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October 14, 2010 at 1:00 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

The Healing Power of Indoor Plants

By Jeany Miller More Blogs by This Author

Featured on #100daysofhealthy

From ficus to orchid, from cactus to African violet, indoor plants are a beautiful and natural way to add life to a room. The aesthetics of such plants, however, are but one benefit.

Studies reveal that whether a person wants to add an indoor garden or merely enjoy one species, plants offer undisputed health benefits. In addition, the ease in growing them means they are a ready solution to some of the most common air problems.

Plants for Natural Air Purification

The presence of hazardous volatile organic carbons (VOCs) has garnered a great deal of attention from government-regulated agencies and scientists alike. Among such agencies are both NASA and the EPA, whose research into VOCs extends beyond 25 years. Studies reveal that more than 107 different VOCs are linked to cancer. VOCs can also cause damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system. In conjunction with the research of VOCs are findings that indoor plants can mitigate the dangers of these toxins.

Multiple studies show that indoor plants have a large capacity for absorbing environmental chemicals and purifying the air. According to the EPA, VOCs are released everyday by such mundane items as paint, furniture, carpets and adhesives. The EPA also "found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be two to five times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas." Thus, indoor plants can stabilize and purify the air.

Additional studies conducted and released by NASA reveal that indoor plants also effectively remove "several key pollutants associated with indoor air pollution." The findings are so substantial that NASA plans to launch several species of living plants into space as part of the biological life support system aboard future orbiting space stations. In short, plants help to create a pollution-free environment both at home and the office.

They convert carbon dioxide to oxygen and remove the following gases:

  • Benzene, as found in inks, oils and paints
  • Formaldehyde molecules that form as the result of facial tissues, paper towels and grocery bags
  • Tricholorethylene, which is used in printing inks, varnishes and lacquers

The Health Benefits of Plants

  • Speed Healing. According to Bruno Cortis, M.D., "House plants make people feel calmer and more optimistic." Studies conducted to prove this statement reveal that hospital patients who face a window with a garden view recover more quickly than those who face a wall or parking lot. Horticulture experts who have studied this effect indicate that caring for a living and breathing entity is not only soothing, but refreshing as well.
  • Improve Work Performance. Environmental psychologists also believe in the positive and uplifting effects of indoor plants. To illustrate, numerous studies have proven that creativity and productivity increase with the presence of plants. According to a case published in Rehabilitation Literature, one office structured its space so that employees were no more than 45 feet from any given plant. Ultimately, even the employees noticed that their attitude toward work had changed with such an arrangement.
  • Help Calm the Nerves. Indoor plants have also shown to benefit persons with mental illness. Actively caring for a plant engages those persons, while the presence of a living being is soothing.
  • Prevent Illness. In terms of physical health, plants work to fight colds and fatigue. According to a study conducted by the University of Agriculture in Norway, "indoor plants can reduce fatigue, coughs, sore throats and other cold-related illnesses by more than 30 percent, partially by increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust." In this way, plants can also reduce the occurrence of allergens.
  • Natural Health Remedies. Other indoor plants, such as aloe and goldenseal, can treat mild burns and cuts. Aloe is a popular choice that, when applied to irritated or sunburned skin, offers cooling pain relief. Goldenseal contains antiseptic properties that can improve the healing of skin scrapes and cuts, while calendula can treat both cuts and burns.

Persons should always consult with a physician before using indoor plants for remedy purposes. To this end, some indoor plants are knowingly poisonous that may pose danger to pets and children. Thus, research should be undertaken before making an indoor plant selection.

Sources:

Zone 10: NASA Study House Plants Clear Air

EPA: An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality

Garden Guides: House Plants That Can Heal Cuts and Burns

Six Wise: The Health Benefits of House Plants, Including the Top Nine Healthiest Plants!

Photo Credit:

Far Out Flora

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