How Tree’s Actually Heal Us

By Lea Kendall, Counsellor & Woodland Activity Leader,

From Scandinavia to Japan there is a huge growing health trend around spending time amongst trees and nature. Forest Bathing is being talked about a lot (it’s called Shinrin Yoku in Japan) and in Scotland doctors are now prescribing ‘time in nature’ but is there really anything in it?

I mean we all know how lovely it is to spend time in a forest and we feel refreshed but is there any science behind the claims that healing can actually take place?

YES, there is!

One of the most compelling studies concludes that trees emit phytoncides, these are airborne chemicals or ‘aromatherapy oils’ that help protect the tree against fungal infection, when we breathe in these ‘oils’ there are long lasting health benefits for us, our immune systems are boosted by a 40% increase in natural killer cells in the body. These cells are responsible for fighting disease including cancer. Pine forests are said to be the best for this.

Studies have also been done with prison inmates, which show that those who have regular access to green spaces are less likely to get ill than those who have no or very little access to green spaces. Studies also show that hospital patients recovery rates from surgery, infection and other ailments is much faster when they have a view into nature. Various studies have been done on healthy people and how nature time has positive physiological changes on blood pressure, muscle tension, stress levels and relaxation.

There are other ways that trees can heal us too. Take birch trees for example; the twigs and leaves can be made into a tea, good for general detoxing, urinary complaints, cystitis, rheumatic and arthritic troubles and gout. Birch tea can also be used as a compress for skin conditions like eczema. The spring sap can be harvested from the tree and drunk as a cleansing tonic.

Oak bark, taken as a decoction, can be used as an astringent, which is also anti-microbial and antiseptic. Conditions including diarrhoea, mouth and throat inflammations, bleeding, burns and sores can be treated. An oak twig frayed at the end can be used as a natural toothbrush for cleaning the teeth and gums with its built in antiseptic and anti-inflammatory benefits.

You might know the amazing little autumn berries borne by the elder tree, which are renowned for boosting our immune system. These can be made into a tea, a syrup or wine. The flower blossom can also be used to make a cordial, this can help with congestion and reduce the symptoms of hayfever.

So there you have it, nature often has the cure.


Victoria Lee