Coronavirus - Grow your own medicine


Beat back the Coronavirus in your own back yard.

As we all know there is no cure for the Coronavirus we just have to hope that our bodies can deal with it fight it off and return us to health, just like it does with a common cold. However we are not defenseless we can do everything in our power to help our bodies. Giving them the right tools to help fight off the virus and keep us healthy is the best thing we can do.

While everyone is aware of Vitamin C, as seen in the fact there is no orange juice in the supermarkets and many vitamin stores are sold out, along with Vitamin D these are a good start but there are many other things that you can do. There are many herbs that have very strong antiviral properties that can be taken to help our bodies in the fight against the virus. Fighting the virus is like any other job. If you need to dig a hole in the ground having a shovel or a spade is a great way to get the job done and done quickly. If you only have a spoon then its going to take a long while, and its more likely you will get exhausted before the job is done. The body is the same way. So we want to give it that spade so it can fight and get the job done. The more help we can give it the better chance we have.

Many of these herbs are available at present either dried or as tinctures. However as time progresses the stocks may fall, but you can help yourself by growing some of your own. Even if you only have a window box, small patio or any small space you can grow some herbs that will help to keep you healthy. Growing your own medicine is the best way to be prepared for the long haul. This way you have fresh herbal medicine and what you don't use can be dried for winter use, just in case this epidemic starts up again next year which we all pray it wont.

Below are listed the herbs we consider the most important and useful to help beat this nasty virus. Most we offer as seed for you to grow but not all. Herbs are listed alphabetically in groups of how easy they are to grow and harvest.

Herbs you can grow easily and produce quickly.

These plants grow fast, and can be harvested fairly soon, they are easy to grow from seed and give quick returns.

Asthma herb (Euphorbia hurtia).
Not as commonly known in western Medicine was used extensively in Europe and the far east as THE major asthma herb as it works very effectively on opening the respiratory pathways and helping clear breathing. The stems of the plants are the part most used. This plant is extremely easy to grow even though it's a tropical annual. Grows fast and can get a good harvest. Most commonly used as a tincture but can be used as a tea. Asthma herb should not be confused with Asthma weed (Lobelia inflata) which is listed below.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis).
Used to treat viral infections, flu and other ailments. Best taken as tea or tincture. Do not confuse this with the common decorative marigolds it's not the same plant. This one is also called pot marigold it has a lovely smell in the flowers and foliage and large bright orange daisy-like flowers. An annual that's fast to flower and will keep flowering all summer if flowers are picked. Very easy to grow.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria).
Surprise! It's not just for cats. It's traditionally used to treat colds and flu especially congestion as its a good respiratory formula, has some anti viral properties but helps to boost the immune system. Often taken as a tea where it is used to help reduce fevers. Very easy to grow from seed, very fast growing and takes well to being cut down and re-harvested several times in a season. Short lived perennial need to replace every few years but it will self seed.

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla).
Used a lot to treat flu and colds so should help with coronavirus too. Calming effect is anti viral antibacterial and a general tonic. The flowers are the part used. The tough part is harvesting the flowers, it's time consuming and a pain. There are two kinds of chamomile German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) which is an annual, grows fairly tall which makes harvesting the flowers less back breaking but only the flowers are useful. It grows fast and is quick to flower. There is also Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis or Chamaemelum nobile) which is a perennial. It's low growing has larger flowers than the German kind. However all the plant has the chamomile smell not just the flowers so the leaves can be used as well as the flowers. It's a perennial and much slower growing so it takes longer to get a good crop and harvesting really gets your back.
While chamomile is easy to grow its properties are very similar to yarrow, catnip and peppermint which are easier to grow and harvest so if you have limited space go for those and leave this one out.

Echinacea -Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).
Well known for its use in treating colds and flu. Echinacea is a interesting plant in that both the upper part (herb) is used as well as the root, so are the flowers. Research has shown that early coughs are best dealt with using the flowers just as they open. To keep up the immune system the leaves and flowers are used. Once you have an infection then roots are more useful to help the body combat. So its an all around plant.
Its very easy to grow from seed. Will produce leaves and flowers in the first year. Roots are dug at the end of summer or early fall after the flowers have gone. Leave some to grow larger for next year so they will produce many more flowers and leaves that are most useful to preventing you from getting infected. There are two major species of Echinacea used in medicine Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is the most easily grown and harvested. While some herbalists consider that narrow leafed Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) has superior roots it is much more difficult to cultivate and grow the roots to a good size. For that reason a large proportion of Echinacea on the market is E. purpurea and it's the easiest for you to grow quickly for your own medicine chest.

