Studies have shown that interacting with indoor plants may drastically reduce psychological and physiological stress in adults. Activities such as pruning, transplanting, and watering can help to settle the mind and even reduce blood pressure. But not all plants are equal! Some excel at reducing air pollutants, and others have medicinal health benefits. While the herbology list is quite long, here’s a look some of the top household plants with healing properties.
Aloe Vera | Aloe vera
If you have only one houseplant in your home, consider an aloe plant. Not only does it make the list for one of the top air-purifying houseplants, but it also has amazing health benefits. There’s a reason it’s sometimes referred to as the “wonder plant.”
Perhaps its most famous application is in the realm of skincare. The gel contained in the succulent’s leaves has antimicrobial properties and has been used for thousands of years to treat burns, wounds, and other skin ailments. Aloe vera is a must-have for your kitchen windowsill in case of burns!
When prepared properly, aloe vera is safe to eat. The gel in particular is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients, and it’s been used to treat ulcers, fight cavities, and improve gum health, among other benefits. Aloe vera has even improved memory and reduced depression in mice, although further studies are needed for human applications. But before you start harvesting leaves for your next smoothie, be aware that the aloin, which is the bitter yellowish compound in aloe vera leaves, can have a major laxative effect on your system and should be removed prior to consumption. But this layer is relatively easy (though messy) to purge from the plant by cutting the ends of the leaf, slicing off the spines along the edges, and then soaking in water to let the aloin drain before harvesting the gel. This video demonstrates the process.
Mint | Mentha spicata L.
The mint family includes over a dozen different species, including spearmint and peppermint. But while mint is known for its fragrant smell and distinctive taste, it also serves a wide variety of other purposes.
Mint is especially rich in antioxidants and Vitamin A, and unlike aloe vera, the leaves don’t need any special preparation to eat. You can toss them into your salad or steep them in tea. Chewing on the leaves can temporarily mask bad breath, although research doesn’t support any germ-killing properties. Mint is particularly good at aiding your digestive system and soothing an upset stomach. It’s also said to boost immunity, enhance mood, and help to relieve cold symptoms due to the menthol found in peppermint oil.
Bonus: mosquitoes aren’t a fan of mint, so having mint plants around your house helps to repel them!
Jasmine | Jasminum officinale
Known as the “Queen of Flowers,” jasmine has a rich history and long list of health benefits. Aromatic jasmine tea became a popular drink in the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD). The flowers are rich in antioxidants that are especially good at interacting positively with gastrointestinal enzymes to promote the growth of the good bacteria in your gut while eliminating harmful bacteria. How does this affect your body?
- Facilitates better nutrient absorption
- Promotes healthy bowel function
- Relieves indigestion and stomach crampsk
- Soothes inflammation
And the list doesn’t stop there! Ancient herbalogists have used jasmine flowers as an aphrodisiac and libido enhancer. The exotic fragrance helps to relax the body and mind, effectively brightening the mood, promoting feelings of calm and intimacy, and relaxing the body. Jasmine can help with depression, including post-natal depression as well as other reproductive ailments due to its natural hormone-balancing properties. It can alleviate some PMS symptoms and can even stimulate contractions in pregnant women (so it might not be a good idea to be drinking jasmine tea or using jasmine essential oils if you’re pregnant and at risk of going into labor prematurely). If you aren’t already sold on the wonders of this flower, another use is combatting insomnia. Jasmine’s sedative effects on the nervous system can help you not only fall asleep but also regulate erratic sleep patterns, promoting a deep, peaceful slumber.
Jasmine tea can be made at home by adding fresh jasmine flowers to loose-leaf green or black tea, compacting the mixture under a weight to let the jasmine properly perfume the tea leaves, and then letting the tea sit for about a day before it’s ready to brew. Here’s the step-by-step process.
Lavender | Lavandula angustifolia
Like jasmine, lavender has an impressive list of ailments it’s been used to treat since ancient times. The earliest recorded use of lavender is traced back to ancient Egypt where it was used in the mummification process. Other ancient civilizations, including Persia, Greece, and Rome, added lavender to their bathwater to purify the mind and body.
Lavender has historically been used to treat mental health issues, anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, nausea, toothaches, acne, eczema, sunburns, diaper rash, and other skin irritations. The jury’s still out in the scientific community about whether lavender can also treat hair loss, cancer, and dementia.
Lavender’s strength lies in aromatherapy. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine yielded positive results in easing severe menstrual cramps by topically applying lavender, sage, and rose in the form of an abdominal massage. But lavender is mostly commonly known for its aid in calming the nerves and promoting sleep. It was common practice in older days to stuff your pillow with lavender flowers to help you fall asleep and get a restful night’s rest. Lavender tea is still used in modern times to treat irregular sleep patterns, restlessness, anxiety, and stomach irritation.
Brewing your own lavender is easy! Simply boil 8 oz. of water, place 4 tsp. of fresh lavender buds into a tea ball or sachet, steep for 10 minutes, and then enjoy!
Thyme | Thymus vulgaris
Thyme is more than just a culinary staple. It’s been used in ancient Egyptian embalming practices, and the ancient Greeks used it as incense. Besides seasoning your cuisine, thyme’s most common use is its medicinal effectiveness with coughs and sore throats. Essential oil obtained from the plant’s leaves is often used as a natural cough remedy, but thyme tea can also work wonders to soothe a cough or sore throat.
Thyme isn’t just an outdated folk remedy; multiple studies have shown that this herb packs some serious power and is being recognized in the scientific community. A study to treat hypertension (aka high blood pressure) in rats yielded positive results, and researchers in the United Kingdom found that thyme tinctures (steeping thyme in alcohol for several days or weeks) fought acne even better than over-the-counter products, including those that use benzoyl peroxide. When comparing marigold, myrrh, and thyme tinctures, the researchers concluded that the thyme tincture had the greatest antibacterial effect in comparison to the control alcohol solution. It even beat the highest level of benzoyl peroxide prescribed to patients!
Adding thyme to your next dish is a great way to boost your immunity, as this herb is packed with vitamins C and A as well as copper, iron, fiber, and manganese. Thyme oil has fungicidal properties to fight mold, and it also repels mosquitoes, rodents, and other pests. With its powerful fragrance and antiseptic and antifungal properties, thyme is a common ingredient in mouthwash and natural deodorants, and it’s popular in potpourri.
Thyme tea is another easy one to brew! You’ll need about three thyme sprigs per one-and-a-half cups of boiling water. You can brew the sprigs directly or chop them up and put them in a tea ball infuser. Cold thyme tea can also be infused with different fruits, such as apple or peach slices. Experiment with your favorites for a refreshing, healthy drink!