Updated: Nov 30, 2021
We've all had the experience of walking in the forest, taking a deep breath, feeling the freshness of the air. It is a natural impulse. I doubt anyone of us ever felt the urge to do it while walking across the city parking lot. Why? What's the difference?
Many cities have quite decent air quality, yet their residents don't feel any different. Recent research suggests it may be because of antioxidants.
In all aerobic life forms (plants and animals), the formation of cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) as a byproduct of their metabolism is an unavoidable process.
ROS can increase also due to environmental stresses. Antioxidants are considered to be important components in defense of against damage caused by various oxidative stresses. In plants, antioxidants are one of the major mechanisms by which plants defend themselves against attacks by microbial pathogens and pests. In humans, the ROS-mediated oxidative deterioration of macromolecules has been implicated as one of the major causative factors of many diseases, including cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, neurodegeneration, and aging.
The rich forest vegetation emits antioxidants into the air. When breathing the forest air, we essentially inhale a boost to our defense and regeneration arsenal. It just may be that our body's urge to take a deep breath in the forest is a result of real sensation.
One culture in which the potential real health value of forest breathing is recognized is Japan. Japanese call it shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere. It may be worth importing into everyone's way of life.