The Mental, Physical, and Environmental Benefits of Plants
In this guide, we’ll take you through 18 proven benefits of plants backed by leading research studies from around the world.
We all love plants for different reasons. Some people enjoy the continuous cycle of caring for their collection, while others may simply enjoy plants for aesthetic reasons. It’s easy to see why houseplant ownership has skyrocketed in recent years.
Regardless of why you love plants, you might be surprised to learn that your collection carries some unexpected benefits.
In recent years, there have been several studies regarding the benefits of plants. The findings of these studies have uncovered an impressive array of advantages to being a plant parent. These benefits range from improving our health and sleep to cultivating a calm mind and a happy heart.
In this post, we’ll explore the science behind these studies. We’ll examine 18 proposed benefits of plants to see if they have any merit. We’ll also highlight ten types of plants that have long been celebrated for their positive properties.
- 18 Proven Benefits of Plants
- 1. Plants May Help to Reduce Stress Levels
- 2. Plants May Improve Indoor Air Quality
- 3. Plants May Sharpen Your Attention Span and Improve Memory
- 4. Plants Can be Therapeutic
- 5. Plants May Help You Recover from Illness Faster
- 6. Plants May Boost Your Productivity
- 7. Plants May Improve Job Satisfaction
- 8. Plants Can Complement Interior Design
- 9. Plants Connect You to the Natural World
- 10. Plants May Help You Sleep
- 11. Plants Can Help Create Positive Feng Shui
- 12. Giving Plant Gifts Can Make Someone’s Day
- 13. Plants May Fend Off the Common Cold
- 14. Plants Filter Odors in the Home or Office
- 15. Plants Can Improve Room Acoustics
- 16. Plants Help to Increase Humidity
- 17. Plants Can Help with Allergy Relief
- 18. Herbs Are Great for Many Common Ailments
- 10 Popular Houseplants Well Regarded for their Beneficial Properties
- 1. Aloe Vera – Cuts and Bites
- 2. English Ivy – Air Purification
- 3. Lavender – Anxiety and Stress
- 4. Gerbera Daisies – Sleep and Controlling Benzene
- 5. Money Tree Plants – Feng Shui
- 6. Peace Lily Plants – Calm and Harmony
- 7. Fiddle Leaf Figs – Dramatic Centerpieces
- 8. Areca Palms – Boosting Humidity
- 9. Dracaena Plants – Helping with Common Allergies
- 10. Lucky Bamboo – Fame and Fortune
- Wrap Up
- The Benefits of Plants FAQS:
18 Proven Benefits of Plants
1. Plants May Help to Reduce Stress Levels
It’s no secret that our modern world is becoming more stressful than ever before. The constant pressure of deadlines, sales targets, and social expectations can quickly take its toll. Thankfully, it turns out that plants might be able to help.
A recent study detailed in BMC’s (BioMed Central) Journal of Physiological Anthropology tested if plants could reduce our stress levels. 24 young men were split into two groups and monitored while performing two tasks – a computer-based project and repotting a peperomia.
The data showed that their stress response was significantly lower when the participants engaged in repotting the plant. By contrast, the subjects recorded increased blood pressure and spikes in their heart rates. Those who interacted with the plant also felt calmer and more comfortable.
So next time you feel like pulling your hair out with a deadline coming up, spend some time working with your plants instead!
2. Plants May Improve Indoor Air Quality
One of the most famous studies on plant benefits was carried out by NASA in 1989. The study examined whether indoor plants could improve air quality and filter out impurities – a process called ‘phytoremediation’. While initially tested with the International Space Station in mind, this is certainly relevant for houseplants.
Several follow-up studies were also conducted, with up to 50 species of plants tested in total. The data showed that several plants could filter harmful chemicals such as ammonia, benzene, and formaldehyde out of the air. In particular, nearly every species tested was able to remove formaldehyde, which is believed to exacerbate the risk of certain cancers.
There is a caveat here – in reality, it would take a vast array of houseplants to achieve any tangible differences in air quality. That sounds like the perfect excuse to buy more plants!
3. Plants May Sharpen Your Attention Span and Improve Memory
These days, it’s even easier than ever to get distracted. With so many easy opportunities to procrastinate, our attention spans can feel incredibly limited at times. But being in the presence of plants can help bring you back to the task at hand.
This was tested in a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The experiment evaluated 23 elementary school students and their attention spans. The students were exposed separately to a real plant, an artificial plant, a picture of a plant, and no plant at all.
