At one point in my life, I loved to indulge in cakes, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, and pizza. I still remember going to the junior high cafeteria and consuming my favorite meal: French fries and powdered doughnuts. It was a preteen’s heaven!
Yet, this unhealthy lifestyle began to catch up with me when I was diagnosed with IBS after suffering from miserable stomachaches I referred to as “migraines of the stomach.” I would be bedridden for hours, unable to move due to the pain. Nothing helped, medications made everything worse, and I was desperate. And I was never once advised to change my eating habits by my doctor, by the way.
I realized it was time to reform my ways, and slowly but surely, I began making strides. And one day, when everything seemed overwhelming and too much and I was ready to give up on this new lifestyle, my mom brought out a plant. Yes, a plant.
She explained that things may seem difficult and not worth my effort now, but small changes can yield big gains. She placed a jade plant in my bedroom to help with the journey and explained the incredible effects a simple plant would have on me. She touted how the bustling green plant would clean for me, allowing in healthier, life-affirming air. She claimed it would boost my mood, providing me the motivation to continue on my self-healing journey.
Little did she know that plants are truly the ultimate health supplements. And research agrees with my mom, years after she brought that plant into my life.
As an acupuncturist and herbalist, I now know plants to be amazing remedies that can boost our immune system, increase happiness, promote healing, lower levels of depression, and even help us breathe. Here are a few notable health-boosting benefits of pants:
1. They boost immunity.
Want to prepare for flu season? Take a walk among the trees and plants in your favorite park or preserve. It’s been shown that spending more time in nature can boost your immunity. The stress reduction from walking in nature in addition to the plant’s phytoncides, or airborne chemicals, are beneficial to human health.
2. They generate happiness.
A major study in the United Kingdom followed 10,000 people for 18 years and found that the ones who lived in green spaces surrounded by plants, trees, gardens, and parks were happier than those who did not have access to any type of nature. And I’m sure you notice the difference between a mural of plants and a blank wall—plants automatically enhance our mood.
3. They are natural healers.
The presence of plants and flowers in hospital rooms has been shown to increase healing in patients recovering from surgery. Even being able to see trees and plants outside your window can help you recover from illness faster. Just three to five minutes spent looking at landscapes with trees, flowers, or water can reduce anger, anxiety, and pain.
4. They are productivity aids.
Offices lacking pictures, decoration, personal souvenirs, or plants have been shown to be the most “toxic” workspaces for humans. Now we all understand why we hate cubicles so much! Additionally, researchers at the University of Exeter found that workspaces were 15 percent more productive when you added a few houseplants to the office. Plants may be simple, but they are incredibly effective. The act of seeing a plant from your desk has major psychological and biological benefits.
5. They improve relationships and learning.
Those who spend a certain amount of time surrounded by nature and plants have better relationships with others due to an increased sense of compassion. Plus, children who are surrounded by plants learn better, have increased focus, and are able to more meaningfully engage with their surroundings.
Plants and humans evolved together, intertwined lives, and advocated for each other’s survival. It’s easy to forget that we come from nature. We were born out of nature and evolved in the forests, rivers, lakes, and mountains. No wonder we feel at home when we take a hike, place plants in our homes, or go near the water.
Health doesn’t have to be an overwhelming, confusing journey. Health simply means coming back to who you are, and part of that is coming back to nature.