Updated: Aug 3, 2018
As a nutrition coach, my focus is primarily on the food on our plate that fuels us and leads our day. As a holistic nutrition coach, my job is also to take into account every other factor that might influence the nutrients that we need — including clean air.
Because we are such an intelligent species, we sometimes forget our basic needs for survival. If you ask kids in 2018 what they need to survive, they would respond, "my phone, my Apple TV, snacks and my best friend Joe." While maybe two out of four of those answers are semi correct, they d e f i n i t e l y would not answer "air, water, earth (food), fire (sunlight)." Do you see that? THE BASIC FOUR ELEMENTS! So simple, yet we neglect them on the daily. Now we're struttin' along, using inhalers, taking boxing classes and vitamin D supplements because we're not in the habit of naturally fulfilling these four elements anymore. And that's okay, species evolve and we're just learning to adapt to this ever-changing, over stimulating, crazy busy society we live in today. And we can survive like this, but can we survive in a cement box (also known as the 2018 version of a prehistoric era tree house) pumped with ammonia, xylene, formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene? Que: the NASA study.
If you think about it, NASA invests hundreds and thousands of dollars in astronauts that they send up to space in a flying ship filled with tons of plastic, paint, paper products and other potential harmful chemical inducing items; so it only makes sense that they find out which plants to send up in the spaceship in order to protect their investments.
A simple way to purify indoor air is to expose it to clean, outdoor air by opening up windows and doors. Sometimes this is impossible though, like in space or in your apartment with the window that you accidentally painted shut. Instead, you can invest in one of these indoor plants that can purify the air up to 90% of indoor toxins:
1. Gerbera Daisy (gerbera jamesonii)
Pros: It topped nearly every list in NASA's study as the best surface area to toxin removal ratio. After a 24 hour period, it was able to remove 50% of the formaldehyde, 67.7% of the benzene and 35% of the trichloroethylene.
Cons: It prefers sunlight but can be supplemented with bright indoor lighting. In order for the flowers to bloom, you have to trim the blooms as soon as they start to wilt. The soil has to be kept moist in warm weather and more dry in cool weather. So yes, kind of high maintenance.
2. Snake Plant (sansevieria laurentii)
*Also less commonly known as "Mother-in-laws Tongue"
Pros: Probably one of the easiest natural indoor air purifies to take care of. It can survive off fluorescent lighting and occasional watering at the base. If it's placed by a window, make sure to rotate it every once in a while. Highly recommend this one if you lack a green thumb.
Cons: If your furry friend eats the leaves, it may cause nausea or vomiting. (Which makes sense if you think about it, considering the leaves are the ones absorbing & purifying your air of toxic chemicals.)
3. English Ivy (hedera helix)
Pros: It's been included in a number of studies (not just NASA's) that prove its efficiency at improving air quality. One research study also proved Ivy's ability to reduce mold and dog feces in the air.
Cons: A relatively needy plant, it prefers cool temperatures between 50-65 degrees F, humidity and shade. In order to keep it happy, regular misting and fertilizing is vital.
4. Spider Plant (chlorophytum elatum)
Pros: Most efficient at purifying formaldehyde, but is capable of purifying benzene, carbon monoxide, and xylene as well. They're generally easy going, meaning if you forget to water them once in a while, they won't die on you. They do prefer mild to medium indirect sunlight & wet soil though.
Cons: Mild hallucinogens to cats.
5. Aloe Vera
Pros: Great at absorbing carbon dioxide and dispersing oxygen at night.
Cons: It prefers bright, indirect sunlight & moist soil which makes it difficult for apartment dwellers. The natural sap in the leaves can sometimes attract pests.
This is just a short list of plants with great indoor air purifying abilities, however there are myriad plants that are capable of helping you breathe easier and live better. Clean air is like eating a big green salad, except a lot less painful and actually much more enjoyable. Indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the top 5 environmental pollutants by the Environmental Protection Agency, and a quick fix of loading your living space with beautiful & natural plants can make a big difference.
Quick tip for Los Angeles locals: If you're on or near the west side, the Brentwood Farmers Market sells Snake Plant for $12 - $40 depending on the size!