Not so long ago, drug stores simply didn’t exist, and neither did pharmaceuticals.
Instead, our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents relied on the healing herbs and spices that grew in their surroundings to heal any ill that came their way.
If you think about it, it’s actually more convenient to step into your garden for medicine than to go get a check-up and run to the nearest pharmacy. Much cheaper too!
Below are a few healing herbs you can grow indoors and outdoors, harvest, and store to keep you and your family healthy all year long!
15 Healing Herbs To Grow at Home
These herbs will happily grow and thrive a sunny windowsill or in your garden.
Just make sure not use chemical fertilizers since they will leave residue on your plants that can negatively impact your health.
This beautiful purple-flowered plant comes in a large variety of colors: from white, to pale pink or purple or even dark blue or violet. Plus, it has a lovely, soothing fragrance.
Use it in the kitchen, sprinkle in your bathwater, or simply enjoy the smell by growing it at home.
Lavender has proven antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s commonly used for anxiety, depression, agitation, intestinal problems, insomnia, headaches, and pain (1).
It’s also great for your skin: one study examined 86 people with alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease that causes serious hair loss) over the course of 7 months. Participants who massaged their scalps with lavender oil experienced tremendous hair growth compared to those who did not massage their scalp with essential oils (2).
To use, diffuse a few drops of lavender essential oil in water, steep a cup of tea made from the leaves or flowers, or add the oil or flowers to your bath. Drinking the tea and inhaling the steam is best to ease strong emotions or promote calmness while topical application of the oil works best for pain.
Lavender loves to be placed in a warm, sunny spot. The plant is actually quite hardy and even does well in dry, poor soil. However, you should fertilize it with high-quality compost once a year and water when the top 2 inches of soil are dry. Make sure to plant it in a well-draining pot.
If you’re going to plant it outside, be aware that lavender spreads up to 1 meter in diameter (3).
Basil is a staple of any home chef. The most common type of basil is sweet basil, but many other varieties exist, including purple basil, Lemon basil, and Thai basil.
Basil is not just a seasoning, it’s a potent home remedy. Drink basil tea to ward off head colds, warts, and worms. The herb also acts as an appetite stimulant, carminative, and diuretic. Add fresh leaves to salads or cook with your favorite meals to improve kidney function, calm down stomach spasms, and promote circulation. Most surprising of all, used by a seasoned professional, it has the ability to treat snake and insect bites (4).
Additionally, you can rub crushed leaves on your temples to relieve headaches or boil in hot water to make a soothing foot bath.
This sweet-smelling herb should get between 6 to 8 hours of full sun daily and thrives in moist, well-draining soil. Basil should never fully dry out, as this will make the leaves limp and dry. Once your plant flowers, pick them off to prevent the leaves from getting too bitter. If you’re growing it outside, plant 10-12 inches apart and harvest before the first frost of the fall (5).
Thyme is a small perennial shrub with lots of branches and light purple to pink flowers. In terms of variety, English thyme is what you’re likely more familiar with. It’s aromatic and has a pleasant, yet slightly pungent, clover flavor.
Thyme can be used both fresh and dried with similar results, although it’s typically found in an infusion or a tincture. In fact, the herb is anthelmintic, antispasmodic, broncho spasmolytic, carminative, sedative, diaphoretic, and expectorant. This makes it perfect for treating bronchitis, laryngitis, whooping cough, chronic gastritis, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. You can even use it externally to treat joint pain, skin problems, and superficial wounds. However, you should stay away from thyme if you’re pregnant (6).
Thyme is hard to grow from the seed, so buy a plant or ask a friend for cuttings instead. Thyme likes to dry out in between waterings since it’s prone to root rot. Trim the plants regularly and plant in a well-draining soil for best results (7).
4. Lemon Balm
Believe or not, lemon balm is actually part of the mint family! It’s very easy to grow too.
This herb has soothing effects against stress, anxiety, and insomnia. It’s also a digestive tonic that eases indigestion, gas, bloating, colic, and poor appetite. Plus, some studies suggest it works wonders on cold sores too! Drink a cup of pure tea, or use it in combination with valerian, chamomile, and hops. Topically, apply some chilled tea to ward off mosquitoes and soothe bug bites (8).
This herb is a perennial that can grow up to 12-24 inches high, it’s also a very quick-spreading plant. Plant in full-run in a well-drained, sandy soil. It will always do best if planted in cool weather in the early spring or late fall. Water regularly and evenly, keeping the soil slightly moist (9).
