Plant Therapy: What Is It And What Are The Benefits
For thousands of years, plants have been used worldwide in numerous ways for their healing properties. Studies into the physical benefits of plants have shown that herbal remedies are better than placebos when treating physical illnesses like inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis. Plant-based natural products have also been studied for use in cancer therapy because of their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties.
If plants can be used to heal our physical bodies in a way that's natural and involves fewer side effects than other possible treatment options, is it possible that plants can heal us mentally too?
As it turns out, the answer is yes (to an extent). There are many ways that people can use the power of plants to ease symptoms of mental illness, including anxiety and depression. In less severe cases, plant therapy can help lift us after a stressful day or when we're in a bad mood. Plant therapy can be used as a natural alternative to other treatments in minor cases or complement other treatments. Used as a coping mechanism, plant therapy can assist with long-term success, recovery, and well-being.
Different Types of Plant Therapy
There are many ways that plants can be used therapeutically to improve our mental health. Choosing the right method for you depends on your interests and personality. Some of these things may work for you and not for others, and vice versa. Some of the main ways that plants can be used to help boost your mood or deal with symptoms of deeper issues like anxiety and depression are:
- Essential oils
- Gardening/taking care of plants
- Spending time in nature
- Healthy eating/diet
These things can be used individually or in combination as part of a healthy lifestyle. You can choose to take them up on your own or do more research and seek out guidance to get the maximum benefit. For example, you can start a garden yourself and experience many benefits or participate in a horticultural therapy program for additional help.
According to Healthline, "Aromatherapy is the use of organic compounds to improve your mood, mental state, or health. These organic compounds are called essential oils. They're made from various plant parts, such as roots, seeds, leaves, and blossoms." Note that experts aren't completely sure how these oils work, and they don't work for everyone, but some can be used to help with depression (not cure it).
Some essential oils recommended for treating symptoms of depression are:
Some essential oils recommended for treating symptoms of anxiety are:
Essential oils can be used on their own or blended and used in different combinations for different purposes. They can also be used in many ways, depending on your needs or preferences. You can diffuse essential oils, use them in a bath, or apply them topically with a roll-on or during a message.
A few promising pilot studies have begun showing the effects of aromatherapy on mental health. One study conducted by Conrad, P. and Adams, C. (2012) suggested "positive findings with minimal risk for the use of aromatherapy as a complementary therapy in both anxiety and depression scales with the postpartum woman." Another pilot study on aromatherapy massage by Edge, J. (2003) seemed promising with improvements in mood, anxiety, and relaxation in 6 of 8 participants.
It's important to do your research when it comes to essential oils. Certain oils aren't safe for pets or during pregnancy, for example. If you're working with pure oils, you need to know how to dilute them because they can irritate the skin or have other negative side effects if you don't. Still, you want pure oils because they will give you the best results. If you buy pre-made aromatherapy products, avoid ones with artificial scents.
Gardening/Taking Care of Plants
Gardening is a form of plant therapy that is sometimes used in elderly care and therapeutic gardens. This form of plant therapy can complement talk therapy and possibly other treatment options, boosting mental health outcomes.
The Horticultural Therapy Institute some of the best types of plants to use in therapeutic gardens (according to students and alumni):
- Fragrant plants - rose, gardenia, lilac, lemon balm, pine
- Edibles - fruits, vegetables, herbs
- Seasonal annuals - pansies, tulips, hyacinth
It's important to note that just like essential oils, you should always check on the safety and toxicity of plants you are using, especially if you have pets or plan to consume any of the growing things.
At its root (pun intended), gardening is a relaxing and rhythmic activity that causes many people to lose themselves in its enjoyment. Working in nature releases happy hormones and can help you feel more present instead of stuck in your head. Some other benefits of gardening include improved self-esteem and feelings of nurturing and responsibility for taking care of something. Gardening also fosters a feeling of connection to the earth and the world around you. Lacking this connection is a big reason that many people experience feelings of depression today.
