Taking Back Our Stolen History
House Plants
House Plants

House Plants

Very functional decorations for your home and office that brighten your space, improve your mood and clean your air. Several studies have found potted plants improve your work and living space by reducing your blood pressure, improving your attention and productivity, lowering your anxiety levels and raising your job satisfaction.17  Other research has demonstrated that doing tasks around plants has led to a higher degree of accuracy and better results in the task performed.18 Memory retention and concentration also improved in this study. The researchers found that exposure to plants improved memory performance by 20 percent.

Research has also demonstrated that indoor plants kept close to an individual’s space at work had a statistically significant effect on how many sick days they took and their level of productivity.19 These associations may have practical significance when applied to a large number of workers over time.

A number of studies with both students and workers reveals that studying or working in the presence of plants can have a pretty dramatic effect. As with simply being in nature, being around plants improves concentration, memory and productivity. Being “under the influence of plants” can increase memory retention up to 20 percent, according to a University of Michigan study.

Meanwhile, two Norwegian studies found that worker productivity is greatly enhanced by the presence of plants in the office. “Keeping ornamental plants in the home and in the workplace increases memory retention and concentration,” notes Texas A&M. “Work performed under the natural influence of ornamental plants is normally of higher quality and completed with a much higher accuracy rate than work done in environments devoid of nature.

Plants may also be used for phytoremediation, or the mitigation of pollution in air, soil and water. Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), University of Georgia and Pennsylvania State University have demonstrated that potted plants in your home can improve your air quality.20

Plants remove pollutants by absorbing them through their leaves and roots, in much the same way they clean the outdoor air from the pollution given off by manufacturing plants, cars and heating systems.

Some air pollutants are 100 times more concentrated in your home than they are outside. Several sociological studies demonstrate the average amount of time a person living in the U.S. spends indoors is close to 92 percent of their day. The data indicates people who are employed spend 2 percent of their time outside and 6 percent in transit between home and work.1

This means the quality of the indoor air you breathe is very important to your long-term health. According the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), poor indoor air quality is one of the top public health risks you face each day.2

Poor quality air has been linked to a number of different health effects that may be experienced immediately or several years later. Understanding and controlling the indoor air pollution you are exposed to by making small changes to your living space may help reduce your health risks.

Most leafy plants are adept at removing some pollution from your indoor air. However, scientists have also discovered there are several that are better at removing VOCs from your home and workplace. NASA was behind some of the initial research in 1989 to determine specific plants that might be useful to reduce pollution in sealed environments.21

Inhaling brings oxygen into the body, exhaling releases carbon dioxide. During photosynthesis, plants do the opposite, of sorts: They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, making plants and people great partners when it comes to gasses. Plants help to increase oxygen levels, and our bodies appreciate that.

But here’s something to know: When photosynthesis stops at night, most plants switch things up and absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. However, a few special plants – like orchids, succulents and epiphytic bromeliads – flip that script and take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Meaning, use these plants (see snake plant below) in bedrooms to keep the oxygen flowing at night.

A study out of the University of Hyogo in Awaji, Japan, details the stress-reducing benefits to office workers that even a small plant situated within easy viewing can impart. Masahiro Toyoda, Yuko Yokota, Marni Barnes, and Midori Kaneko explored the practical use of indoor plants to boost mental health among employees typically removed from exposure to healthy green environments.

Their findings are illustrated in their article “Potential of a Small Indoor Plant on the Desk for Reducing Office Workers’ Stress” published in the open access journal HortTechnology, by the American Society for Horticultural Science.

In modern society, stress reduction in the workplace is a pressing issue. While it has been commonly assumed that plant life is soothing to those required to regularly face stressful or mundane situations, this study scientifically verifies the degree of psychological and physiological impact induced by indoor plants. Rather than conducting experiments in a laboratory setting, the researchers calculated stress reduction on employees in real office settings.

Toyoda adds, “At present, not so many people fully understand and utilize the benefit of stress recovery brought by plants in the workplace. To ameliorate such situations, we decided it essential to verify and provide scientific evidence for the stress restorative effect by nearby plants in a real office setting.”

Toyoda and his team investigated changes in psychological and physiological stress before and after placing a plant on the workers’ desks. Sixty-three office workers in Japan were the participants of this study. The participants were directed to take a 3-minute rest while sitting at their desks when they felt fatigue.

There were two phases of the study: a control period without plants and an intervention period when the participants were able to see and care for a small plant. The researchers measured psychological stress in the participants using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. The ratio of the participants whose pulse rate lowered significantly after a 3-minute rest with interaction with their desk plant proved definitive.

