10 Useful Medicinal Plants To Cultivate From Seeds

Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: November 24, 2020
10 Useful Medicinal Plants To Cultivate From Seeds

Editor’s Note: This is an updated and revised edition for 2018.

Over the years, I have shared many articles relative to herbs and plants for the survival garden. Some are easily found while foraging while others need to be cultivated. Some provide benefits for a specific ailment while others are all encompassing.

It should come as no surprise the essential oils made from plants and flowers are so popular since they represent the most concentrated form of plant material out there.

Today I take a different approach to medicinal plants. More specifically, I am introducing ten medicinal plants that can be cultivated from seeds. Not only that, these seeds will be viable in a wide variety of climates and locations, making them ideal for both the survival garden and your stored seed bank.

10 Medicinal Plants to Cultivate From Seed | Backdoor Survival

But first, why seeds? Even the most prolific garden will have an off year. Sometimes, not often, entire crops are lost. With seeds, and heirloom type seeds at that, you are pretty much guaranteed an endless supply of plants especially if you save seeds from year to year.

10 Medicinal Plants To Cultivate From Seeds

Medicinal herbs have been used for thousands of years as a natural way to fight off disease and infection. Here are 10 medicinal herbs that are easily cultivated from seeds.

1. Borage

Also known as a starflower, Borage is a an annual plant that has a long history of both medicinal and culinary uses. Though mostly grown for borage seed oil extract, many gardens also grow it for the edible leaves and flowers.

Medicinally, borage flowers are used in an infusion to treat numerous ailments such as gastrointestinal (stomach) discomfort, urinary problems, and is used in naturopathy to regulate the metabolism and maintain hormonal balance.

According to WebMD.com, borage oil (also called starflower oil) is used for skin disorders, treatment of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and rheumatoid arthritis. The leaves and flowers are used for fever and cough.

Borage has also been used in companion planting with tomatoes as a pest deterrent.

2. Calendula

Calendula is commonly known as the ‘pot marigold.’ The flowers are large with small, yet long, petals and is part of the daisy family. The flowers are edible and yellow dye can be made from the extract. This plant has been used for centuries across the globe in both food and medicinally.

Coloring butter and cheese, added to soups and stews, or infused in a tea are a few of the ways this colorful flower is consumed as a food. Calendula has been used in rituals from the ancient Greeks and Romans, as well as in Catholic events in some countries.

The medicinal qualities are just as numerous as the edible options. As a topical, calendula infusions are used to treat acne and soothe irritation skin. When consumed, this pretty little plant is used to treat stomach cramps and constipation. Allergic reactions do occur and pregnant women should not use calendula.

3. Cayenne

All it takes is one exposure to cayenne, whether in pepper or powder form, to remember what it is for the rest of your life. This plant produces a fiery pepper that has an established place in culinary and medicinal history.

cayenne pepper

Consumption of cayenne in any form is like taking a full blown body hit when you consider all the effects it has on you. The active ingredient, capsaicin, dilates blood vessels. This speeds the metabolism and increases the amount of heat your body produces, which is one of the reasons many people sweat when they eat dishes spiced with cayenne.

Cayenne is used to help regulate high blood pressure and the digestive system. It has also been shown to be a metabolism booster and help with weight loss.

4. Dandelion

Volumes have been written about this weed that is anything but common for its usable properties. Edible from tip to root, dandelions are a fantastic food source that can be eaten fresh, cooked in various ways, fermenting into wine, making jelly with the flowers, and even dry and preserve for later use.

dandelion flower

Soups, stews, salads, baked, sauteed, dried and ground roots as a coffee substitute – the list goes on. When eating fresh leaves, the smaller ones are better tasting. Larger leaves tend to be more bitter.

When it comes to medicinal uses, dandelion is a diuretic and blood purifier.

5. Echinacea

Echinacea is one of those herbs that has been used for millennia. Various parts of this large flowered plant are used for different purposes. It has multiple uses to help alleviate symptoms associated with the common cold and flu. Topically, Echinacea has been used for everything from boils and sores to bee stings to help ease pain, irritation, and itchiness.

Teas, tinctures, salves, and aromatherapy infusions are some of the ways this versatile and powerful plant is prepared for use.

Commonly taken as a supplement or consumed as a tea, this herb is one of the rare ones that is seen more as a medicine by the western world than as a culinary spice. It is not often cooked with.

