Plant doctor: How to grow Ayurvedic herbs at home

Medicinal herbs can help prevent or relieve colds, coughs, indigestion, asthma, excess body heat and low moods

Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis miller) can reduce skin and scalp dryness. Getty Images
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Seasonal changes can prove challenging to our immune system, but there are a host of beneficial herbs that help our bodies strengthen and heal. These are most effective if grown organically and consumed fresh.

The ancient Indian medical discipline of Ayurveda has a list of recommended herbs, which can easily grow on a balcony or in semi-shaded areas with controlled exposure to sunlight.

Environmentalist crusader Malini Kalyanam, who conducts workshops on medicinal herbs, and runs the Palm Charitable Trust, says herbs are easy to grow on a balcony that is between 20 and 30 square feet, and recommends hanging these plants from the sides of a wall or from the ceiling. Indoors, she says, a window facing either East or West is ideal.

Growing herbs requires patience, passion and time, says lifestyle blogger Vidya Shree. “But with consistent care and attention, you can get a beautiful harvest.”

While medicinal herbs can help prevent or relieve colds, coughs, indigestion, asthma, excess body heat and low moods, a doctor or traditional medicine expert must always be consulted.

Holy basil, curry and mint leaves are the most common medicinal herbs, but here are six others recommended by Ayurveda.


Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) can enhance physical performance. Getty Images

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a small shrub that grows well in dry and sunny conditions, has low to moderate water requirements and thrives in moist soil.

Ashwagandha extract and the powder made from its root and leaves can relieve stress and anxiety, and enhance physical strength.


Brahmi (Bacopa monnierimi) can lower blood pressure. Getty Images

Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) requires rich, moist and well-drained soil, warm temperatures, high humidity and exposure to morning or partial afternoon sunlight.

Brahmi is a powerful antioxidant that can enhance memory, reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure.


Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) can reduce inflammation. Getty Images

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) needs well-drained soil, bright sunlit areas and moderate water.

It can reduce pain, inflammation and fever, and improve sugar levels and blood cholesterol.


Giloy (Tinospora cordifolia) can boost immunity and manage arthritis. Getty Images

Giloy (Tinospora cordifolia) needs bright sunlight for between five and seven hours a day, and well-drained, light sandy loam soil with rich organic matter.

According to Ayurveda, giloy can be used to treat fever, and it is an immunity booster that can also improve digestion, reduce stress, improve the respiratory system and help manage arthritis.

Aloe vera

Aloe Vera is a no-fuss plant. AFP

Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis miller) is a succulent that grows in well-drained, loose and rocky soil. It can grow in regular potting soil mixed with perlite. “It is a no-fuss plant and can survive with no maintenance,” says Kalyanam.

Aloe vera juice helps to reduce skin and scalp dryness. Loaded with antioxidant and antibacterial properties, it can heal wounds, reduce constipation and lower blood sugar.

Gotu kola

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) can enhance memory. Getty Images

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) can thrive in any place – sunny or shaded – with moist soil including clay, sand and loam.

Ayurveda considers gotu kola as one of the most powerful plants to boost brain function. It is also a sedative, detoxifier and laxative, and can heal skin conditions and enhance liver and kidney function.

Here are a few more general tips for growing and potting herbs.

  • Herbs can be grown by sowing seeds or planting saplings. Always buy healthy seeds from a trusted source, but if the quality of the seed isn’t guaranteed, opt for saplings instead.
  • Select a healthy plant with strong stems and vibrant foliage. Check for a firm root system, and avoid any with signs of wilting, yellowing, rotting or damaged leaves.
  • Opt for eco-friendly pots that allow plants to breathe, such as terracotta or coir pots and grow bags. Six-inch pots will suffice for small saplings, which can be transplanted into an eight-inch pot over the next three months. “A plant needs time to adjust. Potting it in a much bigger pot than required can be harmful,” explains Kalyanam. Also refrain from repotting a plant immediately after getting it from the nursery, rather give it a week to settle, she adds.
  • Potting soil must be porous and well-draining. Some herbs require loamy, clayey or sandy soil. Malini uses a ratio of 1:1:1 of sand, garden soil and home compost, while Vidya Shree uses one-part soil, one-part perlite or sand, one-part vermicompost and one-part coco peat.
  • Manure requirements vary according to plant size. A small sapling needs a handful of compost once in two or three months, but composting must be avoided in peak summer.
  • Pruning and harvesting regularly encourages new growth.
  • Avoid over and underwatering. “If you underwater, the plant will have brown leaves. If you overwater, the leaves will turn yellow,” says Kalyanam.
  • Vidya Shree recommends using neem oil as a natural way to control plant pests. It repels and kills aphids, whiteflies and spider mites without harming beneficial insects. She suggests spraying neem oil diluted with water and mixed with a small quantity of dish soap on to affected areas of the plant. Avoid spraying in direct sunlight to prevent leaf burn, she adds.
Updated: July 03, 2023, 6:50 AM