10 House Plants and Herbs That Pull Their Weight

(Originally posted on yagoli.com)

Houseplants are excellent additions to the decor of any home and some plants do more than look pretty. Today we’ll be taking a look at the house plants and home grown herbs that earn their keep better than some roommates.

#10 Peace Lily

Kicking off this list is the beautiful blooming flower, the peace lily. This distinct flower topped NASA’s list of plants that improve indoor air quality by affectively removing all three of most common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. Peace lilies thrive in shade an only require water once a week. Despite this, it earns the #9 spot for its toxicity. While not as toxic as a true lily, peace lilies can cause oral inflammation, difficulty swallowing and nausea in humans and animals if it is ingested.

#9 Eucalyptus

Next up is the Australian gum tree that is commonly associated as a favorite snack of koalas. Eucalyptus trees and shrubs come in over 700 different species and range from 33 to 200 feet in the wild. Eucalyptus Globulus, also known is Blue Gum, is the most commonly cultivated eucalyptus plant thanks to a number of health benefits that its leaves produce. When the leaves come into contact with steam, they release an oil vapor that acts as a decongestant and relieves the symptoms of influenza, bronchitis and the common cold. Many people hang branches of eucalyptus to their shower heads to aid with respiratory health and some have even stated that it also enhances their mood and decreases stress. The reason it comes in at number ten is because unlike the other entries on this list, the eucalyptus can’t be kept indoors for more than a year at most due to its exceptional growth rate. Eucalyptus planted as seeds in spring, have reportedly grown up to 8 feet within 6 months. Trimmed branches, however, can be maintained with a vase for several weeks at a time.

#8 Lavender

A beautiful flowery member of the mint family, lavender is often sought after for its pleasant aroma and the essential oil it can produce. Lavender essential oils have been put to use since the First World War in hospitals because of its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. Lavender has also been shown to increase sleep quality as well through aromatherapy. Lavender flowers and flower buds are also useful in the kitchen in tea and many baked goods. Lavender baths have been revealed to yield anti-septic and anti-inflammatory effects. The fragrant flower is moderately easy to care for, requiring substantial sun exposure and infrequent watering to thrive. Unfortunately, it has a low spot on our list because of some of its drawbacks. Lavender use by individuals with sensitive skin has lead to skin irritation in a number of studies and lavender oil has been under research due to claims of varying side effects reported by breastfeeding mothers such as increased agitation in infants shortly after nursing. No scientific evidence has been unearthed to say that the consumption of lavender affected a mother’s milk, however, research is still on going.

#7 Ginger

Widely used as a spice, ginger is well noted for a distinct smell and a number of medicinal uses dating back to the first century. Ginger root is the most commonly harvested portion of the plant and can be used to make baked good and confections as well as a popular seasoning in a South Asian cuisines. As a topical and oral remedy, ginger has been known to alleviate arthritis pain and nausea respectively. In fact, homemade ginger root tea is a common homeopathic remedy for postoperative nausea caused by chemotherapy. Unfortunately, excessive use of ginger has been linked to heartburn, gas and inflammatory bowel disease.

#6 Chamomile

Chamomile is well known for its incorporation in fragrant teas. The tea works as a mild, relaxing sleep aid, treatment for fevers, colds, stomach ailments, and as an anti-inflammatory. Its therapeutic uses aren’t limited to just tea, however. The flower can be made in to a medicinal salve for treating wounds and vapors produced from the plant alleviate cold symptoms and asthma as well. Lotion that has chamomile incorporated in it is well known for its beneficial effects on dry and irritated skin. Creating a compress from the petals of this daisy-like flower offers the same relief. Some women have even used chamomile essential oil to reduce menstrual cramps. Chamomile is an excellent indoor plant, able to live off of 4–6 hours of light per day in moist soil watered weekly.

#5 Basil

A well-known culinary herb, basil has been in spice racks the world over for hundreds of years. Frequently used in Italian cuisine, basil is commonly known as the main ingredient in pesto. Medicinally, fresh basil has been found to be an effective immune-booster, fever reducer and anti-inflammatory. In addition to its benefits through consumption, basil also increases air quality when kept indoors. Studies have shown that basil is powerful antioxidant and also works to help naturally combat cancer by inducing cancerous cell apoptosis. Basil is also a natural anti-bacterial and anti-microbial to help fight against viruses and infection. Basil can be grown indoors and in a garden with moderate care, requiring 6–8 hours of sun per day and moist, well-drained soil to thrive.

#4 Lemon Balm

Also known as balm mint, this pleasantly scented herb is another member of the mint family. Characterized by its subtle lemon scent, the leaves of this plant possess both culinary and medicinal uses through the essential oils they can produce. Cultivated leaves infused in vinegar work as an anti-viral eco-friendly cleaner. A basket of bowl full of cut lemon balm leaves also works as an effective mosquito repellant. Lemon balm has also been accredited as a treatment for insomnia by the insertion of dried balm leaves into a dream pillow placed beneath your sleeping pillow. The lemony scent attributed to this pairs with its light lemon flavor. It can be incorporated in roast chicken, smoothies, backed goods, tea and fruit salads with great effect.

#3 Nasturtium

This herbaceous flower can be found in a variety of vibrant colors and is as useful as it is pretty. From the flower petals to the leaves, this flower is commonly used in ornate salads and stir-fries, as the entire plant is edible. The plant also functions as an herbal remedy thanks to its anti-septic properties. Some researchers believe the nasturtium also aids in the production of new blood cells. This plant also helps to protect gardens from a variety of insects and rodents by repelling some and trapping others. There is a saying in the botanical community that states, “Be nasty to nasturtiums.” This can be attributed to the amazing vitality this plant boasts. Nasturtiums can grow in minimal light and with very little water and are one of the most useful and easily managed houseplants on our list.

#2 Bay Laurel

This shrub is famous for producing the bay leaf, a common element of Mediterranean cuisine. Whole bay leaves, which boast a shelf life of approximately one year, are added to soup, stocks and marinade recipes quite frequently and add a robust flavor. Bay laurels can be used in a number of alternative medicines. Extract derived from the plant can be made into an astringent or salve for open wounds. Essential oils from this plant are used in massage therapy to relieve pain from arthritis and rheumatism, while topical application of a bay leaf poultice is said to heal rashes caused by poison ivy and stinging nettles. Some research studies have shown that a chemical found in bay leaves also acts as an inhibitor for human melanoma. Bay Laurel can be grown in potted containers with good drainage. Frequent watering is necessary when the plant is young but over watering can kill a laurel easily.

#1 Aloe Vera

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the plant that has been in homes for centuries. The Aloe Vera plant is a short-stemmed, leafy plant that typically grows between 24–39 inches in height. Aloe Vera is widely known for its use in soothing burns, aiding digestion and moisturizing skin, however, more and more benefits of this plant have surfaced over the years. Consumption of the Aloe Vera leaves supports the immune system by increasing nutrient absorption, which in turn increases our blood-oxygen level. Phytosterol, a compound found in Aloe Vera, has been found to lower LDL cholesterol and support heart health. The gel derived from the leaves of this versatile plant, support oral health and combat gum disease and infection. The gel also acts as an anti-inflammatory thanks to the presence of an enzyme called brandykinase and also possesses anti-septic agents such as salicylic acid and cinnamic acid. Aloe Vera is a fairly ease plant to maintain, as it doesn’t require direct sunlight and only needs sparse watering. The Farmers Almanac states that you should allow the soil to dry at least 1 to 2 inches deep between watering.

What do you guys think of this list? Did I miss any other helpful houseplants? Let me know in the comments and be sure to like and subscribe to Yagoil.com

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