20 | HOME & LIFESTYLE 2019 There is one important aspect we sometimes tend to forget about when looking for an ideal houseplant – their health benefits. Your environment affects your health, and the right houseplant can actually make a big differ- ence to your mood, your stress level, your sleep quality and your breathing. A nice looking plant is great, but a nice looking plant that quietly works its magic in the back- ground on your health as you go about your reg- ular routine is even better. Did you know that the air in your home could be harbouring unhealthy invisible toxins that can be eliminated by plants? See how you could take advantage of plant ben- efits by selecting the right house plant. NATURAL HEALERS The aloe vera plant (Aloe barberae) is also known as ‘lily of the desert,’ the ‘plant of immor- tality’ and the ‘wmedicine plant’. The aloe vera plant has many healing benefits, including its ability to clean air. The gel inside an aloe plant can help heal cuts and is also very effective at soothing burns, in- cluding sunburn. Ancient Egyptians recorded use of this herbal plant in treating burns, infections and parasites. The leaves of this super plant can also help to al- leviate asthma symptoms by boiling the leaves in water and breathing in the vapour. FRESH AIR The spider plant (chlorophytum comosum) will clean the air in your home of benzene, formalde- hyde, carbon monoxide and xylene. It is one of the most popular and easiest to grow of house plants; it typically doesn’t like to be placed under direct sunlight. A spider plant can grow in any type of soil and only needs to be watered occasionally. If you can remember to water it often enough that its soil stays moist, then that’s all you really need to keep this plant alive and thriving. The rubber plant (Ficus elastica) is another plant that eliminates toxic compounds from the air. They are popular ornamental plants with leathery, glossy oval shaped leaves. As time goes on, the rubber plant becomes even more efficient at eliminating toxic com- pounds from the air. BREATHE EASY Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Lauren- tii’), also known as ‘Mother In Law’s Tongue’, is low maintenance and is one of the toughest of all house plants. It has stiff upright leaves and makes a great statement in any room. As we all know, plants do the opposite of what we do when we breathe – they take in carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen. Most plants do this during the day, but the snake plant is one of only a few plants that re- lease oxygen into the air at night, making it the perfect plant to have in your bedroom as you sleep. Place plants within your breathing zone, which is about two square metres around where you normally sit or sleep, to get the full benefits. NATURAL HUMIDIFIERS About 10 per cent of the moisture in the air we breathe is released by plants. Areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens), also known as the ‘butterfly’ or ‘golden cane palm’, is a very popular household palm. This luscious palm releases moisture into a room, making it particularly welcome in dry winter months. Plants such as cacti and succulents, on the other hand, retain water and therefore release very little water into the air. NATURAL SCENTS Use fragrant plants such as dwarf kaffir lime trees (Citrus hystrix) to fill your home with a wonderful fresh smell instead of using artificial air fresheners. It’s a natural and chemical-free way to freshen your home, not to mention being handy for cooking. LESS STRESS Studies have shown that having plants in your home, or even in your workplace, have a positive effect on the occupants, helping to reduce stress and fatigue and enhance productivity. Place some house plants, particularly those with broad leaves, on your desk at work, in your home office and in any area of your home where children study or do their homework. Any palm, such as bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) or a weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), will regulate humidity and reduce carbon dioxide emissions in your home or office. RESTFUL SLEEP Getting the recommended seven to eight hours’ sleep per night can be difficult, especially when our minds are busy thinking about what happened during the day and everything we need to do tomorrow. Studies have shown that the vapour from some plants, specifically lavender (Lavandula) and jas- mine (Jasminum) can lead to a more restful sleep. Keep a lavender or jasmine plant by your bed. The smell from these plants induces a state of tranquility that will help you prepare for a good night’s sleep. IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH When you are feeling under the weather, noth- ing perks you up like the gift of a plant or colour- ful flowers. Studies have shown that hospital patients who have flowers or plants in their room, or who look out onto a garden from their room, often recover more quickly than those who have no plants around them. Plants help to increase our levels of positivity and make us feel more secure and relaxed. They can also help with loneliness and depres- sion. Caring for a living thing gives us a purpose and is rewarding, especially when a plant you have been lovingly caring for bursts into bloom. Choose easy-to-care-for plants such as African violets (Saintpaulia). They bloom all year round with little effort.