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SlainteWinter2011_Layout 1 04/01/2012 16:22 Page 48

ThE rOOTs

of a healthy home

As winter bites, most of us choose to

vicinity by their polarising and moisture

Houseplants and toxins

wrap the house up tight, with the

regulation of the ambient atmosphere.

Of course, efficient ventilation will naturally remove a fair chunk of these

heating on full blast and the windows closed to the cold gusts. But while we

Back in the 1980s, a two-year study led

detrimental agents from your home, but

might be protected from the elements,

by NASA and the Associated

during winter we often carefully seal

we might also be doing more harm

Landscape Contractors of America

these vapours inside. Which is why

than good.

(ALCA) confirmed that many

investing in the right houseplant or two

houseplants had the ability to remove

can make all the difference.

Indoor air quality is a major factor in

harmful elements such as

optimum health. Poorly circulated, dry,

formaldehyde, benzene,

Different species of plants are more

unreplenished air can cause

trichloroethylene and other common

effective in removing particular toxins,

headaches, tired eyes, sore throats,

pollutants from the air.

so we can be specific and target plants to the environmental conditions of each

block nasal passages, cause

in his third article for sláinte, awardwinning horticulturist Fiann Ó nualláin explains how the right houseplants can improve your health this Winter.

irritability and a whole host of

the pollutants in your home

room, or we can have a balance of

symptoms more flu-like than the flu we

The common pollutants that

houseplants throughout the house,

were trying to avoid by closing the

houseplants eliminate are a factor of

replenishing and circulating clean air

windows and blasting the central

modern living, and every home has

everywhere, rather than just the living

heating in the first place.

them to varying degrees: ammonia,

space or home office.

nature’s solution Simple, everyday houseplants that are available everywhere – from your local supermarket to your nearest garden centre and DIY store – can

the common pollutants that houseplants eliminate are a factor of modern living, and every home has them

radically improve your air quality and personal health. from some cleaning products;

The plants that do the business with

Plants like the ubiquitous Spider plant

formaldehyde, from upholstery and

toxic filtration are readily available in

(Chlorophytum comosum), the neglect-

synthetic fibre carpets;

local garden centres and even some

tolerant Snake plant (Sansevieria

trichloroethylene, from some cleaning

supermarkets:

trifasciata), the elegant Reed palm

products, printers and photocopiers;

(Chamaedorea sefritzii), the statement-

and xylene from paints and adhesives.

making Philodendron species, trendy

All of these elements are listed as

Dracaenas (D. deremensis, marginata

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

or fragrans), right through to the home

and are considered contributors to

décor staples of Figs (Ficus spp) and

respiratory illness, fatigue, insomnia,

Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum spp) – all

cancer, mood imbalance and more.

1

and Gerbera daisies will help eliminate excess benzene;

2

Areca palms, Orchids and Date palms remove xylene and toluene;

have attributes that contribute to a healthier home environment.

Dracaenas, Chrysanthemums

These VOCs slowly release from furnishings and products within your

It is a known, scientific fact that plants

home, and whether they gradually

remove carbon dioxide from the air and

build-up over time or just dissipate

replace it with oxygen, which obviously

away, contact with them is detrimental

3

Indoor Azalea and the attractive Peacock plant extract ammonia; the Boston fern, Peace lily and

makes the air better for us to breathe.

to your health. Even short-term

But houseplants do much more than a

exposure can create health risks such

simple swap of gases during

as rapid heart rate, headaches,

effective at eliminating

photosynthesis: they also remove

dizziness, confusion, drowsiness,

formaldehyde and

toxins and energise people in their

vomiting, and convulsions.

trichloroethylene

4

Rubber plants are all very


SlainteWinter2011_Layout 1 04/01/2012 16:22 Page 50

Page 50 Sláinte Magazine - General Health

Fiann Ó nualláin is an awardApart from helping to remove toxins and increase

winning garden designer,

oxygen, remember that leaves also catch dust and

outreach horticulturist and

airborne particles, generally lessening the opportunity for allergic reactions. They also secrete

ethnobotanist. He has worked

phytochemicals from leaves and stems that can

with many health agencies to

destroy harmful micro organisms. What’s more, plants have the opposite polarity to static electricity,

create gardens for optimum

and so are a very positive effect on electric charges

health. You can get more

that sap our energy and concentration levels.

information from Fiann’s website

Houseplants and dry air

at www.inspiringgardens.ie.

Plants absorb excess moisture from the air or release moisture into drier air as part of their natural

Feel great &

t h g i e w e s o L

living processes (transpiration). Keeping the moisture balance of household air during winter is crucial to felling energetic and well. Greenery also has a psychological benefit in stabilising mood, enabling calmness and improving concentration. The subtle foliage and floral fragrances trigger deeper breathing, balancing your mood and inducing

4lbs and “I have lost 3st ”, I feel fabulous! ember Fiona Foran, M

relaxation, all of which will help you have better-quality sleep, while during your waking hours, anxiety is decreased and you will tend to feel more positive mentally and have a sense of well-being. Plants are not just for decoration, they are a vital part of a well-balanced, functioning home environment. Few of the expensively installed systems in your home can match the list of positives that apply to plants – less static, dust and allergens, more oxygen, more efficient heat and moisture regulation, lower bills, higher concentration, better mood, the knowledge of a safer home and a healthier self.

Before

It’s hard to think of a more positive step you can take to help yourself – and everyone who enters your home. And now’s the time to spread the good news – houseplants make great gifts!

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Gardening : best houseplants for health by Fiann Ó Nualláin  
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