All flowers are healing in at least one sense of the word. After all, having a garden you can tend to and watching it grow is scientifically proven to boost mood and improve health. But what if we told you that some flowers do more than just aesthetically please the senses? Many flowers can actually physically heal your body in ailments ranging from cuts and bruises to the common cold. Here are 11 such flowers that have been used medicinally in natural healing traditions for thousands of years. In this guide, I’ll share my experience with 11 popular healing flowers used in traditional plant medicine.
A quick note…
Although they come from the natural world, plant medicines can be as dangerous as pharmaceuticals when it comes to potential drug interactions or adverse side effects. While many of the flowers on this list are generally considered safe, it’s always a good idea to do your own research and check with a doctor before taking any plant medicine internally—especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or currently on any medication.
If you want to learn even more about herbal medicine, check out this list of herbalism books.
Popular Healing Flowers Used in Traditional Plant Medicine
This yellow-orange flower is easy to grow and can be found in gardens and farms all over the country. While there are many species of calendula, the Calendula officinalis and Calendula resina cultivars are the best ones to use for medicinal use.
Calendula is safe to eat and often used to garnish salads. But one of the best uses of calendula is actually as a vulnerary (i.e., tissue-healing) herb. Calendula can be infused into oil to create a skin-healing salve or lotion, which is effective against chronically dry skin conditions or even to heal minor cuts and burns. When picking your own flowers, the sticky ones tend to make the best medicine!
Coneflowers aren’t just excellent pollinators and beautiful pink pops of color in your summer garden—they’re also an effective treatment for cold medicine. This immune-boosting flower is often tinctured (soaked in alcohol) to make a shelf-stable medicine that can help ward off viruses and flu-like illnesses in their early stages. Although there are several varieties of echinacea that may be found in gardens, Echinacea purpurea is the only one that’s known to carry these medicinal properties.
Some Native American groups also used Echinacea to treat snake bites, although we recommend heading straight to the hospital should you find yourself with a poisonous bite of any kind!
Another popular flower, roses are actually capable of quite more than being the star of the garden. Astringent (tissue-tightening) and anti-inflammatory, it’s no wonder rose is such a popular choice when it comes to various skin treatments, like facial toner. The smell of rose is also incredibly uplifting, and the essential oil is often used as a mood booster.
The nutrient-dense fruit of the rose (rose hips) can be gathered in the fall and dried, then used in a tea the following spring to help with seasonal allergies. Keep in mind that the inside of the rosehips contains fine hairs that should be completely strained out, as ingesting them can irritate your throat. While you might be tempted to pick rose hips straight from a garden, you’ll want to be sure they weren’t treated with any toxic chemicals first (since roses often are). If you know what you’re looking for, you might also be able to forage for wild roses (Rosa woodsii).
This mood-boosting flower has been revered for millennia, and not just because of its beautiful purple blooms. Lavender is also known to help ease anxiety, headaches, and various sleep disorders. Buy or grow your own food-grade lavender and throw some into your bedtime tea, or dab some of the oil onto your temples to ease a headache.
Lavender is also antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and has been used by some herbalists to treat skin conditions ranging from acne and fungal infections to mild burns and even bug bites. Like many essential oils, lavender can also be an effective mosquito repellent!
The sunflower-like yellow bloom of elecampane isn’t just an easy-going plant to add to your summer garden. It’s also a great healer—particularly because it contains a compound called inulin, which is known to soothe the mucus membranes of the body.
That’s why, when tinctured, the roots and leaves of elecampane (Inula helenium) make such great cough medicine—soothing any irritation or infection found along the respiratory tract. But this magic plant doesn’t just soothe our airways. It also works as an “expectorant” to clear any excess phlegm or mucus.
Chamomile is another beautiful flower that often gets overlooked for its extraordinary medicinal qualities. Acting as a mild sedative and anti-inflammatory, this healing plant works well for a wide range of ailments.
In addition to being used topically for inflammation, chamomile can also be taken internally as a tea or tincture to soothe gastric inflammation. It works amazingly well for an upset stomach and to help expel gas. It can also help calm nerves or in combination with other herbal remedies to help with pain or swelling across body systems.
7. Red Clover
Often considered a weed, red clover should actually be on everyone’s garden wish list for several reasons. Known to be a great detoxifier of the liver, herbalists often recommend drinking a tea of red clover (leaves and flowers) in the springtime to clear any residual winter stagnation. This plant is packed with tons of essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C, and it’s also a great blood purifier. As such, it’s often used in combination with other blood-purifying herbs to aid in the healing of certain skin conditions and internal infections.
But red clover (Trifolium pratense) doesn’t just help our bodies. It’s also an excellent tonic for your garden soil. Red clover is known to improve nitrogen levels in the soil, and also works as a nourishing cover crop that will both keep your soil from drying out and also feed essential bacteria and organisms once cut down or allowed to die back.
Not to play favorites, but yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is by far and away one of my top medicinal flowers on this list. The name alone says it all—Achilles, because it was used to heal wounds on the battlefields in ancient times, and millefolium, a helpful way to remember the thousand-leaf fern-like appearance of its leaves.
