Houseplants That Heal – Tips On Growing Houseplants For Medicine

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Traditional healers have used plants medicinally since time began, and modern herbalists continue to rely on herbs for treating a number of maladies. If you’re interested in growing plants with medicinal properties but lack growing space for an outdoor herb garden, you can grow a variety of medicinal houseplants. Read on for a short list of houseplants that heal.

Growing Houseplants for Medicine

Healing houseplants can be found in the most common of plant species. Below are five plants that can be grown indoors and used medicinally.

One of the most popular medicinal houseplants, aloe vera leaves are handy for soothing minor burns, sunburn, rashes, and other skin conditions, thanks to its generous anti-inflammatory properties. The juice of an aloe plant may even brighten the skin and help prevent wrinkles.

Basil is appreciated for its beautiful, bright green leaves, but basil tea may be an effective treatment for fever, coughs, and stomach complaints, including nausea, stomach cramps, constipation and gas. Basil leaves and juice have significant insecticidal qualities; just rub them on your skin to keep pests away. You can also chew basil leaves to strengthen your immune system or minimize the duration of a cold.

Peppermint is aggressive and can be difficult to control outdoors, but this easy-to-grow plant is one of the best healing houseplants for minor digestive complaints, including infant colic. The flavorful tea made from fresh or dried peppermint leaves isn’t only good for the tummy; it also purifies the blood, and of course, freshens the breath.

Traditionally, lemon balm has been used to calm the nerves, reduce tension, relieve headaches, and treat mild insomnia and minimize symptoms of cold and flu. Some herbalists believe lemon balm is an effective treatment for mild depression and anxiety.

Thyme is valued for its culinary benefits, but thyme tea may relieve coughs, asthma and bronchitis, as well as sore throat, heartburn, arthritis, bad breath and gum disease. Thyme has powerful antifungal properties and a lotion or poultice made of the leaves will sooth athlete’s foot, ringworm and insect bites.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.

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Read more about General Houseplant Care

11 Medicinal plants you can grow indoors

Let's get to the list of plants I grow inside the house in winter and their uses, and I'll add some growing instructions below that!


Accelerates the healing of burns. Treats mouth ulcers. Reduces constipation. High in amino acids. Alkalizes the body and boosts the immune system.


Natural anti-inflammatory. Has antibacterial properties and is very high in antioxidants. It can be used to soothe the stomach, calm a cough or take the sting out of a bug bite.
More information: 7 Ways To Use Basil As Medicine.


Calms nerves. Soothes stomach. Can help alleviate menstrual cramps. Helps with migraines and improves digestion.
More information: Growing & Using Catnip For Tea.


Promotes healthy digestion. May reduce arthritis pain. Helps control cholesterol levels. Detoxifies the body. High in vitamin C. May help with insomnia.

Lemon balm

Reduces stress and anxiety. Improves appetite. Promotes restful sleep. High in antioxidants. Supports the liver and promotes balanced blood sugar. Here are my 3 favorite lemon balm recipes.


Soothes an upset stomach and reduces nausea. Repels mosquitoes. Increases alertness. Helps lessen headaches. Relieves congestion. Mint grows best in a planter anyway, so indoors is perfect for growing mint!


Boosts immune system. Helps detox the body. Improves heart health. Contains calcium, iron and manganese which are essential to good bone health. Aids digestion.


Has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Often used as a diuretic. Fights bad breath and is high in several vitamins.
More information: 13 Reasons Why Parsley Is The Healthiest Food In Your Kitchen.


Anti-inflammatory. Often used for arthritis and gout. Stimulates brain function. High in vitamin K. Aids in digestion and can be used for skin issues.


Boosts immune system and memory. Helps relieve migraines. Anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. Helps to improve mood and lessen stress. Rosemary is easy to grow indoors or out, as long as you remember that it likes high humidity and dry roots.


Antibacterial and antifungal properties. Boosts circulation and immunity. May help improve vision and relieve stress.

Many of these herbs can be grown indoors hydroponically if you don't want to mess with plant pots and soil in your house!

Health and well-being benefits of plants

Concentration and Memory. Being around plants helps people concentrate better in the home and workplace. Studies show that tasks performed while under the calming influence of nature are performed better and with greater accuracy, yielding a higher quality result. Moreover, being outside in a natural environment can improve memory performance and attention span by twenty percent.

Keeping ornamental plants in the home and in the workplace increases memory retention and concentration. The calming influence of natural environments is conducive to positive work environments by increasing a person’s ability to concentrate on the task at hand. Work performed under the natural influence of ornamental plants is normally of higher quality and completed with a much higher accuracy rate than work done in environments devoid of nature. Going outside or being under the influence of plants can increase memory retention up to twenty percent, a recent University of Michigan study showed (Sewach). The effect of nature in the home and in the workplace serves to stimulate both the senses and the mind, improving mental cognition and performance. (Bisco Werner 1996 Brethour 2007 Frank 2003 Pohmer 2008 Serwach 2008 Shibata, 2001, 2004 Yannick 2009)

Educational Programs / Special Events. Parks and botanical gardens often play host to educational programs and special events, which contribute to the cultural awareness and education of the community (children especially). This raises environmental consciousness and appreciation.

