Science Reveals: Houseplants For Health


I grew up in a house filled with house plants. They have always been a source of peace for me, so when I moved out I made sure to fill my window sills with lots of plants too. I know that my plants contribute to my well-being and research can back me up. Having plants inside your home has been shown to have profound effects on mental health, improving indoor air quality, and healing.

Houseplants For Mental Health

Plants, whether it is trees in the forest or potted plants in your window, have a relaxing effect on humans. They have been found to improve your mood, reduce stress, and increase productivity.

Any plant lover knows, without scientific proof, that having plants around and caring for plants is a great way to improve your mood quickly and effectively. For those that have not had this experience, science is there to back it up. A number of studies found that the reported mood of study participants was improved with the presence of potted plants (1).

Studies have also shown that the stress reduction of being in nature can be achieved with houseplants. Study participants were found to become less stressed from various stressful activities, such as performing difficult computer tasks, and to recover quicker after the task, when houseplants were present (1).

Productivity is increased with the presence of plants, according to a number of studies (1). This is likely related to the better mood and reduced stress that comes with having plants around. What easier way to get more work done than adding a few plants to your desk.

Houseplants Bring A Breath Of Fresh Air

Air quality is a huge factor in keeping us healthy. Air purity and humidity affect our bodies profoundly, especially in the winter, when the air flow in and out of your home is restricted. Houseplants are a simple and effective way to improve air quality and increase humidity.

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, as well as many other scientists, have conducted studies on using plants to improve air quality. The findings are quite remarkable, showing that plants can reduce the levels of many air pollutants such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, ozone, toluene, and benzene (1).

Plants also improve the air in your home by increasing oxygen levels. Increased oxygen can be especially helpful for people with chronic lung diseases, such as COPD (2), or those that live at high altitudes (3).

Dry indoor air can lead to much discomfort, causing dry skin, chapped lips, irritated sinuses and throat, and itchy eyes. Over time, this can inflame the mucous membrane lining of your respiratory tract which can lead to increased susceptibility to colds, flu and other infections . Luckily dry air is very easy to rectify, with houseplants being a great choice to add humidity to the air.

One study found that with plants occupying less than 2% of the room, relative humidity was raised from 25% without plants to 30% with plants. Plants naturally adjust how much humidity they add to the air, depending on the relative humidity of the room. In a very humid room, evaporation slows, so less moisture will be added to a room, and conversely, in a very dry room, a lot of moisture will be added. So you do not have to worry about plants adding too much moisture to your home. (1)

Healing With Houseplants

Plants have a healing quality on people. Studies have found that pain reduction and accelerated healing can result from having houseplants in your living space. The healing properties are probably in many ways related to benefits of plants listed above, improved mood, reduced stress, improved air quality, and reduction of dry air. Surrounding yourself with plants, what a wonderful way to heal naturally.

Researchers have found that patients suffering from acute pain who had plants around them used fewer doses of painkillers than patients without a view of plants. Another study showed that pain tolerance was increased with the presence of houseplants. Both these studies suggest that plants can be used as an effective, non-evasive pain reduction technique. (1)

Studies have found that recovery time is reduced when plants are within sight of the patient (4). This is especially helpful in a hospital setting. So next time a loved one is sick buy them the traditional get well flowers to help them recover faster.

Houseplants For First Aid And Food

A very obvious benefit of plants is that they provided us with many useful products. Both food and medicine can be obtained from plants that can be grown indoors. Herbs, aloe vera, leafy greens, and sprouts are just a few useful plants that are commonly grown indoors. If you are willing to set up some kind of lighting system, this list grows much longer.

Easy Houseplant Choices For The Novice

If your home does not offer the greatest windows for growing plants indoors or your plant rearing skills are sub-par, do not be discouraged. There are many plants that can thrive with low light, drafts, and sporadic care.

Here are a few of the houseplants I recommend. They are all very easy to care for and attractive:

    • ficus
    • dragon tree
    • rubber tree
    • peace lily

What are your favourite low maintenance houseplants?

Sources for this article include:
(1) Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
Washington State University: What Are the Benefits of Plants Indoors and Why Do We Respond
Positively to Them?
, by Virginia I. Lohr
(2) Lung Institute: 5 Ways to Improve Your Oxygen Levels, by Phoebe Brown
(3) National Centre for Biotechnology Information
Search database: Oxygen enrichment of room air to improve well-being and productivity at high altitude.
, by Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego
(4) Ellison Chair in International Floriculture: Health and well-being benefits of plants

Amy Lock
Amy is a writer and a mother of two young boys. She has a wide variety of interests including mindful parenting, small space gardening, health and fitness, creative healthy recipes, and more... all of which are reflected in her writing.

If you like what you read and want more subscribe today.