As a young kid I spent uncountable hours in the forests of my home town playing with friends and even making a special friend – a tree to which I entrusted all my secrets I couldn’t and wouldn’t entrust to other human beings. Strangely enough after my therapeutic sessions with my friend the tree I felt liberated, I felt well. But by growing-up into a teenager and later into an adult I forgot the forest and the benefits for our body and soul, instead I joined the rat race in the city jungle and got lost in it. But there is still a way out of it for all of us.
Because remember if you go back into the forest, you instinctively feel it: the forest is doing you well. But why is it like that? Scientists around the world are addressing this issue. It is clear that forest air contains 90 percent fewer dust particles than city air. And that it contains substances that have a positive effect on our health. Let me tell you what I found out here below.
“Forest strengthens our immune system”
The Austrian biologist and author Clemens Arvay collects international research on the impact of the forest on our health. He is convinced: “The forest helps us against depression, against mental stress and burnout, but it also strengthens our immune system, can protect us from serious chronic diseases and even from heart attacks.”
Even the sight of the forest is good
One of the earliest studies on the health effects of the forest appeared in 1984 in the science magazine “Science”. Thus, the sight of trees alone is measurably positive. Patients looking out of the hospital window after an operation recovered more quickly than those looking at a house wall. The patients with tree view also needed less painkillers.
A similar finding came from a large study by the environmental psychologist Marc Berman at the University of Chicago in 2015: the fewer trees in a neighborhood, the higher the risk of typical lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or diabetes.
A forest walk has a calming effect
British researchers also showed that movement in the forest also lifts the mood and reduces stress.
The various sensory impressions, such as the chirping of birds and the smell of pine needles, stimulate the activity of the parasympatikus, according to Clemens Arvay. “This is an important part of our nervous system responsible for recovery and regeneration down to the cellular level.” It is known that in the hectic city life the opponent of the parasympathetic, the sympathetic, is very active. “And that is why we modern humans need the forest as compensation.”
Does forest air also protect against cancer?
During a walk in the forest, we breathe in substances with which plants exchange messages with one another – so-called terpenes. They strengthen our immune system. For a study of the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, the researchers quartered twelve test persons in a hotel. One half of the air was enriched with a mix of forest air during the night.
The next day, the blood samples from these participants showed a significantly higher number and activity of the body’s killer cells. For study leader Professor Qing Li a groundbreaking insight.
“My experiment has shown that the terpenes stimulate immune cells like the natural killer cells, and that enhances the effect of immune function,” he says. The pioneer of forest medicine hopes that the power of the trees may even prevent cancer. “Maybe doctors can prescribe the forest as medicine in the future,” he says.
Intense forest walks increase the number of anti-cancer proteins in the body
Natural killer cells recognize abnormal cells such as tumors and are designed to kill them. They belong to the innate immune system and can, according to a new study result, be activated by intensive forest walks. In short, nature experiences are likely to help fight cancer.
An overdose of this medicine is impossible!
The intensive contact with nature thus protects our health and can even support the body in the fight against cancer. Airborne phytoncides lower the concentration of stress hormones and are likely to cause natural killer cells to proliferate. So, forest walks should be at the top of your list when it comes to maintaining your health and recovering properly.
The effect lasts more than a week after the walk
After the Japanese scientists discovered that the number of natural killer counts in human blood increases after forest walks. First, they sent male study participants on a three-day forest vacation, and later also some women between the ages of 25 and 43 years. The subjects’ blood was tested daily and on the first day, after a two-hour stay in the forest, the number of natural killer counts had increased by half. On the second day, there were two long walks, after which the blood contained even more killer cells, including many anti-cancer proteins. Seven days after this close-to-nature holiday, there was still a significant increase in the number of natural killer counts in the study participants’ body, meaning that the effect lasted for more than a week – even after returning to such a turbulent city as Tokyo.
“Forest bathing” as health care
In Japan, forest visits have been part of health care for years. The term “Shinrin-yoku” translated means “forest bathing” which is a Japanese tradition. In 2012, Japanese universities even set-up their own forest medicine research branch.
“Trees have a rich social life”
In Germany, the forester and bestselling author Peter Wohlleben deals with the forest and its effect on humans. For him, trees are more than suppliers of wood and oxygen: “In reality, trees are fascinating creatures, with a very rich social life, and there is a lot going on, which we can’t easily see because trees are so slow.”
Do trees have feelings?
According to Wohlleben, trees have a memory and feelings. They live in a family, make friends and exchange messages, for example, about fragrances that contain the terpenes. In addition, trees could send electrical information via their roots and even warn each other of dangers such as harmful beetles.
Get to know and protect the forest
Wohlleben’s statements are popular, but come up against criticism of scientists, because they consider the assumptions to be less scientific. But the forester is sure that the forest is a kind of medicine because of its special climate. “The blood pressure lowers, one becomes more relaxed, especially if this is an intact forest.” His appeal: People should get to know and protect the forest better. After all, they need forests urgently – also for their health.
Going once a week into the green is already enough to achieve a lasting effect – and unlike other medicines, overdosing is impossible! It does not necessarily have to be a recognized healing forest, a stinky forest near your town is enough for your body – and the soul! – to do a lot of good things.
Learn more on the “Healing Powers of the Forest“
When was your last time in the forest and tell me about your experience with the forest in the comment box here below
If you like what I do and if you want to support me check this out too