Shinrin-yoku is a term that means "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing." It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers primarily in Japan and South Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest. Now their research is helping to establish shinrin-yoku and forest therapy throughout the world.
What’s in the Air?
Under the canopy of Evergreen trees we are bathing in an atmosphere of phytoncide rich air. All plants have phytoncides: active substances with antimicrobial properties that kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi and protozoa. (Cedars must be very good at this since nothing grows on them) Some trees release in to the atmosphere volatile phytoncides that are capable of producing an effect at a distance. Studies have shown that the air in coniferous forests, and particularly in young pine forests, is practically sterile and free of harmful microflora.
Forest Bathing produces mental, emotional and physical healing, and more. Forest plants emit essential wood oils and airborne chemicals to protect themselves from insects and decay.
Studies show that forest aromas benefit humans as well. Forest bathing reduces stress and the stress hormone cortisol, lowers blood sugar, increases concentration, strengthens the immune system, builds up vitality, increases Heart Rate variability, elevates mood, decreases blood pressure, increases the levels of natural killer cells, and more.
All cultures recognize that trees uplift the human spirit. To ancient people, trees were channels for the gods; forests were humankinds’s first temples and sanctuaries. Japanese Shinto religion sees trees and all of nature as having indwelling spirits. The mountains of China are covered with paths and temples and tea houses.