Spending Time in Nature
Staying in the house all the time or being cooped up in an office 24/7 is not natural. Humans were not meant to be in these types of manufactured settings with artificial lighting all the time, and these things can eventually impact our physical and mental health. Even if you don't consider yourself an outdoorsy person, chances are occasionally; you find yourself outside enjoying the feeling of the sun on your face and the wind in your hair.
If gardening isn't your thing, it's possible to get some of the same benefits just by spending time in nature. According to a study by Barton and Pretty (2010), green exercise (activity in the presence of nature) brings large benefits in mood and self-esteem, even from short durations. Evidence suggests that those effects are enhanced when this physical activity takes place near water.
Next time you're feeling down or anxious, and it's a beautiful day outside, try one of these things (even if it's just for 30 minutes) and see how you feel afterward:
- Head to the nearest park or nature path and walk, hike, or bike
- Do yoga or exercise outside at the beach or by a river/ another body of water
- Find a peaceful place outside in nature, sit on a bench or lay in the grass and do nothing or read a book
If you're more of a nature lover and open to longer exposure, grab some friends or your family and go on a weekend camping trip! Spending time in nature regularly can help you feel calmer and more connected, put you in a better mood, and help you get more energized for the day ahead.
While we're on the topic of plant therapy, it only seems fair to talk about diet. One of the best and most simple ways that we can use plants to enhance our physical and mental health is by eating them! Paying attention to your diet and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can positively impact your mood and energy.
In fact, many studies have now shown that there is a link between mental health and diet. For example, a study by Jacka, F.N., Mykletun, A., Berk, M., et al. (2011) found that "those with better quality diets were less likely to be depressed, whereas a higher intake of processed and unhealthy foods was associated with increased anxiety." Similarly, people on plant-based diets have fewer symptoms of depression, stress, anxiety, and mood disturbances than omnivores.
When most people think of plant therapy, they probably think of essential oils because they've become a popular way for people to naturally influence their mood and mental state. Plus, there's a huge company by the name of Plant Therapy that sells essential oils. However, the truth is that there are several other ways that plants can be used therapeutically to enhance our mental well-being.
Some other ways that plants can be used to improve your mental health include gardening, creating and spending time in therapeutic gardens, paying attention to your diet, and simply spending time in nature. Just being around plants for a short period can have a positive impact on your mood!
Even though plants can help us support mental health and recovery, it's important to seek help for depression and anxiety. This might mean talking to your doctor about how you've been feeling and discussing treatment options like therapy if needed. If you're having trouble finding a therapist, online services like Regain (which offers relationship and marriage counseling) are great alternatives to in-person counseling that are easy to use, , and affordable.
Alongside therapy, plant therapy can help you deal with symptoms and self-soothe when things get tough. When you start to feel yourself getting anxious or depressed, you know that you have coping tools like essential oils, gardening, or nature to turn to if you want to regain a sense of calm and connection.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is plant therapy called?
Plant Therapy is also known as horticultural therapy. This type of plant therapy is essential when a person partakes in gardening or plant-based activities under a trained horticultural therapist’s supervision.
Plant Therapy offers people chances to improve their mental health. According to the official Horticulture Therapy website, there are three principles of plant therapy:
- A person’s quality of life can be improved through their relationship with plants.
- Humans are naturally interested in nature
- Colorful and fresh plants make people feel good
Is plant therapy a thing?
People use the power of plants to help ease symptoms of mental illness, such as depression, or rely on plant therapy to get through a stressful day.
Plant Therapy offers people a chance to find natural solutions to their problems. For instance, people can shop for a plant that may reduce their anxiety in some way. A plant might produce a pleasant aroma or make you feel more at peace/in touch with nature.
Many individuals utilize plant therapy in many different ways to help improve their mental health. These methods include:
- Plant therapy essential oils and meditation
- Spending time in nature
- Taking care of plants: this can give someone a sense of purpose or give them something to look forward to
Some individuals combine plant therapy essential oils with gardening or consider other plant therapy essential methods, such as exercising.
For instance, a prominent example of a plant therapy essential method is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy involves using plant therapy essential oils that improve one’s mood, mental state, or overall health.
