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Article: The secrets of silvotherapy to improve your well-being

The secrets of silvotherapy to improve your well-being

Sylvotherapy , or tree therapy, is an ancestral practice which consists of connecting with nature to benefit from its multiple health benefits. Used for centuries in various cultures, this method is making a comeback in our modern society, in search of natural methods to improve well-being . This article explores the benefits of silvotherapy and how to integrate this practice into your daily life.

I. What is silvotherapy?

Forest therapy definition : Also known as "forest bathing" or "shinrin-yoku" in Japan, is a therapeutic practice which consists of immersing oneself in the atmosphere of a forest to improve one's well-being. The term "sylvotherapy" comes from the Latin "silva" meaning "forest" and "therapeia" meaning "care" or "cure". This practice, although recent in its current form, is based on ancestral traditions where men sought the benefits of forests for their physical and mental health.

Originating in Japan in the 1980s, Shinrin Yoku was introduced as a response to the increasing levels of chronic stress in Japanese society. In 1982, the Forestry Agency of Japan formalized the practice as a health prevention method, recommending regular forest immersions to reduce stress and improve overall health . Since then, the practice has grown in popularity around the world, with scientific studies supporting its many benefits.

At Silva Mundi, we recognize the importance of the natural benefits of trees and forests. Our cosmetic products, based on tree sap , are inspired by the principles of silvotherapy, aiming to bring the benefits of nature directly to our users.

1. How does silvotherapy work?

Sylvotherapy is based on simple but powerful principles. She invites practitioners to disconnect from their daily routine, often stressful and technological, to reconnect with nature . Key elements of this practice include slow, mindful walking through forests, using all senses to perceive the forest environment, and breathing and meditation exercises.

Sylvotherapy, love of trees and their benefits

Sensory immersion

One of the most important aspects of forest therapy is sensory immersion. Practitioners are encouraged to use their senses consciously to absorb the benefits of the forest. This includes listening to natural sounds, such as birdsong and rustling leaves, observing the different shades of green and the play of light, feeling the ground underfoot, and inhaling the scents of the trees. , rich in phytoncides . These volatile organic compounds, such as alpha-pinenes, have antimicrobial properties and can stimulate the immune system.

Phytoncides, like alpha-pinenes, are volatile organic compounds released by trees. They enable the defense of trees against pathogens and insects. For humans, inhaling these phytoncides can strengthen the immune system by increasing the number and activity of NK (natural killer) cells , which are essential for fighting infections and cancer cells.

Mindfulness and meditation

By being fully present in the moment and observing the details of nature without judgment, practitioners can reduce their stress levels and improve their mental well-being . Forest meditation, often practiced sitting or lying on the forest floor, helps deepen this connection and induce a state of deep relaxation. Naturopathy , like silvotherapy, leverages the benefits of natural elements to improve health and well-being, thus integrating holistic practices for a global approach to health.

2. History and evolution

From Antiquity to the Middle Ages

The benefits of trees and forests were already recognized in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Ancient texts mention the use of resins and essences of conifers to treat various respiratory illnesses and improve general health . Pliny the Elder, for example, spoke of the virtues of coniferous forests for people suffering from pulmonary diseases.

In the Middle Ages, terpenoids present in the forest atmosphere, particularly those of conifers, were used for their analgesic, sedative, bronchodilatory, antitussive, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and relaxing effects.

From modern times to today

In the 19th century, sylvatic cures were common in sanatoriums, where tuberculosis patients enjoyed long walks in the forest. These practices have extended to healthy people seeking the benefits of nature .

Today, forest therapy is practiced around the world, with initiatives like therapeutic forests in South Korea and forest bathing programs in Finland. In France, although silvotherapy is not yet widely recognized as a science, it is gaining popularity thanks to efforts to raise public awareness of its benefits.

3. Scientific studies on silvotherapy

Research in Japan

Scientific research from the land of the rising sun has been pioneering in validating the benefits of silvotherapy. For those who wish to discover and learn silvotherapy, specialized training and books are available to deepen their knowledge. Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki of Chiba University and Dr. Qing Li, an immunologist at the Tokyo School of Medicine, have conducted extensive studies on shinrin-yoku. Their work demonstrated that forest bathing increases NK cell activity, reduces cortisol levels and improves overall mood.

Global studies

Similar studies have been carried out in other countries. In the United States, research has shown that patients hospitalized with a view of trees heal more quickly than those without a view of nature. In South Korea, therapeutic forests have been developed to provide rehabilitation programs based on silvotherapy. Forest therapy is growing in popularity in Belgium, with many parks and forests providing ideal environments for this practice.

In France, many natural sites offer silvotherapy activities, responding to a growing demand for outdoor well-being practices. Sylvotherapy sessions and courses are also organized in Paris, allowing city dwellers to benefit from the benefits of this practice without leaving the city.

A systematic review also showed that forest therapy can reduce stress, anxiety and depression . Participants in forest therapy programs reported significant improvements in psychological well-being and reductions in symptoms of stress and depression.