The students showed the highest attention spans and the lowest concentration of theta waves with a live plant in the room. These brainwaves are connected to daydreaming and are more common in children than adults. The students also felt calmer and more relaxed.
Are you struggling to concentrate on those critical reports? Pop a plant on your desk!
4. Plants Can be Therapeutic
Psychiatric clinics and hospitals have used plants and gardens to help patients recover for centuries. And with good reason. Spending time around plants can be an incredibly therapeutic experience, especially for those suffering from mental health problems.
Several recent studies show that having easy access to plants and green spaces lowers the risk of mental distress. The easier it is to access plants, the more pronounced this effect seems to be. And houseplants are perfect for this.
Exposure to plants can also help combat feelings of anxiety. A 2013 study in New Zealand found that the closer the subjects were to greenery, the less anxious they felt. The participants also suffered from fewer effects of mood disorders.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, spending some time with your plants could be just the right tonic.
5. Plants May Help You Recover from Illness Faster
After suffering an injury or battling an illness, the road to recovery can be long and arduous. But having plants close by and looking at them may help you recover quicker. In 2002, a study was conducted that evaluated how gardens and plants impacted patient recovery in hospitals.
The data indicated that recovering patients who could look at plants had shorter recovery times. During their hospital stay, these patients also required less medication for their pain. By contrast, patients who could only look at the four walls of their hospital room took longer to recover.
In 2009, a study by Kansas State University researched the presence of potted plants in hospital rooms. They found that patients who could see plants felt more optimistic about their recovery and their surroundings.
For those struggling to get back on track after an accident or illness, plants can lend a natural helping hand.
6. Plants May Boost Your Productivity
In the modern world, it seems that productivity is king. It can be challenging to keep up with deadlines and meetings while trying to ignore distractions. But surprisingly, plants could help you become a productivity powerhouse.
This claim has been subject to several studies in recent decades. A 1996 study published in the Journal of Environmental Horticulture placed some plants in a workspace without windows. The workers within the room felt less stress and worked 12% faster.
The American Society for Horticultural Science also published a 2007 study evaluating the effects of indoor plants in a workplace. 385 Norwegian office workers filled out a survey about plants in their office.
The data showed that having more plants close to their desks resulted in fewer employees taking time off sick. There were also productivity improvements. It’s the perfect excuse for bringing up plants in your Monday meeting.
7. Plants May Improve Job Satisfaction
It’s easy to get run down by the 9-5 schedule, making you question your career choices while staring at your screen. Not only can plants boost your productivity, but they can also help you feel better about your job as well.
A study was published in 2006 that evaluated the impact of natural factors such as office plants. Nearly 450 American and Indian Amazon workers were quizzed about their office environment. The results indicated that higher levels of job satisfaction were displayed by workers whose offices contained some plants.
These workers also displayed a stronger sense of loyalty to their workplace—interviewees whose environment didn’t contain plants scored lower on these points. Anxiety and stress levels related to work were also found to be lower in offices with plants.
Adding some live plants to your desk could help your workweek become a bit more bearable.
8. Plants Can Complement Interior Design
We’ve all seen those interior design posts on Instagram – a stunning city apartment with pothos trailing along the walls. The truth is, plants can be an incredibly unique way to make interior design changes.
Houseplants can give any space a more natural feel by bringing the outside in. They’re also a more cost-effective way of sprucing up a space without breaking the bank for new furniture or furnishings.
Plants can inject some much-needed greenery into an indoor space, which yields several mental and physical health benefits. You can also find houseplants that fit virtually any interior style, allowing you to customize your look constantly.
Sprawling Boston ferns can transform bland bathrooms. Are you going for a minimalist vibe? A snake plant can add a bit of impact. Want a lush conservatory? Round up some monsteras and philodendrons to create a vibrant jungle atmosphere. The choice is yours.
9. Plants Connect You to the Natural World
In an increasingly urban world, it can feel more difficult than ever to connect with nature. Computer screens and smartphones have replaced what was part of our daily rhythm for thousands of years.
Several psychological studies have detailed the positive impacts of feeling connected to nature. This 2014 study shows that we see several benefits when we identify as “connected” with nature. This connection results in more positive thinking and also helps us to feel happier.
While modern technology has changed our outlook, we can re-establish our connection to nature by bringing houseplants into our homes. In recent years, houseplants have become increasingly popular with younger generations who’ve grown up with technology.
