Plants have been on the planet for just under 500 million years. Somewhere along the way, humans understood that while certain plants could kill you, others could heal ailments in amazing ways. These healing herbs are part of an ancient understanding of the world and the ways people can thrive within it.
Some herbs have healing properties that modern science has been able to study and confirm. Other plants remain popular in folk remedies, but need more research. Growing healing herbs at home can be an exciting way to dive into the world of plants and experiment with what is possible. Here are 15 healing herbs you can grow at home:
Native to the Mediterranean, Rosemary is a fragrant evergreen herb. It is a member of the mint family. Rosemary can improve memory and cognition, it can alleviate muscle tension, and can promote hair growth. Rosemary is also a delicious culinary herb, commonly paired with potatoes and meat. To grow rosemary successfully at home, you first want to understand what plant hardiness zone you live in. If you don’t know what zone your city or town is in, it’s a really quick online search. Rosemary is a zone 9 plant, with some hardier varieties available.
If you live in a colder zone than zone 9, you will want to plant your rosemary in a pot or container that you can bring inside during the winter months. Alternatively, you can plant it annually every spring. Be sure to water regularly and prune often – otherwise, your plant might grow to be quite stringy. In the winter, keep the plant in a warm place, protected from cold drafts. You can snip off the stems and use them fresh or hang them up to dry.
2. Holy Basil
Also known as Tulsi or Ocimum tenuiflorum, is pretty different from the basil variety you’d throw into a marinara sauce, but its health benefits make it worth the effort. Holy basil is considered a tonic for mind, body, and spirit in Indian medicine. Scientific studies have shown that holy basil does effect neurocognition and diabetes and psychological stress. Some ayurvedic healers use the flowers are a cure for bronchitis. The plant can be ingested as a tea to help alleviate diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
In addition to lavender’s delightful scent, this plant has also demonstrated medical benefits to reducing anxiety, fungal infections and hair loss. To care for a potted lavender plant through the year, make sure it has plenty of warmth and sun. Lavender needs at least 8 hours of sunlight per day to stay healthy. Water the plant only when the soil has dried out. Lavender is native to regions of the Middle East and North Africa, which is how the plant evolved to have these preferences.
Gingko is one of the oldest living tree species in the world. It has antioxidant properties and can help with circulation. This healing tree’s leaves are available many places as an oral tablet, but you can also grow the tree and shrubs at home to make teas from the leaves. Gingko biloba trees are native to China and will grow in zones 4 through 9. Gingko trees are great to grow as part of a landscape because of their medicinal properties, but reasons can be aesthetic too – the fan leaves of the tree form an interesting shape that turns gold in the autumn season.
5. St. John’s Wort
While we still need more clinical research to confirm this, St. John’s Wort is understood in herbalism to have antidepressant properties. You can make a tea from its leaves that has a light, lemon-like flavor. When growing this plant, make sure it has full sun and is in well-draining soil.
Parsley is an excellent source of vitamin C and folic acid, an important B vitamin. It makes a great addition to salads and can be used as a garnish. It is a main ingredient of Lebanon’s national dish, tabbouleh. When growing parsley at home, pinch off the tall stalks to help retain a delicious flavor.
Popular as a bedtime tea, chamomile doesn’t stop there. It can help promote digestive health and benefit blood sugar control. It might also improve your heart health.
As you might guess from this healing herb’s name, feverfew is traditionally used to reduce fevers and inflammation. It is also used to treat migraines.
This plant looks remarkably similar to chamomile because it is also a member of the chrysanthemum family. You can tell the difference through smell and taste, or PlantSnap! Chamomile often smells like apples and has a floral taste. Feverfew is significantly more bitter and has a citrus-y smell.
Valerian is a healing herb that is used as a supplement to help insomnia and sleep disorders, ADHD, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, menstrual cramps, and tremors. This plant likes well-drained soil. It can survive in full sun to partial shade and it is fairly frost tolerant as well. It is perennial to zone 4. However, be careful where you plant it – this herb can take over a garden and is considered by some gardeners to be invasive.
A fun bit of lore: this herb is often used in love potions. It is the number one non-prescription sedative in Europe. The easiest way to use valerian is to decoct (heat) the root without boiling it, and sip it as a tea after you’ve strained it.
Popularly used in breath mints, toothpastes, and soaps, peppermint is everywhere you look. Whether you’re in a giant surplus store, or a tiny hippie co-op, chances are that this healing herb is somewhere nearby. Peppermint eases digestion. It can help to relieve headaches and migraines. It can relieve clogged sinuses. Peppermint helps with energy, menstrual cramps, and might even help with bacterial infections.
Needless to say, mint is a good plant to have nearby for pretty much any problem you might encounter – all the more reason to grow it at home. Mint is very fast-growing and can be somewhat invasive, so this is definitely a healing herb to grow in a container or pot. It can survive in partial sun, but full sun is best. This herb loves water and often grows near streams and ponds.
Part of the allium family, chives are easy to grow and delicious to eat. Chives are a nutrient-dense food and provide vitamins A and C as well as calcium, and magnesium to name a few benefits. It provides all of this, while a tablespoon of chives is less than one calorie. Chive flowers are funky looking purple balls that add color to your window sill or lawn. Plus, this plant provides protection of insects for other plants in your garden.
12. Scented Geranium
Scented geranium isn’t a plant you want to eat, but its smell is mouth-wateringly reminiscent of rose and lemon. Traditionally, it was thought to help repel insects like mosquitoes. Its oil is thought to have antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
Thyme is packed with vitamin A and C, and is easy to grow at home. This plant has shown positive effects in lowering blood pressure and boosting immunity. If you are growing your thyme indoors, find a sunny window and use compost and organic fertilizer to promote healthy growth. Pinch off the flowering stems to maintain the plant for longer.
Widely understood to be a spice, oregano is also a healing herb. This plant is closely related to mint and boosts immunity and aid digestion. We need more scientific research to understand the healing properties of this herb.
Native to Sri Lanka and India, lemongrass is now a popular supplement all over the world, especially used in Asian cuisine. You can grow lemongrass to make tea as well! It can help to reduce inflammation and heart disease. It’s definitely a plant you might want to consider incorporating into your life.
What herbal plants do you grow at home? What have your experiences been? We’d love to hear in the comments on growing healing herbs at home.