Wellness with natural healing powers of the forest
Rays of sunlight fall diagonally through the green canopy. The ground is soft, there is a smell of tree sap, earth and moss. Somewhere nearby an insect is buzzing, birds are chirping. The forest - is there a more beautiful place to find peace?
Even a simple walk in the forest relaxes the nerves and at the same time invigorates like an oxygen shower. But the effect is even greater when you immerse yourself in the forest with all your senses: Forest bathing is the name of this wellness trend that is still relatively new in Europe and has proven therapeutic effects.
Consciously slowing down, smelling, hearing, touching, absorbing the peace of the forest - is this another esoteric fad? No, because the method originates from Japan and has been extensively scientifically researched there.
It has been proven that forest bathing has a health-promoting effect on the human body.
Forest bathing is scientifically proven
In a study by Japanese scientists, test persons were examined in detail before and after a forest bathing treatment lasting several days. The results were astonishing: the adrenaline concentration in the body decreased, whereas the number of the body's own defence cells increased by about 50 percent. Blood pressure and cortisol levels dropped. The immune system was thus significantly strengthened, while the risk of stress-related diseases of civilisation such as burnout and heart attack decreased.
Among other things, this is due to the so-called phytoncides, biological agents that the plants in the forest produce and release into their environment to protect themselves from bacteria. In humans, phytoncides strengthen the immune system. This is why forest bathing has even been included in the health insurance catalogue as a form of therapy in Japan.
When bathing in the forest, it is important to take in the impressions of the forest calmly and as intensively as possible. Breathe deeply, absorb the sounds, scents and colours - be mindful. This can be supported by yoga or breathing exercises. Heavily frequented walking paths are not suitable for this. Whether alone or in a group - those who want to try it out can also enjoy the beneficial effects of an intensive stay in the forest without any guidance.
From tree to tree
It is a natural miracle that happens practically in passing: During forest bathing, chemical messengers from the trees stimulate the human immune system, activating the body's defences.
The decisive factor during a walk in the forest is the fresh, spicy and soothing air. The origin of this pleasant scent is the so-called terpenes. These are essential oils that the trees exude through their resins. In addition to the special aromas, some terpenes also contain alarm scents, so-called phytoncides. If a tree produces these substances, the surrounding trees also react by releasing this messenger substance. For biologists and agricultural researchers, this is evidence that the trees inform themselves about impending dangers in this way. For example, as a warning against pests. Depending on the type of attacker, the trees emit the corresponding scent. These hints are passed on from tree to tree so that they can all protect themselves in time and produce the phytoncides that are essential for survival. The scents have an antibacterial effect and are, so to speak, the antibiotic of the tree world. Communication by scent thus primarily serves to immunise and prevent the health of the trees. In organic agriculture, phytoncides are used as a natural pest control agent.
Communication among trees
In addition to chemical messengers that humans can hardly smell, see or hear, there is another communication channel in the plant world. It has recently been scientifically proven that plants also communicate with each other via sounds. An international team of researchers discovered recurring crackling sounds in cereal plants. What the scientists initially thought were growth sounds turned out to be signposts for regrowing plants. The signals should make it clear to the offspring: Grow here, there is still room for your roots. A particularly caring way of communicating and nurturing offspring.
Next, the researchers want to find out how exactly the sounds are produced.
Plants and trees seem to have a lot to communicate. Secret codes and unknown communication paths still need to be deciphered. Until then, there is enough time for one or two conscious baths in the forest. And if you listen carefully, you can learn a whole new language.
Book tips on the topic
- Clemens G. Arvay: "The Biophilia Effect - Healing from the Forest", Ullstein publisher, 22.90 euro, paperback 10.99 euro.
Ulli Felber: "Forest bathing - the small exercise manual for the forest", Schirner publisher, 6,95 euro
Peter Wohlleben: "The secret life of trees", Ludwig publisher, 19,99 euro
Peter Wohlleben: "Instructions for use for the forest", Piper publisher, 15,00 euro