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Shinrin Yoku: Forest Bathing – Let The Woods Be Your Path to Health!

Shinrin Yoku: Forest Bathing - Let The Woods Be Your Path to Health!
Have you ever noticed that walking through the woods makes you feel better?  Well, you might find this interesting!

Shinrin Yoku: Forest Bathing

According to Joan Maloof, author of “Teaching the Trees, Lessons from the Forest”,  Japanese researchers studied the benefits of walking through the forest. And, researchers even have a name for it: Shinrin-Yoku: Forest Bathing.
Japanese research shows the blood-sugar levels of diabetic patients drops to healthier levels when patients walk through the forest. Japanese medicine even offers symposiums on the benefits of wood-air bathing and walking. How cool is that?!
Shinrin-Yoku has become a recognized method of relaxation and stress management in Japan. A forest bathing trip is basically visiting a forest for relaxation and recreation.

How Shinrin Yoku Forest Bathing Works

During forest bathing, your body absorbs things it normally does not. You inhale and your body absorbs volatile substances, called phytoncides. Phytoncides are wood essential oils – antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees).
A study of 280 healthy Japanese, published in January 2010, showed that a few hours’ walk through a forest or wooded area resulted in “lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate and lower blood pressure” than a comparable walk through city streets. Other studies have shown “visiting parks and forests seems to raise the levels of white blood cells.” (The New York Times, July 6, 2010.) NSCBLOG
Maloof also writes about researchers studying the mountain forest air of Sierra Nevada of California. The researchers found 120 chemical compounds–but could only identify 70 of them.
“We are literally breathing things we don’t understand.” says Maloof.  “And when we lose our forests, we don’t know what we are losing.”
What are all the unidentified compounds we breathe?
“Teaching the Trees” tells us that some compounds found in our air come from fungi and bacteria in the soil. But trees, yes, trees secrete the majority of the compounds in the air we breathe.
How does all the tree stuff get in our air?
Trees release volatile organic compounds from little pockets between their leaf cells.
The scientific community is still undecided on why trees release the compounds. Some scientists hypothesize trees volatile organic compounds to deter insects. Others argue that the compounds are simply the metabolic by-products of the trees.  
Regardless, of the view, it is still a quite interesting scenario.
Want to know something else interesting?
Over half of the chemical compounds researched in the mountain air forest in Seirra Nevada, CA are still unidentified!
Crazy, right?
Could these unidentified compounds be what make us feel better?
I think they do! Because I know for a fact that a walk in the woods always makes me feel much, much better.
Personal note: This book was recommended reading for The Tennessee Naturalist program. I am glad it was! Joan Maloof’s writing style is amazing in the way she explains to the minute detail how each tree is more than just a tree – it is an entire ecosystem… a mini-universe of organisms that are interdependent upon each other in intricate and amazing ways, and many of these organisms are unable to survive without that particular tree. I found myself learning facts and details about trees, birds, insects, fungi, and much more without even trying. A very fast, interesting, and amazing read–I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in nature!
About Becki Baumgartner

Becki Baumgartner is a certified member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine. Becki graduated from Clayton College in 2011 with a BS in Natural Health, Minor in Herbology, obtained her Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki Master Certification in 2012, and her Tennessee Naturalist Certification in 2013. She is currently enrolled in the Master Herbalist Program at the Academy of Natural Health Sciences. She has been a Lead Investigator for Volunteer State Paranormal Research since 2010 and in 2012 joined Natchez Trace Veterinary Services, an Alternative Medicine Veterinary Clinic, as Practice Manager and Herbalist. She is also a volunteer naturalist for Metro Parks and the Nashville Medical Reserve Corps, facilitates a weekly Reiki Share at Center of Symmetry in Nashville, and facilitates Reiki, Herbology and Alternative Health classes and workshops in the Nashville Area.

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