Many families have at least one house plant in the home, ranging from large ferns to small herb gardens, but few people realize the real value of keeping plants for the purpose of air purification.
Sufferers of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) may achieve some level of relief with this natural form of air cleaning that would be a less expensive alternative to portable air purifiers (which have ongoing energy and other costs such as replacement filters).
Certainly, trying out this option is worthy of consideration for those looking for some relief from their condition.
During the late 1980’s, NASA began to study houseplants as a means of providing purer and cleaner air for space stations.
The research found that that there are many different houseplants that can help to purify the air.
These plants absorb large amounts of airborne wastes including gases, and other harmful compounds and make the air much healthier to breathe.
NASA identified a number of specific plants that were effective at removing benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia from the air—all chemicals that have been linked with harmful health effects.
Many of the plants on the list originated in tropical or subtropical environments. As a consequence, they have the ability to flourish on reduced sunlight and their leaf composition allows them to photosynthesize well in household light.
Fortunately, nowadays, most of these plants are easily found at your local florist or home improvement store.
The NASA research suggests efficient air cleaning is achievable with at least 1-2 plants per 100 square feet of space. So, pick up as many plants as you need and enjoy the natural beauty as well as the health benefits that these plants offer.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have pets then you should be aware that most indoor plants aren’t safe for pet consumption, and you should seek advice from a vet or other specialist if you have pets and are planning to introduce plants to your environment.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website provides information about poisonous plants.
Here are some indoor houseplants that are perfect for cleaning and purifying your air.
1. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is famous for its wide range of topical uses and its ability to promote healing in the skin. The gel inside the leaves is excellent for helping to heal burns and cuts.
Just snip off a piece of an Aloe Vera’s leaf and apply the clear gel on burns, cuts, rashes, and sunburn for instant relief and speedy healing.
Many people have an Aloe Vera in their homes because of its healing properties.
However, not only is it a great plant for medicinal purposes, it’s also an excellent plant for helping to keep the air in your home clean.
It is very easy to take care of, and doesn’t require a constant supply of water for it to remain healthy.
Place it in a central position and the plant will clean the air of various pollutants from modern building materials. In particular it is known to help remove benzene and formaldehyde.
Even though the gel from the Aloe Vera is considered edible, the plant is toxic to animals including to dogs, cats and horses.
2. Ficus Benjamina or Weeping Fig
Ficus Benjamina is commonly known as Weeping Fig, Benjamin, Indian Rubber Plant or Ficus Tree but is often in stores as just Ficus
Ficus is another very low maintenance plant that has its origins in Southeast Asia.
The Ficus is well known for its positive effects on people. In the past it was believed that these positive health gains emanated from the plant’s own energy.
However, in more recent times research has attributed the benefits to the plant’s ability to cleanse the air of a large amount of impurities within close proximity to it.
The Ficus can be kept indoors in very little light, and can be transferred outside during warmer months.
They are slow-growing, but can grow to 10 feet indoors. Dwarf varieties only reach 3 feet (90 cm). The plant’s height can be controlled with pruning.
The Ficus will help to purify the air and remove pollutants such as xylene, toluene and formaldehyde.
However, you should be aware that the plant is toxic to animals including dogs, cats and horses
The Ficus is a major source of indoor allergens, ranking as the third most common cause of indoor allergies after dust and pets. Common allergy symptoms include rhino conjunctivitis and allergic asthma.
Ficus plants can be of particular concern to latex allergy sufferers due to the latex in the plant.
It would not be advisable to keep these plants in an environment inhabited by latex allergy sufferers. In extreme cases, Ficus sap exposure can cause anaphylactic shock in latex allergy sufferers.
Allergy to Ficus plants can develop over time and from exposure.
3. Boston Fern
Boston Ferns are popular houseplants. They are attractive, offer health benefits and are easily available.
They function very well as natural air humidifiers and can help to restore moisture in the air so they are perfect for those who suffer from dry skin and other cold weather problems.
Boston Ferns also help eliminate formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from the air.
They can look beautiful hanging from baskets around the home.
Its large feathered ferns span as large as 5 feet and allow just a single plant to have a noticeable effect, if you have the space.
Keep Boston Ferns in direct sunlight and mist the leaves with water regularly. Also, check the soil daily and add water when it feels dry.
4. Cornstalk Dracaena
Cornstalk Dracaena is a flowering plant species that is native throughout tropical Africa.
The Dracaena Fragrans Massangeana or Dracaena Massangeana has leaves with a green outer edge and a distinctive yellow stripe that runs through the center.
This is the most commonly found and best selling variety.
It grows well as a decorative houseplant in any location.
Its long leaves can easily thrive indoors. It can tolerate low light but grows better and produces larger leaves in medium to bright indirect light. It likes humidity which can be achieved with misting. Do not over-water. Keep the leaves clean from dust.
The Cornstalk Dracaena is a slow growing shrub but, indoors, a plant can grow over six feet tall. Its height can be managed with pruning.
The Dracaena can help remove pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air.
This plant is toxic for animals such as cats and dogs and can cause vomiting (occasionally with blood), depression, anorexia, hypersalivation and dilated pupils in cats.
5. Red-Edged Dracaena (Dracaena Marginata, Dracaena Reflexa var. Angustifolia)
The Dracaena Reflexa var. Angustifolia has many commonly used names such as Red-Edged Dracaena, Madagascar Dragon Tree Dracaena, Dragon Blood Tree, And Tree Dracaena.
It has a magenta tint to its flowers, a shrubby habit, and olive green leaves.
Planted indoors, the soil should be kept evenly moist.
It is an effective air cleaner. It is known to help remove formaldehyde and is said to be among the best plants for removing trichloroethylene and xylene.
This plant is toxic for animals such as cats and dogs.
6. Snake Plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata)
The Snake Plant is also commonly known as Mother-In-Law’s Tongue.
It is a desert climate plant and is unique in that it sucks in carbon dioxide and releases oxygen during the night.
Many people chose to keep it in their bedroom or carpeted living room.
Caring for the Snake Plant is very straightforward. They tend to do the best in a dry area, and require very little water. They can also survive in low light levels.
Snake Plants are excellent houseplants for purifying the air, helping to eliminate formaldehyde. trichloroethylene, benzene and xylene and look great next to your front door, or in any corner.
These are just a few of the plants that act as natural air cleaners for some of the pollutants to be found in the air of our offices and homes, and that might be contributing to the distress of MCS sufferers.
If you are considering introducing these plants into your environment, and you have pets, be sure to seek advice about the toxicity of the plants to animals. Also, check out whether the plants emit any allergens that might impact on you or others who may be exposed.
There are many other plants that have similar air cleaning properties to the ones described above and we will return to this subject in the future.