Prevention is easier than cures… but both come from the garden. Gardeners have an advantage when it comes to natural remedies: ready access to the healthiest possible foods.

Prevention is easier than cures… but both come from the garden. Gardeners have an advantage when it comes to natural remedies: ready access to the healthiest possible foods.

Have you ever known an old-timer who refuses to go to the hospital? Or perhaps that’s you? 😉 There are many who try to avoid hospitals if at all possible. Sometimes it’s because of the exorbitant costs. But there’s a deeper concern, that’s apparently well founded.

Iatrogenic deaths are a leading cause of deaths in the US. Depending on which study you cite, it’s either first,1) ahead of heart attacks and cancer, or third.2) So we’re saying it this way:

Iatrogenic deaths are a leading cause of deaths in the US.

Either way you look at it, whether it is first, second, third or seventh, it should be enough to get our individual and collective attention. It’s not a pretty picture. And… so much of this is avoidable with natural remedies, food as medicine and prevention through nutritious and medicinal foods and exercise.

Iatrogenic means a medical disorder caused by the diagnosis, manner, or treatment of a physician.3) An iatrogenic effect, or iatrogenesis, may not always be a negative thing. If accompanied by the word “death”, then yes, it’s a negative. However iatrogenesis could simply be a term for a normal scar resulting from surgery, where there is no death or negative consequence. As in that scar was caused by the medical process. So the word alone is not a negative. It’s the context that matters.4)

Typically associated with hospitals, traditional medicine and medical treatments, Iatrogenic deaths can also result from complementary and alternative medicine treatments. So there’s always risk. All the more so when you’re the medical professional dealing with people living unhealthy lifestyles or already under the duress of disease compromising the immune systems and state of health.

What’s all the more distressing however is that the majority of the leading causes of death today, without beneficial or detrimental medical intervention, is more often than not, the result of lifestyle and diet. In my family, whenever we’re ill or ailing, we seek healing from diet and herbs first.

Better than Big Pharma… Little Farma from your backyard!

Today, most people pop pills for all ailments. From a headache to heart medicine and everything in between.

The bad news: the majority of diseases today are caused by the foods we eat.

The good news: the majority of diseases today can be eliminated by the foods we eat.

We relish being as self sufficient as possible and always seek natural remedies over prescriptions. It’s empowering to realize that we each have the freedom to grow our own nutritious food and medicinal herbs. So let’s eat from our yards, gardens, fields and woods, what God and nature have provided… and be better for it!

We each have the freedom to grow our own nutritious food and medicinal herbs.

This is a freedom that big pharma would take away… even as they are diligently studying medicinal properties in herbs… these herbs and plants they would control.

In 1932, it was estimated that “upwards of 70 percent of all medicines employed are plant products.”5) This amazing map,which you can expand and zoom, reveals the education to the public at that time, just 84 years ago… the lifetime of a grandparent today.

In just 80 years we have a medical system which relies almost entirely on patented chemicals and/or biologicals that are far removed from anything resembling the ‘backyard farmacy’ of yesteryear. The FDA’s very definition of a drug now precludes the use of natural substances.6)

In one lifetime, we’ve lost the lore of herbs and backyard medicine along with the acknowledged use of readily available plants in medicines. Well… actually, we haven’t lost it, as there are many still steeped in herbal healing traditions, and—thankfully—many good books and sources available on this.

But we may be in for the fight of our lives to keep it.


So while herbal supplements are an attractive and inexpensive alternative to pharmaceuticals, they currently receive little to no government regulation. This means that your supplement could be a good quality from a reliable manufacturer using high grade ingredients. Or, it could be outsourced to China to put together based on a “recipe” of ingredients.

It’s a lot like the quality of olive oil. Cold pressed 100% pure virgin olive oil in tinted bottles and kept at reasonable temperatures is likely to have its health-beneficial composition intact. However, oil extracted through any process of heating, could damage the nutrients, rendering the end product either nutritionally neutral, or even worse, detrimental, if rancid or unstable. Even worse, there’s often no guarantee that olive oil labeled as cold pressed 100% virgin, actually is.7)

Anyway, back to natural remedies from yard and garden. Given all this ruckus and uncertainty, it will serve you and your family well to grow your own medicinally beneficial herbs and learn how to use them!

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Roasted yam with wild rice and pumpkin seeds.

Homegrown Natural Remedies and Herbal Medicines

Excerpted from article by Harvey Ussery on

In the book The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green, the author presents 30 top medicinal herbs.

Many of these plants are well known natural remedies and may already be growing in your landscape or garden. Blackberry, calendula, chamomile, comfrey and willow are in that list. Who knew that these ubiquitous and unobtrusive members of our communities would be in a “top 30” list of medicinal herbs?

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Natural remedies are—or could be—in your garden and backyard.

We’ve been conditioned to think of dandelion, plantain, stinging nettle and yellow dock as “the enemy” in our gardens and yards. However, any plant that offers to boost our health should be welcomed and honored, not denigrated as a “weed.”

