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The Sustainability of Herbs

Sep 30, 2022 06:45AM ● By Kathleen Gould and Madalyn Johnson
Borage flower

Borage. Photo Credit: animaflorapicsstock//

Every year more and more people are discovering the amazing healing abilities of the medicinal plants of the Earth and using them with incredible results. They are using them not only for healing but for prevention as well. As wonderful as this is, there are also responsibilities that go along with these gifts so they remain available for generations to come.
Due to commercial exploitation and overharvesting, the loss of medicinal plants in the wild is unprecedented, and so we would like to look at one way we can each do our part to ensure the sustainability of these herbs.
One of the easiest ways is to grow our own backyard gardens and incorporate the medicinal “weeds” as part of those gardens. During the past few years, as we were forced to stay in our homes, many people started gardening, even those of us that were a bit frightened about trying to grow gardens in the harsh desert climate.
What we found is although we had to make some adjustments to planting times, we could still grow amazing foods and herbs. The big gift was it got so many of us out in the earth, which has helped heal our souls as much as the plants sustain our physical bodies.

Calendula. Photo Credit: yuliab/

Companion planting is a great way to incorporate healing herbs into our gardens. As an example, calendula flower has a long history of use for skin and wound healing and is also a great gastrointestinal healer. This beautiful flower is an antiseptic, antifungal and anti-inflammatory, used for ulcers, diverticulitis, gallbladder inflammation and the list goes on. Calendula planted in your garden around your tomatoes helps deter whiteflies, and the bright flowers attract many beneficial insects.

Borage is a great herb to help with exhausted adrenals (boy, we could all use that), among other things, and grows really well in our area. Plant it near your strawberries for higher yield and more flavor or near your tomatoes to help repel tomato hookworms. You can even freeze those beautiful borage flowers in ice cubes to add to your favorite summer drinks.

Chamomile. Photo credit: corpp/

Let’s look at a few more helpers in the garden, such as chamomile. This sweet herb can improve the flavor of others, such as onions and cabbage, so be sure to plant them together. Then there is mint, which has so many benefits; it helps with digestion, concentration and headaches and helps open up those airways. And this plant in your garden attracts bees and other beneficial insects. Plant mint near broccoli, cabbage and kale. It also helps repel whiteflies and aphids. But, interestingly, chamomile and peppermint should not be planted near each other. Chamomile can stop mint plants from producing the oil that gives them their minty scent.

Planting herbs in similar groupings is another way to guarantee success (well, in gardening and Mother Nature, nothing is really ever guaranteed). Herbs that love moisture, like basil and parsley, are a good planting pair. On the other hand, those that prefer a drier soil are lavender, thyme, rosemary and oregano. Similarly scented plants play off each other, like lemon verbena and lemon thyme.
So you can see with just a little research, knowledge and placement, most plants help other plants become better—just like us humans!

Madalyn Johnson (left) and Kathleen Gould (right)


Kathleen Gould, registered herbalist, and Madalyn Johnson are proprietors of SW Herb Shop and Gathering Place. Gould has been an herbalist for 30-plus years and has extensive experience in herbal medicine. For more information, call 480-694-9931, or visit or