Horehound (Marrubium Vulgare).
It's wonderful for coughs and respiratory issues (one of the main ingredients in ricola cough drops). Excellent for reducing the thickness of secretions to break up congestion. Great remedy for coughing, wheezing and labored breathing.
Its very easy to grow and is a lovely plant with soft silvery foliage. Harvest when soft and pliable. If cut back can be re-harvested several times during the year. A perennial so harvest some in the first year but plants will increase in size and better harvest in later years. It's a short lived perennial so needs replacement every five years or so.

Holy Basil. (Ocimum sanctum/ Ocimum tenuiflorum).
Not really specific for symptoms of coronavirus but it's a wonderful adaptogen and general tonic. It helps to protect the heart from stress, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It helps to restore the body to normal function and keep it calm which is essential in anyone trying not to get sick or fighting off an infection. Holy basil is very easy to grow, it responds well to harvesting and will regrow several times during the year allowing an almost continuous harvest. Its an annual so it will need re-growing every year. Many Herbalists think that everyone should take some holy basil every day to help ensure good health.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis).
Antiviral used to help with colds and flu a lot. It is a traditional remedy and 'cure all' for respiratory conditions helping to clear thick and congested phlegm from the lungs and restore free breathing. It is easy to grow and harvest quickly. Short lived perennial lasts about 4 years before you need new ones.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis).
Great anti viral also very calming and relaxing. Often used as a tea for colds and flu. Very easy to grow from seed but can take several months before its large enough to harvest. It's a perennial and once established will produce masses of leaves that can be harvested on a continuous basis and will keep producing for years.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare).
Most commonly used as an oil disinfectant since it's a very strong antiviral and antibacterial. The herb is used to treat respiratory and digestive issues and is very good for coughs, bronchitis, asthma and chest congestion. Use as a tincture or tea. Do not ingest the essential oil directly its too concentrated and can be harmful. Add it to humidifiers, bath water or just a pot of hot water left to lightly simmer on the stove. The whole herb can also be used in this way. Add to water and allowed to simmer just slightly to release the oils. It will spread through the air and help to purify the whole living space. Oregano is very easy to grow from seed. It grows fast and can be harvested on a regular basis. It's a perennial so will keep producing year after year, plus it has pretty flowers and the bees love it. The most commonly used is the Italian oregano Greek oregano (Origanum heracleoticum) while potent is not as strong.

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita).
A very soothing herb that settles the stomach so is often used as part of a formula to ensure it does not upset the digestive system. It has a mild effect on colds flu and fevers but used in combination with other herbs can enhance the ability of those herbs. Very easy to grow and harvest quickly. Will spread so keep in a pot or isolated area or it will take over your garden. Perennial keeps producing for years, don't let it flower the compounds you need are stronger if kept in vegetative state.

Red clover flowers (Trifolium pratense).
Commonly used to help with respiratory issues, treat colds and flu and other viral infections. Works like a blood purifier to help with liver detoxification and clearing the lymph system. Is very calming. Only the flowers are used NOT the leaves which can be toxic in anything but minor amounts.
Grows fast and flowers quickly but harvesting the flowers can be time consuming. Will produce all summer if flowers are continuously removed. It's an annual so need to reseed every year.

Sage - Garden Sage. (Salvia officinalis).
Can be helpful in treating colds and fever especially with sweating. Best taken as a cool tea or tincture for night sweats and hot tea for inducing perspiration. Also useful for sore throats as a mouth gargle. DO NOT use garden sage for smudge sticks the oils given off can be toxic to the lungs if inhaled. Very easy to grow from seed and will produce a decent crop of leaves in the first year. Don't take too many or the plant will not regenerate. Sage is a perennial small shrub that is very hardy. Will flower in the second year and the flowers are also edible.

Spilanthes (Acmella oleracea).
Very easily to grow. Excellent anti viral, good disinfectant. It stimulates mucus membranes secretions and the immune system to help fight respiratory infections. It also acts as a local anesthetic to ease pain. Will cause numbing effect in the mouth so best taken as tincture. Flowers have the most concentrated anti viral compounds but chewing them can be intense. Tropical annual but grows well in most zones. Harvest flowers most of year and leaves before fall.

St Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum).
While its commonly known today for its use as an antidepressant St Johns wort has a lot of other uses. It's a strong antiviral and is often used in combination with other herbs for flu, shingles and mononucleosis.
Easy plant to grow and it's fast to produce lots of leaves, but it may not flower until the second year. In many cases just using the leaves is enough but if you take too many then it won't flower in the first year. Perennial will flower more profusely in the second year but a good crop of leaves can be obtained in the first year. Some herbalists prefer to use only the flowering plant but leaves are still effective. . May need mulching in cold areas to keep it alive over the winter.

Sweet Annie (Artemisia annua).
An amazing anti viral that is only now becoming established in mainstream herbalism so it's not as commonly quoted in the literature. Was first realized by modern medicine as a powerful herb in treating malaria (for which the researcher won the Nobel prize). Now it's understood that it also has strong antiviral and antibacterial properties and is now used with other herbs in many formulas for fighting coughs, colds, flu and other infections. Extremely easy to grow this annual gets very large fast and will produce masses of leaves which are very aromatic. Can be used as a tea but tincture is most common. Harvest just as flowers are forming. Caution. This plant produces masses of pollen and can be very irritating to those with allergies and asthma, even those who don't have this may develop them if enveloped in clouds of pollen - and it does produce clouds - so if harvesting late wear a mask!

Thyme. (Thymus vulgaris).
A very good anti viral plant. Its very aromatic and easy to grow. A packet of thyme seeds will give you enough plants to harvest for most of the season. Grows fairly quickly and can be harvested rapidly. Perennial will keep producing for years especially if harvested regularly so it does not get too woody.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).
Yarrow is used to cool high fevers and help the body fight off infection and warm tea or tincture is most commonly used to help break a fever. It has antiviral properties and is most commonly used in formulas to help the respiratory system. Its not a herb that should be taken long term due to its ability to stem blood flow and coagulate blood. Some sources say that the flowers are the most effective part but others consider the whole herb is just as useful. Flower sources prefer the white flowering native variety over the colored cultivars.
Yarrow is a very tough plant grows almost anywhere Grows fast and quick to harvest. It will flower in the first year but only small flowers. A Perennial and once established by the second year will produce masses of flowers and keep growing for many years.

Easy to grow but take longer to harvest.

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Used as an antiviral anti inflammatory and respiratory herb which has traditionally been used for colds and flu. Its easy to grow but takes a year before it produces much in the way of material to harvest. Does well on dry poor soils so will grow in a forgotten part of your yard. A tall perennial that comes back every year. There are two kinds regular boneset and late flowering boneset. Some herbalists say they can be used interchangeably others state that only the regular boneset is a good herb. I cant find any consensus on this one.

Burdock root (Arctium lappa).
Great for colds, flu and viral infections as its main function is helping to clear the blood of harmful toxins helping to support the liver and the gall bladder. It also makes a delightful vegetable although the taste is different from other tubers its extremely nutritious. Burdock is very easy to grow but it can get pretty big, the leaves can get very large so it needs quite a bit of room. Its also susceptible to vole damage if you have them they can eat the roots out completely. Roots are harvested in the fall of the first year. The plant is biannual and flowers in the second year. The flower stalks - not the flowers- as well as the leaf stalks are edible as a vegetable and some people really like them.

Echinacea root
If growing for the above ground herb it's pretty easy but if you want the roots then it takes all year to grow it to harvestable size. The nice thing about Echinacea is that you can harvest other bits of the plant as long as you leave enough plant to form the roots for the fall harvest. See Echinacea above

Elecampane (Inula Helenium).
Really good plant for respiratory issues especially clearing phlegm and mucus from the lungs. It also helps to build up the system and help it fight off infections and help clear the lungs. The only drawback is it's the roots you need so you have to grow the plant for a full year before you get any, they are harvested in the fall. It's a perennial so it will come back every year if you don't harvest it all. If you have several plants harvesting a small amount of each plant root allows the plant to survive so if you really need it next year you can harvest roots in the spring or early summer. In the first year they are not large enough until fall.

Great anti viral and antibacterial. Great go to for any cold or flu. For greatest benefits eat it raw. While its possible to plant and grow garlic now, especially if you live in a colder state, garlic really should be planted in the fall for summer harvesting. It might be worth a try, garlic is easy to grow and harvest. In addition you can harvest the scapes early and have the same great garlic taste and some of the benefits before the bulbs are ready.

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana).
Another easy to grow plant that is used in respiratory issues. Since it's the root you need it takes all summer for it to grow to harvestable size.

