Before the allopathic drugs came our way, our ancestors used the wealth of nature to cure different ailments and keep themselves healthy and fit. With the passing years the use of herbal remedies dwindled, thanks to the fast acting synthetic drugs. But since some years now, the herbal medicines are again gaining ground. People, having seen the side-effects and ill-effects of synthetic drugs, are now going back to nature. As per the information available, about 70% of new drugs introduced in the US are derived primarily from plants. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, 80 % of the world’s population is using traditional remedies, including plants, as their primary health care tools.
We list here 13 plants that all of you can grow at your homes and use their leaves, stems, flowers and fruits to treat yourself. Healthy people can include these remedies in their daily eating habits so as to keep themselves away from harm’s way.
Called the Queen of Herbs, Tulsi has remarkable properties. There are four types of Tulsi mentioned in Ayurvedic texts i.e. Rama, Krishna, Vana & Karpoor Tulsi.
Easily available, Tulsi plant is very easy to grow and maintain; those living in flats can plant it in pots. Just water it once a day and reap rich benefits.
Tulsi has a host of benefits. The juice of Tulsi leaves provides relief in cold, fever, cough and bronchitis. Oil extracted from Tulsi helps relieve pain in the ear. It is very effective against indigestion, headache, hysteria, insomnia and cholera. Putting a few leaves of Tulsi in your mouth helps in checking the feeling of nausea and vomiting. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy benefit greatly from consuming Tulsi leaves. The oil extracted from the Karpoora Tulsi is widely used in the herbal toiletry. Its oil is also used against the insects and bacteria.
2. Aloe Vera/Ghritkumari
A very sturdy plant, Aloe Vera grows under the sun with well drained, dry or moist soil. Watering it every alternate day is enough. It doesn’t need much care but gives you a host of benefits.
The Aloe Vera sap is extremely useful to speed up the healing and reducing the risk of infections for cuts and wounds, burns and inflammation. When applied on skin, it reduces blemishes and acne.
Aloe Vera sap when consumed relieves the symptoms of colitis, constipation, and other digestive problems. It helps those with poor appetite and is believed to help in weight loss.
Some people, particularly in Punjab, use Aloe Vera sap as staple sabzi.
3. Gotu Kola/Brahmi
Brahmi is also fairly low maintenance plant and quite easy to grow, as long as a level of basic care is provided throughout the year.
The Gotu Kola acts on various phases of connective tissue development and stimulates healing of ulcers and skin injuries.
Its leaves are good for maintaining youthfulness, longevity and increases brain power. It is used to treat leprosy, revitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration.
Crushed leaves are poulticed to treat open sores.
It grows in almost any type of soil condition. It has no problem with nutritionally poor, very acidic or very alkaline soils, just as long as it’s moist. Well known as a remedy for skin problems, the deep-orange flowered marigold variety is applied externally to bites, stings, sprains, wounds, sore eyes and varicose veins.
Internally it is used to treat fevers and chronic infections. The tea of the petals tones up circulation and, when taken regularly eases varicose veins. It is also used to prevent muscle spasms, menstrual cramps and duodenal ulcers.
Thyme is a small perennial shrub with lots of branches and light purple to pink flowers. It’s aromatic and has a pleasant, pungent, clover flavor. It is used in cooking. It is mostly known for its strong antiseptic nature. It is wonderful when it comes to the treatment of cough, chest congestion, and stomach gas. Thyme seeds give a special flavor to the cooked food. Seeds when consumed with cold water relieves stomach gas and when put in hot water and inhaled helps relieves chest congestion. In India, a bag of hot thyme seeds is often out under the clothes of infants to keep congestion at bay.
Thyme leaves are used to make delicious stuffed paranthas.
Rosemary is the great reviver. A row of these long-lived and drought-tolerant plants makes a beautiful, bee-friendly, evergreen hedge. You may only need one plant in your garden, as a little bit goes a long way.
