3 Hidden Superpowers of the House Plant
Step into the jungle…
Feelings of calm, peace and stability often occur when surrounded by greenery or walking through an area with several plants — finally you can breathe out! The outside experience is on a bigger scale, but having several indoor plants can help ease the mood, and even help you feel uplifted.
1. …and breathe.
Research has shown that houseplants can clean and purify air. However, more research is needed to explain how much of which plant and to what degree. Time magazine tells us that ‘soil microorganisms in potted plants also play a part in cleaning indoor air’.
One experiment in South Korea tested the effects of indoor plants on asthmatics, and found that there were small positive changes to the air quality with a reduction in ‘volatile organic compounds’. These compounds were built up of carbon that take part in photochemical reactions in the atmosphere.
Hyper Transforming Molecules
What I mean by photochemical reaction is some compounds that have been created by molecules absorbing light and becoming so excited with this new found energy that they even transform, adopting different properties and chemical states! The reactions have a negative impact on our health and varying levels of pollution.
Science in the air — Indoor air pollutants:
Formaldehyde and Benzene are two toxic gases that are often found to be in larger quantities indoors. Plants can help absorb them, to purify the air.
- Formaldehyde: a colourless, flammable gas at room temperature. It is used in the production of fertilizer, paper and plywood. It can also be found in antiseptics, medicines, cosmetics and as a preservative in foods. Small amounts are produced naturally by plants, animals and humans but in larger quantities it becomes toxic.
- Benzene: It can be used to make other chemicals in plastic, resins, nylon and synthetic fibers. Due to this there are higher levels indoors than outdoors. It is also found in glue, paint, furniture wax and detergent as well as tobacco smoke.
Spider plant to the rescue
NASA (The National and Aeronautic and Space Administration) used the spider plant to remove toxic formaldehyde from the air. In 24 hours, 95% of the formaldehyde was removed from a sealed plexiglas chamber. NASA scientist Bill Wolverton discovered plants ‘absorb airborne pollutants’ in the air. The number of plants that you would need to be able to purify the air in a room, is still being debated.
2. Reduce stress on nervous system
Min Sun Lee and others discovered that house plants can reduce ‘physiological and psychological stress’. The participants’ blood pressure decreased through completing a task in the vicinity of indoor plants. I have found studying for hours in the company of plants definitely feels less stressful, and I find it helps bring a sense of calm which allows me to focus.
Min Sun Lee agrees as his findings show that plants stimulate the senses of vision, hearing, touch and smell. They bring soothing feelings. I find it comforting to remember when looking at plants, that the outside world remains present. It can be peaceful and beautiful and so from this stable position I can absorb myself in whatever I am doing. Whatever happens or changes, no matter what I do, this remains constant.
3. Aesthetically pleasing
We all need some beauty in our lives; it inspires us. According to research, choosing and looking at something aesthetically pleasing actually increases our sense of self! This, in the natural world, means that when we are faced with a threat or a difficult situation, we have the presence of mind to face the situation and do so successfully.
To think this can originate from the innocent, passive looking plant — it is actually hiding a super power. The RHS suggest five plants that are easy to grow:
- Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata)
- India Rubber Tree (Ficus Elastica)
- English Ivy (Hedera Helix)
- Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata)
- Mother-In-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria Trifasciata)
Despite their somewhat sedentary lives, plants spread their healing powers through absorbing toxic air pollutants and decreasing our stress. They use their looks to charm us into living our lives with a stronger sense of self, helping us to affirm our identity and face our challenges.
Plants are not to be underestimated! To generate some feelings of soothing stability and help manage that stress, why not include some greenery to your home or office? It could be life changing.
Written by Sophie Teasdale
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