A Healing From The Forest

Just as phytoncides are part of the trees’ immune system, so can they become part of ours.


Published:

Once upon a time, a walk in the woods was just that — a walk in the woods. Now a walk in the woods can become forest bathing. Walking, running, and hiking in a woodland are exercise but forest bathing is a therapy. The fact is that when you go into the woods you are exposed to special chemicals that trees and plants produce to protect themselves from harmful toxins. These chemicals, called phytoncides, are essential oils found in many types of woody plants, particularly conifers. Just as these oils are part of the trees’ immune system, so can they become part of ours.   

We evolved along with plants and animals, and in co-inhabiting the world with them we all breathe the air given off by healthy forests. There is medicine in that air! Forest sounds, sights, smells, and tastes all have healing benefits. The land is offering to form a relationship with us, sharing its benefits with us and receiving benefits in turn.

A long tradition exists of spending time in forested areas to enhance health and well being, a kind of medicine walk. But now, Japanese researchers have discovered the reason people feel healthier after a woodland walk. People who spend time in a forest walk or “bathing” had elevated white blood counts, almost by as much as 50%. Other benefits were also noted: lowered blood pressure, heart rate and alleviation of depression.

A walk is not focused on a destination. It is the awareness of your surroundings with your senses finely tuned. You are in an environment with more brightness, more clarity, more peace. Time appears to slow down and you take the opportunity to look more closely at rocks and plants and trees. The whole point is to be in the moment, spending time in nature in a way that invites awareness of our co-inhabiting this place where we are.

With your intent to connect with nature, you don’t rush through, bike through, or run through. Walks are short, usually a mile, but can range from two to four hours long. During this time interactions are encouraged to take place, all designed to slow down the walker and open the senses.    

Start with a short, well-marked, quiet trail in good condition, with a large percentage under forest canopy. The beginning of the walk is for moving along at one’s own pace and enjoying the forest. You are invited to shake off the road dust and breathe easily. A walk should be as silent as possible, with senses alert, pausing when something catches your attention.

Each sense is encouraged. What do you notice? What captures your attention in bright areas? In darker areas? Stand quietly and listen to the sounds first in one direction then in another. If you come upon a stream, place your hands in the water. What sensations do you feel? Touch a tree, running your hands over it and even the ground under it. Smell plants. Crush leaves to release the scent of the plant.

In a form of body sensing called body radar, you stand with your arms slightly out from the sides, palms out as if hands were a radar device.  Moving slowly in a circle, pay attention to being pulled in a particular direction. When you feel pulled, follow this sensation and see if some particular thing in the environment is calling you.

Our Shared Immunity With Plants

Plants and trees evolved in a different way of life than mammals: they chose to remain fixed, which made it necessary for them to find solutions that were extraordinary and original. Within a stand of pine trees the air is almost germ-free due to the phytoncides released by the needles. These are part of the trees’ immune systems.

Another one of these defense systems allows trees to pump toxic substances into their leaves in mere minutes to rid themselves of herbivores. Trees can give off a warning gas that signals neighboring trees of the same species that there is a problem at hand. Plants exchange volatile compounds, such as the molecule methyl jasmonate, a substance produced under stressful conditions that bears the message, “I’m not well.” These various volatile compounds are vital contributions to living in community.

These evolutionary defenses have become part of the human pharmacopeia, as well. For example, research has shown that adding a pinch of crushed spruce or pine needles to a drop of water that contains a protozoa, kills the protozoa in less than second. The silver birch takes its color from its active ingredient betulin, which has antiviral and antibiotic properties. Willows produce a defensive compound called salicylic acid, making its leaves very bitter and toxic to chewing insects, but to humans this compound has become a lifesaver for treating pain and was a precursor to aspirin.

Active properties of trees and plants have specialized metabolites effective in medical treatment. For instance, tannins are used as inflammatories; the bitters of the thistle family make possible the digestion of fats; saprons are effective expectorants; digitains are heart medicine; and alkaloids contain deadly poisons used for medical purposes. There are over 380,000 different species of plants in the world, of which only about five percent have been investigated for medicinal benefit.   

In a forest, trees and plants live intricately interconnected lives allowing them to grow and evolve, and in the case of trees, live for centuries. They live in what one author calls a “wood wide web” of soil fungi that connects and allows them to share an enormous amount of information, resources, and goods. Intelligence, learning, memory and communication are qualities we share with plants and trees.

Trees depend on each other so they share their nutrients, connecting through their root systems. They help neighboring trees in times of need. Together many trees can create an ecosystem in which they grow slowly and very old.

Perhaps the original idea of forest bathing came from the Japanese garden. A Japanese garden is created to induce a state of mindfulness: the total effect of rocks, plants, bushes, trees, and water are put together to make an adventure for the senses. A Japanese garden is made for meandering.    

Forest bathing, or Shinrin-Yoku, as its known in Japan, comes from this tradition. Developed as a healing therapy in Japan in the 1980’s, it has become a staple of preventive healthcare. A person needs no money, no days off from work, and no expensive equipment to connect and receive a healing from the forest.

