Whether we are looking for a one-time pick-me-up, a daily stress buffer, or an all-around mood supporter, growing our own herbal medicine allows us to take our wellbeing into our own hands. One beautiful way to grow our own herbs is in a forest apothecary garden—a garden that combines features of shaded forest with medicinal herbs.
Growing our own forest apothecary garden has numerous benefits beyond the tangible harvest of fragrant herbs. Stewarding a forest apothecary garden helps us create a relationship with the earth and learn to communicate with the elements, soil, plants, animals, and planets that aid the growing cycle. As we watch our garden grow, we gain appreciation for the earth’s resources and the necessity of cooperation to sustain an ecosystem.
Whether we realize it or not, as we tend our forest apothecary garden, we also raise our energetic vibration through physical activity, which in turn can restore our calm.
Getting Started With Your Forest Apothecary Garden
Forest apothecary gardens have existed since the beginning of humankind. We need only look at ancient agricultural healing centers like Göbekli Tepe, Stonehenge, or today’s Findhorn Foundation to see that humans have always cultivated medicine right alongside the woodlands.
No matter how big or small an area you have for your forest apothecary garden, there are near limitless possibilities. Gone are the days of flat gardens; today, we can grow tiered and vertically. Even a balcony or windowsill can host a small apothecary garden. Plan time to survey your immediate area to see where you can cultivate trees, flowers, and herbs. Ask for guidance from your spirit helpers—they’ll love you for it!
Don’t discount unused community spaces. You can also talk to farmers in your area to see if they might be interested in the benefits of an apothecary garden and provide a small space for you to grow one. Be creative, and don’t be afraid to follow up on a hunch.
What Herbs to Plant to Help Manage Anxiety
There are so many wonderful plants the world over that have can support anxiety relief. In many ways, plants with the potential to help manage anxiety are some of the most overproduced and at-risk plants. Plant allies like ginseng, goldenseal, and St. John’s wort can be restored to the forests with the help of the dabbling gardener. At the same time, we can look toward regenerating native medicinal species to support our health needs. In this way, we are partaking in cooperative restoration and re-wilding our spaces.
Several well-known medicinal allies that can help support anxiety relief include lemon balm, rose, licorice, motherwort, holy basil, skullcap, passionflower, linden, oat, birch, lavender, and chamomile. Combinations of these herbs or flowers can be made into tea, tinctures, lozenges, essences, and even a soothing bath (see recipe below).
Note: It’s always smart to consult with a healthcare professional before undertaking a new herbal regimen.
A Forest Apothecary Garden Meditation
Try this: Gather together a blanket, some incense, a lighter or matches, a meditation bell or singing bowl, a journal, and a pen or pencil, and head outside to an area that feels most sacred to you, where you could possibly establish your apothecary garden.
Set the blanket on the earth or on a chair, and if you have a bowl or bell to ring, go ahead and sound it. Begin to center your awareness on your inner sun (the middle point between the eyebrows). Allow your breath to find its rhythm with the wind as it moves across the tree branches and grass. Listen for the sounds of your environment, which may include bird song, traffic, the movement or voices of people—all of it has purpose and can be met gently, without resistance.
Now share your intention with the land of cooperatively creating an apothecary garden. You might share your experiences, your needs, and the support you hope to bring into your life. Ask to be shown the medicinal plants that are right for you (and, perhaps, your community and family) to grow.
Give yourself time to listen for the answer. It may arrive in the form of a sound, word, voice, image, or song (within your mind or outside of it), and it could very well come later—days later, even, when you aren’t thinking about it at all but happen to discover the answer.
Be open to whatever guidance comes. You might receive the names of several herbs to grow, or just a single plant that you’ll focus on cultivating.
Tips for Stewarding Your Forest Apothecary Garden
Once you have an idea of what you will plant, ask permission from the land to initiate and maintain a reciprocal partnership throughout your planting, and work with intention and prayer. For instance, I will pat the earth prior to using any tool and ask for anything living to not be harmed, and I work slowly, to be the least disruptive. I also keep listening—if I miscalculated and am about to plant on a critter’s home, I leave it and try again elsewhere.
When we grow cooperatively, it’s like having eyes into the future; to know you’re working responsibly and that your work will benefit many beings. Continue to talk to your garden, offer gratitude every day, and watch it grow! Visit at dawn as often as possible to greet the day with your new garden. Spend time there during the day when you can, perhaps winding down the day in your garden at dusk.
Experience has proven that if I’m not attuned to the task, nothing will grow; conversely, when I act cooperatively, the garden exceeds normal growing expectations, and new species will often appear with exactly what my community and I need.
When the time comes to harvest, use the same methods of communication to see what parts of the plants you will use and how much you’ll use for teas, tinctures, and more. Treat time with your garden like a ceremony: The more you can trust the wisdom you receive, the more you will learn what to grow next and how to care for the garden year-round.
A Soothing Medicinal Foot Bath Recipe
In a foot-soaking container, bring together the following ingredients with hot water:
- ¼ tsp. dried or fresh lavender
- ¼ tsp. rolled oats
- ¼ tsp. dried or fresh chamomile or linden flower
- ¼ tsp. dried or fresh rosemary
- 1 tbps. dried or fresh rose petals or rose water
- 2 tbsp. of magnesium citrate (e.g. Epsom salt)
Mix together gently, allowing the herbs to steep for at least five minutes and the water to gently cool. In a quiet place where you’ll remain undisturbed, soak your feet for approximately 15 minutes. Give yourself time to relax and possibly take a nap afterwards. Using this soak before bed will add a touch of serenity to aid in peaceful sleep.
Calming Herbal Seltzer Recipe
In a small bowl, mix together the following ingredients:
- ¼ tsp. fresh or dried lemon balm
- ¼ tsp. fresh or dried chamomile or linden flower
- ¼ tsp. fresh or dried rose petals
- ¼ tsp. fresh or dried vervain
- ¼ cup of fresh berries, mashed
Empty about a quarter of a bottle of store-bought seltzer and fill with the mixture. Leave out in the sun for 4-6 hours loosely capped. Refrigerate or add ice. Strain before pouring.
Explore these seven medicinal mints you can grow yourself.