The True Purpose Behind Christmas Trees (And Other Plants)

When we think about going back to the basics, there's nothing more foundational than familial and ancestral roots. In this blog I will focus on the European and American winter traditions, but plant-based traditions with tangible benefits come from all over the world.

In the United States and across the globe, many of us put up the traditional Christmas tree and perhaps display a poinsettia center piece. A sad trend is that many switch to artificial and faux plant decor, citing cost and convenience as the driving reasons, but there are actually very real benefits to bringing real plants into our homes during this time.

The Very Real Benefits of Houseplants

Houseplants enhance much more than just indoor aesthetics, they are also great for our wellbeing.

    • NASA, plants can remove toxins from air –up to 87% of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) every 24 hours. What are VOCs? They will include substances like formaldehyde (present in cigarette smoke and grocery bags), benzene and trichloroethylene (both found in man-made fibers, inks, solvents and paint).
    • A study from the Agricultural University of Norway found sickness rates fell by more than 60% in offices containing plants.
    • A study at The Royal College of Agriculture in Circencester, England, found that students demonstrate 70% greater attentiveness when they're taught in rooms containing plants.
    • Houseplants act as a natural humidifier, releasing about 97% of the water you give them back into the air.  So if you suffer with dry skin or other symptoms caused by dry air, you might want to add some plants to help with this (which, who doesn't struggle with dry air in the winter?).

Holiday Plants Are More Than Just Tradition

This brings us to holiday plants like Christmas trees, poinsettias, rosemary and more. Beyond the benefits of bringing any plant indoors, each of these is rooted deep in tradition and serve more of a purpose than a Christmas spirit.

Christmas Trees (Balsam Fir, Spruce, Pine, etc.)

The first written record of a decorated Christmas tree comes from Riga, Latvia in the year 1510. Interestingly, roses were used for many years as Christmas tree as it is considered a symbol for the Virgin Mary. In the later centuries apple trees were decorated as Christmas trees.

In the 1800s, the Germans introduced green Christmas trees to USA. The evergreen tree was an ancient symbol of life in the midst of winter.

Benefits of Live Christmas Trees

  • Spruce trees improve mood and release stress.

  • Live pine tree also has the ability to protect against sinus infections, clear mucus, phlegm, cure skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, boost the immune system, fight fungal, and viral infections, stimulate the mind and body.  

  • Cedar trees clear nerve tension, anxiety and has been in use for ADHD. It helps in hypertension and insomnia. The fumes from the cedar releases congestion, reduced bronchitis. It also repels moths, fleas and mosquitoes and other types of flies and insects.


Poinsettias

Poinsettias around Christmastime is actually a tradition of the Americas. A Mexican fairy tale links the plant to Christmas in that a poor girl’s meagre offering of weeds to Jesus on Christmas Eve magically evolved into poinsettias, giving the plant its Mexican name “flowers of the holy night”.

The poinsettia was made widely known because of a man named Joel Roberts Poinsett. He was the first Ambassador from the USA to Mexico in 1825 and immediately sent some of the plants back to South Carolina, where he began growing the plants and sending them to friends and botanical gardens.

Benefits of Poinsettias 

All in all, the poinsettia is a safe plant and is on the top of the list of most helpful clean air houseplants. These plants are an excellent addition to your house since they’re able to clean the air and look good while doing it. Poinsettias remove the trace formaldehyde that exists in the air from insulation, grocery bags, particle board, and other household items. This leads to cleaner air with less pollutants.


Christmas Cactus

The succulent trend does not die come wintertime. The "linked" segments look interesting on their own, but the leaf-like pads also produce white, pink, red or purple flowers. These low maintenance plants are known to live up to 100 years or more! 


Benefits of Christmas Cactus

  • As with any cactus, it absorbs the released carbon dioxide in the home and reverts it into fresh, clean oxygen for you and your family to breathe while you’re inside.
  • This cactus removes carbon dioxide at night and releases oxygen during the day, which makes it a great addition to your bedroom decor. 


Rosemary

Rosemary’s association with Christmas goes back to the Middle Ages when the herb was spread on the floor to be walked on as to fragrance the air. They did this in the belief that nice aromas were good for your health; in particular, smelling rosemary on Christmas Eve was believed to safeguard your health as well as promote happiness for the upcoming year. 

Benefits of Rosemary

  • The research team at the University of Florida has said rosemary can improve cognitive function immediately upon inhaling its scent. 

  • Rosemary makes you feel good, it's a known mood enhancer


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