We've got some unfortunate news for those of you staring at a ceaseless urban sprawl of concrete, steel and glass: "We experience less stress when plants are around us, and research shows that our mental functioning is much better," says Virginia Lohr, professor of horticulture and landscape architecture at Washington State University.

Although modern cities make day-to-day living more convenient, it's not in keeping with our basic human needs. "We evolved with plants, and we have a preprogrammed, innate response to them because of their survival value -- the same is true of the sun, clouds and oceans," explains Lohr. So while we strip away swaths of green land in the name of progress, we might not only be harming the environment but also our own well-being.

It's a harmful effect that's carried into the home and workplace with city dwellers spending more time than ever working under florescent lights, in air-conditioning. "Interiors, especially in the winter when the heating is on, cause colds, sore throats, headaches and the spread of airborne viruses," argues Lohr.

Any plant can have a so-called effect on our mood; however, "the peace lily or Chinese evergreen grow well under low light, which can help reduce dust and air pollutants, as suggested by research," she continues.

 

The other great menace to health in modern environments is air humidity. "Any plant that needs to be watered more will put a greater level of water in the air. For example, a fern is going to do better than a cactus for humidifying the air," says Lohr. It's certainly something to consider if you're falling ill to coughs and colds.

At the most basic level the expert says, "The more plants you can have around you, the better. They help humanize the environment, make us calmer and reduce violence."

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