If you go down to the woods today… (and spend two hours there)…. you’re sure of a a big surprise. Why are we reciting Teddy Bear’s Picnic?
Because of some research with big implications that we just don’t think is known about widely enough.
In March, lucky Light Box staff were in Japan interviewing medical researchers and forerunners in a field known as ‘Forest Medicine.’
One of the many interesting things that we learnt was what ‘phytoncides’ do to humans. These are the plant chemicals that trees release into the air to protect themselves from bacteria, insects and fungi. They also act as signals that communicate with other tress.
Within these phytoncides are ‘terpenes’; nice smelling things with names like D-limonene (smells lemony), Alpha and Beta-pinene (smells piney) and Camphene (smells like turpentine).
It turns out that these chemicals in woodland air, if inhaled for just a couple of hours, affect human health, both physical and mental and cause:
- Increased NK cells and activity (Natural Killer cells are white blood cells that attack viruses and cancers).
- Increased activity of anti-cancer proteins
- Decreased stress hormones
- Lowered blood pressure
- Decreased negative emotion
- Elevation of mood
- Increased parasympathetic nervous system activity (causing states of relaxation)
The effects are both powerful and long-lasting – NK cell levels and activity remain elevated a whole month after a single visit to the woods, and research from the Department of Psychiatry at Japan’s Mie University shows D-limonene to be more effective than antidepressants.
So next time you visit some woods, while you breathe in that air, remember to really enjoy it and imagine all those terpenes getting drawn down into your lungs, like a big dose of nature’s nebuliser.