Imagine yourself alone in the forest. Maybe it’s a coniferous, pine forest like the one that circles Flagstaff for miles. Dappled sunlight streams through the branches of the thick canopy above and you can smell a potent mix of soil and rich plant-life. You can feel the stress of city-life fading away as you become more immersed in your serene natural surroundings. Notice: what do you hear? The sound of birds? The crunch of twigs and debris beneath your feet?
If imagining this trek through the woods sounds appealing, you might enjoy the traditional Japanese practice shinrin-roku or, in English, forest bathing. The practice involves contemplatively strolling through a wooded area while breathing in phytoncides (wood essential oils) like α-pinene and limonene. Sound familiar? You might already be acquainted with these “essential oils,” which are also found in cannabis and known as terpenes.
A study, completed in September of 2007, sought to reveal the benefits of shinrin-roku. 13 healthy nurses, male and female, between the age of 25-45 were tested during a 3-day excursion to the woods. They periodically had their blood and urine sampled for NK (natural killer) counts and urinary adrenaline. NK cells have been shown to kill tumors and virus-infected cells. Essentially, the study found vast increases in the number of NK cells and improvements in cell performance after a certain period of time spent walking in the forest. Adrenaline levels significantly declined, reflecting lower stress levels. Other studies have had similar results; forest bathing trips “reduce saliva cortisol levels, prefrontal cerebral activity, and blood pressure in humans, as well as stabilize autonomic nervous activity.”
Shinrin-roku is recognized as a stress management activity in Japan and Forest Agency of Japan proposed it as a good lifestyle activity in 1982. The practice has shown to be beneficial for everyone, but particularly those prone to anxiety, depression and anger. Luckily, you can experience the benefits of the practice too, as it is possible in many areas around the world with preserved forest spaces. It has gained popularity in recent years, even in big cities like Los Angeles.
So, what if we combined this amazing practice with cannabis? There are several strains that contain α-pinene. This combination could yield incredible potential for stress, depression and anxiety management. A good example would be the popular hybrid (sativa dominant) strain Blue Dream. This strain has been tested for having high concentrations of α-pinene, making it ideal for medicating while practicing shinrin-roku. Furthermore, this strain has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of depression and chronic pain, with a gentle, elevating euphoria. While quiet contemplation among nature can already be soothing by itself, adding cannabis can open up the possibility for a truly enlightening experience.
Cannabis can easily be incorporated into your wellness routine; forest bathing is one of the many activities to help develop healthy habits. Rather than waiting until you’re sick or injured, develop preventative practices to feel your best, physically, mentally and emotionally, for longer periods of time. Find that happy place (possibly in the forest?) and take some time for yourself.
We love this quote from the writer Alice Walker to keep in mind while spending time among the trees: “In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” — Words by Taylor Haynes and Taylor Blueher
** DISCLAIMER: Please medicate in your own home prior to exploration, as national forests are federal land.