References
Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola. Island Press, 2015.
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben. Greystone Books, 2016.
A Little Handbook of Shinrin-Yoku by M. Amos Clifford
Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs at www.NatureAndForestTherapy.org

With over 30 years experience, Marie Cargill, LicAc, is a Boston-based homeopath, licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and holistic health expert for people and pets. Her newest book is Cancer and Your Pet: A Guide to Alternative and Integrated Treatment. Visit www.mariecargill.com.

See also:
A Walk In The Woulds
Plant Spirit Yoga: A Conversation With Lydia Russell

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

September 24, 2018

Full Moon madness is going strong. Not long after midnight the Moon goes void of course in Pisces, staying in the disengaged state until her evening arrival in Aries. As a result of the hyped up lunar energy, moods may fluctuate wildly…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

September 2018

September 23 - 25 A discipline called "Qigongology" has emerged as a result of the experimental data from modern medicine and clinical research combined into a 20 year study and...

Cost: Please see our website

Where:
Eastover Estate & Eco Village
430 East St.
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Telephone: 866-264-5139
Contact Name: Yingxing Wang
Website »

More information

Start date: September 23, 2018  Take your knowledge to the next level and become a holistic professional facilitating treatments with clients and/or teaching. Eight month program assists...

Cost: $1199 (Early Bird $1099)

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Hosted by members of the Reflexology Association of NH and Renu Spa Complimentary mini reflexology sessions in honor of world reflexology week. Holistic Wellness practitioners, vendors, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Renu Body Spa and Salon
583 Daniel Webster Highway
Merrimack, NH  03054
View map »


Sponsor: Reflexology Association of NH
Telephone: 603-234-5769
Contact Name: Andrea Montgomery

More information

Dates: September 23, October 20, November 17, December 8; 10am - 5pm Instructor: Linda Patterson, Clinical Herbalist & Aromatherapist Learn how essential oils work to heal the body, mind...

Cost: $500 plus $50 materials

Where:
12 Pelham Terrace
Arlington, MA  02476
View map »


Website »

More information

This transformational workshop for singles and couples will equip you with the awareness, tools and skills to create the connection and intimacy you desire. Register here: https://bit.ly/2MocBcv...

Cost: $147 per person

Where:
Watertown Center for Healing Arts
22 Mount Auburn Street
Watertown, MA  02472
View map »


Sponsor: Watertown Center for Healing Arts
Telephone: 508-340-0781
Contact Name: Brynn Bishop
Website »

More information

If you seek peace and happiness outside of yourself, this is a call to return home. What you think, you become, and what you seek is already within. This is a unique blend of practices for mind,...

Cost: $22 per class

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: SOHUM
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Break emotional patterns that keep you stuck in the pain of addictive habits. Heal mental trauma through physical practices involving movement, breath, and meditation.

Where:
Yoga at the Ashram
368 Village Street
Millis, MA  02054
View map »


Sponsor: Yoga At The Ashram
Telephone: (508) 376-4525
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

What better way to end a busy day than with a little bliss. We'll support your body right where it is today and help you to open your spine to find more movement and flexibility. Begin and end...

Cost: $18

Where:
Body Love Wellness Center
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Sponsor: Bliss Through Yoga
Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Have you heard of natural birth control and wondered how that can be possible? Or are you trying to or planning to conceive? This session is for you! We’ll talk about the benefits of charting...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Democracy Center
45 Mt. Auburn St
Cambridge, MA  02138
View map »


Telephone: 617-899-7624
Contact Name: Anna Churchill

More information

Enjoy The Experience Of Being Fully Human And Transcendental With Enlightenment Transmission An Enlightenment Transmission happens when there is a connection between a person’s inner Self...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quaker Meeting House
1837 Forest Avenue
Portland, ME  04103
View map »


Sponsor: Enlightenment Transmission Foundation
Contact Name: Board of Directors
Website »

More information

With Jonathan Glass, Ayurvedic practitioner Presenting a 28-day program designed to initiate and maximize detoxification and nourishment of your body, mind and soul, inspiring results that can...

Where:
Zoom online class
Once you register, you will receive a link to the location of the Zoom class.
, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

With Carrie Rowan Wednesday evenings at 7pm, a 4-week introductory class that teaches quick energy medicine tools, mini meditations to help moms/dads and caregivers reduce stress and stay calm...

Where:
Fitzgerald Institute
Northboro, MA


Telephone: (508) 273-2610
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Singer/songwriter Linda Marks releases her new album “Moments” at Club Passim in Harvard Square at 8 pm. Joining her will be her seven piece band. Rick Drost opens. Tickets:...

Where:
Club Passim
Harvard Square
Cambridge, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

September 27 - 30 Led by Chuck Raffoni ( E-RYT200) this sure to be unforgettable weekend is designed to allow you to experience Vermont in the beautiful transition from summer to fall. You...

