On the Scent of Wellness
A lot happens when you deeply and peacefully inhale fresh forest air, particularly through your nose.
"Go to a Forest. Walk slowly. Breathe deeply. Open all your senses.
This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy,
the medicine of simply being in the forest." - ANFT Website Cover Pg
It is well documented that in the mid-to late 1800s physicians in certain fragrant forest areas set upon a wellness cure via sanatoria. Peter Detweiler and Hermann Brehmer developed sanatoriums in Germany’s pine forests and promoting sunlight and fresh air as beneficial for patients afflicted with tuberculosis. These purpose-built facilities were designed to maximize exposure to fresh fulsome air and resplendent sunshine.
All these locales reported remarkable benefits, most specifically gleaned from the forest air. Contrary to expectations regarding relative humidity, the results even seemed to be intensified when the forest air was enriched with moisture.
It was postulated among the physicians of the time that pine trees secreted a "tuberculosis healing balm" into the air. However, very few had a clue (scientifically speaking) about how healing it really is to take a deep breath of nature-infused air. We can now appreciate the full potency of this nature-informed, immune-fortifying equation substantiated by numerous shinrin-yoku studies showing the existence of an imperceptible airborne healer.
Organic, forest-air laden compounds collectively known as phytoncides directly support the “NK” (natural killer) cells of our immune system, which assist in tackling cancer and keeping us overall healthy.
The University of Virginia’s BIG (brain & glial center) recently uncovered how these compounds are routinely absorbed and interact through a "network of lymphatic vessels" dedicated exclusively to the brain's immune function (and found woven "only inside the olfactory area" of our nose). This is a connection researchers were not previously aware of because it was assumed the central nervous system was cut off from the body’s blood-borne immune response. Now we know that the body and brain are both under the influence of the outside atmosphere that we inhale . (1)
Who knew how important smell really was?
Our nose's definitive primary function of course is inhaling oxygen, filtering, warming, and moisturizing air, and also wiping out microorganisms with the natural production of nitric oxide (and enzymes excreted by the little hairs within our nose that provide an additional layer of anti-allergy protection). All this tends to overshadow our basic sense of smell. Yet, it is extremely important to recognize how much of an interplay there is with the aromatic scent featured in a forest cornucopia.
How much more important can it be to get out in nature and rediscover a centuries old curative at the tip of our nose?
In this case I'm not euphemistically referring to “covered by the sun, clothing-optional” and B.O. These are very active nature medicinal practices for healing, we can easily access on an immersive, forest visitation.
Practitioners of the sanatoria (mentioned above) made a conscious effort to expose as much bare skin of the patients to the outdoors. Little did the physicians realize, there was a subtler, more internally-directed perception (with potent healing consequences) at play:
Our body augments the smelling process of the nose by holistically absorbing the fragrant scents of the forest world!
Our body’s largest organ actually plays a vital role. Did you know skin can smell?
A set of recent finding have overturned the prevailing perception that most of the scents of nature were, by and large, simply a chemical conversation between plants and animals and that humans are merely eavesdroppers.
In fact, in total- from the skin to lungs to even the heart- we can survey our olfactory response as much more expansive, with currently more than 150 olfactory receptors identified in the human body outside the nose.
Due to a skyrocketing rate among breath-related allergies, anatomical focus on the sinuses (and how they are related to smell and brain function) now informs the discovery of smell receptors all over our body* relating to nerve fibers capable of distinguishing trillions of bio-chemical aromas.
Muscle cells of bronchi that detect the scent triggers of banana and apricot signal pathways in the bronchi to open up, while scents with floral, oily notes (ie. lilial/bourgeonal) have the opposite effect and signal the bronchial muscles contract. Moreover, pro-inflammatory substances are released from these cells as well.
Another beneficial nature therapy finding has shown a response of skin cells known as keratinocytes trigger cells to divide and migrate- characteristic of skin healing . These skin cells are expressed through an olfactory receptor and can be initiated when a derived wood essential oil, such as sandalwood, is applied to the skin.
Through learning to focus on your breath and absorb the fragrant forest aroma, vitality can be gained when immersed in the forest. This is just a portion of a wide range of approaches to health and well-being to be discovered by setting aside time to be in the forest.
Embarking on a journey of nature connection will most certainly invite you into greater intimacy with pleasurable experiences nature continually offers. This truly affords you an opportunity to enrich your receptivity by opening up the freshness of multiple dimensions in your organs of perception and to tranquilly attune with the Earth.
http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-discover-never-before-seen-vessels-in-the-brain & https://news.virginia.edu/illimitable/discovery/theyll-have-rewrite-textbooks * Specifically, cell proliferation increased by 32 percent and cell migration by nearly 50 percent when cultured keratinocytes were exposed to high concentrations of Sandalore. The researchers published their results in Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Benjamin Kalbe et al.: Olfactory receptors modulate physiological processes in human airway smooth muscle cells, in: Frontiers in Physiology, 2016, DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00339
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