Medicinal Plants in your Garden

It’s that time of year…the sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and gardens are growing!  Plants are outstanding allies for a number of reasons.  Plants not only provide us with a source of nutrition, but can also be used for everyday ailments.  While most of us will use our garden spaces to grow our favourite foods, you can also grow your own medicines. 


Many everyday foods are themselves medicines and a classic example is garlic.  Garlic is called Allium sativum and contains multiple compounds that are good for health.  I often find myself recommending garlic as part of a comprehensive plan for those with high cholesterol and blood pressure.  Garlic is rich in antioxidants, also valuable in supporting cardiovascular health.  Garlic is easy to grow, typically started in the fall and grown through the next summer.


Many common teas that we simply enjoy the taste of also have therapeutic properties.  A couple examples include Lemon balm (Melissa off.) and Chamomile (Matricaria recutita).  Chamomile is great to use as a companion plant, meaning it grows well amongst other aromatic herbs, like basil or peppermint.  Lemon balm can spread rather easily so it may best be planted in a pot to contain it. 


Both lemon balm and chamomile are carminatives, which means they reduce digestive disturbances like gas and cramping.  Both are calming to the nervous system so useful during times when stress impacts our digestion.  Aromatic herbs like these are generally best steeped for 10-15 minutes to maximize their health benefits.  When I create an individualized plan for someone with IBS, I often use herbs like these in a tincture formula for a stronger effect.


Coneflower (otherwise called Echinacea or Echinacea purpurea) is a beautiful plant that is easy to grow.  The root is the part used and generally we find this herb useful for colds and flus.  Roots require a different extraction method than teas, called a decoction, in order to extract the medicinal properties.  I tend to use Echinacea in a tincture formula with other good herbs for colds and flus (like Elderberry, for instance!).


Prudent use of herbal medicines involves ensuring they are the right ones for you, as they can interact with medications or with other herbs.  Use herbs wisely by consulting reputable resources, following instructions on labels, and seeking professional help when needed.


Health-related information contained here is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a regulated healthcare practitioner, like a licensed naturopathic doctor.


Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Book in a Complimentary 15-minute, no obligation appointment with Dr. Shawn to see if Naturopathic Medicine is right for you!

Spagyric Tinctures

Spagyric medicine is a ancient form of botanical medicine and is similar to that of homeopathic medicine, in the sense that through the process of creating a spagyric tincture the herbal remedy becomes more potent and reaches a highly energized state.1,3,4  Spagyric medicine, theory, and philosophy have much more depth than I just stated and if the reader is keen to learn more I would point them to the references listed at the end of the article.

Spagyric tinctures differ from regular botanical tinctures in that the process of creating the tincture a remedy is created that not only is in a highly energized state but also incorporates the minerals found in the herb back in to the tincture.1,2,3,4  This is a significant difference because once a regular botanical tincture is made the remaining plant material is generally discarded, including any of the constituents not extracted.

A spagyric tincture involves at least three steps, that of separation, purification, and cohobation (recombination).1,3  Separation involves an extraction with alcohol to separate various constituents, for approximately 40 days.  Purification involves a process of grinding and burning the remaining dried plant material until it becomes a white ash.  Cohobation involves recombining the white ash with the liquid extract, again for approximately 40 days.  These steps may involve heat and agitation.


Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.



  1. Junius, M. M. (2007). Spagyrics: The alchemical preparation of medicinal essences, tinctures and elixirs. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
  2. Liquid Herbal Extracts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 3, 2016, from
  3. Sinclair, J. (2013). The alchemy of herbal medicine: Spagyric tinctures, elixirs and the vegetable stone. Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine, 25(4), 188-194.
  4. What is Spagyric Medicine. (2013, April 09). Retrieved April 03, 2016, from

Herbal Bitters

Herbal Bitters

Bitters are a group of plant constituents, which are not like other plant constituents but are rather distinguishable by their taste when consumed (bitter principle).  Many believe that for bitters to induce their physiological effects they must be tasted.  This is important when considering how to use bitters, for example as a tincture or a capsule. 

Bitters have been traditionally used as a digestive stimulant, enjoyed most often as a cocktail before a meal.  Using bitters before a meal helps to stimulate digestion generally, including the flow of digestive secretions, stimulating gallbladder bile flow (cholagogue), acting as a hepatic to aid liver function, and stimulating the vagus nerve to promote intestinal peristalsis. 

Spring is a perfect time to introduce bitters to help aide in sluggish winter digestion, where most of us have been indoors and sedentary far more.  Spring is also a great season to help the liver detoxify.

Taraxacum officinale, or Dandelion leaf and root, is a great example of bitter plant that can be used fresh in salads or in soups, is abundant in spring, and promotes both digestion and liver function.  Of course it can be used as a dried leaf/root or tincture. 

Another commonly recognized bitter used as food (or beverage in this case), is Humulus lupulus, or Hops, which is found in beer.

Many plants have the bitter principle and also have secondary actions apart from the actions that I listed above, so it is important to exercise caution when using any new herb. 

Bitters are great for spring and for putting a little spring in your digestion.  See the references listed for more information.


Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.



Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Marciano, M., Dr. (2013, November 05). The Bitter Principle. Retrieved April 23, 2016, from