learn. heal. grow.

NF echinaceawelcome to gardenmedicine, home to information about creating beautiful landscapes that feed your eyes, your body and your soul. on these pages i’ll discuss growing and using specific medicinal plants, shrubs that can help your garden be more productive, herbs that feed the pollinators on which we depend, and flowers and weeds that help keep you healthy.

you’ll also find extensive links to resources for herbal and gardening information, as well as herbal and gardening educational programs.

when foods sit around and ‘go good’

Orna’s note: This awesome post was written by my friend Marina P-K, who lives in a Permaculture paradise of her own creation in the northern Sierra Nevadas. She works with beings of several kingdoms — plants, animals and microbes — and shares her copious knowledge freely. Reprinted with permission from her blog, Cultured, Aged, Brewed, (“A docu-sploration of what happens when we allow foods to sit around long enough to ‘go good.'”) this article considers serious infections, building and supporting a strong immune system, and giving the body appropriate microflora through the use of traditional fermented foods. 


Warning, graphic pictures in today’s post. I think they’re amazing documentation of the body’s ability to heal, but if your stomach is easily turned I suggest scrolling down til the subject turns to garlic.

Today marks the fourth week in healing the holes my pig poked and tore in my legs. The puncture in my shin is growing smaller and remains predictable, but the cut on my thigh has become infected. I host a certain strain of staph bacteria. A neglected cut at age six resulted in a  swollen foot and a course of antibiotics. The doctor explained to my mother that once staph enters our blood stream, it never really goes away. My immune system can surpress and restrain it, but when a large enough disturbance tests my biological defense systems, staph emerges. Continue reading “when foods sit around and ‘go good’”

sea buckthorn for garden and medicine

sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) fruit

By Dr. Orna Izakson

Sea buckthorn, also called seaberry or, in Latin, Hippophae rhamnoides, is a popular nitrogen-fixing shrub in Permaculture circles. Tolerant of all sorts of extreme weather including drought and bitter cold, this east Asian plant is great for stabilizing soil and supporting its neighbors. The female plants produce tart, nutritious, bright-orange berries. Because the plants are either male or female (dioecious), you’ll need at least one boy if you want berries. Its Latin name, “Hippophae,” means “shiny horse,” a reference to the glossy coat horses get from eating the plant. Continue reading “sea buckthorn for garden and medicine”

‘let food be your medicine’

By Dr. Orna Izakson

beans and oregano.
beans and oregano.

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 BCE) famously said “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”

Gardeners know the best way to get your veggies is fresh and organic, ideally straight from the farm or garden. But beyond simple nourishment, scientists are finding some foods specifically help prevent or reverse certain diseases. Published research from the past few months alone has shown fruits and veggies protect your heart, brain and eyes, and help fight asthma, cancer, swine flu, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

Much of the research looks at isolated constituents in the foods, although of course there’s more to fresh fruits and veggies than the isolated “active ingredients” scientists have identified so far. All the components in the plant work synergistically, and do more than just one thing.

Here’s a short list to get you started. Continue reading “‘let food be your medicine’”

Backyard Chinese tisane

This post was written by acupuncturist Christine Dionese, who practices in California and New York. She’s one of my colleagues at WellWire.com. It’s an honor to have her contribution!

By Christine Dionese, LAc

Meyer lemon tree flowering in Christine's San Diego yard.

If your back yard looks anything like mine down here in sunny So-Cal it’s ripe for the pickin’. The peaches are falling by the second, and the scent of the blooms on the Meyer lemon tree fill the early a.m. air. If I beat the bees to it, I’m lucky enough to pick a few lemons for a delightfully soothing and aromatic afternoon tisane! To my white peony tea I add the exotic scent of jasmine flowers, the zest of a Meyer lemon along with the oily leaves, the fuzzy skin of a peach, a few colorful miniature rose buds and a small handful of gummi goji berries.

Want to make this soothing tisane in your kitchen? Continue reading “Backyard Chinese tisane”

weed lover

Weed Lover: Unintentional Medicine from Evolution’s Winners

Back in the late ’90s and early aughts, a small but information-dense ’zine circulated in the Eugene area called “weed lover.” The premise was that weeds offend gardeners by growing where they’re not wanted, but that they nevertheless offer great value by way of food, medicine and pulling nutrients up from the subsoil to feed neighboring plants. They also may be physically useful: one gardener tied her tomatoes to their cages using bindweed.

