The Healing Effects of Forests
Maybe there’s something to that “hug a tree” idea.
“Many people,” says Dr. Eeva Karjalainen, of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, Metla, “feel relaxed and good when they are out in nature. But not many of us know that there is also scientific evidence about the healing effects of nature.”
Forests – and other natural, green settings – can reduce stress, improve moods, reduce anger and aggressiveness and increase overall happiness. Forest visits may also strengthen our immune system by increasing the activity and number of natural killer cells that destroy cancer cells.
Many studies show that after stressful or concentration-demanding situations, people recover faster and better in natural environments than in urban settings. Blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the level of “stress hormones” all decrease faster in natural settings. Depression, anger and aggressiveness are reduced in green environments and ADHD symptoms in children reduce when they play in green settings.
In addition to mental and emotional well-being, more than half of the most commonly prescribed drugs include compounds derived from nature – for example Taxol, used against ovarian and breast cancer, is derived from yew trees, while Xylitol, which can inhibit caries, is produced from hardwood bark.
Dr. Karjalainen will coordinate a session on the health benefits of forests at the 2010 IUFRO World Forestry Congress in Seoul. “Preserving green areas and trees in cities is very important to help people recover from stress, maintain health and cure diseases. There is also monetary value in improving people’s working ability and reducing health care costs.” she says.
Big step towards completing the most comprehensive assessment to date of the international forest regime
The assessment report is prepared by an Expert Panel on “international forest regime“, which consists of internationally recognized scientific experts in their field and is overall coordinated by the IUFRO-led initiative “Global Forest Expert Panels” (GFEP) of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF).
As part of the assessment process, the second meeting of the Expert Panel on the International Forest Regime was held on 7-8 July 2010 at the Headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi, Kenya. 30 renowned experts in political science and international law gathered at this meeting to discuss the draft manuscripts of the assessment report and identify the conclusions emerging from the assessment.
Prior to the Nairobi meeting, all draft manuscripts of the report had been reviewed and commented in detail by 25 invited reviewers as well as this GFEP assessment was already initiated in October 2009 on the issue of the “international forest regime“.
The experts who gathered in Nairobi agreed on the idea of “embracing complexity” as the main storyline of the report and highlighted the potential for positive interactions between key elements of the international forest regime on issues such as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, access and benefit sharing, and forest law enforcement, governance and trade.
The assessment will be completed in autumn 2010. It will provide concrete proposals for better coordination and better outcomes of the international forest regime and is expected to make a major contribution to the International Year of Forests 2011. Listen to the podcast: Interview with Alexander Buck (GFEP Coordinator) for more information:
IUFRO Podcast – Interview with Alexander Buck (GFEP Coordinator)
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