Houseplants as Herbal Remedies

Houseplants offer health benefits whether they are useful as a remedy. They help clean the air and can improve the spirits. Plants “breathe” carbon dioxide and “exhale” oxygen. They may offer other benefits as well…or they could be hazardous.


While the succulent isn’t the world’s prettiest houseplant, it is fairly easy to take care of. The gel inside the leaves can soothe minor burns and may help some other skin conditions. Many drink the juice, but I don’t recommend that. Aside from having a cardiac glycoside that could cause problems, it also can cause diarrhea, along with painful cramps and griping.

Maidenhair Fern:

This plant got its name because it was believed to encourage hair growth and prevent it from falling out. There’s no evidence that it will help with that problem, it may be useful as an expectorant. It could act as a diuretic and to start late menstruation. If you are pregnant or take diuretics it might be wise to just look at this herb.


Most people recognize this as a poisonous plant, which it is. The definition of poison is something that will cause harm, and the calcium oxalate crystals can do that. However, it is rather unlikely anyone will swallow it. These crystals are very sharp and will start causing tiny cuts with the first grind of the teeth. If it does get swallowed, it will likely continue to this as it goes through the digestive system. It may trigger vomiting and there may be some blood present. Call your doctor (or vet if it’s a pet) if you suspect the leaves have been swallowed.


Like the philodendron, pothos contains calcium oxalate crystals. It is also listed as toxic to cats and dogs by the ASPCA, as is the philodendron. Call your doctor or vet for instructions on how to deal with ingesting this plant.

Pygmy Date Palm:

Many palms make good houseplants, and this one is no exception. In fact, if it produces dates can offer a tasty treat and some medicinal value. It can help clean out the bowels, when prepared properly it can help a sore throat and colds. The gum from the trunk may be useful for diarrhea.

Wandering Jew:

My father used to call the huge trailing vine in his office the “wandering purple secretary eater” because it spread for several feet around the room. This plant was named sometime around 1300 and is associated with a legend. It is considered nontoxic, and there is anecdotal information that it could be useful for carpal tunnel problems. The instructions are to boil a few leaves in water until the leaves turn pink. Let it cool enough to not burn, then stick your hands in the water so that the steam can hit the wrists. I must point out that the use above is anecdotal and I have no information as to safety or efficiency.

It’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor and pharmacist before starting a new supplement. They will know your medical history and medications you take and can tell you if there are any interactions that could be a problem.

The Author:

Mary Bodel

Photo. Marin


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *