From the calming and relaxing properties of lavender, to the antiviral offerings of lemon balm the Harvard Countway Community Garden offers a wealth of medicinal herbs in the heart of Boston’s urban medical area.

On September 27, a bright and crisp fall day, Stephanie Zabel led a community talk on medicinal herbs as part of the Garden’s harvest celebration. A curatorial assistant at Harvard’s Herbarium and an herbalist in her free time, Zabel discussed the many uses and herb-derived treatments of plants including betony, catmint, chamomile, clary sage, comfrey, feverfew, lady’s mantel, lemon balm, rosemary, and stevia. Zabel’s inviting and informative talk focused on the practical uses for many of these plants, breaking down the best way to use the herb whether as a tea, tincture, poultice, or salve.

Zabel highlighted comfrey’s ability to heal external skin conditions such as eczema, bruises, and minor cuts, the extremely sweet properties of stevia, often used as a sweetener substitute, and wood betony’s affinity for treating anxiety and headaches. 

Created in 2012 by staff, students, and faculty from Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, the Countway Community Garden not only provides the Longwood campus with fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs, but also serves as an educational resource. The medicinal herb garden offers opportunities for hands-on experience and research, and exploration of both the traditional and modern-day uses for medicinal plants. 

Garden volunteers and enthusiasts mingled over fresh teas and treats made with ingredients from the garden, enjoyed live music, and sampled some of Zabel’s own products and remedies following the tour. 

Both the Harvard Longwood and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy communities maintain the Countway Community Garden. To learn more or volunteer, please contact Garden Manager Heather Cristiano. To learn more about Steph Zabel and her work as an urban herbalist please visit her website flowerfolkherbs.com.