These plant therapy essential oils are made from plant parts, including the roots and seeds. Some people may combine different plant therapy essential oils and create unique plant therapy essential oils that can serve their specific needs. Thus, plant therapy offers relaxing aromas that could help build a person’s confidence.
Why are plants good for mental health?
When people spend time around plants, they can maintain their sense of well-being. Thus, plant therapy offers a few psychological benefits. These positives include:
- Improves mood
- When people use plant therapy essential oils or other plant therapy essential methods, they generally feel happier. A survey conducted at four San Francisco Bay Area hospitals showed that nearly 80 percent of patients felt more relaxed after spending time in a garden. Plant Therapy offers people the opportunity to destress themselves.
- People can also increase the frequency of happy feelings by gardening or even using plant therapy essential oils. Not only does gardening remind people of their connection to nature, but it can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Ultimately, therapy offers people ways to connect with their inner psyches and understand the source of their health issues.
- Boosts self-esteem
- People of any age can increase their self-confidence by taking care of plants or using plant therapy essential oils. When a person takes care of a plant and watches it grow, they may relate to the plant’s growth. As the plant grows and matures, so does the person. Therefore, plant therapy offers people the option to help grow as a person.
- People may feel proud of themselves after seeing their gardening efforts bear fruit. They can enjoy the vegetables they grew or feel happy at the sight of colorful flowers, knowing that their effort made everything possible. In this way, therapy offers people the gift of creating something of their own and reaping the benefits.
Are fake plants good for mental health?
Fake plants can affect a person’s mental health just as genuine plants and plant therapy essential oils can.
Research demonstrates that fake plants can still benefit mental health, though they may not be as effective or powerful as real plants (and don’t offer all the same pros). Still, fake plants require little maintenance and allow people to decorate their living space with some form of greenery.
While genuine plants may have more of an effect on mental health, having a fake plant does not take away from improving one’s health. Instead, people may still find themselves smiling when they see an artificial plant. It may remind them of real plants, which can place them in a better mood.
In doing so, plant therapy offers people the right to smile after a long or hard day.
Do plants boost your mood?
Plants and other essential plant therapy methods can improve your mood. Since plants are appealing to the human eye, some people may feel better after seeing colorful greenery, and they may feel happier as a result.
In addition to plants, plant therapy essential oils can play an important role in boosting a person’s mood. There are over 100 common plant therapy essential oils, and each helps with a specific health issue, such as keeping up energy levels.
However, there are some plant therapy essential oils that can increase energy and relieve fatigue. They include:
- Peppermint plant therapy essential oils
- Spearmint plant therapy essential oils
- Rosemary plant therapy essential oils
- Lemon plant therapy essential oils
- Sweet orange plant therapy essential oils
What plant is good for depression?
Plant therapy involves picking out a plant that can best help you with your mental health concerns.
If you decide on a plant that can help with depression, an admirable pick is aloe vera. This type of flower can provide adequate plant therapy to people who tend to give a lot to others.
Aloe vera can purify the air around you. It does so by removing harmful chemicals in its surroundings, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety.
Furthermore, the plant’s relaxing aroma may help people with depression focus on the present moment and be grateful for their things and people. For those worried about taking care of a plant, aloe vera is considered one of the easiest to maintain.
Another perfect flower for plant therapy is jasmine. The plant therapy essential oils’ relaxing aroma has helped with cases of libido.
Furthermore, experts believe that jasmine is a good substitute for a sleeping or mood enhancer. The plant is known for relieving anxiety, so that some people may place the flower near their bed for maximum effect.
Thus, the plant’s soothing effect can help people with depression in improving their mental health. The plant therapy essential oils of jasmine has shown success in making people’s lives a little bit better.
One more helpful flower for plant therapy is lavender. The flower can provide various mental health benefits for anxiety and depression, to name a few.
The plant therapy essential oils from lavender can help people relax and sleep, alleviate headaches, and may reduce irritation from bug bites.
Is it good to have plants in your bedroom?
It is good to have plants in your bedroom because they can help improve sleep and reduce anxiety. The aroma from certain flowers can help alleviate stress, while plant therapy essential oils can provide other useful benefits.
To get the most out of having flowers in your bedroom as a form of plant therapy, you need to take care of them properly. You can maintain them in the following ways:
- Interact with your plants regularly.
- Incorporate your plants into a daily meditation practice
- Spend time with your plants
Can plants reduce anxiety?
Some plants can reduce anxiety with the help of plant therapy. They may help with anxiety through the plant’s aroma or its plant therapy essential oils. Examples include the following forms of plant therapy:
- Rose plant therapy essential oils
- When a person inhales the sweet scent of these plant therapy essential oils, it may help reduce their anxiety. Furthermore, the antioxidant properties of these plant therapy essential oils can help treat acne.
- Vetiver plant therapy essential oils
- The sugary scent of vetiver plant therapy essential oils can improve your mood and calm nerves. These plant therapy essential oils have antioxidants that can heal scars.
- Lemon plant therapy essential oils
- These citrusy plant therapy essential oils can boost energy levels and reduce physical symptoms, such as nausea.
What plant helps you sleep?
Plant Therapy is useful for sleep since specific plants can help with sleeping problems, improve relaxation levels, and eliminate chemicals in your air. Examples include:
- Valerian plant therapy essential oils
- The flower helps people handle insomnia and can be used to reduce anxiety levels. The flower’s plant therapy essential oils has also been studied for their hypnotic effects. By sniffing the scent of valerian plant therapy essential oils, one can enhance one’s sense of relaxation.
- Gardenia plant therapy essential oils
- The scent of the plant therapy essential oils from Gardenia flowers can induce a sedative effect on you that can help with sleep. Using the plant therapy essential oils of a gardenia flower, you can begin to create a relaxing and comforting atmosphere to unwind in.
- Spider plant therapy essential oils
- Using a spider plant’s therapy, essential oils can naturally purify the air.
What plant helps with anxiety?
Indoor plants help with improving anxiety levels by purifying the air and producing calming effects. Here are some specific examples of plants believed to help alleviate anxiety symptoms:
- Basil plant therapy essential oils
- The plant’s essential oils help pump oxygen into the air for up to 20 hours, positively impacting one’s blood pressure, mood, and stress levels.
- Chamomile plant therapy essential oils
- Chamomile’s plant therapy essential oils is known for their calming effects before bedtime. However, anyone allergic to daisies, marigolds, and ragweeds should not use this plant therapy essential oil.
- English Ivy plant therapy essential oils
- The therapy essential oils of English ivy can remove up to 94% of a home’s mold. People exposed to mold can see an increase in symptoms of insomnia or depression. As such, people can consider shopping for plants and reduce the mold in their homes.
What flower is good for anxiety?
Many good for anxiety exist in different forms, such as tea, candles, and essential oils, that can be consumed in various ways to help alleviate anxiety symptoms.
Plant Therapy offers a chance to connect with the natural world. Plant Therapy provides an opportunity to commit effort and care toward something valuable, both of which can help manage anxiety. Here are some examples to help get you started:
- Chrysanthemum plant therapy essential oils
- Chrysanthemum is a plant therapy essential for helping to reduce symptoms of worry and stress. Furthermore, the plant therapy provided by chrysanthemum is also a good source of Vitamin C.
- Peppermint plant therapy essential oils
- Peppermint’s plant therapy essential oils can help lower frustration and increase one’s sense of alertness. Additionally, the menthol in peppermint can help relax musicals and aid digestion.
How do I become a horticultural therapist?
To become a horticultural therapist well-versed in plant therapy and plant therapy essential oils, you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree in horticultural therapy.
You could also get a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree with coursework related to plant therapy and plant therapy essential oils. Lastly, you are required to have at least 480 hours of internship.
The internship is an integral part of horticultural therapy education. Students can further develop their plant therapy and plant therapy essential oils knowledge while supervised by a Registered Horticultural Therapist. Thus, therapy offers professionals a sense of satisfaction in helping others overcome their struggles.