Forest Medicine and The Science Behind Shinrin-Yoku

Less than 0.01% of our species existence has been in our modern, urbanized surroundings. (1) Throughout the 99.99% of our species’ time before this urbanization, we had many more interactions with nature and subsequent adaptations of our immune system, genetic expression, microbiota ecosystem, and stress response. Our bodies react to airborne plant compounds and work in symbiosis with microorganisms, primarily in our gut. Our gastrointestinal tract is a dynamic setting for immune processes, metabolism, and genetic expression and is the location of significant interactions with the outside environment. Even our DNA communicates with that of microbes here. These interactions help modulate our immune system and influence many aspects of human physiology.

We have also reduced our interactions with plant chemicals released into the air that are lacking in most modern indoor environments. Most people today have very different relationships with nature and this likely results in many implications on human health.

“Extricate yourself from the web of life in which you evolved, and the immune system loses its bearing.” – Moises Velasquez-Manoff, An Epidemic of Absence

We are only beginning to truly appreciate the influences of these interactions on health and the possible impacts our separation from the natural world may have.  As research continues to support these influences on nature and health, a field of study called Forest Medicine has evolved with an increase in research in therapies such as shinrin-yoku. Continue reading “Forest Medicine and The Science Behind Shinrin-Yoku”