Is there anything worse than allergy season? Coughing, sniffling, sneezing, red eyes, Rudolph-colored noses, and itchiness are some of the main symptoms of an allergy problem. While many of these allergies are seasonal, knowing that they are merely seasonal does not really bring much relief. What if there was an all-natural way to reduce airborne allergens that also cleaned the air and factored into your room décor? By using house plants to improve the air quality in your home or office, you’ll be able to incorporate biophilic design into your space while being able to breathe out of both nostrils. But I’m allergic to plants! What do I do now? Rest assured, there are multitudes of plants out there that clear the air while not producing more allergens for your space. Check out the information below to determine the best plants for your home or office.
Do plants really improve the air quality around you?
Absolutely, plants really do improve the air quality around you. These natural air filters are able to purify air through a variety of processes, including absorption, dilution, precipitation, and filtration. First, plants are capable of removing harmful gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides. Second, simply through their primal processes like photosynthesis, plants are able to increase the amount of oxygen in their surrounding environment. Third, varying plant species, types of soil used, amounts of light available, the temperature of the environment, and size of the plant all play crucial roles in a plant’s ability to impact surrounding air pollution. In short, plant systems have played a significant role in improving indoor air quality. By some estimates, plants have been able to provide a 50% reduction in known allergens in the air.
Why are plants important for those with allergies and asthma?
Asthma attacks are scary, and allergies are not much fun either. By incorporating the right plants into your home or office, common allergens can be reduced, which may in turn aid in the reduction of the amount of, or severity of, asthma attacks or allergic reactions. Through photosynthesis, plants are able to remove carbon dioxide and other toxins from the air. They use that carbon dioxide to make sugar as an energy source for the plant. The byproduct of photosynthesis is oxygen, which the plant does not need, so it releases oxygen into the air. An increased oxygen supply is vital for people who are struggling to breathe. By reducing the carbon dioxide and increasing the oxygen in the air, plants are helping to ensure we humans are getting more of what we need with each valuable breath, and less of what we don’t. In return, humans release carbon dioxide when they exhale, providing the exact gas needed for plants to survive and release more oxygen. Aren’t symbiotic relationships wonderful?!
Plants not only filter out toxic gases in their environments, but they are also able to filter out compounds such as mold, chemical residues, and other air pollutants in the space of your home or office. Plants are able to regulate humidity in a room, aiding in drying out damp or humid spaces. Plants absorb moisture through their leaves. In removing the dampness and humidity, plants are aiding in the prevention of mold growth. It is important to remember that plants cannot eliminate mold issues on their own, but they do offer a step in its prevention and control. Plants are also able to trap mold spores, preventing the spread of mold. They do this by capturing the mold spores with their leaves, the larger the better.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are toxic compounds and include things like formaldehyde and benzene. Formaldehyde is dangerous, but it is ever-present in many household products, like building materials, e.g., carpets, cabinetry, and some paints. It is also present in many adhesives and is commonly used in dry cleaning. Plants are able to absorb formaldehyde gas through their leaves and metabolize it, effectively removing it from the air and keeping us out of danger.
Benzene is a liquid that quickly evaporates into the air. It is found in multiple household products including, adhesives, paints, detergents, and cleaning supplies. The process is similar to that of the removal of formaldehyde. Plants absorb this toxic gas through their leaves. Both benzene and formaldehyde are known carcinogens. The reduction of these compounds is not only beneficial to air quality, but also to our lives in general.
In order to ensure your plants are photosynthesizing at an adequate rate, it is imperative to provide your indoor plants with adequate light. See our Before You Buy video on Light Level and Plant Placement at PLANTZ.com. Many plants thrive in a certain amount of light but will also survive in lower levels of light. If the role of plants in your house is to improve air quality, then make sure the plant has enough light to ensure the process of photosynthesis is occurring at optimal levels.
In 1989, NASA conducted a two-year study to see how well indoor plants filter out indoor air pollutants, including cigarette smoke. The study also looked at an indoor plant’s ability to filter out formaldehyde and benzene. While the experiment was conducted in highly optimal circumstances, which included the use of a sealed experimental chamber, the results were very promising. The study showed that when plants and potting soil are consistently exposed to toxic chemicals, the plant’s ability to remove the toxic chemicals and compounds from the air increases with time. The microbiomes in the soil are able to adapt to their changing surroundings and increase their ability to use toxic compounds as nutritional sources.
The investigation into using plants as an air filtration system continues today, with research expanding into using indoor plants to help filter COVID-19 out of indoor spaces. The research is in the experimentation stage, but the theories behind it are promising.
Which plants should you avoid when coping with allergies and asthma?
Some people may be confounded by the idea that plants can improve air quality through the removal of allergens from the air when they are plagued by seasonal allergies to…PLANTS! It is important to remember that not all plants will help with allergies, and yes, there are some out there that will exacerbate the situation.
