SCENTED SLUMBER: HOUSEPLANTS & THE GIFT OF SLEEP
Jasmine, Lavender, Gardenia, Valerian: these plant names, among others, emanate a certain romance and exoticism, just as the plants themselves exude beautiful fragrances.
Yet apart from the visual and olfactory pleasure they provide, there is a surprising reason to have these and other plants in your home. In the world of stress-triggered insomnia we live in, it has been proven by NASA and other researchers that certain plants serve to purify the air of indoor spaces, thereby facilitating a good night’s sleep.
With its dark green leaves and pink or ivory blossoms, Jasmine is found in many parts of the world, and in some places both the name and the plant bear a special cultural significance. Jasmine is the national flower of Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines. In the western and southern states of India, Jasmine is used ritually in marriages, religious ceremonies and festivals.
Research suggests that the presence of Jasmine in your bedroom reduces anxiety, promoting sleep.
Lavender, with its flowers of the color derived from their name, is actually a member of the mint family. Readers are likely to be familiar with the fragrant essential oil, especially English Lavender, popular in perfumes, soaps and antiseptics. Lavender oil is approved in Germany as an anti-anxiety agent.
A flowering lavender plant in your bedroom provides a beautiful, intense note of color, while its fragrance may reduce anxiety and facilitate sleep.
An ancient succulent plant, Aloe is praised in the Bible, notably in the Song of Solomon: “Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates...with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices..” With its fleshy green serrated leaves and yellow flowers (produced in summer) aloe vera is much beloved as both an ornamental and medicinal plant, with the gel from its leaves used as a topical treatment for minor cuts and burns.
NASA lists aloe vera as an air-improving plant, emitting oxygen at night.
Valerian is a perennial flowering plant with scented pink or white flowers that bloom in the summer. In the 2nd century A.D., the Greek physician Galen prescribed Valerian root as a remedy for insomnia.
In the 16th century its flower extracts were used as perfume. Readers may be familiar with Valerian root extract in capsules or tincture as a sedative; in high doses Valerian can be toxic. Apparently, simply inhaling the scent of Valerian flowers will help you fall asleep. The plant must be kept by a window as it needs full sun for six hours a day.
With its trailing vines, English Ivy is lovely in a hanging basket. It has been shown to help symptoms of allergy and asthma, and removes airborne toxins, including mold, in twelve hours. If ingested, however, it is toxic, so keep it out of reach of children and pets.
Peace Lily is a decorator’s dream: elegant, with its furled white flowers. Its beauty is accompanied by air-purifying powers which facilitate sleep. The Peace Lily must be kept in medium to low light, and the more light you give it, the more it produces its distinctive white flowers. Though rather delicate in appearance, they are hardy plants that are better off under- than over-watered, the latter producing death. You can actually wait till the plant droops before you water it; it will revive instantly. Fertilize the Peace Lily once a year, and wash down its leaves occasionally--once a year is actually sufficient. You must repot it when it outgrows its container.
Gerbera Daisies (also known as African daisies) are a spectacular accent to any room, with cheerful petals in yellow, orange, white, pink or red. They are sensitive to watering and light levels and hence tricky to grow indoors; it may be best to use the cut flowers.
We associate the beautiful white gardenia with Prom Night corsages, but it is more than just a pretty face. Its scented blossoms, the basis also for perfumes, were found in a German study to be as effective as Valium in soothing anxiety and thereby helping you to sleep. I was astonished to learn that the same study discovered that the fragrance of gardenias has the same molecular mechanism of action as that of commonly prescribed barbiturates. Its flowering lasts from mid-spring to mid-summer. It can be difficult to grow as a house plant because it needs very high humidity and medium, indirect light. It needs acidic soil.
One more curious fact about the gardenia is that it is a member of the coffee family; it is a tropical plant found in Asia, Africa and Madagascar. It was the favorite flower of Sigmund Freud, and was worn by upper-class men in their buttonholes during the Gilded Age in New York.
The Spider Plant
The Spider Plant has been shown by NASA to remove carcinogens from the air, notably formaldehyde--found in adhesives, grout and fillers. Originally tropical plants, Spider Plants are easy to grow, being able to thrive in a wide range of conditions. They grow best in temperatures of 65 to 90 degrees
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