Forest Therapy
of the Americas

 Forest Therapy

A Natural Medicine
Humans have lived in nature for 5 million years and were made to exist in a natural environment. So in an urban area, humans become stressed due to noise, pollution and fast-paced activity.

Taking a walk in a forest, or “forest bathing” as it is sometimes called, can strengthen the immune system, lower stress and make people feel more at ease. It is standard preventative medicine in Japan.  It’s not about being alone in the wilderness or the extreme outdoors, it’s about allowing your body and psyche to be at peace in the woods.

Forest therapy comprises a forest and walking paths typically managed by local organizations. Visitors to some of the therapy bases and roads have the option of taking part in various health programs, including medical checkups, breathing and aromatherapy classes, and guided walks with experts on forests and health care. So far, 31 bases and four roads  have gained such recognition in Asia.

The Forest Therapy Association of the Americas is in the process of developing sites in the US and Canada. We hope to include many sites, each with its own natural ecosystem, as part of our network of locations.

Forest Therapy in Japan

At the Akazawa Natural Recreation Forest in Japan, which was recognized as a forest therapy base in 2006, visitors can get free medical checkups among Japanese cypress trees on Thursdays. The forest is known as the Japanese birthplace of the concept of forest bathing in 1982.

Some companies have come to use forest therapy for their employees’ health care. The Shinano Municipal Government, which manages the Iyashi no Mori (Healing Forests) forest therapy base, has contracts with four companies, a town official said. Visitors to the forest therapy base can take part in various programs, including dietary management, hydrotherapy and aromatherapy.

Ongoing Research
Experiments have been conducted to see whether spending time in a forest increases the activity of people’s natural killer (NK) cells, a component of the immune system that fights cancer. In one, 12 men took a two-night trip to a forest in Nagano Prefecture in 2006, during which they went on three leisurely strolls and stayed in a hotel in the woods. Thirteen female nurses made a similar trip to another forest in the prefecture in 2007. NK activity was boosted in the subjects in both groups, and the increase was observed as long as 30 days later! When NK activity increases, immune strength is enhanced, which boosts resistance against stress. Increase in NK activity can be attributed partly to inhaling air containing phytoncide, or essential wood oils given off by plants.

* This Information was featured in an article by Akemi Nakamura in The Japan Times.

Forest Therapy Video

Published on Apr 8, 2012
Nippon Medical School - Forest Medicine