Forest Therapy Helps Improve Side Effects of Breast Cancer Therapy
Spending time in nature can have very positive health effects, especially in forests.
Forest Therapy is a research-based intervention for supporting healing and wellness through immersion into natural environments. Studies have shown that being in nature can have a wide array of health benefits, especially for the immune system.
New research shows that Forest Therapy may be of particular interest for women undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
In a South Korean study, eleven women aged 25-60 who were being treated for stage I – III breast cancer were brought to a forested national park for a 14-day regimen. The participants stayed in log cabins, participated in structured hikes each morning and engaged in a variety of personal and group activities each afternoon.
During the intervention, the women had blood draws which showed significant improvements to natural killer (NK) cell count. NK cells are a type of lymphocyte (white blood cell) and a component of the immune system. Small granules in their cytoplasm contain special proteins, such as perforin and granzyme B, which help disrupt tumor cell formation. The team noted that these special proteins were increased during the forest therapy session.
In addition to the positive biological changes, the participants also experienced improved cognition, memory, attention, and increased feelings of pro-sociality, sense of purpose and quality of life.
Shinrin-Yoku is known traditionally as “forest air bathing” in Japan.
In addition to real-life forest therapy, researchers are also interested in aromatherapeutic compounds that mimic forest trees. Compounds known as phytoncides are a class of natural occurring terpenes which may also be of benefit to patients who perhaps could not get out into nature.
Phytoncides may also help reduce blood pressure and decrease inflammation.
Kim BJ, Jeong H, Park S, Lee S. Forest adjuvant anti-cancer therapy to enhance natural cytotoxicity in urban women with breast cancer: A preliminary prospective interventional study. Eur J Integr Med. 2015;7(5):474-478.
Accessed via The Natural Medicine Journal
Association of Nature and Forest Therapy
By Willow - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons