Forest Bathing

Forest Bathing

Intuitively, we understand that we feel better in nature.

Research has shown that a specific way of spending time in nature, called forest bathing, has immense benefits to our physical and mental wellbeing.

What is forest bathing?

It is a slow walk in the forest or woodland, using nature mindfully, to engage our senses.

Nature provides many opportunities to help us be mindful and present.

What can we see? Notice the many shades of green and fractal patterns of leaves and branches.

What do we hear? Notice the orchestra created by the wind and leaves, the songs of birds or the crunching of frost beneath our feet. 

What do we smell? Notice the various scents of pine, the earthiness of fungi or the memory-evoking smell of soil.

What do we feel? Notice the softness of moss with our hands, the tickling of the pine on our cheeks or the coolness of the wind on our skin.

And finally, what do we taste? We can sometimes taste the air or finish a forest bathing session with a taste of the woodland, such as with pine needle tea.


What are the origins of forest bathing?

    Forest Bathing is known in Japan as shinrin yoku and was started in the 1980s when many Japanese people showed signs of being stressed and overworked due to what was called “technostress”.

    As Japanese society became more reliant on technology, people were further removed from nature. Something needed to be done. With tree coverage of 67% and a culture that pays reverence to nature, Japan naturally looked to the forests. Forest bathing was born.


    Benefits arise from two factors. 

    The first source of the benefits of forest bathing are phytoncides.

    Walking in the forest exposes us to the forest’s natural aromatherapy. Phytoncides are the natural oils within plants and are part of a tree’s defence system, protecting it from pests and diseases. These same phytoncides are partly responsible for the benefits. The main components of phytoncides are terpenes, which include D-limonene (smells lemony), Alpha-pinene (has a fresh, piney scent), Beta-pinene (smells herby, like basil or dill) and Camphene (smells of turpentine, a resinous smell)

    The second source of the benefits of forest bathing are mindfulness and meditation.

    Mindfulness and meditation helps us switch from our sympathetic nervous system, or ‘fight and flight’, to our parasympathetic nervous system, or ‘rest and digest’. If you already practice mindfulness and meditation, you will know that the key to calming the mind down is to focus on your breath. However, it can sometimes be difficult just to focus on the breath. Nature provides many subjects for us comfortably and happily to focus on and helps us “be in the present”. Remember the sight, sound, smell, feel and taste sensory exercises I introduced earlier? They help us re-connect with nature. After all, humans have spent 99.9% of time in history in a natural (rather than urban) environment making nature a place where humans instinctively feel relaxed and comfortable.

    So next time you are in the forest or woodland, see if you can slow down your walking pace and take time to notice what is around you.

    Or to slow down fully, let a forest bathing guide help you do the thinking. Two to three hours of forest bathing every four weeks replenishes the benefits of forest bathing.

    There are many places you can practice forest bathing.

    Forestry England is one source that shares locations of woodlands near you. The National Trust has a wealth of locations to forest bathe. If you are near the Surrey Hills, Hinoki Forest Bathing provides guided forest bathing sessions, including sunrise and sunset sessions, that finish with a Japanese influenced woodland tea ceremony.

    Let nature replenish and care for you and in turn be inspired to care for nature.

    By Lisa Duncan, HINOKI Forest Bathing in the Surrey Hills

    How to lose weight naturally

    How to lose weight naturally

    Accumulation of belly fat is something that can creep up over the years and catch us by surprise. It is suggested that on average adults gain ~1.5kg annually and never shed that weight. Why is that?

    The answer is often our lifestyle. Reducing calorie intake and supporting gut health by increasing your vegetable intake will support weight loss but shifting belly fat can be more troublesome. Coupled with this is the effect this fat is having internally - on our blood vessels and heart for example.

    One of the biggest culprits driving stubborn belly fat is sugar intake

    Hidden sugars in many foods and drinks will increase the accumulation of fat in the tissues and blood vessels. Look at the sugar contents of many cereals, breads, fizzy drinks etc and try to cut them out completely. Every improvement you make by increasing exercise or supplementing can be completely counteracted by your sugary intakes.

    Bergatone

    One clinically tested solution for bad fats is Bergatone, a natural food supplement made from Italian bergamot fruits. Studies have shown that 3 capsules daily, 30 minutes before food for a period of 4 months can help manage weight and cholesterol alongside a healthy eating and exercise routine. How does it do this? Each tablet is packed full of active ‘power house’ polyphenols at 35% effective strength. These polyphenols bind to bad fats from our diets in our gut and tissues. They also help to balance cholesterol in the liver. Double whammy!


    Black Garlic

    When it comes to protecting our heart we can further help by supplementing our diet with daily Aged Black Garlic. This has been shown to help relax our blood vessels, allowing for more efficient circulation of blood to our tissues. How does it do this?...Our Black Garlic is selected due to its naturally high concentrations of the chemical allicin. A six month aging and fermentation process converts allicin to active S-allyl cysteine (S-AC). This high strength, premium grade S-AC provides the protection for our cardiovascular system. Aged Black Garlic and Bergatone are a perfect combination, working in harmony with each other on separate cardiovascular systems.

