Monday, December 8, 2008

Being around plants is good for you!


Folks that are passionate about gardening know that it benefits their lives in many ways: the pleasure of creating beauty, eating homegrown foods, easing stress, getting a good workout, or just taking in deep breaths of fresh air. But until recently, most of these benefits were documented only with anecdotal evidence, and very little was known about the effects of just "be-ing" in the presence of plants without actually gardening.

In the past 10+ years though, several universities and other groups have done controlled studies on the effects that plants themselves have on human behavior, emotion, and physiology. One study showed that just by sitting in a park for 20 minutes three times a week, breast cancer patients suffered less side effects from chemo, had less depression, less fatigue, and recovered more quickly from surgery. Another showed that blood pressure levels fell for healthy people just by walking through a botanical garden, and that students given tests in a room with houseplants maintained lower blood pressure during and after the tests.

Most dramatic to me is the study that showed that prisoners who could view the countryside from their cell windows instead of the prisonyard went to the prison hospital less often, for shorter periods of time, required less medication, and were more cooperative with hospital staff. These people could only use one of their 5 senses to interact with plants (sight), yet it still had a dramatic effect.

I'm sure in the coming years, there will continue to be more and more direct evidence of the benefits of just "be-ing" around plants- if you're lucky enough to get to use all your senses to interact with them, all the better!

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