6. Fenugreek

This is a plant of many names: methi, Greek clover, Greek hay, and chandrika are just a few. The seed is the prized part that is used as a medicine though the leaves are edible and commonly eaten both fresh and dried as a spice. There have been no official scientific studies done to date on the medicinal properties this plant however, the use of it dates back thousands of years.


It has been used as a poultice by pressing leaves directly to irritated skin and wrapped with a warm, wet cloth. It is also used for an upset stomach or constipation, bronchitis, boils, and kidney ailments.

7. Hyssop

A plant that has been naturalized in the United States and Canada, Hyssop is commonly found growing along roadsides. Hyssop is ancient in the medicinal world, being mentioned in the Bible. The ancient use for this hardy plant was as an insect repellent and in soaps or perfumes.

Today Hyssop is used to ease the symptoms of the flu, common cold, and other respiratory infections. It helps sore throats, coughing, and hoarseness.

Hyssop is noted as having delicious flowers and are sometimes grown as a spice that has a flavor likened to rosemary or lavender.

8. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is used for many delicious dishes and in teas. Because almost all flavor is lost when dried, most people only use the fresh leaves of lemon balm. In ancient times, lemon balm was steeped in wine to give a light flavor and help lift spirits, no pun intended.

lemon balm

Lemon balm is grown to attract bees and in larger operations for use in cosmetic products and medicine. Prepared in teas, salves, poultices, tinctures, and just about any other way you can think of, this versatile plant is well known the world over.

Specific medicinal uses include treating insomnia, cold sores, and anxiety.

9. Lovage

Lovage is a wonderful alternative to celery and many find it much easier to grow. This herb was widely used during the medieval times though its use had largely fallen away. Thanks to a renewed interest in herbs, Lovage is being rediscovered by people all over the world. It was brought to Europe by the Romans and spread out from there.

Medicinally speaking, Lovage is used for urinary tract health, along with indigestion, heartburn, and joint pain. The entire plant is edible.

10. Yarrow

When most people think about Yarrow, at least those who are exposed to herbalism, they think about using it to stop bleeding. Yarrow is widely used for its ability to help blood clot and hikers know it can be used to help scrapes and shallow cuts to heal due to its antimicrobial properties. It is found all over the planet and the histories of many cultures record a long tradition of using this wonderful plant.

Image Source

When it comes to growing conditions, yarrow tends be forgiving and grows wild in forests and along roadsides in almost all climates. Yarrow is usually steeped in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes and consumed as a tea for treating cold symptoms.

What to Look For When Purchasing Seeds for Storage

When purchasing seeds for long term storage, there are many options. You can purchase individual seed packets and then repackage them in a moisture proof container (such as a mason jar or Mylar bag) and create your own seed bank.

Another option is to purchase a commercial seed bank. There are many out there at differing price points. Since germination rates diminish over time, you are going to want to be mindful of the packaging date. It goes without saying that you will also want non-GMO, heirloom seeds.

In researching seed banks, also called seed vaults, be mindful that quality does not come at a bargain price. If the price seems too good to believe, then chances are you are not getting seeds that will store well for the long term. That means they may have a low germination rate or may not germinate at all.

Something else you should look for, or at least ask about, is the moisture content of the seeds at the time of packaging. Optimally, you want seed that has been specifically dried for storage as opposed to crop year seeds. According to studies at the University of Washington, each 1% reduction in seed moisture doubles seed life.

I would be remiss if I did not mention seed saving as another option. If this is the route you take, get a good book on seed saving and take extra care to ensure that the seeds you save are completely dry before they are packaged. It is also a good idea to test the seeds annually; I know of people that have stored their own seeds only to find that one year later, the germination rate is less than 10%.

Survival Seed Kits – One More Thing

Up until now, I have not been a big fan of survival seed kits. This is because most are marketed by companies that have taken a variety of current year crop seeds, slapped a survival label on the package, and sold their kits with zillions of seeds to preppers and survivalists. Many of these kits come without proper storage or cultivation instructions. It is a shame, really.

On the other hand, there are a few kits I have come across that I believe in. My pick of the moment is the Medicinal Seed Kit from Buy Emergency Foods. Not only does it include all of the medicinal herbs I recommend, but I value the research and testing that has gone into the drying of these seeds for long term storage purposes.

