Plants for Health: Hidden Health Benefits of Indoor and Outdoor Plants
Published: April 6, 202
Updated: May 24, 2021
Courtesy of The Hartford, By Sarita Harbour
Are you considering adding plants to your home? Maybe you’re looking for potted greenery to add a spot of color to your living area. Or perhaps you’re eager to get started with container gardening on your patio this spring.
Whatever the case, you’ll be happy to know that indoor and outdoor plants offer us more than pretty colors and fragrances to enjoy. Plants give people health benefits as well, and some of those benefits might surprise you.
Adding houseplants to your home helps to bring a touch of nature indoors, which is especially helpful when you’re stuck inside due to weather, travel restrictions or poor health.
The right houseplants brighten up living spaces by adding a decorative element. Even better, some indoor plants have special qualities that benefit their owners.
Here’s a quick look at a few easy-to-find indoor plants for health benefits:
1. Spider Plants
Spider plants are a popular houseplant because they’re easy to grow and tough to kill. They thrive in low-light areas of homes and can survive even with infrequent waterings. They also have a positive impact on air quality.
Spider plants help remove harmful pollutants such as formaldehyde and benzene from the air. (This is known as phytoremediation).
Sources of formaldehyde in a home include construction materials and carpet. You can find benzene in furniture polish and laundry detergents. Consider adding one or two spider plants to your bedroom to help clear the air while you sleep.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the spider plant is non-toxic to dogs and cats.
2. Mother-In-Law’s Tongue/Snake Plant
Mother-in-law’s tongue, also known as a snake plant, has a distinctive shapely and sharp leaf. It also helps remove toxins from the air, making it another good choice for a houseplant for your sleeping area.
Like the spider plant, mother-in-law’s tongue is easy to care for and requires little light. This plant releases oxygen into the air, and it also helps purify the air by removing four common household pollutants — formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene and carbon monoxide.
Caution for pet owners: Snake plants are toxic to dogs and cats if ingested.
3. Peace Lily
With its dark foliage and white tubular flowers, the peace lily offers a dramatic focal point for any room, but it’s also a hard worker when it comes to improving air quality.
With a pretty floral scent, the peace lily helps absorb commonly found household pollutants such as ammonia and formaldehyde. In addition, the peace lily can help purify household air polluted by trichloroethylene and xylene.
These pollutants occur in many household cleaners, glue, polishes, waxes and construction material, and they may negatively impact your respiratory and immune system.
Caution for pet owners: Peace lilies are toxic to dogs and cats if ingested.
4. Aloe Vera
Perhaps one of the most recognizable houseplants, aloe vera contains a soothing gel within its fleshy leaves that has long been used to treat burns.
One of the benefits of aloe vera is that it is easy to use. Simply break off a small section of the leaf and apply the healing gel directly to sunburns, cooking burns or skin irritations.
But take note, aloe vera leaves are poisonous if ingested! This goes for pets as well – aloe vera is toxic to dogs, cats and horses.
5. English Ivy
Do you live in a damp or humid area? If so, consider adding a few pots of English ivy to your home.
This trailing (or climbing) vine suits a wide variety of décor and styles because it stays green all year — indoors and outdoors too, (temperature permitting). Even better, it helps prevent mold development indoors. Mold might contribute to lung and respiratory issues.
English ivy is poisonous if ingested so keep this in mind if you have small children, grandchildren or pets.
6. Boston Fern
If you battle constant humidity in your home, consider the good old-fashioned Boston fern. With its easy to recognize leaves and fan-shaped foliage, the Boston fern is a phytoremediation powerhouse as it absorbs harmful gases through its leaves and roots.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, phytoremediation is the process by which green plants remove chemicals and pollutants from the air. By removing pollutants such as formaldehyde from the air, you reduce the harmful chemicals that you and your guests breathe in every day. This is another plant that does well indoors and out.
According to the ASPCA, the Boston fern is non-toxic to dogs and cats.
Looking for a few good plants to add some pizzazz to your front flowerbed or side garden? If so, consider outdoor plants for health and well-being benefits. Here are five you might like:
They come in pretty shades of gold, they grow fast and they’re a workhorse in the garden. Yet you might be surprised by the many health benefits of the common marigold.
Marigold flowers have strong antiseptic and antibacterial properties and can be used to make ointments and salves that help heal skin wounds, treat diaper rash and reduce inflammation due to skin conditions like eczema.
Marigolds have vibrant orange flowers which bloom in late summer and early autumn. As a side benefit, they can help keep insects away.
According to the ASPCA, Marigolds are non-toxic to dogs and cats.
If you’re a new gardener, growing mint outdoors (or indoors) is a good introduction to herb gardening. Mint is easy to grow — but watch out as it can easily take over your garden!
In addition to the distinctive scent and flavor, all varieties of mint have health benefits. Cloth compresses soaked in mint leaf tea can help alleviate painful sunburns. You can also freshen your breath and combat oral infections by chewing on a few leaves. Or help keep fleas out of your pet’s bed by adding a mint leaf sachet to the stuffing. And mint is also a great garnish for a drink!
Caution for pet owners: Mint is toxic to dogs, cats and horses if ingested.
Study after study has shown that outdoor gardening has significant physical, mental and emotional health benefits. Yet pesky mosquitoes can make it difficult to complete your gardening tasks. And they also make it difficult to enjoy your outdoor space.
Add a few citronella plants to your flower beds to help keep those annoying bugs away. If you plant them near walkways, as you or your pet brush past them, you’ll repeatedly release the citrus fragrance to ward off bugs.
Citronella emits a strong yet not unpleasant lemon scent, and it also has several health benefits. Citronella has anti-fungal properties that can help treat infections and promote the healing of wounds.
Caution for pet owners: Citronella is toxic to dogs and cats if ingested.
This fast-growing plant is a good choice for raised beds or patio garden containers if you’re looking for a decorative and fragrant grass. And lemongrass also has numerous beneficial properties to help boost your health. These include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties from quercetin, which is helpful in slowing down cancer growth and even combats heart disease. Recent studies suggest lemongrass could also assist in lowering cholesterol.
Lemongrass is easy to snip off and add to stir-fries or salads for a citrusy flavor addition.
Caution for pet owners: Lemongrass is toxic to dogs and cats if ingested.
You likely already know that a rosebush is a beautiful addition to your outdoor landscaping, but did you know that rose petals and rosehips are used for a variety of healthy and delicious recipes too?
Rose petals have been found to help ease inflammation. And since they can also help with sedation, they could prove beneficial in easing anxiety or sleep issues. In addition, their gentle antiseptic properties mean the petals can even be placed right on cuts and scrapes to help them heal quickly.
Rosehips are the fruit of the rosebush, are very high in vitamin C and make a delicious tea.
According to the ASPCA, roses are non-toxic to dogs and cats.
Choose Your Indoor and Outdoor Plants Wisely
Caring for houseplants can become a relaxing and enjoyable hobby. Not only can you use them to beautify your home, but you can also select plants for their health benefits. However, it’s important to consider your lifestyle as well as how these plants could impact other people or animals living with you or visiting your home.
For more information on poisonous plants found indoors and out, visit the Poison Control Center site. And for information on commonly found plants that are poisonous to family pets, see the Poisonous Plants list on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website.