I recently had the opportunity to visit the Avena Botanicals flower farm in Rockport, Maine, for their annual Mother’s Day herb walk & plant sale. Maine-native, herbalist, gardener, teacher and author Deb Soule, started Avena Botanicals in 1985, based on a strong commitment to making “organic herbs easily accessible to women and families living in rural areas.”
The farm itself is the first Demeter-certified biodynamic farm in Maine. For those who are unfamiliar, the practice of biodynamic agriculture was brought to the public’s attention through a series of lectures by Dr. Rudolph Steiner in the 1920s, and has been described as “a farm-forward approach to healing the planet through … integrated, holistic management of a farm’s ecosystem.” It sounds like how many of you naturally choose to garden/farm your land!
The aforementioned Mother’s Day herb walk was led, quite enthusiastically, by Deb (pictured), and was an enjoyable mix of fascinating hints and tips from the Avena staff, and friendly discussion among the many other participants.
Below are a few useful plants* that were highly recommended to plant for their many health properties:
Bee balm belongs to the mint family, so the most common household medicinal use is for digestive issues. However, bee balm is also handy for treating infections, as it has strong antibacterial qualities. And from an aesthetic standpoint, bee balm adds vibrant color to your garden while attracting bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
Echinacea is fairly well known as an immune booster, but is best taken in an ongoing-fashion as a supplement, or at the first onset of cold/sinus symptoms, to be most effective. It’s also a beautiful garden flower by itself, whether or not you choose to harvest it.
Elderberry is also excellent for the immune system, not to mention, makes delicious jam and wine!
Nettles have a reputation more for being harmful rather than helpful — anyone who’s unwittingly brushed against a nettle patch will attest to that! But, did you know that you can actually rub a crushed nettle leaf on your skin to relieve the pain of stinging nettles? Most commonly used to treat allergy symptoms, particularly hay fever, due to its anti-inflammatory compounds.
And that’s only a sample of what I learned during my visit to the flower farm. Avena’s gardens are open to the public May – September, but I highly recommend visiting for an upcoming workshop or walk.
*Please note: Most medicinal herbs have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult a doctor before taking any herbal supplements, especially if you are pregnant or already on other medications.