When designers add greenery to a home—design team Thom Filicia and Carson Kressley of Bravo’s “Get a Room with Carson and Thom” often use plants to give rooms life—they are looking to create a more “zen” feel in the interior of the room.
These plants, however, do more than make a room feel calmer and more relaxed. They can also boost mood, make you feel more creative and productive, and ease symptoms of anxiety. For instance, a 2014 study from researchers at Texas A&M University looked at the outcomes of several different studies and found that plants and flowers can boost productivity, making them an important addition to office spaces as well.
After adding plants to an office, Roger Ulrich, director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M said, “People’s productivity, in the form of innovation and creative problem solving, improved, which in certain circumstances could mean the difference between mild and great business success.” 1
According to a story from Psychology Today, plants offer a wide range of health benefits, enough so that even people who may not have green thumbs should consider adding a plant or two to their space just to take advantage of nature’s benefits.
Health Benefits of Living or Working with Plants
Several different studies have found that plants—sent to patients in the hospital, as bouquets to those you love, and in wreaths to comfort the bereaved—help improve mood by lowering anxiety, a dramatic health hazard. Plants also boost health and wellness in the following ways:
- Those surrounded by plants may have lower blood pressure.
- Plants in an office setting lead to increased attentiveness.
- Workplace plants boost focus.
- Office workers who have plants in their space are more productive.
- Plants lead to greater job satisfaction.
- Living things such as plants lead to an improved sense of well-being for workers.
Who knew a potted plant could have that much power?
Why Do Plants Improve Health?
There are many reasons why plants are beneficial, including cleaning the air of toxins. Plants naturally trap toxins such as carbon dioxide, then break them down and release them back into the air as harmless particles.2 Plants are especially good at taking care of the carbon dioxide humans release when they breathe. As part of photosynthesis, plants absorb that carbon dioxide and release oxygen, instantly cleaning up the air.3
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Cleaner air is good for everyone, but air purified by houseplants helps improve health significantly, reducing the risk of strokes, heart disease, and lung cancer. Plants can also help reduce symptoms in those who are already suffering from illness.
Plants with Power Moves
Most plants stop photosynthesis at night after the sun goes down, but some special house plants, including orchids and succulents, take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen all night long, making them great options for houseplants to keep in the bedroom. Oxygen is not the only health benefit a house plant provides, however.
Indoors, house plants elevate humidity levels, so the skin doesn’t tend to dry out, even in winter. According to a study from the Agricultural University of Norway, plants in indoor spaces reduced levels of dry skin, colds, dry, hacking coughs, and sore throats. Houseplants also help prevent the transmission of the flu virus.4
There are 30,000 terpenes found in nature and each offer health benefits (controlling stress, reducing inflammation, alleviating pain, etc.) that house plants—which bring elements of nature indoors—should be a natural way to take advantage of the health benefits that nature has to offer.
For example, lavender contains the stress-busting compound linalool, indoor evergreens contain pinene, which boosts alertness, the immune-booster limonene is found in citrus, and rosemary offers the pine-scented terpene cineole, which helps strengthen the immune system.
Best Indoor Plants to Spark Happiness
Lavender, which contains the terpene linalool, instantly brings with it a sense of calm. Therefore, it is a great plant to grow indoors, allowing the natural aroma—not an air freshener—to infuse your space. Lavender proliferates as a perennial outdoors, spreading fast enough to provide subtle color and a bold aroma to a flower or herb garden. As a potted plant indoors, it can do the same.
Other indoor plants with potent aromatherapy powers include:
- Miniature Citrus Trees – Not only do these citrus trees produce fruit but the citrus scent helps freshen the space and promote feelings of vibrancy and energy.
- Small Conifers – Forest terpenes can be part of your indoor decor with the right evergreen.
- Herbs – A small herb garden can fill your kitchen with aromatherapy benefits while helping inspire more flavorful, fresh meals.
Growing Plants Can Also Improve Mood
Most gardeners are happy people, in part because they get up close and personal with the distinctive scent of a tomato vine, fresh and bright, an aroma that overshadows just about every other piece of produce. It’s also therapeutic, experts say.
One interesting trend is horticulture therapy, established in 1973 as a way to explore how growing plants can have genuine therapeutic benefits for those getting their hands dirty. “Gardening is one of the oldest healing arts; yet as a science, it is very new among the therapeutic professions. This new science is called ‘horticultural therapy,’” said Dr. Diane Relf.5
The roots of horticulture therapy extend much further, however. Dr. Benjamin Rush—one of the founding fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence and was known as the Father of American Psychiatry, was the first expert to recognize and document the power of gardening on those with mental illness. This goes to show that the power of plants goes way back, and it’s possible to continue to experience similar health benefits in the modern as well.
If you don’t have a green thumb, start with succulents. They require little care, and they can be grown in pieces of pottery you picked up at an art show to further enhance the space. As you grow more secure with your skills, add plants at will. You don’t need to turn your space as green as “The Little Shop of Horrors,” but a few plants in each room will reduce anxiety, boost productivity and improve your satisfaction levels. What’s not to love?
Photo credits: MayaKruchankova/shutterstock.com, Followtheflow/shutterstock.com, NookChantharat/shutterstock.com, ABOPHOTOGRAPHY/shutterstock.com