Medicinal Indoor Houseplants:
Your Very Own Year-Round Pharmacy

I recently did a dumb thing when I swiped some debris off of my glass stovetop, thinking the unit was no longer hot since the red glow had disappeared. The burning sensation went through me like a jolt, and I suddenly found myself in need of some quick pain relief!

I quickly clipped a good-sized chuck of aloe vera from my plant and slit it open. Along with the aloe, I added two drops of lavender essential oil on the surface and rubbed it over the burning area. I kid you not, in just a few minutes the pain began to dissipate. I wrapped some first-aid gauze to hold my aloe vera/lavender oil remedy in place, and by the day’s end the burned area, although a bit tender, was well enough that I could remove the gauze. When I did, I saw that my burn was pretty much healed with no scarring or swelling.

Yes, the powers of our medicinal plants are truly a godsend, so I thought to go over a few more that might be good choices for growing indoors year-round. Indoor medicinal plants can be used in many ways and also add some of Mother Nature’s beauty to your home. Unless you’re a longtime lover of indoor plants, the idea of growing anything inside may seem like a bit of a challenge. However, once you’ve tried it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.

The Ideal Medicinal Indoor Plant Lover

Some people, unfortunately, are uniquely unsuited for cultivating indoor plants. For example, if you travel for extended periods of time over the year, or if you sincerely don’t want the bother of trimming, cleansing, and watering the plants, or you have very limited space in your home to share with plants, they’re probably not for you. Any of these situations can be an obstacle to a medicinal indoor plant pharmacy. Nevertheless, I will point out a few plants that may be ideal even if you’re not the ideal indoor plant candidate. Don’t give up—just think aloe vera!

Remember, plants are living things. What we get from them depends on the nurturing we give them. Much like getting a pet or starting any other hobby, before you spend a good deal of money, you should make sure you have the qualifications you need to end up with the best year-round pharmacy possible. But if it turns out that you’re not interested, this could also be a great gift to start the herbalist in your family on a really fun venture. Young children, growing teenagers, and people of all ages are great candidates. And for the young, this may help them develop interests outside of staring at a tablet! (Oh, and by the way, you can grow catnip for your kitty.)

Since you’ll be growing plants that not only have medicinal uses but also healing and maybe even cosmetic uses—and not to mention are also edible—you’ll want to be sure to do your research on which plants will best suit your needs. So, dear reader, start by asking yourself the following three questions:

  1. Do you have some time once a week to dedicate to the care of your plants?
  2. Would you like to use herbs in your cooking and/or learn how to make herbal remedies?
  3. Do you have enough space in your home to share with some of your favorite plant companions?

If you can say yes to these questions, you’re probably an ideal candidate for medicinal indoor plants. Now let’s now go through a few other necessities that you’ll need to provide to your chosen plants.

Lighting: The Essential Factor of Indoor Plant Success

The most important thing that your plants will need is LIGHT. Yep, your plants will only survive if you can give them a good, well-lit space to grow. It can be natural light from a window or a grow light that you can place over the plant. My first choice is always to find a suitable window, but when that’s not an option, you can find some great suggestions for grow lights at The Spruce and the Gardener’s Supply Company.

Did you know that plants will make the effort to stay alive even if you forget to water them? (This is true even if they don’t get any type of fertilizer.) But please remember that plants, like all living things—including YOU—require water! Plants absorb light and turn it into energy through photosynthesis. According to Merriam-Webster, photosynthesis is defined as the: synthesis of chemical compounds with the aid of radiant energy and especially light.”

Now, assuming that you have them, let’s discuss which windows will best suit your indoor medicinal pharmacy. 

Windows Facing North, South, East, and West

According to this article at The Spruce, the type of light that filters through a window depends on the direction it faces. Below are some of my observations and a few points paraphrased from the article.

North-facing windows: Light from the north has the lowest light intensity, so choose shade-loving plants for north-facing windows—and even then only in the summer months (plants will do very poorly in the winter when facing north).

