What are the keys to living a longer, stronger, and healthier life? Sure, you know the usual "rules" for longevity: eat a healthy diet, stay physically active, schedule regular health checkups, get enough sleep nightly, etc. But there might be one lifestyle tweak you've overlooked that'll help you bag those additional (good) years. Surrounding yourself with more greenery. Um, what? It’s true.
A large 2019 meta-study published in The Lancet Planetary Health – analyzing 9 separate longitudinal studies about health and green space – came to a single conclusion (1). Individuals who lived near more green spaces lived longer than those who lived near less. So. Ready to live a longer life? Here are 7 botanicals that offer not only a pop of greenery but also amazing healing properties.
#1: Aloe vera
Spiky, decorative, and gorgeously green all over, the aloe vera is a houseplant that's just as aesthetically pleasing as it's good for you. In addition, its clear gel boasts plenty of science-based health benefits: from relieving symptoms associated with chronic digestive conditions (explaining why Dr. Danielle formulated Gut Assist with aloe vera!) to calming inflammatory skin conditions; from soothing sunburns to lessening symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (2, 3, 4, 5).
Worried that your lack of green thumbs will kill the plant? There’s no need for that. The aloe vera tolerates forgetful waterers and beginner gardeners particularly well. When it comes to the aloe vera, all you need to do to keep it happy is plant it in a bright, sunny place. Give it a good watering every 2 weeks.
Turmeric has found its way into nearly everything you can think of. Lattes, ice cream, smoothies … it's also omnipresent in health food aisles. This begs an important question: "Why?" Answer: this golden-hued spice – used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years – exerts potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties which could translate into serious health benefits.
For one, according to a 2014 study published in Phytotherapy Research, participants who consumed curcumin extracts (the bioactive compounds found within turmeric) daily experienced a significant reduction in their levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in just 12 weeks (6). Other studies also hint at turmeric’s ability to improve myopia, inflammatory bowel disease, and even osteoarthritis (7, 8, 9).
Excited and ready to start planting? Head to your local supermarket (or health food store) and purchase fresh turmeric rhizomes – ideally only picking plump ones with as many bumps along the sides as possible. Then, plant your rhizomes after cutting them into sections, with 2 or 3 buds on each section. Water as needed. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and soon you'll have yourself a lush-looking turmeric plant.
Oh, but just one final disclaimer: research shows that natural curcumin (as in, those you’d get from eating fresh turmeric) breaks down quickly. A quick fix to this? Combining it with black pepper – because its component, piperine, boosts curcumin absorption (10). Can’t imagine sprinkling black pepper on turmeric slices? Dr. Danielle’s Turmeric Curcumin’s got you covered.
Exposure to greenery – in and of itself – alleviates stress by lowering heart rate and cortisol levels (11). But if you’re looking for a plant that packs an extra punch in stress-relieving properties, well, ashwagandha certainly deserves a look. Here’s some context. Often referred to as the “Indian ginseng”, the ashwagandha has been touted for its stress- and anxiety-relieving properties for centuries.
And guess what? Modern science lends support to ashwagandha’s supposed calming effects. According to a 2019 study published in Medicine, researchers found that participants who took a daily dose of 240 mg of ashwagandha experienced a significant reduction in stress levels compared to those assigned the placebo condition (12). This is in line with various other studies (13, 14).
If you’re growing ashwagandha as a “houseplant”, be mindful that it’ll need at least 6 hours of sunlight – so make sure to plant it right next to a windowsill. You can get ashwagandha seeds from your local gardening store – or order them online. Don’t have time to tend to plants? The fortunate thing is that the ashwagandha doesn’t require frequent watering.
But what if you live in an area where there isn't much sun? Luckily, that doesn't necessarily mean that you can't reap ashwagandha's stress-relieving benefits; Dr. Danielle’s Adrenal Wellness serves as proof of that.
#4: Spider plant
The unfortunate truth about modern-day life is that the air inside your home (or office) could very well be more harmful than the air outside – thanks to the release of pollutants from furnishings, cleaning products, and unvented applications. And for those unwilling to spend hundreds of dollars on air purifiers (FYI: there’s little evidence to suggest that they do indeed “purify” the air), there’s the humble spider plant.
