Can the forest make me healthier?

During my last visit to the woods, I was introduced to a concept that made my day and possibly changed my life…

Forest Bathing!

30 minutes sitting beneath a tree, alone, at dusk. First, looking into the distance, then focussing on closer surroundings, before playing with a leaf whilst focussing on breathing in and out. The experience left me feeling refreshed, calm and relaxed. Further research reveals that I’m not the only one!

“Go to a Forest. Walk slowly. Breathe. Open all your senses.

This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy,

the medicine of simply being in the forest.”

Forest bathing, or ‘shinrin-yoku’ in Japanese, is a concept originating in Japan, used and researched widely in Japan and South Korea as a method of preventive health care and healing.

What’s the science?

The body’s immune system is boosted by spending time in the forest due to the increased production of Natural Killer (NK) cells.

Dr Li uses this helpful analogy to explain:

  • Cancer cells = Criminals
  • NK Cells = Policemen
  • More policemen = Safety
  • More NK cells = Better health

Research shows that a higher amount of NK cells correlates to lower rates of cancer.  To maintain high levels of NK activity, a significant amount of time spent forest bathing, every month, is recommended.

Research also suggests that anxiety, depression and fatigue can be reduced from forest bathing, as the production of Adrenaline, a hormone contributing to stress, decreases. Another hormone affected by forest bathing is Adiponectin, the production of this so-called ‘fat fighter’ increases in a forest environment.  A higher rate of Adiponectin production correlates to decreased cases of heart disease and obesity alongside boosting the body’s metabolism.

Further research is taking place to discover exactly why the forest causes these physical chemical effects on our bodies. It is speculated that certain substances released by trees, then breathed in and smelt, play an important role in stimulating these chemical effects.

Engaging all the senses with nature is a key feature of forest bathing. With this range of benefits, both psychological and physical, experienced personally and being researched extensively…let’s make forest bathing our go-to medicine!


Dirksen, K. (2016) Science of “forest bathing”: fewer maladies, more well-being?

Li,Q. et al. (2008) A forest bathing trip increases human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins in female subjects

Li, Q. (2009) Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function

Li, Q. (2018) Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing

Miyazaki, Y. in Matador Network. (2019) Shinrin Yoku: The Art of Forest Bathing

Skinrin Yoku. (No Date)


  1. Interesting! I wonder tho, and maybe you know the anwser, would you recive the same o similar health benefits if you where to do a physical activity in the forest? In other words: Swiming instead of bathing?

    1. Interesting question! In the video “Science of “forest bathing”: fewer maladies, more well-being? ” referenced above, Dr Qing Li describes the results from a study showing that people who walked in a city had lower NK activity compared to those who walked in a forest. So this could reveal that it’s not so much the physical activity in the forest causing the benefits but it is in fact just being in the forest environment.

    1. I would definitely say yes! I’ve just been looking at several websites that say that forest bathing is just as beneficial to children. I know some could argue that children wouldn’t have the concentration to forest bathe, however, Natural England highlight a study that showed children with ADHD had better concentration in woodland environments than urban environments! I think it should definitely be given a go in Forest Schools!

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