We have many relationships. Ones with our family, friends, pets and not to forget –– plants. I’m talking about the ones in your kitchen, living room and bedroom. They occupy those spaces and remind you of what it means to be in sync with the natural world.
Last spring I spent part of junior year in the northeast of Thailand. I was a member of a field research group that worked on various human and environmental issues with villagers.
I lived with a few families. Some had makeshift homes from recycled materials or nicer homes with a running shower. The one thing they all had in common was that there was never any furniture –– but their plants filled those spaces.
If I were to injure myself or get sick, we would look to the garden or to an indoor plants for help. If I cut myself, we would cut a piece of aloe from the plant without damaging the plant. If I had a sore throat, I would chew on shards of ginger. If I had a headache, I would drink tamarind tea, which I would pick from the tree on their farm. Centuries of traditional Thai holistic care really came in handy.
There was something magical about holistic care and looking to nature for the answers. I started to look at plants as more of a way of life, and not just something I enjoy because of their impressive beauty.
My friend, Clayton Lewis, studied the relationship between people and plants while he lived in Nepal. He then moved to India and worked with plants for medicinal use while I was living in Thailand. He filled me in on his work over our Skype chats and made me want to learn more from my homestay families and their holistic methods. He too inspired me to purchase plants for my bedroom. He told me, “Plants remind you about being healthy. Having a connection with nature makes a big difference on the way you feel. You can cook them, use them topically and enjoy them.”
When I returned to Boulder, I purchased a few plants with my dad. I bought an aloe plant, an orange cactus and a four-foot cat palm for my bedroom. Initially, I placed extravagant plants into my shopping cart because of their beauty, but my dad told me that there was no way that I would be able to keep them alive. He told me I needed to start out with some easy ones, see how it goes, and later I could move on to the more complicated plants. I agreed –– I am a busy college student.
The best part of owning my plants is that almost every time I looked at my plants, I get this body high, because they remind me of precious moments in Thailand –– like a whiff of a beautiful smell that takes you back to a moment in time.
I began changing my habits and taking a more holistic approach to my daily routine. I now think of plants as medicine that heals my body. When I eat food, I eat with the intention that I am taking care of my body. I am also happier when I wake up in the morning and have some nature by my side. I think of owning my plants almost like owning a dog because they both make me happy. But dogs are much more of a responsibility, the only thing is –– I can’t cuddle with my cactus.
Clayton compiled the lists below. Enjoy.
Benefits of Plants:
- Plants are cheaper than synthetic medicine.
- Plants purify the air.
- Think of eating plants as eating medicine. Everything we put into our bodies should be with the intention to heal and sustain.
- Plants can be easily taken care of and will make you happy.
- Plants can prevent chronic illnesses like diabetes.
- If we consider plants as mighty healers, then we will change our habits and take a more holistic route in all of our actions.
Top 10 List: a list of the safest plants that everyone should have and use everyday.
1) Aloe Vera: By far on of the easiest house plants and easy to use medicinal plants. It barely needs any water (once every couple 2 weeks to month) and all you have to do it cut a piece off, cut it open, and put the goo inside on any wound or burn. Can also be ingested with juice or smoothie for an upset stomach.
2) Parsley: A vitamin and mineral powerhouse, this is not just a garnish. Good for urinary tract and general physical health.
3) Lavender: Very relaxing, beautiful to look at and smell, put in little pouches in your underwear drawer, or to mix with chamomile before bed.
4) Rosemary: Circulatory and nerve stimulant, great to relieve tension headaches and depression. Also antibacterial, anti-fungal, and can be used externally for muscle pain
5) Mint: A powerful stomach soother for any kind of aliment. Make tea after a big meal, use as a face wash, or breathe in some steam when your nose is clogged.
6) Basil: A member of the mint family that is also good for the stomach, also helps with headache, anxiety, and is so delicious.
7) St. John’s Wort:Harvest these beautiful yellow flowers in late summer and save them to make tea on dark winter days. It is a general anti-depressant that will make you
noticeably happier. Also great for external cuts and bruises.
9) Chamomile: Mmm, so realxing. If everyone had a cup of fresh tea with this before bed, the world would be a calmer place. Chamomile is a sedative and carminative (stomach soother). It is also called the “children’s herb” because it is good for child fevers and general restlessness. Also a good mouthwash for gingivitis.
10) Garlic: Did you know that the cloves of garlic we eat are also seeds. Just pick the best looking clove and plant it. Garlic is a powerful antibiotic, antimicrobial, antiseptic, and antiviral. Stronger when eaten raw, it can counteract colds, flus, chronic bronchitis, infections, and also reduces blood pressure and cholesterol.
11) Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum): This is a common house plant is particularly good at air purifying.
Home Gardening: Easiest places to get plants are:1) Farmers markets, 2) Plant Shops, 3) Seed Banks (http://www.seedsavers.org/), and 4) Foraging.
Lindsay Friedman is a senior studying environmental science and sustainable development at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is also an intern at elephant journal and has a part time job at The Fitter. She is a true Chicagoan turned mountain girl. Follow her on twitter, Laine0315.