August is the height of the herb harvest. The first "harvest feast" of ancient European Pagans was around the beginning of August. In our area not much is actually ready by August 1st except herbs and a few of the faster vegetables. As this is a busy time of year, I won't belabor the point. Here is a quick list of herbs to get in before fall comes.
1. Mint - Dry it for tea and cooking. Mint really does make lamb and mutton more palatable. It also makes the best eczema salve I have encountered. Mint is specifically indicated for eczema and I have seen it work well for children and adults. Preserve mint for salve by chopping up the leaves and packing them a clear glass jar, pour olive oil in to completely cover the leaves (use a stick or knife to make sure all air bubbles are out), cover with a lightly closed lid and leave in direct sunlight for three to four weeks (checking occasionally to top up oil). Check back here in about a month for the salve recipe.
2. Sage - Sage is one of my favorite herbs of all time. I dry it for cooking and bundle it for smudging. I also make infused oil for mildly antibiotic salves. I have made tincture in the past and used it in very small amounts (a few drops) for acute low blood pressure.
3. Lemon Balm - Lemon balm is an amazing herb. It is one of the mildest and can be used as a soothing drink hot or cold for children and adults. Many people find that the tea or tincture of lemon balm puts them right to sleep. It is among the best anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia herbs. But the secret thing that many do not know is that it is specifically indicated to combat the herpes virus. An oil or salve made from lemon balm, if applied at the first sign of a cold sore has a similar effect for me and people I've seen as prescription anti-viral drugs. The cold sore almost always recedes if caught early.
4. Ecchinacea - I am very fortunate to have my own ecchinacea patch. At this time of year I only harvest the flowers. These I dry for tea, which is particularly helpful for children's viral infections in the winter. I also make tincture out of it. So far my ecchinacea flower tincture shows about as good of results as the tincture from the root of the plant that I made later in the year last year. I use it as prevention and recovery support when there are colds and flu around.
5. Marshmallow - Marshmallow is something I have only discovered in the past few years and it doesn't grow in many gardens. It requires a lot of water. I grow it because my husband has had chronic bronchial coughs for years after growing up with extreme smokers and then living in very smoggy conditions. Marshmallow tea and tincture is one of the few things that really helps. I don't know if it is effective with all types of cough but it is worth a try with the more chronic variety.
6. Calendula - Calendula is known as "Little Moon" in the Czech language. It is a brilliant sunny flower and great to have in the garden. It can be used to make a wonderful healing and anti-fungal salve, but only the petals should be used. I. It doesn't have a wonderful smell but it is very effective as a salve. I have recently read that calendula tea is also a good drink for stomach trouble.
7. St. John's Wart - There is still St. John's wart around in my area although the season is getting a bit late. This is one of our must-have herbs each year. Even my husband and children are motivated enough to pick it. We use it for disinfectant salve, tea to combat winter chills and depression and tincture for topical disinfection of wounds and sore throats, acute treatment of viral illnesses and a balm for emotional hard times. When people in the old days used to give someone a shot of brandy for shock or some other emotional difficulty, at our house you're likely to get a shot of St. John's wart laced vodka.
8. Yarrow - Yarrow is crucial for me. It is essentially nature's anti-inflammatory. I use the tincture for severe muscle cramps, including back aches caused by over exertion and menstrual cramps. It is one of the few herbs with a good record for slowing excessive bleeding. I use it in salves both to assist in sealing wounds and for its excellent disinfectant properties. Yarrow salve would be my number one first aid salve if I could get enough of it. It is reported to be a useful tea for fevers but it is exceedingly bitter and I can't get my family to try it for that unless they can swallow it quickly in tincture form.
9. Plantain - One of my herbalist mottos is "There is no such thing as too much plantain." Plantain grows everywhere in the grass but it can be small and hard to see and thus harvesting is a constant process. We use plantain as a base for just about every salve. I have seen it heal infected sores that had not healed for weeks even with multiple pharmaceutical prescriptions. It is also one of the best herbs for children because it is mild and it has a slightly caramel taste. Plantain heals whatever it touches topically. So, it can be used as a tea or syrup for children's coughs and stomach troubles with very little complaint on the part of the children. My children know plantain syrup as "that yummy black honey that makes everything better."
10. Raspberry Leaf - This is as late as you want to harvest raspberry leaves. They will get a bit tattered later in the year. I primarily dry raspberry leaf for tea. Many women find it useful during menstruation or at the end of pregnancy but it is very nutritious and can be a good tea base for the whole family. Add a little mint to make a very tasty combination.