The objective of this study was to verify the stress-reducing effect of gazing intentionally at a plant in a real office setting when a worker felt fatigue during office hours. Each plant used in the study was chosen and cared for by the worker. Both passive and active involvement with plants in the workplace were considered for their contribution to mitigation of stress and fatigue.

Participants were provided routine visual access to plants by having their choice of plant situated conveniently on their desks (a passive involvement with plants). They also had the opportunity to care for their plant (an active involvement with plants). Furthermore, the researchers considered that intentionally gazing at the plant was, though not involving physical movement, an active interaction with plants that office workers could do quickly and easily at their desks.

Participants were offered a choice of six different types of plants to keep on their desks: air plants, bonsai plants, san pedro cactus, foliage plants, kokedama, or echeveria. Each participant chose one of the six types of small indoor plants and placed it near the PC monitor on their desk.

The calming effects calculated during the study showed that anxiety decreased significantly from pre- to post-intervention. The results did not skew when looking at the data within the various age groups of the workers or with different plant selections. The researchers suggest that placing small plants within close sight contributed to psychological stress reduction across the board.

Toyoda and his team suggest for business owners that small indoor plants could be economical and helpful in efforts improve office conditions for employees. In addition, for growers of indoor plants and business owners of retail plant companies, the field of mental health for office workers could open up a new avenue of a promising market.

Researchers have continued to investigate the abilities of different plants to clean your indoor air of pollution. More recent research has identified these 12 houseplants as those that are most beneficial, and the specific VOCs they are adept at removing.22,23 The results from this study are on the agenda of a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

  1. Jade Plant. Particularly good at absorbing toluene emitted from gasoline, paint, kerosene and lacquers. These plants flourish in medium light, single pot and room temperature. Allow the soil to dry between watering; brown leaves indicate they need more water.24
  2. Spider Plant. These plants can absorb up to 90 percent of formaldehyde and carbon monoxide from tobacco smoke and O-xylene from fuels and P-xylene found in plastics. (This plant is also called the airplane plant.) It is resilient and survives well even if you don’t have a green thumb. The plant is safe for your pets and easy to grow.25
  3. Scarlet Start. In the family of Bromeliads, as is the pineapple, this plant easily purifies the air of 90 percent of benzenes emitted from glues, furniture wax, detergent and paint. These plants are easy to grow indoors and have very few problems with pests. They withstand drought well, but never overwater them.26
  4. Caribbean Tree Cactus. These lovely cactus plants can absorb up to 80 percent of the ethylbenzene in the space they are kept. This chemical is emitted from electronic products, construction material, garden care products, toys and furniture. Most cactus plants will do well in pots with the right amount of food, light and water. Although they withstand the drought well, they do require more water indoors than they do in the ground.27
  5. Dracaena. These beautiful variegated leaf plants absorb 90 percent of the acetone from household cleaners and nail polish remover.
  6. Ferns. These leafy plants require a lot of water and provide humidity for your home.
  7. Peace Lily. These plants come in either a solid color or variegated leaf variety. They bloom in the spring and don’t require much light. Keep them close at hand in your office as they absorb electromagnetic radiation from your digital devices and humidify the air.
  8. English Ivy. Easy to grow and care for, they are excellent at absorbing the toxins from cigarette smoke and cleansing the air for people suffering from asthma.
  9. Ficus. Slightly more difficult to care for, the Ficus cleanses odors from the air and reduces toxic substances from your home and office. There are several varieties of the plant.
  10. Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue. This plant is easy to care for and grows well. It removes benzene and formaldehyde and increases the oxygen supply in the room at night.
  11. Philodendron. These are favorite plants as they are easily grown and look great in hanging pots. They efficiently detoxify formaldehyde but are toxic to cats and dogs.
  12. Bamboo Palm. Also known as the Reed Palm, this plant thrives indoors and readily absorbs formaldehyde outgassing from furniture. If you’ve purchased a new chair or couch you may want to decorate with a couple of these plants.28

 Boost your mood

Plants can also teach us a thing or two about empathy. According to Texas Agriculture & Medicine University, people who spend their time caring for nature are more likely to care for others. Caring for plants can help you increase compassion and improve your relationships.

Touching soft and smooth plants may also make you feel calmer, according to the book Holistic Solutions for Anxiety & Depression.

Flowers are associated with positive events and can act as a mood enhancer. One study found that flowers have an immediate impact on happiness and improve memory, specifically for an event. Participants of this study received flowers like roses, lilies, and daisies.

The colors you prefer may also depend on your culture and upbringing. For example, white is often associated with purity and harmony, but it’s the color of death in China.

