House plants are an excellent decorating tool in the home. They are so great for adding a beautiful aesthetic to the home that many artificial house plant variations are available in the stores. But today we’re talking about the real thing. Living house plants! Why they are a “must have” in our homes.
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They’re Good for Your Mood
House plants are actually good for your overall health and well being. Our bodies have what we call an autonomic nervous system. This system can make us feel super stressed when it’s excited (“fight or flight”). On the flip side, when the autonomic nervous system is calmed, we in turn feel relaxed (“rest and digest”). Which feeling do you prefer?
I definitely prefer a state of calmness for my mind and body. Since my home is my sanctuary, my little safe place away from the world, I want myself and my family to feel calm there. That’s where plants come in.
Plants can help calm that autonomic nervous system so you personally feel less stress… meaning more calm. The research is out there. The overwhelming finding is that the more time we spend exposed to plants (and nature) the greater the positive effect it will have on our mood and energy.
Not only are they good for our mood. But they are good for our overall health as well…
Chemicals In Our Homes
In today’s not-so-simple world we are constantly bringing items into our home which off-gas volatile organic compounds. These VOCs, as they’re more commonly referred to, are dangerous to our health. They’re found in many plastics and synthetic materials.
Many people have heard of low-VOC or VOC-free paints that are now available. But did you realize that when you bring plastic bags from the grocery store into your home that you are introducing VOCs? Items such as glues, cosmetics, fabrics and drapes, flooring and carpeting, paper towels, cleaning products, and more contain different chemicals that are emitted into the air of our homes.
The most common types of chemicals off-gassing into our homes are formaldehyde, xylene/toluene, benzene, trichloroethylene, and ammonia.
How Harmful Are VOCs
Let’s look at the most common types of VOCs I named above, where they are found in our homes, and what negative effects they have on our bodies.
1. Formaldehyde: Is labeled as a known carcinogen. It can disrupt our dermal (skin), gastrointestinal (stomach), immunological (immune system), and respiratory (nose to lungs) systems. Formaldehyde is used in glues, resins, paper products (such as paper towels, napkins, and facial tissues), drapes, cosmetics, and wood composite materials (such as flooring and furniture). It is also found in bathrooms, as it may be used as a preservative in medicines, cosmetics, and antiseptics.
2. Xylene/toluene: Is not a known carcinogen, per the Centers for Disease Control. However, it is known to have a negative effect on both our cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) and neurological (brain, spinal cord, and nerves) systems. It has also been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage. Xylene/toluene is used in paints, including nail polish, adhesives, and rubber floors.
3. Benzene: Is labeled a known carcinogen that has also shown to be toxic to embryos. It can disrupt our hematological (blood), immunological, and neurological systems. Benzene is commonly found in detergents, dyes, rubber, lubricants, nylon and other synthetic fibers.
4. Trichloroethylene: Is labeled as a known carcinogen and can disrupt our neurological system. Additionally, it has been shown to have a negative effect on organ development in fetuses. It is found in grease removers, spot removers, and correction fluid (like white-out products).
5. Ammonia: Though not labeled as a known carcinogen it can disrupt our ocular (eyes), dermal, and respiratory systems. Ammonia is commonly found in household cleaning products.
The Science Behind It
In 1989 NASA partnered with the Associated Landscape Contractors of North America (ALCAN); together, they gathered a group of scientists to further study what NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center first discovered in 1980. That houseplants could remove volatile organic compounds (more commonly known as VOCs) from sealed test chambers.
The NASA scientists focused their study on three leading VOCs: benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. In an effort to test how well the plants cleaned the air of these chemicals, they created a little “biohome” constructed of plastic and other synthetic materials. They purposely chose materials that would off-gas VOCs. The biohome would be home to the experiment. First, the scientists took air samples from the empty biohome. They measured the amount of each VOC. Then they placed plants in the biohome. Once the plants were in the biohome they measured the VOCs in the air and in the soil of the plants. The findings concluded that plants do remove VOCs from the air and continue to do so as time passes.
We Need Plants in Our Home
Plants not only have a positive effect on our mood and mental health but they have a great effect on the air we breathe while in our homes. All too often people complain about headaches, allergies, and general “sick-syndrome” without realizing that the quality of air inside our homes is having a lasting detrimental effect on our well-being.
Now that you’re ready to incorporate plants in your home, check out my post about 15 of the best indoor plants.
If you’re interested in learning more about how plants help the air in our homes, B.C. Wolverton, one of NASA’s scientists leading the study in 1989, wrote How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office that I would highly recommend.
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I also want to hear about which plants you have in your home, so leave me a comment.
Till next time…