When you think about it, it’s really more strange to seek health and healing in a pill. For eons humankind has obtained health and healing from natural remedies. I mean… that’s all there was, right?!

It’s only in recent times that healing from natural remedies was considered “alternative medicine. It is not so long ago on the timeline of human history that we started popping pills and supplements for health. The animal kingdom does not, and sure, while we need vets to help our domesticated animals keep healthy, animals in the wild on a natural diet experience fewer diseases.

The concept of food for natural remedies has been available at least as far back as 400 B.C., when Hippocrates said,

“Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.”

The Many Benefits of Herbs

Medicinal herbs as foods. As discussed above, many of the plants we’ve come to rely on for food also offer medicinal actions. In some cases, the medicinal part is different from the food part — for example, it is often the root bark of blackberry which is used medicinally. But in many cases, it is the edible part of the plant itself which is a kind of “superfood,” toning and balancing the body while adding “punctuation” to our meals, such as cayenne (a general, circulatory and digestive system tonic), fennel, ginger and peppermint. We should incorporate such herbs more frequently into our diets, and explore their use in a more directed way when there is a special need. We might make an infusion of fennel, for example, to treat colic, or to stimulate digestion or appetite.

Herbs can be used to make other foods with medicinal effects. In previous eras, a wide range of medicinal herbs — yarrow, ginger, wintergreen, licorice, St. John’s wort, elder flowers and berries — were used to flavor and preserve beers and ales. Mead, a fermented beverage made from honey, has medicinal effects in its own right, but can also be made with herbs such as heather that boost its medicinal properties. Vinegars and vegetable oils can be infused with herbs such as rosemary, garlic and cayenne, and used on salads and other dishes to promote health.

Boosting insect diversity. Wise homesteaders know that the solution to damaging insects is not a program for killing insects, but encouraging even more insect diversity, especially by cultivating plants that flower throughout the growing season. Many common medicinal herbs — such as calendula, chamomile, echinacea, fennel, peppermint and yarrow — are flowering plants, and offer the valuable “fringe benefit” of providing food and shelter for beneficials as well. Plantings of flowering herbs are more effective at encouraging our insect buddies if incorporated among the crops to be protected, rather than planted in their own little fiefdoms.

Herbs as fertility plants. Smart homesteaders also know it is possible to grow more of our own soil fertility. Isn’t it fortunate that some of the best fertility plants have medicinal properties as well? Comfrey (used for healing wounds and broken bones) and nettle are high in protein (nitrogen), and can be used as nutritive mulches or to “spark” a compost heap. Dandelion and yellow dock are deep-rooted dynamic accumulators which “mine” minerals from the subsoil and make them available to more shallow-rooted crops.

Herbs as fodder crops. Many medicinal plants and herbs do double duty to provide fresh green (or dried) fodder for our livestock. I find that dandelion and yellow dock stay green deeper into winter’s chill than any other forage plant — I dig them up and feed them to my winter poultry flock by the bucketful. Oats make an excellent nerve tonic, and can be used to feed livestock as well, either cut and fed green, or self-harvested by the animals. My geese love comfrey.

Other ecological or landscape uses. Hawthorn and willow might be planted for shade, as a windbreak or as a “living fence.” As such they offer important ecological benefits (bird and wildlife shelter, and moderation of the effects of wind, heat and loss of soil moisture to evaporation) in addition to their medicinal uses.

Making Plant Medications

Let your kitchen be your pharmacy. With a reliable beginner’s guide to home medicine, you will require no equipment other than the pans, bowls, strainers, funnels, measuring utensils and electric coffee grinder probably already in your kitchen. If you get excited about the process, you can add items such as presses and distilling equipment for making more sophisticated extractions.

We love this topic! For cultivation tips and more, visit this article on Mother Earth News.8)

8 Herbs for Healing with Ethnobotanist James Wong

This is an exceptionally well done instructional video by scientist and gardener, James Wong. Definitely worth watching.

“Approximately 50% of pharmaceutical drugs are based on chemicals that first came from natural sources.” James Wong, ethnobotanist

We’re not surprised, are you? Bet not.

The Free Pharmacy in Your Backyard

Now an episode by James Wong from his hit UK series on how to grow and make your ownherbal remedies. In this video, James covers Marigold acne gel, Viola eczema cream and Elderflower cough drops.

Love this topic! How about you? Join the conversation on the Gardens All Facebook page… let us know what you’re growing and using. We love hearing from you!

References   [ + ]

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I’m LeAura Alderson, entrepreneur, ideator, media publisher, writer and editor of Pursuits in recent years have been more planting seeds of ideas for business growth more than gardening. However, I’ve always been interested in medicinal herbs and getting nutrition and healing from food over pharmacy. As a family we’re eager to dig more deeply into gardening and edible landscape for the love of fresh organic foods and self sustainability. We thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the creative ingenuity of the GardensAll community.