In a recent conversation I had with Phil Cox, the CEO of BEF, he shared his views on seed storage.

“I look at storing common sense items like food and water for emergencies as sort of a common sense insurance policy. If the worst happens, then my family is ‘covered’ so to speak.

Storing seeds that have been properly dried and packaged for long term storage seems to me like insurance for my insurance policy. Given what seeds can produce in a long term emergency, there is really no cheaper insurance policy. But there is another fantastic reason to store seeds.

I don’t’ know if you’ve seen the new movie The Big Short, that recently came out, but there is an amazing scene where one of the characters encourages gardening and specifically storing seeds. I’m paraphrasing (and there are no spoiler here either…) but his rationale was that when everything goes south, seeds are going to be so sought after that they will become the new currency.

I feel like that’s probably right. Given how relatively inexpensive storage seeds are, I think adding them to your emergency supply is prudent for several reasons.”

To add to that, my comment was that even if our gardening environment is not ideal, having seeds would allow us to join up with others that do have a well-situated garden. Without question, an extra set of hands to share the work, some gardening tools, and a cache of high quality, viable seeds, would make for a welcome addition to any survival community.

The Final Word

A lot of emphasis is placed on growing food gardens. Alas, not everyone has the space, the climate, and the amount of sun needed to harvest a sustainable amount of food. On the other hand, medicinal herbs can be grown in pots and in a wide variety of growing environments.

Following a disruptive event, both food and medicine will be is short supply. Since it is easier to purchase food storage and bulk medicines, my vote is going forward, to use my own limited growing space for medicinal herbs. Growing medicinal plants, learning how to use them to solve everyday ailments, and storing medicinal herb seeds for the long term are my goals for this coming year.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!


Below you will find links to the items related to today’s article:

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners: As far as I am concerned, this is the best book available for learning how to grow and save your own seeds. The author has grown seed crops of every vegetable featured in the book, and has thoroughly researched and tested all of the techniques she recommends for the home garden.

Prepper’s Natural Medicine: Life-Saving Herbs, Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for When There is No Doctor: This is a fantastic book from fellow blogger, Cat Ellis. In it you will learn that natural remedies are not voodoo but rather, natures way of healing without the use of toxic chemicals and additives. Highly recommended. Also see: Prepper Book Festival 9: Prepper’s Natural Medicine.

VICTORIO Four-Tray Kitchen Crop Sprouter: Using a sprouter is the safest way to create fresh, healthy organic sprouts at home in just 3-5 days. The unique growing tray design uses water surface tension to keep the correct amount of water in each tray for all stages of the growing process.

Spark Naturals Essential Oils: My first line of defense for minor ailments and illness is essential oils.A good option to start with is the “Health and Wellness” kit that comes packaged in a tin and includes a brochure with suggested uses for each of the oils. As kits, these oils are already discounted but as an added bonus, you get an additional 10% off with discount code BACKDOORSURVIVAL at checkout.

Help support Backdoor Survival. Purchases earn a small commission and for that I thank you!

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21 Responses to “10 Useful Medicinal Plants To Cultivate From Seeds”

  1. Gaye, you mention ten plants in this article and you also mention seed vaults. And, you “recommend” the seed kit from emergency foods. Does this seed kit include all the plant seeds you mention in the article? Are there any other seed sources that you felt were reliable?

    Great article,

    • You know, Jose, it almost sounds like you are affiliated with a competing seed source or prepper website. Regardless of your motive, your delivery lacks decency in so many ways. An apology would be an obvious next step, however, I suspect you are much too arrogant to afford anyone that minor effort for reparation.

      Gaye, your response was dignified and certainly more respectful than Jose deserved. Kudos to you, not only for that, but for the plethora of interesting and important posts. I’m sure I can speak for the vast majority when I say we value the quality information and hard work.

      Blessings to you and yours!

  2. Hey, never mind. I followed the link next to the article and found that the seed kit you mentioned contains exactly the ten plants you mention in the article. Unfortunately, this only makes me skeptical as the article now sounds more like a plug for the seed packet rather than a recommendation for the need of these ten plants. I take back my comment about a great article, seems more like a well crafted plug.


    • I learned about these particular herbs while I was researching seeds for my own use. The more I dug into it, the more I realized that this particular selection was well suited to a wide variety of geographical areas and ailments.