Cultivating houseplants brings us back to a more hands-on relationship with nature instead of keeping it at arm’s length. Reestablishing this relationship can help all of us tackle the problems we face in the modern world.
10. Plants May Help You Sleep
Few things feel worse than struggling with your sleep. Almost one-third of all adults in America have experienced insomnia at some point.
But a 2019 study conducted by Beijing’s University of Aeronautics and Astronautics reveals that plants could be the key to a good night’s sleep. The study was primarily focused on how plants can help astronauts to sleep on deep space missions. But data showed that there are benefits for regular earthlings as well.
The study indicates that spending some time with plants before turning in resulted in better sleep quality. The color and scent of the plant seem to matter. Subjects saw more positive effects from plants like coriander and strawberry, including being more relaxed.
It’s believed that the smell of these plants helped the subjects regulate their nervous systems, which made sleep easier. This has been backed up by previous studies as well.
11. Plants Can Help Create Positive Feng Shui
Whether you call it positive chi or just good vibes, having the right feng shui in your home can make a big difference. One of the most natural ways to cultivate good feng shui is through houseplants.
As living organisms, plants are an excellent way to encourage harmony in your home. This also brings nature into the house, connecting with something that humans have lived alongside for millennia.
Some plants can have more impact in terms of feng shui than others. The Jade plant, for example, represents luck and prosperity in feng shui. Placing one next to your desk may act as positive reinforcement to help you inch closer to that promotion.
The health benefits that may result from plants also contribute to feng shui. These effects can include cleaner, purer air or a more relaxing atmosphere when you’re trying to sleep. Peace Lily plants are ideal for this.
12. Giving Plant Gifts Can Make Someone’s Day
Because plants can bring so many benefits to virtually any home, they make excellent gifts. Presenting a friend or family member with a living thing like a plant feels like a more profound, and personal gift.
Plant gifts can represent just about any gesture you want to extend to someone you know or love. You might buy one of your best friends a Spider plant as a housewarming present. Or you might give a peace lily plant to someone who has recently lost a loved one.
Receiving a plant as a gift can mean a lot to someone. In a way, it’s like sharing the gift of life. For some people who might be receiving their first plant, that gift could open up a whole new world or hobby.
Humans have been fascinated with plants for thousands of years. Continue that tradition by giving a houseplant as a gift.
13. Plants May Fend Off the Common Cold
Humans have always turned to plants to help battle diseases and infections. For centuries, accepted medical knowledge revolved around plants. While this has decreased in the modern day, many people still use plant-based remedies for ailments like the common cold.
As such, there have been several studies on the effectiveness of these remedies. One of the most well-known plants to use against colds is echinacea. This member of the daisy family is thought to alleviate the symptoms of a cold.
Some studies indicate that taking echinacea can reduce the duration of cold symptoms by approximately 1 ½ days. The study also showed that echinacea was nearly 60% effective as a preventative measure.
Another study involving nearly 2500 subjects found that echinacea also had some success in lowering the risk of respiratory infections.
When using plant-based treatments for colds and flu, always check with your doctor and follow their instructions.
14. Plants Filter Odors in the Home or Office
While purifying the air indoors and filtering out harmful chemicals, houseplants might also have another neat trick up their sleeves. As a by-product of removing impurities from the air, houseplants might also be able to remove unpleasant odors.
In enclosed indoor spaces such as your home or office, odors can circulate quite easily. From the strong smell of cleaning products to the musty scent of the laundry basket, these smells can be a distraction.
The various incarnations of NASA’s Clean Air Study tested several varieties of plants for their air filtration capabilities. Many of these plants extracted chemicals such as formaldehyde from the air, but there was another benefit. Some plants were found to remove or reduce strong odors as well.
Plants with a larger surface area in terms of foliage, such as Cast Iron plants, were more effective.
15. Plants Can Improve Room Acoustics
Remember the old adage about the tree falling in the woods and nobody hearing it? There may be some truth to that after all. It turns out that plants may absorb sound waves, acting as natural soundproofing within your home.
A 2005 South Korean study evaluated the soundproofing effects of monkey puzzle trees and peace lily plants compared to paper-based soundproofing. The data showed that the plants performed much better, dampening some of the sounds in the room. This worked across several sound frequencies.
Plants make surprisingly effective soundproofing because the leaves and stems absorb sound. While this is more effective with large plants such as hedges, houseplants can be used on a smaller scale indoors.
