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Phytoncides at Grassi Lakes Trail

Canmore, Alberta 2023

Have you ever wondered why when we visit forests, we sense a soothing mind and relaxing body? Both physically and mentally, we are enjoying the natural setting.

Researchers are still discovering the numerous health benefits of forests. Trees release chemicals called phytoncides that lower anxiety. Phytoncides are naturally occurring essential oils which are extracted from trees. These chemicals are volatile organic chemical compounds that help trees protect themselves from microorganisms like bacteria and fungi.

In chapter 17 of Wohlleben’s novel “The Heartbeat of Trees”, he describes “Diving Deep into the Forest.” Wohlleben explains how in 1956, Leningrad biologist, Professor Boris Tokin demonstrated that conifers did a good job disinfecting their surroundings. He discovered that the air around stands of young pines was almost germ free.

Canmore, Alberta 2023

Benefits of Phytoncides:

More than 5000 types of volatile phytoncides have been discovered to date. Traditional medicine practitioners in Russian, Ukraine, Japan, China and Korea recognize the importance of phytoncides in aromatherapy, holistic medicine and veterinary medicine.

When humans breathe phytoncides in, they can produce many fabulous benefits inside the body. Some of the responses discovered by science include:

  • Immune response: a 2-hour walk in the forest increases NK cell activity that can last for days

  • Anti-inflammatory: common forest terpenes temper inflammation and reduce oxidative stress

  • Nervous system: forest air creates a relaxation response and lowers nervous system activity

  • Focus: Increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD.

  • Mood enhancing: exposure to forest air reduces cortisol levels and β-pinene has antidepressive properties

  • Sleep: phytoncides like α-pinene enhance sleep

  • Blood glucose: exposure to VOCs can reduce blood glucose levels

  • Energy: Increases energy level, accelerates recovery from surgery or illness

Work cited:

Grassi Lakes Trail

Yesterday, I hiked the Grassi Lakes Trail with my niece Madison Harasyn. She is a research technician at the Coldwater Lab (University of Saskatchewan) in Canmore, Alberta. She specializing in remote sensing data collection using drones.

A moderate trail that was challenging. It took approximately 1 1/2 hours to complete. We encountered several rock climbers scaling the cliffs. She warned me about the mountain goats kicking rocks off the cliffs above. This was my first time wearing a helmet while hiking.

Grassi Lake, Alberta 2023

We descended to the bottom to see both lakes. The vivid blues and greens of both lakes were are a must see. The sign below explains this phenomenon.

Grassi Lake, Alberta 2023


Trees and Mental Health

Forest Bathing: Mental Health Today

8 Ways Nature Changes Your Brain: Conscious Nature

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