June 15, 2023

7 Health Benefits of Indoor Plants

Health Benefits of Indoor Plants 

We all rely on plants to stay healthy — from the essential oxygen they produce to the nutrient-dense food they provide for humans and other animals. In fact, just being around plants can improve our health and bestow a wealth of benefits on our minds and bodies.

woman holding large houseplantThere is so much growing scientific research showing how our health and wellness is influenced by being connected to the natural world. Yet we spend over 85 percent of our lives indoors, research reveals. So how can we incorporate the beneficial effects of nature into our everyday lives?

Keeping houseplants doesn’t just add beauty to your home — our indoor green friends can actually bolster our wellness in many ways.

Here’s how houseplants can improve your wellness and your life.

Being around plants soothes our nervous system and reduces stress.

Scientists still aren’t quite sure how or why (it may be related to microbes in soil, oxygen production, simply looking at the color green, or all of the above!) but many studies show that being around plants can help calm the systems in our bodies that produce stress. 

In studies, people who spend time with houseplants have less psychological and physiological stress than those who didn’t. These types of studies look at activity in the sympathetic nervous system (the parts of our nervous system that controls our “fight-flight-freeze” response). 

houseplants in bedroom

Being around plants suppresses activity in the sympathetic nervous system and increases the reaction of our parasympathetic nervous system, which activates a “rest and digest” state (including steady breathing, active digestion, and a steady heart rate). 

That means that plants can help lower our heart rate and blood pressure, as a 2015 study showed, among other things. 

Plants increase our positive emotions.

Many studies have also looked at the emotional response to having plants around us. They’ve shown that houseplants increase our feelings of well-being and calm, while decreasing negative emotional states like depression and anxiety

Curious about more of the health benefits of being in and around nature? Read all about how gardening helps us stay healthy, both mentally and physically. 

Plants elevate our mood and make us happier!

Being around plants (and water, by the way) can make us feel happy, confident, calm, and peaceful. Even being in a room with a cut-flower display has been shown to improve our mood.

In fact, having plants in your office can even improve your workday! Believe it or not, having indoor plants and natural light in an office results in workers reporting more satisfaction, attention, and productivity.

woman typing at computer desk near plants

Being around plants improves memory, creativity, and problem solving.

When plants are around, we experience improved attention, creative thinking, and memory. Interacting with plants can also lessen the symptoms and impact of Alzehimers and dementia — although more studies are needed and the greatest impact seems to be in gardening activity.

Just looking at plants helps our bodies heal and recover from illness or surgery — and decreases physical pain!

Having plants around encourages our bodies to recover more quickly and more easily. Studies show that even just having a view of nature through a window can helpfully impact recovery from surgery! 

Houseplants improve respiratory health.

We breathe easier around plants. They clean the air of pollutants and give us fresh oxygen for better respiratory health.

Our homes are full of things that can create air pollution and harm our health, from mold to fumes from cleaning products — not to mention air pollution from outside that enters our homes, like vehicle exhaust and wildfire smoke.

A 1989 NASA study showed that certain houseplants can remove cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene from the air!  And more newer studies are showing that potted plants can also remove benzene and other chemicals from our air.

Plant helps us feel connected and purposeful.

houseplants on the floor

While studies haven’t quite pinned down exactly why plants impact us so greatly, many researchers and thinkers in this field understand what gardeners, farmers, hikers, and nature-lovers know well: being in and around nature activates our sense of belonging, connectedness, and purpose.

Being with nature is our natural way of living — we evolved with the natural world for much, much longer than we’ve spent disconnected from it. We know that when we’re in an environment without windows or natural light, fresh air, or colorful decor, it just feels bad.

Scientists call that “environmental wellness,” and it’s a big factor of not only our mental health but also our physical health (they’re interconnected, after all!).

“Having contact with plants is an intuitive and nonverbal activity that can provide psychological stability and comfort by stimulating four senses in various ways,” the co-authors of one comprehensive study write

Plants remind us of nature’s seasons, encouraging us to stay attentive to our own needs for rest, renewal, and natural cycles. With each blossom and fruiting season, we’re reminded that there is always something hopeful and beautiful coming, if we are patient.

Learn about how to cultivate your own health-boosting indoor garden from a houseplant expert!

health benefits of indoor plants