Interestingly, NASA found this gorgeous, sprawling green capable of removing 95% of chemicals from the air – including carbon monoxide, benzene, styrene, formaldehyde, and xylene – in just 24 hours (15, 16). Better yet, even if houseplants tend to die under your care, you'll have a hard time killing this resilient plant. All the spider plant needs to thrive are bright, indirect sunlight (or even artificial lighting if necessary), and weekly watering.
Oh, and for those with fur kids: don’t worry. The spider plant is non-toxic to cats, dogs, and other pets (17).
#5: Lemon balm
You can add it to salads and soups for a delicious, citrusy scent. You could place it in boiling water to enjoy a soothing, stress-relieving tea (18). Perhaps most impressively, you could even use its juice to ward off cold sores (ahem: if you frequently suffer from cold sores, feel free to check out Dr. Danielle’s Cold Sore Assist Supplement) (19). Do you have any idea what “it” refers to? Well, alright, so the subheading was a dead giveaway – the answer’s lemon balm.
Interested in reaping lemon balm’s health benefits right in your home? Like most mint family members, lemon balm sprouts easily. So easily, in fact, that the lemon balm can quickly take over an entire garden when left to its own devices. So, if you'd like just a tiny pot of lemon balm, do plant the seeds in a container – and place it near a windowsill that gets ample light throughout the day.
And when it comes to watering your lemon balm plant, err on the side of under-watering (rather than over-watering). Like many other herbs (e.g., thyme and rosemary), lemon balm plants will quickly die if overwatered.
There are many reasons to plant ginger. The first is that ginger is a downright delicious and versatile cooking ingredient that adds a zingy flavor to whatever dish you throw it in. But looking beyond its taste profile, the second reason you should incorporate ginger into your life is its impressive, seemingly non-exhaustive list of health benefits. For example, research shows that it helps ease muscle pain from exercise-induced injury; relieve period cramps; reduce arthritic joint pain; relieve morning sickness, and treat motion sickness (20, 21, 22, 23, 24).
Thought that was all? Not nearly – but there’s one more benefit of ginger that might catch the eye of anyone living a fast-paced life (which, honestly, is almost everyone). Research suggests that ginger extracts could increase serotonin – in turn, potentially helping stop migraine attacks by reducing inflammation and restricting blood vessels (25). Just so you know: this is also why you’d find ginger listed on the ingredient label of Dr. Danielle’s Migraine Assist Supplement.
To enjoy the greenery, a ginger plant affords (along with all the health benefits it provides), buy a ginger root from your local grocery store – ideally sourcing for one that's plump and young. You should also keep an eye out for growth buds on the tips of the roots; this is a sign your ginger is already starting to grow. Then, plant it the same way you would turmeric. Only be mindful that ginger thrives in partial shade, with only about 2 to 5 hours of sun a day.
#7: Devil’s Ivy
Despite its ominous-sounding name, the devil’s ivy is a gorgeous, evergreen trailing vine doused with splashes of color that’s sure to brighten up your day. Other than its beautiful appearance, this plant is also a natural (literally!) air purifier – known to eliminate various harmful chemicals in the air, including formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, benzene, and carbon monoxide (26).
And there's no need to fret if you're new to gardening: the devil's ivy can survive in minimal light and is almost impossible to kill. But there's one crucial thing you need to know about the devil's ivy. It's poisonous to cats and dogs – and toxic to humans if ingested (e.g., curious toddlers) (27). So, avoid placing this hardy plant on the floor if you have fur kids or, well, kids roaming the space. Instead, place it up high within a hanging basket. Or even on a shelf.
Don't be too eager to add all these botanicals into your indoor gardening project all at once – especially if you've never tended to plants before. Instead, pick 1 (a maximum of 2!), and dedicate your resources to it. This gives you the best chance of helping it thrive while allowing you to gain confidence in your gardening skills. Then, gradually add more botanical friends as you get into the groove. There's no need to rush.