The Best Plants To Detox The Air In Your Home

"Forget the old lady who lived in a shoe. I’m the young lady who lives in a green womb. As I sit and type this, I’m relaxing in my hammock, staring out at the broad leaves of my fig, backlit by a fading northern light and at least six dozen philodendrons and Pothos cascading down from my highest shelves. 

I’ve seemed to manage to bring nature indoors, in some artificial way. Tama Matsuoka, a pro forager and recent guest on my Conversations series, would say they are all “prisoners of war” — trapped in their tiny pots. History would reveal to us that this is perhaps what nature intended. The Egyptians brought plants indoors as early as 3rd Century BC. Paleoethnobotanists have also found evidence that plants were grown indoors over 2000 years ago. And the Hanging Gardens of Babylon — whether real or fictional — reveal that potted plants were indeed desirable as part of a building's architecture. 

If anything, we’ve made ourselves prisoners, sitting between four walls anywhere from 15 to 20 hours per day. Think about it: The average city dweller spends up to 90 percent of her time indoors. It’s no wonder why some of us formerly rural folk have decided to bring some green indoors. 

There are many benefits to having plants in our home and office environments. Anecdotally, it both elevates my mood and calms me. Perhaps plant care may feel like a quotidian chore to some people, but the act of watering and trimming plants, if done at the end of a day, is very meditative. Additionally, evapotranspiration from leaves normally raises the humidity in a room by 5-10%, which is particularly good for when air is dry. 

Depending on species, plants can act as effective botanical air-purification systems. The higher the transpiration rates, the higher the convection currents, which ultimately has a pulling effect on airborne toxins. During the 1980s, NASA found that some species of plants can eliminate up to 87% of toxins in the air, including formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide, and even dust. These volatile organic contaminants (VOCs) are off-gassed in homes from paint, varnishes, cleaning solutions, insulations, wood, furniture, carpeting and other products. NASA concluded that 15 to 18 mature air-filtering plants in a house with an area of about 160 square meters could maintain the level of emissions in accordance with our environmental standards. 

Since that time, multiple studies with varying methods have been conducted. From what I’ve seen from the literature, the following thirty species have been shown to be effective biological air filters:
  • Bamboo Palm (Chamadorea elegans or C. erumpens)
  • Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
  • Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelini)
  • English ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Florist’s mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
  • Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
  • Kimberly queen fern (Nephrolepis obliterrata)
  • Rubber plant (Ficus elastic)
  • Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens)
  • Corn plant (Dracaena fragrans)
  • Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensisI)
  • Peace lily (Spathiphyllum varieties
  • Schefflera (Brassaia actinophylla)
  • Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina)
  • Dendrobium orchid (Dendrobium sp.)
  • Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia sp.)
  • Long leaf fig (Ficus binnendijkii)
  • King of Hearts (Homalomena wallisii)
  • Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
  • Lily turk (Liriope muscari)
  • Spider Plant (Clopophytium comosum)
  • Philodendron (Philodendron sp.)
  • Dragon tree (Dracena marginata)
  • Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
  • Flamingo lily (Anthurium andreanum)
  • Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens)
  • Azalea (Azalea sp.)
  • Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
  • Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  • Cast iron plant (Aspidistra sp.)
Click here to view how to build a vertical garden with many of the plants above."

