Herbs can stimulate our sense of smell, and give great fragrances that will positively affect our mood. But beware, some herbs will make your home smell like dirty socks! Let’s dive in on the full list of herbs to add to your indoor garden (and the once to avoid) if you want to add a pleasent fragrance to your indoor
Hence, what are the best smelling herbs for your home? The herbs that provide the best scent are:
- Mint (chocolate and orange version)
- Summer Savory
- Lemon balm
Whatever your style and growing conditions, there is an herb that you can grow indoors to have a fantastic scent in your home. Read on to find out about the best smelling herbs to grow in your home (or even in your as detailed in this 9-step guide for indoor-garden basement) and which ones to avoid!
Interestingly, the majority of the aromatic herbs come from one of two plant families, being either the mint (scientifically called Lamiaceae) or carrot (accurately called Apiaceae) family. These, as detailed by the University of Minnesota are also the ones typically used for culinary purposes.
Herbs in the mint family are generally hardy, bushy perennials. They have a good tolerance for hot and dry conditions, and so are suited to warmer climates. They require at least six hours of sunlight and good air circulation. Here are some of the best smelling herbs from the mint family.
|Herb||Aroma||Strength of Aroma||Perennial/ Annual||Main Culinary Uses||Other Uses|
|Rosemary||Pine and lemon aroma||Strong||Perennial||Great with chicken, potatoes, bread and steak. Mix with garlic, thyme, sage and lemon.|| tea
infusion for hair
|Sage||Like mint but more earthy||Strong||Perennial||Use as a meat marinade. Suits cheese and egg dishes.||chew for bad breath
infusion for hair
|Peppermint||Peppery, menthol aroma.||Strong (one of the strongest)||Perennial||Great to freshen sauces and desserts.||tea
chew for bad breath
|Thyme||Smells of lemon and mint||Strong||Perennial||Goes well with grilled food. Use whole sprigs in soups and stews.||facial steam
|Basil||Bitter. Mix of cloves and liquorice||Strong||Annual||Use fresh in salads, and with pasta or tomato.||air purifier
|Summer savoury||Peppery mix of marjoram, thyme and mint||Mild||Annual||Use to season meats and as a substitute for salt.||tea
insect bites and stings
|Lemon balm||lemon with a presence of mint (sometimes associated to lemon candy)||Mild||Perennial||Lemon replacement and used in soups, sauces, vinegars and seafood as well in sweets||tea
insect repellent in spray, candles
The herbs from the carrot family generally have more lush green foliage and so require deep, loose and moist soil to care for the leaves. Here are some of the herbs from the carrot family that would bring a wonderful aroma to your home.
|Herb||Smell||Strenght of Aroma||Perennial/Annual||Culinary Uses||Other Uses|
|Parsley||Smells of freshly cut grass||Mild||Annual||Works well in salads, quiches, with seafood and red meat, and is the staple herb in tabbouleh||tea
insect bites and stings
infusion for hair
|Cilantro||Has an aroma of anise and citrus||Strong||Annual||Use fresh in Mexican and Asian dishes. Works especially well for spicy food||insect repellent
use to purify water
|Fennel||Smells like anise with a slight camphor scent||Mild||Perennial||Great in fresh salads and slaws, or as a side vegetable either sautéed or grilled||tea to aid digestion
insect bites and stings
|Dill||Aroma of anise but gentler than fennel||Mild||Annual||Seasons seafood, yogurts, creams and cheeses||insect repellent|
|Chervil||Young leaves resemble anise, older foliage smells like myrrh||Mild||Annual||Works well in salads and egg dishes. Use as a garnish similar to parsley||tea for acidic conditions and infections
juice for inflammatory skin conditions
Herbs That You Should Avoid
Although cilantro (also known as Coriander) is among those herbs that smell great, it should be noted that around ten percent of the population, for genetic reasons, detest their smell.
Instead of the anise and citrus aromas smelt by the majority, these people describe cilantro as smelling and tasting of soap, mold or dirt. Researchers have identified a set of genes responsible for such a reaction towards cilantro, finding a distinct difference across ethnocultural groups (for more, you can read this study). There appears to be very little middle ground with cilantro – you either love it or hate it. So, just in case you have friends coming over, warn them that cilantro is one of the ingredients. One out of ten of your guests might be grateful for this.
Valerian can be grown successfully indoors, although very few attempts this feat because of its repulsive smell. The small flowers may smell sweet. Still, the odor of the rest of the plant (including the leaves, stems, and roots as detailed here) is close to rotten socks, cat urine, sewer, cheese, or even dog excrement, especially when it is rubbed.
This herb is quite well-known as a proven remedy for sleep disturbances. Hence, if you would like to have it on hand as a fresh option, it may be best to keep it either on the patio or at least a very well ventilated space. If not, you just might end up with all the neighborhood cats visiting your indoor kitchen. Indeed, many cats love valerian almost as much as catnip.
Rue is an herb known since ancient times, recorded in history for thousands of years, with a reputation of being able to ward off both disease and witches due to its smell. The specific name, graveolens, is Latin for “having a strong or offensive smell.” Rue has a powerful musty and bitter odor (more in the Handbook of Herb and Spice) that is known to repel dogs, cats, and insects, including fleas. The dried leaves can be placed in bags around the house to repel bugs. Care needs to be taken, though when cutting Rue as the sap is toxic and can cause skin irritations.
