You might have visited any forests area, particularly the protected forests like the national park or wildlife sanctuary. Whenever we visit forests, we sense something soothing mind and relaxing body. Have you wondered why? Both physically and mentally, we enjoy the natural setting. Researchers are now showing that forests have numerous health benefits. Even five or ten minutes of being around trees and greenery may improve health. We are here going to know about some chemicals which makes us healthier.
Phytoncides are naturally occurring essential oils which are extracted from trees. These chemicals are volatile organic chemical compounds that help trees protect themselves from microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. Also, in some plants, phytoncides are very active and can defend against the eating of plants by some insects and animals. The term “phytoncide” was coined by Dr. Boris P. Tokin, a Russian biochemist from Leningrad University, in 1928. Already used for many years by Russian, Ukrainian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean traditional medicine practitioners. Phytoncides are used for aromatherapy, holistic medicines and veterinary medicines.
Commonly known plant species like garlic, locust, pine, onion, oak also give off phytoncides. More than 5,000 types of volatile phytoncides have been discovered to date. Some of the phytoncides are listed below with their benefits in details:
· Pinene: Anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, antioxidant, antidepressant, and antiproliferative substances.
· Myrcene: Anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, analgesic, myorelaxant, sedative, gastroprotective substance.
· Camphene: It is good for metabolism. Also is an antiproliferative, antioxidant, antinociceptive,
· antihyperlipidemic substance.
· D-Limonene: it is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, antinociceptive, anxiolytic, antidepressant.
· Sabinene: Antifungal, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer substance. Used in dermatophytosis.
Benefits of Phytoncides:
· Phytoncides increases NK cell activities which boosts our immune response.
· They temper inflammation and alleviates oxidative stress.
· Lowers nervous system activities and creates a relaxation response.
· Exposure to forests air reduces cortisol level.
· Mood enhancement and improvement.
· Phytoncides like alpha-pinene enhance sleep.
· Exposure to phytoncides can reduce blood glucose levels.
· Increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD.
· Increases energy level, accelerates recovery from surgery or illness.
Numerous studies around the world are exploring the benefits of spending time outside in nature specifically forests. In 1982, the Japanese Government introduced the concept of shinrin yoku or forest bathing, urging people of its country to make use of woods for therapy.
While the research is taking place in Japan and the US, we need to know more about our local tree species and their scientific applications. According to Biophilia, a book by evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson, people have a biological urge to commune with Earth. He said, “our existence depends on this propensity; our spirit is woven from it, hopes rise on its currents.” Visiting forests and taking the benefits of phytoncides are really helpful for us and we should take these benefits.