How to Choose Aromatic and Medicinal Seeds

Learn how to choose aromatic and medicinal seeds for your garden in this short article by Sharon Falsetto.

As the new year is rung in, and the Holidays are once again behind us, the most wonderful time of year has just arrived for many gardeners; yes, it’s seed ordering time! There is nothing quite like getting those seed catalogs in the mail and/or hopping on the internet, wiling away an hour or two dreaming about this year’s garden. At least, if you are gardener, that is!

To kick off the new year, I’m writing about how to choose aromatic and medicinal seeds for a true aromatic, medicinal garden.

Aromatic and Medicinal Gardens

In the past, medicinal gardens were grown out of necessity. There was often no other means of medical care, or very little, and people learned to grow and use medicinal plants to treat minor ailments. Today, many people are turning back to nature for a solution to modern day problems.

Herbalists have traditionally grown their own medicinal plants. However, aromatherapists usually obtain their supplies from a valued resource. I am here to encourage you, as an aromatherapist, to grow your own aromatic plants! You will not only gain a better understanding of essential oils, but you’ll develop a relationship with the plants along the way. But, it’s just as important to learn how to choose aromatic and medicinal seeds, as it is to grow them.

I have only been gardening in my current garden for a few years, but I’ve learned so much in that time. You don’t have to distill your own aromatherapy plants but, if you do, the pay off will be even greater! Either way, your aromatherapy education will grow – literally!

And not all plants have to be grown for medicinal purposes. I’ve discovered so many aromatic plants that are not traditionally used for essential oils or herbal preparations. They are grown purely for their color and aromatic purposes. But I’ll discuss those in a future article.

The Meaning of Organic Plants and Seeds

So many things, including plants, are described as organic these days. But what does organic actually mean? In learning how to choose aromatic and medicinal seeds for your garden, you’ll first want to understand what organic means.

In my book, Authentic Aromatherapy, we learn that:

“An essential oil which is labeled as organic has to be extracted from a plant that has been grown and farmed organically, following the certification guidelines of the organization from which organic certification is sought.

Organic growing and farming methods restrict the use of artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Plants are also not allowed to be genetically modified. In addition, a farmer has to be certified as an organic farmer to be able to produce plants which will distill organic essential oils. Consequently, organic essential oils are priced higher than non-organic essential oils due to the higher production and certification costs involved.”1

And:

“In the United States, farmers and producers of certified organic products have to comply with the USDA National Organic Program (NOP).  U.S. organic farming methods exclude the use of synthetic chemicals and hormones in crop production and rely on practices such as biological pest management.

In order to legally use and trade on the USDA certified organic label, a farmer or producer must first comply with USDA organic regulations as specified in the US Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 7 (Agriculture) CFR Section 205 of the National Organic Program.  A farmer or producer can apply to become “certified organic” if they comply with the regulations as specified and submit a lengthy application (and a sum of money) to a USDA accredited certifying agent.”2

In addition, many plants maybe organic, if they have been grown, planted, and harvested in an organic way, even without the official designation.

Heirloom and Open-pollinated Seeds and Plants

The next thing that you’ll need to consider in how to choose aromatic and medicinal seeds, is if they are heirloom and open-pollinated. “Traditional” aromatic plants and seeds were always heirloom and open-pollinated but that is not always the case today. Most plants and seeds bought from local garden centers and big-box stores are not open-pollinated or heirloom. You need to do research online to find the companies that do offer them.

“Heirlooms are most often strictly defined as open-pollinated plants, which means that the plant flowers have been naturally pollinated by insects, birds, mammals, or the wind. Seeds produced by open pollination will produce future plants that look and perform…like the parent plant…

Open-pollinated plants earn the heirloom title through generations for 50 to 100 years.”3

Examples of aromatic heirloom plants, or plants used in aromatherapy practice, include:

  • Bee balm (Mondara didyma)
  • Rosa
  • sunflower (Helanthius annuus)
  • lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
  • phlox (Phlox paniculata),
  • Dianthus
  • stock (Matthiola incana)
  • sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus)
  • calendula (Calendula officinalis)
  • true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • marigold (Tagetes erecta/Tagetes patula)
  • hyacinth (Hyacinthus)
  • tulip (Tulipa)
  • cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
  • daffodil (Narcissus)
  • echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Pelargonium (known as geranium in the aromatherapy world).4

What to Look for When Choosing Aromatic and Medicinal Seeds

In summary, remember these points in how to choose aromatic and medicinal seeds for your garden this year:

  • Buy organic where possible
  • Buy heirloom and open-pollinated to establish a traditional aromatic garden for years to come.
  • Start small – even a container garden can be organic and heirloom!
  • Have fun!

References:

  1. Falsetto, Sharon, 2014, Authentic Aromatherapy, New York: Skyhorse Publishing, pp. 20 – 21.
  2. Falsetto, Sharon, 2014, Authentic Aromatherapy, New York: Skyhorse Publishing, p. 21.
  3. McLaughlin, Chris, 2018, Growing Heirloom Flowers, Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., p. 7.
  4. Falsetto, Sharon, 2018, Secrets from the Aromatic Garden and Stillroom Retreat workbook, p.27.

About the Author:

The author of this article has a combined 24-year history in the health care and aromatherapy industry. She is UK-certified aromatherapist and a NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist®. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and herbal studies student. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. She has taken the online Master Gardener short course series with the University of Oregon. Sharon works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she gardens and distills plants from her own aromatic gardens, surrounded by natural fauna and floral on an original pioneer homestead property.

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