Houseplants for a Healthier You

June 6, 2019 Shelby Mongan

Bringing the outdoors inside is the new craze, but caring for houseplants isn’t just a millennial trend, it’s a long tradition. What is new, though, is research about how healthy houseplants are for us. Whether the plant in your windowsill is a vine of pothos or a bush of rosemary, developing your green thumb can have big impact on your health.

Calmer Minds

Nature helps us chill out. One study found that indoor plants in the workplace reduce anxiety and calm nerves similar to actually looking at nature out of a window [1] . Another showed that a person following a stressful computer task with hands-on time with a houseplant registered lower blood pressure and reported feeling comforted and soothed. Stressful things will always come up, but a greener home can help make it easier to cope.

Better Nutrition

If you’re looking to eat healthier, adding fresh herbs to your meals is a great option. Cooking with herbs gives your food more flavor, cutting down on the need for extra salt or fat, not to mention the health-boosting properties they offer. New herbs can be a gateway to unique cuisines and dishes you’ve never tried before, and you may be surprised by how delicious the old pantry staples are when they come from a plant rather than a bottle. Unfortunately, herbs can be expensive and spoil quickly, and some varieties can be hard to find in the store. If you have a pot, some dirt, and a few seeds, you can cultivate fresh greens and herbs to cook with year-round!

Cleaner Air

In 1989, NASA published the first portion of ongoing research about how common houseplants improve the quality of the air in a home. They found that plants can improve oxygen levels and can also naturally filter toxic chemicals commonly found in home air.[2] While more research is still required to get specifics on exactly how well they filter in common spaces, adding some of the recommended plants to your home may help you breathe easier. A quick online search will get you a list of the top picks. Indoor plants can also improve the humidity of your home or office, which is important for reducing illness, maintaining clean air, and eliminating dust and other irritants.

Healthier Bodies

Alongside cleaner air and a calmer mind, houseplants can improve your physical health outcomes too. Kansas State University studied the effect of indoor plants in the rooms of patients recovering from surgery. Those who had plants in room reported less pain and anxiety, stayed in the hospital less time, and used less pain medication.[3]

These are just some of the benefits of keeping plants at home. Are you ready to start? Make sure you do a little research on what the plant needs, and do your best to give it those things, but don’t stress about it too much. The difference between a green thumb and a black thumb is really just a bit of attention and research. Snake plants are a great place to start! They tolerate lower light, don’t need to be watered too often, and are beautiful – plus they’re on NASA’s clean-air plants list! If you’re looking for herbs, basil and cilantro both grow easily from seed and will give you plenty to cook with. Find yourself a good pesto or taco recipe while you wait for your new plant to grow.

 

Shelby Mongan is a Training Specialist for Vitality Group. After leaving academia, she found a purpose for her passion and skills in making people healthier and enhancing and protecting lives. She is a devoted plant mom, a newly obsessed powerlifter, and considers herself a nerd with an ourdoorsy streak.

[1] “Human Response to Window Views and Indoor Plants in the Workplace”; Chang, Chen-Yen and Ping-Yun Chen; August 2005; https://journals.ashs.org/configurable/contentpage/journals$002fhortsci$002f40$002f5$002farticle-p1354.xml
[2] “Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement”; Wolverton, B. C., Anne Johnson, and Keith Bounds; September 15, 1989; https://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=19930073077
[3] “Randomized clinical trials evaluating therapeutic influences of ornamental indoor plants in hospital rooms on health outcomes of patients recovering from surgery”; Park, Seong-Hyun; 2006; https://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/handle/2097/227

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