Grow Your Way to Good Health: How Indoor Plants Can Help
There’s no such thing as a quick fix to good health—or is there? Science indicates that you could improve your health just by putting a few indoor plants in your living room. While having plants may not be as effective as, say, exercise and good nutrition, it could help you breathe easier, relax, and even improve your quality of sleep.
The shift to an urban lifestyle has meant that Australians are moving farther away from nature, which has a number of health implications. We’re not as active in the outdoors, air pollution is higher, and we also miss out on exposure to diverse bacteria.
While giving it all up for a move to the country may sound appealing, it’s not always practical for many Australians. Instead, why not bring a little bit of nature to you in the form of indoor plants? They smell good, they look pretty, and they can actually be good for your health. Just don’t forget to water them!
Health Benefits of Indoor Plants
Improve air quality
Humans and plants work well together. While we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. Plants can freshen up the air, bring more oxygen into our spaces, and get rid of toxins. A study from NASA found that indoor plants can eliminate up to 87% of airborne toxins in just 24 hours. Try plants like the peace lily, gerbera daisy, and bamboo to reduce toxins in the air.
Help you sleep
Plants can help you sleep in a few different ways. The pleasant scent of rosemary and lavender can help you relax and doze off. While many plants stop emitting oxygen at night—when photosynthesis stops—there are some that do the opposite. Orchids, succulents, and aloe vera continue to let off oxygen in the dark, making them great for bedrooms.
Soothe bites and burns
Aloe vera may be spiky on the outside, but snap it open and you’ll find a green, gooey gel that can be applied to itchy bug bites or hot-to-the-touch sunburn. Aloe vera’s healing properties are a natural way to soothe irritated skin without making a trip to the pharmacy. Store a branch in the fridge for extra-cool sunburn relief; just watch those spines.
Feeling stressed? Add a houseplant to your desk. It might be just what you need to relax and de-stress. Research shows that green space makes people less stressed, so while you might not be able to plant an indoor forest, you can add a hardy plant to your office. As an added benefit, indoor plants have been found to increase concentration and productivity by up to 15 percent.
Promote good nutrition
There are some herbs and edible plants that are suited to life indoors, so long as they get some sunlight. Growing your own food is a great way to improve your nutrition, as well as teach your kids healthy habits. You don’t have to have an outdoor garden to cultivate herbs like rosemary, chives, or parsley. You can also grow sprouts, lettuce greens, or chilli in a pot inside the house.
Looking at pretty plants can be aesthetically pleasing, which means it makes us feel good. Positive emotions are linked to good health, so the simple act of admiring your indoor plant could actually boost your health. Try brightly-coloured flowers that will make you smile when you see them.
Some plants, like ferns, can increase the level of moisture in the air. If dry air is a problem in your home, particularly in the winter, you could improve your health by putting a fern or two inside. It could improve your skin and reduce the effects of dry air.
On the other hand, if you’ve got too much humidity in your home, you might want a plant that can help balance it out. Try a spider plant, as its fast-growing leaves thrive in a humid environment. The same goes for palm trees, which can reduce humidity and help fight mould inside. Keep the soil moist and these plants will thank you.
A study of workplaces in the Netherlands found that increasing the number of plants in the office had a positive impact on the reduction of colds, headaches, sore throats, and fatigue. A Norwegian study found that offices with plants saw sickness rates decline by over 60 percent. Want to avoid getting sick? Plants might help.
Faster recovery time
You might be seeing more plants in hospitals, as recent research suggests that it could increase recovery rates for surgical patients. Research from Kansas State University found that patients with plants in their room had lower heart rates, were less fatigued and anxious, and were released from hospital sooner than those without plants.
You don’t have to have a green thumb to get started with indoor plants, as many of them are hardy and easy to maintain. If you’re worried, start with a cactus in a pot and work your way up to a hanging fern; the more plants, the merrier.