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Depending on where you live, you may be experiencing the first glimpses of spring. As the temperature continues to rise and plants and flowers begin to bloom, everyone seems to be in a better mood. But you didn’t have to wait for spring to feel the effects of nature – bringing plants into your home may bring you the same benefits.

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Succulents placed in wood logs create a modern yet organic look.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, on average, Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than those outside. In certain cases, prolonged exposure to these pollutants, such as formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia, may lead to health effects like eye, nose and throat irritation.

Here’s where adding a few plants to your home may help. A highly cited experiment, published in 1989 by NASA, found that indoor plants can remove up to 87 percent of air toxins in 24 hours. Later research found that the interaction between potting soil and plants are what filter contaminated air.

That’s not all - plants do more than just protect your body from harmful toxins. Houseplants may also reduce physiological and psychological stress by suppressing your nervous system and lowering your blood pressure, leaving you with a soothing and natural feeling.

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you can reap these benefits. Here are plants that do well inside and may help your health:

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• Cacti and succulents. If you are a beginner to raising houseplants, you may consider getting a cactus or succulent. They do best in light, with little water and upkeep.

• Aloe plants. These plants can help reduce chemicals found in the air from cleaning products. The leaves even develop brown spots if there are too many chemicals in the air. They do best with a lot of sun.

• Rubber trees. This plant is effective for removing formaldehyde from air indoors. It’s an easy plant to grow, thriving even in dim light and cooler climates.

• Peace lilies. These popular flowering plants filter out benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia from the air. They do well in the shade and cooler temperatures, too.

• Snake plants. Consider adding this in your bedroom. It absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen during the night – and it doesn’t need much light or water to survive.

The positive benefits of a peace lily or cactus aren’t just limited to your home. Bringing your favorite plant to the office may also increase productivity by 15 percent, according to one study.

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Dr. Kim Perry is the chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare in Iowa and Missouri.

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