4. The measurable benefits of silvotherapy

Reducing stress and anxiety

Studies show that forest therapy can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. A meta-analysis found that participants in forest therapy programs reported significant improvements in psychological well-being and decreased symptoms of stress and depression.

Improving immune function

Phytoncides emitted by trees, such as alpha-pinenes, can stimulate the immune system. Studies have shown that exposure to these volatile compounds increases the activity of NK cells, which are essential for fighting infections and cancer cells.

Positive effects on mental health

Sylvotherapy promotes the production of serotonin, the happiness hormone, and improves concentration, self-esteem and creativity. The positive effects on mental health are often noticeable after only a short immersion in the forest. We'll go deeper in part 2.

5. Case studies and practical examples

In Japan, research by Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki and Dr Qing Li showed that forest bathing increases NK cell activity, reduces cortisol levels and improves overall mood.

In the United States, studies have shown hospitalized patients with a view of trees heal more quickly than those without a view of nature. In South Korea, therapeutic forests have been developed to provide rehabilitation programs based on silvotherapy.

A systematic review also showed that forest therapy can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Participants in forest therapy programs reported significant improvements in psychological well-being and reductions in symptoms of stress and depression.

II. The benefits of silvotherapy

1. Physical benefits

Forest therapy offers numerous physical benefits that have been widely documented by scientific studies. Spending time in the forest can lead to a significant reduction in stress and blood pressure, as well as an improvement in sleep quality . Stress reduction is one of the most immediate and notable benefits of forest therapy. Studies show that people who spend time in forests have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A meta-analysis found that forest bathing significantly reduces cortisol levels compared to urban environments.

In addition, forest therapy helps lower blood pressure. A study conducted in Japan demonstrated that participants who spent time in a forest had measurable reductions in their systolic and diastolic blood pressure. These effects are attributed to the relaxing environment and volatile organic compounds emitted by trees, such as phytoncides , which have anti-inflammatory and anti-stress properties.

Which tree gives the most energy?

Oak is considered the tree that gives the most energy in forest therapy, thanks to its robustness and its ability to stabilize and revitalize the mind and body. Oak forests, rich in phytoncides, are particularly beneficial for practicing silvotherapy and strengthening the immune system.

Improving sleep quality

Forest therapy can also improve sleep quality. People exposed to forest environments often report reduced fatigue, thanks to longer, more restorative sleep cycles. This is partly due to reduced stress and anxiety, as well as exposure to natural light levels during the day, which helps regulate circadian cycles.

Improved quality of sleep

Strengthening the immune system

The phytoncides released by trees strengthen the immune system. Studies have shown that exposure to these volatile compounds increases the activity of NK (natural killer) cells, which are essential for fighting infections and cancer cells. A Japanese study found that participants who spent three days in the forest showed a significant increase in NK cell activity, which lasted for more than seven days after exposure.

2. Mental and emotional benefits

In addition to the physical benefits, forest therapy also offers many mental and emotional health benefits. Numerous studies have shown that forest therapy can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Participants in tree therapy programs have reported that being "by my tree" provides significant improvements in their psychological well-being , with a reduction in symptoms of stress and depression. Forest environments, with their calming ambiance and distance from urban stresses, provide an ideal setting for relaxation and anxiety reduction. Many opinions on sylvotherapy testify to the positive effects on their mental health, almost close to Burn-out and physical, reinforcing the growing interest in this practice.​

Improving your mental mood

Forest therapy also promotes the production of serotonin, the happiness hormone, which improves overall mood. Participants in forest therapy programs often report increased feelings of happiness and decreased blood pressure. Additionally, spending time in the forest can improve focus and mental clarity, in part through reduced stress and increased serotonin levels .

The benefits of silvotherapy

A stimulation of creativity

The natural environment of forests also stimulates creativity. One study showed that people who spend time in nature show a significant increase in their creative abilities and problem solving. Reducing noise and distractions, combined with the visual beauty of nature, can inspire new ideas and perspectives.

3. Social benefits

Participating in forest bathing sessions in group sylvotherapy allows you to create deep human connections, share experiences and strengthen the feeling of belonging to a community. Group activities in the forest, such as guided walks and collective meditation exercises, offer unique opportunities for strengthening interpersonal relationships . Participants can share experiences, exchange impressions and develop relationships based on a common appreciation of nature.

Participating in group forest therapy activities can also improve cooperation and communication between members. Group mindfulness and meditation exercises can promote better mutual understanding and strengthen group cohesion . This is particularly beneficial in professional contexts where silvotherapy can be used as a team building tool.

Finally, silvotherapy can help create a sense of community . Groups that meet regularly for forest bathing often develop strong bonds and a sense of camaraderie. This can lead to a more close-knit community and increased mutual support, which is essential for emotional and mental well-being.

III. How to practice silvotherapy?

To practice silvotherapy, it is essential to choose a forest environment that attracts you. This can be a dense forest, wooded urban areas, or even in public botanical gardens. The important thing is to find a place where you feel comfortable and connected to nature and enjoy the present moment.