By helping to improve the acoustics in a room, houseplants can make the space much more pleasant and comfortable. It sounds like music to our ears!
16. Plants Help to Increase Humidity
While we often adjust the temperature of our homes, humidity levels can often be overlooked. But humidity is just as crucial for comfort and the natural working of our bodies.
A good amount of humidity helps us regulate our temperature better, making us more comfortable. Dry air can contribute to respiratory problems and also causes uncomfortable annoyances like cracked lips and dry skin.
Thanks to the way they interact with water, houseplants are a brilliant, natural way to increase the humidity in a room. As plants drink water from their soil, excess moisture radiates through their leaves and into the air. This is called transpiration.
This process combats the dry air that can quickly develop in our sheltered homes. Plants such as palms, peace lilies, and philodendrons are particularly good at increasing humidity. Houseplants that have a larger surface area in terms of foliage are also more effective.
17. Plants Can Help with Allergy Relief
If you suffer from allergies, particularly hay fever, then you might be tempted to give houseplants a wide berth. But some species of houseplants may have the opposite effect, working instead to alleviate allergies.
Again, we go back to NASA’s Clean Air Study, which evaluated several common species of houseplants to determine if they improved air quality. Many plants were shown to remove harmful toxins from the air, but they also collected things such as dust and pollen. These kinds of particles are catalysts for many common allergies.
By removing these particles from the air, houseplants such as indoor palms and dracaenas may reduce the frequency of allergic reactions. The harmful chemicals these plants can filter out of the air, such as benzene and trichloroethylene, can also cause allergic reactions.
By adding purifying plants to your home, you might be able to take the fight to your annoying allergies.
18. Herbs Are Great for Many Common Ailments
Humans have used herbal remedies to treat various health problems for thousands of years. These treatments proved so effective that some people still swear by them today. Many of these medicinal plants have been examined by scientific studies to test their effectiveness.
Chamomile is one of the best-known medicinal herbs still in use. People typically take chamomile as an herbal tea, and it’s believed to reduce inflammation and alleviate hay fever, among other benefits.
Peppermint is often used to soothe indigestion and other gut problems. This is backed up by preliminary research from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Lavender is another popular medicinal plant used mainly to help the nervous system and reduce anxiety.
Medicinal herbs are typically used as ingredients for specific treatments that can be bought from pharmacies. Alternatively, you may be able to grow and use your own herbs indoors.
10 Popular Houseplants Well Regarded for their Beneficial Properties
1. Aloe Vera – Cuts and Bites
Aloe Vera is one of the most famous medicinal plants. Its cooling, soothing sap makes a good salve for burns or cuts. This spiky succulent can also be used to calm the irritation that comes with itchy insect bites.
Aloe Vera is indigenous to the Arabian peninsula but is used all around the world. Grown in tropical regions, the plant’s leaves are typically turned into gels or creams. Aloe Vera has been shown to exhibit antibacterial and antifungal characteristics, making it an incredibly versatile plant.
2. English Ivy – Air Purification
English ivy was one of the standout performers of NASA’s Clean Air Study. This traditional trailing indoor plant was shown to remove harmful chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene from the air. This makes Hedera helix one of the most suggested air-purifying plants available.
While English ivy is an invasive outdoor plant, it makes an immediate impact when grown indoors. The vibrant green foliage can also show variegated margins and looks great when trailing from a shelf.
English ivy originated in parts of Europe and western regions of Asia before spreading to America thanks to settlers.
3. Lavender – Anxiety and Stress
The soothing scent of lavender makes it one of the most popular garden herbs. Lavender grows across many regions of Africa, Asia, and Europe and has been used as a medicine in many cultures.
Lavender is typically used as an essential oil in aromatherapy and has several amazing benefits. It can help engineer better sleep but can also help alleviate stress and anxiety. Several studies have been conducted on this topic, including this 2018 paper.
The findings show that lavender can be an effective tool for reducing anxiety and stress levels.
4. Gerbera Daisies – Sleep and Controlling Benzene
Gerbera daisies have long been lauded for their positive benefits, especially when it comes to sleep. These stunning flowers are indigenous to the tropics of Africa, Asia, and South America and come in several colorful varieties.
Like many plants, Gerbera daisies are considered to be good at filtering chemicals and impurities out of the air. This can help if you’re struggling with sleep, as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) such as trichloroethylene can be harmful.
Gerbera daisies filter this chemical out of the air, releasing more oxygen into the room while we sleep.