Cost: $650

Where:
Good Commons
Plymouth, VT


Sponsor: Relax and Recharge with Chuck
Telephone: 978-807-3131
Contact Name: Chuck Raffoni
Website »

More information

“Reality itself is always already the case.” In every time and place, human beings have sought to grasp the ultimate mysteries of life and death. From time to time, great...

Where:
West Newton Cinema
1296 Washington Street
West Newton, MA
View map »


Telephone: (508) 650-0136
Website »

More information

The H.E.A.R.T. Program® (Health Empowerment and Real Transformation) is an innovative holistic curriculum addressing the current health crisis and epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Michelle Caron
Website »

More information

Grades 3-5 Instructor: Peyton Pugmire Spend September at Sorcery School! Students will be “sorted” into houses of their own design, create personalized wands, pen and cast rhyming...

Cost: $145

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
View map »


Sponsor: Creative Spirit
Telephone: 781-797-0389
Website »

More information

Daily practice for peace, healing, Christ mindedness, meditation, awakening.

Where:
Milton, MA


Telephone: 617-696-5685
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

September 28 - 30 Sheng Zhen Gong is not just a qigong practice, it is timeless wisdom that guides us to the way (dao) of life – a path to feeling liberated. It is the sacred truth of...

Cost: Please see our website

Where:
Eastover Estate & Eco Village
430 East St.
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Telephone: 866-264-5139
Contact Name: Yingxing Wang
Website »

More information

Special Offer - take both Simply Healing classes and save $25. Please click here to register. Many of us have some knowledge of attachments, thought forms and extraterrestrial influences....

Cost: $125

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street
Suite 1-A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

Fundraiser for the Framingham Public Library Share in this extraordinary evening of spirit communication. Join Diane as she bridges the gap and connects to spirit delivering messages from...

Cost: $25 per person

Where:
Framingham Public Library
49 Lexington Street
Framingham, MA  01702
View map »


Sponsor: Friends Framingham Library
Telephone: 508-875-1918
Contact Name: Marsha Farmelant
Website »

More information

September 28, 12pm-7pm and September 29, 10am-6pm Experience therapeutic mini foot, hand or ear reflexology treatment. Your donations will benefit cancer patients associated with Lucy’s...

Where:
Heart and Soul Holistic Healing Center
North Easton, MA

More information

Bee Kind Music Class with Carrie Rowan inspires a love to music in little ones. 10am on Fridays for 8 weeks at Playtown Express in Southboro. To register call (508) 480-0022 or...

Where:
Playtown Express
150 Cordaville Road
Southboro, MA
View map »


Telephone: 508-273-2610
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Blue Skye Wellness Presents: Essential Oils and Aromatherapy Full Day Workshop Learn how to effectively use essential oils Practice safe use guidelines Discern how to choose which oils...

Cost: $120

Where:
Lenox Community Center
65 walker Street
PO Box 98
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Sponsor: Blue Skye Wellness, LLC
Telephone: 413-242-4069
Contact Name: Kay Judge
Website »

More information

With Ross J. Miller, psychic healer, medium, regression therapist In this unique, experiential workshop you’ll learn how to identify your guardian angels and spirit guides by name and...

Where:
Newton, MA


Sponsor: Ross J. Miller
Telephone: (617) 527-3583
Website »

More information

Prequisite – Simply Healing Part 1 Special offer - Take two classes and save $25 - see info in link. This class continues the knowledge gained in Simply Healing - Level 1 as we...

Cost: $175

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street
Suite 1-A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

With Katie Malloy Ramaci  Expand your connection to the angels by learning IET levels 2 and 3 certification. Truly move forward on your path. Learn Soulstar activation and release...

Cost: $1099 (Early Bird $999)

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

September 29 - October 5 7 individual days of immersion in the wisdom, healing and bliss on the life-changing Enlightenment Transmission Intensive in beautiful MidCoast, Maine, USA. In theory...

Cost: Sliding Scale $125-95/day

Where:
Damariscotta, ME


Contact Name: Board of Directors
Website »

More information

Learn basics of Tachyon and quantum physics. Sample the Tachyon healing and meditation chamber. Raffle and door prize.

Cost: $25 at the door or $20 pre-register

Where:
The Sanctuary for Celestial Empowerment
10 Grassmere Avenue
Suite #300
West Hartford, CT
View map »


Telephone: 860-586-8700
Contact Name: Celeste E Mattingly, LCSW
Website »

More information

There are few instruments like the Gong that can heal us through its purification properties of sound vibrations. In this energy field, the beginnings of removing all blocks can occur allowing you...

Cost: $35 early bird till Sept 25 ($40 after)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

September 28, 12pm-7pm and September 29, 10am-6pm Experience therapeutic mini foot, hand or ear reflexology treatment. Your donations will benefit cancer patients associated with Lucy’s...

Where:
Heart and Soul Holistic Healing Center
North Easton, MA

More information

September 29 - 30 We all want to feel joy, happiness, contentment — and with the tools you get at this workshop — you can. Access and sustain a higher level of consciousness.

Where:
Boston, MA


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags