Unfortunately, a lot of us end up having to spend a lot of time indoors. But as human beings, we were meant to interact with and be surrounded by nature. And our health can actually take quite a toll when we aren’t exposed to enough green space and plant life on a daily basis.
Our indoor spaces are laden with toxins that come at us from all angles. They are in the carpets underneath our feet, the paint on the walls, and the furniture we sit on.1 When we are inside too much, the lack of ventilation, the artificial lighting, the lack of green, the everyday stressors, and many other factors can add up and make us feel worse both physically and mentally. There is even a name for this; it is called “sick building syndrome.”2
Getting outside as much as possible is a great start to counteracting these problems. But what about when you have no choice but to be stuck inside, whether that is due to work, family life, or other responsibilities? What can you do to help yourself prevent some of the negative consequences of indoor life?
One easy, simple solution is to add more houseplants to your indoor spaces. Plants can have a tremendous impact on your health, helping you to feel better in both mind and body.
The many health benefits of houseplants
Houseplants can positively affect your health in numerous ways. The benefits range from filtering the air your breathe to reducing stress to keeping humidity in the ideal range.
Here are the top 7 health benefits of houseplants:
1. They clean the air
One of the greatest health benefits of houseplants is their ability to clean your air of toxins.1 3 4 5 9 Back in the 1980s, NASA began studying this topic and found that plants can remove many indoor air pollutants.3 4 It turns out that a plant itself can absorb pathogens and chemicals that come from the air, destroying them and converting them into new plant tissues.1 This is true for things like bacteria, formaldehyde, benzene, and other harmful compounds.3 4
If you want to be breathing clean air every day, then a few plants placed strategically throughout your home or office can be very effective.
2. They boost your emotional well-being
Having plants in the indoor spaces around you can also affect the way you feel emotionally.
For example, being in the presence of plants can help increase positive feelings such as happiness, cheerfulness, peacefulness, relaxation, calmness, warmth, and pleasantness. Plants can also decrease negative feelings like anxiety, pressure, and fatigue.8 10 Overall, this can increase your quality of life.
3. They help you reduce stress
Taking care of and directly interacting with the plants is even better. One study showed that people who worked with houseplants by transplanting them felt more comfortable, soothed, and natural, which ultimately decreased effects of physiological and psychological stress.11
If you are dealing with a lot of stress, like at work, then try getting a plant or two for your desk that you care for and see daily.
4. They help keep humidity just right
Part of plant biology involves the release of water through the leaves. This means that plants release moisture into the air around them.
For ideal health, we want the humidity in the air around us to stay between 30 and 60%. When humidity is too low, you can become more susceptible to getting a sore throat, catching the common cold, or having dry skin, for example.8 In dry climates or during dry seasons, houseplants can promote ideal humidity, helping to decrease the likelihood of those kinds of health problems.7
And the best part is that you don’t have to worry about indoor plants raising the humidity inside by too much. When humidity in the environment rises, the water loss from the plants slows to compensate; this makes it very unlikely for high humidity to become a problem.8
5. They can reduce pain and physical discomfort
Our bodies benefit from bringing nature inside, and we can end up feeling better on a physical level when we are in the presence of plants.
Houseplants can actually help us to feel less physical discomfort, increase our pain tolerance, recover faster from surgery, and more.1 8 So whether you are dealing with an injury, chronic pain, or just want to feel the best that you can, a potted plant or two around the home could be well worth your while.
6. They improve your productivity
Houseplants can help us to work better, so they are a great addition to either a home office or your workplace.
Memory, productivity, accuracy, creativity, and quality of your work can all go up in the presence of plants.5 8 12 This can help you to feel better about your work and less stressed at the end of the day.
7. They introduce beneficial microbes to your space
Being exposed to beneficial bacteria in your environment is good for your health. Otherwise, the harmful, pathogenic bacteria can get out of hand and take over.
Indoor houseplants are a great way to introduce the friendly kinds of bacteria into your space, which can positively impact your health and well-being. They can counteract pathogens and bring better balance into the microbial ecosystem around you.12
Choosing the best houseplants for health
Adding a few plants to your indoor spaces can be one of the easiest ways to give your health and well-being a little bit of a boost.
It’s such a simple, effective strategy that can leave your air cleaner, your space greener, your mood brighter, and your productivity a little higher. So why not give it a go?
You don’t need many plants to make a difference. Just a pot or two per 100 square feet of space (and even just a few minutes of being in their presence) can bring on powerful shifts in how you feel.5 10
Some easy-to-care for plants to choose from that are great for cleaning toxins from the air include:
- Peace lily
- Snake plant
- Areca palm
- Lady palm
- Bamboo palm
- Spider plant
- English ivy
- Chinese evergreen
- Devil’s ivy
- Boston fern
- Ficus1 4 5
Take a look around a local nursery or plant shop, and find a few of the plants from the list above that you like the look and feel of. Purchase a pot that will add to the décor of your space, and ask for care instructions if needed.
Then bring home your new plant friend and start feeling the difference of indoor greenery right away. You might be surprised by how strong the mental and physical health benefits of houseplants can be. A few green leaves can go a very long way!
About Chelsea Clark
Chelsea Clark is a writer and certified health and wellness coach who is passionate about supporting others along their own health journeys. She enjoys helping people make positive, lasting changes so that they can live the happiest, healthiest life possible.
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2. “Sick Building Syndrome.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. Epa.gov.
3. Wolverton, B.C., W.L Douglas, & K. Bounds. “A Study of Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement.” NASA Technical Report (1989).
4. Claudio, L. “Planting Healthier Indoor Air.” Environmental Health Perspectives 119, no. 10 (2011): a426-a427.
5. Perry, L. “Benefits of Using Plants Indoors.” University of Vermont Department of Plant and Soil Science. Pss.uvm.edu.
6. Hort, D., M. Cantor, E. Buta, & I. Andreiscu “Benefits and Positive Effects of Some Houseplants on Indoor Air Quality.” Agricultura 81, no. 1-2 (2012): 94-98.
7. Drevets, Tricia. “Best Houseplants for Re-Humidifying Your Dry Indoor Air.” MH Sub 1, LLC. Davesgarden.com.
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11. Lee, M., J. Lee, B. Park, Y. Miyazaki. “Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study.” Journal of Physiological Anthropology 34, no. 1 (2015): 21.
12. Berg, G., A. Mahnert, & C. Moissl-Eichinger. “Beneficial effects of plant-associated microbes on indoor microbiomes and human health?” Frontiers in Microbiology 29 (2014).