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Hug the Trees, Walk into Nature, Enjoy the Benefits of Forest Bathing

by Amélie Poulain
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Exploding information from the outside world and the enormous pressure of life always make people exhausted, and even lead to depression and collapse, affecting physical and mental health and sleep quality. Just go into nature! Fully enjoy “Forest Healing”, which would eliminate fatigue, restore physical strength, drive away depression, and find inner peace and balance of body and mind.


Go into the forest and enjoy the healing power of plants. (Photo via pixabay.com)

Taipei, Taiwan (Merxwire) – After nearly two years of anti-epidemic life, the fluctuation of the epidemic has given us a lot of time to live at home. As long as you don’t go to crowded places or have a meal in the restaurants, you can occasionally step out of the house, go into nature to breathe fresh air, get close to the mountains to enjoy the smells of plants, and experience the various benefits of forest bathing. Forest bathing can relieve fatigue, rejuvenate, reduce stress, help you sleep well, and improve immunity. Once we have a healthy body, we can fight the virus for a long time.

What is forest bathing?

  • The most well-known forest healing power is probably phytoncide. Phytoncide was discovered in 1930 by Dr. Boris Petrovich Tokin, a professor of biochemistry at Universitas Petropolitana, Russia. It is a highly active bactericidal substance in plants that can help plants heal wounds, improve self-resilience, enhance plant defenses, and protects plants from attack by animals and insects. It is among the more than 5,000 antibacterial volatile organic compounds released by plants. Most forest plants release phytoncide, and conifers have higher phytoncide volatilization levels than broad-leaved trees.
  • In 1981, Japanese and Russian scholars jointly published “The Incredible Efficacy of Plants”. The study mentioned that phytoncide can inhibit the growth of bacteria and molds, prevent mosquito bites and kill pathogenic bacteria in the environment to reduce its harm to humans. From this time on, people began to agree that going into the forest and absorbing phytoncide would help maintain health.
  • In 1982, Tomohide Akiyama of Japan proposed the term “Shinrin-yoku” which is translated as “green shower” or “forest bathing” in English, and vigorously promoted and encouraged everyone to bathe in the forest and absorb the essence of natural plants to help strong physique and mind. Therefore, people prefer to be close to the trees, which has gradually evolved into daily leisure. “Forest bathing” is also highly recognized by doctors and scholars. There are various research units and associations in Japan, such as the Society of Forest Medicine, the Japanese Forest Therapy Society, etc., to deeply explore and study the medical application value and various health benefits of trees. They try their best to promote forest bathing.
Hug the big tree and enjoy a forest bathing. (Photo via unsplash.com)

Enjoy forest bathing and experience “Forest Therapy.”

Entering the forest, hugging the big trees, enjoying the forest bathing, you can get various benefits brought by the trees, which is called “Forest Therapy.” When scholars around the world conduct forest healing research, they usually refer to “Forest therapy”, “Forest bathing” or “Shinrin-yoku” to represent forest healing. In 2013, Japanese scholar Uehara Ten defined forest healing as “all kinds of natural therapy or environmental therapy that uses forest environment to enhance health”, including forest walking and forest leisure activities mainly based on forest bathing. They use the tree or forest environment for a variety of therapy, counseling, rehabilitation, and group activities, as well as environmental education on topographical distribution or natural forests. In Korea, forest healing is defined as “activities that utilize forest scenery and various elements, such as plant aroma, to enhance immunity and improve health.” In China, forest healing is called “forest health care”. The various benefits of forests are listed below: 

  1. Enhance immune cell activity, anti-aging and anti-cancer, strengthen the body.

    The research team of Qing Li, an authority on Japanese forest medicine, found that subjects who spent 3 days and 2 nights in the forest and hiked for 2 hours a day could enhance the activity of natural killer cells in the blood by 50% and also increase the activity of the three major anti-cancer proteins. The number of killer cells and proteins increases the ability to destroy cancer cells and fight infection. Its follow-up research also found that even inhaling phytoncide in an indoor space can increase the activity of natural killer cells and the number of anti-cancer proteins.

