Called Kalmegh in Ayurveda and Chuan-xin-lian in Chinese medicine, andrographis is an intensely bitter herb with diminutive but beautiful flowers. It is an annual that matures in 160 days and is self-seeding for the next season in warmer climates. The herb is non-toxic but being bitter, it stimulates the flow of bile so when harvested for medicinal use, consider small doses. This herb is being used extensively by people with Lyme disease as well as digestive complaints. The seed is a slow germinator so scarify the seeds on fine sandpaper before planting. If the growing season is short, start the plants indoors or in a greenhouse.
Artemisia annua, popularly known as Sweet Annie. This is, as the name suggests, an annual. It is native to China where it is known as Qing-hao.
This herb is probably the most famous antimalarial herb in the world, but recent research suggests it is of significant value in treating certain kinds of cancer. Though it is easy to grow, demand has soared, thanks to U.N. sponsorship of various global efforts to reduce the incidence of malaria.
Days to maturity: 100 days to harvest of leaf and flower, 160 days to seed. Artemisia annua prefers full sun and sandy, well-drained soil.
Astragalus is a major tonic herb that is native to North China and Mongolia. It is hardy to zone 4 and requires three weeks of cold to germinate. It is nourishing and immune enhancing. As a member of the pea family, it is edible. The roots can be used fresh or dried and added to anything that is cooked with moisture for a long time such as soups and casseroles. It has a pleasant taste and is non-toxic. The seeds should be lightly scarified and planted after the first frost. Germination is fast and the plants will grow to about four feet in height. Plant lots because the roots should not be harvested for 3-4 years. Astragalus is very safe for pets as well as people.
Dan Shen, 30 seeds, organic Salvia miltiorrhiza
This red sage is a perennial native to Manchuria and Japan where its medicinal value is much appreciated. It is hardy to zone 7. The flowers are bluish-lavender but the roots are very red which is how the plant got its botanical name. As one might expect, Dan Shen improves blood flow, but what is important is that it does this without stimulating the adrenals. It is also used to prevent strokes. The chemical constituent that is believed to explain this action is an antioxidant called salvianolic acid. Dan shen seeds should be planted in spring in full sun in temperate zones. The root is harvested in autumn and is the part that is used medicinally.
Sophora flavescens is native to China and Japan and is tolerant of extremely cold temperatures. It grows very well with sea buckthorn and can be used on slopes to hold the soil. It is a very important herb in Chinese medicine and has been used in everything from hair growth formulas to viral hepatitis, heart arrythmias, and cancer. It grows around five feet high and the roots can be harvested in spring or fall. They can be consumed raw or dried and used later to make medicine.
Licorice, Official, 30 seedsGlycyrrhiza glabra
Licorice is perhaps one of the truest adaptogenic herbs. It is used in countless Chinese formulas as well as many Ayurvedic ones. It is also used as a natural sweetener and is sometimes added to herbal preparations to mask the taste of other herbs, but the real benefit is that it protects against allergic reactions. The plant has lilac flowers, and the roots can be harvested in the autumn after two to four years. They are quite fibrous. Usually, they are sliced and dried. If extracting, use water first and add the alcohol later.
Schisandra, 20 seedsSchisandra chinensis
Schisandra is hardy to zone 4 and produces white or pink flowers early in the season and red berries later. The berries hang like grapes in clusters. The Chinese name refers to the five tastes (as compared to six in Ayurvedic medicine). It is rare that any plant has all five tastes, but schisandra does. The berries are however quite tart. They can be eaten raw, dried, or cooked. They are adaptogenic and hepatoprotective. The seeds and branches are also used medicinally. To bear fruit, male and female plants are needed.
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