22 March 2012

Super Plants

Super plants; for many years, plants have been used medicinally.  In medieval times, a person carried with them small bunches of flowers called “nosegays” because they made the nose “happier,” allowing for ease in breathing.  Now there are a group of plants known as “super plants.”  These super plants have been recognized for being able to help clear the air in our homes.

Our homes, while being more energy efficient and air tight, tend to hold in the toxins rather than allowing them to escape our homes.  The EPA states that the air in our homes is up to 5% more polluted than the air outside.  There are many toxins in our homes, stemming from household cleaners, furniture, carpeting and more.  Many people suffering with allergies and asthma probably suffer from these ailments because of those common household products.   Formaldehyde is a big offender in many homes.  It is a colorless, strong smelling gas that can irritate the breathing passages and trigger asthma attacks as well as other allergic reactions.  It is found in building products, insulation and many household items such as cleaning products and bath and body products and it can also cause cancer.  You may not necessarily see the word “formaldehyde” listed on your household cleaners for the manufacturers many times use specific trade names.  For more information on formaldehyde, visit http://www.epa.gov/iaq/formalde.html.
Plants, in addition to being decorative, can actually absorb toxins from the air through tiny structures in their leaves called “stomata.”  Stomata are pores used for gas exchange for normal plant functions.  During bio-chemical processes, these stomata allow for exchange of carbon dioxide, water vapor and oxygen into and out of the leaves.  In a study by NASA, philodendron, golden pothos and the spider plant were labeled as the most effective at removing formaldehyde toxins from the air, while the flowering Gerbera Daisy and chrysanthemums were most effective at removing the chemical benzene from the atmospheric chambers used in the NASA studies.  Also found to help with toxin removal were the roots, flowers and soil of the plants.  To see more info on this study, go to http://www.zone10.com/nasa-study-house-plants-clean-air.html. Other plants to try as “super plants” in your home include peace lily, weeping fig, mother’s-in-law tongue, purple heart plants, asparagus ferns, orchids, English ivy and bamboo palms. 

Most houseplants are tropical and are easy to care for.  Many like filtered light, temperatures of around 70 degrees, high humidity and light watering.  You’ll want to take into account the fact that you are running the heat in the winter and perhaps provide a source of moisture to increase the humidity in your home, such as a humidifier or even a decorative tray of pebbles and water under the plants’ pots.  Be careful not to overwater your plants as that can not only kill the plants, but can also encourage mold growth and therefore create more allergy related symptoms.  You can search this blog for tips on indoor plant care.

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