Back to nature: Turn your home into a healthy zone

  • Deekshita Baruah, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 19, 2015 13:24 IST

Air pollution is a big killer in India. Just like outdoor pollution, indoor air pollution can be deadly too, with a wide variety of toxic chemicals lurking in your home!

According to a survey by World Health Organisation, indoor pollution in India caused 34% stroke, 26% heart disease, 22% COPD, 12% acute lower respiratory infections in children and 6% lung cancer fatalities which eventually lead to death.

Woman protecting herself from the hazards of air pollution (Photo: Shutterstock)

It's time you stopped living in fear. Here are a few DIY ideas to turn your home into a healthy zone.

Make an herb garden
In 2014, a study by University of California warned that air pollution in India had a direct, negative impact on grain production. Analysing three decades of data, scientists found that in densely populated states wheat yields were 50% lower than what they could have been in 2010.

You may argue that you are not into crop cultivation, and therefore, by extension, you need not bother about this figure. Right? Wrong. Air pollution impacts all, and you'll do yourself a world of good by giving yourself a protective shield with an herb garden.

How to do it
First things first! Keep in mind what kind of light comes into your home and its intensity.

The best way to make a herb garden at home is to take one rectangular pot and fill the base with 1 inch of gravel. Then, cover the pot with 5 inches of well-drained soil/vermi compost.

What to plant
Suggests Shaan Lalwani, director of Vriksha Nursery in Mumbai: "If you have 2-3 hours of light indoors, then you can grow rosemary, oregano and curry leaves. For areas that have natural sunlight for around 3-5 hours, plants like thyme, tarragon and chives are the best."

Mamta Bargale, founder of Bengaluru's Orchid Tree, adds Italian basil, mint and cilantro to the list.

"These three plants are easy to grow and are pretty useful in the kitchen too. You can use them for their strong aromatic properties -- garnish your food with them, mix them with juices/cocktails or simply use them whole," she says.

Make yourself an herb garden (Photo: Vriksha Nursery)

Another favourite with horticulturists is Stevia Rebaudiana.

Says Ashish Lakhanpal, founder of The Plant Studio in Delhi: "Stevia works as a natural sweetener and is very good if you have diabetes running in the family. It can also help you control your blood pressure level."

Why is it helpful
* Basil contains high quantitites of (E)-beta-caryophyllene which is useful in treating arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases.

* Oregano that contains high amounts of omega-3, iron, manganese and antioxidants can help treat respiratory tract disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, menstrual cramps, urinary tract disorders and a number of skin conditions.

* Rich in antioxidant properties, curry leaves can control diarrhea, indigestion, excessive acid secretion, peptic ulcers, and diabetes.

* Mint helps with digestion, nausea and headaches, asthma, depression and fatigue, cough and respiratory problem.

* The antimicrobial properties of cilantro can help you detoxify. These days a lot of diets have juices and drinks that include cilantro.

* Rich in Vitamin A and antioxidants, thyme protects from colon cancer, breast cancer, food-borne bacteria, hypertension, stomach ache and arthritis.

* Rich in potassium and the Vitamin A, tarragon is good for overall eye health and heart health. It also acts as an effective remedy against toothache.

*This nutrient dense food can help fight prostate, esophageal and stomach cancer.

Keep your rooms purified
Did you know that formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound emitted in low levels by a variety of household products and furniture, may trigger asthma attacks and allergic reactions when present in high levels?

The good news is, you can get rid of it easily. You have a green tool at your disposal!

Sansevieria Trifasciata, commonly known as Snakeplant (Photo: Shutterstock)

Though all plants are good air purifiers, there are some which do it more effectively.

Plants like peace lily (spathiphyllum), weeping wig (ficus bengemina), fall guy (dracaena magenta), philodendron oxycardium are recommended.

Says Lalwani: "We have set up some of these air-purifying plants in several hospitals, offices and homes across Mumbai and we have got positive feedbacks. Many people say that plants like peace lily and ficus bengemina have helped them reduce stress levels. In fact, people with asthma have noted a decrease in attacks around these plants."

Adds Lakhanpal: "Sansevieria Trifasciata, also known as Snakeplant, is my first choice. Mostly because this plant thrives on its own and is very effective in reducing levels of vehicular pollution. The best part is that it emits oxygen at night."

Other air-purifying plants
* Dwarf Umbrella Tree (Schefflera)
* Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis)
* Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
* Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens)
* ZZ plant (Zamioculcas)

Plants you should keep handy
"Ashwagandha, or indian gooseberry, is a must have. It has multiple benefits and is good for arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, tumours, tuberculosis, asthma, leukoderma, bronchitis, backache, fibromyalgia, menstrual problems, hiccups, and chronic liver disease," says Lalwani.

Ashwagandha is known for its medicinal properties- it's good for arthritis, anxiety, insomnia

Here are a few other good options you could consider.

* Aloe vera is a good first aid for burns and skin infections. It is also effective against dandruff.

* Adusol can help you keep your cough and cold in check.

* Basil (Tulsi) can cure respiratory problem, help fight cancer, diabetes and protect the heart.

* Rosemary can boost your memory and can also as a strong anti-oxidant.

However, Bargale swears by Dendrobium (a huge genus of orchids). "It is good for de-stressing and can also be used to treat stomach pain, heatstroke, dry mouth and sores in the mouth," the orchid enthusiast says.

Keep pests at bay
Make worry a thing of the past! Roam around stress and insect free in your house with these plants around:

Euphorbia Thiruchilii: Commonly known as pencil euphorbia, this plant has been used by the Portuguese for centuries to ward off rats. The sap in the plant is highly alkaloid that causes the rats to die.

Citronella grass is one of the best mosquito repellants (Photo: Shutterstock)

Pityopsis ruthi: Pityopsis ruthii commonly known as rutha, a small olive green shrub with pretty yellow flowers works like a dream in keeping cockroaches, lizards and fleas away.

Citronella grass: It is one of the best mosquito repellants. Just plant them in your garden and you will notice a drop in the number of mosquitoes.

Note: Children living in polluted cities have higher chances of developing brain inflammation and neurodegenerative changes that raise the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Pledge to keep your surroundings and indoors healthy.

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