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The Review

Forest Therapy/Bathing

Posted On: Friday, July 13, 2018

Forests provide several benefits to mankind. Its vital role in our eco system cannot be overlooked or overstated. They filter our water, provide timber, protect soil, regulate climate and provide a habitat for innumerable animal species and life forms amongst other things and provide phytoncides.

Forest Therapy/Bathing

Forest bathing- is proven to lower heart rate blood pressure, boost your immune system, reduce stress hormone production, and improve basically your overall feeling of wellbeing. This Japanese practice- being in the presence of trees, became part of a national public health program in Japan in 1982- shinrin-yoku, the phrase coined by the forestry ministry to promote topiary as therapy.

Picnicking under the cherry blossoms in bloom for example, is a national pastime in Japan, so forest bathing quickly took off.

2004 to 2012, Japanese officials spent around $4 million dollars on 48 therapy trials studying the psychological and physiological effects of forest bathing. Qing Li, a professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, in one of the trials measured the activity of the natural killer cells in the immune system before and after exposed to forest bathing.

These natural killer cells provided rapid responses to infected cells, responded to tumor formations, and also assisted the immune system's health and cancer prevention. After one week after a forest bath in a 2009 study, Li’s subjects showed significant increase in natural killer cells and also had positive other positive effects that lasted for a month following each week in the woods.

Several essential oils (called phytoncide) found in the wood, plants, and some fruit and vegetables, are emitted to protect themselves from insects and germs. Forest air doesn’t just feel fresher and better,  it is that you inhaling the phytoncide from the plants, which is improving your immune system function.

In two of the 48 studies, Li sent groups of young men and women on a three-day trip that included several forest baths and a staying in hotel in the middle of the forest. The group had their blood tests taken before and after their trip and the tests showed a huge boost in natural Killer cells.

Of course, it doesn't take a scientist to know that being in nature makes you feel better, but it's nice to know why!

SAVE THE TREES

Learn how trees affect your home. 
Aside from desert regions, most areas benefit from having plenty of large, shady trees in every neighborhood. They improve air quality, reduce erosion and absorb noise. Big trees protect cities from getting too hot by cooling the environment through shade and evaporation. Without trees, urban areas experience what's called a heat island effect, with streets and buildings retaining heat and forcing people to use extra power to cool their homes. No matter where you live, you can start helping your town right away by saving trees.

  • As a general rule, large, mature trees (like oak or maple) provide more benefits than small, young trees. That's why it's important to save as many older trees as possible.
  • Learning about proper tree maintenance will help you become a better advocate for trees. There's a right way and a wrong way to prune trees and take care of them over the years, and if you know the difference you can educate people around you.

Participate in planting days. 
As important as it is to protect mature trees, it's also essential to think ahead and plant new trees that will eventually get tall enough to contribute to the canopy, clean the air and help keep temperatures cool. Many towns and cities have organizations working to plant trees in areas that have too few. If your town or city doesn't have a similar organization, why not start one yourself? Tree by tree, you can make a difference.

  • The type of tree you plant matters. Talk with an arborist about which species are native to your area and will eventually get big enough to clean the air and water. Small, ornamental trees won't contribute much.
  • Buying trees can get expensive. See if there's a nursery nearby that shares your views on trees and could give your group a discount on baby trees.

Do what you can to save the tree. 
Speak up to save the tree, rather than just letting it get cut down. Get together with other people who care about saving trees in your area and make it clear that you object to cutting down healthy trees. Even if there's no law against cutting down the tree, if enough people think trees are important and need to be protected, you might be able to create change. Even if it's too late for this particular tree, you'll set a precedent for next time. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Write a letter of objection to your town council member.
  • Start a petition to change policies or protect certain trees. Rally neighbors to get involved in saving the neighborhood trees.
  • Get the media involved by sending a letter to the editor or contacting a local TV station.

Find out about local ordinances regarding tree protection. 
Every town and city has laws dictating which tree species need to be protected and when and how it's OK to cut down trees. In some areas, trees that are delicate, rare or extremely beneficial are protected by law. Knowing the laws in your area will help you be a better advocate for the trees there.

  • Get in touch with the city/town department in charge of tree removal. See if they have information on policies they use to determine which trees to cut down.

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