How Strong Do They Smell?
The strength of the aroma of the herbs is dependent upon their concentration of essential oil. As it is shown in the table above, the most potent smelling herbs are generally those from the mint family. They include Rosemary, Basil, all of the mint varieties like Sage and Thyme. For these herbs, even just brushing against one plant is enough to release the oils and distribute the fragrance throughout the home.
For milder smelling herbs such as dill and parsley, additional plants may be required to get the scent to affect you are seeking.
Note that the intensity of the smell you will get from your plants depends on the room dimension, temperature, and air circulation. For example, herbs in a small, warm location that is getting continued movement will smell much stronger than the same plant in a large, stagnant, colder environment.
You might have the intention to start, or grow, your indoor herb garden. However, due to the presence of your furry four-legged friend, you want to avoid any risk for him. After reading this detailed guide on how to create cat-safe indoor gardening, you might also want to avoid herbs that might get too much attention from your friend.
The herbs that are notorious for attracting feline are:
- Valerian: the strong and repellent to human valerian smell, seems to attract cats;
- Catnip: This is the most famous herb for cats. They love it, and actually, it was found to induce a similar effect to pheromone as explained in this interesting YouTube video;
- Lemongrass: has similar effects of catnip and hardly ever a problem for your friend in herb form (but can be dangerous in oil form). You can also found a large number of videos on YouTube, like this one, showing cats feeding on lemongrass;
- Acalypha indica: as detailed in this study from the University of Western Australia.
Sometimes there are just too many herbs to use fresh at any one time. At the same time, leaving them on the plant is not the best idea as pruning stimulates healthy grow as detailed in this article for basil (and applicable to many other herbs).
However, to avoid waste, if you do not have neighbors/friends to share with, drying is an effective way to preserve their taste and fragrance. Dried herbs are wonderful to use in pot-pourri in wardrobes to keep clothes smelling fresh and to ward off moths and silverfish or added as a condiment (in pasta, chicken and many more ingredients as shown for a few thousand recipes here)
However, you need to remember that the smell of a dried herb is way different from the scent of its fresh counterpart and also it changes from herb to herb.
Some herbs have a way more potent smell than others once dried. Generally, those hardier perennial plants with lower water content in the leaves (such as Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme) work best with drying. In fact, for these herbs, their aroma becomes more concentrated. So for use in teas and in food, you generally only need one-quarter of the amount of the herb that you would use fresh.
Those with higher water content (Basil, Parsley, Mint, and Cilantro) lose much of their odor strength when dried. Hence, you can be more generous with these dried herbs in your pot-pourri and tea.
Fragrant Herbs For Tea
One of the most enjoyable uses of dried herbs is making your own herbal tea blends. Dried herbal teas are easily stored in tins or airtight containers and transported to a friend’s house for herbal tea parties!
But fresh is always best, and here are some ideas for fresh herb teas. They will undoubtedly warm your body in the winter months, but don’t be afraid to make a big batch and refrigerate for a refreshing iced tea as well.
Any fresh-herb tea can be prepared with a 3-step approach:
- Boil 1 cup of water
- Add in your chosen herbs and spices (based on the table below);
- Turn the heat down and let them infuse as long it is needed to reach the desired strength.
Below you can find a list of the ingredients for three major fresh herb tea.
|Spicy Mint Tea|
2 stalks of rosemary2 tsp of ginger
2-3tsp lemon zest
| 1 tsp grated fresh ginger|
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp lime juice 1 tsp grated lime zest
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fresh mint
|1 handful fresh sage leaves |
½ handful fresh mint leaves¼ lemon, zest & juice
1 bay leaf1 ¼ t cloves
½ cinnamon stick
If you enjoy your tea with a touch of sweetness, you can add a pinch of fresh stevia (the whole herb). It is a great sugar-free alternative.
In this article, you have seen how fresh herbs can help create a warm, welcoming scent atmosphere. More than just for cooking, fresh herbs can help you make a special and unique home environment full of freshness, and wonderful smells.
Herbs To Spare? Use Them as Natural Cleaner
Having a few potted herbs is important to make your house smells like an open field garden. However, to promote growths, you need to prune regularly.
What do you do with such excess of leaves? Well, you can create amazingly effective (to not talk about their zero environmental and carbon impact, and low cost) house cleaners.
Some herbs are great for window cleaners while others are more suitable for carpets.
Click on the article below for a full list of 10 herb based house clenaer that will put at full use your herbs leaves (and save you money).
Which herbs smell good together? Basil and lemon balm
What is the most unusual herb smell in the mint family? Chocolate and orange mint are one of the most unusual smelly herbs with a scent of chocolate and orange respectively
Which herbs smell like lemons? The most common herbs that smell like lemon are: lemon balm, lemongrass, lemon basil, lemon thyme, and lemon verbana
21 tips to grow massive basil – https://yourindoorherbs.com/21-easy-tips-to-grow-massive-basil-indoor/
Herbs that can grow without the full sun – https://yourindoorherbs.com/18-herbs-that-you-can-grow-if-you-do-not-have-lots-of-sun/
Strategy to create a cat-proof indoor garden – https://yourindoorherbs.com/3-step-strategy-for-a-proof-cat-safe-indoor-garden/
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