Wednesday, January 19

Air-purifying and sleep-promoting plants

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It is said that the snake plant is able to filter out chemicals in the air like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene, which can be found in the condensers of certain electrical equipment. — Bernama photo

WE are now more concerned with good and healthy living environment in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The whole world is doing its best in avoiding the virus from spreading around by all means – the lockdown and quarantines are preventive measures to curtail such spread.

Vaccination is a direct means of building body immunity against virus infection.

The goal of achieving herd immunity is to break the chain of Covid-19.

This is the same as the plant disease control that we have implemented for many devastating pathogens – the pepper foot-rot disease, the South American leaf blight affecting rubber trees, or the ‘Fusarium’ wilt of oil palms from West Africa.

Today, we hope the world could be a healthier living environment, free of harmful chemicals and pollutants, and enable people to consume organic food and hydroponic products – yet, we are still facing the challenges of new harmful elements, which are even present in the so-called eco-organic fertilisers now.

It is known that the gel from Aloe Vera contains a mixture of amino acids, vitamins and enzymes with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

All we can do is to live in a healthy environment and in this respect, there are some plants that can help clean or purify the foul air and thus, improve our home atmosphere.

What are the factors that contribute to air impurity at home? They are synthetic materials such as cushions, carpets and plastics.

A research conducted by the Journal of Physiological Anthropology in 2015, found that interacting with indoor plants could reduce both physiological and psychological stress in people.

Today, we examine the health-promoting plants that can be grown in pots indoors.

1. Snake Plant

It is low-maintenance and easy to grow, able to reach a height of two feet and beyond. It requires a brightly-lit area, but it must never be over-watered. We have several local varieties to choose from; the one imported from China with yellow leaf-margins seems to be the most popular and able to fetch a good price at the nursery. I have planted a good pot of it and left it in the shade for a few months – it has grown profusely, able for replacement into several smaller pots.

This plant helps us to sleep better, according to some sources.

It is also good for filtering out chemicals in the air like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene, which could be found in the condensers of certain electrical equipment.

2. Dracaena Lisa

It is an excellent indoor plant, as it is hardy and adaptable to varying light environment. Not to be over-exposed to direct sunlight though, as this can easily scorch the leaves.

The variety includes the ‘ponytail’, which stands by itself upon a ‘solemn stick’ with a topknot of long thin green leaves resembling a horse’s tail.

It also filters the afore-mentioned pollutants from the air. However, the leaf is toxic if it were to be bitten and ingested by cats or dogs.

Another variety suitable for indoor is the ‘Dracaena Marginata’.

3. Aloe Vera

This is another easy-to-handle house plant that can be left in the same container for months. It needs very little water as the leaves are thick with liquid content – pretty much, a succulent. This plant removes formaldehyde from the air, which is good for the bedroom as the fresh air should be able to improve sleep.

In Kalimantan, Indonesia, Aloe Vera is a well-known ingredient for a local drink.

The gel can provide a soothing relief for insect stings, like those from bees or wasps – it cools down the burning sensation almost instantly. It is known that aloe gel contains a mixture of amino acids, vitamins and enzymes with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

4. Peace Lily

A Spathiphylum spp stalk has a fragrant white flower – a bunch can pack a major air-cleaning agent able to remove certain indoor pollutants, gases and solvents such as ammonia, benzene and trichloroethylene.

These are common components of synthetic building materials, carpeting, cleaners and upholstery items.

It is not recommended to place the plant under direct sunlight – it should be kept under a nice shade, with little additions of water. Any large green foliage is good for its surroundings, in that the Peace Lily is an outstanding decorative piece to own.

5. Bamboo Palm (Lady’s Palm)

It is a common decorative palm that does not grow too tall or too bushy. It is relatively easy to maintain. Outdoor growing would make the plant more vigorous, in that it would boost it to sprout new shoots.

6. Spider Plant

This small grassy-looking plant grows well in the shade, even in hanging pots. However, it would be better to re-pot them after two years. The plant is good for humidifying the environment, as well absorbing pollutant such as formaldehyde and xylene.

7. Rubber Plant

Also known as ‘Rubber Fig’, this easy-to-grow shrub, with reddish ventral leaves amidst the dark green upper surface, can be planted in pots or in the garden under direct sunlight. However, it is not recommended for long-term growing in pots, as it would sprout aerial roots and it tends to be rather large after a season.

The latex is quite messy to the touch, and we can see them mostly outside the compound.

8. Monstera Deliciosa

It grows best under shade, with the occasional bright sunlight shining through the shadow pockets of the upper canopy. This philodendron is effective at reducing air pollutants as those afore-mentioned in this article. Some large green leaves would have splits along the margin inwards, creating distinctive patterns on different leaves. With its beautiful foliage, it is prized as an outstanding landscape potted plant.

9. ZZ Plant

Once, this was regarded as a ‘Huat Chai (lucky in Chinese) plant, and was sold at fantastically high prices. It symbolises prosperity and friendship, making it one of the best housewarming gifts that you could ever present to someone. However, the latex is claimed to be carcinogenic. The roots, or rhizomes, store water and nutrition. This plant needs less maintenance.

10. Peppermint

This famous ingredient is incredibly safe, and is used in the Chinese herbal treatments for various ailments such as upset tummy and headaches. Peppermint is naturally anti-spasmodic – it can relieve stomach-cramping. It is famously used to brew herbal tea taken after meals. It is grown using seeds, and container-planting is the best means to maintain it, with some added nutrients and water.

Well, we have covered the vital points regarding plants that can help improve air quality at home and the surrounding environment. We hope everyone would continue to practise a healthy living.

Happy Gardening!