What is Forest Therapy?
Forest Therapy or Shinrin-yoku was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has evolved to become a cornerstone of healing and preventive health in Japanese medicine. The term, meaning “forest bathing,” is based on a robust body of scientific literature, primarily from Japan and South Korea, on the healing benefits of spending time in the atmosphere created by the canopy of trees in a living forest.
The Japanese government was so impressed with the results of Forest Therapy that it is now incorporated into the National Health Care System with a quarter of the population participating in forest bathing each year. Now this research into forest therapy is helping to establish the practice of Shinrin-Yoku throughout the world1.
While the essential compounds of plants and flowers, containing healing terpenes, are extracted for use in various holistic therapies such as aromatherapy and massage, these same natural healing properties are freely available in the air and atmosphere.
The gentle healing way Forest Therapy is a path to health and wellness accessible to almost anyone who can visit a forest, relax, walk slowly, breathe deeply and open their senses to absorb the calming and restorative benefits around them.
In the past few decades research has demonstrated the mechanisms behind the healing effects of trees and plants in wild, natural areas. For example, it has been found that many trees release organic compounds that support the natural killer cells in the human body, which are a key component of the immune response.
Benefits of Shinrin-Yoku
- Alleviate stress, relaxes the body, and improves mood
- Boosts immune function by increasing the number of natural killer cells
- Increases energy levels
- Improves sleep quality
- Increases capacity to communicate and connect with nature
- The overall increase in feelings of happiness
Top Ten Forests for Forest Bathing
Shiratani Unsuikyo in Yakushima Island
Shiratani Unsuikyo gorge is home to a primeval, mystical forest with Yakusugi cedar trees that range from 1,000 to 7,200 years old and are covered in 600 different types of moss. The island is a registered World Heritage Site because of its diverse and rare ecosystem. Among the many forest bathing benefits in this ancient forest are unique showers of misty rain that soaks and cleanses the aura and the body, leaving you feeling clean and refreshed.
Known as a volcano museum, forest therapy paths often lead to points where there are “seas of clouds” under your feet. Circular loops take you around emerald lakes that reflect the stunning forest green in the mirror stillness of the water.
Located in Nichinan City, Kitago Town has natural hot springs welling up from 800 meters below ground. This park is also famous for its cherry blossoms, with up to ten thousand cherry trees.
Shiso is surrounded by towering mountains that are over 1,000 meters tall. The highest peak in the Hyogo Prefecture is Hyonsen. Forming part of the Onzui-Chikusa Prefectural Natural Park and the Nagisan semi-natural park, the city is covered in greenery perfect for forest bathing.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island is an urban forest with a dense jungle of trees situated along the Potomac River in Washington, DC. This forest bathing retreat led by a certified Forest Therapy guide is an experience that can improve mood instantly and boost immunity.
The Platbos Indigenous Forest, Baviaanspoort Hills, South Africa
The ancient 30-hectare Platbos forest is the southernmost forest in Africa, situated on the coast of Gansbaai just outside Stanford. It is the largest remaining fragment of the original Swartkrans Berg, the lowland forests of the Fynbos biome, and the trees there are over 1,000 years old. As its name describes, it is a flat bushy area with a forest of predominantly wild olive, white stinkwood, and white pear trees.
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What makes this forest unique is that it grows in deep, sandy soil where rainfall is generally not deemed sufficient to sustain a forest. In the heart of the forest area 1,000-year-old milkwood tree and a labyrinth of “mother-of-pearl” seashells in a pattern that is continually rearranged by the baboons in the area. This forest offers a unique forest bathing experience that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Canada stretches over many climate regions and five time zones. As a result, there are 12 forest regions with sub-regions supporting the characteristic diverse tree species of Canada.
Predominantly forest land, Boral is the largest forested area in Canada that forms a continuous belt from Labrador and Newfoundland north to Alaska and west to the Rocky Mountains. The trees are mostly coniferous, but also include deciduous species like trembling aspen and white birch.
Trees, alive or dead, can facilitate a sense of peace and a unique perspective. There is nothing like the view of a 65-foot Norway Spruce across from an 85-foot White Pine in the distance for a great forest bathing experience. Eastern Hemlock is situated in Sunnybrook Park, Ontario.
Renowned as a center for retreats, Pallotti College it is nestled in the foothills of Mount Donna Buang and offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
The Redwood Forest
This mystical forest contains the Sequoia sempervirens tree which is the tallest in Victoria, as well as over 200 California Redwood trees that were planted in the 1930s. There are more than 1,476 trees in this forest that are up to 55 meters tall.
And, of course, if you just can’t find a forest to visit, maybe using our Forest essential oil diffuser can give you some of the same benefits!