We should all get out and enjoy the natural world, a walk in the woods is good for mind and body

Many of today’s pharmaceuticals are derived from trees. Aspirin comes from willow bark; yews are the source of Taxol, used in the treatment of some cancers; ginkgo biloba improves circulation; tea tree oil is beneficial for skin infections; cinchona tree bark contains quinine, the basis of many anti-malarial drugs; and Pycnogenol, which protects against deep vein thrombosis, is made from pine tree bark.

spring-shinrin-yokuWhen I surround myself with trees, my breathing becomes deeper, my senses are satiated. I feel peaceful and grounded.‘ – The Japanese have a word for this feeling – shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. In 2004, Japan’s National Land Afforestation Promotion Organisation conducted an experiment and discovered that a forest stroll had beneficial effects on blood pressure, heart rate and the immune system. They also found that people who just looked at a forest view for 20 minutes had a 13 per cent lower concentration of the stress hormone cortisol.

Complementary therapist Annie Day of Heaven Scent Bliss practises tree spirit healing. Tree Vitnesses’ (leaves, twigs, bark and cones) are placed on or near the body, while tree essences are given orally or drops are placed on the wrists and inhaled, or on chakra points or an injury. The energy of trees can help any mind, body or spiritual problem,’ claims Day. ‘It’s also a deeply relax¬ing experience.’

Doctors are embracing the benefits of trees, too. Rather than prescribing antidepressants, GPs in Telford, Don-caster and Camden, north London, are referring patients suffering from stress, depression or anxiety to Green Gyms (https://www.tcv.org.uk) where they can get involved in conservation projects. Research by Oxford Brookes University shows that cardiovascular health benefits from exercise and fresh air, but woodland surroundings have a calming effect that assists recovery more than a gym.

Modern medicine often sets the physical and the emotional apart, yet with their roots firmly in the ground and their branches reaching up to the skies, trees remind us that the two are planted firmly together

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