Health Column: Healing plants for your home |

Health Column: Healing plants for your home

Christoper Lepisto, N.D.
Free Press Health Columnist
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

My mother’s home was recently a jungle of fresh flowers. It was a product of her own indoor garden plus gifts from friends and family since the death of my father in April. It was really amazing to see.

One particularly striking bunch was from her friends in Hawaii. It still looks like rainbow sherbet meets ginger and bird of paradise. At her offer, I picked out just a couple of those bouquets, one an insanely large arrangement of purple and yellow lilies.

Without a doubt, any gardener, amateur florist or plant appreciator knows how immediately healing and soothing the presence of plants can be. It can become a profound buffer to the immediate shock of a lost loved one. I’m not referring to a dramatic “hey my chronic back pain of 20 years is suddenly gone!” (although you never do quite know what simple solutions like getting some vibrant lilies in the home might bring).

We know beyond the immediate pleasure greenery can bring that certain plants can also help promote clean air in your home. In particular, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has done studies indicating that indoor air pollution is a more consistent threat to your health than outdoor pollution. This pollution comes primarily from volatile organic chemicals (VOC) like formaldehyde that is present in new building materials such as carpeting, paneling, cabinets and fabrics. This pollution can be reduced with proper air filtration by an electronic air filter, by certain plants, or both. If you are going to get a filter, I recommend a carbon-based HEPA unit for those most sensitive. The ionizing or ozone-producing filters simply bind materials floating in the air and move them onto the carpet or walls.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has spent two decades researching plants that remove toxic chemicals from the air for use in space stations. And how appropriate that a group of rocket scientists reveal the top air-scrubbing wonder plants! The following five have been found to be particularly effective in clearing the air of formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. Chances are that some of them may be in your home already.


• Mass cane (Dracaena Massangeana)

• Pot mum (Chrysanthemum Morifolium)

• Gerbera daisy (Gerbera Jamesonii)

• Warnecki (Dracaena Deremensis “Warneckei”)

• Ficus (Ficus Benjamina)

• Rubber tree (Ficus Elastica)


• English ivy (Hedera Helix)

• Marginata (Dracaena Marginata)

• Mother-in-laws tongue (Sansevieria Laurentii)

• Peace lily (Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”)

• Chinese Evergreen (Algona “Silver queen”)

• Banana (Musa Oriana)

• Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea Seifrizii)

• Heart leaf philodendron (Philodendron Oxycardium)

• Green spider plant (Chlorophytum Elatum)

• Janet Craig (Dracaena Deremensis)

Some of these plants are obviously more practical than others, here in Colorado.

Yes, it would be pretty neat to have a banana tree growing in your sun room, but most of us will stick with the ones readily available and maintainable.

Do keep in mind that if you have children or pets, many of these plants are poisonous when taken internally. Give special consideration to placement of these plants in your household so you can best enjoy the benefits of your indoor garden. You might just feel better for it.

Christopher Lepisto, a GJ Free Press health columnist, graduated as a naturopathic doctor (N.D.) from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash. He is a native of Grand Junction and opened his practice here in 2004. Previously, Lepisto lived and worked in New Zealand, where he developed a special interest in indigenous herbal medicines. For more information, visit or call 970-250-4104.

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