Lobelia -Indian tobacco or Asthma weed. (Lobelia inflata).
Amazing plant for respiratory issues as well as muscle aches and pains. It helps muscles to relax and dilates the bronchial passages which is why it's so good for the lungs. While lobelia is an annual it's a strange one. It tends to germinate in the cooler months of fall grow to a small rosette which overwinters then shoot up to a nice busy plant in the second year. Even if grown in spring it will usually sit out its first year as the rosette, some plants may bolt quickly to seed but they don't provide much in the way of material that is useful herbally. So while it's a really easy plant to grow and we would recommend it to every home it takes more effort and patience to get a crop.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus).
This is a great plant for viral colds, flu and respiratory problems. It has a soothing hydrating effect on the lungs and helps to loosen mucus. It is particularly good for treating dry cough. For these purposes the leaves of the plant are used. However it is a three in one plant as the leaves, flowers and root are all used herbally but for different issues. NOT the seeds however they can be poisonous so if harvesting yourself make sure you avoid these. Mullein is easy to grow and does best on dryer soils often poor ones. It's a biannual so you get a crown of leaves the first year, some of which can be harvested. Don't harvest them all however otherwise the much larger crown that grows in the early spring of the second year is wasted. This is where you get the main crop of leaves. It's also when it sends up the flower stalk. The root is harvested in the fall of the first year along with the leaves.

Self Heal (Prunella vulgaris).
A much neglected herb in today's herbal medicine Self heal or heal all was named that because it is so far reaching. It will work on almost anything helping to bring the body back into balance it's not known as an adaptogen but it most likely could be. A great addition to any medicine chest. If not sure what is wrong give this. Easy to grow but it's a perennial and spends its first year establishing itself so it does not produce much in the way of harvestable leaf until the second year. Then it bursts forth with masses of leaves and flowers in the late spring early summer. From then if treated right it will produce for many years.

Woad root (Isatis tinctoria).
Used as an anti viral although not the most popular one. Since it's the roots that are mostly used it takes a whole season to grow them for harvesting. Some herbalists also use the leaves so these can be harvested in small quantities in the first year. Woad is very easy to grow germinates very quickly and grows rapidly. Will flower in the late spring of the second year. Many sources state it is a biannual but our plants often last several years.

Easy to grow but much longer wait to harvest

Astragalus or Chinese Milk Vetch (Astragalus membranaceus)
A wonderful antiviral and adaptogen which means it helps bring the body into balance an useful necessity when anyone is sick. Helps to restore immune system function in those who have been weakened by chronic illness. Fairly easy to germinate and grow but takes a little effort since the seed coats are very hard and often need to be scarified (scratched) to get them to germinate. The plant forms a strong taproot so its not easy to transplant once it's bigger and since it's the root that is needed it takes several years before its large enough to harvest. Prefers little rain and fairly poor soil; overwatering can kill it.

Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus).
An antiviral used in many formulas especially Chinese ones. It's a little harder to germinate and grow but not much. The drawback is that it takes several years for the roots to reach a good harvestable size. Still it's a beautiful plant with lovely blue flowers - which are edible and full of great anti oxidants that can help keep you healthy while you wait for the roots.

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra).
By now most people have heard of elderberry some swear by it others think it's all hype. Many research papers have shown that is has a pretty good effect mostly because its bursting with anti oxidants. Elderberries are great to eat. Just make sure you only eat the ripe black ones unripe they contain cyanide and are poisonous!
Elderberries grow on bushes so of course it takes a while to get one. The good thing is that they grow very well from cuttings and they grow really fast. You won't get much in the way of berries in the first year but by the second if planted in a good spot you will get a reasonable crop. Protect your bushes because birds like elderberries a lot.
There are two major forms of Elderberry the European one Sambucus nigra and the American one Sambucus canadensis. Most herbalists and herbal formula makers consider that that European is far superior to the American and most formulas are made using this one so if you decide to buy some make sure you get this not the E. canadensis.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra and Glycyrrhiza lepidota).
Great anti viral and respiratory herb it can be used to ease dry coughs and sore throats when used in a tea or syrup. It is also used to balance the adrenal glands and hormones so should not be used in excess, for long periods of time or by pregnant women. It's fairly easy to germinate and grow, looks rather like a bushy pea plant. The downside it that it takes several years to get a root large enough to be worth harvesting. Also while it's a perennial the traditional licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is not that cold hardy and will need protection in zones 6b and colder. American licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota) is its Native American cousin and is a lot tougher and cold hardy. It has very similar properties to traditional licorice. The downside again is that it takes a while for the plants to get big enough to harvest the roots.

