This is true: some plants release airborne allergens (pollen) that will cause symptoms when they are inhaled. Other plants might also release liquids from their leaves, stem, or fruit, which can trigger allergic skin reaction such as itching, eczema, and hives upon skin contact.
Problematic plants and flowers for allergy sufferers
- Daisies (high pollen count)
- Chrysanthemums (related to ragweed)
- Bonsai trees (related to juniper/cedar trees)
- African violet (leaves collect a lot of dust and could trigger mite allergy symptoms)
- Ferns (cause reaction in hay fever patients)
- Weeping fig (causes reaction in hay fever patients)
- Ivy (causes skin irritation in some people)
Allergy-friendly plants and their effect
In 1980, NASA conducted a two-year study about the air-purifying effect of indoor plants. They were researching how to keep the air clean at the International Space Station, but nevertheless their findings also applied to the average home in the United States.
The researchers found that certain plants naturally purify and humidify the air in a room, as they remove toxic chemicals and airborne microbes such as mold spores and bacteria from the air. Overall, their research showed that plant filtered indoor rooms have up to 60% fewer airborne microbes, such a mold spores and bacteria.
Chemicals removed from the air by plants during the purifying process include toluene (found in nail polish remover, and glues), xylene (found paint, paint thinners, polishes, waxes, gasoline, motor oil, glue, and cigarettes), carbon monoxide (formed while burning wood, coal, propane, and natural gas), formaldehyde (used to treat paper bags, towels, napkins, and tissues and as a preservative), benzene (found in gasoline and cigarette smoke), trichloroethylene (used as a solvent to remove grease).
Best indoor plants for allergy sufferers
Based on NASA’s research, there are several indoor plants that have beneficial effects for those affected by allergies and asthma. They alleviate symptoms by purifying the air, acting as a natural humidifier, and removing toxins from the air.
A good place to start for those looking for a low maintenance bedroom plant, as it requires little water and does well on its own. It needs little space and can be put on nightstands, shelves, or dressers. Additional benefit: not only does it filter the air, but the liquid inside of the plant is a great natural remedy for sunburns and cuts.
Another low maintenance plant that grows rather tall and thin and does not require a lot of space or frequent watering. It is known for filtering a lot of household chemicals from the air and holding it in its leaves, such as benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and trichloroethylene.
This plant is recommended for allergy and asthma patients because they keep the air clean by removing toxins, especially formaldehyde. Out of all indoor plants tested by NASA, the spider plant came out on top with a removal rate of 95 percent. They can be kept on tables, dressers or in hanging baskets.
This tropical plant is not just one of the most common decorative houseplants in the United States, it also improves the air quality of indoor rooms by up to 60 percent, as it neutralizes benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. It even helps to reduce mold by absorbing mold spores in the air and looks great in all kinds of rooms – as it prefers indirect sunlight, even bathrooms are possible.
The Areca palm is originally a tropical plant and thrives in indoor rooms. It has great humidifying properties and is perfect for dry rooms in summers and winters, as it actively releases moisture from its leaves. This quality makes it a great bedroom plant for asthma sufferers, as moist air will alleviate breathing issues. It removes formaldehyde, xylene, carbon monoxide, and toluene from the air.
Like the Areca palm, the Lady palm is an air-purifying plant that removes formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air. It resists most plant-eating insects, prefers indirect light from east-facing windows and should be repotted every two years.
The Bamboo palm is known to convert carbon monoxide into oxygen, as well as removing formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene from the air. There are no toxic properties associated with this plant, which makes it a great plant to keep around children and pets.