Forest bathing and forest therapy (or shinrin-yoku) broadly means taking in, in all of one’s senses, the forest atmosphere. Not simply a walk in the woods, it is the conscious and contemplative practice of being immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. It was developed in Japan during the 1980s, and in 1982 Japan made this form of mobile meditation under the canopy of living forests a part of its national health program. Researchers, primarily in Japan and South Korea, have established a growing body of scientific literature on the diverse health benefits.

Research Spotlight

The databases often return hundreds of medical studies for a single wellness approach. This section summarizes a sampling of five studies – providing just a taste of the available research. These Spotlights were not selected because they are the most favorable or the most recent, but to provide you an introduction to the more extensive research you’ll uncover searching the four databases found in the “Research” section of this site.

  • Physiological Effects of Forest Bathing: From Lowered Cortisol to Greater Parasympathetic Nerve Activity
    A 2010 Chiba University study on the diverse physiological effects of forest bathing (from field experiments conducted in 24 Japanese forests – 280 participants) found that forest environments promote lower pulse rate, blood pressure and concentrations of cortisol–and greater parasympathetic, and lower sympathetic, nerve activity–than do city environments.
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  • Forest Bathing Increases Human Natural Killer Activity & Expression of Anti-Cancer Proteins
    A small 2017 Nippon Medical School study, comparing the impact of a 3-day forest bathing trip to a city trip with exercise, found that the forest bathing trip significantly increased Natural Killer (NK) activity, numbers of NK cells, the expression of intracellular anti-cancer proteins, while significantly decreasing the concentration of adrenaline in urine–with the increased NK activity lasting more than 7 days. In contrast, the city trip did none of these things.
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  • Review: Forest Environments/Bathing Lead to Significant Reduction in Blood Pressure
    A 2017 systematic review from Japanese universities (15 studies, 732 participants) indicates that forest bathing has hypertensive effects: SBP and DBP in the forest environment were significantly lower than in the non-forest environment. In particular, the forest environment has a larger effect on lowering SBP in people with high blood pressure and in middle-aged and older people.
  • Forest Bathing and Nature Therapy: State-of-the-Art Review
    This 2017 state-of-the-art review from University of San Francisco spotlights the universe of research on the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing from Japan and China–from heart rate metrics to psychological impact.
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  • Short Forest Bathing Experience Significantly Lowers Pulse Rate, Blood Pressure, While Reducing Anxiety
    A 2017 National Taiwan University study (128 middle-aged and elderly participants) found that a 2-hour forest bathing experience led to changes in autonomic nervous system activity and emotions. Heart rate and systolic and diastolic blood pressure were significantly lower after the short experience, while the mood scores for “tension-anxiety”, “anger-hostility”, “fatigue-inertia” and “depression-dejection” were also significantly lowered.
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