Candida: How to fight an unseen enemy

Millions of people are currently fighting a battle against an unseen foe. Candida, a single-cell fungus, under normal circumstances resides harmlessly in the mucous membranes of your skin, nose, intestines and, in women, your vagina. Unfortunately, Candida overgrowth, often referred to as a yeast infection or Candidiasis, can occur quickly if your immune system is out of balance from eating unhealthy foods, taking prescription drugs or if you are recovering from illness.

Yeast infections are extremely common and can result in an astounding array of health problems that rob you of energy and interfere with your ability to enjoy life. Find out if you have Candida overgrowth and, more importantly, how to avoid yeast infections and overcome them naturally in my e-book, “Could a Candida Infection Be Sabotaging Your Health?”

Your Indoor Air Quality May Be 100 Times Worse Than Outside

You may think of outdoor air as being polluted and your indoor air as clean because you don’t detect chemical smells or notice smog in the air at home or in the office. As it turns out, the air in your home may be more dangerous to your health than the air outdoors.

According to the EPA, the levels of indoor air pollution in your home may be between two and five times higher than they are outside. Some of the different pollutants you breathe can even be as much as 100 times more concentrated inside.3

Many newer homes and buildings are also built with an eye toward reducing utility costs. This requires the building or home owner to purposefully ventilate the building for air exchange. Although these buildings lower utility costs, they increase your risk of health conditions when not ventilated.

Both the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have established that 80 percent of all cancers may be attributed to factors from your environment.4

Rather than genetic factors being responsible for the majority of cancers, exposure to carcinogenic chemicals and toxins are among the causative factors.

This was proposed as far back as 1977, when four scientists explained evidence from their data indicating 80 percent of all cancers were triggered by environmental factors.5 Their studies included data relating to variations in geography, changes to risk over time, migrants, correlations studies and case reports.

What Is in the Air You Breathe?

The source of indoor pollution is a combination of interactions between the building, the occupants, climate, construction, furnishings and contaminated sources.6 Pollution generated by occupants is related to tobacco smoke and the products you may bring into your home, such as air fresheners and cleaning supplies.

There are a number of different contributors to the rise in poor air quality in your home or office. Although volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is listed as one contributor, there are hundreds of different products you may find in your home that emit VOCs. The variety of contributors to indoor pollution include:7

AsbestosBacteria and virusesBuilding and paint products
Carbon monoxideCarpetsCleaning supplies and household chemicals
CockroachesDust mites and dustFormaldehyde
LeadPet danderRadon
Secondhand smokeVOCsFire retardants

VOCs are a specific and rather dangerous type of pollution emitted from products such as aerosol sprays, cleaning supplies, wood preservatives, hobby supplies and pressed wood products. Some of the more familiar names are benzene, formaldehyde and toluene.

Most of the health studies have focused on exposure to one VOC, so less is known about the effects on your health when these chemicals are found in combination.8 Although the toxicity levels for each of the separate VOCs has been determined, there are no real safe levels, and in combination those toxic levels may be lower.

How Indoor Air Pollution Impacts Your Health

Indoor air pollution can result in both short-term and long-term effects on your health. Children are especially vulnerable to chemicals and pollutants, both in their home and their school.9 Stay watchful for symptoms of air pollution in your children and get involved in your school district to improve the quality of their air.10

Short-term symptoms of exposure to indoor air pollution resemble symptoms you experience from an allergy or a cold. They include:11

Worsening asthmaItchy watery eyesHeadaches
DizzinessFatigueScratchy throat
Runny nose

While these symptoms usually disappear within a couple hours after no longer being exposed to the pollutant, long-term health conditions don’t simply resolve by removing yourself from the polluted environment. These health conditions include:12,13

Up to 80 to 90 percent of your time is indoors. Indoor air pollution can increase your risk for:

  • stroke, by 34 percent
  • ischemic heart disease, by 26 percent
  • COPD, by 22 percent
  • respiratory infections in children, by 12 percent
  • lung cancer, by 6 percent

They boost healing

Bringing flowers or a plant while visiting a hospital patient may be verging on cliché, but so effective are plants in helping surgery patients recover that one study recommends them as a “noninvasive, inexpensive, and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients.” Plants as medicine! The study, conducted at Kansas State University, found that viewing plants during recovery from surgery led to a significant improvement in physiologic responses as evidenced by lower systolic blood pressure, and lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue as compared to patients without plants in their rooms.

Another technique to decrease recovery time, as noted by Texas A&M University, is horticulture therapy in which patients are tasked with taking care of plants. The patients who physically interact with plants experience a significantly reduced recovery time after medical procedures.



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