Herbs give flavor to foods while providing significant health benefits. As with most foods, fresh is better than dried in terms of nutrient retention, color, and flavor.
Sadly, since winter is a tough season for gardeners; unless you live in a very temperate climate, you are very limited as to what you can grow outside—if anything. Because of this, dried herbs are often preferred over the fresh variety.
Growing Herbs Indoors
If you’ve ever heard of hydroponics, then you know that it’s a system of growing plants indoors in water.
To grow vegetables, a lot of space and light are required. For growing herbs, however, a very simple set-up is all you need to have your own organic herb garden all year ‘round, no matter where you live.
Following are some herbs you can grow in water indoors. Unless otherwise noted, full plants can be rooted from whole leaves with the base intact or from trimmed stems. All require bright direct light to thrive.
An essential for Asian and Italian cuisine, this herb is easy to grow in water. All you have to do is cut off the stem you want to root before the parent plant flowers. Rich in antioxidants, basil moderates blood sugar levels and is a potent antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal.
2. Lemon Balm
A member of the mint family, insects (especially mosquitoes) don’t like the smell of this herb. Once displayed in your indoor garden, change the water once a week to prevent root rot. Lemon balm reduces anxiety (unless you’re an insect), heals cold sores, and aids digestion. It’s best prepared as an herbal tea (1).
This fragrant staple of Italian cooking is easy to grow indoors and has similar care requirements as basil. Pinch off top leaves as it grows to stimulate new leaves. Oregano oil is a virtual panacea: working as an antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antioxidant agent.
In an outdoor garden, mint has a tendency to spread out and take over so growing it indoors keeps it from choking out other garden plants. A hardy and prolific herb, peppermint is a great addition to salads and savory desserts. It can soothe irritable bowel syndrome and other gastric distress, relieve stress, reduce the pain of headache, and keep spiders and mice out of your house.
Its thick stems will take a while to grow roots but rosemary does quite well when placed in a sunny window. This savory herb has a sharper taste fresh than dried and makes its flavorful presence known in soups, stews, as a meat rub, or garnish. Rosemary is known to improve memory and cognitive function, moderate blood sugar, and stimulate hair growth.
Take a few sprigs in the spring from an outdoor plant, place them in shallow water, and sage will quickly sprout roots. Don’t crowd sage but allow plenty of air space to avoid mildew and do not let the leaves come into contact with water. Sage is a savory herb known to relieve anxiety, reduce the symptoms of menopause, and improve memory.
Another variety in the mint family with a milder flavor than peppermint, spearmint is grown the same way. Spearmint has implications for post-menopausal women and those with ovarian cysts due to its anti-androgen effects that balance sex hormones (2).
Now becoming a popular natural sweetener, you have to watch for organic stevia to buy at the store to avoid genetically modified organisms and pesticides. You can easily grow your own instead! Stevia was found in one study to reduce the desire for nicotine to help stop smoking since there is a link between sugar and nicotine craving. By replacing one with the other, you take a huge step toward kicking the habit. Stevia doesn’t like the cold, so make sure to put it in a consistently warm spot.
A versatile herb in the sunflower and marigold family with a mild flavor, tarragon moderates blood sugar, treats metabolic syndrome, and is a potent antibacterial agent (3, 4). Grow in a warm, sunny spot from fresh leaves picked in the spring.
Cuttings cultivated before the parent plants flowers, thyme must be kept moist so give it a spritz with a water bottle to keep leaves from drying out. Thyme benefits from judicial pruning to stimulate new growth. The phytochemical thymol, found in thyme, is known to cause cancer cell death, lower blood pressure, prevent tooth decay, and ease stomach disorders while also killing bacteria and fungi.
Growing indoors can be easy, fun, and delicious!