The healing power of trees

The Lorax famously spoke for the trees, and I wanted to share some information from a fascinating book I’m reading entitled “Forest Bathing: The Japanese Art and Science of Shinrin-Yoku” by Dr. Qing Li.

For centuries people have found restfulness and a sense of oneness with the universe from being in nature.  Poems and songs have been written, and the entire foundation of some companies like REI is to encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. 

Stress inhibits immune function and, because of this, we tend to fall ill frequently if we cannot get away from our stressors (work, school, other people, etc.) One of the ways the health of the immune system is tested is by looking at the activity of natural killer (NK) cells.  They are a type of white blood cell (WBC) that can attack and kill unwanted cells, which they do with the assistance of some proteins such as perforin, granulysin, and granzymes.  People with higher NK activity show lower incidence rates of cancer and other diseases.

Dr. Li discovered that after only three days and two nights in a forest, NK cell activity improved from 17.3% to 26.5%; NK cell numbers went up from 440 to 661 (a 50% increase!).  Dr. Li also writes that “the results showed that natural killer activity and the number of natural killer cells were significantly increased after forest bathing and that this effect lasted not just for seven days but for as long as thirty days.”

I’ve posted on this blog about hikes in and around Georgia, and I wanted to also share areas for forest bathing in and around the metro Atlanta area:

  • Check out the trails off Clifton Road at Emory University and Lullwater Preserve when studying for finals or just needing some time away from the office.  
  • There’s also Hundred Acre Farm in Madison, GA as well as multiple state parks including those near lakes or waterfalls.  
  • Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest has miles of trails and wooded areas to explore and enjoy.

Renewal by Nature can set up a private or group walk for you and your friends and family.