Pleurisy root or Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa interior).
This is used for respiratory complaints, mostly for calming the muscles around the lungs (the pleura) hence its name. Most effective for hot or dry conditions in the chest like a dry cough. It's not as easy to grow: the seeds need to be moist stratified before they will germinate, then it takes a couple of years at least to get a root of any harvestable size. Not a fast go to herb. But it's a really pretty plant. Its part of the milkweed family so it will help to save the monarchs and attracts butterflies like a magnet to the bright orange flowers..

Rose hips (Rosa Rugosa).
If you have rose bushes then collect the hips. They are bursting with vitamin C and other goodness. Just watch out for the hairs around the seeds and remove those first. For those wanting to grow hips the best plant is the Rugosa Rose because it has huge hips meaning you get a lot for your effort. Rugosa roses are tough cold hardy plants they will thrive along the shoreline in high salt conditions and grow in almost pure sand. The other great thing about them is they grow true from seed and will flower in the second year from seed, nice big fat hips. If you want roses for hips this is the one to go for.

Harder to grow

Andrographis or Kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata).
This is one of the major Ayurvedic herbs to combat viruses and has been show to be fairly effective against many pathogens. It's a native to India and is grown there extensively. It's an annual and can be grown in most parts of the US during the hot summer months.
The drawback is its finicky germination process. Many studies have been done - mostly in India where it is a crop plant - on the best and most effective way to stimulate the seeds to germinate. Most involve precise times in hot water.
Basically it's a difficult one to work with, even the experts have a hard time getting it to grow. We assume that most of our seeds won't come up and seed a lot to get a few. We have tried keeping the trays for a couple of years and had no luck then, when the spent seeding mix is used as mulch in the field suddenly you have the things springing up in ones and twos all over. In short it's finicky don't assume you will get a good crop but don't be discouraged if your seeds don't grow as you want it's not you it's them.

Herbs to forage or maybe even in your yard now

Dandelion root and leaf.
One of the most maligned plants that is really good for you. Its great for the digestive system and the leaves especially are used to aid kidney function which can be important in people suffering from viral infections to ensure the that kidneys continue to function correctly and help move fluids through the body. It also helps aid the liver which is working hard to detoxify all the unpleasant compounds that are produced as the body fights off an infection. Dandelion is often called a blood toner or purifier. Eat the leaves in salads or cook them like spinach they have a slightly more bitter taste but that is actually good for you too. So don't kill the dandelions collect them and eat them.

Honeysuckle flowers
If you live in the North Eastern United States you will most likely know that Japanese Honeysuckle is a invasive species. The darn stuff is everywhere, growing up trees along the ground anywhere it can. It's extremely pretty when it flowers and has an amazing perfume on it. Thus some people encourage it or at least enjoy it. It may be in other parts of the country too although I have seen it in some places nothing like as invasively as in the northeast.
BUT its also an extremely good anti viral and antibiotic plant. Mostly the flowers and from a Traditional Chinese medicine standpoint the flower buds. The open flowers do just as well so if you are out and about pick a few and eat them, they are really quite tasty. If you have the time harvest the blooms. The main problem is that it's very time consuming to do. You also need to wear long clothing and watch out for ticks. If you get enough they can be dried, made into tincture or eaten fresh. They are quite powerful.

A good decongestant it's very good at helping to remove sticky phlegm from the lungs. It does not matter if you have the wide leafed or the narrow leafed variety they are both good medicinally. So instead of spraying the 'nasty' weeds in your lawn pick the plantains they can be used as a tea or made into tincture.

Rose hips.
Almost any rose hip will do so if you have roses in your garden pick the bright red fruits. In the countryside we have another invasive species the multiflora rose. It covers huge swaths of hedgerows and trail sides during the spring with the beautiful white flowers. The darn stuff grows everywhere in the northeast and is much more prevalent in other areas too. While some herbalists consider that rose petals are useful the rose hips have more power. The problem is that the hips on this species are very small so it takes a long time to harvest even a reasonable weight of them, for many people it's just not worth it.
If you live on cooler areas and along the shore you may find Rugosa roses growing wild or planted as erosion control. I have seen these things flowering right up into Northern Canada near Hudson Bay. They are very rugged and produce some remarkably fine large hips. So if you are lucky enough to live near these then go out and harvest those. If not you might want to consider growing your own. This is one rose species that grows true from seed and will flower in the second year from seed.

Janice Hazeldine PhD is the owner and head grower of Floral Encounters an organic Medicinal Herb farm that is also a designated sanctuary for pollinators.