      This article represents hours of research. It also provides information and links for saving your own seeds and other information not related to any particular seed kit.

      I provide this information on this website for free. I don’t ask for a dime and in case you did not notice, I refuse to take donations (which you see on many other prepper websites). . When I mention products, they are items I have purchased myself or items that I have thoroughly researched.

      I am sorry you feel the way do and found you comment to be quite hurtful.

      Respectively, Gaye

    • This is a good list. My Patriot Supply also has a herb seed vault that contains cayenne, borage, echinacea, lemon balm, etc…so there’s obviously a reason that these herbs are included in the various seed vaults.

      Jose, try to be a little more respectful buddy. You’re getting free information and nobody is twisting your arm to buy anything.

    • Jose:

      Whether someone opts to purchase seeds or not, the information here is free for the taking. Maybe you should consider the amount of work we bloggers put into the articles we provide to you at no charge before you insult the person providing it.

      Question: do you get paid for your job? Or do you do it for free? What? You don’t just work out of the goodness of your heart? You, sir, are the worst kind of human, one who expects others to actually PAY you to work. Wow. How could you? Now, it sounds outrageous when I put it like that, doesn’t it?

      Think about what YOU said. Does the fact that Gaye recommended a product that you have an OPTION to purchase mean that all of the well-researched information she provided is now totally bereft of value? Does it mean that since you read the article, you are forced to purchase the seeds, or have your internet privileges revoked for life? Hardly.

      Try to be respectful of those who give you free information, instead of deriding them for the fact that they, like you, must make a living. Gaye offers products in the most gentle, non-pushy manner you will find on the net.

      Love you, Gaye! Thank you for an awesome article that I will be passing on to my readers.

    • Ditto what Daisy wrote. I am not a blogger but I have a brain, common sense and decency. It is easy to grasp that most bloggers world hard for their information. They research it, verify it and write it. That is on top of the time and money invested in the technical aspects of the blog. They find or take the photos and pay royalty fees. They cross-reference each article with hyper-text links to related articles. Both Gaye and Daisy spent hours inventing or testing DIY instructions, such as Gayes salves. How would you like to wake up to bashing after you have worked hard on something freely shared with readers?

      Lest there be any confusion, Backdoor Survival is NOT FACEBOOK. People who subscribe to this blog DO NOT RUDELY BASH anything about it. There is NO anonymous arguing back and forth with strangers. Blogs are created by Real People investing time, money, energy and their own special caring for the subject matter and the readers.

  3. Gaye, I really liked this seed article. I tend to get overwhelmed learning about herbs but your article was great because I have heard of all these plants. I grew yarrow once just because a friend gave me a small plant and it did really well with no special care. I like that this article was about growing from seed v buying starter plants. Seeds are much cheaper. One more thing. Some neighborhoods get picky about front yard vegetable gardens but these are all flowering plants and edible foods that can be planted in the front yard.

    One question–what do you think is the best source for individual heirloom vegetable seeds, both for storage and for this spring? The seed vaults and other combo packs contain to many vegetables I can’t eat. Thanks in advance.

    • Oh yes, totally agree. Look at how beautiful purple basil is! Dark leaves and pink flowers is very striking. Also curly parsley and colundia can’t be beat. Sage plants have a silvery color to them and they usually live 4- 6 years. What an investment!!!

  4. Thank you for sharing your research to benefit those of us who are interested and thankful that you take the time to not only investigate but share what you learn. I hope that you will continue to keep us updated on your progress and experience with these seeds. I am purchasing the the suggested seeds because I rely on you and your honesty to help me become a better prepper. Thank you for all that you do for the prepper community.

  5. Calendula is one of the two herbs that are the basis for my salves (comfrey is the other). I don’t think you mentioned it, but calendula infusion is excellent for bathing sore, tired, inflamed eyes. I have actually cleared pink-eye in 24 hours by bathing with calendula. Thanks for a well-informed article.

  6. I think it is just common sense to learn about herbs. There have been no deaths, no vaccination injuries, etc. The cost of medical treatment is astronomical and out of the middle class’ ability to pay. Herbs are easy to grow and joy when shared with others. I am teaching myself through articles like this. It is so much more economical than purchasing over the counter products. MAKE OUR OWN!!! Siberian garlic is called the Russian antibiotic and has been used during war times. The antibiotics on the market are creating “super bugs” and are becoming ineffective. Overused Antibiotics are Becoming Ineffective- copy & paste that title for an internet search. The article on dealing with diarrhea is loaded with information. “We The People” need to know how to deal with issues like this. Blessings!! Thank you Gaye for all that you do and for your caring.

