Why burn a quarter-tank of gas running out to the drugstore for Pepto when you can pluck some relief from your windowsill herb garden?
Besides adding another dimension to your cooking, freshly harvested herbs can soothe dozens of common health problems, and it’s possible to grow a selection of home remedies in a couple of pots placed in a sunny spot.
Look for seedlings of these plants and herbs at any garden store, or if you’re really ambitious, buy a packet of seeds and try sprouting your own.
Aloe VeraGrow it: Plant in pots placed in full sunshine. Water well.
Use it: Break open the thick leaves and apply the gel that seeps out to your skin to soothe sunburn. “It’s 96 percent water and 4 percent active ingredients, including amino acids and enzymes that nourish damaged skin,” says pharmacist Margo Marrone, founder of The Organic Pharmacy in the United Kingdom.
Photo: (cc) Olga Berrios/Flickr
BasilGrow it: This sweet, fragrant annual is ideal for growing in pots. Pull off the white flowers as soon as they appear to keep it from going to seed and your herbs from tasting bitter.
Use it: Rub crushed leaves on your temples to relieve headaches. Pour boiling water over basil leaves for a pain-relieving footbath.
Read more: Check out our Basil Growing Guide.
Photo: (cc) Pizzo Disevo/Flickr
Use it: It has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Crush a handful of the heads and add to a bowl of boiling water to use as a steam bath for your face. You can also dab the oil from the flowers on blemishes, says Marrone.
Photo: (cc) Ebelien/Flickr
Lemon BalmGrow it: Pot it, or it will colonize your garden.
Use it: Use for healing and preventing cold sores. Also, rub leaves directly onto skin as a natural insect repellent or to soothe bites.
Photo: (cc) Kristen Taylor/Flickr
Use it: Ideal for treating the collywobbles, which you might know as butterflies in the stomach. Sip tea made with fresh peppermint leaves to soothe stomach cramps, nausea, and flatulence. For a natural decongestant, place a fistful of mint leaves in a shallow bowl and cover with boiling water. Lean over it, drape a towel over your head, and breathe the steam.
Photo: (cc) Edsel Little/Flickr
ParselyGrow it: Thrives in a pot in the sun as long as the soil is kept moist. Feed with organic fertilizer.
Use it: Immune-system booster. Eat one tablespoon of chopped flatleaf or curly parsley daily. Chewing parsley neutralizes mouth odors.
Read more: Check out our Parsley Growing Guide.
Photo: (cc) Richard Gillin/Flickr
RosemaryGrow it: This hardy perennial loves basking in sunshine.
Use it: Tea made from a thumb-sized piece has been known to lift spirits in people suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and hangovers. Infuse warm red wine with rosemary, cinnamon, and cloves to soothe winter colds.
Read more: Check out our Rosemary Growing Guide.
Photo: Rob Cardillo
SageGrow it: Needs full sun and a dry sandy soil. Sage means “to be in good health.”
Use it: Gargle with a broth made from a quarter-cup of leaves (and cooled) to relieve sore throat.
Read more: Check out our Sage Growing Guide.
ThymeGrow it: Plant in dry, light soil. Needs sun.
Use it: A powerful antioxidant as well as an antiseptic. Drink a tea made from lemon thyme to treat colds before bed. Warning: don’t use thyme when pregnant.
Read more: Check out our Thyme Growing Guide.