Search Products
*Join Our Join Now | Learn More Members get exclusive offers every month!

3 Ways Plants Could Improve Your Health

Having plants in your home (or office) has great benefits – that’s not news to most of us, but did you know just how beneficial they are?  In 1989 NASA published their Clean Air Study (Wolverton, Johnson, & Bounds, 1989), which they created after it became apparent that enclosed structures contain high amounts of toxic substances. The same was true for astronauts when aboard spacecraft or the space station.  These substances often come from building materials, cleaning products, electronic devices, printer ink, plastic bags, and more.

The term “Sick Building Syndrome” was coined and used frequently in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was determined that extended exposure to certain chemicals found in the air inside homes and buildings was the cause of the sickness among many people. It gave people headaches, reduced fertility and increased cold and flu-like symptoms. Though some parts of the study have since been debated, ultimately, this NASA study gave us great insight into the things we are exposed to daily… and how houseplants have the potential to help counterbalance some of these toxins.

So, what plants are doing for you?

#1 – Potted houseplants can help remove harmful contaminants from the air

Plants, and the soil they are potted into, can help purify the air and remove harmful, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). This is especially important for anyone living in a relatively new building, as many building materials used in new builds are manufactured with toxic chemicals (referring to ‘synthetic materials’ such as particle board, plywood, etc. –  many of these contain formaldehyde and other substances). These toxins can release into the air inside your home, known as off-gassing. You know that “new home smell”? These substances are exactly what you are smelling and there are more you can’t smell.

NASA’s Clean Air Study found that plants transpire or “sweat” moisture into their environment, increasing humidity of the room. When this water vapour is emitted continuously, it creates a pumping action that pulls contaminated air down around the roots of the plant where it is then converted by the bio-activity in the soil into food for the plant itself.

#2 – Plants take CO2 out of the air making it easier to breathe

We’ve all heard this in science class, so without getting into the nitty-gritty, here’s a quick review. The process plants use to remove CO2 is called photosynthesis, which is a chemical process where plants use C02 and sunlight to produce energy for themselves. The resulting byproduct is, conveniently for us, oxygen.

An interesting note that you probably didn’t learn in science class, is that plants clean CO2 from the air only during the day. At night, when there is no light, some plants will actually release small amounts of CO2 (no biggie, they’ll just re-absorb it during the day). However, specific plants such as orchids, succulents, and some bromeliads have the opposite schedule – they absorb CO2 and release oxygen at night. Placing these types of plants in your bedroom will help to provide fresher air while you’re sleeping (soundly, thanks to all that oxygen).

#3 – Plants help fight colds and improve overall respiratory health

It’s true – especially here in Alberta where our air is dry and allergens are high. Plants release as much as 97% of the water they absorb through their roots into the air, so putting just a few plants in a room can greatly increase the humidity. Grouping them together will even further increase their perspiration and the overall humidity, also improving the plants’ growth rates, creating a never-ending cycle of benefit. This additional humidity decreases the amount of dust and allergens floating around in the air, creating a notable difference in the respiratory health of those living in that space. These higher humidity levels can also help reduce dry skin, sore throat, dry cough and can help improve recovery times for flus, colds, and other respiratory ailments. Plus, as a bonus benefit, this humidity helps to prevent cracking in wood furniture and hardwood floors during our dry seasons (especially if you don’t have a humidifier in your home).

Bonus #4 – Plants just make you feel good

For all you plant-lovers out there, we just had to include this on our list. Quick disclaimer; we have no scientific evidence to back this up! But if you’ve added a plant or two to your space, you probably already know the therapeutic feeling of having another living being around. With our long winters, some fresh, green life is especially helpful to brighten our spirits in the dreary cold.

Ok but how many plants are we talking here…

If you’re looking to create some cleaner airspace, you don’t have to host a greenhouse. To clean and purify the air in your home as well as alleviate stress, fatigue and improve respiratory health it is recommended that you have approximately 1 large plant (8” – 10” diameter pot) for every 100sqft. That’s one decent-sized plant for a small room, or you could use two smaller plants to create the same effect.

Which plants are best?

While all plants purify the air to some extent, some do the job better than others.

The effectiveness of a plant’s CO2 filtering ability is based largely on the leaf surface area of the plant. The leaves are what allows a plant to “breathe,” therefore, more breathing space equals more CO2 removed and more oxygen added. And some plant species are simply more effective than others.

