7 Ways Plants Enhance Our Lives
Plants are of vital importance for the continued existence of human life. For millions of years, there has been a coexistence that stood the test of time. Here are some of the most valuable ways plants enrich our lives…
- Create Oxygen
Through a process known as photosynthesis, plants create their own food by absorbing carbon dioxide (the bad stuff we breathe out) from the atmosphere and then transforms it into oxygen, whilst simultaneously creating their own food source! How self-sufficient!
This oxygen then becomes the air we breathe, and so the cycle continues. Without an abundance of plants, oxygen concentration in the air around us drops, and we don’t receive our daily requirements!
- Improve the Air Quality
Plants not only provide us with oxygen but also have the ability to remove pollutants from the air. Research has indicated that certain types of plants have the ability to reduce nasty pollutants like formaldehyde, toluene and benzene (1). For this reason, ‘green roofs’, which involves growing plants and greenery on rooftops, are being investigated as a possible future tool to help alleviate the negative effects of air pollution (2).
Another way that plants are so beneficial is that they are an abundant diverse, and arguably the most important food source! A wide range of fruits and veggies are provided by incredible plants, providing a significant amount of our fibre intake. Fibre is vital for maintaining a healthy digestive system and feeding our microbiome (3).
- Provide Medicines
As well as food, plants provide us with our original medicines. These natural sources of medicine are something that we, as Natural Health Practitioners, still utilise today because of their incredible potential, wide range of applications and proven effectiveness. In 2002, a study stated that ‘Plants are arguably poised for a comeback as sources of human health products’ and we are consistently finding that to be true (4).
- Improve Soil and Water Quality
Some plants can act as filters in the water, filtering out toxins, bugs and added pollutants to keep the water clean. Some plants can do the same in the soil; those with a compost bin for ‘recycling’ plants scraps can support this! Putting veggie scraps back into the garden can cause growing plants to thrive by providing essential nutrients and environments for beneficial microorganisms (5, 6).
- Act as Protection
Plants are incredible useful for protection, of us and animals. All different parts of plants can provide habitats and homes for many animal species, which is why it’s important to be mindful of how plants are sourced and utilised, we don’t want to be taking away homes!
Plants also provide a large quantity of our building supplies and the shade provided from trees protects humans from harmful UV radiation, as well as from the weather! (5)
- Moderating Temperature
Plants have a significant impact on moderating temperatures. Indoors, it is thought that plants can reduce heating and cooling costs due to this incredible ability. While outdoors, one study showed that plants like solitary trees, clumps of trees and vines had the ability to reduce surface temperature on buildings in urban environments (7). This is also important to remember as we tackle tough issues like climate change… maybe a few more indoor plants could cool down your home instead of the air conditioner.
- Relf, PD & Lohr, VI 2003, ‘Human issues in Horticulture’, Horticultural Science, vol. 38, no. 5, pp. 984-993
- Rowe, DB 2011, ‘Green roofs as a means of pollution abatement’, Environmental Pollution, vol. 159, no. 8-9, pp. 2100-2110
- Victorian Government 2016, ‘Fibre in Food’, Better Health Channel, <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/fibre-in-food>
- Raskin, I, Ribnicky, DM, Komarnytsky, S, Ilic, N et al. 2002, ‘Plants and human health in the twenty-first century’, Trends in Biotechnology, vol. 20, no. 12, pp. 522-531.
- Arvidson, K 2016, ‘Biodiversity, Nature and Human Health’, Natural Medicine Journal, vol. 8, no. 10, n.p.
- Organic gardening Tips 2012, ‘Improving Soil Quality’, Organic Gardening Tips, <http://www.organicgardeningtips.info/improving-soil-quality/>
Millward, AA, Torchia, M, Laursen, AE & Rothman, LD 2014, ‘Vegetation placement for summer built surface temperature moderation in an urban microclimate’, Environmental Management, vol. 53, no. 6, pp. 1043-1057.