Saturday, March 28, 2015

Welcome Spring! Say Hello to Flowers and Medicinal Plants that You Can Grow and Use!

Today we welcome Chrystle Fiedler who's a gardener and an expert on herbs and flowers and their medicinal properties. She writes the Natural Remedies series, and today she welcomes spring with a fun blog on, what else, natural remedies. She's giving away a book to one lucky commenter.
CHRYSTLE FIEDLER: I don’t know about you but after a very cold and very white winter in the Northeast, I’m ready for Spring with its warm weather and beautiful blooming flowers! My passion for flowers comes from my mother, who was always outside tending her garden when the weather got warmer.

In 2008, I was fortunate to visit England and my mission was to visit as many gardens as possible. I started with the Hampton Court Flower Show, and was wowed by the amazing displays and uses of flowers. The show takes place on the parklands surrounding  Henry VIII’s castle right next to the River Thames. 

Here’s one of my favorites. Amazing right?

My other favorite garden in the UK is the Chelsea Physic Garden in London. Established in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants, it’s mission is to demonstrate the importance of medicinal and herbal plants to health and well-being. Over 50,000 visitors pass through the gates each year.

I was especially intrigued by the section that featured different plants for different health conditions. Years later, I was able to put my inspiration to good use, in the latest book in my natural remedies mystery series, the Garden of Death, both in terms of plot and the information about medicinal plants at the beginning of each chapter.

Many medicinal plants are really effective when it comes to common complaints. So, I thought I’d tell you more about some of the plants mentioned in the Garden of Death that you may want to consider growing and using. 

Usually, natural remedies like these are perfectly safe, but it’s best to discuss their use with your doctor first. I hope that you enjoy learning more about beneficial plants!    

Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway for a copy of the Garden of Death: A Natural Remedies Mystery!

Aloe Vera
Botanica Name: Aloe barbadensis

Medicinal Uses: Aloe is a handy plant that no household should be without. This juicy, succulent plant features spiky leaves that contain a thick gel that you can use topically to soothe and heal minor burns, sunburns and blisters and prevents scarring. You can also use it for insect bites, rashes, acne and other skin conditions like eczema, poison ivy and poison oak. Place this hardy plant on your kitchen window sill or plant in your garden. Just make sure your aloe plant has sunshine, well-drained soil, and moderate water and then, watch it grow and reap the many benefits it provides!

Botanical Name: Chamaemelum nobile (Roman chamomile; syn. Anthemis nobilis), Matricaria recutita (German chamomile; formerly Chamomilla recutita; syn. M. chamomilla)

Medicinal Uses: Since the times of ancient Greece, both types of chamomile have been used medicinally in the same ways. Tiny but mighty, chamomile is rich in nerve and muscle relaxing nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and B vitamins that help promote relaxation, easing stress and anxiety, encouraging the movement of chi or good energy, and promoting sleep. It is has also been approved for use by the pharmacopoeias in many countries to treat inflammation, indigestion, muscle spasms, and infection. Chamomile is a useful herb those that are "bothered by almost everything."

Botanical Name: Allium sativum

Medicinal Uses: Garlic is an edible bulb from a plant in the lily family, and one of the superstars of medicinal plants. It has been used as both a medicine and a spice for thousands of years. Antiseptic, antibacterial and antimicrobial, garlic stimulates the production of white blood cells, improving immunity and helping to speed healing from colds and flu. There is a reason Grandma’s Chicken soup makes you feel better! Garlic also is effective at lowering high cholesterol and lowers blood sugar levels. You can eat garlic cloves raw if you’re feeling brave or add them to your next soup or stir fry.

Botanical Name: Borago officinalis

Medicinal Uses: Borage leaves, flowers, and seed oil can help you feel happier and can even, inspire courage. That’s why in medieval times these flowers were embroidered on the mantles of knights and jousters, Borage was even sneaked into the drinks of prospective husbands to give them the courage to propose!

Borage leaves and flowers have long been used in treatments for anxiety, mild depression, grief, heartbreak and worry. As a flower essence, borage is used to lighten mild depression and ease discouragement. Borage helps bring joy, optimism, enthusiasm, and good cheer, improves confidence, and dispels sadness.

