Top 20 Medicinal Herbs for the Ultimate Apothecary

Discover the 20 top medicinal herbs for your apothecary. Boost wellness naturally with echinacea, lavender, and more. Skip the side effects and choose herbal healing. Plus, organize your apothecary with our Free Medicinal Herbs Printable Labels featuring each herb in this guide!

woman holding a basket of medicinal herbs

Are you tired of conventional medicines and their long list of side effects? Maybe it’s time to consider medicinal herb’s natural and holistic approach. Building your own herbal apothecary can seem overwhelming, but with a bit of knowledge and guidance, it’s easier than you think.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of 20 top medicinal herbs for your apothecary. From soothing lavender to immune-boosting echinacea, you’ll have everything you need to start treating common ailments and promoting overall wellness.

20 Top Medicinal Herbs for the Ultimate Apothecary

1. Calendula

calendula flowers

Calendula, also called marigold, originates from the Mediterranean but grows worldwide. It has bright, sunny yellow or orange flowers and a slightly sweet aroma.

Medicinal Properties: Calendula has a wide range of medicinal properties due to its rich content of flavonoids, carotenoids, and essential oils. It’s been used for centuries to treat various ailments, including digestive issues, skin problems, and menstrual cramps. Calendula has anti-inflammatory properties, which make it an effective remedy for reducing inflammation and swelling. It also has antifungal and antimicrobial properties, which can help prevent infections and promote wound healing. Additionally, calendula calms the body, helping to reduce anxiety and stress.

How to Use: Apply Calendula topically as a salve, cream, or oil to soothe skin irritations, cuts, and burns. It is also a natural remedy for diaper rash and other skin conditions. To make calendula tea for internal use, steep the dried flowers in hot water for 10-15 minutes. This tea can help with digestive issues, menstrual cramps, and anxiety. Additionally, calendula tincture or capsules can address various health issues, including inflammation, infection, and stress.

Fun Fact: Traditional Chinese medicine uses calendula to treat stomach ulcers and menstrual cramps.

2. Echinacea

echinacea, purple coneflowers

Echinacea, or coneflower, is a flowering plant native to North America, with distinctive pink or purple petals and a spiky central cone.

Medicinal Properties: Echinacea is one of the most popular medicinal herbs to boost the immune system and fight off infections. Studies have shown that it can reduce the severity and duration of colds and flu by stimulating the production of white blood cells and increasing the activity of natural killer cells. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and skin irritations.

How to Use: Consume Echinacea as tea, tincture, or capsule, depending on your preference. It’s also available in creams and ointments for topical use. Echinacea tea can be steeping dried leaves or flowers in hot water for 10-15 minutes. This tea can help prevent and treat respiratory infections like colds and flu. They can address various health issues, including inflammation, infection, and immune system support. Apply topical Echinacea preparations to the skin to soothe irritations and promote wound healing.

Fun Fact: The Native American Plains Indians have long used echinacea as a traditional medicine to treat various ailments, such as wounds, snakebites, and infections.

3. Comfrey

comfrey flowers

Comfrey, a perennial herb, originates from Europe and Asia but now grows worldwide. It has large, hairy leaves and produces small, bell-shaped flowers ranging from white to blue.

Medicinal Properties: People have traditionally used Comfrey to treat wounds, bruises, sprains, and fractures. It’s a natural source of allantoin, which helps to stimulate cell growth and repair, promoting the regeneration of tissues. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, comfrey can help reduce pain and swelling associated with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Comfrey also soothes and heals irritated mucous membranes in the digestive and respiratory systems, thanks to its demulcent effect.

How to Use: Grind fresh or dried Comfrey leaves into a paste to make a poultice for topical use. Apply it directly to the affected area. This can help relieve pain and swelling associated with sprains, bruises, and joint pain. You can also make Comfrey salves and ointments by infusing leaves in oil and mixing the oil with beeswax. For internal use, brew Comfrey tea by steeping dried leaves in hot water for 10-15 minutes.

