Plants clean the air we breathe while also adding beauty through texture, colors and fragrance to your environment. Windowsill herb gardens were commonplace once upon a time. There is no better time to bring them back than in celebration for the budding life of the Spring season. Having plants in the home allows your family to have fresh flavors and nature’s medicine at the ready. First, listen to all your senses to discover which plants call to you. Then, plant what you will enjoy and use in your home to delight your taste buds and support healthy body functions.
Growing herbs and spices for countless uses can be easy and costs a fraction of the grocery store price. Most herbs grow well in a sunny spot with well-draining soil. It is easy to move from outdoor to indoor growing when you use pots or other containers. If grouping herbs, plant them together based on similar water requirements. For example, oregano, thyme, and rosemary prefer drier soils to share a planter comfortably.
Herb gardens are accessible for everyone! Even in a tiny house, you can grow your own bounty of medicinal herbs by using vertical space. Wall or windowsill herb gardens can grow with at least 6 hours of sunlight or place a grow light above the plants. Just give them enough space for growth and airflow. Growing indoors also allows you to cultivate a variety of non-native and dwarf varieties of plants that you could not otherwise grow. For example, growing your own aloe plant to help with minor kitchen burns. Or a dwarf moringa tree, known as the “Tree of Life'' because of its robust nutrient profile.
As an Herbalist, it is very difficult to narrow down all of the wonderful herb choices, but here are the top 10 herbs to get your indoor garden started:
Basil, aka sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum
Basil is warming and drying. One of the oldest culinary herbs known, historically basil was in window boxes or windowsills to keep flies out. It may soothe an upset stomach with its support for the digestive tract.
Growing Tips: Basil grows best in full sun with well-draining soil that also has a neutral pH level. If the soil is too rich, the basil will not have as intense a flavor. Water only when the soil is dry and always at the base, not from the top.
Cilantro (plus Coriander), Coriandrum sativum
Another culinary herb, with every part of the plant being edible and useful for medicinal recipes. Cilantro seeds are coriander. Thus this herb provides a two-for-one in culinary favorites. Cilantro leaves are cooling and the coriander seeds are neutral. Cilantro has antioxidant properties, which offer digestive tract, urinary tract, and liver support, helps to support blood sugar already within normal range, and supports restful sleep. Cilantro is also useful in remedies to soothe toothaches.
Growing Tips: Give full sun to light shade with moist well-draining soil for this herb to thrive. Planting seeds is easy and recommended every 2-3 weeks to provide a steady crop for harvesting throughout the year.
Echinacea, aka Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, E. Angustifolia
Echinacea will bring in a lovely pop of color, and the flowers are worth the wait for their potent medicinal tea, an immune stimulator. Echinacea is found to be effective in supporting a normal healthy immune system.
Growing Tips: Easy to grow from seed and are heat, drought and frost resistant. Prefers partial to full sun and isn’t particular about the soil type (rocky, sandy, clay), just don’t let it get soggy. Common to sow seed indoors during the winter and then plant outdoors in the spring to allow for greater growth. They bloom for months in the summer and are pollinator attractors. It is a clumping plant, so thin as it grows, it may reach two feet tall once mature.
Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia
Lavender’s beauty continues to be enjoyed over 2500 years later. Stemming from the Latin verb “lavare” which means “to wash”. A famous scent used for it’s calming and relaxing abilities in bathing, cooking and aroma for the air. This blooming medicinal plant can ease minor temporary stress. Energetics are neutral and drying.
Growing Tips: Use caution when adding water to lavender plants as they will wither when overwatered or exposed to too much humidity. They thrive in full sun and sandy soil mixed with a bit of gravel for better drainage.
Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis
Lemon Balm is neutral energetically. Its genus name, “Melissa” means “bee” and it certainly is a pollinator attractor. Another sweet member of the mint family, with a lemony scent, is commonly known as a calming and uplifting herb. A relaxing nervine calms the central nervous system, easing stress and anxiety symptoms while improving mood. Also useful as a digestive aid and for improving sleep.
Growing Tips: Plant seeds 1/4th of an inch deep in potting soil and cover lightly. If starting from seedlings, spaced 8” apart and then thin them to 18” once mature.
Oregano, aka Spanish or wild oregano, Origanum vulgare spp.
Another warming and drying potent medicinal herb and seasoning. Oregano leaves make a great poultice for overworked muscles. Herbalists have found it helpful in supporting gut health and promoting a healthy immune system.
Growing Tips: This herb likes partial to full sun. Its flavor will intensify in full sun. Oregano grows best in well draining slightly alkaline (6.8 pH) soil, careful not to overwater, and allow 6-8” of neighboring space. Sprigs can be snipped once 6inches high. Better to replant from cuttings than seeds, which may not be true to the flavor of the parent plant.
Peppermint, Mentha piperita
Peppermint is a hybrid of water mint and spearmint. It is cooling with a minty aroma. Common uses include supporting healthy cognitive function, immunity and digestion. Peppermint is also a popular choice in cleaning and insect repelling products.
Growing Tips: Peppermint requires nutrient-rich soil and either full sun or partial shade to thrive. Keep it well watered at the soil level. Thin out regularly to entice new growth and prevent loss of soil nutrients. Easy to propagate from cut sprigs, remove bottom leaves, soak in some water allowing 2-5 days to take root. For the strongest flavor and highest oil content, harvest in the morning.
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinale
A classic aromatic, medicinal and culinary herb, naturally warming and drying. Historically noted as the “herb of remembrance” over the centuries, its uses include supporting healthy brain and nervous system function and promoting memory. Rosemary also supports normal healthy immune and circulatory systems, and even normal healthy hair follicles.
Growing Tips: Rosemary likes partial shade to full sun and prefers lightweight, well-draining soil. This plant can grow from seed in 2-3 weeks or grow from a sprout or a cutting of a mature plant. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry before watering, careful not to over water while also not letting the soil dry out completely.
Sage, aka common sage, Salvia officinalis
Also a member of the mint family, sage is cooling and drying. One of its health benefits is that sage supports normal healthy digestion. Additionally, sage is often used in ritual to purify the air and energy of a home.
Growing Tips: This herb prefers medium to full sun and sandy soil that is well-draining with a pH level between 6 and 7. Seeds can be difficult to start. There are higher rates of success if you can start your sage plant from a cutting.
Thyme, Thymus vulgaris
Because you can never have enough thyme, and it is believed to be a source of courage. It is a warming and drying herb. Historically it was placed under pillows as a sleep aid and to ward off nightmares. Thyme helps support a normal healthy immune & respiratory system as well as promoting normal healthy menstruation.
Growing Tips: Thyme grows well in small containers and prefers full sun. Plant 1/4th inch deep in well-draining soil, ideally with around 6.5-7.0 pH. It can grow to 15inches tall.
Growing indoors brightens the space and the mind. These top ten medicinal herbs have a long history of being delicious and health-supportive. They travel around the world in cultures reaching far beyond their origins. Their healing qualities continue to be discovered. It’s a great feeling to know that if someone in your home wakes with a cold, you can step to your indoor medicinal herb garden, snip off a bit of thyme and mint for a quick herbal tea to naturally soothe the sore and scratchy throat. Herbs taste best when used shortly after harvesting, all the more reason to have an indoor garden in or near your kitchen!
As always, when using herbs for medicinal purposes, work with your trusted healthcare provider who can guide you concerning any contraindications.
This blog was written by Meg Ramirez, please click here to learn more about the author.