Plants are more than just home decor - many of the tropical plants cultivated to be grown indoors have incredible healing properties. Humans have adapted in line with and amongst nature. And our bodies continue to respond to plants in a multitude of ways!
This blog looks at five of the best plants for physical health. These green wonders improve the quality of the air in indoor environments, either by absorbing airborne toxins or affecting humidity levels. Cleaner, moderately humid air is great for skin (especially dry, winter skin), respiratory health and our immune systems.
As well as being super tough and tolerant of a little neglect, Snake Plants are reputed to be among the best air-purifiers. Embedded in their expansive, upright fronds are tiny pores which take in and expel gasses (a bit like breathing). As your Zeylanica absorbs the carbon dioxide he needs to survive, he also mops up invisible airborne nasties.
This is good news for asthmatics and anyone vulnerable to toxins in the air. Clinical trials have shown Mother-in-Law’s Tongues to effectively reduce levels of benzene, formaldehyde and trichlorethylene in sealed environments. whereas Aloe plants and Agalonemas only remove the first two of these chemicals (but they do so very well).
In the wild, Calatheas grow low down in the humid rain-forests of South America. They like to be misted regularly, and if you get a few of these guys together, they can boost humidity in dry rooms.
Increasing humidity is especially important in dry office environments, or in the home when central heating has sapped the air of moisture. During the winter, when skin is dry and tickly coughs are rampant, a Calathea is a handy companion to have!
As a group, ferns are some of the best air-purifiers. Though the Blue Star Fern’s leaves are narrow, their total surface area is high (one of several indicators that a plant is good at filtering airborne toxins).
Plus, like the mighty Calathea, these Blue Star Ferns are native to South American rain forests and are also good at boosting humidity. Keep them in a room together and you're on your way to creating your own micro-environment! Good for dry skin and dry airwaves.
This Areca Palm has been labelled as one of the most effective plants to help relieve dry skin in winter. How so? As a thirsty plant it transpires a lot of water making it an effective humidifier, and softening the damage of central heating on our skin.
It also featured in NASA's landmark (if controversial) cleaner air study. Many contend that the extent to which plants remove toxins from the air has been overstated. Naysayers point out that the air is refreshed when doors and window are opened, and argue that you'd need many plants to achieve the same affects as NASA.
To this we say: you've obviously not been in a sealed central London office, a high rise building or a teenager's bedroom in a while! Plus, we know plenty of plant lovers up to the challenge of creating a real indoor jungle.
More on Humidity and Air Purification
Air purification is especially important in environments like offices, where fresh air doesn’t come in often, as well as in heavily polluted areas. But even common household products such as aerosol deodorant, detergent and other cleaning products can leave harmful chemicals behind, so it’s always worth investing in these natural air cleaners.
Tropical plants (some more so than others) help to boost the humidity in the air, which can help boost immunity, relieve skin conditions, and lung conditions such as COPD.
Respiratory health can be greatly improved by humidity, and it's especially important if you live or work in an air-conditioned space. Such environments have a drying drying effect on our skin and airwaves, which can cause psoriasis flare ups and respiratory irritation. These humidifiers will not only allow you to breathe more easily and reduce the ill-effects of artificially-controlled spaces.