Diet and NutritionWellness

Indoor Gardening for Herbs and Health

We’re getting in to the first feelings of fall, which means that much cooler weather is right around the corner. Part of us is jumping for joy and the other part is cringing.

Can’t we just have alternating weeks of not-too-hot, but not-too-cold weather mixed with sunny days and snowy ones? Alright, now that we’re done daydreaming, here’s where household plants and herbs comes in to play:

1.) Having a garden through the cold months is tough depending on where you live, so if you’re eating the last of your summer harvest, here are some great options for keeping your green thumb alive through the cold months.

2.) If you’re not in to gardening, but have wanted to give it a try, now is the perfect time to start. You can start small with indoor plants that are a good way to ease in to cultivating plants.

For those who garden, you already know that it’s therapeutic and mentally stimulating, but the health benefits of what you grow is unmatched. You’ll be getting the most local and fresh nutrients you can get, because what’s more local than your home?

In addition to the health benefits from growing your own herbs or caring for plants, you’ll also reap the benefits from the healthful affects of the plants and herbs themselves.

These are some of our favorite easy-to-care for indoor plants and herbs with awesome health benefits to boot:

 Basil

Being more than half Italian, I personally believe my love for basil is genetically inherent, which is great because for someone who eats as much basil as I do it better have some health benefits!

According to Precision Nutrition, research hasn’t established  a recommended amount of basil that significantly increases the health benefits of this herb, but by incorporating basil and other herbs in to what you eat, you can significantly contribute to the total antioxidants and vitamins you need to be receiving through your diet. In addition to antioxidant vitamins and phenolics, basil is also a rich source of vitamin K, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium and dietary fiber.

Growing basil indoors may be a bit more tricky, since basil is a sun loving plant that needs at least four hours of full sun, however you can also use fluorescent bulbs for 12 hours. Basil likes a warm environment and regular water, which should be everyday or every other day, just feel the moisture level of the soil.

 

 Aloe Vera

As a kid I can remember my mom having an aloe vera plant on the windowsill in our kitchen and I have to say, I’d probably have quite a few more scars if it weren’t for that magical stuff.

Any cut, scrape, bruise or burn immediately got a fresh squeeze of aloe followed by relief and much quicker healing time. And I was a clumsy kid, so I could use all the help I could get.

Beyond it’s skin benefits, most notably easing the effects of sunburn or treating dry skin, boiling the leaves of aloe vera and breathing in the vapor (pour the hot mixture in a boil and then towel over the head to create a tent) is great for loosening up congested airways as well.

Aloe does best in indirect sunlight, so if you have a window that receives light, but the sun isn’t beating down on that wall of your house, that’s ideal. Also, aloe is at a greater risk of overwatering than under-watering, and you only need to give aloe a drink once every week or two.

For more information regarding the proper materials and care for aloe, please visit: http://www.aloeplant.info/treat-your-aloe-as-you-would-like-your-aloe-to-treat-you/

 

 Peppermint

We don’t have to explain to you how yummy mint is, which is why we’ll find any excuse to infuse our water with it, throw it on salads made with both leafy greens or fruit, and add it to soups and other dishes.

The plus side to the taste is that it peppermint is an excellent sources of Vitamin C, manganese and copper and the natural oils for peppermint have anti-microbial properties.

One of our favorite nutritional uses for peppermint is making a cup of tea to help aid digestion and calm nerves after a long day.

Mint does better in indirect light and does prefer more shade and less water. This article from Gardening Know How goes in to more detail on how to grow mint indoors.

 

 Thyme

More than just an herb you use on poultry, thyme can also be used in sauces (such as a basil and thyme pesto), dressings and marinades,  and can also be used to make tea. No matter, which way you use it, thyme will be giving you a variety of health benefits.

These benefits can be attributed to thyme’s rich antioxidant content that provides relief for respiratory and digestive problems, improved mental sharpness and protection from cancer-causing toxins.

Additionally, thyme is a very good source of calcium, iron, manganese, chromium, vitamin K and fiber.

Caring for thyme indoors is similar to basil. Lots of light, regular watering, but not overwatering.

 

 Rubber Plant

Although you’re not going to want to eat this plant (actually it can be poisonous if ingested, so don’t try it), the rubber plant, or Ficus elastica robusta as it’s biologically known, can bring the health benefit of air purification in to your home. 

It’s said that the rubber plant emits high oxygen content that removes toxins from the air, especially formaldehyde. Of the ficus plants that have had research testing it’s air purifying qualities, the rubber plant is the best for removing chemical toxins from the indoor environment.

Rubber Plants thrive in areas with plenty of indirect light, so the corner of a room that had regular light, but will not have heat streaming down on to the plant directly. Although the rubber plant needs regular watering, make sure not to flood the pot and overwater or you will cause all of the leaves to fall off. Keeping the soil moist regularly will keep your rubber plant happy.

 

More sources:

This article from Bonnie Plants gives a great breakdown on how to adequately care for herbs indoors, which can be applied to the basil, peppermint and thyme on our list.

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Elle Michels

Elle Michels

Based in Washington, D.C., Elle Michels is a contributing writer to Womenshealth.com.

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