Perfect Partners: People and Plants

Cathleen Klemm

PlantsLike so many of us, I have long used ornamental houseplants as decor. Plants really do help to make a house a home. While indoor ferns and spider plants, in particular, were en vogue in the 1970’s, these days it seems no living room is complete without the sculptural fiddle leaf fig tree in the corner, or a plethora of trendy succulents scattered around. While really any living greenery or floral splash of color is uplifting, houseplants – some more than others – actually contribute more than you might think to our health and well-being inside our homes.

We are all aware that the modern world is full of pollutants, and we are mindful of the foods that we eat and the skincare products that we use, carefully reading ingredients and avoiding harmful chemicals. So it makes sense that we should also be aware of the toxins that exist in most of our homes and workplaces, as, unfortunately, improved insulation and modern building materials can also release chemicals and toxins into our home environments. Houseplants can help to combat this threat.

In the late 1980’s, NASA shed some light on the subject, by experimenting with house plants in sealed chambers containing many airborne, common household toxins. The results were astounding and highlighted the benefits of utilizing indoor plants as nature’s air filters. Plants, by absorbing indoor pollutants through their leaves, can not only make breathing easier, but, in some cases, they can act as a natural sleep aid – useful information not only for space travel, but for everyday living as well!

Science made simple:

We humans breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants do the opposite: They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Most plants, however, switch gasses at night and release carbon dioxide. Amazingly, there are a few marvelous exceptions, plants that emit oxygen at night! These houseplants are the most beneficial; they are plants that we all should consider owning.

According to the studies conducted by NASA, certain plants can play pivotal roles in removing low levels of common toxins from our homes, toxins such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, mold spores, some bacterias, trichloroethylene, and benzene, removing them from the air.

My favorite plant, aloe, also happens to be listed as one of NASA’s top air improving plants. Of course, I also love the added benefit it offers as a healing salve for skin. Other plants that also have similar air purification properties and are easy to care for are English ivy, the snake plant, the spider plant, peace lily, bamboo palms and Gerbera daisies. (The moisture emitted by Gerber daisies can boost a room’s humidity by up to 5%, which suppresses airborne microbes.) I also love orchids. They not only look beautiful, they also clean xylene from the air!

Nature has a remedy for almost everything, and bringing a little part of the natural world into your home can improve your mood and your health – as well as boost your concentration, memory and productivity. So make some room in your home for your new best friends, your plants.

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