Fun Fact: The name “comfrey” comes from the Latin word “con firma,” meaning “with strength,” a reference to its traditional use for strengthening bones and healing wounds.

4. Garlic

fresh garlic bulbs

Garlic is a bulbous plant that belongs to the onion family. Its distinctively pungent and spicy flavor makes it a popular ingredient in cooking worldwide.

Medicinal Properties: People have used garlic for its medicinal benefits for centuries. It contains allicin, a compound with antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal effects. Studies show garlic can benefit heart health by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Garlic also offers anti-inflammatory effects, beneficial for conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

How to Use: Consume garlic raw, cooked, or as a supplement. You can add it to dishes like soups, sauces, and stir-fries. To consume raw garlic, you can chop or crush it and add it to your food. For medicinal purposes, garlic supplements are available in pill form, but following the recommended dosage instructions is essential. Crush garlic and mix it with honey to create a natural cough remedy. Use garlic oil topically to treat fungal infections or as a natural insect repellent.

Fun Fact: Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used garlic to treat various health conditions. It even served as a performance-enhancing drug in ancient Olympic games.

5. Oregano

oregano plant

Oregano is a flavorful and aromatic herb from the mint family, originally hailing from the Mediterranean region. People commonly use this herb in Italian and Greek cooking.

Medicinal Properties: Oregano, a key player among medicinal herbs, offers a diverse range of medicinal benefits and contains potent compounds like carvacrol and thymol. These compounds exhibit antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory effects. Oregano is also a rich source of antioxidants, which can help protect the body from cellular damage caused by free radicals. Oregano also improves digestion, reduces menstrual cramps, and lessens allergy-related inflammation. People even find it helpful in fighting respiratory infections and supporting a healthy immune system.

How to Use: You can enjoy oregano in various forms for its therapeutic benefits. For example, brew a tea from dried oregano leaves by steeping them in hot water for several minutes. This tea can be particularly helpful for respiratory issues like congestion and coughing. Diffuse oregano essential oil into the air, mix it with a carrier oil for massage, or add it to a warm bath to promote relaxation and boost the immune system. Crush fresh oregano leaves and apply them topically as a poultice to relieve muscle pain or reduce inflammation.

Fun Fact: Oregano naturally repels insects, and you can use its oil to keep mosquitoes, fleas, and other pests at bay.

6. Rosemary

rosemary plant

Rosemary is a fragrant, woody perennial herb native to the Mediterranean region. It has needle-like leaves that are dark green on top and gray-green on the underside, and its flowers are blue-purple. People commonly use this herb in cooking for seasoning and flavor enhancement, and it also offers numerous medicinal benefits.

Medicinal Properties: Rosemary contains compounds such as rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, and carnosic acid, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects. Studies show that rosemary improves memory, cognitive function, and mood. Additionally, it can aid digestion, reduce muscle and joint pain, and relieve respiratory problems. Rosemary may also benefit heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

How to Use: You can use rosemary in various forms to tap into its medicinal benefits. You can make rosemary tea by steeping fresh or dried leaves in hot water for 5-10 minutes. Add rosemary essential oil to a diffuser or incorporate it into massage oil to enhance relaxation and mood. Additionally, you can use rosemary as a seasoning in your cooking or as a natural flavoring for beverages.

Fun Fact: People have long linked rosemary with memory and remembrance. In ancient Greece and Rome, students wore rosemary garlands to help improve their memory during exams.

7. Peppermint

peppermint plants

Peppermint is a perennial herb that belongs to the mint family and is native to Europe and Asia. It has a refreshing, minty flavor and aroma and is commonly used in culinary and medicinal applications.

Medicinal Properties: Peppermint has a long history of use in traditional medicine for its various therapeutic properties. It contains compounds such as menthol, menthone, and rosmarinic acid, which have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial effects. Peppermint can help alleviate digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and nausea. It may also relieve headaches, sinus congestion, and menstrual cramps. Peppermint oil is often used as a natural remedy for its cooling and calming effects.