In choosing the right plants for improved air quality, it may be more prudent to identify the types of plants you absolutely do not want to try. The first type of plant to avoid would be the ones that are going to add large amounts of pollen to the air. Plants that bloom with a lot of flowers are not ideal for people with allergies as pollen is the key allergen. Flower arrangements are also a bad idea for people with allergies. For example, Chrysanthemums are common in many flower arrangements, and while they are gorgeous blooms, they are related to ragweed and are a bad idea for allergy and asthma sufferers.
Ferns are also a bad idea for asthmatics and people prone to both nasal allergies and skin allergies. Ferns use spores to propagate, and while similar to pollen it is not exactly the same. The spores can grow new ferns through both sexual and asexual reproduction, meaning spores alone can generate new plants. The spores are released into the air and, when inhaled, can cause an allergic reaction to occur in some people. Ferns are also known to cause skin irritation and rashes in other people. This can be caused by the fronds themselves or even the spores. The reaction is similar to that of poison ivy. It is advised that people with allergies avoid ferns for these reasons.
For angiosperms (flowering plants) and gymnosperms (plants with naked seeds), the male plant is the pollen producer. One of the most prolific pollen producers is the male palm, which is also an angiosperm. Palms are popular indoor plants. They have beautiful leaves and can grow to be the perfect focal point for your room. However, they are not allergy sufferers’ friends. If you have your heart set on a palm for your space, make sure it is a female palm to reduce the number of allergens in the air.
The five best plants to help with allergies and asthma?
As discussed above, some plants are better than others for improving air quality for allergy sufferers and people prone to asthma attacks. The five best plants for indoor use to help reduce allergens and improve air quality are:
- Snake Plant
- Areca Palm
- Janet Craig
- Parlor Palm
- Giganta Plant
The Snake Plant, or Sansevieria, is a popular indoor plant. They are incredibly easy to care for, making it easy on new plant parents. They originated in arid regions of Africa and Asia, and due to their arid beginnings, thrive in dry soil. They require little water. PLANTZ.com recommends watering these plants about once per month. Using our PlantAssure Sub-Irrigation System. While they thrive in bright light, they are able to tolerate low to medium light for extended periods of time. These are unique plants in that their sword-shaped leaves grow straight up in the air, allowing them to generally avoid dust accumulation, which is a great benefit to allergy sufferers. Also, because their leaves are long, they are adept at absorbing toxic air pollutants like formaldehyde and benzene.
The Areca Palm is a great option for improving air quality. While it is a palm, it is not one of the bad palms that spews enormous amounts of pollen into a room. These palms were shown by NASA and subsequent studies to be excellent at filtering out formaldehyde from the surrounding air. Plants are great at balancing humidity in a given space, and the Areca Palm is no exception. To the benefit of many asthmatics, they are masters at rehydrating a dry room in the winter. These palms essentially sweat water, or transpire, through their leaves, releasing moisture into the air in dry rooms and helping those with breathing problems breathe a little easier. Not only are they great at air purification, but they are also a fantastic way to create a tropical setting in your home or office. They do require a very well-lit room, which aids in photosynthesis. For more information on the Areca Palm and care instructions, read our Areca Palm Care Guide.
Another decadent option for plant lovers and allergy sufferers is the Janet Craig. This plant is a form of the Dracaena Deremensis and is very popular with plant lovers for its ease of care and air purification qualities. This plant was also used in the NASA study, which proved it was effective at removing trichloroethylene from the air. Trichloroethylene is another dangerous VOC that is found in many household products like carpet cleaners, spot removers, paint removers and cleaning wipes. It is also a known carcinogen. PLANTZ.com recommends ample sunlight from the high to medium range. This plant also prefers drier roots. Make sure the soil is dry before you water it again. One alluring property of this plant is its long green leaves. It is important to keep these leaves dirt free to allow for optimal photosynthesis, especially if you are housing your Janet Craig in a lower-light area.
Check out this video from PLANTZ.com on the Janet Craig Compacta:
Another palm that is great for air purification is the Parlor Palm or Neatha Bella Palm. This particular palm was listed by NASA as one of the top 50 indoor plants for air purification. These plants have been proven to be adept at removing formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air. These palms are easy to care for and will do well in low-light conditions. Native to the rainforests of Guatemala and southern Mexico, these plants like some moisture in their lives, but not too much! There’s a balance to maintain. If watering your new Janet Craig stresses you out, invest in the Plant-Assure Subirrigation System from PLANTZ.com. It will take all of the guesswork out of whether it is time to water your plant or not.
The fifth plant on the list of great air-purifying plants is another Dracaena Cane plant, the Giganta Plant. These plants come with yellow and green variegated leaves, which leaves span the entire length of the plant from top to bottom. Their large, wide leaves are great at trapping toxins like formaldehyde and synthesizing carbon dioxide to release large amounts (for a plant) of oxygen into a room. The best part – this plant is insanely easy to care for. They don’t require much light. They don’t require much water. For maintenance, in order to keep those air purification attributes top-notch, make sure to clean the leaves once in a while with a wet cloth to remove any dust that may collect.
