Plants To Help You Breathe and Reduce Stress
Dr. Michelle Kmiec, Founder OHH
Like water, we need oxygen to sustain life, and many of us suffer from a lack of oxygen as a result of poor nutrition, a lack of physical exercise, our polluted environment, and improper breathing.
Oxygen is the regulator of all metabolic processes of the body and since the human body is composed largely of oxygen when levels are low the body’s ability to function efficiently is disrupted.
Deep breathing not only increases your oxygen levels but also provides a handful of health benefits including:
- Strengthens the immune system
- Brings clarity to the mind
- Increases energy levels
- Detoxifies the body
- Releases tension
- Calms emotions
- Relieves pain
- Improves posture
- Massages internal organs
But consider this. Is deep breathing truly that beneficial when you are exposed to dangerous chemicals in your everyday environment? And especially in the least likely place – your own home!
Mold and dust are typically blamed for allergies but there are many other hidden toxic chemicals that you come in contact with on a daily basis. It is more than likely that potentially dangerous chemicals are in almost every room in your house. For example, what is in the antibacterial cleaner you use on your kitchen and bathroom counters? How about in the window and glass cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, mold and mildew remover, carpet and upholstery cleaners, dish and laundry detergents? And let’s not forget the handy aerosol can of Febreze that you pull out a few times a day because you not only want your home to be spic and span clean, but it also must smell like a Hawaiian Breeze in case anyone should unexpectedly stop by. Do you think the over 80 chemicals detected in that can of Febreze Air Effects could have an effect on your health? Of course, it does, and we’re not talking about aromatherapy here.
Chemicals such as trichloroethylene, benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene have sadly become part of the air we breathe on a daily basis.
Here are some resources for each of these chemicals along with a notation of where they are typically found in your home:
The New York State Department of Health reports, “Tetrachloroethene (PERC) is a manufactured chemical that is widely used in the dry-cleaning of fabrics, including clothes.”
Health hazards: “TCE is carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure and poses a potential human health hazard for noncancer toxicity to the central nervous system, kidney, liver, immune system, male reproductive system, and the developing embryo/fetus.”
According to the World Health Organization, “Benzene, a known carcinogen, can enter the home from outdoor sources including nearby traffic and automobile exhaust. Cans of gasoline stored in an attached garage, tobacco smoke, and products such paints, furniture waxes, and detergents can release benzene fumes into the home.” The report goes on to note that “levels of benzene are higher in homes with attached garages than in those with detached garages.”
Health Effects of Chronic Exposure to Benzene include:
- Headache and Dizziness
- Inability to concentrate
- Neurological issues
It should be noted that alcohol enhances the toxic effect of benzene.
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that “Sources of Formaldehyde in the home include building materials, smoking, household products, and the use of unvented, fuel-burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters.”
Your carpet is another common source for hidden traces of formaldehyde.
Adverse Health Effects include:
Watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea and skin irritation, and likely cancer.
“Xylene is a toxic solvent and Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) found in many common household products such as paints, lacquers, adhesives, rust preventers, thinners, gasoline, and permanent magic markers.” According to the EPA, “Chronic (long-term) inhalation exposure of humans to mixed xylenes results primarily in central nervous system (CNS) effects, such as headache, dizziness, fatigue, tremors, and incoordination; respiratory, cardiovascular, and kidney effects have also been reported.”
According to the EPA website, “Toluene is added to gasoline, used to produce benzene, and used as a solvent. Exposure to toluene may occur from breathing ambient or indoor air affected by such sources. The central nervous system (CNS) is the primary target organ for toluene toxicity in both humans and animals for acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) exposures. CNS dysfunction and narcosis have been frequently observed in humans acutely exposed to elevated airborne levels of toluene; symptoms include fatigue, sleepiness, headaches, and nausea. CNS depression has been reported to occur in chronic abusers exposed to high levels of toluene. Chronic inhalation exposure of humans to toluene also causes irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, sore throat, dizziness, and headache.”
Now that you know what you may be exposed to every day in the comfort of your own home, you must be wondering, should I or shouldn’t I be practicing Deep Breathing?
Will it do more harm than good considering all of these toxic chemicals in the air around us? Fortunately, Mother Nature has an answer!
Air Filtering Plants
There are many indoor houseplants that actually filter many of these chemicals from the air allowing for a healthier environment. In the 1980s, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America researched houseplants that may be used to purify the air in space facilities. Their study concluded that the number one air-filtering houseplant is the English Ivy.
Other plants that can reduce the number of toxins in the air include the Peace Lily, Palm, Philodendron, Spider Plant, Aloe Vera, Chrysanthemum, RRed-EdgedDracaena, Ficus, Azalea, Bamboo Palm and Golden Pothos.
WARNING: Though your pets also deserve to breath clean air, some indoor plants are toxic to them. The ASPCA has compiled a list of toxic and non-toxic plants. If you have a pet, please be sure to follow this link prior to purchasing any houseplant.
Now, ready for some cleaner indoor air?
It’s time to exercise that green thumb! Equipped with your list of air-filtering plants, march on down to your local Home Depot, Walmart or Garden store and pick out some greenery to scatter about your home and enjoy knowing that you and your family are breathing in a higher quality air.
After a couple of weeks of living among these air-filtering plants, ask yourself the following questions:
- Have noticed a difference in the air quality in your home?
- Have you noticed a decrease in headaches?
- Have you noticed a decrease in allergy symptoms?
- Have you noticed that you have more energy?
- Have you noticed that you are better able to concentrate?
A wonderful article, 17 Amazing Houseplants that Clean the Air can give you more amazing ideas about cleaning the air of your home with the beauty of plants and also, you may find 20 Plants That Help Improve Indoor Air Quality (And How to Care for Them) an equally interesting read!