How to Use: Peppermint can be used in several forms to harness its medicinal properties. You can make peppermint tea by steeping fresh or dried leaves in hot water for 5-10 minutes. For topical use, diffusion, or a soothing bath, consider peppermint oil. Additionally, the leaves can be tossed into salads, blended into smoothies, or used to flavor desserts.

Fun Fact: In ancient Greece, Peppermint was a natural remedy for indigestion and bad breath. It was also used in ancient Egyptian and Chinese medicine for its soothing effects on the digestive system.

8. Holy Basil

holy basil plants

Holy basil, or tulsi, is an aromatic herb native to India and Southeast Asia. It has a strong and slightly sweet aroma, with leaves that are somewhat hairy and green.

Medicinal Properties: Holy basil has medicinal properties that have been recognized in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Holy basil is rich in compounds like eugenol, rosmarinic acid, and apigenin, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. People believe it also positively impacts blood sugar and cholesterol levels while strengthening the immune system. Additionally, this herb may help calm the mind, reducing stress and anxiety.

How to Use: To use holy basil for its medicinal properties, you can make tea by steeping the dried leaves in hot water for 10-15 minutes. You can add the leaves to salads or use them to flavor dishes, mix the essential oil (with a carrier oil) for aromatherapy or topical use. You can also take holy basil as a supplement in capsule or tablet form.

Fun Fact: In traditional Indian medicine, holy basil treats various ailments, including colds, flu, bronchitis, asthma, and arthritis.

9. Feverfew

feverfew medicinal herb

Feverfew, a notable plant in the realm of medicinal herbs, is a short-lived perennial herb native to the Balkans and Caucasus regions. It’s characterized by bright green, deeply lobed leaves and daisy-like flowers with white petals and yellow centers.

Medicinal Properties: For medicinal purposes, people have traditionally used Feverfew to relieve headaches and migraines. It contains compounds such as parthenolide, which has anti-inflammatory effects and can reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines. Feverfew may also have potential benefits for reducing inflammation and improving immune function.

How to Use: You can consume Feverfew in various forms like tea, capsules, tinctures, and extracts. To make tea, steep the fresh or dried leaves in hot water for 5-10 minutes. You can add tinctures to water or juice for oral consumption or mix extracts into food or drinks. For topical relief of headaches or inflammation, you can use Feverfew oil or cream and even add it to baths.

Fun Fact: The name “feverfew” comes from the Latin word “febrifugia,” which means “fever reducer.”

10. Chamomile

chamomile medicinal herb

Chamomile is a gentle and fragrant herb that belongs to the Asteraceae family. Native to Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia, people have used this herb for its medicinal properties for centuries. The chamomile plant has a bright yellow center and white petals, giving it a daisy-like appearance.

Medicinal Properties: Chamomile contains compounds such as flavonoids and terpenoids, which are responsible for its medicinal properties. Studies show that Chamomile offers anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and sedative effects, which help treat anxiety, insomnia, and digestive issues. You can apply Chamomile topically to soothe skin irritation and reduce inflammation. Research also indicates its antimicrobial properties are effective against certain bacteria strains.

How to Use: For consumption, you can make Chamomile tea by steeping dried flowers in hot water for 5-10 minutes. You can also diffuse Chamomile essential oil or mix it with a carrier oil for topical applications. Various forms like creams, lotions, and ointments are available for topical use.

Fun Fact: People sometimes call Chamomile “the plant doctor” because it seems to improve the growth and health of nearby plants.

11. Hyssop

hyssop medicinal herb

Hyssop is a perennial herb that belongs to the mint family and is native to Southern Europe, the Middle East, and the region surrounding the Caspian Sea. It has green, lance-shaped leaves and produces small, typically blue, purple, or pink flowers.

Medicinal Properties: People have used Hyssop for its medicinal properties for centuries. It contains compounds such as tannins, flavonoids, and essential oils with antiseptic, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory effects. You can treat respiratory conditions such as coughs, colds, and bronchitis with Hyssop, as well as stimulate digestion and relieve bloating and gas. Research also suggests it benefits the immune system and may reduce inflammation.

How to Use: To use Hyssop, steep its dried leaves and flowers in hot water for 5-10 minutes to make a tea. You can apply Hyssop essential oil or salve for topical relief of skin irritation and wound healing. Adding Hyssop to a warm bath can soothe sore muscles and encourage relaxation. You can also flavor soups and stews with it.

Fun Fact: Interestingly, ancient texts, including the Bible, mention Hyssop as a purifying herb. Its name comes from the Hebrew word “ezov,” which means “holy herb.”

12. St. John’s Wort

St. john's wort medicinal herb

Native to Europe, St. John’s wort now grows worldwide. It produces yellow flowers that bloom in mid-summer and has oval-shaped leaves dotted with translucent glands.

Medicinal Properties: Renowned as one of the medicinal herbs with a long history of use, St. John’s wort contains hypericin and hyperforin, two compounds believed to have antidepressant effects. The herb commonly treats mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and seasonal affective disorder. Additionally, it has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal properties, which can be beneficial for treating conditions such as cold sores and herpes. St. John’s wort may have potential benefits for treating nerve pain, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopausal symptoms, and certain skin conditions such as eczema and alcohol withdrawal.

How to Use: To make a tea, steep the dried flowers and leaves of St. John’s wort in hot water for 5-10 minutes. Alternatively, you can take it as a capsule or tablet to address depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Applying it topically as an oil or cream can soothe sunburns, wounds, and bruises and relieve pain and inflammation from nerve damage, sciatica, and arthritis.

Fun Fact: Doctors in Germany often prescribe St. John’s wort as an approved treatment for mild to moderate depression.

13. Mullein

mullein medicinal herb

Mullein is a biennial plant native to Europe and Asia but now grows in various parts of the world. It can grow up to 6 feet tall and has soft, velvety leaves and tall spikes of yellow flowers.

Medicinal Properties: Mullein, valued for centuries in the world of medicinal herbs, is known for its beneficial properties. Compounds in the herb, like saponins, mucilage, and flavonoids, are believed to provide anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and analgesic effects. It often serves as a treatment for respiratory conditions like coughs, bronchitis, and asthma. You can also use it as a natural remedy for ear infections or to soothe skin inflammation and irritation.

How to Use: To make tea, steep mullein leaves and flowers in hot water for 15-20 minutes. This tea can ease respiratory symptoms such as coughs and congestion. You can create mullein oil by steeping the flowers in oil and applying it topically to soothe skin irritations and inflammation. While some people smoke mullein leaves to relieve respiratory issues, smoking is not recommended due to potential risks.

Fun Fact: People also call Mullein the “torch plant” or “candlewick plant” because of its tall, upright stalk that resembles a candle or torch. Traditionally, people used its leaves as lamp wicks, believing they burned brighter and longer than regular wicks.

14. Bee Balm

bee balm medicinal herb

Bee balm is a perennial herb native to North America. It has distinctive red, pink, or purple flowers that resemble pompoms and a spicy, minty aroma.

Medicinal Properties: Bee balm has a long history of use in traditional medicine, particularly by Native American tribes. The herb’s essential oils, tannins, and flavonoids are believed to offer antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. People often use bee balm tea to treat cold and flu symptoms and digestive issues like gas and bloating. The herb may also calm the nervous system and ease stress and anxiety.

How to Use: You can make tea or infused oil with bee balm leaves and flowers. To make tea, steep 1-2 teaspoons of dried bee balm leaves or flowers in hot water for 10-15 minutes. For an infused oil, combine dried bee balm with a carrier oil like olive oil and let it sit for several weeks before straining. You can apply this oil topically to heal skin irritations, wounds, and insect bites.

Fun Fact: Besides its medicinal applications, people have used bee balm to dye fabric and repel insects naturally.

