By Marianne Taylor

A growing body of research by the National Center for Biotechnology Information is confirming that a connection to nature is essential to our health and well-being. With the technological world demands, pollutants and chemicals in our food and environment, we live in a time of great imbalance. We’re trying endlessly to keep up in this fast-pace society, struggling to manage health routines, adding more anxiety and stress into our overly scheduled lives. There has never been a greater need to incorporate natural healing practices into our lives and at home to seek personal wellness.

Holistic health has been practiced for thousands of years. It is a state of balance; not simply an absence of illness but an interconnection of mind, body, spirit and the environment. Fourth century B.C., Hippocrates, the father of medicine, stressed the healing power of nature. He believed in encouraging the self-healing efforts of the body, considering the whole person, rather than focusing on specific illnesses, body parts or symptoms. Use of massage therapy, meditation, aromatherapy and yoga are common practices for connecting body-mind-spirit to promote better health.

Today, we are seeing a trend focusing back on holistic lifestyle choices and people are seeking ways to help heal physical, environmental and emotional health. Healthcare providers are giving natural prescriptions to help treat a variety of medical conditions from anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

Nature therapy

Scientists have long known that sunlight and walking outside reduces depression. According to WebMD, as little as five minutes in a natural setting, whether gardening or moving around outside, improves mood, self-esteem and motivation.

If you spend a lot of time indoors, due to long working hours or weather conditions, poor air quality is bound to affect your health. In fact, indoor toxins can have a detrimental effect on health. Such toxins can cause allergies, asthma, inflammation, anxiety, stress and even certain types of cancer, according to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Plants in our environment will help us breathe easier and feel better.

Indoor plants promote a cleaner environment, better sleep and overall wellness. If you’re lacking in sleep, you may find trouble in decision-making, problem solving, controlling emotions and coping with change.

Plants will provide better sleep by adding more oxygen to the room, according to Horticulture and Landscape Design Professor Ken Lee of Saddleback College.

“Indoor plants provide air filtering functions by increasing oxygen levels, and at the same time, remove volatile organic compounds and other harmful chemicals from the air, promoting better rest,” said Lee.

The top air-improving plant is aloe vera. It’s easy to grow and maintain and emits oxygen at night. It’s also a great option for those looking for a low maintenance plant, as it requires minimum water and attention. In fact, the Egyptians nicknamed it the ‘plant of immortality’ because of its resilience.

The second top air-improving plant is the spider plant. NASA tests indicate this champion cleanser removes up to 90 percent of the cancer-causing chemical formaldehyde from the air.

Here are a few other plants that will help promote health in the home:

Peace Lily: Its flowers give off humidity and suppress airborne microbes; however, keep it away from children and pets since it is highly toxic if consumed.

Lavender: Known for its relaxant properties, lavender reduces insomnia, restlessness, lowers heart rate and calms agitated babies.

Jasmine: The scent is sweet to our senses, reducing anxiety.

Bamboo Palm: This plant keeps airborne odors and toxins away and doesn’t need direct sunlight.

Rosemary: Improves air quality, memory function and reduces anxiety and stress. Try crushing some leaves in your hands and inhale.

Snake Plants: These night aspirators give off their oxygen during the hours we sleep, which is thought to boost the chances of having a good night’s rest.

Red-edged Dracaena: Brightens and purifies the home.

Areca Palm: Purifies air, lowers blood pressure and calms our mental state.

Learn more about healthful home plants by talking to a gardening specialist at Plant Depot, located at 32413 San Juan Creek Road, San Juan Capistrano; at Dana Point Nursery, located at 34100 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point; or at Shore Gardens, located at 201 S. Ola Vista, San Clemente.

 Marianne Taylor is the founder and executive director of Goin Native Therapeutic Gardens, a 501(c)(3) teaching gardening and life skills as a way of empowering, engaging and connecting people. Goin Native focuses on educating local families, special needs adults, seniors, at-risk youth and members of the military.

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