Nature’s Power to Heal

by Dr. Connie Hernandez, ND

Nature cures are increasingly catching the attention of medical researchers and physicians.

I was delighted to read a recent article by Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Most Americans Suffer from Nature Deficiency Syndrome.”

Mercola outlines the benefits of “ecotherapy” – which is just a long word for “spending more time in nature.”

The benefits include decreased anxiety, depression, and fatigue, improved self-esteem and social connections, and blood pressure regularization.

Mercola mentions one of my favorite nature cures. Research has confirmed the health benefits of Shinrin-yoku, “forest bathing” (spending time in the forest):  it lowers blood pressure, blood sugar, and cortisol (a stress- and aging-related hormone).

Kamikochi Mountain Forest, Japan

The Japanese government has designated special forest areas for forest bathing. Forest bathing guidance is now available in the U.S – check – or just make your way to the nearest woods.

Another popular Japanese nature cure is Misogi Shuho – the practice of purifying and invigorating the body and spirit by standing under waterfalls.

forest-bathingThe Shinto tradition prescribes practices to be performed before the waterfall cleanse, to awaken awareness of the vital force within. They include tensing the body, breathing, and chanting.

Okay, so not all of us live within an easy driving distance of waterfalls and forests. What are our options?

Dew walking – walking barefoot on dewy grass in the early morning – has surprising benefits: it stimulates the organs through acupressure, awakens the vital force, and enhances immunity.

Cardiac surgeon Stephen Sinatra, M.D. is the author of The Sinatra Solution and Earthing – The  most important health discovery ever? Dr. Sinatra reveals how contact with the earth restores our bodies to a healthy electromagnetic state and helps normalize cardiac function.

Researchers are finding that contact with Mother Earth is healing regardless of the form it takes, whether it’s mud baths, rock climbing, tree-hugging, or simply hiking and running in wild places.

trail-in-natureMany ancient traditions of healing tell us that the natural elements of earth, water, fire, and air resonate with important energy centers in our bodies, and that they help balance the function of the associated endocrine organs and nerve plexuses, and generally awaken the vital force.

Home-based therapies that use the water element to heal range from simple foot soaks to Epsom salt baths. Turning on the hot and cold taps in the shower alternately is a brisk way to improve vasodilation and vasoconstriction, and support circulation and lymphatic drainage.

To heal ourselves with the fire element, simple sun bathing will suffice – just remember that only “Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Midday Sun.” Nevertheless, exposing the whole body to moderate sunlight does a lot more than merely increase vitamin D levels.

basic-elements-1663243_960_720Infrared sauna treatments (a therapy that combines fire and water elements) fire-up the body’s immune response, and facilitate elimination and detoxification.

We can use the air element to promote all-round health through breathing exercises. Try this simple practice for balancing the sympathetic nervous system: inhale through the nose to a comfortable count of 10, hold the breath for a 10 count, and let the breath to escape slowly through the mouth for 10 seconds.

For lots more tips on stimulating the vital force through nature and lifestyle, see Vital Lifestyle – Your Self-Healing Handbook, by our wonderful new associate doctor, Benjamin Alter, ND and his partner and soon-to-be ND, Susanna McMillan. It’s available now in our office for $12 or through the Amazon link above.


Find out more about Dr. Connie’s work HERE.