15. Yarrow

yarrow medicinal herb

People have used yarrow, a perennial herb, for medicinal purposes for centuries. It has feathery, fern-like leaves and clusters of tiny, daisy-like flowers in shades of white, pink, or yellow.

Medicinal Properties: Yarrow, with its notable place among medicinal herbs, offers anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties, making it a helpful remedy for digestive issues, menstrual cramps, and respiratory problems. People also believe it has astringent and diuretic effects and helps treat diarrhea and urinary tract infections. Yarrow is a natural remedy for skin problems such as eczema and acne.

How to Use: You can use yarrow topically and internally for various ailments. To make yarrow tea, steep the dried leaves and flowers in hot water for 10-15 minutes. Drinking this tea can help with digestive and respiratory problems and menstrual cramps. You can apply a yarrow poultice or compress for skin issues like eczema and acne.

Fun Fact: Ancient Greeks and Romans used yarrow to treat wounds and stop bleeding. The Latin name for yarrow is Achillea millefolium, named after the Greek mythological figure Achilles. According to legend, Achilles used yarrow to heal his wounded soldiers during the Trojan War.

16. Stinging Nettle

stinging nettle plants

Stinging nettle is a perennial herb native to Europe, Asia, and North America. Its stinging hairs cause painful reactions when they contact the skin. Despite its prickly reputation, people have used stinging nettle for its medicinal properties for centuries.

Medicinal Properties: Stinging nettle, a plant celebrated for its role in the world of medicinal herbs, boasts various medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and diuretic effects. It has been used for centuries to treat various health issues, including allergies, arthritis, and urinary tract infections. Stinging nettle contains compounds that help regulate blood sugar levels, improve digestion, reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis and menstrual cramps, and boost the immune system. Stinging nettle is a natural source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, iron, and calcium; you can use it as a tonic for overall health and well-being.

How to Use: You can consume stinging nettle as a tea, tincture, or supplement. You can also cook and eat the leaves and stems as nutritious green vegetables. Stinging nettle can relieve joint pain and skin irritations when applied topically as a poultice or cream.

Fun Fact: Stinging nettle has multiple uses beyond its medicinal properties. As it decomposes, the plant releases nutrients into the soil, acting as a natural fertilizer to improve soil quality and plant growth. Stinging nettle also contains compounds that can repel or kill insects, making it a natural insecticide for protecting crops and gardens from pests.

17. Lemon Balm

lemon balm plants

Lemon balm, a perennial herb, belongs to the mint family and originally comes from Europe, but cultivators now grow it worldwide. Its pleasant, lemony scent and flavor make it a popular herb for cooking, teas, and essential oils.

Medicinal Properties: Lemon balm has various medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antioxidant effects. People have used it for centuries to relieve stress, anxiety, and insomnia because of its calming properties. Lemon balm also has antiviral effects and can treat cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus. Additionally, lemon balm can aid digestion, reduce menstrual cramps, and improve cognitive function and memory.

How to Use: You can enjoy lemon balm in various forms, such as teas, tinctures, essential oils, and supplements. Making lemon balm tea by steeping fresh or dried leaves in hot water for several minutes is a popular way to experience its relaxing effects. You can apply it topically as a cream or salve to treat cold sores and other skin irritations.

Fun Fact: The famous 16th-century Swiss physician and alchemist Paracelsus considered lemon balm the “elixir of life,” believing it could extend one’s lifespan.

18. Cilantro

cilantro plants

People commonly use cilantro, also known as coriander, in culinary dishes worldwide. Originally native to the Mediterranean and Asia, many countries now grow it. Cilantro has a distinctive aroma and flavor, often described as citrusy and slightly sweet.

Medicinal Properties: People have used cilantro in traditional medicine for centuries to treat various ailments. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties and may help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Cilantro may also have antibacterial and antifungal properties, aid digestion, and help with anxiety and insomnia. It’s a good source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein and may help detoxify heavy metals.

How to Use: Cilantro is a versatile herb in many dishes, including soups, salads, and marinades. You can chop the leaves and stems and add them to dishes for flavor or use the seeds as a spice. You can also make cilantro tea by steeping the leaves and stems in hot water for several minutes.

Fun Fact: Some people have a genetic variation that makes cilantro taste like soap or metal. This is due to a compound called aldehyde, which is present in cilantro and has a different taste perception for other people.

19. Lavender

lavender plants

Lavender is a fragrant perennial herb that belongs to the mint family. Originally from the Mediterranean region, people now cultivate lavender in many parts of the world for its fragrant flowers and essential oils. Lavender flowers are usually shades of purple, blue, or pink and have a sweet, floral aroma that is calming and relaxing.

Medicinal Properties: Lavender has various medicinal properties that have been recognized for centuries. It has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and analgesic properties, which make it a popular remedy for skin conditions, headaches, and pain. It also has a calming effect on the nervous system and can help relieve stress, anxiety, and insomnia. People believe lavender has antimicrobial and antifungal properties that can help prevent and treat infections.

How to Use: You can use lavender to support health and well-being. You can infuse it into oil or tea for topical or internal use. You can also use lavender essential oil in aromatherapy to promote relaxation and reduce stress. Additionally, you can add lavender to bathwater, use it in cooking and baking, or incorporate it into skincare products.

Fun Fact: The name “lavender” comes from the Latin word “lavare,” which means “to wash.” This is because the Romans used lavender in their baths to help purify their bodies.

20. Sage

sage plants

Also known as Salvia officinalis, sage is a perennial herb originally from the Mediterranean region but now cultivated worldwide. Its fragrant leaves are commonly used in cooking and have various medicinal properties.

Medicinal Properties: Sage has a long history of use in traditional medicine, including as a digestive aid, anti-inflammatory agent, and memory enhancer. It contains various compounds that give it therapeutic properties, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, and essential oils. Studies have shown that sage has antimicrobial properties and can alleviate symptoms of conditions such as sore throat, cough, and gum disease. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial for managing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

How to Use: You can use sage in various forms, including tea, tincture, or essential oil. To enhance their flavor, you can add fresh or dried sage leaves to different dishes. To make sage tea, steep fresh or dried leaves in hot water for 5-10 minutes. It can alleviate digestive issues, sore throat, and cough. You can apply sage essential oil topically to relieve muscle and joint pain, and some skincare products also include it.

Fun Fact: The scientific name for sage, Salvia, comes from the Latin word “salvare,” which means “to save” or “to heal,” underscoring its long history of medicinal use.

Download Our Medicinal Herbs Printable Labels

Organize your herbal apothecary with ease using our Medicinal Herbs Printable Labels, featuring every medicinal herb highlighted in this article.

Conclusion: Embracing the Power of Medicinal Herbs

Remember that while herbal medicine can offer many benefits, use caution and consult a healthcare professional before adding any new medicinal herbs for apothecary use or supplements into your routine. Some medicinal herbs can interact with prescription medications or have unwanted side effects, especially if misused or taken in large doses.

That said, adding medicinal herbs to your self-care and apothecary routine can significantly support your overall health and well-being. Whether you’re looking to reduce stress and anxiety, soothe digestive issues, or boost your immune system, there’s likely a herb that can help. Start by selecting a few medicinal herbs from this list, and learn about their properties and how you can use them. As you get more comfortable with herbal medicine, you can experiment with different combinations and formulations to create custom blends tailored to your unique needs and preferences.

Which herb (or herbs) from our list are you planning to add to your apothecary?

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  1. An awesome post, very informative. Pleased so see I have a few of these in my current garden – thanks to your help I now know what else to plant! Will be saving this for future reference!

  2. This is such an informative post! Thank you for sharing the Top 20 medicinal herbs and how to use them!! I need to get started on my medicinal herb garden so that I can enjoy these natural remedies. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Hi Joe, Once you enter your email address, you’ll be emailed the printable file immediately. Please let me know if you don’t receive it, and I will email it directly to you. Thanks!