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Get Off the Couch and Get Under a Canopy (of Trees)!by Contributor February 7, 2017
We could not live without trees. Trees clean the air and provide oxygen – Trees conserve energy and cool the streets of the city – Trees save water and prevent water pollution – Trees provide timber and supply food – Trees increase property values and encourage business traffic – Trees are teachers and bring groups together – Trees add unity and reduce violence – Trees mark the seasons and provide a habitat for wildlife.
And trees heal . . . they actually help us feel better.
Many of today’s pharmaceuticals are developed from trees. The most common treatment for general aches and pains – aspirin - is derived from willow bark; some cancers are treated with drugs created from yews; tea tree oil is used for various skin infections; quinine from cinchona tree bark is the foundation for many anti-malarial drugs and circulation is improved with ginkgo.
Doctors now know that along with medication, a patient’s environment plays a very significant role in how a patient recovers. They have found that providing a view of green spaces in recovery wards reduces stress levels and blood pressure.
Further, researchers at the University of Illinois found that residents in a large housing development who lived near trees, socialized more with their neighbors, felt much safer and there were 52 per cent fewer crimes. Unlike those living in treeless blocks, they felt emotionally and physically healthier.
In 2004, Japan’s National Land Afforestation Promotion Organization conducted an experiment and discovered that a forest stroll had beneficial effects on blood pressure, heart rate and the immune system. They also found that people who just looked at a forest view for 20 minutes had a 13 per cent lower concentration of the stress hormone cortisol. The Japanese have a word for this feeling — shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Even five minutes around trees or in green spaces may improve health – like a free prescription with no negative side effects.
Here are some of the health benefits of trees:
- Reduces stress
- Boosts immune system
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves mood
- Increases ability to focus
- Hastens recovery from illness or surgery
- Increases energy level
- Improves sleep
Exposure to forests boosts our immune system. While we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal qualities which help plants fight disease. When people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor and virus infected cells in our bodies. Japanese researchers are currently exploring whether exposure to forests can help prevent certain kinds of cancer.
Green spaces in urban areas are essential. Though almost 85% of the US population lives in suburban and urban areas and may not have access to traditional rural forests, gardens, parks and street trees make an important difference on the quality of life in these areas. Pockets of green space – often called an urban or community forest – provide a vital source for daily access to trees.
Forests provide the opportunity to exercise. Moving around a natural forest or an urban forest, requires us to walk, run, climb, bike, or otherwise propel ourselves into movement.
At Arborist Now, we are all about trees – their value to our overall health and well-being – their value to the community where we live – and we are here to provide tree care, to plant trees, to recycle and to inform about one of nature’s most majestic and important contribution to our amazing planet.