Botanical Name: Calendula officinalis

Medicinal Uses: Calendula is a hardy, long blooming plant with radiant yellow flowers that will brighten your garden. But there’s more.  Calendula also has amazing healing properties.  Antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, this flower helps to promote cell repair and growth. You’ll find calendula in many items at your health food store such as lotions, salves and creams that treat everything from cuts and scrapes, to insect bites, varicose veins and Athlete’s foot. Calendula also is a nourishing and cleansing tonic for the lymphatic system, which helps to improve immunity. It also aids digestion, helps to ease throat infections, and is used in children’s ear drops. Inside and out, this is a helpful herb that speeds healing and improves health.


Suspicion is unearthed when an outspoken surgeon turns up dead in Willow McQuade’s medicinal herb garden.

A bitter battle has sprouted in the village of Greenport on the eve of the annual maritime festival: Willow McQuade has transformed a vacant lot alongside Nature’s Way Market & CafĂ© into a beautiful garden of healing plants—as much a tribute to her late aunt Claire, the shop’s beloved founder, as an enlightening educational center. The town board awarded Willow the plot fair and square, but that’s not how some folks see it—including Dr. Charles White, who invested in plans to develop a high-end hotel on the property. When the belligerent surgeon publicly threatens Willow during the festival, Willow’s boyfriend, Jackson Spade, ratchets up the hostile confrontation to defend the woman he loves, sowing seeds of guilt that take root by the time Dr. White’s corpse turns up amongst Willow’s chamomile and ashwaganda plants. To prove Jackson’s innocence, she must dig deep to bring a killer to light.

CHRYSTLE FIEDLER is the author of the previous Natural Remedies mysteries, Scent to Kill, and Death Drops, as well as six nonfiction books on natural healing and herbal remedies. Also a freelance journalist specializing in alternative health topics, her work has appeared in Natural Health, Spirituality & Health, Mother Earth Living, Green Living, Better Homes & Gardens, Prevention, Vegetarian Times, and Remedy. She lives in Greenport, New York with her 3 dachshunds and 2 cats, three of which are rescues. Visit, or follow her on Facebook, and Twitter.

HALLIE: I confess, the only natural remedy I have is aloe, and I dug up all my foxglove (digitalis poison) when we had little kids crawling around in the garden. 

Did your mother swear by chicken soup? What natural remedies do the rest of you swear by?


  1. We've always had aloe vera plants around; so interesting to read about the other medicinal plants.
    Yes to the chicken soup, homemade, of course.
    Spring cannot come too soon! I'm looking forward to the daffodils . . . .

  2. We always had an aloe plant. We used it on sunburn.

    I was just reading the memberships newsletter from the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and they're having a few events based on medicinal plants. Quite interesting.

    I'm planting lavender this year - if the snow ever goes away. :-)

  3. Lavendar is my favorite thing. Lovely to look at, too. Sadly my garden is nearly all shade. I do grow mint, chives, and sage by my back door (a "dooryard") and every year I start a pot of basil. Of couse not for medicinal purposes.

  4. We had a lot of fair-skinned people in my family growing up, and Mom's aloe plant was an enormous scarred veteran of the sunburn wars.

    My grandmother always swore by a bit of blackberry brandy. I'm not sure if it actually helped, or if you just didn't care much about what was ailing you after you were dosed.

    I recall after having the Smithie, the hospital lactation consultant suggested an herbal tea to stimulate milk production. I wish I could remember what it was! I wonder now if it encouraged the hormones that support breastfeeding, or if it just relaxed a nervous young mother enough to help her sit back and let nature take its course!

  5. I always keep an aloe plant in the kitchen.

    However, while I can drink chamomile tea, and always like it for stomach cramps (I was introduced to it in Italy for that purpose), I can't grow it, because its pollen makes me sneeze. So I buy the tea and avoid the flowers.

    I tend to grow flowers for their scent. I avoid any kind of chrysanthemum because I don't like what they smell like-- and I don't think they are particularly attractive.

    I do, however, wish my purslane would return. I had tons of it for years, but then, after I figured out you could eat it, it disappeared from my sidewalk cracks. Perhaps it is my uphill neighbor's spraying?

  6. I've always wanted to grow an aloe plant, and maybe now's the time. Next time my kids ask "why so much garlic in the stir-fry?" I'll tell them it's for health reasons.

    Hmm. Haven't decided on flowers for the garden this year. Calendula? They're pretty.

  7. Welcome, Chrystle! Fascinating post — I'll be in London soon and am definitely inspired to visit the Chelsea Physic Garden.

  8. I LOVE the Chelsea Physick Garden and one of my friends is docent there.
    I always find time for a visit when I'm in London.