Believe it or not, parsley is in the same family as dill. It’s best to plant flat-leaf variety instead of curly-leaf parsley since they have better flavor and are easiest to work with.
Parsley herb and seed tea are reportedly used to treat jaundice, menstrual difficulties, asthma, coughs, indigestion, and dropsy. You can also drink up to ward against gallstones, dyspepsia, dysuria, and rheumatic conditions. Alternatively, chew fresh leaves to freshen your breath in between meals (10).
Parsley requires moist, rich soil and full sun. Make sure to fertilize with compost once a year. If planting outside, germinate 10-12 weeks before the last spring frost and plant 6-8 inches apart (11).
Peppermint is wonderfully soothing for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), other digestive problems such as flatulence, nausea, and cramps. Thus, peppermint tea is a great follow-up to a large meal. You can also inhale mint steam to improve a common cold, sinus inflammation or headaches. Alternatively, cure a headache by applying the oil to your temples or soothe sore joints by applying it where you experience pain. Some research even suggests that dilute peppermint oil can be used during a colonoscopy to prevent colonic spasms (11). Who knew?
Peppermint is a perennial that loves light soil with good drainage. Place it in indirect sun and top with a bit of organic compost every few months. Water regularly to keep moist. Outside, peppermint can grow up to 4-feet in its first year, so make sure to prune and harvest regularly (12).
Rosemary has the ability to (13):
- Improve memory
- Relieve muscle pain and spasm
- Stimulate hair growth
- Support the circulatory and nervous systems
- Soothe indigestion
- Heal muscle and joint pain
- Improve concentration
- Fight cancer
It also has the ability to neutralize food-borne pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes, B. cereus, and S. aureus. Use the herb in everyday meals or make a soothing cup of tea to improve work performance.
Rosemary actually produces lovely blue flowers and pine-like leaves. Provide them with well-drained, sandy soil and at least six to eight hours of sunlight and they will thrive. Plant in terra cotta to make sure they always stay on the dry side. Rosemary doesn’t like the cold, so keep it in a draft-free space. After it’s bloomed, trim rosemary by up to one-third, cutting just above a leaf joint (14).
Sage means “to be in good health” so it’s no surprise that it has plenty of health-promoting effects.
Sage reportedly has antibacterial, fungistatic, virostatic, astringent, secretion-stimulating, and perspiration-inhibiting effects. This is partly due to its phenolic acids (15).
Sage is used as a tonic, digestive, antiseptic, astringent, and antispasmodic agent. It also promoted milk flow treats nervous conditions, trembling, depression, and vertigo dysmenorrhea, diarrhea, gastritis, sore throat, and insect bites. It’s best taken as a tea or chewed raw.
Sage grows well, even into the late fall. Give it plenty of sun and its leaves will reach their peak in flavor. Seeds aren’t straightforward to plant, to grow from cuttings instead. Grow in well-drained, sandy, loamy soil, and if possible, in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Plant in sage in medium to full sun and do not over-fertilize. Very forgiving, wilted leaves will perk up after a watering (16).
9. Aloe Vera
Break open the thick leaves and apply the gel that seeps out to your skin to soothe sunburn and other burns. Topical application also works on rosacea, herpes, psoriasis, and acne. Better yet, apply some gel directly to your teeth and gums to heal cavities and gum disease. You can even scoop out the gel and add it to smoothies to treat poor digestion, diabetes and alcohol-induced liver disease (17).
As a succulent, aloe loves full sun and should dry at least 1 to 2 inches deep between waterings. Watering too often will result in root rot. Transplant offsets or plantlets to grow a whole new plant. Keep away from a draft or excessive cold (18).
Chamomile often refers to either Roman chamomile or German chamomile. Both are nearly identical and have similar herbal applications. However, this section is specific to Roman chamomile.
This flower is the go-to anti-anxiety herb. Chamomile tea doesn’t just work against anxiety and stress: it also treats stomach problems muscle spasms, skin conditions, and mild infections. It also works well against nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and gas. Chamomile is even used topically to reduce inflammation from cuts, eczema, gingivitis or hemorrhoids (19).
Test tube studies have shown that chamomile can kill bacteria, fungus, and viruses. It also helps relax muscle contractions in the digestive tract.
