Nature’s Subtle Healers: How Hospitals Are Harnessing the Power of Plants

All science aside, any plant-lover will tell you how much better plants make them feel. For true phytophiles, the sight of greenery is enough to banish negative thoughts, elicit a sense of calm and elevate heavy moods.

Now, if we were to bring science into the picture, we’d find a multitude of studies supporting the fact that plants positively affect overall health, even if we’ve never really appreciated them before.

Are we saying plants have some sort of magical power? Or that they can actually benefit people in hospitals who are fighting to get better and get home? The short answer: yes!

A Regrettable Misconception

You may have heard the old wives’ tale that bringing living plants to someone in the hospital is a bad idea, primarily because plants would suck all the oxygen out of a room, leaving the patient battling the plant for breathable air.

But anyone who passed fourth grade Earth Science should remember that plants primarily use carbon dioxide (CO₂) during photosynthesis, creating oxygen in the process. Conversely, human beings breathe oxygen and create CO₂, which means people and plants are the perfect biological complement to one another.

According to Dr. Luz Claudio, of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, plants can remove toxins in more than one way: “In addition to basic photosynthesis that removes carbon dioxide and returns oxygen to the air, plants can remove toxicants from air, soil, and water in at least two ways. First, they can metabolize some toxic chemicals, releasing harmless by-products, and second, they can incorporate toxicants such as heavy metals into plant tissues, thus sequestering them.”*


So, better air is obviously a health goal, but is that alone enough to noticeably reduce stress, relieve symptoms and speed up recovery? Well, maybe with some help from a little faculty known as “visual perception.”

The Eyes Have It

No matter how tough the patient, surgery of any kind is physically and emotionally traumatic. From the sterile surroundings to the absence of loved ones to the physical pain, a depressed mental state can make convalescence much more challenging.

A 2005 Korean study divided 80 female thyroidectomy patients into two groups: One was given a recovery room containing houseplants and the other a room without.heir recuperative experiences were tracked.

The group that was able to view plants had significantly shorter hospitalizations, a reduced need for analgesics (pain relievers) and substantially lower anxiety. They also reported that their rooms had “a pleasant smell and were more satisfying, relaxing, comfortable, colorful, happy, calming, and attractive.”

Over 20 years before the Korean study, Science magazine published Dr. Robert Ulrich’s well-known study, “View through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery,” which reported the recovery statistics of 46 patients who’d undergone gallbladder removals.

The 23 patients who were given rooms with natural views of foliage recovered more quickly, needed fewer painkillers and made far fewer negative comments to nurses than the 23 whose rooms faced brick walls, giving more credence to the idea that the mere sight of nature has therapeutic qualities.

But You Shouldn’t Have to B.Y.O.P.

While it’s always nice to give and receive plants anytime we find ourselves in a hospital, wouldn’t it be great if foliage was already part of the landscape? That might seem like a tall order, but more hospitals are figuring out that living plant installations are an easily attainable, not to mention infinitely valuable, asset.

When considering aesthetics, sustainability and long-term cost, hospitals, schools, companies, hotels and city governments know it’s important to choose a state-of-the-art system backed by an unparalleled design team, master horticulturalists, dependable customer care and the most seasoned installation specialists in the business.

They’re choosing Sagegreenlife. Whether indoors or outdoors, our custom living walls can fit any space, hug curves or wrap around corners to lend elegance, beauty and vitality to recovery rooms, work areas, hallways and lobbies alike.

Practically self-sustaining, our walls are comprised of patented basalt rock-fiber Biotiles®, which provide plants with the perfect amount of nutrients and airflow while water is supplied through special “drip tubes” that source existing plumbing.

Our portable Verdanta™ Collection of partitions and free-standing walls are ideal for use in recovery rooms or in spaces where permanent installations aren’t possible. Also practically self-sustaining, each Verdanta™ comes complete with a self-contained irrigation system and needs only a standard electrical outlet to operate.

To find out more about the Sagegreenlife Living Walls, simply tell us about your project. We’d love to hear your ideas and discuss how a living wall might enrich and complement your vision.

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