The benefits of inviting plants into your home extend far beyond the visual pleasure of additional greenery. These companion life forms heighten our physical and mental health for various reasons. As humans are spending increasing amounts of their time indoors, it is almost essential that we try to include elements of nature inside also.
The benefits of of house plants include:
Increased oxygen concentration in the air
Anyone who studied high school biology can probably remember the dubious drawings upon the white board that illustrated photosynthesis. Plants harness light energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen. Oxygen being a by-product of the process, is released into the air.
Humans undergo a somewhat polar process in which we absorb oxygen to release energy from glucose and expire carbon dioxide as a by-product.
In some ways this makes us and plants complementary opposites. We release C02 plants require for photosynthesis and they provide us with life-giving oxygen.
At least this is how it works during the day time, at night however the photosynthesis process in most plants halts, and they respire in a similar way to humans. Nevertheless they consume a minuscule amount of oxygen in comparison to humans which is greatly offset by the oxygen they provide throughout the day.
Certain plants such as orchids even continue releasing oxygen and absorbing C02 throughout the night, making these the ideal plants to place in your bedroom.
By including our green friends within our homes oxygen levels increase throughout the day (and night with some plants) helping us feel fresher and more energetic.
Approximately 10% of the moisture content in the atmosphere is a result of plant activity. Plants release approximately 97% of the water they absorb. They do this during a process called transpiration. This increases the humidity of the space around them which could be your home.
While this may not be ideal for those living in an already moist climate, it’s advantageous for those in living in arid climates.
There are a number of benefits to creating a more humid atmosphere which include mitigating respiratory diseases and reducing the likelihood of contracting colds, sore throats, and dry coughs.
Improving air quality
The majority of modern humans now spend 90% of their time indoors. Indoor air quality is notoriously poor, up 2-5 times poorer than outside of the house.
Many of the everyday items we have in our homes give of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), slowly but surely negatively impacting our health.
Carpets and grocery bags emit formaldehyde. The paint on our walls and man-made fibres emit trichloroethylene. Even the the printed material we read such as books and newspapers emit benzene.
Many of our homes are akin to mini spaceships in that they are climate-controlled and rarely have the windows open. This allows VOCs to accumulate and prevents them from exiting.
Obviously the first way to help combat this is to leave windows slightly open to allow air to circulate and change itself.
Research from Nasa has also found that plants play a decisive role in improving indoor air quality. They found that house plants remove a staggering 87% of VOCs from the air every twentyfour hour period. The pollutants are transported to soil where root zone micro-organisms convert them into food for the plant.
Simply leaving the window open and having some plants in your home can purify and improve the air quality drastically.
The presence of plants in hospital recovery rooms and/or views of aesthetically-pleasing gardens help patients to heal faster, due to the soothing effects of ornamental horticulture.
Post surgery patients recover quicker when plants are present in their rooms, compared to those absent plants. Researchers at Kansas state university also recorded that patients whose rooms contained plants had reduced blood pressure and heart rates, and experienced less anxiety and fatigue than those that did not.
Another technique to decrease recovery time, as noted by Texas A&M University, is horticulture therapy in which patients are tasked with taking care of plants. The patients who physically interact with plants experience a significantly reduced recovery time after medical procedures compared to those who did not.
Both the Dutch Board for Horticulture and the Norwegian Agricultural University independently discovered that including plants in the offices decreased fatigue, colds, headaches, and other flu like symptoms. The latter also found that employee absent rates were reduced by 60% when office plants were present. Perhaps employees were also more enthusiastic to attend work when the office contributed more than white walls.
Keeping ornamental plants in the home and in the workplace increases memory retention and concentration. The calming influence of natural environments is conducive to increasing a person’s ability to concentrate on the task at hand.
This has also been found in students that are taught in classrooms that have plants present. Students at the royal College of Agriculture in Cirencester, England, were 70% more attentive under these conditions. It was also found that they had higher attendance than those that were taught in classrooms without plants.
The effect of nature in the home and in the workplace serves to stimulate both the senses and the mind, improving mental cognition and performance.
Sharing our homes with non-human lifeforms
Plants are not just our air purifiers and cognitive enhancers. Plants were among the first life forms here on Earth and had evolved to inhabit the land as early as 700 million years ago. Homo Sapiens have only been walking the Earth for 200,000 years meaning plants have been here thousands of times longer than us. This alone deserves respect.
Furthermore there has only been a few minor changes in mankind’s biology, physiology, and genetics over the course of the past 200,000 years. Our entire evolutionary history has depended on plants. Oxygen, food, water (sometimes), materials, and medicine. We have never existed without them being in close proximity to us. Of course the exception of the last 70-100 years in which our environments have become increasingly artificial.
There may not currently be all the scientific evidence to explain the many intricate ways in which plants positively effect human health and well being, but more is being discovered all the time. Have no doubt that future humans will find it inconceivable how we allowed ourselves to exist without plants in our immediate environments.
By incorporating plants into our homes we learn to share and co-inhabit with non-human life. By doing this we are not only honouring and showing compassion for the life forms that came before us, but also ensuring our ancient genes are in close contact with the companions they need to thrive.