Although small in stature, this white wildflower is widespread across North America and is a tremendous first-aid medicine to know about. Not only does it act as a styptic (which stops bleeding), it’s also antiseptic and analgesic (helps with pain). I’ve personally used it on myself and my pets in first-aid like situations to quickly stop bleeding, heal the tissues, and help ward off infection. Keep in mind that while garden nurseries sell cultivars of Yarrow in a variety of colors (from pink to yellow), only the white-blooming varieties are medicinal.
9. Passion flower
While the name makes it sound scandalous, passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) actually has a much more tame reputation as an herb that’s good for sleep. The exotic climbing blooms of passion flower will make a stunning addition to any garden trellis, and the leaves (fresh or dry) can also be tinctured and used to reduce stress and tension and get a good night’s sleep.
Known as a relaxing nervine, passion flower may also help with a tension headache or other side effects of an overactive nervous system.
That’s right, it’s time to give a little more respect to the weed we all know as dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Not only can you munch the raw leaves as you would any salad green, but you can also harvest the roots and flowers to make an amazing digestive, detoxifying tonic.
While the leaf works as a gentle yet effective diuretic, the root can be a helpful liver aid. You can buy (or make) your own dandelion root tea or have a salad of the fresh greens to help detox your system. Just be sure not to have too much dandelion before bed, or you might experience the French version of the plant, pissenlit, aka pee the bed!
11. Bee Balm
Also known as Monarda, Oswego tea, or bergamot—bee balm is a wonderful flower to have in your medicine cabinet come cold and flu season. Antimicrobial and soothing to the respiratory tract, a simple steam tent of monarda can help clear congestion and infection in the lungs. You can also use the flowers and leaves as a tea to soothe an upset stomach, nausea, or a sore throat.
But probably my favorite way to get the most out of a crop of bee balm is to infuse it in honey. Let the bee balm sit in a sealed jar of honey for a few months then strain it out and add it to your favorite tea (or eat it by the spoonful) at the first sign of a sore throat.
Healing Flowers FAQs:
Are healing flowers safe to use?
Although they come from the natural world, plant medicines can be as dangerous as pharmaceuticals regarding potential drug interactions or adverse side effects. While many of the flowers on this list are generally considered safe, it’s always a good idea to do your own research and check with a doctor before taking any plant medicine internally—especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or currently on any medication.
Can healing flowers replace conventional medicine?
Healing flowers are often used as complementary or alternative treatments to conventional medicine. While they can relieve specific conditions, it’s important to remember that traditional plant medicine is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. It’s advisable to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate and comprehensive approach to your health needs.
How do I use healing flowers in traditional plant medicine?
Healing flowers can be used in various forms, including teas, tinctures, extracts, essential oils, and topical applications. The specific method of use depends on the flower and the desired therapeutic effect. Following established recipes or consulting with a knowledgeable herbalist is recommended to ensure proper preparation and dosage.
Are there any scientific studies supporting the efficacy of healing flowers?
While traditional plant medicine has a long history of using healing flowers, scientific research on their efficacy is ongoing. Many studies have focused on specific flowers and their active compounds, proving their potential health benefits. However, more research is needed to validate traditional claims and understand the mechanisms of action behind the therapeutic properties of healing flowers.
Can I grow healing flowers at home?
Yes, many healing flowers can be grown at home, either in a garden or in pots. Popular choices include chamomile, lavender, calendula, and rose. Growing your own healing flowers allows you to have a fresh and readily available supply for herbal preparations. However, ensure you research proper cultivation methods, including soil conditions, sunlight requirements, and watering needs specific to each flower.
Can I combine different healing flowers for enhanced effects?
Yes, combining different healing flowers is a common practice in traditional plant medicine. Certain flower combinations may synergistically enhance their therapeutic properties or create a more balanced remedy. However, seeking guidance from a qualified herbalist or healthcare professional is important to ensure appropriate combinations and dosages.
Types of Healing Flowers – Wrapping Up
Healing flowers have played a significant role in traditional plant medicine for centuries. They have been used in various cultures worldwide to treat physical ailments, promote emotional well-being, and support overall health. The healing properties of flowers are often attributed to their active compounds, which can have therapeutic effects on the body and mind.
Traditional plant medicine recognizes the unique healing properties of different flowers and utilizes them in various forms, including teas, tinctures, extracts, and essential oils. Flowers such as chamomile, lavender, calendula, rose, and hibiscus have been widely recognized for their medicinal properties and are commonly used to address various health concerns.
Remember, it’s always best to seek personalized advice from a healthcare professional or qualified herbalist before incorporating healing flowers into your wellness routine. They can provide guidance based on your specific health needs, ensuring safe and effective use.
Larissa is a writer, gardener, and herbalist living in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. Her writing has been widely published in lifestyle and personal finance publications all over the country, and she's also the creator of the weekly newsletter @rootedintribe.
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