The power of trees: Phytogenics are all around us
Stress, exhaustion, mental burdens, and depressive moods, especially in times of the current and meanwhile long-lasting Corona pandemic, put a strain on us and our immune system. Instinctively, many people are looking for relaxation and regeneration in nature, they go out to the forest. A great decision, as the trees have much more to offer than providing the valuable raw material wood.
Just about all of us know the good feeling that comes with or after a walk in the woods, but only a few know the secret of this feeling. Reason enough for us to get to the bottom of it - after all, we talk about nature, plants, trees, and their powerful bioactive substances - in other words, the phytogenics that are always more than worth discovering.
Scientists around the world are looking into the question of why forest air is doing so good for us. Powerful argument beforehand: forest air contains 90 % fewer dust particles than city air.
According to studies, forest environments have many positive effects on humans, such as lowering blood pressure and heart rate, reducing stress hormones, increasing parasympathetic and decreasing sympathetic nervous activity, or reducing stress, depressive mood, and fatigue.
Already had a bath in the forest today?
These facts indicate that the forest may have preventive effects in human civilization diseases. And it is exactly these possible preventive effects that Japanese researchers have been studying, thus having developed a new concept: "Shinrin -yoku“ or "forest bathing“ stands for a short, silent trip to the forest and showing huge beneficial effects. To relax, recreate, and inhale volatile organic substances, so-called “phytoncides”, are the base in this kind of nature therapy. Although a wide variety of substances is responsible for the “magic” of the phytoncides, most of them belong to the same group named terpenes.
Terpenes – kind of plant communication
Terpenes, volatile secondary plant compounds that emanate from the trees are the solution to the riddle. As natural compounds found in plants, they are responsible for their scent and flavor. Through their aroma, terpenes attract insects for purpose of pollination, and at the same time, they also protect against pests, as a natural insecticide. Terpenes - especially limonene (found in lemon plants, lavender, pine, fir, and spruce) und pinene (found in conifers) - are the ones we can probably attribute most to the natural scent of a forest.
Trees can emit various terpene molecules in different concentrations, with the bark being considered as the main source of them due to its resins. However, also the weather has an influence on the terpene effusion in the forest. Especially after rain or on foggy days, you can literally "feel" the pleasant aromatic forest air.
Did you know?
Not only trees, but also bushes, flowers, fungi and microorganisms release these gaseous substances to alert each other of any danger – it is kind of plant communication.When a tree gets attacked by a pest, it emits more terpenes, causing the other trees to try to protect their outer layer against this threatening pest at the molecular level. And it is precisely these terpenes that can activate our immune system in an equally remarkable way.
After her study in agriculture sciences at the university of natural resources and life sciences in Vienna, Elisabeth joined the Delacon family in December 2013 as Technical Communications Manager. A position, she still exerts with pleasure after her return from maternity leave and at alongside of Anne. Elisabeth describes herself as a great animal and nature lover and prefers to spend her free time high up in the mountains with her little family, away from the hustle and bustle.