From cancer to crime rates: ten surprising facts about trees

Shinrin Yoku – the Japanese art of forest bathing – is tipped to be the next wellness trend to take over the West. It’s the best thing since sliced sushi, or so I’m told.

It involves sitting under the forest canopy and letting nature’s scents, smells and sounds wash over you. I admit, it sounds more appealing than other wellness trends, like drinking green sludge and boiling animal bones. But this latest wellness trend is more than just an woo-woo healing new-age Instagram fad. Because when you look at the science, forests are true miracles for our health, and the planet’s. Curious? Read on…

  1. A mature, leafy tree produces enough oxygen for two to ten people a year. Forest aren’t called the ‘lungs of the planet’ for nothing!
  2. Chemicals released by trees (called phytoncides) can reduce blood pressure, reduce anxiety, increase pain thresholds and even increase the expression of anti-cancer proteins.
  3. It is estimated that in the United States, forests absorb about 10% of the country’s CO2 emissions each year.
  4. Pollution removal by urban trees saves 850 lives per year and $6.8 billion in total healthcare costs in the United States alone.
  5. Urban trees are correlated with lower crime rates, from graffiti, vandalism and littering, to domestic violence.
  6. Forests cover over 30% of Earth’s land surface and house more than half of the world’s plant and animal species.
  7. Trees lower the surrounding air temperature by evaporating water in their leaves. A bit like a sweaty human really!
  8. Forest protection and restoration are crucial for slowing climate change – earth’s tropical forests alone could meet half the 2050 target for reducing carbon emissions.
  9. Trees are best known as a timber resource, but they are also a source of renewable bioplastics. That’s right, we could be making plastic forks and bags from trees.
  10. Pregnant women who spend more time in greenery have a reduced risk of underweight babies, as well as preterm birth.

So there you have it. Maybe those tree huggers are onto something after all…

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Nicole Clucas



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