This months article:
Healing with Trees
As someone who has suffered with mental health problems, I have always found myself drawn to outdoor spaces and particularly wooded areas, why is this? Why do some feel drawn to seek out nature at their darkest times, some even feel the need to factor it into their everyday life as part of a routine. Well, there are both scientific and spiritual reasons as to why we try to become closer to nature in order to nurture ourselves.
From a scientific perspective, some studies in Japan on “forest bathing” (the act of simple mindfulness amongst nature in a forest) have found trees to emit airborne natural chemical compounds known as Phytoncides, these are effectively essential oils that are released from trees to help fight disease, insects, and rot, amongst many other natural nasties. For humans however studies have shown that when inhaled these substances can have an array of positive effects, including but not limited to.
An increase in immune response.
Reduction of glucose levels
Each different tree or plant may produce a different Phytoncide, for example our own healing tree, the Deodar cedar, or Himalayan cedar produces essential oils that contain alpha-pinene, this organic compound is used as an anti-inflammatory and is said to have a positive effect on memory. The trees oils also contain beta-himachalane, this acts as a natural pain reliever.
Of course, the effect of these “essential oils” are far lesser when inhaled by standing in a forest versus consuming them in concentrated forms via air diffusers or cooking, but it’s a lot easier,cheaper, and far more fun, to go for a walk in the woods. Now that the boring scientific part is out of the way lets talk about the fun spiritual part! In almost all religions dating back to the dawn of man trees have been seen as a spiritual symbol of life or rebirth, for example in the bible (Genesis 2:9) it is said “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”The tree of life was created to give immortality to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, all the time they eat the fruit they are given immortality, it is only when they sinned that access to the tree was taken from them, and they became mortal. In Norse mythology there was said to be a giant tree, Yggdrasil, this was an ash tree that supported the entire universe with each of its three roots a pathway to different distant realms. For the Norse people this tree represents the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. They also viewed the Scandinavian evergreen forests of their homeland as a spiritual symbol of new life, what with them staying green despite all other plants dying off during harsh winters. In Buddhist faith they have the Bodhi Tree, the tree under which the first buddha became enlightened, one of the key tenets of Buddhist faith is about acknowledging the interdependence of all life on earth, this means the trees, plants, animals, and us as humans all must rely on, and protect all things natural. There are of course, so many more examples of Trees, and forests in faith and spirituality. Whichever faith you have chosen to follow you cannot deny the link that so many have found between their spirituality and the trees, many visitors to our woods (Including myself) have felt the calming aura the woods emit, and many have even used the woods to aid meditation.
I hope that to some with a more sceptical view regarding the spiritual healing power of trees this short article has helped open your eyes a little to the proven benefits “forest bathing” or simply, taking a walk in the woods, can provide. As for those that are in tune with their spiritual side and certainly with nature, I have hopefully helped to solidify your already existing beliefs. Many are not as lucky as us at The Seekers to have a woodland right on our doorstep, but we are more than happy to share, we implore you to come and spend some time amongst the woods here, and sample for yourself the healing energy they provide.