I recently found myself in Paradise – literally. Nestled at the end of Glenorchy is the most stunning 300 acre property open to the public all year round. For 3 blissful hours I was transported into another realm and those precious moments allowed me to contemplate the power of the forest and how it can benefit our mind, body and spirit.
Here is my week on my discovery on the magical wonders and benefits of the New Zealand forest
Day 1. Forest Bathing
I had planned on going for a hike but was inspired by a friends recent walking adventure which was a soulful experience of meandering with no particular destination in mind. When you meander you slow down and become immersed in the natural environment – beautifully referred to as forest bathing. The practice began in Japan. Back in the early 1990s the Japanese Ministry of Forestry and coined the term Shinrin-yoku — which translates roughly as forest bathing.
I headed into a peaceful little forest in Matakana to experience some forest bathing and collect pine cones with my brother Danvers. Tuning into the smells, textures, and sights of the forest had the most calming effect and I really understood how the practice of forest bathing is so beneficial for brain health. While of course you get the benefits of the physical activity, researchers have found that the forest environment can lead to more significant reductions in blood pressure and stress hormones. Stress of course is a big contributer to Alzheimer’s so I have made a promise to myself that regular forest bathing will be my new zen time.
Day 2. Pinus Radiata
Our New Zealand Forest is like nature’s medicine cupboard and one tree in particular is gaining special and much deserved attention due to its incredible ability to help the brain. The New Zealand Pine Tree – Pinus Radiata. A potent extract from the bark of this statuesque tree called Enzogenol has been created using an incredible water extraction process . The pine extract is a highly effective mixture of natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant compounds. This power packed potion is available in several different supplements – my fav is Humanature. What drew me to it was they have four different variations for different needs with Enzogenol as the base. I have been taking “Make Me Feel Smarter” which had me at the name before I had swallowed my first pill. But did it really work? With the addition of Pure DHA-rich Fish Oil and Omega-3 essential fatty acids this winning combo offered a powerful punch and I did notice my level of concentration after 3 weeks had improved. What I was more excited about was the potential to improve spatial working memory and may act to reduce the effects of ageing on cognition. As quoted by Dr Matt Frevel, Chief Science Officer.- “If you want to keep all your marbles as you age the right nutrition is a critical factor, and taking Humanature’s Enzogenol regularly can make a huge contribution to that end!” With that in mind “Make Me Feel Smarter ” and the addition of “Get My Guts Sorted” will be sitting next to my smoothie every morning.
Day 3. Greenery in your work space
The constant craziness of the city can be mentally exhausting, and work life in an office devoid of greenery can dull our thinking. According to a study a few minutes in a crowded city setting can cause the brain to suffer memory loss and reduced self-control. Not having nature views or indoor plants are associated with higher levels of tension and anxiety at work.
I am lucky to have gorgeous plants in our office thanks to Bruce, my wonderful land scape gardener friend and my very generous business partner who is plant mad. Brucie gave me some great advice on why it is important to have green in your life. Even brief glimpses of natural elements improve brain performance by providing a cognitive break from the complex demands of urban living. While most of us don’t have forests on our back doorsteps to our place of work, let alone home, you can of course bring the forest to your office, well at least a few plants, that can create harmony and are essential for brain health.
Day 4 Rongoa – Maori Herbal Medicine
The unique therapeutic properties of New Zealand’s native herbs – many collected from the forest have been used by the Maori People for hundreds of years for medicine and is called Rongoa. What is rongoā?
Rongoā is traditional Māori medicine – a system of healing that was passed on orally. It comprised diverse practices and an emphasis on the spiritual dimension of health. Rongoā includes herbal remedies, physical therapies such as massage and manipulation, and spiritual healing.
New Zealand native herbs have been valued both by Maori and by early European settlers for their unique healing properties. More than ever there is an awareness of natural healing and I was fascinated to discover what many of our NZ natives have the potential to help all sorts of aliments. New Zealand Herb website has some great information.
Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) – This plant is one of the best known NZ natives The oil is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-fungal. The tincture made from Manuka contains the properties of the oil, but also has a natural astringency, making it perfect for improving tissue healing.
Koromiko (Hebe salicifolia, H. stricta) – Naturally anti-microbial and astringent, this is a wonderful aid for healing anything weepy, oozy or infected, both internally and externally.
Totara (Podocarpus totara) – Totara is naturally anti-microbial and has been found to be effective against strains of Staphylococcus aureus that were unresponsive to pharmaceutical antibiotic treatments.
Poroporo (Solanum aviculare, S. laciniatum) – Contains natural plant steroids to help reduce inflammation and infection. Strictly for topical (external) use only.
Hoheria (Hoheria populnea) – This not as well known herb is a soothing and used for all kinds of coughs and digestive upsets and helps reduce inflammation throughout the body’s tissues.
Tanekaha (Phyllocladus trichomanoides) – An ancient tree that is powerfully astringent, this is a fantastic aid to fighting infection and for skin repair.
Kawakawa (Macropiper excelsum) – has a multitude of uses and is indeed a herbal friend for digestive upsets, bloating, cramping, coldness or circulation problems, pain and inflammation. It is naturally anti-microbial and helps fight infection. Find a leaf that has been munched by insects which means it has even more super power for healing. My favourite!
The beauty and power of the forest evokes positive emotions, enhances cognitive functioning, and promotes recovery from mental fatigue and depression. Meandering through the forest or even your local park will enhance your wellness and your family. With the combination of nature and natural medicine the forest can offer has huge potential for brain health so embrace the Power of the Forest for a Beautiful Mind.