Growing Your Own Pharmacy

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Herb gardens can be planted in all sorts of styles and arrangements. Most common are the kitchen herb garden, for culinary purposes. I plant a wide variety of herbs, but not just to season sauces. That’s really just a fringe benefit. My herbs are grown primarily for medicinal uses.

This will be our third year here at the farm to include herbs in our list of garden fare. Like each year, this year’s garden will be broadened based on last years successes and pitfalls.

Here is a (nearly final) list of what we’ll be planting this year:


Basil (multiple varieties)









Dandelion (I don’t cultivate this, I harvest it as it grows naturally in the yard)




Goldenseal (Harvested responsibly from the countryside)



Lemon Balm (aka Bee Balm)



Mint (a couple varieties)

Mugwort (I’m going to try again!)



Plantain (I harvest where it grows wild-everywhere!)





Sheep Sorrel

Spilanthes (Native American toothache plant)














Many of these I’ve grown before, most with good luck, some not so much. A few of these I have never grown before, but every year is an experiment. I’m looking forward to it!


Lavender Chest Rub


This morning I was up with the chickens and decided to start some work on my herbal medicine cabinet. I came across a few recipes to make my own chest rub at home, and decided to come up with my own. From what I’ve read, the basics are petroleum jelly, camphor essential oil, and eucalyptus essential oil. I decided since this was the first time making it, I would try to keep it as simple as possible. But I hate the smell of chest rub, so I wanted to add in some smell-good. I love lavender, and had some on hand, so that is what I used.

chest rub ingredients

I started by heating a pan of water on med-low and brought it to a simmer. I sat a pyrex measuring cup into the pot and put in a half cup of petroleum jelly. Once that was heated and liquified, I took a tea ball and filled it with 2 tablespoons of dried lavender, then dropped that into the petroleum jelly. I let them sit together, simmering, for a half hour.


(The same thing, even better, could have been accomplished by putting the lavender directly into the jelly and then running it through some muslin or cheesecloth. I happened to have neither on hand this morning so I improvised.)

When the thirty minutes was up, I let the mixture cool down ever so slightly, and then added 12 drops of the eucalyptus essential oil, and 8 drops of the camphor.

Lavender Chest Rub

And there you have it folks. Super fast, super easy chest rub. Use like the store bought stuff, rub it on your chest and back. The lavender didn’t make the smell go away, but it did add a nice scent to help mask the stronger smells. Enjoy!


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Well I had a glorious post typed up and then it disappeared. Chalk it up to operator error!

Maybe this one will be even better.

Plantain grows everywhere. You probably have it in your yard, growing abundantly, lurking under the nickname “weed”.  I have a couple varieties growing on my property.

Medicinally speaking, there are lots of ways plantain *can* be used. I only have experience with it in the skin soothing category, so that’s what I’m going to cover with this post. It works wonders for alleviating pain from a sting.

The easiest and fastest way to use plantain is to chew it up and apply it to the sting (or cut, or scrape, or rash). Doesn’t sound too appealing but once you try it you won’t ever think twice about doing it again. Here is what plantain looks like:

So now you know what it can do and what it looks like. If you’re like me, you may be interested in preserving this herb in a useful way so that you always have access to it.

Please do not use leaves unless you can verify they have not had any pesticides or herbicides used on them. You cannot clean that stuff off, and I’d hate to see anyone put forth the effort attempting to make something of superior quality, but using inferior ingredients.

It is super easy. Harvest (pick) your plantain leaves, and dry them out. Choose what method works best for you. A food dehydrator works perfectly fine for this, or you can just lay them out for a day or two until they’re totally dried out.

At this stage, you can jar them and put them away for later use.

dehydrated plantain leaves

Or, you can make a plantain infusion, which is a $10 term for soaking an herb in oil, getting the goody out, and then filtering it. After your leaves are dried, pack them tightly in a jar, then cover completely with a high quality carrier oil, such as olive. Let the jar sit out of sunlight and extreme temperatures for 4-6 weeks (no longer or it could go rancid). Then strain through a few layers of cheesecloth, saving the oil and discarding the plant matter. This infusion can be dabbed directly onto a sting or whatever you want to use it on.

plantain soaking in olive oil

Do you want to take it a step further? I do! You can then use this infused oil to create a skin soothing and healing salve. Melt beeswax, then combine with plantain infused oil as well as calendula infused oil and vitamin e oil. The result will be a salve you can count on to relieve and heal any sting, scrape, or rash! This is shelf stable, so it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but it won’t last forever. The vitamin E will help to act as a preservative.

calendula-plantain skin healing salve