South-facing windows: From my experience, south-facing windows, if you have them, are the best option. (Personal note: This is important to consider when you’re purchasing a new home or moving into a new apartment.) Southern sunlight gives off a flood of beautiful warmth as it crosses over the sky in an east-to-west pattern. It will give your plants a little paradise on earth. I think happy plants make the best remedies and tastiest dishes. I love spearmint leaves alongside my pork dishes. It makes for a very healthy addition.

East-facing windows: That soft, gentle, and mysterious morning light from the east will give your plants moderate rays of sun. Great for plants that are suited for temperate or morning-only sunlight.

West-facing windows: The heat that pours through west-facing windows can be too intense, drying, and/or damaging to all but the most sun-loving plants. Summer heat is especially strong in west-facing windows. Yet, ironically, they’re cold during the winter months since the sun appears later in the afternoon, and when it does, the light isn’t as strong and wanes into evening quicker than in summer.

Can Indoor Plants Improve Your Stress Levels and Overall Health?

According to the website Simple Most: “Not only do houseplants brighten up your home, they are also beneficial for your mental health. Studies have shown that indoor plants can improve your mood, relieve stress, increase concentration and productivity, boost your immunity and lower your disease risk. Houseplants can also reduce air pollution in your home: Extensive research conducted by NASA has found that indoor plants can eliminate up to 87 percent of air toxins in just 24 hours.”

How to Grow Indoor Plants

Just like starting any new hobby, you should have a serious interest in the subject matter and, most importantly, be willing to invest enough time to take care of your new companions. To learn more about growing indoor plants, be they medicinal or ornamental, you can ask a good buddy who grows indoor plants to mentor you. But if that’s not possible, the next-best place to start is at your local library. Or you can simply look for online resources. For example, The Herbal Academy recommends five gardening books that will help you create your own botanical garden, and the gardening experts at Ambius have compiled an in-depth guide to learning about indoor plants.

When I first started, I knew of some people that would get a plant for the sake of its beauty, pot it aimlessly, water it only occasionally, and not give any thought as to its light source—and then wonder why it withered in a few weeks or months! This type of plant care is especially bad if you plan on ingesting or making any type of cosmetics with your plants. Medicinal plants should be grown in the best environment you can muster, even if you only have limited space.

Five Ideal Medicinal Indoor Plants

There are hundreds of gardening websites that discuss these plants, yet it was hard to find one that I thought offered good options along with interesting information on each of the plants. My favorite was “15 Incredible Medicinal Herbs for Your Indoor Garden” at the website Survival Life.

I list just five of their selections below, but you can read about all fifteen by clicking on the link to the article. I’ve also added some information about my favorite succulent, aloe vera. I chose the five from the article because you can use them both for cooking and for making remedies. I’ve also added some medicinal information to each of the five, quoted from Herbs 2000, which is now known as Elma Skin Care. (Disclaimer: I am not familiar with any of the products shown on their website. Therefore, I cannot give them my personal recommendation.)

Five Irresistible Plants to Grow Indoors

Thyme: “Thyme can be used for preparing an excellent homemade balm that is applied topically for effectively curing cuts, injuries, rash, acne and other skin conditions. This herbal balm is especially useful when applied on the facial skin and on the skin in the areas of the forehead, throat and neck. In addition, the balm prepared with thyme may also be applied to treat burns, sores and injuries at any place on the body.”

Sage: “Sage can be used for all types of sore throats. This is because of the fact that sage has antiseptic and astringents as well as certain relaxing properties, and this is one of the main reasons why sage is used rather frequently in gargles. It is also used for treating and bringing relief to sore gums and canker sores. Sage is often described as a digestive tonic, and as a stimulant, and in Chinese medicine, sage enjoys a good reputation as a versatile nerve tonic, as it is used as a yin tonic for helping to calm and stimulate the nervous system.”

