Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
When choosing plants for the herb garden, cacti and succulents may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, a number of these species have traditionally been used as herbs. These include the following plants. Some are hardy perennials, while others are winter hardy only in milder areas of the country.
Also called Barbados aloe, this is a common herb. It is used as an antiseptic for minor wounds and skin problems. This has long been a favorite to treat burns and irritated skin.
Though aloe juice is sold as a nutritional supplement, this can be toxic if large quantities are taken internally. Only very small doses are considered to be safe.
The century plants or agaves have been used to treat various kinds of ailments. These include everything from arthritis and scurvy to various liver problems as well as jaundice. It was also used to cleanse the bowels and as a diuretic. One of the traditional uses was for venereal disease though its efficacy is now in question.
The houseleeks or hen-and-chicks were long used in Europe for burns as well as bleeding wounds. This was applied in much the same way as the aloe. The leaves were crushed and placed on the wound or spot. This has also been used to treat insect bites and inflamed skin. The juice from the plant has soothing and astringent properties. As with a number of other succulents, this should never be taken internally as it can be toxic.
As is the case for most of the sedums, this sedum (Sedum telephium) is considered poisonous when taken internally. However, the leaves were used just like those of the aloe and other stonecrops for skin problems. These were used for treating burns, irritated skin, and hemorrhoids. The plant has astringent qualities, which helps wounds to heal quickly.
Native American tribes used the pads of the prickly pears as a dressing for treating burns and scores. First, the spines were removed from the prickly pear pads. Then, the pads were split down the middle. The gelatinous side was placed on the skin. The roasted pads were once chopped and used as a poultice to treat insect and tarantula bites. The fresh pads were also made into a poultice to treat arthritis.
Also called reflexed stonecrop, its Latin name is Sedum rupestre. This is a great choice for herb gardens. Unlike some of the other stonecrops, this species is safe to take internally. In fact, the leaves and young shoots are sometimes harvested and eaten as an edible salad green during the early spring.
The leaves were used just like aloe. This was applied as a topical ointment for skin problems and hemorrhoids. This plant has astringent qualities, which helps wounds to heal quickly.