10 Neat Things About Forest Bathing
by Dorothy Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

January 22, 2019

1. Don't take your tub!

In spite of what the phrase, forest bathing or bathing in forests, seems to imply, there is no water involved - and no tubs, ponds or pools. Forest bathing, shinrin yoku as it is called in Japan, is about immersing the body and the spirit in the atmosphere created by a living forest.

2. Don't get naked.

There is no dancing under the stars in your birthday suit, either. The benefits of forest bathing can be acquired quite simply, by walking, pausing, gazing and soaking up the scenery. . . plus, absorbing some interesting terpenes, electrical waves and all that oxygen!

3. Tree treats.

The benefits of being among trees include a reduced heart rate, lower levels of stress hormones, lower blood pressure, a boost to your immunity system and an elevation of the mood. Being in a forest environment also frees up creativity and accelerates learning capacity and memory. It can help you recover from an illness.

4. So, you think it's just a bunch of hokum-pokum?

The Japanese government spent many years studying the effects of the forest environment and has amassed measurable statistics to back up the claims. Since 1982, Japan has designated 62 forests in which to practice shinrin yoku. There is nothing complicated about it - just enter the forest and immerse! Breathe, rest, contemplate.

5. So, what's in a tree?

Scientists have been working to discover what it is about trees that bestows such benefits to those who walk among them. They believe that one of the physical effects is the release of antimicrobial essential oils. These phytonicides not only protect the tree from invasion by harmful bacteria and help ward off insects; they have beneficial effects on humans. Here is an abstract from one study: "The forest environment enhanced human natural killer (NK) cell activity, the number of NK cells, and intracellular anti-cancer proteins in lymphocytes, and that the increased NK activity lasted for more than seven days after trips to forests both in male and female subjects."

6. Lungs of the earth.

Trees take in tons of carbon and give off tons of oxygen and water vapour in exchange. That's not all they emit. Pine trees and other evergreens give off terpenes which are used in turpentine and varnishes. Terpenes are also the volatile component of frankincense and myrrh. Some deciduous trees emit isoprene, used to make rubber.

7. Evil forests.

Not everyone sees tree emissions as health giving. Some Ontario scientists are calling these kinds of substances "pollution". You can see the effect as a haze over a forested area during heat waves. "How much of the aerosol that we breathe in a city is coming from trees?" they ask, implying that this is a health danger because terpenes can react with nitrogen to create ozone. Scientific American says it is really nothing to worry about but if you want to avoid the possibility in your city back yard, plant lindens over poplar or oak.

8. Saviour forests.

On the other hand, UK and German scientists agree that when terpenes and other tree chemicals react in the air they form tiny particles called aerosols, but they add, "The particles help turn water vapour in the atmosphere into clouds." This is a good thing, they say, pointing out that "the pine particles doubled the thickness of clouds some 1,000 m above the forests, (which) would reflect an extra 5% sunlight back into space". They concluded that such aerosol production actually has a cooling effect on the earth, "dampening future temperature rise".

9. The wood-wide web.

Peter Wohlleben, a German forester and author, says, "The latest scientific studies" are confirming that "trees are far more alert, social, sophisticated-and even intelligent-than we thought." Studies are being conducted on how trees communicate through their chemical emissions but also underground through mycorrhizal connections. Mycorrhiza are fungal networks that have a symbiotic relationship with tree roots, sharing carbohydrates in the form of sugar from the tree in exchange for soil based nitrogen, phosphorous and other minerals mined by the fungi from deep underground and delivered to tree roots in a form they can readily absorb.

10. Twenty minutes a day can keep stress at bay.

Twenty minutes in the forest will produce a measurable result, but the longer you stay among trees, the better. Studies have also concluded that even forest images can have a calming, soothing effect on people and speed healing of the sick. That's why many hospitals are adding tree paintings and photographs to patient wards. Hang one in your office to help you keep your cool.

Dorothy Dobbie Copyright Pegasus Publications Inc.

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