Plants that Promote Clean Indoor Air

Sadly, we live in a toxic world. Before we even leave the house, we are exposed to the chemicals in household cleaning and personal care products, chemicals in our food and drink, and toxins off-gassing from home furnishings and building materials. Then we step outside where we are faced with air pollution from traffic, factory fumes, lawn chemicals, and more. It seems like we can’t win.

Research performed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that indoor air pollution is actually a more consistent threat to our health than outdoor pollution. This pollution comes primarily from volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), such as formaldehyde, that are present in new building materials. These materials include carpeting, paneling, cabinets, fabrics, and more. Constantly being exposed to VOCs can be a factor in a wide range of serious chronic diseases.

The good news is, the detoxification systems of our bodies (our liver, kidneys, etc) are really good at getting rid of a lot of that junk. Our bodies are designed to filter out the toxins that come in… and our detox systems are highly efficient. However, the heavy exposures can easily overburden even the most efficient filtration system. That’s why the more you can minimize your exposure to toxic compounds, the better. The less exposure you have, the less likely you are to stress your detox systems.

So, how do we minimize our exposure? One way is to properly filter the air inside our homes, such as with an HEPA air filter. Another simple and natural way is… growing and keeping houseplants. For the past two decades, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has researched plants that remove toxic chemicals from the air, for use in space stations. Some plants have been found to help get rid of VOCs, and others are good at air purification in general.

The following plants have been found to be particularly effective for cleaning the air of volatile organic chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene:

– Mass cane (Dracaena massangeana)

– Pot mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)

– Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

– Warnecki (Dracaena deremensis “Warneckei”)

– Ficus (Ficus benjamina)

– Rubber tree (Ficus elastica)

The following plants have been found effective at general air purification:

– English ivy (Hedera Helix)Marginata (Dracaena marginata)

– Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria laurentii)

– Peace lily (Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”)

– Chinese Evergreen (Algona “Silver queen”)

– Banana (Musa oriana)

– Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

– Heart leaf philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium)

– Green spider plant (Chlorophytum elatum)

– Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis)

To minimize your exposure to indoor air pollution, it makes sense to keep a few of these plants around (on top of filtering the air in your home, of course). However, it is important to note that many of these plants are poisonous if ingested, so if you have children or pets, make sure to do your research and either get plants that are not harmful when ingested, or put potentially harmful plants far out of reach.

Has your doctor ever prescribed you a houseplant? I do it all the time 😉

– Dr. Joshua Levitt

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