Upset stomach, headache, sunburn—Americans spend about $350 per household annually on over-the-counter drugs to treat a wide variety of common ailments. Many of those problems can be treated simply and safely with plants you can grow indoors and use yourself, like these five traditional medicinal plants that will thrive in your indoor garden.
How it works: The translucent gel inside the leaves of the plant known as aloe vera (botanically Aloe barbadensis) is applied topically as a remedy for all kinds of burns (including overexposure to the sun), frostbite, psoriasis, and cold sores. Research indicates that it may speed the healing of wounds by increasing blood circulation in the area and may ward off bacterial infections during healing.
How to grow it: Aloe is a semitropical succulent plant—like cactus, it stores water in its leaves so it is adapted to long dry spells. Put aloe where it will get bright light and wait until it is completely dry to irrigate it. Aloe growing indoors is much more likely to be killed by overwatering than by underwatering.
How it works: Chamomile has long been used to treat conditions ranging from gastrointestinal distress and insomnia to inflammation and anxiety. Chamomile tea is an easy-to-use, mild remedy for flatulence (gas) and other forms of indigestion because it soothes the stomach and relaxes the muscles that move food through the intestines. It also works as mild sedative, which can relieve sleeplessness.
How to grow it: A member of the daisy family, chamomile comes in two varieties—Roman and German. Both have similar medicinal effects, but the Roman type does not get as big as the German one (1 foot versus 3 feet tall), so it is a better choice for indoor gardens. Be sure the plant gets plenty of light and fertilize it with liquid nutrients to ensure that it reaches its full height and then blooms. Pick the white flowers, allow them to dry completely, and then use them to make a healthful cup of tea.
How it works: There’s a reason your mother gave you ginger ale when you had an upset stomach. The essential oils in ginger break up and expel intestinal gas and protect the stomach lining. Ginger is used to inhibit all kinds of nausea, from motion sickness to morning sickness. Dried ginger extract has proven effective as an analgesic that reduces inflammation. You can drink ginger in a tea or use it as a spice on food.
How to grow it: The rhizome (or root) that you see in supermarket produce sections is the start of a ginger plant. If you want to grow one, buy it from a garden center or an online seed supplier because the rhizome won’t have been treated with sprouting inhibitors. Plant it in a large container with moist potting mix that you keep consistently damp (but not soggy) and in bright light. After three to four months, dig back some of the soil at the edges and cut a small amount of the rhizome for use. Cover the root with soil and wait a couple of months before harvesting again.
How it works: A tea made from mint leaves is another popular cure for indigestion. Many people find that inhaling the vapor from mint tea relieves nasal and sinus congestion, and applying mint oil to your skin near the temples is widely used as a treatment for headaches.
How to grow it: Peppermint is the most commonly used medicinal type, but spearmint, lemon balm, and many other kinds of mint are effective and easy to grow. Grow it in a small pot with well-drained potting mix set in bright light and keep the conditions humid by putting the container on a water-filled tray of pebbles or by misting it often. Rotate the pot frequently to ensure that the plant grows evenly.
How it works: A culinary herb, rosemary is reputed to improve concentration and memory and to relieve stress. One study reported that smelling rosemary essential oil, combined with other aromatic oils, may lower cortisol levels and reduce anxiety. You can use its thin leaves as a flavoring for food, to make tea, or in your bath.
How to grow it: Consistent bright light—at least six hours a day—is essential for raising a healthy rosemary plant inside. It needs to stay moist, but be careful not to allow the plant to stand in water, which causes root rot. Placing the pot on a tray filled with pebbles and water raises the humidity without wetting the soil. Snip leaves as needed, taking no more than one-third off each stem at a time.
Try Your Own
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