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Breathe Easier: Buy a Houseplant and Clean the Air

Bamboo Palm or Reed Palm plants (Lucky Bamboo)  clean indoor air pollution removing the harmful VOCs formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene, making air safer to breathe.
Lucky Bamboo Plants

    One of the best ways to clean the indoor air of your home or office is with a houseplant or two in each of your rooms or on your desk.  The more plants you have, the better the indoor quality of your air.  This is because plants absorb carbon dioxide and other toxins and release oxygen into the surrounding air during photosynthesis. 

Palm tree indoor houseplant cleans the air and removes carbon dioxide from indoor environments.A study done by (NASA, Wolverton, 1989), proved the capabilities of several varieties of plants in removing, formaldehyde, benzene, and other toxins or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from our living environment.  In fact, many of these plants are so beneficial at reducing VOCs they are targeted for future space missions. For example, the Peace Lily and the Pot Mum remove all of the toxic chemicals in the study:  benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia.  Golden Potho's, Mother-in-Law's Tongue, and the Red-edged Dracaena remove all but ammonia. The popular Bamboo or Reed Palm, better known as Lucky Bamboo as shown in the photo above, removes formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene.  Perhaps it is lucky after all.  That doesn't mean you have to turn your home or office into a jungle. Studies have shown that just one six inch plant per every 100 square feet will suffice. Broad leafed plants seem to perform the best.  We inadvertently introduce these toxins into our indoor environments when we remodel, redecorate, and clean our homes and offices. New carpet and furnishings, wood stains, polyurethane coatings, paints and cleaners all contribute to the indoor pollution of buildings.  Add to this the dust containing germs, dust mites, pollens and other irritants, it's no wonder many people become ill when confined to a building for long periods of time. This indoor air pollution is now attributed to Sick Building Syndrome or SBS.  You can view a more detailed chart at (Wilkepedia, 2013) where it lists specific chemicals removed as well as toxicities to children and pets for a greater number of houseplants. Reducing at least some of these toxins contributes to a more healthy indoor environment. Some of the more common and easy to grow house plants for reducing toxins, as well as removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, according to the study above, are listed below:
Golden Potho's houseplant for removing toxic chemicals from indoor buildings for cleaner air.

   Bamboo Palm-Chamaedorea Seifritzii       

   English Ivy-Hedera Helix

   Gerbera Daisy-Gerbera Jamesonii

   Pot Mum-Chrysanthemum Morifdium

   Boston Fern-Nephrolepis Exaltata

   Spider Plant-Chlorophytum Comosum

   Dumb Cane (Camilla or Exotica)-Dieffenbachia

   Mother-in-Law's Tongue-Sanseviria Laurentii

   Peace Lily(Mauna Loa)-Spathiphyllum

   Red-edged Dracaena-Dracaena Marginata 

   Golden Pothos-Scindapsus Aures or   

     Epipremnum Aureum

   Heartleaf Philodendron-Philodendron

     Oxycardium, syn. Philodendron Cordatum

Lavender flowers and leaves can be crushed to release scent for inhalation, reducing stress and anxiety.                                                                                     The lavender plant is a wonderful addition to this list for its duo purpose qualities. Lavender is known for cleaning the air, while also inducing a state of relaxation due to the chemical composition of its scent. Both attributes important for those with allergies as well as asthmatics. Obviously, cleaning the air reduces allergy and asthma symptoms on a physical level, but stress reduction is also important for relieving allergy and asthma symptoms.  When your body is stressed it releases hormones and histamines.  Eventually, if the stress is not reduced, your immune system wears down and symptoms become worse.  Before you know it, you're repeating a vicious cycle of symptoms, medications, and anxiety.  So growing an indoor lavender plant can have many benefits.  Lavender requires a bright sunny location to flower and flourish indoors.  Lavender would also be beneficial in the stressful environment of a sunny office.  It must be allowed to dry out slightly between thorough waterings.  You'll know when to water when it begins to droop. Be sure to drain it completely to avoid root rot.  If your home or office is very dry, you can place it on a tray filled with water and pebbles, gravel, or sand to provide humidity.

     If your allergies or asthma are attributed to mold, you can water the plant from the bottom with a tray to prevent the top layer of soil from getting too moist, or just cover the top of the soil with gravel to prevent mold spores escaping into the air. Annual repotting with sterile soil also helps to alleviate mold growth. Add to this soil a thin layer of activated charcoal to help capture the chemicals absorbed by the plant into the root system.  Eventually the chemicals will be broken down by microbes.  Lucky Bamboo is also a good plant for those with mold sensitivities, because it is easily grown in water. Frequent water changes prevent the growth and spread of mold spores. Another option is hydroponics, a growing method that's uses no soil.  If you would like to try your hand at that method here is a small kit to get you started:

     If you are lucky enough to have a bright sunny window in your bedroom, you can place a lavender plant there and reap all the benefits for a peaceful night's rest.  If the sunny location is elsewhere in your home, you can place a small dish of the crushed leaves and flowers near your bedside and just refresh it now and then.  Use other low-light plants from the list for cleaning the air, such as the Mother-in-Law's Tongue, and the crushed lavender for relaxation.  Be sure to check the Quick Reminder Chart at the top of the page for helpful hints.

Lavender as a houseplant cleans the air and adds a calming, relaxing scent to the indoor environment for stress relief..

Note:  Lavender has been found to be an allergen in some people, although, it is extremely rare.

          Just be aware that if your breathing problem worsens or other symptoms develop; you 
          could be one of those rare persons allergic to lavender, and you should discontinue its use. 


 Wolverton, B. C. et al (1989), NASA "Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement." 

List of air-filtering plants. (2013, February 27). In Wilkepedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved    14:14 March 16, 2013, from

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