This perennial woody herb stimulates energy and optimism and sharpens memory and concentration by bringing more oxygen to your brain. It’s a wonderfully stimulating alternative to caffeine when you need that second wind!
Woody lavender plants prefer hot, sunny, and dry environments. The fresh flowers are tasty in small doses when added to salads, honey, butter, lemonade, and even shortbread cookies. The fragrant dried flowers are used to make herbal heating pad and eye pillows.
Long recognized for its sweet perfume, lavender also boasts medical benefits as mild antidepressant that calms the nerves. Adding lavender oil to the bath alleviates stress, tension, and insomnia. It’s also used in creams to treat sunburns and acne.
It is an all-purpose plant with both culinary and medicinal uses. It can be grown on ground or in containers, even on windowsills in small pots, on a balcony or terrace. It just requires regular watering, not much fertilizer.
Fenugreek seeds are nourishing and taken to encourage weight gain, inhibit cancer of the liver,
lowers blood cholesterol levels, treat inflammation and ulcers of the stomach and intestines, drain off sweat ducts. Eating fenugreek seeds helps improve digestion and alleviates stomach pain that accompanies menstruation. Women who face insufficient lactation are also given these seeds.
This plant needs lots of water and little sun and well-drained soil. It can be easily grown at home, in ground or pot. There are two main cultivated varieties of this aromatic herb: black and white. Black peppermint has deep purple-green leaves and stems and high oil content. The white is actually light green and has a milder flavor.
Peppermint is sometimes regarded as ‘the world’s oldest medicine’, with archaeological evidence placing its use at least as far back as ten thousand years ago. Peppermint are naturally high in manganese, vitamin A and vitamin C. Crushed leaves rubbed on the skin help soothe and relax the muscles. Infused peppermint leaves are used to reduce irritable bower syndrome, relieve upset stomach, inhibit bacterial growth, and treat fevers, flatulence and spastic colon.
It is a drought tolerant plant and grows in dry soil, once established. Watering should be done only when plant seems thirsty. The soil should not remain wet all the time.
Ashwagandha is best known for stress reduction and neural protection. Its roots have medicinal properties and are used to cure debility, anemia and impotency. Its regular use improves vigor and immune power. It is also anti-epileptic, anti-tumor, pain reliever and aids in eye and heart health. It also fights cognitive decline due to brain cell degeneration.
11. Lemon Grass
Lemongrass requires 6-8 hours of sun and perpetual warm weather to thrive. During winters, the plant has to be brought inside the home otherwise it will perish. Its soil should always be wet, so regular watering is needed.
Lemongrass has innumerable therapeutic and other health benefits. It alleviate respiratory conditions like laryngitis and sore throats, has anti-pyretic property (reduces high fevers). It is
useful for all types of pains, including abdominal pain, headaches, joint pains, muscle pains, digestive tract spasms, muscle cramps, stomachache. It is beneficial for nervous and stress-related conditions.
12. Bryophyllum/pathar chat
It requires minimal care and can tolerate dry conditions and high temperatures. It is easy to plant and maintain, and is extremely useful in culinary and medicinal preparations.
The leaf or its juice is taken for diabetes. Leaf paste application stops bleeding and heals wounds.
The paste of burnt leaf made in coconut oil cures burn. It also cures sciatica and rheumatic pains.
To prevent septic to cuts from sharp instruments, 15 leaves with four pepper corns roasted, powdered and mixed in cow ghee is applied.
One leaf eaten raw with one pepper corn on empty stomach in the morning, for 3 to 7 days, cures urinary stones. The raw leaves are also used for making chutneys.
Growing Stevia is easy in well-drained beds or containers. It needs warm temperature and should be kept indoors during harsh winters.
Stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose, it is used as a natural sweetener to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets. Stevia leaves can be dried or crushed to replace sugar in teas, sorbets and more. In traditional medicine, Stevia is used as a treatment for burns, colic, stomach problems and sometimes even as a contraceptive.