Growing CP is Actually Good for You! By Michael Reif

Growing CP is Actually Good for You!

Like millions of other Americans, I recently discovered I have high blood pressure. This can lead to all sorts of health issues, including heart attack and stroke. In our fast-paced world, we build up stress and that stress can push our blood pressure to an unhealthy level. Naturally, my doctor is concerned and is considering putting me on meds — which I’d really rather not take if I don’t have to. So I did a bit of research and what I discovered surprised me.

But let’s back up a few decades. Back in the early 1990s, the prevailing theory was (and I’m simplifying here) that thanks to the rapid development and proliferation of computers, people would find they had far more free time on their hands. This led a lot of people to get on a career path to what is generally called the leisure sciences. This was the golden (but short-lived) era of “parks and rec,” but as everyone knows, computers just made us work faster and churn out more product. Deadlines that used to be weeks were now days — or even hours — away.

While I wouldn’t want to give up my MacBook Pro, I do make it a point to get out and hike or go exploring (usually for sites where I might find carnivorous plants or orchids, my other “addiction”). When I can, I make the longer drive to the beach. When I do this, I can feel my stress melt away. That’s not surprising, as being outside in the sunlight rather than inside under flickering fluorescents has been proven to raise serotonin levels in our brains. This increases our sense of well-being, not to mention raising the level of melatonin in our bodies, which is the hormone responsible for getting a truly great night’s sleep.

Similarly, I’ve found that working with my plants in my modest backyard growing space melts away my stress. I forget about work, deadlines and supervisors that want everything yesterday. As I am writing this, it’s springtime and my collection of Sarracenias are putting up colorful new pitchers, my Pinguicula are waking up and flowering and my three Nepenthes are again putting out new leaves and bigger pitchers. Lots of my plants need repotting and a general cleanup of old dead leaves and noxious, encroaching weeds.

Knowing all this I did an experiment: I went on eBay and bought a used electronic blood pressure monitor. On Friday after work I checked my blood pressure and found it was 140 over 88, which is right at the point where you are at increased risks to your health. Saturday morning was sunny and mild. I watered my plants, took photos of some new flowers on my Sarracenia hybrids and started repotting and weeding. When I broke for lunch I took my blood pressure again and this time it was a surprisingly good 125 over 82. I took a walk to the neighborhood green space, did a little jogging and returned home to finish up work on my plants. Not surprisingly, when I was done I took a shower and checked my blood pressure again. It was 117 over 78.

Now I can’t say for certain exactly how accurate a $30 blood pressure monitor may be, but for certain it showed a significantly higher reading during a typical workday and surprisingly lower readings while I’m outside working with my plants. I’d urge others to try this experiment. The bottom line is that carnivorous plants — or plants of any kind — can help you lead a healthier, happier life.*

* Disclaimer: If you think you or someone in your family has high blood pressure, the first step should always be to consult with a qualified medical professional.