Looking for an easy way to spruce up your environment and boost your health? Consider adding plants to your home. A growing body of research shows that simply being around greenery profoundly benefits the mind and body – from lowering blood pressure to improving mood to reducing the perception of pain.
“Caring for a plant enhances our sense of well-being and connects us with nature,” says Georgianna Donadio, PhD, academic program director at the National Institute of Whole Health in Wellesley, Mass. Donadio says that while any plant is a good choice, certain plants do double-duty, thanks to their healing properties. Here are seven especially great options:
Thyme: This herb is delicious in food – but fresh thyme plants also help keep bugs at bay. “It’s a mosquito repellant,” explains Donadio. Interestingly, the active ingredient in thyme is a natural antiseptic, which is why it’s a primary ingredient in some mouthwashes and in all-natural housecleaners and hand sanitizers.
Aloe: Your grandmother’s favorite salve for cuts and minor burns has science to back it. A recent South African study found that aloe plant has anti-bacterial properties, and other studies have suggested that it moisturizes and aids healing. To use, simply break off an aloe leaf and apply the oozing clear gel found in the center to your abrasion.
Ivy, spider plants, ferns and palms: “All plants act as organic air filters by taking toxins out of the air, and replenishing oxygen in the process,” says Donadio. “But certain plants, including ivy, spider plants, ferns and palms, have an especially high photosynthesis rate – that is, they absorb carbon dioxide and return oxygen at a rapid rate.” Bonus: these four are easy to grow, so even the blackest thumb will find it easy to cultivate them.
Lavender: Numerous studies have shown that the sweet-smelling herb can invoke feelings of relaxation, and one 2006 study from Korean researchers found that women who inhaled lavender fragrance before bed improved the quality and duration of their sleep. To reap the zzz-inducing benefits, place a potted lavender plant near your bed, or snip off the flowering branches, let them dry for a few days, and place them in a cloth satchel that you keep under your pillow or in your bedroom.