Medicinal Herb Garden

FSU Grounds has planted an assortment of medicinal herbs here for the education and enjoyment of our students, faculty and staff. Many of these herbs have a long history of use in traditional and folk medicine in a number of different cultures. Some herbs chemical compounds which have shown genuine medicinal value such as Digoxin from Foxglove, Morphine from Opium Poppies and Capsaicine from Chili Peppers. It is our purpose to illustrate some of the historic traditional medicinal uses of the herbs in this collection and list some of the known chemical compounds that they contain that may be of special interest to medicine. This garden includes perennial herbs which will repeat every year or stay evergreen, annual herbs for Winter and Spring that thrive in cooler weather and Summer Herbs that do not tolerate frost.

Perennial herbs-

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is a North American perennial herb in the Mint family that was used medicinally by Native Americans for cough, fevers, wounds, diarrhea. The leaves are fragrant when crushed with an anise-like scent.  The foliage is sometimes used as a seasoning, as a tea, in potpourri, and can be crumbled in salad. Limonene is a primary component in anise hyssop essential oils. The plant also contains Methyleugenol which has a sedative effect and Methyl Chavicol which gives it a distinctive Anise flavor.



Artemisia (Artemisia absinthium) is known by a number of common names including-absinthium, wormwood, and green ginger. Originally from Europe and Asia it is widely grown as an ornamental plant and is used as an ingredient in the spirit absinthe as well as some other alcoholic drinks. The common name Wormwood was given to this plant because it was used to expel parasitic worms. Artemisia was used in European folk medicine to stimulate the appetite and relieve indigestion. Artemisia contains the compound Thujone.



Bay Tree (Laurus nobilis) is also known as bay laurel, sweet bay, true laurel, Grecian laurel, laurel tree or simply laurel. The Bay Tree is native to the Mediterranean region and should not be confused with other trees with similar names such as our native Redbay and Sweetbay. It is one of the plants used for bay leaf seasoning in cooking. A traditional folk remedy for rashes caused by poison ivy and stinging nettle is a poultice soaked in boiled bay leaves. Bay was also used as an astringent and as a salve for open wounds. Bay contains eucalyptol,  terpinyl acetate, sesquiterpenes, methyleugenol, and other α- and β-pinenes, phellandrene, linalool, geraniol, and terpineol.



Comfrey (Symphytum × uplandicum) was historically used to treat a wide variety of ailments ranging from bronchial problems, broken bones, sprains, arthritis, gastric and varicose ulcers, severe burns, acne and other skin conditions. It was reputed to have bone and teeth building properties in children, and have value in treating “many female disorders”. The plant contains allantoin, which is thought to stimulate cell growth and repair while also depressing inflammation. Constituents of comfrey also include mucilage, steroidal saponins, tannins, pyrrolizidine alkaloids and inulin.



Cranberry Hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella) is a subtropical perennial shrub from Africa that dies back in the winter but recovers in the spring in our area.  Other common names include- false roselle, maroon mallow, red leaved hibiscus, and red shield hibiscus. It is popular as an ornamental and the tart tasting young leaves are used as a vegetable and the flowers are used in drinks. In Angola, an infusion of the leaves in water is used as post-fever tonic and is also used to treat anemia. In East Africa, children with an aching body are washed in cold water to which some mashed Cranberry Hibiscus leave have been added. In folk medicine the leaves and seeds are used to alleviate fever, headache, rheumatism, hemorrhoid, to treat ringworms, tumor, conjunctivitis, sores and abscesses . The leaves, flowers and calyces are used in heart and nerve conditions, as diuretic, sedative, anti-scorbutic, colorectal and intestinal antiseptic. Cranberry Hibiscus is known to contain Rutin, Hyperoside, Rosmarinic acid, Caffeic acid and Chlorogenic acid.



Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) is commonly known as Purple Coneflower. This plant is native to eastern and central North America including north Florida. Native American Indians used the plant externally for wounds, burns, and insect bites, chewing of roots for toothache and throat infections; internal application was used for pain, cough, stomach cramps and snake bites. Echinacea is believed by many people to stimulate the immune system. This plant contains a wide variety of chemicals such as cichoric acid, caftaric acid, echinacoside, and various fat-soluble alkylamides.



Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is from Europe and Asia and has a long history of medicinal use. Feverfew’s common name is from the Latin word febrifugia, meaning “fever reducer”. It is no longer considered useful for reducing fever. Historically it has been used as an herbal treatment to reduce fever and to treat headaches, arthritis and digestive problems. It contains parthenolide, which has been shown to induce apoptosis in some cancer cell lines in vitro and potentially to target cancer stem cells.



Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) is an Asian species of onion native to the Himalayas (Nepal, Bhutan, and India) and to the Chinese Province of Shanxi. It is used in cooking by many different Asian cultures and is popular in stir fry dishes. Garlic Chives were used in folk medicine for treating parasites in the intestines, to promote digestion as well as to cure anemia. It was used in Chinese herbal medicine for treating exhaustion, aid in regulating excessive hemorrhages as well as in the form of an antidote for poisons consumed by people. The leaves as well as the bulbs of this plant are applied topically to the areas affected by insect bites and wounds and cuts. The seeds of chives were taken internally to cure disorders related to the liver, kidneys and the digestive tract. Garlic Chives contain many different chemicals such as Perhydrofarnesyl acetone, Methyl palmitate and Phytol.



Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina) is a plant from Turkey, Armenia, and Iran that is noted for its fuzzy leaves with white hairs. Lamb’s Ear is widely grown as an ornamental plant but has also been used as a medicinal herb. One of the common names for it is Woundwort due to the use of its leaves as a natural bandage. Astringent properties in the leaves help to stop bleeding and the soft hairs are gentle on wounds.



Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora) is a perennial herb originally from western South America that was imported to Europe to use as a flavoring and to make herbal teas. Lemon Verbena has been used in Folk Medicine for digestive disorders including indigestion, gas, colic, diarrhea, and constipation. It has also been used for agitation, joint pain, insomnia, asthma, colds, fever, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, skin conditions, and chills. Lemon Verbena Oil contains citral , nerol and geraniol. Extracts of lemon verbena also contain verbascoside.



Mexican Tarragon (Tagetes lucida) is a perennial herb native to Mexico and Central America that is used as a medicinal plant and as a culinary herb. The leaves have a flavor similar to a blend of tarragon and anise making it a suitable substitute for Tarragon in warm humid climates where true French Tarragon is unsuccessful. The Aztecs used this plant to make a tea to treat hiccups and diarrhea. Many different compounds have been found in Mexican Tarragon including umbelliferone, scoparone, esculetin and herniarin.



Monarda (Monarda spp.) is a genus of plants in the mint family native to North America. Common names for species in this genus include bee balm, horsemint, oswego tea, and bergamot. The crushed leaves of all species exude a spicy, fragrant essential oil. Native Americans used the plant in poultices for skin infections and minor wounds, to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis, as a stimulant and to treat flatulence. Monarda contains thymol, Geraniol and Linalool.



Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint and spearmint. Pliny the elder, 79 AD, the author of Naturalis Historia tells us that Roman cooks flavored both their sauces and their wines with the essence of Peppermint. Peppermint has a long tradition of use in folk medicine and aromatherapy. Peppermint is commonly thought to soothe or treat symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, indigestion, irritable bowel, and bloating. Peppermint has a high menthol content. The oil also contains menthone and menthyl esters, particularly menthyl acetate.



Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) is a perennial shrub native to Mexico and Guatemala. The edible leaves release a scent that resembles pineapple. It is grown as an ornamental plant and the leaves are sometimes used to prepare a fragrant tea. The plant is utilized in Mexican traditional medicine for the treatment of anxiety, and for lowering of blood pressure. The essential oil from this plant is known to contain many compounds including trans-ocimene, linalool, germacrene D and spathulenol.



Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) the name Rosemary is derived from the Latin for “dew” (ros) and “sea” (marinus), or “dew of the sea”. This evergreen shrub comes from the Mediterranean region has been long used for seasoning food. It is also one of the oldest known medicinal herbs. Traditional uses have included- enhancing memory, alleviating muscle pain, promoting hair growth and treating gout. Rosemary contains a number of phytochemicals, including rosmarinic acid, camphor, caffeic acid, ursolic acid, betulinic acid, and the antioxidants carnosic acid and carnosol.



