. Plantain is also useful for healing mucous membranes of bladder and vagina, and for dental pain. 

Rich in minerals as well as astringent properties. Raspberry is a tonic to smooth muscle tissue, especially for the uterus and large intestine. It is a pregnancy tonic useful to reduce morning sickness, miscarriage and post partum bleeding.

For gastro-duodenal anxiety, insomnia, gastritis, ulcers. In external use: Inflammations osteoarticulares, muscular mialgias, and neuralgias.
Caution: The oleoresin is neurotoxic, hepatoxic and nefrotoxic, therefore , oral administration is not recommended.

Rose petals are for love! Rosehips are high in vitamin C.

Strengthens memory, stimulates capillary circulation bringing more blood to the cells. A carminative, nervine, and cholagogue traditionally used in Europe for gas, nausea, liver headaches, arteriosclerosis, biliousness, depression and mental fatigue. Rosemary is also a powerful antioxidant. Heart strengthening, stimulates blood circulation, tones the blood vessels, invigorating, and increases awareness.  For low blood pressure, the convalescent and fatigued person. When there is a lack of dynamism. A good mouthwash and hair rinse.

Russian Sage
Great to use as incense. Not for culinary use.

Desert Sage
Anti-microbial, astringent, disinfectant, sore throats, sweat baths, smudging.
Tribes known to use Desert Sage: Cahuilla, Comanche, Navajo.

For hot flashes, reduces perspiration, astringent. For mental exhaustion, strengthens concentration, improves memory. Externally, Sage can be used for skin eruptions, insect bites, stops bleeding wounds, and as a mouthwash. High in minerals. Helpful for weak digestion.

Savory has aromatic and carminative properties, and though chiefly used as a culinary herbs, it may be added to medicines for its aromatic and warming qualities.

Works on CNS. Rebuilds nerve endings in the brain. Indicated for nervous exhaustion, tremors, palsies, trigeminal neuralgia and the tremors of Parkinson’s disease. Helps with alcohol and drug withdrawal systems; use for problems related to the skull and head.

High in vitamin C, I make a cooling drink in the summer time with the berries.
Important: Get a sumac species that is not poisonous.

Sweet Woodruff
It is known for its agreeable odor when dried, due to Coumarin. Antispasmodic, calmative, regulates heart. In Germany, it is steeped into Rhine wine to make a delicious drink, known as Maibowle, drunk on the first day of May.

Thyme and Lemon Thyme
For culinary enjoyment and for coughs.

For culinary enjoyment.

One of the highest sources of calcium and magnesium. Strong nervous system sedative; for anxiety, irritability, depression, insomnia due to excessive worry; mild pain relief. Widely known as a sedative and carminative. Combined with nervines like skullcap, lemon balm or oats, it is useful for insomnia, anxiety, nervousness, nervous digestive system, and for headaches due to stress. Slows action of the heart while increasing its general force.

Valerian leaf and flower
Culpepper joins with many old writers to recommend to use both, the herb and root, and praises the herb for its longevity and many comforting virtues, reminding us that it is ‘under the influence of Mercury, and therefore has a warming faculty. Valerian leaf and flower taste delicious in salads. In the garden, valerian leaf and flowers can be added to the compost pile to attract friendly worms. To protect the garden from frost, work valerian leaves and flowers into the soil. In Germany, a compost tea is made with valerian flowers and sprayed on plants, to improve flowering time and plant growth.  During Mother Mary’s ascension, (August 15th) valerian leaves have been burned with other herbs for protection. Unlike the root, the flower has a beautiful fragrance.

Effective in the treatment of intestinal worms, and in cases of candida, ringworm, scabies, thrush, herpes, canker sores and boils. Anti-fungal. Aids in the healing of herpes. Used on patients with electrical shock. Delivers oxygen to the blood, killing parasites. Good for “bad blood” diseases, i.e. diphtheria and syphilis. Useful in valley fever. High in organic iodine. Walnut can raise prolapsed conditions, stop excessive sweating, stop bleeding and relieve diarrhea and other discharges of the intestines, reproductive organs and skin. Walnut is helpful for those with bone disorders, mineral deficiencies and anemia, especially with exhaustion and muscular or skeletal weakness. By altering the internal fluid environment of the connective tissues, walnut is also able to build and nourish the blood and fluids.

White Sage
The smoke of white sage is amazing in dispersing negative energy (after an argument, etc.). Smudging with white sage is used in Native American rituals for emotional healing and protection.

A diaphoretic for colds and flu, fevers, diarrhea. Good for chills and constant nasal drip. It is also a useful tonic for prolapsed uterus or rectum, colitis and diarrhea. Externally, useful as a topical anti-inflammatory and for sore muscles, scaly skin, and arthritis. Yarrow can stop bleeding relatively quickly.

Yerba Mansa
Very similar in its actions and results to goldenseal. Known to help with rheumatoid arthritis, inflamed hemorrhoids, cystitis, appendicitis, bleeding gums, and at the onset of allergies. I use it for any type of wound that does not want to heal.


I also grow foxglove, belladonna, California poppy, honeysuckle, purslane, slippery elm, tulsi, a variety of cacti, and much more.

Whenever I want to learn about an herb I like to grow it in my garden or windowsill. This way I learn directly from nature. Not all herbs like it in the Arizona high desert, so they sometimes disappear by the following year. Keep a journal about your own personal experiences in growing your herbs and applying herbs for health, beauty, and well-being. Happy Gardening!!!

To see Leilah's garden checkout these VLOGs:
Early Spring Garden (March)
Late April Garden

Written By Leilah

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