How plants and trees boost our health

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Indigenous and fynbos

Step outside, stroll through a lush garden or indigenous forest, and you’ll feel better. Research shows that plants and trees, nature’s silent healers, dramatically impact our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Here are a few fascinating ways our green companions contribute to our health and happiness.

Cleaner air for better breathing

One of the most important benefits of plants and trees is their ability to purify the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen through photosynthesis.

They act as nature’s air purifiers, removing harmful pollutants and toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, and nitrogen dioxide from the atmosphere. The improved air quality can lead to better respiratory health, reduced allergies, and a decreased risk of respiratory illnesses.

South Africa’s humble spekboom plant (Portulacaria afra) is an indigenous eco-warrior that outdoes all other plants’ carbon-absorption efficiencies. It uses two photosynthetic processes to remove carbon from the atmosphere, while other plants only use one. Staggeringly, a single strand of spekboom can absorb as much carbon as a forest of other deciduous trees (!).

Stress reduction and better mental health

Spending time among greenery remarkably impacts your mental health, significantly reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation.

Studies have shown that being in nature can lower our levels cortisol, the “stress hormone”. Hearing birdsong and the gentle rustling of leaves can soothe our minds, reducing anxiety and promoting a sense of calmness.

Enhanced immunity

Interacting with nature through gardening, hiking, cycling, or simply sitting under a tree has been linked to improved immune function. Exposure to the microorganisms found in soil and vegetation bolster your immune system, making you more resilient to infections.

Some indigenous plants even have medicinal properties, which can help with the treatment of burns, blisters, rashes, colds and flu, coughs, headaches, and other ills. Popular medicinal plants include:

  • Wild olive (Olea europaea L. subsp. africana)
  • Buchu (e.g. Agathosma betulina)
  • Forest elder (Nuxia floribunda Benth.)
  • Snake lily (Scadoxus puniceus)
  • Wild rosemary (Eriocephalus africanus L.)
  • Kluitjieskraal (Agathosma ovata)
  • African wormwood (Artemisia afra Jacq. ex Willd)

Physical health benefits

Beyond the mental and immune benefits, spending time among plants and trees can also benefit your physical health.

Gardening is a fantastic, low-impact exercise that can help improve your cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and flexibility. Being in green spaces also encourages physical activity, leading to a healthier lifestyle overall.

Improved cognitive function

Nature has a remarkable ability to enhance cognitive function. Time spent outdoors is linked to improved focus, concentration, and memory.

In fact, a University of Michigan study found that walking in nature improves short-term memory by as much as 20% compared to walking in urban environments.

Better mood

Exposure to nature triggers the release of endorphins, your body’s natural mood enhancer. This surge of feel-good hormones can lead to a boost in overall happiness and a reduction in symptoms of depression.

Engaging with plants and trees allows you to reconnect with the natural world, fostering a sense of awe and wonder that contributes to your emotional well-being.

Better sleep

Sleep is vital for your health and productivity, and spending time in nature can positively impact your sleep patterns.

Exposure to natural light during the day helps regulate your circadian rhythm, leading to more restful and restorative sleep at night.

Social benefits

Parks, gardens, and green spaces provide valuable opportunities for social interaction and community engagement.

Spending time outdoors with friends or family can strengthen your relationships and foster a sense of belonging – all of which contribute to better health.

Community gardening projects, for instance, improve green spaces and bring people together, promoting social cohesion and reducing feelings of isolation.

Get to the root of good health

Plants and trees aren’t just beautiful but essential elements of a healthier and happier life. Embracing green spaces, especially in your home and neighbourhood, can profoundly impact your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Are you ready to paint your world green? Take advantage of our plant sale from 6-9 September 2023 in both our Gauteng and Western Cape stores. Club Card holders get a wide variety of plants at a massive 30% off.

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