Healthy Breath In The Garden and Forest

By Linda Wiggen Kraft

Breathe in, gardens and forests heal us. Breathe out, healing takes place. The simple act of breathing in and breathing out while surrounded by gardens and trees, enhances the health and healing of our body chemistry and immune system.

Research on Forest Medicine began in Japan in the early 2000s. Today Japanese universities have Forest Medicine research departments. The practice of Shinrin Yoku, or Forest Bathing. was established in Japan. It means breathing in the forest air. The positive effects of this simple act of spending time in a forest have been so great that Japan has 48 designated forest areas set up to as a way to improve the health of Japanese people.

Extensive studies have been conducted in Japan that show the breathing in of compounds emitted from trees, shrubs, plants and soil enhance the body’s own healing capacity. These compounds are absorbed mostly through our lungs. One of the most dramatic changes takes place from breathing in the forest atmosphere is the increase in white blood cells called killer cells. These cells fight off viruses and cancer tumors. It large scale studies it was found that the natural killer cells increased by 40% after one day in the forest.

Other studies have shown positive health effects from simply spending leisurely walking and sitting time in forests and gardens. Some of these physical changes include decrease in diabetic blood sugars, decreased blood pressure, fewer allergies and reduction of stress hormones.

Research has looked into which trees emit the most beneficial compounds that we absorb through our lungs. Conifers emit the most, but deciduous trees are also healing. The conifers that are most healing are cedar, cypress, pine, spruce and fir. The deciduous trees are oak, beech, birch and hazel.

The most beneficial effects are found when spending time in a forest setting. That setting could be an urban forest or one in wilderness. The forest canopy will keep the compounds emitted from the trees and other forest growth more concentrated. Walking and sitting leisurely are all that needs to be done. Spend at least two hours surrounded by the forest, breathing in its healing.

Our gardens can also give us the beneficial healing qualities of trees and shrubs. Plant the trees listed above that have the most benefit with their healing compounds. In addition grow trees, shrubs and other plants that provide fruits and vegetables with health benefits.
Spend time in the garden. A couple of hours at least. Have a spot to sit and enjoy. Breathe in and breathe out.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She is also a mandala artist and workshop leader. Visit her blog: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com/blog or her website: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com. Call her at (314) 504-4266.