Monday, March 17, 2008

Houseplants: Prevent the Bad & Encourage the Good!

Hello again,

My good friend Mary Mixer of Finding Mary fame came up to me the other day with one of the sharpest and most direct articles I have ever seen about how Houseplants in our home and workplace can contribute to our wellness and positive feelings.

This very helpful article that Mary showed me is found in the April 2008 of Prevention Magazine and I am reprinting most of it here:

Houseplants can reduce stress, zap environmental toxins, and even help you think more clearly
By Marissa Conrad

Interior decorators know that a potted plant can add life to a room, but these leafy greens are more than just pretty accent pieces – they can even make you healthier. We dug through decades of research to find the feel-good effects of mixing a few houseplants into your home d├ęcor, from boosting your creativity to beating the sniffles. Experts say you should amass as much green as possible. (Your body will thank you and so will your wallet – have you ever compared the cost of a fern with the price of a Picasso?)

To De-stress

Put a dragon tree in the room with the smallest windows
A little green can instantly chill you out, finds a recent survey from Sweden. City dwellers who frequently visited areas with grass and trees reported fewer feelings of burnout and panic than those who rarely saw greenery. It’s not entirely clear why, but many studies have found something similar, says Virginia I. Lohr, PhD, a professor at Washington State University who has been studying the subject for more than 30 years. It is suggested that humans are wired to know that plants are essential to survival, so seeing one makes us calm and settled. In one of Lohr’s studies, people who worked in a windowless computer lab that had common houseplants such as bamboo, palm, Chinese evergreen, snake plant, or arrowhead vine (all can grow well in low-light settings) had a 4-point drop in their systolic blood pressure after taking a stressful computer-based test, compared to only a 2-point drop in a group that had no exposure to plants. That extra 2 points is equivalent to taking about a half a blood-pressure pill, and “every point count,” says Douglas Reifler, MD, a professor of general internal medicine at Northwestern University.

To Spark Creativity

Decorate your office with small but colorful African violets
In a study from Texas A&M University, women who worked for an hour in a room decorated with two potted plants and a bouquet of flowers generated more ideas than women in a room with abstract sculptures. Studies show that plants are a mood booster, and good moods are associated with higher levels of dopamine, the hormone that controls the flow of information throughout the brain. Your next bright idea: Head to a nursery or garden store and pick up a few houseplants of your own.

To Fight Colds

Place an ultraleafy plant, such as a philodendron, in your bedroom
Dry air can lead to a parched nose and throat – and raise the risk of infection or run-of-the-mill sinusitis, says Michael Janson, MD, author of User’s Guide to Heart-Healthy Supplement. But houseplants can inject moisture back into the air and boost humidity by up to 5%, finds research from Bavarian State Institute of Viticulture and Horticulture in Germany. A humidifier would do more, but a natural boost from plants is enough to help alleviate symptoms. According to a study from Agricultural University of Norway, people with table and floor-standing plants in their offices reported 37% less coughing and 25% less hoarseness after 3 months than when they left their offices plant fee.

The researchers used heart-leaf philodendron among other plants, but you can choose the greens that are most appealing to you. Just pick a plant that has a lot of leaves, because these types release the most moisture, says Sandra Krishnan, director of horticulture at the Denver Botanical Gardens. To fight dry air while you sleep, try any indoor ivy variety, such as English ivy or peace lilies and African violets. The more plants you have the greater the benefit. Grab a few large pots and plant several smaller varieties into each.

To cut harmful exposure to harmful chemicals
All plants filter toxins from the air – so pick your favorite and put it next to your printer
If you use a lot of cleaning supplies or if you have a printer or newly painted walls or varnished furniture, you have VOCs (volatile organic compounds) – toxins that can cause dizziness, fatigue, nausea, kidney or liver damage, and even cancer. A recent study from the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia looked at the ability of two widely available houseplants – the Janet Craig, a standing plant, and the Sweet Chico, a smaller table plant – to strip VOCs from the air. Researchers found that five Sweet Chicos and one Janet Craig may reduce VOCs in a 130-square-foot room (such as a guest bedroom) by up to 70%.

When plants take in oxygen and carbon dioxide, they also pull in any toxins floating around in the air, says Kyle Wallick, a botanist at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, DC. The toxins travel through the plant, ending up near the roots. There, bacteria in the soil break down the chemicals into nontoxic compounds that the plant uses for food.
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 17, 2008

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