Dionne Jennings has always had a love of plants and herbs. She started studying herbalism on Vancouver Island 19 years ago and completed apprenticeships five years ago on the Saanich Peninsula and in Red Deer.

“I think my first real exposure to herbalism was a small yellow piece of paper with a dandelion illustration on it saying Herb Classes at a local health food store. When I stepped into a small house perched on the corner of a nature sanctuary, I was hooked,” said Jennings.

She said she believes there is a niche for herbs and herbalism because of a yearning to connect with nature and regain lost knowledge. Jennings explained we’ve been separated for so long from nature that people are feeling a “longing not only to get to know the land, but also how to support themselves with simple and natural means.”

People have grown and used medicinal plants for thousands of years. Take lavender, chamomile, peppermint, and garlic. Use lavender and German or Roman chamomile as a relaxant and sleep aid. Ease stomach aches and nausea with peppermint. Boost your immune system with garlic.

Set aside a space to grow useful herbs like chamomile. | Dionne Jennings

Jennings, who grows over 50 types of medicinal plants in her garden, also lists calendula, roses, bee balm, valerian, red raspberry, thyme, sage, and lemon balm as other easy-to-grow herbs.

It’s easy to designate a space in your garden, container garden or window box. Growing your own herbs has many benefits, said Jennings, from being able to control the herbicides and pesticides used to preventing over harvesting and the destruction of natural environments. By planting your own herbs “you are starting with plants that you are certain you can identify and that you know to be safe,” said Jennings.  

Growing medicinal herbs is not much different from any other plants.

“Make sure you are planting them in conditions where they like to grow,” said Jennings. She advised starting small and looking for reputable suppliers. Many seed companies and growers sell medicinal herbs. Seed catalogues or greenhouses are a good place to start.

But she cautioned medicinal herbs are not a replacement for medical attention. Always discuss any herbal remedies you plan to start with your physician beforehand. Some herbs and prescription drugs can interact negatively with each other.

Jennings said she is considering holding workshops and working with community groups who have grown herbs.

Though useful, medicinal herbs are not a replacement for medical attention. | Dionne Jennings

“I’d like to partner with community leagues/community gardens and offer consultation on six to 12 versatile and resilient medicinal herbs they can plant in a common community bed,” said Jennings. “I’d love to be able to check in a little later in the season and do a class on some harvesting, drying techniques and medicinal uses, and yet another one on making actual remedies and herbal preparations from what they’ve grown, so it comes full circle.”

For more information, visit www.yegherbalist.ca or join her Facebook group Edmonton Herb Club. Or, see Jennings at the Edmonton Resilience Festival on April 22 at the Waldorf Independent School of Edmonton (7211 96a Ave).

Header image: Dionne Jennings started studying herbalism 19 years ago. | Dionne Jennings