    How to enjoy great sleep, naturally

    How to enjoy great sleep, naturally

    I only appreciated the full value of sleep after my son was born and we experienced regular interrupted nights. After a few weeks my mind started playing tricks and my wife would often find items in our food cupboards which were obviously not supposed to be there!

    It took us several months to resolve my son’s regular wake up calls - we mixed bananas with his formula which sustained nutrition beyond 2 hours. By that time, I felt I was functioning at 30% of my usual capacity. However, I then found it difficult to restore my sleep pattern back to the pre-parenthood 7-8 hours. My body and its sleep hormones had adapted to the new regime.

    Sleep research demonstrates how long term sleep problems impact health. The health impact data for sleep problems is a wake up call in itself! Long term effects include a decline in cognitive function, increase in mental health problems, chronic fatigue, and lack of concentration / irritability.

    Every person is unique. However, the National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise that healthy adults should sleep, on average, between seven and nine hours a night.


    How to reset the sleep pattern with natural solutions.

    Sleep disturbances can be caused mainly by lifestyle, environmental and health factors.

    Understanding and treating the primary cause, should usually resolve the issue and improve the quality of sleep.


    Diet

      I concluded from this experience, that I should never underestimate the power of food or drink to affect my health including sleep. To reset my system, I cut out all products containing caffeine and sugar for 2 weeks and then reintroduced them carefully avoiding caffeine in the afternoon or evenings. I love a glass of red wine in the evenings but I noticed even one glass affected the quality of my sleep making me wake up during the night so I reduced my week day alcohol intake too.


      Smoking

        I’m not a smoker but the data shows that nicotine is a brain stimulant so, while it is advisable to quit smoking altogether, it is important to avoid smoking just before bedtime.


        Lifestyle

          Daily exercise is fundamental for physical and psychological health; however, exercising just before bedtime will increase the body’s adrenaline production and raise body temperature, making it more difficult to switch off. So, exercise earlier in the day and try to avoid more intense exercise 2 hours before bedtime if possible.

          The influence of daylight on the body’s sleep hormone melatonin is well documented. Exercising in daylight helps to restore melatonin levels in the evening. However, a glance at a mobile phone or laptop screen at night will quickly reduce the levels of this sleep hormone. Even opening a fridge door at night can have a negative effect.


          Physical Health

            Problems such as headaches, migraines or chronic pain will stop you from getting a good night sleep. Speak to your GP or Pharmacist about the appropriate medication or natural remedy to treat the relevant symptoms in order to resolve the issue.

            Stress and mental health problems like anxiety and depression contribute to a high percentage of sleep difficulties. In this case, a combined approach of psychological support, lifestyle changes and use of medication/natural remedies, tailored to the severity of symptoms, is often very helpful and can restore emotional balance and promote restful sleep. Also, relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness can help you to relax and unwind.

            Furthermore, sleep difficulties can be related to hormone imbalances; fluctuations in the levels of testosterone, thyroxin, cortisol, progesterone and melatonin (sleep hormone) can all disturb your sleep pattern.

            The production of melatonin naturally increases especially with evening darkness and it is a central part of the body’s sleep-wake cycle. The levels of melatonin are very important to induce and maintain sleep. Synthetic melatonin can be taken for the relief from short term sleep disturbances and can help adjust the body's internal clock. Consult your GP before starting melatonin therapy which is available on NHS prescription.


            Environment

              The bedroom should be somewhere that we associate with sleep. It is better to remove distractions from your bedroom and watch TV, play computer games and eat in another room. This will allow you to relax and unwind.

              Also the ‘blue light’ generated by computers, phones and tablets displays suppresses the production of melatonin, hence causing sleep disruption. It is recommended not using these devices at least two hours before you go to sleep in order to reduce the impact on the quality of your night rest.

              Other common factors that can affect sleep are light, temperature and noise. You should be able to control the intensity of light and noise in the room by using blackout curtains/ eye mask and ear plugs respectively. The temperature of the room is also very important; feeling too cold or hot can disrupt your sleep so always make sure you work out the best sleep environment for you. Keeping a sleep diary can be useful to record the conditions that helped you get a good night sleep.


              How can Nature help?


              At the Naked Pharmacy we believe in a holistic approach to health.

              While addressing the root cause of sleep difficulties should be the first point of action, the use of natural remedies can support the process leading to a better quality and quantity of sleep.


              Saffrosun with Marine Minerals

              Saffrosun with Marine Minerals helps to reduce tiredness, fatigue, improve sleep and maintain emotional balance. Saffron has been shown to have neuro-protective effects. It balances the production of serotonin (happy hormone) in the gut which constantly signals to the brain, via the vagus nerve, your state of well-being.

              At The Naked Pharmacy, we ensure that all of our supplements are made with effective strength bioactives and are scientifically supported by clinical trials. You can read more about our research here.


              Marine Magnesium

              Pure Marine Magnesium is a natural remedy which helps to support optimum nerve and muscle function, while promoting relaxation. It is sourced from sea algae and is one of the seven essential minerals we need for our bodies to function healthily. Magnesium helps relax muscles and induce sleep.