5. Money Tree Plants – Feng Shui
In the context of feng shui, some plants can represent specific qualities that practitioners want to cultivate. In the case of money tree plants, those qualities are fortune and prosperity. In feng shui practice, these plants can also reduce anxiety and stress, encouraging positive energy in your home.
To really reap the chi benefits of money tree plants, you might find it best to place them on your desk or workspace. It’s also worth identifying your home’s “wealth corner” and positioning your money tree plant there.
6. Peace Lily Plants – Calm and Harmony
As the name suggests, peace lily plants create a calming presence in your home. These aroids are globally recognized as a symbol of peace and tranquility. They’re also trendy houseplants and are happy to tolerate various light conditions in the home.
One of the reasons why peace lilies might be seen as calming is because they’re one of the highest-scoring plants in NASA’s Clean Air Study. These evergreen perennials were shown to filter out ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene from the surrounding air.
Peace lily plants grow natively in tropical Asia and South America and are also a common symbol of sympathy.
7. Fiddle Leaf Figs – Dramatic Centerpieces
While plants have many fantastic benefits, sometimes it’s as simple as loving how they look. Fiddle leaf figs are showstopping tropical plants that have become synonymous with cutting-edge style. Once located in a good position, these impressive statement plants can happily sit there for years.
Fiddle leaf figs naturally grow in Africa’s western regions. They have large leathery leaves shaped like fiddles and have distinctive pale veins running across the foliage. As houseplants, they can grow to more than six feet tall.
Adding these fabulous plants can create a dramatic centerpiece for any room.
8. Areca Palms – Boosting Humidity
Dry air in a room can cause problems ranging from dry skin to more serious respiratory issues. Thankfully, some plants can boost humidity levels through transpiration. The areca palm is one of the best in the business for this.
Areca palms (and other palms) have a large surface area because of their height and the spread of their leaves. This allows them to release more moisture into the air, helping the humidity in your room. The fanned-out fronds also look fantastic and add a vibrant hit of green.
Create your own humid indoor jungle with an areca palm.
9. Dracaena Plants – Helping with Common Allergies
As mentioned earlier, some plants can limit the impact of common allergies by capturing chemicals and irritants in their leaves. If left floating around, these irritants can induce allergic reactions.
Dracaenas are a large group of plants that are excellent for this. In NASA’s landmark Clean Air Study, dracaenas performed very well. These plants extracted benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene out of the air efficiently.
This ability helps to alleviate several common allergies and potentially reduce the risk of carcinogenic-induced diseases. There are several types of dracaena that make excellent houseplants, such as the red-edged dracaena.
10. Lucky Bamboo – Fame and Fortune
If you want to encourage a successful business venture or just increase your luck, Lucky bamboo may help. A member of the dracaena family, this plant holds a prominent place in feng shui as a bringer of good fortune.
Lucky bamboo is native to the central regions of Africa. Its winding stems resemble bamboo stalks, with delicate green leaves protruding from the tops. The number of stalks the Lucky bamboo plant has can represent different symbols in feng shui.
Lucky bamboo is sold in many plant stores and makes an excellent good luck gift for loved ones.
From purifying the air to alleviating stress and even reducing allergies, plants can have many amazing benefits. Bringing some houseplants into your home can make a huge difference.
And these advantages aren’t just present at home. Even your office workspace can benefit from the presence of plants. They may even help to make the 9 to 5 slog just a bit more bearable.
But the benefits of houseplants also go deeper than just physical comfort. Plants are also good for our mental health, especially in terms of renewing our connection with nature. And in our current climate, that’s more important than ever.
The Benefits of Plants FAQS:
Why is it good to have plants in your home?
Studies have shown that having plants in your home can elevate mood, improve concentration, reduce stress, and be a source of creativity and innovation attributed to their color and scent.
What are the benefits of live plants?
In addition to their ornamental value, live plants are also well regarded for their ability to filter volatile organic compounds and help purify the air.
Why are Plants Beneficial in Feng Shui?
Plants are associated with the color green which is considered to have healing energy in Feng Shui. They are also associated with the wood element which invites the essential energy of activity and growth into a space.
What are the Most Beneficial Plant Types?
Some of the most popular plant types that are well regarded for their beneficial properties include Lavender, Aloe, Money Tree Plants, Dracaena, Peace Lily Plants, Areca Palms, Fiddle Leaf Figs, and English Ivy.