The term biophilia was introduced by the psychotherapist and philosopher Erich Fromm (1900-1980) to name man’s longing to coexist with nature; human love for nature. The term is originally from the Greek and means “love of life”.
Etymologically, Biophilia comes from “bio” which means life/living organism/respect for the environment, and “philia” which means love towards something. For what would come to mean love for the environment, that is, the necessary union with nature; an evolutionary necessity. All species, including humans, depend on interaction with the environment around them (including plants and animals). (Biolaboratory, 2019).
After his death, Edward O. Wilson, an evolutionary biologist, proposed the biophilia hypothesis: man’s need to connect with the rest of the living beings; it is about our bond with nature, the result of a long evolutionary process. Wilson said that humans are part of the web of life (“Web of Life”) because we come from nature, we have developed within it and in interaction with it. “On us acts the same vital force to which animals are subject and the plants.”
As early as the 12th century, Hildegard Von Bingen wrote about the beneficial effects of wild plants. He called “green energy” the healing power of nature on living beings.
His writings are currently affirmed by science; Plants communicate* directly with our immune system. Communication understood as the transmission of information between a sender and a receiver; not necessarily through verbal language. Plants communicate using chemicals, just like insects. These chemical substances contain information with a final objective and release them in a controlled and intentional way. These molecules can even reach other organisms.
Factors associated with the immune response can be assigned to practically any disease (infectious diseases, arteriosclerosis, cancer or depression, among others). That is why we moved (mentally) to Japan, where we found a tradition called “shinrin-yoku”, which means “forest bathing”.
No, it is not going to bathe in a pond or lake, but they define it as inhaling the atmosphere of the forest. There it is an officially recognized method to prevent diseases and is also used as a supportive therapy for their treatment. It is promoted by the state public health system, is the subject of research, and is applied in medical universities and clinics.
In the forest, our immune system comes into contact (unconsciously) and communicates with the plants. Plants that, in turn, are in constant communication with the plants and animals around them. Some of the effects of this communication are: – increased number of natural killer cells of the immune system – increased activity of natural killer cells of the immune system for days – increased level of anti-cancer proteins.
During the “forest bath” we breathe in the air and, therefore, a cocktail of bioactive substances that plants give off, especially those with gaseous communication capacity.
Among these substances are terpenes, which, by interacting with our immune system, are very beneficial for our health. They also act indirectly on our hormonal system, reducing stress hormones. *
With a single day in a wooded area, the number of natural lymphocytes increases in the blood by almost 40%, in addition to being more efficient, and remains that way for 1 week.
“The forests are full of Biophilia effects” (Arvay, 2015)
In fact, fewer people die of cancer in forested regions than in non-forested regions. Tokyo professor of medicine Qing Li recommends staying anywhere from two hours to three days in the forest to strengthen lymphocytes and anti-cancer proteins. It also recommends not walking more than 1km per hour of stay. That is, if you stay 4 hours, do not walk more than 4 km. Try not to get tired and drink water or tea. On the other hand, the concentration of terpenes reaches its maximum in the summer months, and it is always better to go deep into the heart of the forest.
Likewise, with the humidity after rain or fog in the forest air, many of these terpenes float. Finally, the closer to the ground we are, the higher the density of terpenes, because up in the treetops the terpenes are destroyed by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
This vital desire to be in contact with nature and animals (not always consciously) is part of our DNA; We have been developing in nature for thousands and thousands of years, so it is vital for our physical and emotional health. To understand it better, we can compare it with snake phobias; many people, even without having been in danger from a snake, have a phobia of it. However, we do not find people with an innate phobia of chainsaws or electrical cables that are part of our daily lives and that are the cause of more injuries and daily accidents. “This is because as a species our knowledge of a chainsaw is quite recent, while snakes have been in our possession since the dawn of mankind. (Symbiota, 2020).
Similarly, on the time scale of evolution, we have been in urban and modern cities for only a few thousandths of a second compared to the very long time we have lived in nature.
On the other hand, human beings feel such positive emotions after being in nature because, by moving away from modern life, we move away from criticism, pressure, stress… and we welcome an acceptance as we are by the half wild. We are surrounded by plants, animals, fungi, microorganisms, etc. who do not judge us or have prejudices about how we are. We are among them, with them, with the web of life. We can be and be as we are and feel at that moment. And this is one of the most well- known healing psychological effects of the Biophilia effect.
This effect has such an impact because even what we do not process consciously continues to be processed by our brain unconsciously. That is, imagine that you are in the forest barefoot; you may feel the leaves at your feet and, at the same time, smell the moist soil and see ants on the ground. But, in addition to this, our brain is unconsciously processing dozens of stimuli that have repercussions on our experiences, behaviours, emotions and feelings.
The area of the brain responsible for this is called the “reptilian brain” or more commonly the brain stem, and the “limbic system”.
The reptilian brain is full of memory and ancestral heritage of the human being and is what unites us to reptiles and amphibians. It is composed of the basal ganglia, the reticular system, the cerebellum, and the brainstem. It controls autonomic functions (breathing and heartbeat), balance, and muscle movement. Their responses are direct, reflex, instinctive; that is, it controls instinctive thinking and behaviour for our survival.
On the other hand, the limbic system regulates emotions, memory, hunger and sexual instincts. It tells us when we can relax and when we should prepare to fight or flee. But they not only react to external stimuli but also to internal stimuli such as workloads, exams, appointments, expectations, economic problems… in short, everything that leads us to experience stress is processed by our brain as a threat. Likewise, continued high levels of stress can cause concentration difficulties, heart disease, circulatory system disease, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, eating behaviour disorders, addictions, intestinal disorders, immune failure and even cancer.
What nature does is “signal” the action of relaxation and rest. “Nature is full of aesthetic stimuli, noises and smells that create in our head the neurobiological bases to feel good and relax”. It allows us to feel safe.
In another study, a team of six Japanese scientists investigated which properties of nature have favorable effects on our minds. They concluded that nature influences the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste; especially noises and smells lowered blood pressure and balanced the activity of the prefrontal cortex (reducing stress). Smells have a very significant influence on the mind and the unconscious and, therefore, on our well-being and functioning; it can improve our focused attention, bring enthusiasm and joy, find a sense of belonging and perceive our feelings and make us aware of them.
All in all, and after the information in this blog, I would like to suggest the perfume of natural origin as an element of well-being that gives us natural immunity through deep breathing of its components. Our perfumes are made with essential oils, so the benefits of the plant of origin are very present and can provide the aforementioned healing properties.
In conclusion, nature maintains our health on a physical, biological, sexual and psychological level, and helps to heal and reduce pain when we already have illness. It allows us to feel like children again, it returns us to our “home”, we are comfortable, free. Our senses become more active and sensitive to stimuli.
To experience all this it is not necessary to go to a forest, even a park, a garden or an orchard will provide us with these benefits to a certain extent.
*anticancer and immunostimulant effects especially in conjunction with isoprene, alpha pinene, beta-pinene, d-limonene and 1,8-cineole.
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