A walk in the woods

by David Feather

I think that we accept that a walk in the park is very good for our mental health. What is not so clear is that it is also good for our physical health.

It can boost our immune system. Research by Japanese scientists has found that trees produce compounds that are called Phytoncides. Essentially, phytoncides are tree essential oils that have many medicinal properties. They’re the chemicals that encourage natural killer (NK) cell activity in the human body. NK cells are cancer-fighting proteins that literally seek and destroy tumour and virus-ridden cells.

In Japan they promote “Forest Bathing”, because they have found that forest bathing enhances human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins. This is now being introduced in Britain.

So, what is “Forest Bathing”? It is basically immersing yourself in amongst trees for a few hours. This can be a very pleasant way of medicating oneself.

The message here is that, if you walk in the park, make sure that a lot of your route is through the woodland – and linger/loiter through the trees, taking deep breaths to absorb as many phytoncides as possible.

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