Forest Bathing and why it helps you fight viruses and cancers

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Your immune system is a complicated and amazing thing. Your own Natural Killer Cells work with T-cells and other parts of your immune system to do things like kill cancer cells and destroy viruses that invade our bodies.

Natural Killer Cells have special enzymes inside them like Granulysin, Perforin, and Granzyme A and B. These enzymes play an important role in the ability of your bodies’ own Natural Killer Cells to deal with things like cancers and viruses.

https://www.immunology.org/

Go for a walk in the woods, it’s good for you

Walking through a forest is also known as Forest Bathing

The act of walking through a forest is also known as Forest Bathing. During a 2007 joint study between Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, Japan and Stanford Medical School in California, subjects who normally live in downtown Tokyo spent three days and two nights in a forest.

Three days prior to going to the forest each subject had their blood drawn, and then subsequently had their blood drawn again on each night they spent in the forest where they stayed in a hotel and walked along a forest path for just 2.5 km each day. The daily blood tests showed the number of natural killer cells in each participant’s blood was dramatically and progressively increased each day they spent walking in the forest and remained elevated even seven days after they had returned back to the city. 

Do you like the smell of the woods? Your immune system does too

The East Coast Trail is a wondrously great resource for our health and well-being

It turns out several phytoncides sich as Alpha Pinene and Beta Pinene are naturally present in the forest air, and in test tube studies, these compounds have been shown to increase natural killer cell activity and specifically increasing Natural Killer Cell levels of Granulysin, Perforin, and Granzyme A and B, the very enzymes that play a key role in the Natural Killer Cells ability to fight off viruses, cancers, and other infections. To the researchers, this suggested the presence of Alpha Pinene and Beta Pinene in the forest air may be what was causing the test subjects to have increased levels of Natural Killer Cells in the test subject’s bodies, and therefore a stronger immune system simply by walking through the forest. 

Taking a walk in the woods boosts your body’s ability to fight viruses

Even if it’s just a short jaunt in the woods, it can help you tremendously

But how did the researchers know it was the Alpha Pinene and Beta Pinene that was causing the test subjects to have stronger immune systems as opposed to something else? To be sure, the researchers did another study where a different group of test subjects was taken to a city where they repeated the same experiment of walking around in the city instead of a forest. It turns out the test subjects did not have any marked increase in Natural Killer Cell activity and also no increase in Alpha Pinene or Beta Pinene when walking in a city instead of a forest. The forest group, however, had significant increases in both the phytoncides and Natural Killer Cells. In fact, the forest group continued to have a significant increase in their Natural Killer Cell activity even seven days after returning to the city. 

So how do you know this is true?

Because Science!

So how do we know it was the essential oils from the trees that were actually causing these effects and not something else? The researchers did another experiment of course. This time, the test subjects stayed in the city in their hotel rooms while the researchers defused the phytoncides aromatic essential oil compounds of Alpha Pinene and Beta Pinene into the test subject’s hotel rooms. Subsequent blood analysis of these subjects showed increased Natural Killer Cell activity and increases levels of both Alpha Pinene and Beta Pinene.

These studies strongly suggest forest bathing increases your immunity through exposure to phytoncides like Alpha Pinene and Beta Pinene. Taking a hike not only increases your natural killer cell counts and activity, but it also decreases your stress and helps with the consequences of social distancing and isolation. What was astonishing about these studies is not only did taking a short walk in the woods to help boost the immune system, but the effects lasted for many days afterward. Turns out traditional remedies like fresh air and exercise have a whole lot of merit to them. 

Go out in the forest for some fresh air and sunshine to improve your body’s ability to fight viruses and cancers 

It doesn't take much to make a big difference to your immune system, naturally fight virus and helping lower stress
It doesn’t take much to make a big difference to your immune system, naturally fighting virus’ and helping lower stress

Want to increase your body’s natural ability to fight off viruses and cancers? Maybe it’s time to get out of the city and spend some time in the woods.

Remember, test subjects didn’t have to spend much time in the forest to see significant increases in their immune function.

And the effect lasted for up to seven days after. Anyone else going to do some forest bathing? Let us know in the comments below.

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Whale House Guest House offers luxury boutique private suites with outdoor hot tubs overlooking humpback whale feeding grounds. Located next to the east coast trail in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, just 30 min from downtown St. John’s.

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