The Healing Power of Nature – Taste of the Forest
Taste – gathering feast
My mom used to be an active tourist. When she could, she went hiking. But her specialty was eating forest fruits. Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, plums, nuts. She would eat all of it like a forest goat. Only mushrooms she didn’t eat because she didn’t know them.
Till today, when we go for a walk in the forest or near gardens and parks, when she sees something to eat in the bushes or sticking out from someone’s garden, she has to be forced to leave it. We must push her away from unknown fruits, so strongly attracts her everything that looks ripe and fresh.
Similar effect have the forest berries on my wife and it is possible that the instinct of gathering have women in general stronger than men. I take more pleasure in searching for mushrooms – it is like a hunt. Mushrooms are here and there, always hidden, try to blend in with nature through their shapes and colors.
The searching itself urges one to move (endorphins) and releases dopamine while we wait to successfully find something. Exercise and searching makes us happier this way.
And that is the point. Forest is the place to find food for homo sapiens. It brings us excitement when we search and satisfaction when we find. To stop near the bushes of raspberries, pick up a handful of blueberries, peel of nuts and chestnuts, taste wild pears, gather basswood flowers and rose fruits for tea – that belongs to the activities in nature that make us happy. Sour apples, sweet blackberries and other tastes are a delight for our picky tongues.
Healing power of nature in herbs
Slovakia is rich on healing herbs. Thanks to convenient climate you can find a lot of them around and the tradition of gathering, drying and consuming everything eatable is wide-spread. Preparing herbs in a form of teas, soaps, aromatic pillows is a hobby with healing effects.
What you gather and dry in summer, you can use in winter. A handful of dried out mushrooms in soup, basswood tea, lavender leaves in Christmas deserts. That’s how you recall nature with its smells, tastes and refresh memories of times and places you gathered something at. Outside is freezing and everything is covered in snow. But at home you can smell the same nature as in summer or fall, thanks to the wild berries.
Sense of touch – touch of nature
Long time ago we started to walk on two legs and later on started using shoes. At that time as if the sense of touch has become an unimportant sense. In the past each food came through our hands, as young children we would be touching the ground with our hands, digging in it, building our houses with our hands. Slowly the touch began to be used practically to control tools. And today, thanks to digital technologies, it is used mostly to touch the glass screen, mouse and keyboard. I am doing it right now, while writing this article. 😀
Rarely do we touch the nature around us. When almost all of us were farmers one hundred years ago, when we grew vegetables and fruits, bred animals, then a lot of soil, grain, fruits and living animals went through our hands. Our parents and grandparents, if they didn’t live in a city, were in constant contact with nature. With a domesticated farm land nature, but still better than no nature at all.
Children have their own opinion about it.
They are very touch sensitive. In nature, they touch everything that comes under their hands – they throw leaves into the air, gather cones, chestnuts and acorns, try to touch worms, frogs and caterpillars, turn branches into swords, dig in the soil and mud. Dirty child – happy child.
As adults we no longer play in nature this way – only gardeners and farmers remained to live this way. And that is their happiness. This way they are connected with nature, strengthening their immune system and consuming antidepressants.
Many bacteria live directly in our bodies and we exist thanks to them. They are a necessary part of our digestion. And in the soil is the most diverse ecosystem of soil bacteria. Without them the soil would not even exist. They break up all that is organic and inorganic.
In the soil we find a common and harmless species of bacteria – Mycobacterium vaccae. By walking, digging, planting and plucking out vegetables we scatter the bacteria in the air and breath it in. These bacteria activate neurons in our brain connected with our immune system and influence our emotions – we feel happier because of them.
Who knows, if it has the same effect on wild pigs, which dig inside the forest soil constantly. But on the mice in laboratory it definitely works according to this study.
The sense of touch awaits to wake up
In the forest we can feel nature many different ways – we can turn our face to the wind, rain and sun, plunge our hands into a creek, touch the leaves or grass, hug a tree, take a beetle into our hand, make a walking stick, and the very best – lie down into the grass.
Also work in the forest allows us for a true contact with nature – that is why I like to buy dead trees, cut them down, saw them into pieces and drag them to the cottage. I get tired, have saw dust all over me, but when I put away my gloves I can feel the rugged bark and as well as a clean cut with my hands. Not mentioning the smell of resin from the clean cut.
The most interesting discovery during studying forest bathing for me was the electromagnetic effect of Earth on our body.
Usually you can read about negative effects of electromagnetic fields on humans (smartphones, wifi, broadcast towers…), but the way the Earth affects us is something different. Maybe because we are her age-long inhabitants, we are perfectly tuned to her electromagnetic effects.
Ever since we use rubber shoes and live in the tall buildings made of ferroconcrete, we literally isolated ourselves from the Earth.
The surface of the Earth is conductive and charged by a constantly recharging flow of free electrons. The Earth’s surface has negative potential, which can interacts with our bodies to stabilize the function of our corporal systems, organs and cells. Changes in the intensity of Earth’s potential are, according to the increasing amount of researches important in adjusting our biological hours which regulate our body’s biorhythms like the production of cortisol (stress hormone) during the day.
Electrons flowing from the Earth through the bare feet into our body can neutralize free radicals, so they lower the chance of a disease or cancer in our body.
Walking barefoot or in shoes from a non isolating material (leather) allows electrons to flow into our body. Earthing, that’s what this method is called, makes us less sensitive to pain and makes our sleep better.
In the city it is not easy to walk barefoot and it would be absurd. But in the forest, on the grass and on the beach it is a smart idea. Maybe there will be barefoot walkways in parks one day, where we could massage our feet and literally recharge with new energy. Best case scenario – if the walkway is sponsored by shoemakers or electric companies. 😀
Once again I recommend a great book Šinrin´joku about forest bathing, which inspired me to write these articles. It was written by a president of the Company of Forest Medicine in Japan Qing Li. It is a therapeutic reading during winter months because of its beautiful pictures of forest.
Yes, seeing pictures of nature has therapeutic effects on humans too.