To say that Humans have always had a close relationship with plants is something of an understatement, and since the Agricultural Revolution this relationship has become ever deeper and more complex. As well as the obvious reasons that we depend on plants for our very existence - for food, material resources, shelter and the air we breathe - we’ve always known that there’s a whole raft of other gifts that they offer us.
With so much of the population now dwelling within cities and other urban environments, it’s all too easy to overlook this most vital of symbiotic connections. Multiple studies have shown that the range of benefits from proximity to greenery is huge, from the sheer pleasure of simply being in a green environment, to measurable contributions to our physical wellbeing.
Oxygen and air purification
It’s common knowledge that plants generally convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through the process of photosynthesis, and of course oxygen is pretty important to us! But as well as just allowing us to keep breathing, did you also know that a well oxygenated room also helps you to think clearly, improves your blood pressure and heart rate, purifies the blood, and contributes to serotonin production?
And, in addition to pumping out fresh air, they’ll help to remove the nasty stuff from it too. Formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia, among others, are all too common, finding their way into our homes in cleaning products and building materials. Plentiful houseplants are the simplest way to counteract these pollutants (NASA have reported that English Ivy is one of the most effective choices for this, or you if you want some flowers, you could try the easy-to-care for Peace Lily).
Something that’s less widely known is that many common houseplants actually stop producing oxygen at night. However, some varieties can still be counted on while your sleeping, so you might want to consider installing an Aloe Vera or some Orchids in the bedroom (and they look great in your Sky Planter!). Check out this fascinating TED talk from Kamal Meattle to find out more.
Although the physical cause of these tangible effects, such as removing air pollutants, are relatively well understood, the reasons behind the intangible effects, such as increased happiness, are not as well-understood. Plenty of studies have been done that do however seem to suggest that plants in your environment confer many psychological benefits. For example, it has been shown that plants in the workplace could lead to increased productivity. Experiments show that cognitive performance is better in offices with plants, and simply seeing green leafy plants makes us more creative.
Hospital patients with plants in their room had lower blood pressure, lower ratings of pain, less anxiety, and less fatigue than those without, and a research study demonstrated that geraniums helped individuals recover faster and more completely from high stress situations.
In colder climates, low humidity in the home or office is another factor that can result in a sub-optimal environment. If the air you’re breathing is too dry, you are more vulnerable to dry skin, a dry nose and throat, and an increased risk of catching a cold. In addition to the health risks, it can also damage wood and drywall. But, once again, it’s houseplants to the rescue.
In fact, multiple plants grouped close together have been found to actually create a local micro-climate that prevents them from drying out as quickly. Evaporation from the plants will help to keep each other hydrated and keep the individual plants from drying out. And do we need to mention that Sky Planters look great when hung in clusters?
So, as you can see the importance of plants is not limited to their role in meeting our physical and economic needs. Plants contribute positively to our mental health, improve our physical health, and as an added bonus, they’re beautiful! Not to mention, there’s huge satisfaction to be gained from nurturing living things.
Keep an eye out for future blogs where we will be exploring many of these benefits in greater detail, and digging deeper into the specific contributions made by different species. Meanwhile, don’t take your green friends for granted. As we’ve seen, they are quietly bestowing their gifts on us even while we’re sleeping, so make sure you return the favour and take good care of them!
Joss Spry 2017