So many of my friends who hike often say, “I don’t know why, but I just feel better when I’m hiking.” We’ve always chalked this strange spiritual calm up to endorphins, but it turns out there’s another reason: phytoncides.
Phytoncides are aromatic compounds (i.e. essential oils) produced by trees (and some plants) that help protect them from insects, fungi, and germs. Turns out phytoncides may protect humans too. All you have to do is breathe them in.
Below is a bit of the science on exactly how phytoncides interact with us:
SCIENCE BIT #1: Spending 40 minutes walking in a cedar forest lowered levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and created a state of relaxation.
SCIENCE BIT #2: Changes in blood “associated with protection against cancer, better immunity and lower blood pressure” were seen.
SCIENCE BIT #3: Blood pressure was lowered because phytoncides suppress the body’s fight or flight response and decrease the concentrations of adrenaline and noradrenaline.
SCIENCE BIT #4: Pytoncides increase the number of natural killer (NK) cells which are a type of white blood cell that supports the immune system by destroying cancerous cells in the body (i.e. anti-cancer proteins like perforin, granulysin, and granzymes A/B increased).
SCIENCE BIT #5: NK cells also decrease inflammation which can lead to ailments like heart disease and diabetes.
The majority of the studies done on Phytoncides have originated out of Japan whichmakes sense since they coined the term, “Shinrin-yoku,” which means “forest bathing” or taking a walk in the woods.
You are probably thinking that you need to get yourself to a woodsy forest. Fast.
However, you may not have time for “forest bathing” every day. We understand. After all, most of us are in cars, houses, and offices for most of the day. The good news is that you can reap the benefits of phytoncides without a daily nature walk according to several studies:
STUDY #1: Determined that people who took two long walks through forests on consecutive days increased their NK cells by 50%. Even better, the increase in NK cell activity levels held steady at a 23% higher activity than usual for the month following the initial walks.
STUDY #2: Hinoki cypress oil and humidifiers were used in 12 males who stayed in a hotel for three nights from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. The results from blood and urine samples indicated NK activity increased.
STUDY #3: Pine and cypress essential oils were used on 60 college students, and both their blood pressure and cortisol was decreased.
When you think about it some more, it just makes sense even though the science behind it is not yet fully understand.
Obviously, there’s a plethora of benefits nature provides. While more studies need to be done on phytoncides and the nature-health connection, it doesn’t take a scientist or a slew of indisputable scientific studies to know that nature is always a good idea.
If simply seeing or actually being in nature has the power to heal and affect a positive change at a biological and physiological level, then imagine the healing that happens when you use products made from nature. So go forth, take walks, immerse yourself in nature as often as you can even if you just take a moment to look outside because that moment is wholly yours. You’ve earned it. Breathe it in.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For educational purposes only.