The healing properties of nature have long been recognized. Cedar trees were used by many Native American tribes for healing and protection against disease. John Muir, the great Scottish-born American naturalist and writer once said, “Come to the forest, for here is rest.” A century later, researchers around the world were taking medicinal and scientific interests in trees. The Japanese government was literally encouraging its citizens to get out — commune with the woods — for therapy. They called it “forest bathing”. From 2004-2012, Japan spent $4M studying hundreds of subjects. Their work became the foundation for the modern concept of “Forest Medicine”. But what exactly is it?
Forest Medicine is the science of using nature to heal you. And it has been accepted by many traditional medical practitioners. Why? Research has proven that trees having healing properties. The antimicrobial oils, or phytoncides, that protect them from germs can also help people. These oils reduce blood pressure, heart rate, stress and anxiety. They also boost the immune system, improve sleep and increase energy. It’s even possible that they can help you fight cancer or depression. As a result of these and other benefits, Japan designated 62 therapeutic forests. These woodlands attract millions, every year. All in search of better health.
Researchers in North America have also taken notice of Forest Medicine. A study, conducted by doctors at the University of Illinois, noted that children with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hypersensitivity Disorder) showed improved concentration after just a 20-minute walk in a green space, i.e. a park. Many spas and treatment centers throughout the U.S. and Canada now offer “Forest Therapy” or “Shinrin-Yoku”. It’s even been highlighted for tourists, i.e. The Travel Channel and the Fodors Travel Guide. Some locales may be closer than you think. Are you tempted? The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy actually offers free Forest Therapy Starter Kits, on their website.
For me, personally, I find rejuvenation in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I prefer that simple, one-on-one approach. The sound of the water rushing over the rocks, in the mountain streams, soothe me. The smells of wood and earth fill my senses. And I feel stronger — better. I somehow have more energy. I don’t have to climb a high peak to experience the positive effects to my body. I don’t have to hike five miles. Nature opens its arms like a loving mother and it provides. And the peace is priceless.
*Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash