From the Editor: June 2010

May 18, 2010
Written by
Governments are wise to promote the health benefits of vegetables. There are national campaigns, well funded by government, that press the point. So why don’t ornamental plants, that are also good for your health, attract the same attention?

On the produce side, Canada has the 5-to-10-A-Day (For Better Health) campaign, while the U.S. has the 5-A-Day For Better Health Program. Both are generously supported by government agencies, as well they should be.
  • It’s well known that fruits and vegetables:
  • May help reduce your risk of some types of cancer.
  • Help keep your digestive system regular.
  • Help keep your bones strong.
  • Are generally low in calories and fat and rich in fibre, so they can help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Are full of important nutrients like vitamins A and C, folate and minerals like potassium and magnesium, as well as fibre.
  • Have compounds called phytochemicals that may help protect against a variety of diseases like heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
Ornamentals are also beneficial to your health. Gardening is great exercise. Houseplants purify the air, reduce stress levels and increase worker productivity.

What do we know about ornamentals and good health? The list of studies is growing, and the evidence conclusive. With respect to houseplants and office plants, we know they:
  • Produce oxygen.
  • Reduce carbon dioxide levels.
  • Increase relative humidity to more comfortable levels.
  • Reduce levels of certain pollutants, including formaldehyde, benzene and nitrogen dioxide.
  • Reduce airborne dust levels, air temperatures and background noise levels.
People respond more positively when around plants, and feel much better about themselves. Workplace productivity is enhanced. A study by Virginia Lohr and colleagues at Washington State University found that people in rooms in which plants were added had a 12 per cent faster reaction time for computer tasks, and were less stressed (systolic blood pressure readings were lowered by one to four units).

A 2008 study at Kansas State University (“Effects of Flowering and Foliage Plants in Hospital Rooms on Patients Recovering from Abdominal Surgery”) found that patients in hospital rooms with plants and flowers “had significantly fewer intakes of post-operative analgesics, more positive physiological responses evidenced by lower systolic blood pressure and heart rate, lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue, and more positive feelings and higher satisfaction about their rooms when compared with patients in the control group.”

Let’s get a game plan together and go after health promotion dollars. The case is easily made. We need to get the message out to consumers.

Improved plant sales are good for the industry, and a good fit with health promotion. ■

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