Plants - Indoor Plants

How houseplants keep you healthy

Jennifer Murray
Photography by

Plants can do more than liven up a room and your mood—they can improve your health, too.

Plants are more than just a pretty decoration for the home or office: science has long since proven the benefits of bringing plants into indoor living spaces. In 1989, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America published a joint study investigating the ability of plants to remove toxins from the air. While the study was originally intended to be used for space travel, the findings shed light on a problem here on Earth: sick building syndrome.

Sick building syndrome is the result of energy efficiency; while great for the wallet, newer buildings and homes are often so tightly sealed to avoid energy loss that they are virtually cut off from the outside world, meaning all the potential pollutants off-gassed from synthetic building materials are trapped indoors, in the air we breathe. Breathing pollutants such as dust, chemicals and other trapped toxins can result in poor health, respiratory problems and chronic illness.

The 1989 study found that 17 plants, commonly used as houseplants or seasonal decorative plants, can remove toxic chemicals such as trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde from the air, as well as reduce carbon dioxide levels via photosynthesis. But keeping plants in your working and living spaces can do more than just help your physical health; it can improve your mental well-being, too.

Be happier at work
Kenneth Freeman, head of Ambius University and international technical director at Ambius, a company that designs indoor plant displays for commercial properties worldwide, notes that many studies since the landmark NASA/ALCA study have shown the benefits of including foliage in your living spaces. "By putting plants in the work environment, people are healthier, they're happier, they're more engaged with people around them," he says. "We've got some evidence to show that people are up to 17 per cent more productive just by having plants there."

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