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March 16, 2009 or Thea Edmundson 361 790-5456




By Linda T. Collins, Master Gardener, Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners

Do you know that there are over 2,000 herbs including roses and many of our native plants? Herbs are used not only for culinary purposes, but also for medicinal, cosmetic, pesticidal, cleaning and craft purposes including dyes.

The following is a short list of some of these “native herbs” and their uses:

Anise Hyssop - Agastache foeniculum root was used by the Native Americans as a medicinal herb. The licorice flavored leaves and flowers, fresh or dried, make a delicious tea.

Bay, Red - Persea borbonia and Swamp Bay P. borbonia var. pubescens grow here on the Coastal Bend. The plants’ spicy leaves are successfully substituted for Laurus nobilis also known as bay laurel, sweet laurel, laurel, and sweet bay.

Bergamot, Bee Balm, Oswego Tea - Monarda didyma is used medicinally. The tea or tincture of the plant is tasty and useful for treating the common cold and provides the essential oil used in flavoring Earl Grey tea.

Butterfly Weed, Pleurisy Root - Asclepias tuberosa has been used medicinally by the Native Americans. It is reputed to be effective against respiratory infections and can be used in the treatment of bronchitis, pleurisy and pneumonia.

Cardinal Flower - Lobelia cardinalis tea, made from the roots, has been used medicinally as a treatment for epilepsy, syphilis, typhoid, stomach aches, cramps, worms, croup, nosebleeds, colds, fevers, and headaches.

Coneflower, Purple - Echinacea purpurea is the most widely grown of the native Echinacea species. The plants are easily adapted to growing here on the Coastal Bend. It prefers full sun, rich, limey garden soil, and occasional watering. It is used as a medicinal herb and reputed to deter the common cold.

Desert Willow - Chilopsis linearis is a small tree native to the deserts of southwestern US and Mexico.  It is an indicator for subterranean water in the desert. The leaves, bark and flowers have been used medicinally.

Epazote - Chenopodium ambrosioides has been used for centuries beginning with the Mayans. It is used as medicinal herb and considered a must for bean dishes for authentic “South of the Border” flavor and for reducing intestinal gas.

Evening Primrose - Oenothera biennis leaves, roots and seeds are edible and spicy, and useful in treating symptoms of PMS.
Gayfeather - Liatris spicata root, when smashed and made into a poultice, draws out toxins and is said to be a remedy for snakebite.

Germander - Teucrium chamaedrys has been used medicinally to treat gout, rheumatism, fever, stomach problems, and congestion. It had been approved in France for use in weight-loss products but was suspended as a result of several well-documented cases of toxic reactions and nonspecific acute hepatitis.

Goldenrod - Solidago L. is used as a medicinal herb for urinary tract disorders and for wounds and insect bites. It is native to the eastern and southern US and produces large quantities of highly aromatic leaves and flowers that grow up to 6 feet tall.

Mesquite, Honey Mesquite - Prosopis glandulosa Torr. is a culinary and medicinal herb. Pod is sweet with a honey taste and can be ground into flour and made into hot cereals.  Leaves were juiced and used as a wash for eyes. Chewed leaves were used as a stomach aid, antacid.

Mexican Hat - Ratibida columnaris have long been used to produce various colors of dyes.

Mexican Mint Marigold, Texas Tarragon - Tagates lucida is used for aromatic, cosmetic, culinary, medicinal, and ornamental purposes. The leaves contain essential oils similar to French tarragon, which doesn’t grow well with our summer heat, and is a substitute in any recipe calling for tarragon. An anise-flavored tea can also be made using the leaves. Make tarragon vinegar from the leaves and sprinkle it on your salads. The flowers are also edible and can be used to garnish that same salad in the fall.

Mexican Oregano - Lippia graveolens is a slender aromatic shrub or small tree. Fragrant flowers are yellowish or white with a yellow eye and occur throughout the year, especially after rains. It has a very pungent oregano flavor and aroma and is tasty in salsa. Long lasting flavor when dried.

Mexican Oregano - Poliomintha longiflora is excellent for hot, humid areas, and is a woody shrub that grows 3 feet tall. The small green leaves yield an essential oil similar to that of oregano and can be substituted in cooking. Although not a true oregano, the narrow, shiny green leaves are full of real oregano flavor. Dries well. Its tubular flowers attract hummingbirds.
Nettle, Stinging - Urtica dioica is used as a medicinal herb and considered by some as a spring tonic and the best terrestrial plant source of micronutrients and minerals.
Passionflower - Passiflora incarnate leaves and tender stems are used in tea or tincture and useful in treating sleeplessness and nervousness.
Texas Prickly Pear, Nopal cactus - Opuntia engelmannii is an edible species of cactus; both the succulent pads and the juicy, oval-shaped fruit are Mexican delectables. Medicinally used as an anti-inflammatory.

Never eat or drink anything harvested from the wild unless you are certain of the identification of the plant. Many wild plants, including the stems, leaves, and berries, are poisonous and some can cause paralysis or death. Consult with your doctor prior to using alternative treatments for any disease or illness.  

The Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Aransas County Office can be reached by phone at 361 790-0103 or by email at and is located at 611 E Mimosa, Rockport, TX.
AgriLife Extension education programs serve people of all ages, regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, handicap or national origin.

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