• Plants & Happiness

    How the Fresh Scent of the Forest Can Fight Cancer in Amazing Ways

    Forest Path, How the Fresh Scent of the Forest Can Fight Cancer in Amazing Ways, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2021/12/08/forest scent cancer, #plants, #happiness, #mentalhealth, #stressrelief, #stress, #leafyourtroublesbehind, #greenleisure, #relaxation, #cancer

    If you’re anything like me, you get stressed out because of work — or your kids or parents or even an unexpected traffic jam or small injury. Stress is an ongoing issue in our modern world.

    Sometimes when we’re stressed getting outside and taking a walk can help. Our mind takes a break from whatever is causing our angst and our bodies take in outside air, which helps us relax. But did you know there’s an added benefit to taking a walk specifically in the woods?

    It’s not that it’s a more serene, prettier experience, though there’s that too.

    The added benefit of walking in the woods is the scent that trees make. And I’m not talking about the generally refreshing smell of the leaves or wind or soil, though that’s a part of it. I’m talking about phytoncides.

    Phytoncides are the essential oils trees create to ward off pests and harmful bacteria. They are limonenes, turpines, carene, pinene, and others. If you’ve ever walked through a grove of cedars, you’ve smelled them. It’s oftentimes a spicy cool scent but not always. For instance, garlic gives off phytoncides as well, that strong familiar fragrance that wafts up when you smash a clove. Whatever the phytoncide, researchers have discovered that when humans inhale them, they boost the immune system.

    Two Ground Breaking Studies

    Dr. Qing Li, who I mentioned in my post about the most reputable researchers in plants and mental health, has led the research on walking in the woods or “forest bathing.” He conducted experiments where Japanese businessmen between the ages of 37 and 55 walked for two hours in the mornings and afternoons on forest paths.

    Dr. Li and his team sampled their blood and found that their T cells, which are the Natural Killer cells our bodies make to fight off cancer, jumped in activity. In fact, they increased about 50 percent compared to their baseline measurements. Wow!

    Another fun fact: the effects lasted a full seven days after the trip to the forest.

    Because he wanted to learn whether a person had to physically be present in the forest, Dr. Li and his team conducted another experiment where they asked twelve men between the ages of 37 and 60 to sleep in a hotel for three nights.

    With a vaporizer, the team released the scent of Hinoki Cypress tree oil (Chamaecyparis obtusa) during the night. After taking the subjects’ blood, they found a 20 percent increase in NK cells! Subjects also reported feeling more rested and less fatigued.

    Dr. Li has gone on to study other aspects of this phenomenon. He’s found walking in the forest not only increased NK cells but also reduced blood pressure and heart rate.

    His and other researchers’ studies have shown an increased activity of the parasympathetic nerve system, the part of the nervous system that helps us relax.

    Related to that, studies show forest bathing reduces cortisol, our stress hormone. And finally, forest bathing reduces anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion.

    So if you’re feeling stressed this week, consider visiting a large public park or wooded preserve on the weekend. Walking for an hour or two among trees will physically as well as psychologically remove you from your daily problems.

    Plus, it will heal more than just your mood, it’ll increase your body’s ability to fight off one of our most dangerous diseases. Think of it as free medicine only nature can prescribe.


  • Daily Stress ReLeaf,  Plants & Happiness

    #24 The Amazing Effects of Forest Bathing

    Forest, The Amazing Effects of Forest Bathing, Daily Stress ReLeaf, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2021/03/11/effects-of-forest-bathing/ #forestbathing #effects #shinrinyoku #Japan #woods #nature #relaxation #destressing #stress #mentalhealth

    By now, you may have heard of forest bathing. Though it has a dreamy Western name, it’s really just the act of mindfully walking among trees. Researchers started investigating its health benefits in 2004. Dr. Qing Li, a professor and immunologist at Nippon Medical School and vice president of the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine, along with Yoshifumi Miyazaki, a researcher at Chiba University, were the first to scientifically explore this phenomenon. Until that time, the country’s forestry department had started the program as a healthy lifestyle choice. Now, thanks to their and others’ studies, we’re learning the amazing effects of forest bathing. Here are three biggies.

    It creates NK cells

    The most impressive effect is how well the human body creates NK cells. NK is a shorthand term for a type of white blood cell that protects us from disease. Dr. Li found that after Tokyo businessmen spent two hours hiking every morning for three days, their NK count shot up by 40 percent. When he investigated further, he discovered that inhaling the trees’ essential oils had boosted the subjects’ immune systems. Conversely, the subjects who walked for the same duration over the same three days in the city did not increase their NK count.

    It lowers stress hormones

    Professor Miyazaki found that people who walked in the forest for 15 minutes lowered their stress hormone (or cortisol) concentration by 12.7 percent. Also parasympathetic activity (relaxed state) increased by over 100 percent. To him, this makes perfect sense since our bodies evolved in nature over thousands of years and inherently yearn to be at one with it.

    It boosts creativity

    Have you ever noticed you solve problems after taking a walk? Well, David Strayer from the University of Utah found that creativity shot up 50 percent in subjects who spent three days in nature. The prefontal cortex is less active in nature. That rest allows your brain to wander and make random connections, leading to problem-solving and creativity.

    Conclusion

    These are the most well known effects of forest bathing but the science continues to grow and support the practice. And just to clarify, this doesn’t mean you have to backpack into the Alaskan wilderness. As Dr. Li says, “This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.”

    I hope you can get into the woods this weekend and immerse yourself in all nature has to offer. It just might improve your mood.

    Photo by Daniel Sessler

  • Plants & Gardening

    Plants Are Speaking Right Now, Probably in Your Backyard

    Plants Are Speaking Right Now, Probably in Your Backyard, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2018/11/26/plant-sounds/ #plantsounds #trees #forest #bioacoustics #novel #books #SongoftheTreeHollow

    Did you know plants make sounds? I didn’t up until a few years ago. The idea is fascinating, and surprisingly already proven in some scientific studies. For instance, at the University of Western Australia, researchers discovered corn plants created clicking sounds in their roots as they grew. Scientists found a similar phenomenon in pine trees coping with drought. The trees’ xylem tissue made snapping sounds when moving an air bubble. In 2017, the Yale School of Forestry produced a sound experiment where they developed a device to translate a plant’s pulses into sounds. They learned that plants vary in their “signatures” or “music.”