Let's first get some terminology right. In Genesis 1:11-12 we read of plants that are sometimes translated as "herbs" and sometimes as "plants producing seeds", etc. These verses name three categories of plants: grass, herbs and trees. Botanically, plants that are neither trees nor grass (or non-seedbearing plants such as ferns and moss), are described as "herbs". This is a much wider definition than what we usually define as "herbs". When most of us use the word "herb", we are referring to a plant with fragrant leaves, used in cooking, for medicinal use, potpourri and so on.

Now we also tend to use the words "herbs" and "spices" as if it is one and the same thing. Jesus said in Matthew 23:23: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." Though this is about our attitude and actions (justice and mercy and faithfulness), the Lord mentions both herbs and spices here. Mint is a herb and cumin is a spice. Dill could be used as herb or spice. How? In terms of kitchen herbs, herbs are the ones where the leaves are used (e.g. parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme), while spices are seeds, bark, roots, etc. That will be things like cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, chilli, anise seed and nutmeg. When we get to medicinal uses, we talk about "herbal medicine" again, though some of the remedies would be roots, bulbs, bark and so on. Why? Because we are still referring to that first wide definition, where herbs are simply plants that are neither trees, nor grass (but just to complicate things, some are grass!).

Now that we have that complicated story in place, we can categorise a bit more in terms of uses. Apart from culinary herbs (the kitchen kind), there are medicinal herbs, perfume- and cosmetic herbs, potpourri herbs, poisonous herbs, compost-stimulating herbs, insecticidal herbs and ones that attract beneficial insects. Many of them are at home in more than one category. Just two things about medicinal herbs: Read up on the use of the herbs, and use them as instructed. Most conventional medicines are dangerous if not used correctly. Likewise, herbal medicine can be downright poisonous if not used correctly. There are many books available. Consult them. And there's always dear old Uncle Google as well. Ask him; he knows just about everything. The other warning: If you read in the book that the remedy only works under the full moon or that you can enchant somebody with it – run as far as you can. If the instructions are clear and precise (e.g. "brew 6 leaves in 1 cup of boiling water for 5 minutes, and drink 3 times a day"), it sure sounds better. If the book has scientific explanations about how the remedy works, so much the better.
Now we also need to categorise in terms of growing requirements. No matter what you grow, always think where the plant comes from. Many of the herbs we use in the kitchen are from the Mediterranean area (the Middle East, Southern Europe and North Africa). Why is that important? It is a winter rainfall area. Thus the plants need just a little water, and more in winter than in summer. If you walk in the veld in Israel, you will see oreganum, rosemary, lavender, basil and marjoram growing wild – as well as that family to which fennel, dill, cumin and anise seed belong. In the market, you will see large bunches of mint and basil and a kind of marjoram, as well as many other herbs.
Some herbs and most of the spices are tropical, which implies they love water as much as they dislike cold. And then some come from cold places, like Comfrey which hails from Russia and likes very rich deep soil, lots of water and some shade.
While we're on the topic of growing requirements: Read about the herb you are planning to plant. What size plant is it? How deep are the roots? Think! Do not confine a plant with long roots or one that becomes a large shrub to a little pot - please! Why are there pictures in American and European herbal- and cooking books, of teeny weeny pots of herbs on a kitchen windowsill? The answer is simple: Because they have snow in winter. They have their proper herb garden outside, but in winter they bring a few plants inside so as to have fresh herbs in the kitchen even though the garden is covered in snow. Thus it is only a temporary measure. In sunny South Africa our herbs can grow outside in nice deep soil under the African sun all year long. If you are not as privileged as to have a proper garden and can only grow a few things in pots, please make sure the pots are big enough. For instance: parsley has thick 40-50cm deep tap roots, while rosemary and lemon verbena become large shrubs, and mint are aggressive growers that hate being confined.
Enough said. Let's just do a few lists and be done.

Compost stimulating herbs:

Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Camomile Matricaria spp
Elderberry Sambucus nigra
Comfrey Symphytum officinale
Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium
Nasturtiums Tropaeolum majus

Herbs and flowers to attract beneficial insects

(plant them around the fruit trees and among the veggies):
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Chives Allium schoenoprasum
Garlic chives Allium tuberosum
Wormwood / Wildeals Artemisia afra (and other spp)
Camomile Marticaria spp
Rue Ruta graveolens
Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare
Nasturtiums Tropaeolum majus
As well as various flowers such as Daisies & Poppies

Some plants from which to make insect repellents:

Garlic Allium sativum
Wormwood Artemisia afra (and other spp)
Chillies Capsicum spp
Lavender Lavandula spp
Cotton Lavender Santolina spp

A few medicinal herbs:

Wormwood Artemisia afra (and other spp)
Aloe vera & Aloe ferox
Bulbine frutescens, Bulbine latifolia
African potato Hypoxis hemerocallidae (and other spp)
Lemon balm Melissa officinalis
Mint Mentha spp
Comfrey Symphytum officinale
Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium
And hundreds more

Some Kitchen herbs (and a few easy-to-grow spices):

Chives Allium schoenoprasum
Garlic chives Allium tuberosum
Dill Anethum graveolens
Horseradish Armoracia rusticana
Tarragon Artemesia dracunculus
Borage Borago officinalis
Coriander / Cilantro Coriandrum sativum
Lemon grass Cymbopogon citratus
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare
Bayleaf Laurus nobilis
Mint Mentha spp
Basil Ocimum basilicum (and other spp)
Marjoram Origanum majorana
Oreganum Origanum vulgare
Rose geranium Pelargonium graveolens
Parsley Petroselinum crispum
Anise seed Pimpinella anisum
Rhubarb Rheum rhaponticum
Rosemary Rosmarinum officinalis
Pineapple sage Salvia elegans
Sage Salvia officinalis
Thyme Thymus vulgaris (and other spp)


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