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Top 5 Indigenous indoor plants that clear toxins from your home

Indoor plants are air purifiers and this results in reducing the risk of headaches and catching the common cold. They also improve sleep and decrease allergies and blood pressure. Many household products and building materials contain toxic substances. Formaldehyde is found in glue, pressed wood and fire retardants and is said to cause cancer and allergic reactions. Benzene is inhaled and is found in glue, paint and detergents. It is associated with many health problems including cancer. Trichloroethylene is found in building materials, solvents and glue. It causes damage to the central nervous system causing fatigue and blurred vision. It is also said to cause cancer and birth defects. Zylene and Toulene is found in lacquer, glue and nail polish and is irritating to the gastrointestinal system, the kidneys and the nervous system. Ammonia is found in household cleaners and excessive exposure causes headaches and nausea. Those with asthma and allergies are particularly affected. After all this doom and gloom, do pot up some plants for your home and don't forget the drip trays. Ferns will do particularly well in the bathroom and shower.It is interesting to know that some research is being done regarding trees which are planted on road verges as they are thought to neutralize the toxic effect of exhaust's carbon monoxide. 'Mother Nature' cures are to be admired.

Chlorophytum comosum vittatum

(Variegated Hen And Chickens)

The variegated, grass-like, leaves brighten up a shady area. These plants will survive some drought, but only really look attractive if watered regularly. They have fleshy, tuberous roots about 5 to 10 cm long. When in flower, the plant produces long, thin stems which carry white flowers, as well as plantlets at the tip of the flower stem. It flowers all year round. A single plant with a few of these stems will soon become a mother plant surrounded by a flock of "babies" - hence the name 'hen and chickens'. Frost will kill the leaves, but mild frost will not damage the roots. The leaves are eaten as spinach.It's an ideal plant for containers and hanging baskets. It is also used in Auruvedic medicine and is magical as the plant is placed in the room of an expectant mother as protection and the roots are soaked in water which is then taken daily to ensure the birth of a healthy child. This water is also given to the new born child as a purgative. The name is derived from the Greek 'chloros' meaning yellow green and 'phyton' meaning plant, referring to the green leaves and greenish flowers. Comosum means tufted.

Sansevieria trifasculata

(Mother-In-Laws-Tongue)

This is an evergreen shrub that grows to 1 m high. It should be planted in a semi-shaded area. It is an ideal plant for containers. You could mass plant them for a dramatic effect. It is used medicinally for many ailments and is used in rituals to remove the ‘evil eye’. It makes a successful house plant as it copes well in low light and only needs water every couple of weeks. Studies by NASA show that it successfully removes toxin of nitrogen oxide and formaldehyde so therefore improves air quality. The discoverer of the Sansevieria, Vincenzo Petanga wanted this plant named after Pietro Antonio Sansevierino (1724-1771) who established a garden of rare and exotic plants in the south of Italy but Carl Thunberg named it after Raimondo di Sangro (1710-1771) an Italian nobleman, inventor, soldier, writer and scientist.

Clivia miniata

(Bush Lily)

An evergreen groundcover which is water wise and grows in shade or semi-shade. The orange or yellow flowers occur in spring and are a favourite garden subject. The flowers attract birds and are long lasting in the vase. They do well in containers and are suitable for a shady corner in a townhouse garden. The roots are used medicinally for snake bite, fevers, childbirth, pregnancy and as a charm against evil. It is considered a good indicator of wealth, health and rains if one is growing near the homestead. They are an international collector’s item as they are hybridized to produce variegated leaves and a host of colours. The seed takes almost a year to ripen on the plant. A yellow Clivia seed is yellow when ripe, whereas the orange turn almost red. Clean the fleshy covering from the seed and this is said to strengthen ones fingernails. Rub the seeds with bleach to prevent disease and rot. Place the seed on the surface of a seed tray and cover with leaf litter. Don't over water as they they may rot otherwise they are easy to germinate. It was named for Lady Charlotte Florentina Clive in 1828. William Burchell first discovered them in the Eastern Cape in 1820. Miniata means the colour of red lead.

Adiantum capillus-veneris

(Maidenhair Fern)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 30 cm high and 20cm wide. It is suitable for all soils types but prefers a well-drained soil which is moist. It can grow in semi-shade or deep shade. It is an ideal plant for containers and is often used in a bathroom. They don't like to be in a draught. It is medicinal and is used for coughs, colds, pleurisy, bronchitus, catarrh and respiratory ailments and it is believed to be mildly diuretic. In Europe a drink called Capillaire was considered a favourite drink for the ladies of the court. It is made by boiling 3 cups of sugar in 3 cups of water, the juice of 3 lemons and 3 cups of fern fronds. Boil for about 30 minutes until thick. Cool and bottle. It can be taken neat as a cough syrup or diluted. It also makes a good, warm night time toddy if one is tired or cold. Dried leaves are burnt and inhaled for blocked sinus and fresh leaves are stuffed into the shirt for chest problems. The name is derived from the Greek 'diantos' which means incapable of being wetted. The leaves of the Maiden Hair fern shed water and will remain dry even in a rain shower.

Aloe dyeri

(Shade or Dyers Aloe)

This large evergreen groundcover is one of the largest spotted aloes. It is frost resistant, fast growing in the shade or semi-shade. It has red flowers in late summer or autumn which are very striking, especially if mass planted. They attract birds and will be successful if planted in containers. It occurs in Mpumalanga but copes very well with the cold on the Highveld. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

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