Installing a park or botanical garden in a community has many direct benefits to residents, but an auxiliary benefit of having such a naturalized landmark in the community is the special events and cultural opportunities it brings to people who might not otherwise be exposed. Botanical gardens and zoos often create educational programs for children in order to teach them how the value of being environmentally-conscious and conserving the environment. They can also impact adults in the community as well, creating a cultural awareness of the importance of natural environments. Parks and gardens foster an appreciation for nature that often instills in residents a sense of responsibility for the caring of and protection of the environment. (Appleseed, Inc. 2009, Dubey 2007, Nadel 2005, Phipps Botanical Gardens and Conservatory 2010)

Flowers Generate Happiness. Having flowers around the home and office greatly improves people’s moods and reduces the likelihood of stress-related depression. Flowers and ornamental plants increase levels of positive energy and help people feel secure and relaxed.

Keeping flowers around the home and in the workplace greatly reduces a person’s stress levels. Natural aesthetic beauty is soothing to people, and keeping ornamental flowers around the home environment is an excellent way to lower levels of stress and anxiety. People who keep flowers in their home feel happier, less stressed, and more relaxed. As a result of the positive energy they derive from the environment, the chances of suffering from stress-related depression are decreased as well. Overall, adding flowers to your home or work environment reduces your perceived stress levels and makes you feel more relaxed, secure, and happy. Flowers can help you achieve a more optimistic outlook on your life, bringing you both pleasing visual stimulation and helping you to increase your perceived happiness.

(Brethour 2007, Collins 2008, Dunnet 2000, Etcoff 2007, Frank 2003, Haviland-Jones 2005, Hartig 2010, McFarland 2010, Rappe 2005, Waliczek 2000)

Health and Recreation. Access to parks and recreational activities is positively correlated with rates of physical activity, which improves mood and contributes to overall healthiness. Health care costs are subsequently reduced.

Parks and urban green spaces impact people’s health by providing them with an inexpensive (often free) and convenient recreational service. There is a positive correlation between the presence of a park in a neighborhood and the level of physical activity of the residents people are much more likely to exercise when there is a no-cost, aesthetically pleasing area or facility for them to use. As a result, residents of neighborhoods with beautiful parks are much healthier their increase in exercise makes them less susceptible to physical ailments and more resilient against minor illnesses. As a result, these residents do not spend as much each year on health care and medical treatment, because they require fewer of these services Healthy people are happier people residents who exercise often have excellent overall health and therefore have a more positive mental outlook. The presence of parks in neighborhoods encourages residents to exercise, thus improving their physical state and enabling them to more fully enjoy their lives.

(Appleseed, Inc. 2009, Mitchell, 2008, Bisco Werner 1996, Brethour 2007, Fjeld 2000, Frank 2003, Sallis 1995, Shoemaker 2009, The Trust for Public Land 2008, Wolf 2004b)

Accelerates Healing Process. The presence of plants in hospital recovery rooms and/or views of aesthetically-pleasing gardens help patients to heal faster, due to the soothing affects of ornamental horticulture.

Shrubs, trees, and flowers have a practical application in hospitals: the presence of plants in patient recovery rooms greatly reduces the time necessary to heal. The soothing effects of ornamental flowers and plants are so great that simply having daily views of flowers and other ornamental plants in landscaped areas outside patient recovery room significantly speed up recovery time. Another technique to decrease recovery time is horticulture therapy, where patients care for and nurture plants themselves. Patients who physically interact with plants experience a significantly reduced recovery time after medical procedures. (Brethour 2007, Frank 2003, Friend 2008, Lohr 2000, Park, 2009, Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Assn. 2009, Ulrich 1984)

Improves Relationships/Compassion. Research shows that people who spend extended lengths of time around plants tend to have better relationships with others. This is due to measurable increases in feelings of compassion another effect of exposure to ornamental plants.

Ornamental plants affect the levels of compassion that people feel for others. Studies have shown that people who spend more time around plants are much more likely to try and help others, and often have more advanced social relationships. People who care for nature are more likely to care for others, reaching out to their peers and forming shared bonds resulting from their common interests. Extended exposure to nature and wildlife increases people’s compassion for each other as it increases people’s compassion for the environment in which they live. In short, being around plants can help to improve relationships between people and increase their concern and empathy toward others. (Brethour 2007, Etcoff 2007, Frank 2003, Hagen 2009, Haviland-Jones 2005, Pohmer 2008, Rappe 2005)

Improved Human Performance/Energy. Spending time in natural environments makes people better at doing their jobs. It also increases energy levels and feelings of vitality.

