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Hands planting a tree

05 Aug 2020

Nature and the immune system

Find out how microbes found in nature can support your immune system and overall health.

By Wendy Brewin

Did you know that when you’re outside you’re not just breathing in oxygen? There are tiny microbes in the soil called phytoncides (essential oils found in woody plants) that you also breathe in. Before you let out a “ewww!” in disgust, know that these little microbes can help boost your immune system. They work with our own body’s ‘natural killer’ or NK cells (yes, we really do have cells with that name) which are white blood cells in our immune systems that help fight infections.

Trees and other plants produce phytoncides to help them fight disease and scientists believe that, when they are inhaled, they help boost our immune systems too. Research on forest bathing in Japan indicates that people’s levels of NK cells and cell activity increases more when they were outside in forests than in urban spaces.

Forest bathing, or shinrinyoku as it’s known in Japan, is simply a walk in the woods. Surrounding yourself with nature isn’t just good for your mental health but also your body’s ability to fight germs. We’re not suggesting you immerse your face in soil but next time you’re outside make sure you take a few good deep breaths and give your immune system a bit of a boost.

For more in depth technical information on phytoncides, visit Science Daily.

Take a moment to read this interesting blog entitled Finding a Friend in Nature by Professor Miles Richardson in which he talks about how nature can support you when you’re practising social distancing by staying at home.

Stay happy and healthy.