One of the very best things about using weeds for medicine is that you rarely have to entertain the usual worries about overharvesting. It’s an interesting exercise for an ethical wildcrafter to try: Find a field full of an unkillable weed and keep picking it for a while after you feel like you’ve done too much. (Don’t worry, you can always find an herbalist who can use some, or mulch your garden with the extra.)

I’ve tried this exactly twice. The first time was picking blooming yarrow on a friend’s land in the Columbia Gorge. The second was picking St. John’s Wort on an Okanogan land trust. In that case, the plant wasn’t even native, but rather a European invasive. It techinically wasn’t even overharvesting, but arguably just a feeble attempt at restoration.

Weeds are survivors in the game of evolution for many reasons. Here let’s consider a few that help humans be survivors, too. Continue reading “weed lover”

fear not the flower

Fall-blooming goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) is a common allergen.

It’s that season again, when a young plant’s thoughts turn to pollen — making an estimated 60 million people in the United States miserable.

While farmers and gardeners have greater exposure to seasonal allergens, they also have great tools to prevent and treat its symptoms: fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants.

If you know of seasonal trigger for your allergies, approach that season like an athlete preparing for a big sporting event by getting into shape. Starting four to six weeks ahead of the season with your garden’s tools can make a big difference when the pollen strikes. Continue reading “fear not the flower”

GardenMedicine talk Feb. 15

Bush beans and oregano.
Bush beans and oregano.

When we learn about Permaculture — or any kind of gardening, for that matter — we often see that certain plants are listed as medicinal. But do you ever wonder what part of the plant to use? When to pick it? What kind of health issues the plant medicine is used for? Would it be handy to get some ideas about this before spring planting?

It’s one thing to know that plants have medicinal functions, but Permaculture education rarely includes the body of knowledge needed to actually make use of plant medicines.

Join the Portland Permaculture Guild at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15 when herbalist, Permaculture designer and naturopathic physician Orna Izakson will discuss the functions and uses of many garden medicinals. The Garden Medicine slideshow draws from Orna’s extensive study of herbal medicine, with an eye to Permaculture functions and practical ideas for putting the people’s medicines back into the people’s hands.

To learn more about Orna, see GardenMedicine.com or CeliloHealth.com.

PPG meetings are held at Pacific Crest Community School at NE 29th and Davis (2 blocks N of Burnside) in Portland, Oregon. The meeting starts at 7pm. Please enter at the North door (Davis), or the door from the parking lot.

GardenMedicine is on Best Green Blogs!

Howdy, friends —

Today I found out that GardenMedicine.com made it onto Best Green Blogs! It will help spread that word about what you already know — that we’ve got lots of resources to help people sustain their land and their health.

Thanks for checking in here, and commenting when you’ve got something to say. There are lots of exciting projects in the works, including upcoming talks and workshops, articles on WellWire.com and programs through Celilo Natural Health Center!

Hmm. Cut off a little bit on the left there...


top 10 garden medicines

A spring planting guide while you’re planning what to plant

By Orna Izakson

Gardeners have a big advantage during deep darkness of a northwest winter: We get to pore over garden books and catalogs that offer shards of sunlight and whiffs of spring. Dreaming about striped tomatoes, salivating over the prospect of a fresh melon, imagining the thrum of a snapping pea, gardeners know that their dreams and will be rewarded with a well-stocked kitchen when the sun returns.

While curled up by the fire or the space heater with your summer hopes this winter, consider adding the flowerful, textural and healing world of growing medicine along with your food. The results will improve your garden — many medicinal plants also support beneficial bugs while confusing problematic pests — and improve your health.

It is absolutely irresponsibly unfair to ask any herbalist to narrow their favorite herbs down to a measly ten, and reasonable people will disagree heatedly about how to go about trying. This  particular list is intended as a general top 10 list of medicinals that are easy to grow from seed or starts. This article is not intended to substitute for medical advice, as each person has a specific history and specific needs. Continue reading “top 10 garden medicines”