Medicinal Garden: Healing Power of Plants

In antiquity, plants were often grown with practical uses in mind, from dyes to fragrances to medicine.

Ancient civilizations stretching as far as Mesopotamia and Egypt have used plant-based therapies to treat the ailing. With the advent of modernization, these practices seem outdated, relegated to a past of shamans and monks.

However, within the plant lies incredible diversity and healing power, with many plants containing curative and restorative properties. 

What is a medicinal/apothecary garden?

Imagine yourself in an old-time apothecary, the smoky darkness fragrant with the scent of myrrh and sandalwood, the earthen ceiling provisioned with dried herbs and tinctures.

Growing a medicinal garden, also known as an apothecary garden, allows you to step into the past and experience the healing power of some of nature’s most potent remedies.

Traditionally, an apothecary garden was the provenance of monasteries, where medicinal plants thrived among gothic steeples in geometric formation. But now, with careful planning, you can replicate this age-old tradition within your own garden.  

Planning your medicinal garden

Yarrow is a wonderful flower with some medicinal traits | Vego Garden

You’ve probably heard of an herb garden – the less labor-intensive version of an apothecary garden that includes well-known herbs such as basil, parsley, and dill. By contrast, a medicinal garden will not only incorporate herbs, but other medicinal plants, many of which will have folkloric associations, including river birch, rose hips, and yarrow. 

If you want to emulate the geometric style of medieval gardens, then the easiest way is to grow your plants in modular (often rectangular) raised beds. Many gardeners choose to intersperse their herbs with florals in a layered approach to create a soft, impressionistic palette. Make use of native hedges and climbers on trellises that can be sculpted to form living walkways.

A popular design involves situating four L-shaped beds in circular formation around a focal point, such as a water fountain or statue. Another benefit of these raised planters is that they will contain more prolific spreaders so that they don’t encroach upon the rest of your garden. As with all plantings, you should take into account the climate and hardiness zone. 

Choose a site that:

  • Gets 6 – 8 hours of sunlight 
  • Ideally near a backdoor, where it is accessible 
  • Has good drainage properties (raised garden beds recommended) 

Benefits of a medicinal garden

The reasons for growing a medicinal garden are multifold. On the surface level, you have the captivating beauty found in the interwoven texture of herbs and medicinal plants.

Many of these herbs are aromatic and beneficent to beloved pollinators. But perhaps the most straightforward purpose of a medicinal garden lies in its bouquet of edibles, where gardeners can pick their favorite herbs to sprinkle into drinks as the sun goes down. And if you’re more ambitious, you can relearn the folk remedies of yore, which continue to hold surprising salience in the modern day. 

Popular types of medicinal herbs to plant

If you want your garden to be low maintenance, it is crucial that you select plants that are compatible with the soil, shade, and sun requirements of your region. Please note that this guide outlines the general and historic use of the plant and does note constitute medical advice.

Below is a list of popular medicinal herbs that have been used for centuries and their various properties. For a more comprehensive list, please refer here

Holy basil

Revered as the ‘elixir of life,’ holy basil has been used for millennia in Southeast Asian medicine. Research has shown that holy basil tea can help regulate cortisol levels and blood sugar, leading to lowered stress. Though it is often conflated with common basil, they are not one and the same. The leaves of holy basil are flatter, pointier, and it has a more minty flavor. 

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Chives are a great addition to a medicinal garden | Vego Garden

Chives are a species of flowering plants with verdant stems and whimsical globes of lavender blooms. Often added into dishes without much thought, chives contain a wealth of benefits. Its subtle garlic taste lends a piquant flavor to poultry, eggs, and potato dishes. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, is rich in Vitamin K, and can aid in blood detox. 


Associated with divinity in Ancient Greece, sage has long been used in spellwork for longevity, immortality, and wisdom. When the leaves are brewed into herbal tea, sage has been used to soothe sore throats, thwart cognitive decline, and relieve digestive discomfort. A natural cough suppressant, it can even be used to make throat lozenges


Like with other flowering medicinal plants, calendula is often grown for its flowers rather than its botanical uses. Yet, along with yarrow and echinacea, calendula is a useful herbal helper that deserves more attention than as a sacrificial crop. The brilliant flowers of calendula offer wonderful benefits for holistic healing, whether externally to treat minor wounds or internally to alleviate digestive disorders. These flowers are commonly used in tinctures, salves, and teas to treat a whole host of ailments. 

Lemon balm

Lemon balm is a great addition to a medicinal garden | Vego Garden

In folk remedies, it is said that a cup of lemon balm can be used to uplift one’s spirits, as well as prolong one’s life. Indeed, lemon balm is connected to the realm of the mind, and has been used to improve memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and treat insomnia. Furthermore, it can lengthen one’s life by protecting the liver from damage caused by fats and can impede the growth of liver cancer cells.

Anise hyssop 

Though it bears resemblance to lavender, hyssop is actually related to the mint family and emits a licorice odor. Traditional herbal remedies call for the use of hyssop in treating colds, respiratory illness, and chronic cough. Nowadays, it's more commonly used as an essential oil to support respiratory health. 

Grow herbs indoors 

If growing an apothecary garden sounds prohibitable, then there is a no-fuss solution that will appeal to even the laziest gardener. With this indoor self-watering herb planter, your herbs will thrive with or without you. Moisture-loving herbs like basil, parsley, and mint will benefit from the constant moisture delivered by wicking cells found in these self-watering planters. 

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