When you select a site for your immersion and being in contact with nature, take into account the diversity of trees and the tranquility of the place. Mixed forests with a variety of tree species provide additional benefits due to the diversity of phytoncides they emit. In addition, less busy areas are preferable to avoid distractions and maximize the benefits of silvotherapy.

1. Techniques and exercises to practice

Forest therapy can be practiced in many ways, from a simple walk in the forest to more structured mindfulness and meditation exercises. Here are some common techniques:

Deep breathing

Sit or stand in a quiet place in the forest and breathe deeply. Focus on inhaling the natural scents of the trees . Phytoncides, volatile organic compounds emitted by trees, may have beneficial effects on your immune system by reducing stress and increasing NK cell activity.

Conscious walking

Forest therapy walks: To fully benefit from the benefits, it is recommended to take regular walks in the forest, choosing calm and diverse environments. Walk slowly and mindfully, paying attention to each step you take and the sensations beneath your feet. These silvotherapy activities and exercises help you reconnect with the earth and absorb the soothing energies of nature .

Careful observation

Take the time to observe the details around you, such as leaves, insects, and the play of light through the foliage. Mindful observation helps cultivate mindfulness and reduce stress levels by fully immersing yourself in the natural environment.

Meditation in the forest

Find a comfortable place to sit and meditate while listening to the sounds of nature. Forest meditation can induce a state of deep relaxation and improve mental focus.

Which tree to choose for silvotherapy?

Beech forests in silvotherapy are beneficial for their soothing properties on mental health. Choose oak for its stabilizing energy, birch to detoxify, maple to hydrate, willow to soothe irritation, and ginkgo for its antioxidant and protective properties against environmental aggressions.

Meditation in the forest and stock up on phytoncides

2. Frequencies and durations of sessions

To maximize the benefits of silvotherapy, it is recommended to practice regularly . A two-hour session per week can already bring significant improvements to your well-being. However, even shorter but frequent sessions can be beneficial. For example, a 20-30 minute walk in the forest several times a week can help keep stress levels low and improve mood.

3. The integration of silvotherapy into daily life

If you can't always go to the forest, it is possible to create a natural environment at home. Plant trees or shrubs in your garden, or grow houseplants. Use pine or cedar essential oils to recreate the scents of the forest.

Take part in outdoor activities and join forest walking groups, take part in hikes or silvotherapy workshops. Outdoor activities, even in urban settings, can help maintain a constant connection with nature. Make visiting parks and forests a priority in your schedule. Even short getaways into nature can help you recharge and reconnect with yourself.

IV. The connection between silvotherapy and Silva Mundi

At Silva Mundi, we take deep inspiration from nature, particularly forest active ingredients , to create our skincare products. Our philosophy is based on the observation of the Boiscorde Arboretum and human skin, which we consider to be a true cellular ecosystem. Our products allow you to discover sylvotherapy directly at home, offering a daily forest bath for the skin. Just like trees in a forest, our skin is constantly exposed to environments that can destabilize it, called exposomes. These exposomes include factors such as oxidative phenomena, environmental stress and biological insults .

1. The synergy between silvotherapy and phyto-cosmetics

Forest therapy has taught us that the basic needs of trees and skin are strikingly similar: nutrition, protection against environmental imbalances, and detoxification . By studying trees and their defense mechanisms against extreme conditions such as drought, oxidative stress, and biological attacks, we have developed our vision of phyto-cosmetics. This approach uses biological active ingredients inspired by plants to meet the skin's essential needs .

Biological active ingredients from the Boiscorde Arboretum

The Boiscorde Arboretum ecosystem was an incredible source of inspiration for us. We have identified several tree species with specific beneficial properties for the skin:

Birch sap : Birch sap used in Sylvotherapy is recognized for its detoxifying and antioxidant properties.

Maple sap : Intensely hydrates and revitalizes the skin.

Willow Leaf : Soothes irritation and reduces inflammation.

Ginkgo leaf : Protects and repairs the skin against environmental aggressions .

Gingko biloba tree benefits

V. Conclusion

Forest therapy is an accessible practice that offers a multitude of benefits for physical, mental and emotional health. By reconnecting with nature, we can reduce stress , improve our immune system, and strengthen our social relationships. Whether through mindful walks, forest meditations or simply spending time in a natural environment , silvotherapy is a holistic approach to improving our overall well-being.

The benefits of forest therapy are supported by a solid base of scientific research that continues to demonstrate the importance of connecting with nature for our health. By integrating forest therapy into our routine, we can not only improve our own well-being , but also cultivate a more harmonious relationship with our natural environment.

Sylvotherapy is an invitation to rediscover the simplicity and power of nature, and to find balance in our often stressful modern life. By adopting this practice, we are not only taking care of ourselves; we also contribute to a more harmonious and respectful relationship with nature, essential for our planet and future generations.