    And last night I made John chicken soup to help his horrible cough. It had plenty of garlic and ginger in it.

  9. I swear by a tonic prepared by a local herbologist here in the Four Corners, heavy in echinacea. If it tastes good to me, I know I need it :)

  10. Mom still keeps an aloe plant in the kitchen for burns. She's 95 so she must know it works! I love visiting herb gardens but I don't have the know-how to make my own. I usually have a pot or two of mint and rosemary, basil and chives. And an aloe plant.I've heard about the Physic Garden in London and would love to see it someday. I will look for your books, Chrystle.

  11. Welcome herb and flower lovers! Thanks so much everyone for stopping by! Thanks to Hallie for hosting me!

    I see that you are all putting medicinal plants to use in many ways! The best place to start to use them is on common complaints like minor burns, sore throats, colds etc. and to always check with your MD if you have a high blood pressure or any kind of chronic condition like an auto-immune disease. That said, most herbs are very safe and can be used by all.

    Susan and Rhys -- I am so envious that you have visited the Chelsea garden recently or will visit! I went in 2008 and remember it vividly--it's a magical spot in London--a magical place if there ever was one!

    Julia--You'll find many herbal remedies for common conditions like lactation in my book with herbalist Brigitte Mars: The Country Almanac of Home Remedies. It's a cool book packed with info and very charming.

    I hope that you all enjoy Garden of Death: A Natural Remedies Mystery and learning about new natural cures! I'll check back later! :D

  12. CHicken soup works! And aloe, of course.

    I am a big camomile tea's incredibly soothing.

    Garden of Death! Fabulous. (And that's what I'll label mine if one more squirrel attacks a budding tulip. I mean--I will be homicidal! Okay, end of rant.)

    Chrystle, anything that'll keep the squirrels away?

  13. So many "miracle" drugs are, in fact, a distillation (not meant in the official sense)of one or more of the important elements in plants.

  14. When the kids were growing up, I always kept an aloe plant around, and now that the grandgirls visit, I need to do so again. I keep some chamomile tea around, which is calming in itself, just knowing it's there. I like the Traditional Medicinals Teas. In my cabinet now I have the Chamomile with lavendar, Gypsy Cold Care (elder, yarrow, and peppermint foundation), Throat Coat (slippery/red elm, licorice, and marshmallow root), and Breathe Easy (eucalyptus, fennel, licorice, and Chinese 12-herb extract). I also have a peppermint tea from another company for upset stomach and colon pain. My favorites are Throat Coat, as it immediately make your sore throat feel better, and the peppermint tea. I buy extra of the Throat Coat to give to my adult children, who like it, too.

    I do want to note here that I am not well versed in the flowers and medicinal plants. I got the ingredients off of the tea boxes. I do know that they work, and I need to keep them in stock.

    My daughter is much more in tune with natural remedies and growing herbs and such. Her yard is a great source of lavender. She is someone who is brave enough to eat the raw garlic every day. Not me!

    Chrystle, it must be wonderful to be so knowledgeable about plants and their uses. I would want you in my group if I'm ever stranded on an island. Garden of Death sounds like a great story, with the added benefit of learning a thing or two about this healthy, natural way of healing and enhancing one's diet.

  15. I'm a gardener with much better intentions than follow through. And I'm more willing to work for flowers than edibles. That said, I would like to grow any medicinal that can tolerate shade, as my condo is surrounded by old oaks and pines. I drink Chamomile by the quart in the winter, and have learned to ice it down for summer. Any suggestions for a shade or movable container garden?

  16. There is very little natural light in my home - only a couple of windows, so it's hard to grow much inside. I've not been too successful in growing anything outside, other than tomatoes or impatiens plants, again it's the lack of light.

    I keep chamomile tea around for those sleepless nights or for when I'm feeling a bit stressed out-like when the plumber is doing an emergency repair and dollar signs are dancing in my head.

    The smell of lavender is very calming, and I try to have some sort of lavender lotion or spray on hand at all times.

  17. Me too on the lavender and the aloe. We've had a huge aloe plant for years--it keeps putting out babies too, in case anyone needs them...

    Good luck with the new book Chrystle!

  18. Garlic and ginger are favorites around here. Somehow I forgot about chamomile tea, thanks for reminding me, Julia's blackberry brandy sounds good too.

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  20. All moms and dads should benefit from calendula- It's so good for baby rash.