Bathe in the Forest
by Salvatore Battaglia
“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
When was the last time you took a walk in the forest? How did you feel? I can imagine you must have felt vitalised and re-energised.
For the first time in history, more than half the world’s population live in cities. This move to the cities means that we are losing that connection we have always had with nature. Edward O. Wilson coined the term 'biophilia', which suggests we possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Urbanisation and technology has been responsible for weakening our biophilia and relationship with nature.
I have often said in my aromatherapy classes that the renewed interest we have for aromatherapy and essential oils is based on our desire to reconnect with nature. Essential oils remind us of nature and they are a powerful tool to bring healing qualities of nature back into our lives. We need aromatherapy more than ever to reconnect with nature.
This disconnection with nature has led to a dramatic increase in mental health issues. The 2013 World Happiness Report stated that one in ten people suffer from mental disorders such as depression or anxiety. The report states that the economic costs associated with the management of mental health are huge but it also states that cost-effective treatments that work exist. I believe that aromatherapy and essential oils will play a very important role in the cost-effective treatments to improve our mental health and support wellbeing.
The Japanese have a word shinrin-yoku, which literally translates to 'taking a bath in the forest'. In Japanese shinrin means forest, and yoku, (although it has several meanings) here it refers to a ‘bathing, or shower or basking in’. It also means ‘taking in, all of our senses, the forest atmosphere.’
The Japanese have a long appreciation of the therapeutic benefits of nature, however, I was surprised to learn that the term shinrin-yoku was only coined in 1982 by the then Director of Japan’s Forest Agency who encouraged people to spend more time in nature, particularly in the lush Japanese forest trails. Studies have confirmed that spending time within a forest can reduce psychological stress, depressive symptoms and aggression, while also improving sleep and increasing both our energy levels and sense of wellbeing. Sounds familiar? It sounds like aromatherapy to me.
Japanese researchers also found that 20 minutes of shinrin-yoku (compared with 20 minutes walking in an urban setting) altered cerebral blood flow in a way that indicated a state of relaxation.
We know that stress can compromise our immune systems and supresses our natural killer cells. The Nippon Medical School showed that forest bathing (either a day trip or a couple of hours daily over three days) can have a long-lasting influence in increasing the number of natural killer cells and increasing the number intracellular anticancer proteins.
Interestingly, it was also reported that the natural chemicals secreted by the evergreen trees, collectively known as phytoncides, the essential oils found in many conifers, have been associated with improvement in the activity of our immune system. The amount of phytoncides in the air during the studies were measured and correlated to improvements in immune functioning and mental wellbeing.
Earlier this year I smelt for the first time a Fir CO2 extract. I immediately feel in love with this oil. CO2 oil extracts always give us a true to nature scent. It honestly felt like I was in a pine forest. This gave me the idea to create a room spray that could replicate the feeling you get from Shinrin yoku.
Allow Perfect Potion’s Shinrin-yoku room spray bring the scent of the forest to you. Envelope yourself with the unique and incredibly rich, intoxicating lush forest-green scent of Siberian fir CO2 extract blended with pure essential oils of lemon, bergamot, lavender, sage, rosemary, Virginian cedarwood, geranium and sweet orange.
The scent of Shinrin-yoku will transport you to an enchanting mystical forest that will become your healing and rejuvenating sanctuary.
Clifford AC. A little handbook of shinrin-yoku. www.shinrin-yoku.org, 2013.
Helliwell J et al. World happiness report 2013. Sustainable Development solutions Network, New York, 2013.
Plotkin B. Nature and the human soul. New World Library, Novato, 2008.
Selhub EM, Logan AC. Your brain on nature. HarperCollins e-books, Toronto, 2013.