              You can read more about clinical trials on the effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia here.


              Avena Sativa

              The medicinal herb Avena Sativa has been shown to promote restful sleep and relaxation. This plant contains natural compounds which are both sedative and soothing to the brain and nervous system; hence it is very helpful in resolving sleep disturbances.


              Other plants

              Other medicinal plants that can improve sleep quality are: Valerian root, Lavender, Chamomile and Passiflora.

              Valerian root and Passiflora are among the most commonly used herbal ingredients to induce sleep. Several studies have shown their efficacy in improving sleep quality. You can read more about the research here and here.

              It is recommended to consult your Pharmacist or GP before taking any new supplement to make sure it is suitable for you.


              Final thoughts


              After the birth of my son I realised why sleep is a vital component of overall health and well-being to help my body repair and re-set, ready for a new day. Taking a step by step approach to treat my sleep disturbance eventually resolved the issue. Eventually, I realised that my pre-bed routines and environment had a significant influence on the quality of my sleep. Small, incremental changes made a big difference.

              Natural remedies proved effective for me and still form part of my approach, whenever I am troubled with poor sleep. At The Naked Pharmacy, we are always very happy when we help solve customer sleep problems because we know how much this will improve overall health and happiness.

              Vitamin D and COVID-19

              Vitamin D and COVID-19

              Recent articles in the press discuss the potential of Vitamin D supplementation to reduce the risks of Covid-19.

              This article will provide key research information on the benefits of Vitamin D for the immune system plus pharmacist advice on which indication has sufficient clinical research to support its use.

              What is Vitamin D?

              Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because it is produced naturally by the action of sunlight on the skin.

              NHS England recommends a daily supplementation of 10 mcg (micrograms) from oily fish such as salmon and sardines or vegetarian/vegan friendly sources. The latter are either synthetic (man-made  vitamin D3) or from mushrooms (vitamin D2). One natural vitamin D3 version exists which is derived from marine algae. Vitamin D3 is better absorbed by the body compared to vitamin D2.


              Why is Vitamin D important?

                A study, published in the BMJ in 2017 which reviewed data from 25 trials, showed the vitamin can help prevent acute respiratory infections, particularly in those patients with a pre-existing vitamin D deficiency.

                Professor Martineau, who was the lead author of the review, stated ‘When vitamin D is made in the skin, it gets converted in the liver to a form that circulates around the body. This creates a natural antibiotic-like substance in the lining of the airway that can bash viruses and bacteria, killing them’.

                ‘It is a generic effect: we don’t know yet whether that would work against Covid-19.’

                Research from the University of Birmingham carried out in 2018 demonstrated that vitamin D deficiency trebles the length of hospital stay.


                Can Vitamin D be used to treat Covid-19?

                  Previous studies and data reviews have shown that Vitamin D can help prevent and treat respiratory infections such as community acquired pneumonia.

                  However, despite the recently quoted Irish study suggesting that high dose vitamin D could be used as part of the Covid-19 treatment program there is still insufficient evidence for its role in reducing the risk of the coronavirus.


                  Who is susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency?

                    It is thought that around 1 in 5 adults and children in the UK are deficient in Vitamin D. The recent coronavirus lockdown, on top of (sensible) use of sunscreens may have contributed to decreased levels of vitamin D in the blood.

                    Research has shown that levels of deficiency are higher than expected in the general population. Research from The University of Surrey discovered a high number of students had very low levels vitamin D at the end of the summer term when levels were expected to peak.


                    What can I do to increase my levels?

                      Daily exercise outdoors will help boost levels.

                      10 minutes exposure for pale skin on the arms and face, darker skin may need around 25 minutes exposure to stimulate Vitamin D production.

                      Ethnic groups with dark skin need more daily sunlight exposure and should also take a year-round supplement.


                      Which are the effective Vitamin D supplements?

                        Vitamin D supplements are widely available.

                        The most easily absorbed version is called D3 but these supplements are commonly made from synthetic or animal sources.

                        One vegan friendly, marine algae sourced D3 is available and this is used in The Naked Pharmacy Saffrosun supplements. There are also mushroom derived D2 alternatives.

                        The recommended dose is 10mcg (or 400iu) daily and should be taken for several months to build up healthy vitamin D levels.

                        Manage Menopause Naturally

                        Manage Menopause Naturally

                        Manage Menopause Naturally
                        Saffron — Balance Your Mood

                        Saffron — Balance Your Mood

                        Saffron — The Natural Way to Balance Your Mood
                        Exam Stress & Young Minds

                        Exam Stress & Young Minds

                        Exam Stress & Young Minds
                        Saffron — Add More Spice To Your Life

                        Saffron — Add More Spice To Your Life

                        Saffron - Add More Spice To Your Life
                        What is Burnout & How to Avoid It

                        What is Burnout & How to Avoid It

                        Maintaining Emotional Balance
                        How to Manage & Reduce Stress

                        How to Manage & Reduce Stress

                        8 Top Tips