On the Road

The author, with her bicycle
After my 6-year-old son died, I was determined to grieve on my own terms. So I sold all my belongings and set off on my bicycle
"My son, Vasu died of cancer on August 19, 2009. He was 6 years old.
I was aware before he died what his death could do to me. Vasu got sick in the fall of 2004, and two months later my mom was also diagnosed with cancer. She died a month after he went into remission.
V and Snowman
Vasu, with a snowman
After Mom’s death, I only left the house to go to the grocery store, Vasu’s preschool, and the children’s hospital for his check-ups. Chance encounters with people I knew left me breathless with panic and desperate to return home. People explained that “the first year is the worst” and that I would “heal with time,” but that made no sense to me. Grief was a road I was forced onto, a place in-between living and dying. More than two years after Mom died I was still traveling the same road.
Then in a single day everything changed.
I was sitting in the kitchen with my dad. He explained that two years on he still couldn’t live without Mom. He wanted to follow her. He wanted to be dead.
“I know this sounds strange,” I replied, “but I think I already am.”
For the rest of the day I played with Vasu and saw him through the eyes of someone who had died, and realized I no longer wanted to be dead. In that moment I stepped off the road of grief. I started to smile and even laugh. I didn’t have to pretend to be happy — I was happy.
Two months later, the doctors found metastasized tumors throughout Vasu’s body. He survived the nine-month treatment, but would never go into remission again.
I knew that if I could lose years to sorrow after Mom’s death, the death of my only child could steal away my life. As Vasu was dying, nearly everyone confirmed this. “What you are going through is the worst thing a mother could possibly experience,” they said. But I didn’t want to believe them. I wanted something different. I didn’t want to grieve for the rest of my life.
For Vasu’s memorial we invited the community to build a giant sandcastle on his favorite beach. It was a fortress when finished; 20 feet long with a deep moat. Then, because Vasu would have wanted it that way, we asked all of his friends to jump on it.
Afterwards, I said goodbye to everyone I knew, including Vasu’s daddy. We had shared 13 years together, 6 of them raising our child. But we had nothing left to offer each other except tears and pain. I sold everything I owned except an old mountain bike and camping gear, and on October 1 I began cycling the Pacific Coast Bike Route.
I quickly became comfortable with the challenges of the road: the shattered glass, the narrow shoulders, and the bellow of air brakes and blast of air in the wake of tractor-trailers. My body adapted to my new life much faster than my grief did. My legs bulged with new muscle after barely two weeks, and when I removed the 45 pounds of gear draped over the wheels my bicycle became ridiculously light.I cycled every other day on the narrow shoulder of Highway 101. I was a refugee, fleeing the sorrow that pursued me. At the end of every day I sat beside the ocean. It was large enough to hold the grief that overwhelmed me — and the fierce fall winds and blistering sand cleansed my heart for a while.
But whenever I thought about Vasu, no matter what memory I searched for, it was always usurped by his last breaths; his still, cold face. I became so accustomed to the images of his last moments that I no longer hid my tears and sobbing breaths when strangers walked past me on the shore. The wilderness gave me privacy that friends and family would have taken away. The ocean did not expect me to be strong or heroic. It didn’t even need me to survive. I was allowed to be a grieving mother, and could take my time to find the end of the road.
I cycled for two months, and along the way I graduated from refugee to pilgrim.
It’s been more than four years since I ended my ride down the coast. The memories of Vasu’s death began to fade soon after I turned back and headed home. I was free to remember him happy. I also brought back with me a desire to create a new language for grief — one that acknowledges that there is no roadmap through loss, and that everyone’s road is unique.
Elea Acheson began writing about grief a few weeks after her bicycle ride ended. She is looking for a publisher for her completed memoir. She continues her pilgrimage through grief at  and"

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Bicicleta roubada XVI

"Ontem como habitual deixei a minha bicla no parque de bicicletas junto à entrada do metro na P. Espanha. Deixei às 07h30 e às 14h40 como chovia vim para casa e deixei a bicla para mais tarde. Acabou por passar lá a noite e hoje passei de carro às 10h30 e ainda lá estava, pensei passar mais tarde para a trazer às 12h30 voltei com a minha mulher. A bicla já não estava lá."

Top doctor backs 'garden gym' idea

Royal College of Physicians president Sir Richard Thompson said plants helped reduce stress, anger and depression.
He added the fourth biggest cause of death in the UK was a lack of activity, making it important to provide green spaces in which people could exercise.
He made the comments at a green cities conference in central London.
'Very impressive'
Although a growing number of scientific studies have produced evidence supporting the idea that urban green spaces are good for human wellbeing, the issue still remains on the margins of healthcare strategies.
Formal garden and Caucasian elm, Hyde Park (Image: BBC)
Looking at a diverse array of flowering plants can help reduce stress, studies suggest
But Sir Richard observed: "When we look into the science of the beneficial effects of plants and gardening, there is quite a decent set of papers to read."
Referring to a series of "very impressive" controlled studies in the US, Sir Richard said they showed that gardens improved the mood within hospitals, reducing stress levels among patients, families and staff.
"What was very important was that the gardens had to have biodiversity - a variation of plants," he told delegates.
Among heart patients, the gardens were also shown to reduce post-operative anxiety, resulting in a reduction of medication.
But, he added: "Evidence showed that concrete gardens had no effect at all, so you had to have green gardens."
Sir Richard, a patron of Thrive - a charity that champions the benefits of gardening among people with disabilities or mental ill health - went on to explain how scientific studies had documented the health benefits of gardening.
"It improves your mood, increases flexibility, improves your balance and reduces the number of falls, which is a great problem for older people living at home by themselves."
He added that just getting outdoors had health benefits.
"We now know - from a recent study - that sunlight reduces blood pressure and a small reduction of blood pressure in the population produces a significant reduction of cardiovascular disease.
He concluded that urban green spaces could help ease the strain on health budgets.
"At a population scale, it can offer huge savings to the NHS by reducing the burden of preventable diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
"Some people say there is a gym outside your window, and it is much cheaper than a gym subscription."
Opening the International Green City Conference, International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) secretary general Tim Briercliffe said urban dwellers were being cheated.
"Too often, we settle for second-rate landscapes because we do not know what it could be like," he told delegates.
He added that the AIPH event would "expose the foolishness of using the landscape as the place that savings can be made"."

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