Easing the pain of a sunburn or rash, settling an upset stomach and treating other ailments can be as easy as stepping outside and picking leaves or flowers from a plant in your landscaping. Following are 10 plants that can be grown in the Houston area and used for medicinal purposes — it’s just a bonus that they are also attractive additions to your garden!
Aloe vera sits at the top of this list because every home needs an aloe vera plant — something you likely know if you’ve ever had a bad sunburn and there was aloe vera in the home. It can also be used to relieve the pain of rashes and burns and can even help heal cuts and scrapes. While you can grow aloe vera in a container, it can be grown outdoors in Houston. Plant it where it will get four to six hours of full sun — too much sun and this sunburn-healing plant will get its own sunburn with leaves turning brown. Aloe vera prefers loose, well-drained soil. Water when the soil is dry about two inches down.
Lavender is a beautiful addition to any landscape, and lavender herbal tea can help relieve indigestion and pain from migraines. Lavender is also well known as a sleep aid. Make a small sachet to put in your pillow for better sleep. Lavender does well in Houston’s sun and soil. Humidity? Not so much. Because of this, you’ll want to choose a variety that does well in Houston — Sweet Lavender and Provence (or French lavender) are good choices — and make sure your soil drains well. You can add pea gravel or limestone pebbles to pots or your lavender bed to prevent overly wet dirt.
Marigold is another attractive flower with numerous health benefits, including treating minor abrasions, fever, infections and even varicose veins. Plus, its petals make a color addition to salads. Use the flowers to make a salve to treat insect bites and bee stings. Marigolds are easy to grow, preferring full sun with a bit of afternoon shade. Add mulch to retain moisture and keep the soil cool. Try not to overwater.
Basil is a culinary workhorse, but did you know its leaves can help heal cuts, scrapes and minor abrasions? Eating basil can also lessen PMS symptoms, treat a sore throat and ease respiratory problems. This plant does well in Houston, preferring six to eight hours of sun and well-drained soil. If possible, provide some afternoon shade. Water deeply once the top inch of soil is dry.
Popular in Thanksgiving stuffings, sage can also be used in compound butters, meat marinades and rich tomato sauces. Sage has antioxidants that can improve brain function and lower your risk of cancer. It may also support oral health. Sage oil can be applied to skin, hair and nails to improve their health and appearance. Sage is easy to grow and can tolerate full sun to full shade. It’s not picky about the soil, either, and can grow in sandy, loamy or clay soils — just make sure it drains well. Sage requires only moderate watering.
Parsley is more than a colorful last-minute addition to your meal. Loaded with vitamins A and C, parsley strengthens the immune system, can reduce the risk of diabetes and can help make bones stronger. It can even help stabilize blood pressure and freshen your breath. When growing parsley, consistent watering is key. While it can withstand the typical Houston winter, it does like a little shade during our hottest summer months.
A very fragrant addition to any garden, rosemary is easy to grow and thrives in our hot climate. While rosemary has many culinary uses, it can also stimulate blood circulation, reduce inflammation and detoxify the body. Its antimicrobial properties can slow tooth decay and gum disease and rosemary-infused oil can be used topically to treat skin conditions such as acne or eczema. When growing rosemary, make sure to keep the soil relatively dry — it can be killed by overwatering.
With beautiful, showy flowers, hibiscus plants will be the star of your landscaping. But these flowers are more than just beautiful — made into tea, they can help lower blood pressure, improve blood circulation, relieve arthritis pain and treat diabetes. Tropical and winter-hardy hibiscus can both be grown in Houston, but you may want to keep tropical varieties in pots that can be brought in during the colder months. Consistent watering and full sun are preferred, although hibiscus can tolerate part shade.
This wonderfully scented plant aids the digestive system and is a good source of calcium, potassium and Vitamin A, B and C. Peppermint tea can ease nausea and boost energy levels. Rubbing crushed leaves onto skin can help relieve pain caused by sore muscles. Peppermint likes rich, moist soil and can be grown in sun to partial shade. Unless you want your entire garden to be overrun with peppermint, you’ll want to grow this invasive plant in a pot.
A wonderful source of vitamin C and beta-carotene, the health benefits of chives are numerous. The herb can be used to reduce inflammation and enhance memory. It may even help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of stroke, peripheral vascular disease and coronary artery disease. A bonus benefit is that it repels insects. Plus, chive flowers are a wonderful edible garnish on salads. Plant in full to partial shade and keep the soil evenly moist.
Fertilizer for Healthy Herbs
Since you will be harvesting throughout the growing season, it’s important to feed your herbs. While they don’t require much, applying fertilizer will give them a boost of energy they need to grow. To make your own, mix one tablespoon of Epsom salt into one gallon of water and substitute this solution for watering once a month. You can also look for an organic fertilizer from your favorite nursery.
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