  2. Lowers stress hormones, eliminates irritability, and releases stress.

    Another study by Li Qing’s research team found that after forest bathing, the concentrations of stress hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine in the subjects were significantly decreased. At the same time, it also verified again that the activity of killer cells in the subjects’ blood would increase the anti-cancer effects. A French study found that when you are under great pressure, smell the aroma of trees and soil in the forest air, and enter the natural environment, you will accidentally forget the complicated thoughts in your head.

  3. Regulates the autonomic nervous system and blood pressure, and helps fall asleep.

    A study in the journal Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine in 2010 mentioned that sitting in a forest to rest or walk in the forest can help reduce blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol concentration, and sympathetic nerve activity, while increasing parasympathetic nerve function, balancing autonomic nerves system, improving mood and sleep quality. It makes us fall asleep easier and increases the depth of sleep.

  4. Eliminate physical and mental fatigue, relieve depression, and activate body and mind.

    Eric Brisbare, a French tree therapist suggested that people who have been tired of life or busy with work for a long time should go back to nature and stay in the forest for 3 to 7 days to eliminate accumulated fatigue and negative emotions, boost their minds, and renew their life. Connect with yourself and the earth and take a rest. Take a daily walk in the forest, get away from the explosion of modern information, slow down, and focus on yourself again. 

  5. Regulates the respiratory system, benefits the lungs and maintains health.

    The big trees in the forest release phytoncide, which is inhaled from the respiratory organs and enters the lungs and alveoli to help maintain the health of the respiratory system. The humidity in the forest is less affected by external forces because of the constant adjustment power of nature and is more stable and appropriate than the city. Comfortable and constant humidity can reduce the irritation and impact of dry air or excessive humidity on the bronchi, promote the slight expansion of blood vessels, and discharge the accumulated phlegm in the respiratory tract, which is a natural healing force.

Sometimes you just have to get away from the city and into the forest. (Photo via pexels.com)

Looking for the trees 

Those who are facing a major transformation, physically and mentally exhausted, or need strong resilience after an illness can visit the dense coniferous forest. The big trees of the fir family can always strengthen the positive energy and restore energy to help repair the body and mind. If you suffer from insomnia or are restless, look for pine and cypress forests that are high in resin, which can relieve boredom, eliminate depression, lift your spirits and help you fall asleep. If your life is out of balance and cannot be calm, embrace a beech or oak tree! Find inner peace under the tree.

Step into nature and enjoy “Forest Therapy”

  1. Walking in the forest for 3 to 6 kilometers can relieve stress, slow down breathing, and help stabilize blood sugar. A study by Japanese scholars found that after walking in the forest for 3 to 6 kilometers, measured the blood sugar level of the subjects and it was found that both diabetic and non-diabetic patients had normal blood sugar levels.
  2. Staying in the forest for 3 days and 2 nights, hiking for 2 to 3 hours a day, can be deeply released, strengthen the body, and improve immunity. A related study started in 2007 found that staying in the forest for 3 days and 2 nights and having a forest trekking every day, significantly increased the blood cell concentration and the concentration of anti-cancer proteins.
  3. Living in the forest for 3-7 days and hiking for 2-3 hours a day can eliminate fatigue, boost the mind, and reduce depression by 71%. A study by the University of Essex in the United Kingdom in 2007 found that staying away from the city, staying in the forest for 3 to 7 days, and hiking every day can reduce the degree of depression by more than 70%.

Plan a trip to the forest now and prepare to set off. Whether it is an afternoon stroll or a week’s sojourn, it will benefit your physical and mental health and strengthen your heart and lungs. In the forest, you can cultivate your mind, breathe slowly among the big trees, purify the complex and accumulated tension in your heart, learn a leisurely attitude towards life, take deep breaths and stretch your muscles at the same time to activate your body and mind. Let the big tree be your backing, your strength for physical protection and spiritual support, life in nature, go back to your home in the forest now!

Fully enjoy “Forest Therapy”, eliminate fatigue, restore physical strength, and drive away depression. (Photo via unsplash.com)

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