Health 

3 Healing Herbs You Can Grow at Home

December 04, 2020 6 min read

Hand holding herbs grown from their backyard

Starting an herb garden in your backyard is beneficial for more than just your kitchen. Herb gardens also provide easy access to fresh herbs useful for everything from brewing immunity tea to relieving ailments to promoting better sleep. Most herbs grow easily in diverse environments, making them ideal for new gardeners (and apartment dwellers). 

Gardening can also improve your mental and physical health(1). From saving money to encouraging you to cook healthier meals at home more often, cultivating herbs can significantly benefit youroverall health. 

You don't need a green thumb or an oversized backyard to get started on your own DIY garden. Planting an herb garden is an affordable way to reap the benefits of natural herbs, whether you set up a small garden in the backyard or grow herbs on a windowsill in your kitchen. Keep reading to discover the healthy herbs that can be grown at home in no time. 

Rosemary 

Rosemary is a small, fragrant perennial herb from the mint family. It grows across the globe, especially in warm, sunny climates. The herb has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries as it’s a good source of iron, calcium and vitamins A, C, and B6(2). It’s typically used as a fresh or dried herb or made into capsules and oils. 

Rosemary is known to have antibacterial, anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties(3). It’s useful foralleviating stress, improving memory, soothing body aches, and preventing cancer. It also positively affects cognitive performance and mood, boosting alertness, intelligence, focus, and alleviating chronic anxiety(4)

Rosemary contains the diterpenes carnosic acid (CA) and rosmarinic acid (RA). When extracted, its polyphenols (CA and RA) exert potent anticancer effects (5). If you suffer from pain and inflammation, topically applying rosemary combined with menthol can soothe its severity and frequency(6). 

Those who exercise frequently can also benefit from rosemary, thanks to its ability to reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness(7). Using rosemary to rub achy muscles can easeheadaches, sprains, muscle soreness, and pain by dilating blood vessels and improving blood flow(8). You can also add a few drops of rosemary oil to your bathtub while you soak after a vigorous workout session to help relax your muscles. 

Hailing from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, rosemary does well in a variety of environments but thrives in sunlight. You can use the herb in the kitchen for soups, casseroles, salads, and stews. Here are a few tips for growing rosemary at home: 

  • Find a sunny location. Rosemary does best in six to eight hours of direct sun. If growing indoors, be sure to place it in the brightest window you have (although planting outdoors is best).  
  • Water only when the soil feels dry.Rosemary won’t tolerate being wet consistently, so allow the top inch of soil to dry out between watering. 
  • Trim frequently. The more you trim, the better your rosemary will grow. 
  • Make sure there’s room.Rosemary can grow to about four feet tall, so you’ll need ample space. 

Peppermint 

People have understood the benefits of peppermint for centuries, and the plant is still widely used today. Records of its health properties date back thousands of years, cited in ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt(9)

Peppermint can help alleviate symptoms of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the common cold. Sipping on hot peppermint tea can relieve nausea, bloating, diarrhea, and indigestion. 

Peppermint growing in a pot on a countertop

One of the most popular uses for peppermint oil is for reducing headaches and muscle aches. Rubbing peppermint oil on painful areas can help relax muscles while the tingling sensation reduces pain(10). According to one study, peppermint oil reduced migraine pain more effectively than a placebo oil(11).

If you have a cold, the menthol in peppermint tea may help ease stuffed sinuses, making it easier to breathe. Research shows that L-menthol, a peppermint compound, could help treat chronic inflammatory disorders like asthma and allergic rhinitis(12)

Many people experience feelings of drowsiness around mid-afternoon. Peppermint can support energy levels throughout the day and improve memory in cognitive tasks requiring sustained focus(13). This means peppermint can help keep you focused during long school- or workdays. For an energy boost, inhale peppermint oil to increase memory and alertness, or grab a cup of peppermint tea for a dose of vitality(14)

Growing peppermint at home is an affordable way to keep the herb handy for daily ailments. Peppermint can be used as a seasoning for lamb, rice, salads, or mint-infused cocktails and desserts. Here are a few tips for growing peppermint in your backyard: 

  • Get an abundance of sun.Peppermint thrives in full sun with minimal shade. However, if you live in a humid climate, you’ll want to protect your mint plants from the scorching afternoon sun. 
  • Add plenty of moisture. Make sure your soil is moist and rich. Consider planting peppermint near downspouts or in low, damp spots in your yard. Mint doesn’t like to grow in dry soil. 
  • Don’t let it overgrow.If left unattended, mint can quickly overrun a planting bed, so spread your mint plants at least 15 inches apart. You can also keep them in check by planting them in containers. 

Lavender 

The therapeutic purple-colored lavender plant is native to the Mediterranean region, the Arabian Peninsula, and Russia. It’s believed to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties ranging from healing burns and bug bites to inducing relaxation(15). The soothing effects of lavender have been prescribed to treat depression, anxiety,sleep disturbances, and nausea(16). Lavender also induces feelings of contentment and improved mood. 

Lavender in a cup on a windowsill

One of the most popular uses for lavender is to promote better sleep due to its mild sedative and calming effects. Many people breathe in lavender oil’s aroma to help sleep, reduce pain, and calm agitation(17). Studies show the inhalation of lavender has a soothing and calming effect on the nervous system, making it an excellent solution for alleviating stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue(18). According to research, rubbing lavender oil onto your temples, forehead, and neck may help treat headaches(19)

Using lavender as aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating scent receptors in the nose, sending messages through the nervous system to the limbic system(20). The limbic system is the part of the brain that controls emotions. Lavender promotes sleep by reducing cortisol levels in the body, making it beneficial for soothing babies and mothers. Consider adding a few drops of lavender oil to a diffuser next to your bed at night to help improve your sleep and relax your mind and the body.    

Another use for lavender is soothing achy muscles, joint pain, sprains, and backaches(21). A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reveals that topically applying lavender along with sage and rose can reduce the severity of menstrual cramps(22)

Because of its intense flavor, lavender pairs well with light and bright flavors such as lemon, berries, and mint. It cooks well in baked goods and on savory dishes as a dry rub. Follow these tips to grow lavender in your backyard: 

  • Set up the proper airflow. If you live in an area with high humidity, you’ll want to make sure the lavender gets plenty of relief from the sun. The herb has a Mediterranean origin, which means it loves heat and dry soil but still needs relief from the sun every now and then.
  • Be careful with moisture. Don’t mulch or use any topping that will bring moisture to the plants. To promote good drainage, mix sand or gravel into the soil before planting or growing the herb in raised beds. 

In summary 

Herbs are easy to grow in your backyard and can be beneficial for your body and overall health. Starting an herb garden is a great way for health enthusiasts and beginner gardeners to learn how to grow their own produce. 

Whether you want to grow an herb garden as a hobby, want to save money, or to indulge in better tasting food, there are plenty of health benefits to growing herbs in your backyard, on your patio, or by your windowsill. 

Laura Tolliver - Contributing Writer, Physician’s Choice