The Stress-Busting Benefits Of Shinrin-Yoku

Dr Jess fatigue, Garden, Natural Fixes, psychiatry, stress, You

Shinrin-Yoku means ‘forest bathing’ or taking in the forest atmosphere and has been investigated by the Japanese since the 1980s for its health benefits. Most of us know instinctively that walking in natural environments like woods and forests can make us feel better but the research is still fascinating!

Research(1) shows that just 15 minutes walking in the forest:

  • lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • lowers cortisol levels (hormone made when stressed)
  • helps trigger our relaxing parasympathetic nervous system
  • switches off our fight-flight nervous system

Stress and depression scores decreased(2) and energy scores increased(3)

Walking specifically in a forest environment (rather than other areas) can also improve blood sugar in diabetics(4) and can improve chronic (long term) neck pain(5). It can also improve COPD lung disease and reduce inflammation(6), and a 3 days stay in the forest significantly improved immune function and anti-cancer cell activity for more than 30 days afterwards!(7),(8)

Trees produce essential oils into the air

Some of the effect of the improvement in immune system function and anti-cancer cells may be due to the essential oils in woods which have the same effect(9). Conifer essential oils have been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate when inhaled(10).

Essential oils in wood can stimulate our immune system and aid healing

As well as regular forest bathing, when not possible it may be a good reason to add a couple of drops of essential oils like Pine, Cedarwood, Cypress and Fir to a diffuser to both bring in the smell of the forest and feel its benefit in your home!


Why Are Trees So Healing?
  • They are the source of many medicines – Aspirin comes from willow bark, quinine from Cinchona bark, Yews give us a chemotherapy medication and well known natural remedies Ginkgo Biloba, Tea Tree oil and Pycnogenol all come from trees.
  • They reduce air pollution – A large study of city air pollution found that the reduction in particulate matter (pollution like diesel fumes) was 7-24% reduced next to trees(11). Large healthy trees were the most effective and silver birches are particularly good at trapping pollution particles.
  • Green spaces with trees reduce stress levels – Just 3 minutes among trees has been shown to reduce stress levels and blood pressure.
  • Healing forests – South Korea was so impressed by the research on the health impact of trees that they established healing forests and qualified healing forest experts to help shepherd people into the forests for their benefits.
  • Trees combat climate change – Climate change is being driven by increasing carbon dioxide levels. 1 acre of trees can absorb as much carbon in one year as a car driven 26,000 miles(12).