The Power of Plants

Being around plants offers a host of benefits, including reducing stress and aggression.

| March/April 2009

As spring returns and greenery unfurls, our profound relationship with plants becomes apparent. On the most basic level, without plants we’d be hard pressed to find any food. In fact, we just wouldn’t be here.

But on a deeper level, being near plants makes us feel good. Think about it—what single component makes the difference between a wasteland and a lush paradise? Between a place you’d like to get away from and a place you’d love to get away to? More often than not, it’s the presence of green plants.

Take two plants, call in the morning

Our relationship with plants goes well beyond survival. For thousands of years, people have used plant-based medicines to heal a number of ailments, and spending time in the garden has long been honored as a means to healing. During the last century, horticultural therapy has worked wonders in hospitals, prisons, nursing homes and mental institutions; people who’ve lost their sense of joy often feel a renewed sense of possibility as they plant and nurture something.

In the last 25 years, many researchers have found that just being near plants—even seeing them through a closed window—can make us healthier, happier, kinder people.

In 1984, Texas A&M researcher Roger Ulrich studied greenery’s effects on patients recovering from surgery. Patients in hospital rooms with a view of trees stayed in the hospital for fewer days, used fewer strong painkillers and generally had a more positive recovery process than those whose window looked out on a brick wall.

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