As humans have continued to grow in population—and increase their carbon footprint with technology and industrialization—it’s become harder and harder to feel confident in the air that we breathe.
According to the World Health Organization, one-third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer, and heart disease are related to breathing pollutants. An estimated 7 million people a year die from pollution, and nine out of 10 people worldwide are breathing polluted air.
There are plenty of ways to decrease your personal environmental impact in an effort to combat the long-term effects of pollution, but it can often feel like an uphill battle to actively clean the air around you. That makes it tough to stay healthy; between allergens and pollutants constantly permeating the atmosphere, air quality can cause everything from colds and allergies to lung disease and even skin problems.
Luckily, plants are a great option for combating bad air.
It may seem counterproductive to recommend putting plants throughout your home, especially if you’ve been dealing with allergens. In reality, though, not all plants are grown the same—and while some will make you itch and sneeze, others will go to work saving your skin, lungs, and immune systems.
NASA released a clean air study in 1989 that listed some of the best air-cleaning plants to keep around your home, recommending that each household keep a plant in every room to clean the air.
It’s not just pollutants that you can combat with plants, though. If you’re looking to improve your house’s health using plants, here are five great ones to keep the doctor away!
1. Aloe Vera
If you’ve ever had a nasty sunburn, you’ve probably picked up an aloe gel somewhere. The soothing gels both cool burns and soothe discomfort—but not everyone knows that you can grow your own aloe and treat more than just a nasty burn.
Aloe plants clear the air of fewer pollutants than some of the other plants on this list, but they do have a sort of “super-plant” quality that makes these succulents worth keeping around anyway. They can be used to treat burns and skin conditions, lower blood sugar, and even treat constipation—and best of all, they’re easy to grow inside. Just keep them by a window and you can clean the air while keeping around a pretty natural home remedy catch-all in the process.
2. Garden Mum
The Garden mum is one of the plants that NASA championed as an air-purifying giant, eliminating everything from ammonia to benzene and formaldehyde in the air while requiring very little upkeep on the homeowner’s part.
A garden mum grows best in warmer climates, infrequently surviving winter months. And after it hits full bloom, you’ll want to plant it out in your garden—although if you’re looking for a plant that you can keep inside for a few months and then move outside in a cyclical pattern, this is a great option. Best of all, you can buy these at just about any local gardening store, and they don’t cost much—so even if you’re a gardening novice, you’ll have no trouble picking up these.
3. Dragon Plants
There are plenty of different varieties of dragon plants, so you can pick anything you want to make your house look nice while cleaning your air. These plants are known for “grabbing” allergens and holding them in their leaves—so not only will they eliminate benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene, they’ll take some of the pollen that make their way inside and eliminate them from the air, as well.
The only thing you’ll want to watch for with these is any household pets. Strangely enough, dragon plants, otherwise known as dracaena, are toxic to both cats and dogs. If you think that your pet has ingested any of your plant, keep an eye out for the symptoms that something is wrong; you’ll notice vomiting, depression, anorexia, and occasionally dilated pupils in cats if your animal has managed to snag some of this potted plant.
4. Bamboo Palm
Chances are, you’ve seen the trend of purchasing “lucky bamboo” taking the Western world by storm lately. People buy “good luck” bamboo plants for people when they go through everything from a move to a job change, hoping to bring luck and happiness to the table.
Next time you buy a friend a plant, though, it might be prudent to go a little bigger with the bamboo—because a bamboo palm, which can grow up to 12 feet tall, is a pollutant-eliminating monster. These massive plants are both eye-catching and useful, absorbing the trio of benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, along with chloroform and carbon monoxide.
The best part? These particular plants don’t have the pollen or allergens that floral plants do, so you don’t have to worry about combating allergens just to clean the air. And unlike the Dragon Plants, bamboo is safe to have around your pets—so you can clean the air while remaining confident that your furry friends aren’t going to be put at risk.
5. Peace Lilies
There may be no easier air-cleaning, allergen-eliminating plant to care for than a Peace Lily. These are something known as “closet plants”, because you can keep them alive even in an office or bedroom. They can grow even in low light, and they’re surprisingly more tolerant of being under-watered than over-watered—so even if you seriously lack a green thumb, they’re likely to survive being in your care.
These desktop plants won’t always bloom in abundance, especially if you keep them inside, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to make a difference in your house. They tend to eliminate PCE in the air, which has become a common pollutant since the invention of dry cleaning. They’ll also eliminate the duo of benzene and formaldehyde, along with ammonia, from the air—which can keep your house healthier and happier.
The only thing to watch for is the potential for allergies caused by these plants. The flowers themselves can cause some sniffles if you keep too many of them around the house, and the wide, flat leaves are known dust collectors. If you don’t watch out, you can find yourself collecting dust faster than you’re eliminating pollutants; always make sure to wipe down the leaves with a damp cloth when you go through your regular cleaning schedule.