Why is overwatering plants bad for air quality?
While we have discussed how providing the right amount of sunlight for plants is crucial for photosynthesis in order to increase oxygen output, paying attention to the amount you water your plants is equally important for air quality. Overwatering is common practice for new plant parents. The problem with overwatering is that the overly moist soil is a great breeding ground for dust mites. Dust mites are tiny creatures from the Arachnid class (think eight legs) that thrive in moist, hot areas. They are about one-third of a millimeter in size. They don’t bite or sting as some spiders do. Instead, they are creatures that feed on dead human skin cells and then release waste into the air. The proteins in this waste are the allergen. Asthmatics in particular have a difficult time with dust mite allergens.
Mold is another problem with persistently damp soil. High humidity and poor airflow will cause mold to grow on your plants or in the potting soil. Mold growth causes the release of mold spores, which are allergens. Mold allergies are caused by sensitive immune systems. As people breathe in the mold spores, an immune system response is triggered and methods of fighting the foreign spores are created in the allergy sufferers’ bodies. Mold allergies are often the culprit of asthmatic attacks.
As plant parents, it is our job to ensure our plants are getting the right amount of all of the plant’s needs. From sunlight to fertilizer, to temperature, and to water, it may feel daunting caring for plants and ensuring their long-term happiness. Much like humans, moderation is the key. Your plant having a brown leaf is not necessarily indicative of a need for water. Many times your plant comes with care instructions. (If they don’t, then PLANTZ.com has everything you need, with tips, tricks, and solutions to many plant parent’s questions.) Following the care instructions precisely should prevent overwatering.
Frequently asked questions
How do plants help with allergies?
Plants are great at absorbing a wide variety of allergens and toxic chemicals from the air. They absorb these chemicals and allergens through their leaves. Also, through their natural processes, they are able to increase the amount of oxygen in the air. Both of these are beneficial to people who suffer from asthma attacks and allergies. Not all plants are helpful with allergies.
Is it ok to sleep with plants in the bedroom?
Plants in the bedroom are a hotly debated topic. At night, when the sun goes down, plants change from using carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen to releasing carbon dioxide and using oxygen. While the amount of carbon dioxide released is not harmful to humans, the added benefit of increased oxygen is lost at night. Plants do; however, help regulate humidity. Dry air is the bane of allergy sufferers and asthmatics. Oftentimes, people buy humidifiers to help balance moisture in the air. Having plants in the bedroom will help balance moisture levels, perhaps without needing an additional humidifier in the room.
Are plants better than air purifiers?
For those with serious allergies and asthma issues, air purifiers are a necessity of life. Using plants in conjunction with air purifiers will greatly improve the quality of air in your home or office space. Not only do plants clean the air, but they also are easily incorporated into most design concepts and have been shown to provide a feeling of calmness, which in turn helps lower blood pressure and stress levels, both of which may be issues for allergy sufferers and asthmatics.
What plants trigger asthma/allergies?
Not all plants are great options for allergy sufferers and asthmatics. As pollen is often the culprit for those with allergies, flowering plants and elaborate flower arrangements are bad news. Two flowering plants to avoid are Chrysanthemums and African violets. Chrysanthemums are related to ragweed, a plant that produces pollen that affects a lot of people negatively. African violets have leaves that hold onto dust easily. Since dust is another common allergen, having plants that easily hold onto dust is a bad idea. As noted above, certain male palms are pollen-making machines. But not all palms are made the same. Palms like the Areca Palm and the Parlor Palm have been shown to absorb toxic compounds with their long green leaves, making them a good option for allergy sufferers.
How can PLANTZ help you?
PLANTZ is your go-to place for everything related to plants. New plant parents may feel overwhelmed with the care of their new plants, and many times the instructions that come with newly purchased plants are vague. Experienced plant parents may also have questions about various plant needs or issues. That’s why Plantz hires experts that are highly trained and qualified to provide you with accurate information needed for all plant parents to ensure your plants are happy and healthy and remain that way.
Not only is PLANTZ.COM the go-to for questions or advice, but they also sell a wide variety of plants that not only make your space beautiful but also work to improve air quality in your home or office. Their experts will guide you to the right plant that will help alleviate your allergy symptoms or asthma attacks. There’s no need to wait in long lines at big box chain stores or try to find a nursery that has the specific plant you are looking for. With PLANTZ, you can shop online and order from the comforts of your home. PLANTZ has detailed care instructions for each of its plants along with various tips and tricks to ensure the longevity of your plant.
Contact PLANTZ.com today to arrange delivery of your new living air filter. They have the right plant for your space and needs.