In addition, some of the removal of harmful toxins is done by the symbiotic micro-organisms in the soil, so having some open surface area for the soil is both helpful for the plant, and helpful for air purification. It should be noted that the soil needs to have living plant roots in it to be effective at removing contaminants.

Here are some of our favorite air-purifiers:

Spider Plant

Chlorophytum comosum

Shop Here

Image of Spider Plant, Chlorophytum comosum

Benefits

  • Purifies air rapidly of both chemicals and C02.
  • Removes formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.

Additional Notes

  • Very easy to care for.
  • Grows in almost any indoor conditions.
  • Tolerates dry air.
  • Non-toxic.

Snake Plant / Mother-in-Laws-Tongue

Sansevieria trifasciata

Shop Here

Image of Snake Plant, Sansevieria

Benefits

  • Removes large amounts of toxins from the air.
  • Removes formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, toluene and trichloroethylene.

Additional Notes

  • Very easy to care for.
  • Grows in low-light.
  • Very drought tolerant.
  • Toxic to animals & people if ingested.*

Boston Fern

Nephrolepis exaltata

Shop Here

Image of Boston Fern, Nephrolepis exaltata

Benefits

  • Removes formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.

Additional Notes

  • Requires more watering, should be checked almost daily.
  • Requires bright spaces, indirect light.
  • Non-toxic.

Weeping Fig / Benjamin Tree

Ficus benjamin

Shop Here

Image of weeping fig, ficus benjamina

Benefits

  • Removes formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.

Additional Notes

  • Don’t place near open windows or doorways, they don’t like drafts or sudden shifts in temperature.
  • Toxic to animals & people if ingested.*

Dragon Tree

Dracaena marginata

Shop Here

Image of Dragon Tree, Dracena marginata

Benefits

  • Easy to care for.
  • Removes benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene.

Additional Notes

  • Grows pretty much anywhere.
  • Tolerates low-light conditions.
  • Toxic to animals & people if ingested.*

Corn Plant

Dracena fragrans

Shop Here

Image of Corn Plant, Dracena fragrans

Benefits

  • Easy to care for.
  • Removes benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.

Additional Notes

  • Tolerates low-light conditions.
  • Toxic to animals & people if ingested.*

Peace Lily

Spathiphyllum

Shop Here

Image of peace lily, spathiphyllum

Benefits

  • Easy to care for.
  • One of the best for cleaning everything from the air.
  • Removes benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia.

Additional Notes

  • Best in shady or low-light conditions. Does not do well in sunlight.
  • Toxic to animals & people if eaten (irritant).*

Green Ivy & English Ivy

Hedera

Shop Here

Image of Green Ivy, Hedera helix

Benefits

  • Purifies the air rapidly of both chemicals and C02.
  • Removes benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene.

Additional Notes

  • Grows just about anywhere!
  • Keep out of direct sunlight.
  • Toxic to animals & people if ingested.*

Golden Pothos / Devil’s Ivy

Epipremnum aureum

Shop Here

Image of Devils Ivy, Epipremnum aureum

Benefits

  • So easy to care for!
  • Removes benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.

Additional Notes

  • Will grow just about anywhere.
  • Prefers bright rooms, indirect sunlight.
  • Very tough plant.
  • Toxic to animals & people if ingested.*

Citation for plant data above: (Wikimedia Foundation, 2017)

*An Important Note on Toxic Plants

It’s valuable to note that most plants are inedible (even many fruit-bearing plants that have unedible foliage), yet we have enjoyed them in our dwellings for hundreds of years. In many cases, a person or animal would need to eat a very large quantity of any one of these plants to have a serious effect. Many of them produce unpleasant irritation symptoms only and do not have fatal potential – so if an animal does not avoid them by instinct, a munch-inclined pet could end up with an upset tummy and a valuable lesson on personal comfort. A small number of plants do have serious side effects though, so it’s worthwhile to check. The ASPCA has a great resource on their website that outlines in more detail, toxic plants and their effects.

Additional Resources

If you want to read more on this topic or check out NASA’s Clean Air Study have a look at the links below:

References:

Wikimedia Foundation. (2017, November 13). NASA Clean Air Study. Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Clean_Air_Study

Wolverton, B. C., Johnson, A., & Bounds, K. (1989). Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement. Hancock County, Mississippi: NASA. Retrieved from https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930073077.pdf

Comments are closed.

X