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Doctors' nature prescriptions for health

Trees and bushes provide a healing environment on the Big Island, Hawaii.

Can you imagine going to your medical doctor and leaving with a prescription, not for pharmaceutical medicine, but for a nature prescription, something you can physically do to improve your health?


It's not the kind of prescription many people expect to receive from their doctor. Thanks to public health pediatrician Dr. Robert Zarr, it's the kind of prescription that more people are starting to receive.


Dr. Zarr began the nonprofit group, Park RX America (PRA) in 2017. Thanks to his initiative and to the network of health care professionals who now provide nature prescriptions to their patients, you might get a prescription that says something like this: "Walk along a trail near a pond or in a park with a friend, without earbuds, for half an hour twice a week."


Park RX America is a non-profit organization whose mission is to decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship. I read about this wonderful nonprofit, PRA, in a Feb. 1, 2024 article written by H. Patricia Hynes in truthdig, an award winning alternative news website at https://www.truthdig.com.


Several studies have shown that people who spend time in nature improve their health. Hynes wrote that Korean scientists "have confirmed that walking through forest areas improved older women's blood pressure, lung capacity and elasticity in their arteries." Those results can happen whether people walk in an actual forest or through an urban park with plenty of trees.


Hynes quotes Diana Beresford Kroeger in the article. Kroeger, born in Ireland, was educated in the ancient Celtic culture of spiritual and physical respect for trees. She has a doctorate in medical biochemistry. "A forest is a sacred place," Hynes quoted Kroeger as saying. "The medicines available in the forest are the second most valuable gift that nature offers us: the oxygen available there is the first."


Kroeger went on to say that when people walk through a pine forest, they benefit by the pinenes aerosols that the trees release and that are absorbed by our bodies.  Those chemical aerosols are "a balm for the body and soul."


People can benefit from trees even if they can't physically walk among them. Patients recovering from surgery who are hospitalized in a room with a window that looks out on nature often need fewer pain killers and heal more quickly. That benefit extends to students who have a view of nature from their classroom windows.


If you have a doctor who sometimes gives you nature prescriptions, consider yourself fortunate indeed.

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