Having a flourishing garden or collection of plants in your home is not just for show. There are so many plants available to grow that have natural healing properties, ready to be harvested and used as a homegrown remedy. Here are some common, healing plants that are known for their medicinal uses and are great for growing at home.
Also known as “Holy Basil”, Tulsi is an Indian herb that has been used for thousands of years for its restorative and healing properties. Recent research has classified Tulsi as an adaptogenic herb, which means that it has been shown to support the body’s healthy reaction to stress. It aids the body in adapting to physical, emotional, and environmental stressors, restore equilibrium and support bodily functions.
The benefits of Tulsi are usually unlocked by steeping the leaves (preferably dried) in boiling water and drunk as a tea. Dried Tulsi leaves can also be used as a natural insect repellent.
Tulsi thrives outside in warmer, frost-free environments. In colder climates, it can be grown in a sunny spot indoors and grows best in soil full of organic matter. To harvest, pick leaves once the plant is at least 30cm tall.
Viewed by many as a “superfood”, it’s no secret that turmeric can be used to help with a variety of ailments. Curcumin, a chemical that is found in turmeric, has been found to reduce swelling. Eating turmeric has been shown to reduce the symptoms of hay fever, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. Taking turmeric extracts, either alone or with additional herbal extracts, can reduce discomfort and pain in those who suffer from osteoporosis of the knee.
Turmeric can be included in a variety of foods, most often curries and sauces, but can also be infused in gels, mouthwashes, tonics, and creams. As always, check with your healthcare provider to find out what dosage is best for you.
To grow turmeric, plant it in warm soil during September/October with about 15-30cms between each plant. The plants will be ready to harvest in nine to ten months. Once the turmeric is ready to harvest and consume, take the grown rhizomes out from the soil, and clean them. Rhizomes will stay fresh in the fridge for up to six months in an airtight bag or container; toss them in the freezer to save them for longer.
One of the most widely grown and used medicinal plants in the world, aloe vera is known for its cooling gel that can be easily extracted from the plant. The soothing gel of this plant is perfect for putting on a fresh sunburn, acne, and inflammation. Ingesting it in small amounts has been found to reduce blood sugar levels, dental plaque, and boost memory and in some cases can reduce the effect of chronic conditions such as diabetes.
To harvest the healing aloe vera gel from your plant, use a sharp knife to scrape away the tough outer skin and yellow substance found underneath it and squeeze out the clear gel. The gel can then be used topically on any burns or stings or be infused into a bottle of water to be drunk throughout the day.
To help your aloe vera thrive, use cactus potting soil, and plant your aloe in a spot with abundant sun.
Australian Tea Tree
This hardy native tree produces a healing oil that has a multitude of medical uses and makes a perfect addition to your natural remedies at home. Known for its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory uses, tea tree oil can be used to help many conditions, from acne to athlete’s foot. The oil can be used topically as an antiseptic for minor scrapes and cuts and to encourage wound healing.
Used as a traditional medicine by Indigenous peoples of Australia for centuries, where they crushed the leaves and applied it on the skin for healing or inhaled the oil to treat congestion. The oil comes from the tree’s leaves and can be harvested at home by a method of steam distillation which requires specialty distillation equipment. Find a full, step-by-step guide to harvesting your tea tree plant here.
Be aware that tea tree oil can be toxic if swallowed, so only external applications are recommended, and people with skin sensitivities may react negatively to the application of the oil. Patch tests on small areas of skin are suggested before more thorough application.
As it is a native Australian plant, tea trees thrive in warm, dry climates when planted in sandy soil. Tea trees make excellent privacy plants so plant them along a fence or near the front of your garden.
This ancient plant has thousands of years of use as a medicinal plant and is known for its calming and anti-anxiety effects. One study even showed that lavender had significant calming effects on dental patients and can be used to treat anxiety and stress. Its soft purple flowers and aromatic perfume make lavender an easy choice for your garden, as well as for nurturing bees and other wildlife.
To utilise the calming properties of home-grown lavender at home, simply dry a bunch of freshly cut flowers by hanging them in a cool, dry place for a few weeks. Once dried, the fragrant buds can be picked off and used as an addition to calming teas, to keep linen cupboards and other storage spaces smelling clean or by adding the buds to foods to infuse them with its calming fragrance. Another popular way of using the dried flowers is in potpourri, keeping them in a study space/office is a great way to stay calm, especially if the potpourri is inhaled.
Plant in full sun and make sure to prune your lavender each year. Lavender is great when harvested and left to dry, ready to be used for healing and its wonderful aroma.
There are plenty of other common garden herbs and houseplants that have a variety of benefits, including lemongrass, thyme, marigold, peppermint, and rosemary.
Rosemary has been found to boost immunity, improve blood circulation and is full of antioxidants and peppermint can improve concentration and digestion and of course, freshen your breath.
With a variety of plants that can fit into any space with a range of health benefits, boosting your wellbeing at home has never been easier. What plant will you grow first?
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By Sarah Panther