Spending time in nature gives people an increased feeling of vitality, increasing their energy levels and making them feel more animated. Their performance levels are, in turn, increased by this improved state of mind. Natural environments induce a positive outlook on life, making people feel more alive and active. When people experience increased vigor, they put more of themselves and their energy into their work. Plants can help people to improve their performance at work and at home by increasing their perceived vitality and giving them more feelings of added energy. (Bernstein 2009, Brethour 2007, Bringslimark 2007, Dravigne 2008, Etcoff 2007, Kaplan 1995, Kuo 2001a, Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Assn. 2009, Rappe 2005, Shoemaker 1992, Univ. of Rochester 2010)

Learning. Research shows that children who spend time around plants learn better. In addition, being around natural environments improves the ability of children with Attention Deficit Disorder to focus, concentrate, and engage more with their surrounding environment.

Keeping plants in a child’s learning environment enhances learning capabilities by helping them to focus and concentrate. This improves their ability to learn new things and makes it easier for them to absorb and retain information. Ornamental plants are conducive to generating a positive learning environment, reducing children’s tendency towards distraction and helping them to be better able concentrate on school work. Specifically for children with problems paying attention, adding plants to the classroom can have a dramatic positive effect on the way they learn. For example, children with Attention Deficit Disorder, learning in a natural environment can help them to engage more in the classroom, improving their focus and concentration on the task at hand. The soothing effects of natural aesthetic beauty help to minimize the distractions that would otherwise occupy their minds. By altering the environment in which children learn, plants can help them to learn better. (Faber Taylor 2001a, Frank 2003, Kellert 2002, Kuo 2004, Lieberman 1998)

Medicinal Properties. Cultivating plants is beneficial to humankind because of the many medicinal properties of trees and foliage plants.

One of the more obvious benefits of plants and trees is that many of them have valuable medicinal properties. Cultivating plants helps humanity because it provides opportunities for additional scientific studies of the possible positive medicinal values of plants. Natural herbal remedies are simple and holistic methods for treating common illnesses and maladies. Some can be made in the home and are a natural way to treat minor complaints. By cultivating plants we can continue to cultivate our knowledge of the natural world and arm ourselves with more defenses against disease and infection. (Brethour 2007)

Mental Health. Studies have proven that people who spend more time outside in nature have better mental health and a more positive outlook on life.

People who spend more time outside in nature have a significantly more positive outlook on life than people who spend a great deal of time indoors. Communing with the natural world increases people’s feelings of vitality and energy, and consequently has a large positive effect on their overall mental health. Being outside around trees and ornamental horticulture is proven to improve people’s mental health, and give them a more positive outlook on their lives. People who spend time outside every day are less likely to be depressed or stressed, and thus have fewer burdens on their mental health. (Barnicle 2003, Faber Taylor 2001b, Grinde 2009, McFarland 2010, Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens 2009, Shoemaker 2009, Wolf 2004b)

Perceived Quality of Life. People associate beautifully landscaped areas with a higher quality of life. This is important in attracting businesses and sustaining growth in the community.

Beautiful natural landscapes not only improve the aesthetics of the community, they also affect resident’s perceived quality of life. People associate living in areas with a great deal of natural beauty with a higher quality of life. A high quality of life, in turn, benefits the entire community, because residents spend more money and positively affect the economy and social pulse of the town and can also attract new businesses. Thriving communities are ones in which natural beauty is appreciated as a part of an overall high quality of life, which is why installing landscaping is crucial to both the success and happiness of the individual and the public. (Brethour 2007, Bisco Werner 1996, McFarland 2010, Nadel 2005, Phipps Botanical Gardens and Conservatory 2010, Wolf 2004b, Younis 2008)

Reduce Community Crime / Community Cohesion. Neighborhoods with beautiful parks tend to have less crime. This is due in part to the effect that parks have on a community parks give people a reason to come together and become a tight-knit community. People who care about their neighborhood parks are much more likely to get politically involved when businesses threaten to downsize them. Increasing political activism in the community is another positive outcome of cultivating a love for neighborhood parks.

