The power of plants is not to be underestimated. Discover this soothing line-up and get potting

Humans have been using plants to soothe ailments since ailments began, and still today many of us enjoy both the medicinal and mindful benefits of keeping herbs.

Right now is the perfect time to get growing. If you’re growing from seed, window sills are a perfect location for trays or if you prefer to get a headstart, spring is a great time to find bargains in garden centres as the plants are much smaller – so you can save some money and enjoy watching your plants grow into summer.

Here, we’re rounding up four herbs that have anti-anxiety qualities. So, take a deep, soothing breath, grab your trowel, and lose yourself in the mindful hobby of gardening.

1. Lavender

Lavender is probably one of the first plants you think of when it comes to soothing properties, and its distinct scent is incredibly comforting. In fact, it's so effective that a study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that the effect that lavender has on generalised anxiety is comparable to 0.5mg of daily lorazepam (a medication used to treat anxiety and sleeping problems). Medication is a vital and life-changing tool for many people and so shouldn’t be dismissed – but the study does highlight just how effective lavender can be in soothing our nervous system.

You can grow lavender from seed between February and July, and should aim to keep them between 21-25°C (perfect for windowsill growing if you don’t have a greenhouse). Young lavender plants can be planted out in April and May, and lavender plants are known for being hardy and drought resistant so are reasonably low maintenance.

You can enjoy lavender in a number of ways. You can harvest the flowers, dry them out and put them into pouches to enjoy their scent on the go. You can sprinkle flowers into a steamy bath for a beautiful aroma (or put them in a pouch and tie it to the shower head).

My favourite way to enjoy lavender is to simply take a green leaf between your fingers, rub it, and then bring the scent to your nose and inhale deeply. This way, the plant remains intact for you to come back to again and again, plus the pollinators will thank you.

2. Rosemary

Romary is similar to lavender in many ways. It has a similar leaf shape and it can grow into a hardy bush that flowers each year. It has also been found to have a profound effect on our anxiety levels. In a study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing, researchers observed the effect of rosemary oil on graduate nursing students’ pulse rates and anxiety levels. What they saw was that rosemary oil was effective in reducing anxiety.

Now, making rosemary oil at home isn’t going to be possible for most people, but there are many other ways you can use it. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that rosemary tea can support anxiety – and all you need to do to make that is snip off a sprig, put it to a tea strainer, add boiling water, and let it steep for five minutes. You can also apply all the same suggestions for enjoying lavender to rosemary.

Rosemary can be quite difficult to grow from seed due to its low germination rate, so it may be easiest to buy a young plant. Rosemary does well planted in both pots and in beds, but it doesn’t like wet roots so make sure wherever you plant it is in well-draining soil.

3. Chamomile

Chamomile tea is probably one of the first suggestions you’ll see when it comes to using plants for soothing anxiety, and for good reason. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Trials, in a five-year randomised clinical trial, researchers found ‘a significantly greater reduction in mean total anxiety symptom scores for chamomile versus placebo’ when participants took pharmaceutical-grade chamomile extract daily for eight weeks.

The chamomile you grow at home certainly won’t be pharmaceutical-grade, but there is still a pleasure to be taken in the process of tending to it and using it during moments of stress and anxiety.

Sow chamomile seeds in May with a look to planting outside in June and harvest in June and July. The aromatic flower heads are the part that you can use for making tea, and this plant is another one that is happy both in a pot and a bed.

4. Lemon balm

Research into lemon balm for anxiety is not as extensive as the other herbs listed here, but early results still look promising. In a systematic review of the effects of lemon balm on depression and anxiety in clinical trials, lemon balm has been shown to improve mean anxiety and depression scores as compared to a placebo, particularly in an acute setting – though the review calls for further studies to firmly establish the link.

That said, if you enjoy the scent and taste of lemon balm, there’s no harm in potting up your own plant. You can grow from seed between March and May, and plant out in May and June with the leaves generally ready to harvest between July and September. Alternatively, you can buy a selection of different lemon balm varieties as young plants from garden centres. Lemon balm plants do self-seed so they can spread quite rapidly, which is why many people choose to plant them in pots rather than in beds. To combat this, cut them back after flowering or divide plants every few years to make new ones for free.

The leaves are incredibly aromatic, so running them between your fingers and inhaling the scent is a great way to enjoy them quickly. But you can also harvest the leaves to make tea (dry the leaves and save them for winter to enjoy the tea all year round), and make aromatic pouches to carry with you.

Gardening can be a deeply mindful experience, and taking your wellbeing into your own hands (literally) is often an exceptionally rewarding and worthy endeavour. So, which will you pot up first?