Rue (Ruta graveolens) is an herb originally from the Balkan states that has long been used as an ornamental, as a condiment, as a medicinal herb and as an insect repellent. Traditional medicinal uses include- being used to sharpen the eyesight ,to dissipates flatulence, to stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus, to induce abortion, and to and dampen the desire for coitus. Rue extracts are mutagenic and cause liver damage. Large doses of Rue can cause violent gastric pain, vomiting, systemic complications, and death. Skin exposure to Rue can cause severe phytophotodermatitis which results in burn-like blisters on the skin. Rue is known to contain many chemicals including- arborinine, evoxanthine, skimmianine, kokusaginine, 6-methoxydictamnine, edulinine, umbelliferone, scopoletin, psoralen, xanthotoxin, isopimpinellin, rutamarin and rutacultin.



Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is a perennial herb from Europe that has a long history of culinary and medicinal use. Sorrel was known to help prevent scurvy which can be explained by its Vitamin C content (one cup of Sorrel contains 63.8 mg of Vitamin C). The English physician Culpeper (1826) recommended sorrel “to cool any inflammation and heat of blood,” “to refresh overspent spirits,” “to quench thirst, and to procure an appetite.” Sorrel also contains oxalic acid and tannic acid.



Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is a perennial herb native to Europe and Asia. It has been long cultivated for culinary use due to its aromatic oil which is used to flavor a wide variety of foods and drinks. It also lends its fragrance to toothpastes, soaps and shampoos. Traditional medicinal uses include- soothing an upset stomach, stopping vomiting, allaying nausea and reducing fever. Spearmint contains carvone, limonene, dihydrocarvone, and 1,8-cineol.



Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a perennial herb native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. It has historically been used to scent bathwater, for incense, to give flavor to cheese and other foods, and to place under the pillow at night to aid in sleep. Crushed thyme was placed on bandages to promote wound healing and ward off infection. The Egyptians use Thyme for embalming. Thyme contains Thymol, myrcene, borneol and linalool.



Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) was named after Achilles, a hero in Greek mythology who used it to stop bleeding. Yarrow has been used in European folk medicine to stop minor bleeding, to reduce inflammation in the digestive track and to relieve anxiety or insomnia. Yarrow contains flavonoids, plant-based chemicals that increase saliva and stomach acid, helping to improve digestion. Yarrow may also relax smooth muscle in the intestine and uterus, which can relieve stomach and menstrual cramps.



Annual herbs-

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is an annual native to Asia and the Mideast that has been widely used as a culinary herb in many different cultures. Traditional medicinal uses for Basil include- treatment of stress, treatment of asthma, quenching fevers, controlling cough, treating a sore throat, easing headaches and treating insect bites. Basil is known to contain many different chemicals including citronellol, linalool, myrcene, pinene, ocimene, terpineol, linalyl acetate, fenchyl acetate, methyl eugenol, methyl chavicol, and eugenol.



Castor bean (Ricinus communis) is a tropical perennial plant from Africa and Asia in the spurge family that is treated as an annual in temperate regions. Castor bean is grown widely grown for the oil derived from its seed and as a decorative plant due to its large showy leaves. Castor oil and its derivatives are used in the manufacturing of soaps, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, paints, dyes, coatings, inks, cold resistant plastics, waxes and polishes, nylon, pharmaceuticals and perfumes. Today Castor Oil is sold in the USA for over-the-counter use as a laxative. Castor oil is widely used to start labor in pregnant women and is combined with other compounds in a variety of modern medicines. Raw Castor Bean seeds contain the deadly compound Ricin- four to eight seeds contain enough of this compound to be lethal to adult humans.



