Plants that offer mental health benefits, and how to nurture them
Nature is abundant with wellbeing remedies, and you don’t have to be a master herbalist to benefit from them. The act of caring for plants is, in itself, a supportive, mindful experience – helping us to soothe stress and refocus our minds. But there are also many natural samples out there that come with their own wellness properties. Here, we explore six plants that pack just that.
Lavender has been used throughout history to aid relaxation and sleep. How exactly does it work? According to a study published in the Natural Medicine Journal, lavender calms anxiety by soothing the limbic system, the part of our brain that controls emotions. Pick a few sprigs, dry them out, and make them into scented bags to leave under your pillow or to take with you to relieve anxiety on-the-go.
Another herb that makes a delicious, soothing, tea, peppermint is thought to tackle stress, and helps to clear your mind. It’s also said to aid with digestion and sleep, making it an all-round wonder. But beyond the teapot, drop some fresh leaves into a hot bath for an invigorating, uplifting experience. Be warned, mint plants can be invasive, so it’s worth planting this one in a pot.
It may be known for its soothing healing properties – commonly used on burns and other skin ailments – but aloe vera can support our mental health, too. Grown inside, this plant is thought to be one of the strongest air purifiers around, making it a handy addition to bedrooms and workspaces, as it’s thought to help tackle stress and headaches. Aloe vera is also resilient and perfect for those who are just starting out with plants, or if you don’t have a lot of time to tend to them.
"There are around 391,000 plant species in the world, and between 14% and 28% of them are used for their medicinal properties"
Delicious with roast potatoes, rosemary also has a practical use, with the herb being linked to a boost in memory. In research by Northumbria University, which looked at the effect that rosemary aroma would have on a room full of pupils taking memory tests, results saw them achieving 5% to 7% better when the aroma was present, linking this powerful herb to increased focus and clearer memory. Some rosemary plants also bloom beautifully, making this herb the perfect addition to a sensory garden.
You may have tried camomile tea before, which is made using dried camomile flower heads, and celebrated for its relaxation properties. Find a sunny, well-drained spot, and plant camomile outside in May and June for a July and August harvest.
Leafy salad greens
Having a healthy, varied diet is really important for our mental health, and leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and lettuce are great staples. Packed with B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, and L-tyrosine, these greens have been found to support brain function and even slow cognitive decline.
If you struggle with brain fog, or find that you have dips in your energy, tucking into a bowl of fresh greens could give you the boost you need to keep going. That said, if you’ve noticed that you feel more tired than usual, it might be worth speaking to your GP.
To connect with a nutritionist to discuss how your diet can affect your mental health, visit nutritionist-resource.org.uk