Vicks Plant
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Rick Sewell
Posted on: September 26, 1998

I bought a vicks plant at your store (which I’ve found to be indestructable, by the way). Can I use it in any medicinal ways or is it just for show?

Vicks plant (Plectranthus purpuratus) is, as you have found, a hardy house plant. It will be happy in pots, hanging baskets, or summer containers outdoors. It is closely related to swedish ivy, and more distantly related to coleus.

As the name suggests, it has a strong odour similar to that of "Vick’s Vapor Rub", a common over-the-counter liniment that is rubbed on to the chest to help ease congestion and break chest colds. In fact, the vicks plant can be used for the same purpose. The leaves can be steeped in boiling water to vapourize the characteristic oils which are then inhaled, helping to clear nasal and respiratory passages. The leaves can also be applied as a poultice, or prepared in petroleum jelly-based ointments. Vasoline petroleum jelly works well.

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