Planting Calming Herbs for You and Your Garden

Growing lemon balm, catnip, and healing plants

May 14, 2020
Catnip and Cat

We are living in uncertain times that can cause even the calmest person to experience some anxiety. Since I tend to be anxious even on a good day, I am always looking for natural ways to soothe my nerves. Many of modern society’s tried-and-true drugs have come from Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet, so let’s come back down to earth and see what calming herbs we can grow.

So many of our drugs are from nature—aspirin, morphine, penicillin, and even Sudafed, and more.  Let’s go directly to the source of many of our health remedies. Herbs! 

Calming herbs like lemon balm, catnip and tulsi basil are even called “nervine herbs” because they act upon the nervous system to produce a mildly relaxing effect, reducing stress with their pleasing flavors and aromas. Not only will you love the herbs, but so will the pollinators! They love the blossoms of herbs. 

Note: Before consuming any herbs, consult your doctor just to be on the safe side!

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Photo: Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon Balm

Even the name is soothing! Used fresh or dried, the tangy leaves make a relaxing tea—hot or iced. Crushed leaves can be added to cold water for a refreshing lemony drink. Lemon balm has a mildly sedative quality good for calming the mind before bed.

Another positive benefit of lemon balm is that it seems to deter insects whe you crush a handful of leaves on our skin.

A perennial, lemon balm grows 1 to 2 feet tall in sun to part shade, needs good soil, and is easy to grow from seed. It is in the mint family, so plant it in an bottomless bucket or enclosed bed to keep it from running all over your garden. Harvest the top third of the plant before it flowers and hang to dry.

Enjoy our homemade video as an ode to lemon balm!

Catnip

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) may drive your cat wild but when it comes to humans, a tea made from its dried or fresh leaves is actually quite calming.

A perennial that is easy to grow from seed, catnip grows to be about 3 feet tall, likes full sun, and does well even in poor dry soil. It is most potent used fresh but to save some for the winter, harvest the top third of the plant before it blooms and hang to dry. Let a few branches blossom for the bees. They love it too!

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Photo: Catnip

Holy Basil

Tulsi or Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to counteract the effects of stress on body and mind. I was given a bagful of dried leaves last fall and have found that the fruity tasting tea is good for calming my overactive mind before bedtime. This summer I’ll be growing my own to replenish my stash!

It is a warm-weather annual, as easy to grow from seed as any other type of basil. It does well in full sun to part shade, growing up to 2 feet tall in rich moist soil. It can be grown in a container to bring inside for winter. It is also considered a good luck plant!

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Photo:These are the holy basil plants I’ll be growing this summer.

Chamomile

German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has little pineapple scented, daisy-like flowers that make a delicious relaxing tea. Often used to soothe a nervous stomach, it can ease depression and anxiety. A major ingredient in Sleepytime tea, it is good for insomnia. Use the flowers fresh or dried for tea or fill a sachet or clean cotton sock and add to your bath for a relaxing soak.

Another annual that is easy to grow from seed, it can grow up to 2 feet tall and likes full sun. Pick and dry the blossoms when they are fully open. Read more about chamomile tea and how to grow this plant.

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Photo: Chamomile

Lavender

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Is an antidepressant that calms the nerves and relieves stress. Frequently used in aromatherapy, the fragrance alone has a calming effect. The leaves and flowers are also used in teas, which are especially good for insomnia.

A perennial native to the Mediterranean, it can be challenging to grow in some regions. It likes dry alkaline soil of poor to average fertility - not too rich or wet. Harvest stalks before the buds open and hang to dry.

See the Almanac’s Growing Guide to Lavender to plant this calming beauty!

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Photo: Lavender

More Healing Plants

Enjoy learning about more plants that have the power to heal!

Cultivate inner peace by growing some serenity in your garden.

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.