Author: Dr Faeeza Abdullatief
Gardening has so many benefits, not only providing you with basic edible plants and herbs but research also shows that it has therapeutic benefits to your health such as reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms, stress, mood disturbance, and BMI, as well as increases in quality of life, sense of community, physical activity levels, and cognitive function (1).
From a Unani Tibb perspective, food is an integral part of maintaining good health. What we eat can either result in the formation of good nutritional substance uptake into our cells or alternatively when consuming foods that are composed of toxic chemicals and poor nutrition, it can contribute to the development of ill health.
People often say that they cannot grow plants because of property restrictions like renting, lack of space or maybe just the lack of knowledge on where to start. For some ideas on gardening in small spaces read here (2). So what should you be growing in your home garden that can benefit your health and well being? I have put together a list of my favourite most versatile herbs and plants that you could grow at home.
1. Lavender: Not only is herb absolutely fragrant and beautiful, its also a hardly herb that withstands drought and needs very little attention. There are various varieties that you can grow like french or english lavender. Medicinally, lavender is used for conditions of the nervous system e.g. anxiety (3). You can cut some fresh flowers and add to your bath salts to induce relaxation.
2. Mint: Mint has a refreshing scent and can assist with nausea and indigestion symptoms. Drink as a tea, add a few leaves into boiled water and allow to infuse as a tea. For warmer weather, make a rooibos ice tea and add some fresh mint leaves and lemon.
3. Basil: There are various varieties of basil. Sweet basil, holy basil and red basil are common varieties each with their own medicinal benefits. Sweet basil can be added to your meals or made as a pesto, holy basil has adaptogenic and immune regulating properties which can be taken as a tea.
4. Thyme: Thyme is commonly used for cooking but many are unaware of its antibacterial (4) antiviral medicinal effects. This can also be taken as a tea.
5. Rosemary: Rosemary is a delicious culinary fragrant herb to add to savoury meals and baking. It has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, and neuroprotective properties used for treating inflammation, pain, anxiety, and memory boosting (5).
6. Garlic: Everyones favourite addition for cooking (well mine at least), when the recipe calls for 1 or 2 cloves i always go overboard, lol. Its medicinal properties include immunomodulatory effects (6) in addition to being antifungal, antihelmintic (for worm infestation) and antibacterial properties. Garlic is best used fresh and finely cut or crushed which releases more of its medicinal properties as high heat reduces its medicinal effects.
7. Aloe vera: This is one of my favourites, simply because its really easy to maintain and even if you forget to water it every now and then its very forgiving and survives well but also because its medicinal uses of these succulent leaves are endless. Aloe vera has been traditionally used to treat skin injuries (burns, cuts, insect bites, and eczemas) and digestive problems because of its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and wound healing properties. The active constituent aloe–emodin has resulted to be a promising agent as an antimicrobial, antidiabetic, cytotoxic, cardiprotective, and bone protective (in in vitro studies) as well as anti-inflammatory and skin protective compound (in in vivo studies). Aloin (another active constituent) was effective in inflammatory process and bone diseases (in vitro studies) and in cancer and cardiovascular diseases (in vivo studies).(7)
8. Chamomile: Pretty little white and yellow flowers with a ton of medicinal benefits. It is commonly used for its antioxidant, antimicrobial, antidepression, anti-inflammatory, antidiarrheal and angiogenesis activity, anticarcinogenic, hepatoprotective, and antidiabetic effects. Besides, it is beneficial for knee osteoarthritis, ulcerative colitis, premenstrual syndrome, and gastrointestinal disorders. Antimicrobial activity (antiparasitic, antibacterial, antiviral properties) was reported (8).
9. Geranium: These are the pretty aromatic flowers that most people grow in their conventional gardens in South Africa. The pharmacological activities that have been demonstrated in various in vitro, in vivo and clinical studies indicate that Pelargonium sidoides possesses moderate direct anti-infective properties but highly notable immunomodulatory activity. In addition, Pelargonium sidoides root extract is effective and well tolerated in the treatment of respiratory-related infections (9).
10. African wormwood
Among the phytochemicals present in the plant, the lactone derivative artemisinin and its derivatives (ARTs) are very promising owing to their multiple pharmacological actions .The role of ARTs as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and to be able to block tissues fibrosis together with its safety and low toxicity profile which can be useful in the treatment of viral respiratory disease (10).
There you have it, many of these don't even require green fingers. Start you own little herb garden, its actually very therapeutic. Next time we will get into list of top foods to grow in your sustainable home garden. Do you have any top herbs on your list? Drop a comment and tell us!
1. Masashi Soga, Kevin J. Gaston, Yuichi Yamaura, Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis, Preventive Medicine Reports, Volume 5, 2017, Pages 92-99, ISSN 2211-3355,
3. Davide Donelli, Michele Antonelli, Caterina Bellinazzi, Gian Franco Gensini, Fabio Firenzuoli, Effects of lavender on anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis,
Phytomedicine, Volume 65, 2019, 153099, ISSN 0944-7113, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2019.153099.
4. Fani, M., & Kohanteb, J. (2017). In Vitro Antimicrobial Activity of Thymus vulgaris Essential Oil Against Major Oral Pathogens. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 22(4), 660–666. https://doi.org/10.1177/2156587217700772
5. Ghasemzadeh Rahbardar, M., & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2020). Therapeutic effects of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) and its active constituents on nervous system disorders. Iranian journal of basic medical sciences, 23(9), 1100–1112. https://doi.org/10.22038/ijbms.2020.45269.10541
6. Foroutan-Rad, M., Tappeh, K. H., & Khademvatan, S. (2017). Antileishmanial and Immunomodulatory Activity of Allium sativum (Garlic): A Review. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 22(1), 141–155. https://doi.org/10.1177/2156587215623126
7. Sánchez, M., González-Burgos, E., Iglesias, I., & Gómez-Serranillos, M. P. (2020). Pharmacological Update Properties of Aloe Vera and its Major Active Constituents. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 25(6), 1324. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25061324
8. Miraj, S., & Alesaeidi, S. (2016). A systematic review study of therapeutic effects of Matricaria recuitta chamomile (chamomile). Electronic physician, 8(9), 3024–3031. https://doi.org/10.19082/3024
9. Moyo, M., & Van Staden, J. (2014). Medicinal properties and conservation of Pelargonium sidoides DC. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 152(2), 243–255. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2014.01.009
10. Kshirsagar, S. G., & Rao, R. V. (2021). Antiviral and Immunomodulation Effects of Artemisia. Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania), 57(3), 217. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina57030217
The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Please consult a qualified practitioner if you have any concerns or suffer from any of the conditions mentioned.
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