To use chamomile tea as a natural insecticide, brew a strong (triple strength) batch of tea and let it steep for up to 24 hours. Pour the tea into a spray bottle with a targeted sprayer. Use the tea to spray infested plants, but be careful not to spray the plant when bees or other beneficial insects are present. Also, don’t spray during the heat of the day or when the plant is in direct sunlight.
Chamomile is easy to grow from seed, try don’t be intimidated to give it a try. It actually prefers slightly cold conditions, so keep it in partial shade if possible (20).
Marigold, also know as calendula, are a popular garden plant with distinct orange flowers. Some varieties are more daisy-like in shape while others resemble a carnation.
Calendula flowers work topically on dermal and mucous membrane inflammations, hard-to-heal wounds, leg ulcers, dermatitis, mild burns, cold sores, eczema, abscesses, and sunburn. You can also take it internally to treat inflammation of the pharynx and mouth as well as gastric hemorrhage, ulcers, spasms, glandular swelling, jaundice, anemia. In fact, the flowers are vulnerary, antiseptic, and styptic (21).
Use a poultice of the petals to relieve sunburn and to clear up acne and blemishes on the skin. Use it as an antiseptic on cuts and bruises. It stops bleeding and reduces inflammation when applied on nicks and cuts. Many skin ointments contain pot marigold extract as the active ingredient.
Marigolds need lots of sunshine and tend to thrive in moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Aways water them from the base of the plant. Do not fertilize these plants, since it will cause the leaves to grow at the expense of the flowers. Actually, marigolds bloom better and more profusely in poor soil. Plant in your garden to repel animals, insects, nematodes, and other pests (22).
Echinacea is best known for its immune-boosting abilities and for its benefits against the intensity and duration of the cold and flu. In fact, the herb is very commonly used, studied, and prescribed in Germany (23).
Among other things, Echinacea can boost immune function, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and has hormonal, antiviral, and antioxidant effects. It’s actually frequently used against urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast (candida) infections, ear infections, athlete’s foot, sinusitis, hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis), as well as slow-healing wounds. It’s best to take as a tea or tincture.
Coneflowers both attract butterflies and repel deer, keeping your garden free of unwanted critters. To plant, add a generous amount of compost to well-drained soil and sow 1-3 feet apart in a sunny spot. Water regularly and cut off any dead/faded flowers to prolong the blooming season. Your plants won’t bloom at first, but you should have quite a few flowers next year, after your plants have matured a bit (24).
Comfrey root and leaves are often found in cosmetic preparations such as lotions, creams, ointments, eye drops, hair products, and others. In terms of home remedies, comfrey tea makes an effective gargle to soothe throat inflammations, hoarseness, and bleeding gums. The root, on the other hand, is great for gastrointestinal problems, excessive menstrual flow, diarrhea, dysentery, bloody urine, persistent cough, bronchitis, cancers, and much much more! Lastly, powdered root can be used as a poultice for wounds, bruises, sores, and insect bites (25).
Comfrey will grow just about anywhere, but they prefer rich soil with a pH value of 6.0-7.0. Given moist soil and full sun, they’ll even grow in in clay, light sands or loams. Comfrey adapts well to most any environment, so plant it next spring (26)!
14. Broadleaf plantain
The fresh leaves can be mashed and applied as a poultice to wounds, insect bites, poison ivy rashes and skin sores for pain relief and to promote healing. You can also eat the leaves raw or cooked as long as you remove the fibrous strands before use (27).
Its husks, on the other hand, are a potent laxative that can help treat constipation, anal fissures, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, and diverticulosis (28).
Broadleaf plantain grows all around the world, taking over backyards and walkways in no time. They actually loosen up compact soil and protect it from the harsh sun. If you already have some in your yard (which you likely do) pick off the flower heads to encourage leaf growth (29).
15. Great Mullein
The leaves and flowers of this plant are highly medicinal.
Mullein makes an effective sedative, diuretic, expectorant, astringent, demulcent, and emollient. Boil the leaves and flowers to make a lung-soothing or kidney-healthy tea (30). Although it’s traditionally smoked to relieve lung infection, we certainly don’t recommend it!
Mullein grows just about anywhere, especially where the soil is dry and slightly alkaline. You’ll barely have to water it, other than when it’s in bloom and it is not necessary to fertilize it either. Talk about low maintenance (31)!
Like any medicine, herbs can worsen preexisting conditions or react with over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Always take the healing herb above under the guidance of a herbalist or naturopath and monitor your symptoms carefully. Don’t overdue it: when it comes to healing herbs, more isn’t always better.