7 healing plants to boost your health

Whether for burns, stings, cuts or immunity, these easy-to-grow additions to your garden offer much more than just good looks.

When the Ancient Greeks had a toothache, an upset stomach or nausea, they couldn’t go to the nearest pharmacy.

Instead, they turned to their garden and relied on the healing effects of plants.

From chickweed and nettle to mint and calendula, the roots, leaves and flowers of many common plants can be a natural addition to your medicine cabinet.


What to use it for

These bright flowers are anti-inflammatory and antibacterial and contain carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenols.

“Dab calendula salve on a cut or sore,” naturopath Mim Beim says.

“Or swill calendula tea if you have inflamed gums or tonsilitis.”

How to use it

Sprinkle calendula flowers in a salad or make a salve using dried flowers, beeswax and sweet almond oil or olive oil,” Plants of Power co-author Stacey Demarco says.

Steep calendula flowers in boiling water for five minutes to make a healing tea.


What to use it for

Chickweed contains calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium and vitamins A, B and D.

Squash fresh chickweed leaves on a mosquito or tick bite,” Stacey says.

“The leaves taste like lettuce and eating them will help boost your immune system so you’ll be less prone to colds.”

How to use it

Wash the leaves and add them to a salad – leaves are tastiest before chickweed starts to flower, Stacey says.

Or squash the leaves on your hand to soothe insect bites.


What to use it for

Burdock looks like a thistle but is harmless and contains vitamin B6, potassium, folate and vitamin C.

Traditional Chinese medicine uses burdock as a tonic to cleanse the blood and a study found burdock root tea may ease osteoarthritis knee pain.

How to use it

“Most of the goodness is in the roots that can be added to a stir-fry and burdock seeds can be roasted to add a nutty flavour to salads,” Stacey says.


What to use it for

Nettles carry a sting but also contain iron, magnesium and B vitamins. The Egyptians used nettles to ease back pain and the Romans rubbed nettles on their skin to stay warm.

“Nettle is a good blood tonic and it can also increase the flow of breastmilk,” Mim says.

How to use it

Nettle leaves are tastiest when picked young and added to soup.

Or make tea by steeping dried nettle leaves in boiling water for five minutes.


What to use it for

Chamomile improves digestion, relaxation and sleep.

It contains more than 30 different flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Traditionally, it has also been used to help problems including eczema, gout, conjunctivitis and nausea.

How to use it

“Dry the leaves and flowers and make a concentrate by boiling and reducing the liquid down and then adding it to honey to make a syrup,” Stacey says.

“You can also place dried chamomile flowers inside your pillow to help sleep.”


What to use it for

Mint is known for helping digestion and providing welcome relief for wind and nausea.

It contains vitamin A, iron, manganese and folate and is high in antioxidants.

It also contains menthol that can help improve breathing when you have a cold.

How to use it

“Mint is easily grown in pots – just don’t overwater it,” Stacey says.

Chew on mint leaves for fresh breath and to help kill mouth bacteria.

If you have digestive problems, peppermint oil can relieve indigestion.


What to use it for

Lavender may relieve a range of health problems, Stacey says, from headaches, cuts and insect bites to sore muscles, colic and stress.

The plant contains lavandin oil that has antibacterial, antifungal and sedative effects.

How to use it

“If I get a cut or insect bite, I put a tiny bit of lavender oil on it at its highly antibacterial,” Stacey says.

Pour boiling water over lavender flowers and let it steep for a relaxing tea or add the flowers to a warm bath.

What to keep in mind about healing plants

While plants can be a useful tool in wellness, it’s important to seek medical advice from a qualified health practitioner if you are concerned about your health.

You should also check with your GP whether specific herbal remedies may impact on prescribed medication.

Written by Sarah Marinos.