The healing effects of forests

“Many people,” says Dr. Eeva Karjalainen, of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, Metla, “feel relaxed and good when they are out in nature. But not many of us know that there is also scientific evidence about the healing effects of nature.”

Forests — and other natural, green settings — can reduce stress, improve moods, reduce anger and aggressiveness and increase overall happiness. Forest visits may also strengthen our immune system by increasing the activity and number of natural killer cells that destroy cancer cells.

Many studies show that after stressful or concentration-demanding situations, people recover faster and better in natural environments than in urban settings. Blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the level of “stress hormones” all decrease faster in natural settings. Depression, anger and aggressiveness are reduced in green environments and ADHD symptoms in children reduce when they play in green settings.

In addition to mental and emotional well-being, more than half of the most commonly prescribed drugs include compounds derived from nature — for example Taxol, used against ovarian and breast cancer, is derived from yew trees, while Xylitol, which can inhibit caries, is produced from hardwood bark.

Dr. Karjalainen will coordinate a session on the health benefits of forests at the 2010 IUFRO World Forestry Congress in Seoul. “Preserving green areas and trees in cities is very important to help people recover from stress, maintain health and cure diseases. There is also monetary value in improving people’s working ability and reducing health care costs.” she says.

6 COMMENTS

  1. There is some confusion in your post, including that 4th paragraph. However, if the intent of your info is to increase interest in the ‘nature as helpful for human health’ area, I agree with you. I am currently spending higher than normal time at the computer – as soon as I hit the dirt road on our way to the cottage, I feel healthier and less stressed. In addition, I find your post interesting, as my husband is of Finnish descent and being close to nature is of high value for him, with the same being evident in virtually all his relatives and Finnish friends. I would love to attend this event! Hopefully you will post some evidence based info for us when you return.

  2. At the drug and alcohol rehab I work at in Thailand we are set out in the jungle surrounded by greenery, many of the clients tell us that just being here helps them recover and feel more in touch with nature. I’m convinced of the therapeutic value of nature and and I am anything but a new age liberal.

  3. justin, it’s not very nice to use a word long discarded for developmentally disadvntaged people as an insult. It brings back the bad old days when calling someone a retard or a dummy was not only acceptable, but often provoked unseemly hilarity. To use it in this context can be seen as cruel. It certainly appears you meant it in this way and I request that you upgrade your own vocabulary to communicate without resorting to such unpleasant vestiges of an unhappy past.

  4. tim, upon looking at the 4th paragraph again, I have come to the conclusion that you are absolutely retarded. The paragraph states that most of the common drugs to cure human ailments are taken from the very nature that surrounds us. So stay in school and please help Americas illiteracy rates go down

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