From the Editor: July 2009

June 30, 2009
Written by
There’s a good reason we take so much care of plants, what with regular watering, special fertilizers, upscale containers, frost protection measures, soil and tissue samples, optimum environmental control, shading, etc.

It’s because they take such good care of us.

Plants and good health go hand in hand. Greenhouse vegetables, for example, are rich in vitamins and in folacin, among other minerals. They’re also low in calories, easy to prepare and perfect as snacks. Health-care agencies have long championed the “5-to-10-a-day campaign” to encourage Canadians to consume more fruits and veggies as part of a healthy lifestyle.

The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund sponsored work on Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, a comprehensive report on diet and cancer prevention. The study concluded that “… consumption of five servings or more of a variety of vegetables and fruit could, by itself, decrease overall cancer incidence by at least 20 per cent.”

Numerous other studies have found that fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Impressive, indeed.

Oh, and they taste great.

Let’s not forget ornamentals. They’re just as important to our well-being. Countless studies have pointed to the benefits of plants in lowering stress levels, purifying the air, and improving worker productivity in offices.

They’re also just what the doctor ordered. Work by Seong-Hyun Park and Richard H. Mattson (October 2008 edition of HortTechnology), researchers from the Department of Horticulture, Recreation and Forestry at Kansas State University, provides strong evidence that contact with plants is directly beneficial to a hospital patient’s health.

The study was conducted on 90 patients recovering from an appendectomy. Data collected included information on the length of hospitalization, administration of drugs for post-operative pain control, vital signs, ratings of pain intensity, distress, fatigue and anxiety, and the patient’s room satisfaction questionnaire. Patients with plants in their rooms had significantly fewer intakes of pain medication, more positive physiological responses (lower blood pressure and heart rate), less pain, anxiety, and fatigue, and better overall positive and higher satisfaction with their recovery rooms than their counterparts in the control group without plants in their rooms.

There’s a good reason the greenhouse industry is a $2.3 billion a year Canadian business success story. It has some amazing products no consumer should be without. Properly understood by consumers, they sell themselves, week in and week out.

And there’s the rub: it’s getting people to understand those many health benefits, especially with flowers, that still needs more work. We need a campaign, it must be national, and it must involve promotional dollars from governments, the same politicians now enthusiastically collecting some $850 million each year in GST and provincial taxes on ornamentals.

Redirecting only one per cent of that windfall would begin to make a difference. Isn’t that only fair? ■

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