Winter Gardening Blues? Grow an Indoor Healing Garden!

With winter coming, you may think the growing days are all done until next March. We say: there's always a way to garden!

Potted herbs and small flowering plants not only add a little life to your winter kitchen, they may just improve your health. Some double as flavorings and health-boosters.

Here are our favorite indoor plants that can help you stay healthy and happy all winter long. TIP: If you live in Zone 9 or above, you may be able to grow some or all of these plants outdoors in a protected space such as a patio. Some may require a large pot, so make sure you have space for your choices.

NOTE: The information below does not constitute medical advice. Just because a treatment is natural doesn't mean it can't harm you. Some plants interact with one another, with your own system, or with medications you may be taking. Consult your doctor for more information. Below are traditional uses for the plants.

Basil (Osimum basillicum): Intestinal tonic; anti-parasitic

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita or Chamaemelum nobile): Soothing; anti-insomnia; cold and flu preventive/immunity booster

Chives (Allium sativum) : Immunity booster; appetite stimulant; source of A and C vitamins

Lavender (Lavandula): Soothing to the senses; anti-anxiety; anti-insomnia

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis): Stomach and digestive system regulator and soother

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum): Digestive aid; freshens breath

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): A wound poultice (or apply it as an oil); mood lifter

Sage (Salvia officinalis): Eases digestion

Spearmint (Mentha spicata): Healthy mouth; fresh breath

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Coughs and colds; anti-anxiety

Where to Find Your Plants

Most of the above choices are easy to find as seedlings/young plants in nurseries, big-box stores (Walmart, Target), or home improvement stores.

You can also start your herbs from seed. This is entirely up to you.

Seedlings can usually be ordered online, but if you live in a cold-winter area (Zone 7 or above), plants that are shipped during the winter may die. You are probably better off starting your own from seeds or purchasing already-started plants in that case.


1. Space is a consideration. Many of the above choices can fit into very small containers, but some (pot marigold, for example) need larger pots.

2. Make sure you have the correct amount of sun and shade for each of your herbs, or invest in a plant sun lamp.

3. NEVER treat illness without asking your doctor. If she has given the go-ahead, try the treatments above, assuming you have no other issues or allergies that could be a problem.

4. Don't treat children herbally except under the advice of a physician.

5. Remember: compost soil can be used indoors, too! Sprinkle some of your compost into your medicinal herb containers for an extra boost of nutrients to help them grow.

6. Most of the above choices are well-known flavorings for recipes. Even if you don't use your indoor herb garden medicinally, try out new recipes with your fresh-grown herbs.

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