5 Antiviral Herbs For Your Window Tea Garden

By Chelsea Johnson

Photo by Drew Jemmett

Imagine you’re basking in the morning sun with a mug of herbal tea between your palms. Just twenty minutes earlier you’d plucked the sprigs of herbs to create this light, bodied tea straight from your own windowsill. Complete self-sufficiency in the herbal tea department. No need to leave home when you “run out” because you don’t run out. It keeps regrowing all season. You mindfully tuck away some in the freezer throughout the growing season to enjoy in the winter. All you need is some dirt, seeds, and water to start growing your own herbal tea window garden. In response to recent events, this post will focus on teas possessing antiviral or immunity-boosting properties. Please note, however, that this blog post does not contain medical advice and will not guarantee virus immunity.


Photo by Chelsea Johnson

Basil, or tulsi in South Asian languages, is proven to boost the immune system. Holy basil and sweet basil in particular have been studied scientifically for their immunity-boosting properties. In a 4-week study of 24 adults, daily supplements of 300 mg of holy basil extract significantly increased levels of helper T cells and natural killer cells -immune cells that help protect and defend your body from viral infections (1). A test-tube study also found that sweet basil contains apigenin and ursolic acid, which have exhibited potent effects against a number of viruses (2). Whether you’re making pesto or brewing a pot of tea, you’ll want to have basil on hand from your window garden. Basil is easily propagated in water from herb cuttings and will grow a root system steadily over time. Once the root system is matured, transfer to soil.

Lemon Balol

Photo by Chelsea Johnson

Lemon balm is easy to grow in a small container indoors and has been proven in health studies to have an antiviral effect. One study found that melissa oficinalis (lemon balm) inhibits replication of the influenza virus (3). A separate test-tube research study further confirmed antiviral activity in lemon balm extract (4, 5). A member of the mint family, lemon balm tastes excellent brewed as a tea by itself or accompanied with other teas and herbs. They like a lot of sun and are generally easy to take care of so long as you keep the soil relatively moist.


Photo by Chelsea Johnson

Peppermint is a popular herbal tea even without its antiviral benefits. A member of the Lamicae (mint) family like the rest of the herbs featured in this post, peppermint has been found to promote antiviral activity. The menthol and rosmarinic acid found in peppermint leaves in particular are to thank for this herb’s antiviral properties (6). In a separate study, peppermint leaves displayed potent antiviral activity against respiratory syncytial virus (7). Grow in a sunny window and brew a sprig or two with green tea or by itself for a refreshing, energizing pick-me-up.


Photo by Chelsea Johnson

The “dew of the sea “ more commonly known as rosemary contains oleanolic acid, an antiviral agent (8, 9). Enjoy rosemary in a fresh home-brewed pot of tea that will also enhance concentration and mental alertness (10). If you’re blessed with elderly people in your life, you may also want to consider gifting rosemary cuttings or a rosemary plant to them as rosemary has been shown to prevent brain cell damage caused by free radicals as seen in Alzheimer’s (11). Check out my fast facts on growing rosemary indoors here.


Photo taken by Chelsea Johnson

Last but not least, sage is another herb that’s easy to grow in a small container indoors with evident antiviral effects. It was observed in one study that after drinking sage tea for 2 weeks, liver antioxidant levels increased, improving the body’s ability to ward off infection when exposed to a virus (12). Scientists believe sage owes its antiviral activity to two diterpenoids named safficinolide present in its stems and leaves (13). Sage tea has an earthy, aromatic flavor you’re sure to enjoy by itself or mixed in with other teas.

So what are you waiting for? What is one step you can take towards starting your own wellness tea garden at home? If you don’t want to buy plants or seeds, reach out to your local sharing economy such as Buy Nothing or NextDoor to request seeds or cuttings from your neighbors. See below a picture of herb bouquets I’ve gifted to neighbors contact-free through our local sharing economy. You may be able to forage rosemary, oregano, mint, and lemon balm if you know where to look. Keep your wellness tea garden active all year to enjoy the most “hyper-local” herbs there are. You’ll also be reducing your household’s ecological footprint and save money doing it, so what have you got to lose?

Photo by Chelsea Johnson


(1) Double-blinded randomized controlled trial for immunomodulatory effects of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn.) leaf extract on healthy volunteers.

(2) Antiviral activities of extracts and selected pure constituents of Ocimum basilicum. (3) Antiviral activity of the oseltamivir and Melissa officinalis L. essential oil against avian influenza A virus (H9N2) (4) Anti-enterovirus 71 activities of Melissa officinalis extract and its biologically active constituent rosmarinic acid

(5) Aqueous extracts from peppermint, sage and lemon balm leaves display potent anti-HIV-1 activity by increasing the virion density (7) A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). (8) In vitro antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities of the ethanol extract of Mentha piperita L. (9) Rosmarinus officinalis L. (rosemary) as therapeutic and prophylactic agent (10) Antiviral Activities of Oleanolic Acid and Its Analogues (11) Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma. (12) Medical News Today: Everything you need to know about rosemary

(13) Pharmacological properties of Salvia officinalis and its components (14) Antiviral diterpenes from Salvia officinalis

(15) Fast Facts on Growing Oregano Indoors (16) Fast Facts on Growing Rosemary Indoors

(17) The Buy Nothing Project

(18) NextDoor

(19) Ecological Footprint Calculator