You probably already know that plants are good for you and that you should eat more of them. But did you know that there are houseplants that will literally pull toxins from the air?
Some of us have green thumbs. Some of us are houseplant serial killers… Even if you fall into the plant killer category, you should buy and care for some air purifying houseplants in your home (and office).
90% of people spend the majority of their days indoors and you may or may not have any control of the ventilation quality.
Astronauts just need space…and plants
Without ventilation, air gets toxic over time.
Back in the 1980s, NASA studied indoor air pollution and researched ways to clean the air inside space stations because apparently you can’t just open a window to air out the joint when you’re orbiting space.
Did you know that the research from NASA recommends having at least one air purifying plant per 100 square feet of home or office space?
Let’s do a little math. Let’s say you’re living in a 900 square foot apartment in NYC. According to NASA’s study, that’s nine houseplants to clean the air.
And by the way, if you’re using chemical-based air fresheners in your home? Stop. The number one thing you can do to improve the health of your home is to rid your home of synthetic fragrances. Fragrance is a term that legally encompasses over 3,000 ingredients. So when you read your labels and you see fragrance listed there, be aware that there could be just one fragrance ingredient or there could be all 3,000 of them in your product.
What About Your Furry Friends?
NASA’s recommended plants for reducing air pollution are great for indoor air quality but many of these plants’ leaves are toxic to pets. So before you run out and buy all the plants, take a look at your lifestyle. Pets? Toddlers? Anyone else prone to eating leaves out of curiosity?
According to the NASA air purifying plant chart, there is not a single plant that removes all the 5 major air toxins that is NOT also toxic to dogs if eaten. We have cats and dogs – one of which might nibble leaves while the other wouldn’t ever give it a taste. So understand your pets’ temperaments and decide what works for your household.
The level of toxicity has a huge range from mild stomach upset to much worse, so we recommend double checking the lists here:
(Seasonal note: Poinsettias are mildly toxic to cats but deadly to kittens, who like human babies, metabolize toxins differently than adults.) And while you’re at it, check this out → 5 Common Houseplants Toxic to Children and Pets
Our love of plant-based eating doesn’t include houseplants… 😉
Top 3 Plants for Growing Your Own Fresh Air
In his TED Talk “How to grow fresh air”, environmental specialist Kamal Meattle boils it down to 3 plants that are highly effective at cleaning air, even highly polluted air.
- Areca Palm – wipe the leaves so the plant can do its job and it’s non-toxic to pets and humans even if eaten
- Mother in Law’s Tongue/Snake Plant – if eaten, its leaves are mildly toxic to pets. This plant is great for bedrooms because it converts CO2 to oxygen only at night so it literally cleans the air as you sleep.
- Money Plant/Golden Pothos – also known as Devil's ivy because it’s so darn hard to kill, Pothos plant leaves are toxic to pets and mildly toxic to humans if eaten
The NASA Clean Air Study found that the humble Snake Plant has air purification qualities, removing 4 of the 5 main toxins with a unique process. The gas exchange pores on their leaves only open at night so as a result, oxygen is released at night, unlike most plants that only exchange gases during the day.
Quick Tip: Save this graphic to your phone to take to your local nursery.
A few particular plant varieties are excellent at removing airborne toxins such as formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene, and benzene….which unfortunately might be in your house. You just water the plant, wipe the leaves regularly, and keep it alive and in return, it removes toxic chemicals from your breathing air. Sounds like a fair trade to us!
10 more air healthifying houseplants:
- Aloe Vera: Aloe vera, toxic if eaten (but the internal gel is great for sunburns and cuts)
- Areca Palm/Golden Cane Palm/Butterfly Palm: Dypsis lutescens, non-toxic if eaten
- Bamboo Palm: Chamaedorea seifrizii, non-toxic to pets if eaten
- Boston Fern: Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis', non-toxic if eaten
- Devil’s Ivy/Money Plant/Golden Pothos: Epipremnum aureum For you houseplant killers, note that this variety is hard to kill! toxic if eaten.
- Dracaena: multiple varieties, toxic if eaten
- English Ivy: Hedera helix English Ivy is beautiful and cleans the air, but its leaves are mildly toxic to pets. Since ivy tends to grow long and trail, keep it trimmed and out of reach.
- Ficus/Weeping Fig/Rubber Plant: Ficus benjamina toxic if eaten.
- Mother in Law’s Tongue/Snake Plant: Sansevieria trifasciata, mildly toxic if eaten.
- Philodendron: multiple varieties, toxic to children and pets if eaten
Quick Tip: Save this graphic to your phone to take to your local nursery.
But wait, there’s more… 4 other ways you can use plants to increase your health
1. Plants can make you happier
Besides filtering the air, looking at and caring for houseplants can elevate your mood and digging in the dirt can literally increase your serotonin levels. The microbe M. vaccae that lives in soil enters your body through inhalation of the dirt and boosts your serotonin. Houseplants and fresh cut flowers are also a great way to naturally combat seasonal depression.
The act of caring for plants and the routine of watering and removing dead leaves can be a practice in mindfulness itself.
2. Plants can help you think more creatively
Apparently, just having green leafy plants in sight while doing your intense desk job can make you work smarter and more creatively. Not only do they help clear the air, they help you clear your stress too.
A recent article by Psychology Today about the cognitive and emotional upside of houseplants said, “The presence of green leafy plants has also been linked to enhanced creative thinking.” Interesting to note that very lifelike artificial plants had the same benefit on quality of improving work.
3. Plant-based eating can help you lose weight and feel great
Even omnivores need more vegetables. As Michael Pollan says, eating can be distilled into simply this “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Plant-based eating can help you stay healthy from the inside out. Eating fresh organic produce is an easy and delicious way to shed pounds, discover new fruits and vegetables that you didn’t even know existed (Dragonfruit or watermelon radishes anyone?), and pack your diet with antioxidants, fiber, and cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
We're about to read Ketotarian: The (Mostly) Plant-Based Plan to Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings, and Calm Inflammation to see what they have to say on the subject of weight loss, ketogenic diets, and plants.
4. Plants can help you treat illness and improve your skin
When sickness strikes, you can reach for your arsenal of home remedies such as our elderberry syrup for colds and flu or our homemade botanical cough syrup. Herbs, medicinal roots, and plants have been the basis of medicines for thousands of years.
In recent years, the pharmaceutical and cosmeceutical industry have been researching and incorporating botanical agents into medications and topical skin care. We’ll be seeing even more botanical extracts in skin care such as green tea phytochemicals, caffeine, chamomile, and soy to just name a handful.
We're currently reading Healing Mushrooms: A Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Mushrooms for Whole Body Health and can't wait to dive into exotic mushroom elixirs and coffee blends! Sounds weird, right? Right. We'll report back on how our mushroom experiments are going… 😉
If you’re ready to graduate from a simple houseplant care, you can take your gardening relationship to the next level with a kitchen window herb garden! We love the medicinal and culinary uses of Stevia, Lemon Balm, Basil, and even Dandelions.
We may not be able to help you keep your houseplants alive, but hopefully we convinced you that you need more of them in your life. So…are you ready to become the houseplant whisperer?