Neighborhoods with beautiful parks and landscaping have reduced crime rates. This is due to the increase in community cohesion that occurs as a neighborhood rallies around a beautiful local landmark. When residents feel greater pride in the beauty of where they live, they are much less likely to detract from it (either by graffiti or endangering people within it). Communities that choose to clean up their parks and beautify crime-ridden neighborhoods have less crime and fewer criminals to deal with. Parks can positively affect the community be reducing criminal acts and bringing residents together. Cohesion in the community is critical to the success of the community as a whole, and this can be achieved through unifying people around a park or botanical garden. Parks decrease incentives for people to commit crimes in the community, and at the same time help to bring neighbors together. They can also increase local political activism. As businesses and urban expansion threatens to downsize parks in the community, more and more people are banding together in a political effort to save their parks. Parks inspire people to come together and fight for what they know is holding them together as a community. (Appleseed, Inc. 2009 Austin 2002 Bisco Werner 1996 Brethour 2007 Brown 2010 Brunson 1998 Frank 2003 Gorham 2009 Harnik 2009 Inerfield 2002 Kuo 2001b, 2001c, 2003 Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Assn. 2009 The Trust for Public Land 2008 Wolf 2004b)

Reduce Stress. Studies show that people who spend time cultivating plants have less stress in their lives. Plants soothe human beings and provide a positive way for people to channel their stress into nurturing .

Participation in gardening and landscaping activities is an effective way to reduce levels of stress. Studies have shown that people who nurture plants and garden have less mental distress than others. Gardening provides people with a positive way to channel their stress and frustration into something beautiful that provides them with comfort and joy. Part of the effects of gardening come from the satisfaction people get from nurturing and helping a living thing grow. Plants and gardening soothe people because they help them turn their stressful feelings into something positive which gives them pleasure. By helping them transform their stress into a more positive emotion, gardening also gives people an excellent coping mechanism for their daily frustrations. Nurturing plants reduces stress levels and gives people a way to cope with their negative feelings. (Mitchell, 2008, Brethour 2007, Bringslimark 2007, Frank 2003, Kohlleppel 2002, McFarland 2010, Pohmer 2008, Ulrich 1991, Waliczek 2000)

Therapeutic Effects of Gardening. Gardening can act as therapy for people who have undergone trauma. The act of nurturing something is a way for people to work through the issues surrounding traumatic events and improve their mental health.

Gardening can have therapeutic effects on people who have undergone trauma, either mental or physical. The act of nurturing a plant can provide victims with a way to work through their issues and heal their wounds, whether they are on the surface of the skin or deeper. Cultivating plants also improves their mental states and helps to put them in a better place for recovering. Gardening is a therapeutic tool that can be used to help put people in a better psychological state during recovery and help them to work past the mental barriers that could impede their healing. (Aldous 2000, Barnicle 2003, Brethour 2007, Collins 2008, Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens 2009, Pohmer 2008, Rappe 2005, Stoneham 1995)

Traffic Safety / Driver Satisfaction. Beautifying road ways can have the dual effect of increasing driver satisfaction with the roadside landscape and creating a natural median. Drivers are much less likely to accidentally drive over a median if there is a landscaped area between oncoming lanes of traffic.

Beautifying traffic medians not only improves the aesthetics of the roadways, it also affects driver attitudes. Studies show that drivers are more at ease on roadways with natural landscaping, and are much more inclined to think positively about the community that they are driving through if the roadways are beautiful. Furthermore, adding trees to roadways creates a sort of natural obstruction which could reduce the likelihood of cars crossing medians into oncoming traffic lanes. This improves driver safety and makes the community a safer place for everyone to live in. Landscaped areas between oncoming lanes of traffic could decrease the number of accidents occurring due to drivers crossing the median and make the road a safer place. (Wolf, 2001b, 2001c, 2006)

Upgrade Effect. As parts of the community begin to improve their urban green spaces, other areas will be forced to stay competitive and beautify their areas as well. The upgrade effect benefits the entire community, as neighborhoods and businesses encourage each other to landscape and beautify the community.

As more businesses and neighborhoods take on the task of beautifying their surroundings, other competing areas will be forced to follow suit. In other words, as a community works to better itself, other parts of the area will be forced to upgrade as well to keep drawing people in this phenomenon is known as the upgrade effect. The upgrade effect positively affects everyone, because it keeps communities from ignoring the benefits of landscaping and developing green spaces, it forces competition and keeps the area looking beautiful. Neighborhoods will be encouraging each other to keep beautifying the landscaping, setting off a cycle of self-improvement that has positive ripple effects outwards to all sectors of the community. (Bisco Werner 1996, Brethour 2007)


Ashwagandha is a very ancient medicine, widely used in Ayurveda and can be grown at home too. It is best known for stress reduction and neural protection. This ancient herb promotes fertility, aids in wound care, and boosts the immune system. It is a very good heart tonic. It helps in maintaining good eye health. It combats stress, thereby also reducing depression and anxiety. This is an excellent herb that can easily lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.

Neem is a very old medicinal plant, which is being used since ages. It actually grows in the form of a tree but is a very essential plant to be kept at home. If you do not have space to grow a neem tree, you can also grow it in a pot and keep it small. Neem has excellent antiseptic properties and can be used for external application or internal consumption. Crushed leaves of neem, when consumed internally, act as a wonderful de-worming agent and this remedy is very safe for both kids and adults.

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