Dianthus (Dianthus spp.) is a large genus of plants that includes Carnations, Sweet William and the Fringed Pink- many are grown as ornamentals for their fragrance and color. Several species have been used in traditional medicine- Dianthus superbus and Dianthus chinensis have been used in Chinese herbal medicine for over 2,000 years. The plant is has been used as an abortifacient, contraceptive, diuretic, emmenagogue, ophthalmic, tonic and vulnerary. It is said to promote hair growth. The plant has been taken internally in the treatment of acute urinary tract infections (especially cystitis), urinary stones, constipation and failure to menstruate. Externally, it has been applied to skin inflammations and swellings. The leaves have been used in the treatment of haemorrhoids, lumbricoid worms, sores etc. The flowers are astringent, diuretic, haemostatic, resolvent and vulnerary. Dianthus contains eugenol, phenylethyl alcohol, benzyl benzoate, methyl salicylate, benzyl salicylate, various flavonoids, 2 triterpenoid saponins (dianchinenoside A, B) and 1 pyrone glucoside (dianthoside).



Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a perennial herb from the Mediterranean region in the carrot family that is often treated as an annual. Fennel bulb, foliage, and seeds have been long used in in the cuisines of a number of different cultures. The seed have an intense aroma and flavor that is akin to Anise. Fennel has been used in traditional medicine for various digestive problems including heartburn, intestinal gas, bloating, loss of appetite, and colic in infants. It was also used for upper respiratory tract infections, coughs, bronchitis, cholera, backache, bedwetting, and visual problems. Fennel contains Vitamin C, Foeniculoside, flavonoids rutin, quercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides.



Marigold (Tagetes spp.) is a flowering plant from the Americas in the composite family-most are annuals but some are perennials. Marigolds have been long grown as decorative plants for their showy blooms. Some Marigolds have been used to color and flavor food and some have been used by the perfume industry. The leaves and seed have been used in folk medicine to treat insomnia and stomach cramps and the flowers have been used to make a tea used for soothing indigestion. Marigolds contain many chemicals including erythrodiol, quercetagetin,  lupeol,  palmitin, and various thiopenes in their seeds, roots and other plant parts.



Papaya (Carica papaya) is a tropical tree-like plant from Mexico and Central America with edible fruit. Because it is killed by freezing temperatures we treat it as an annual on our campus. Green papaya fruit and the plant stem contains papain which is used as a meat tenderizer. Both the green and ripe fruit are eaten, the foliage can be steamed and eaten and the seeds can be used as a substitute for black pepper. Papaya leaves are being utilized in traditional medicine to make a tea to treat malaria and dengue fever though this treatment is not scientifically proven. Other traditional uses include treatment for arthritis, toothache, nausea and constipation and to apply to slowly healing skin wounds. Papaya contains many different chemicals including papain, chymopapain, caricain, glycyl endopeptidase, and papaya lipase.



Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a culinary herb in the Carrot family from the Mediterranean region. It is eaten in salads, used in soups and cooking and as a garnish by many cultures. Both the roots and the foliage are edible and have culinary uses. Traditional medicinal uses of parsley are compounds derived from it include reducing swelling, treating insect bites and stings, as a diuretic, for the treatment of menstrual disorders and the termination of pregnancies.  Parsley contains a number of compounds including luteolin,  apigenin, and  apiol.



Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a perennial herb or woody-based subshrub from West Africa. The red calyces of the plant are used for food coloring and to prepare herbal tea and to use as a drink. The leaves are used as a vegetable in several cultures. In folk medicine it has been used as a diuretic, as a sedative, as a mild laxative and to treat cancer. Roselle is known to contain many compounds including- gossypetin, hibiscetin, quercetin, and sabdaretin.



Scented Geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) are evergreen perennials from Southern Africa which are widely cultivated for their fragrant foliage and attractive blooms. We treat them as annuals on campus as they are killed by hard freezes. Several of the scented leaved geraniums are grown for the oil ‘geranol’, which is extracted from the leaves and is used commercially in perfumery. Scented Geranium leaves can be used for potpourri and as a flavoring in teas, jellies and cooking. There are many varieties with a broad range of scents including- lemon, pine, rose, peppermint, clove, lime and strawberry. In herbal medicine, they have been used for intestinal problems, wounds and respiratory ailments, fevers, kidney complaints and other conditions. Compounds found in Scented Geraniums include- α pinene, geranial, citronellic acid, methyl eugenol, hexenyl butyrate and α terpineol.