Parsley: “Parsley leaves have a number of uses, including nutrient, medicinal, and culinary. For instance, the fresh leaves of parsley are extremely nourishing and may be deemed to be a natural vitamin as well as mineral supplement in their individual capacity. Compared to the leaves of the plant, the fruits of parsley possess a very potent diuretic action and can be used in place for celery seeds (Apium graveolens) for treating arthritis, rheumatism, and gout.”

Basil: “As an herbal remedy, the beneficial effects of the sweet basil are used mainly for the treatment of different disorders of the digestive and the nervous systems. The remedy also helps in reducing the incidence of flatulence in affected individuals; it is used in the treatment of all kinds of cramps in the stomach; it is also used for the treatment of colic and to treat cases of indigestion affecting people. The remedies derived from the sweet basil can also used to treat intestinal worms in people affected by such parasites.”

Peppermint: “The main use of the peppermint herb is primarily to take advantage of its stimulating, stomachic and carminative properties in the body, thus the herb has been used in the treatment of indigestion, to alleviate the symptoms of flatulence (excess gas) and to treat disorders such as colic. Herbal teas of the peppermint are usually taken for the treatment of many disorders; the moderately warm herbal peppermint tea is prepared from the leaves of the herb.”

Oregano: “Bile flow is stimulated by the oregano, and the herb also aids in alleviating the discomfort of flatulence and excess abdominal gas. The oregano has a very potent antiseptic action; many respiratory conditions including various coughs, problems such as tonsillitis, problems like bronchitis, and asthma affecting patients can be treated using the herbal remedy. Menstruation is said to be promoted by the oregano.”

My Favorite Succulent, Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera: “As a home-based remedy for various types of burns, all kinds of physical scrapes, for the treatment of scalds, and to treat sunburn, the aloe vera is one of the best all-around first aid remedies to keep at home. The affected part of the body can be healed by the release of the soothing internal gel of a broken aloe leaf. Within the body of affected individuals, the aloe, with its protective and healing effects, can accelerate the rate of cellular regeneration and recovery. It is therefore useful in many internal treatments, cases of peptic ulcers, and disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome can be treated using aloe gel as an herbal remedy.”

An especially interesting article about the benefits of easy-to-care for aloe vera is at Medical News Today.

In closing, I’m hopeful that by this time next year the pleasant aroma of fresh herbs will be a part of your very own year-round pharmacy. Thanks for taking the time to read, like, and share my blog posts. (Smile)

Afterthoughts from the Traditional Cook

Plant Parenthood

Did you know that so-called “millennials” are pretty much plant obsessed? According to the 2016 National Gardening Report, out of six million or so people that started gardening, five million were between the ages of 18 and 34. Some go so far as to say that millennials are growing more indoors than boomers, Jazmine Hughes wrote for the New York Times. Part of the fascination with whatever “wellness” is. Perhaps we also want to add a dash of greenery to the disgusting railroad apartments so many of us call home.

But a leading theory is that plants make us feel like grownups. When the traditional signs of adulthood—marriage, homeownership, and children—are delayed or otherwise out of reach, it’s comforting to come home to something that depends on you.

This is a partial excerpt of comments made by Miranda Hoodenpyl in an article from the July–August 2019 issue of The Essential Herbal, one of my favorite publications that offers wonderful recipes, herby articles, and a great selection of books and products. Be sure to subscribe!

Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.

Images from iStock/eyewave (main), Okssi68 (catnip), Geshas (plants in the window), eskymaks (aloe and woman’s hand). 

Maria Atwood, CNHP

Maria Atwood is a semi-retired Certified Natural Health Professional and Weston A. Price Chapter Leader in Colorado Springs, CO. Her website, Traditional Cook, offers the The Lee Household Flour Mill, originally invented by Royal Lee, inventor of Standard Process Supplements. She also carries the WonderMix mixer as well as the Wondermill grain mill. Also check out Maria’s “Cook Your Way to Wellness” DVD (also available on Vimeo). Be sure to join the Selene River Press newsletter to follow Maria’s Tips from The Traditional Cook blog.

Leave a Reply