  7. Gaye I grow sage, thyme and oregano alongwith a few others you mentioned
    These three are anti bacterials and some anti-fungal.
    I always have my “tonic” where I fill a fruit jar with equal amounts of these and cover with vodka….let sit in the dark a fe weeks then when not up to par take a spoonful. no flu for 2 years.
    Keep up the good work

  8. Hello, Gaye. GOD Bless you and a Big Idaho Thank You for All that you do! Just a footnote for you and your readers. Regarding Borage, Dandelion (Wild or Italian), Echinacea, Hyssop, Lemon Balm, and Yarrow … If Only For the Sake of our Bees (esp. Honey and Blue Orchard) plant these varieties FIRST! Especially wild Dandelion (Dents de Lyon) – Our orchard provides about 3/4 acre of Dandelion Blooms early in the Spring – and this gives our mason bees and our neighbor honey bees their first food on awakening. Otherwise, they would STARVE for 3-4 weeks. Take Care.

  9. The only thing I’d add is plant your lemon balm in a container. It will still grow like gangbusters but not take over your bed like it did mine! Actually, we were picking lemon balm seedlings from the path between our raised beds, our hosta beds, the seams between our driveway concrete-you get the idea!

  10. Ok, I’ll try this again, lost signal and the post. Gaye knows why. Indeed another great article.
    Another one to grow is Lovage, its a cross between celery and parsley. And it spreads, so having it in a pot would be good. I will be taking out a couple clumps to share with my neighbors this spring. I use it in anything that calls for selery and parsley. It is also highly nutritious, more so than celery is.
    Jose, you really dont have to be here. There are many of us here that really appreciate what Gaye does. She does this from her heart. She takes the time to research the topic she writes about so that we dont have to, and gives us enough info to get us started if we do. She does not, however post plugs, if you were familiar with her style, you’d know that. If you are new to this site, please repects others. There are no stupid questions, and there are lots of us willing to give our “2-cents worth” when its needed. I hope you continue to visit this site and learn, respectlfully of course.

  11. Here is a first aid use for cayenne that few people know. I learned it from a friend whose parents immigrated from Hungary during the Cold War days. If a person has a cut that will not top bleeding, take powdered cayenne and sprinkle some in the cut. As long as you aren’t putting any on a mucous membrane, it will not sting and it works great. I’ve used this method to make bleeding slow down enough so a person could get to the hospital and the ER doc was amazed at how well it worked.

    • I use it this way too. I made some dose packets small and large to fit into travel size first aid kits plus a small spice plastic jar in the larger first aid kits. It’s also good if nitro tabs aren’t around when someone is having a heart attack (goes under the tongue). Since it’s capable of crossing the skin barrier, it also is fast acting to “cap” the pain receptors to block pain. Gaye has posted my pain tonic before– now I can tell you it work faster than any pharm painkiller. I know because it happened to me.

  12. Fenugreek. A tip. If you life near an Indian grocery (that is, “India Indian” and not “American Indian”) you can buy Fenugreek cheap. In the Hindi language it’s called “methi” and not fenugreek. Some Indian store clerks will know that; others will whip out their iPad or iPod and translate. Of course you can always Google for it ahead of time. You can buy dried leaves (to eat), frozen leaves (compressed like ice cubes; to eat), and seeds (by the POUND; to eat or plant; SUPER-CHEAP compared to seed catalogs). Fenugreek can be grown inside in pots or outside in the vegetable garden. Check out “growing fenugreek” on YouTube.

  13. This is great for many people to have such a group pack. The only caution I would give is to try each plant which ever way one wants. Get to know them so you know whether those would be benefit from them can also. By this I mean, plants can work against a person through health challenges or due to medicines they are taking. There are a few here which I don’t know except for I or someone around me can’t use them. That said, fenugreek is good for lowering blood sugar and cholesterol. It’s also good for preventing some forms of cancer. It may also reduce kidney stones.

    Topically, the gelatinous texture of fenugreek seed may have some benefit for soothing skin that is irritated by eczema or other conditions. It has also been applied as a warm poultice to relieve muscle aches and gout pain.

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