Houseplants may improve your health                                                           

Amy Bartels, Human Development & Family Science, MU Extension

Hospitals, funerals, housewarming gifts…many of us have likely given or received a houseplant at one time or another. In fact, houseplants are often seen as a symbol of hospitality and welcome. But did you know studies have shown that indoor plants have real health benefits, both physiological and psychological.  Whether or not you have a green thumb, there may be some beneficial reasons to try your hand at a houseplant or two. 

Research has shown that the presence of plants leads to reduce stress and anxiety, increased feelings of calm, a marked improvement in mood and self-esteem and increased feelings of optimism and control. Plants also help ease feelings of depression and promote a general sense of well-being.  According to Texas Agriculture & Medicine University, people who spend their time caring for nature are more likely to care for others.  Caring for plants actually increases your compassion and improves your relationships.

Studies conducted in hospitals showed that patients with plants in their rooms had lower blood pressure and heart rates than patients whose rooms did not contain plants.  In addition, people in hospitals or care centers also felt less fatigue, had faster recovery times, and were friendlier to staff in rooms where foliage was present. 

Houseplants help to improve sleep by giving off oxygen.  Plants can actually remove up to 10 percent of the carbon dioxide in the air.  Humans give off carbon dioxide when we exhale.  Since plants need carbon dioxide to survive, it may be beneficial to both you and your plants when you “talk” to them.  A study at Washington State University showed that the microclimate around houseplants increases air humidity and can filter airborne microbes that cause allergies. 

So the next time someone brings you a plant, think twice before letting it wither and dry out.  A bit of water, a sunny window and some friendly conversation may just keep you and your plants feeling healthier and happier.