A forest bathing trip increases human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins in female subjects

Source:  Journal of Biological Regulators & Homeostatic Agents. 2008 Jan-Mar;22(1):45-55.

Authors:  Li Q, Morimoto K, Kobayashi M, Inagaki H, Katsumata M, Hirata Y, Hirata K, Shimizu T, Li YJ, Wakayama Y, Kawada T, Ohira T, Takayama N, Kagawa T, Miyazaki Y.

Department of Hygiene and Public Health, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo, Japan.


We previously reported that forest bathing trips enhanced human NK activity, number of NK cells, and intracellular anti-cancer proteins in lymphocytes, and that the increased NK activity lasted for more than 7 days after the trip in male subjects. In the present study, we investigated the effect of forest bathing trip on human NK activity in female subjects. Thirteen healthy nurses, age 25-43 years, professional career 4-18 years, were selected with informed consent. The subjects experienced a three-day/two-night trip to forest fields. On day 1, the subjects walked for two hours in the afternoon in a forest field; on day 2, they walked for two hours each in the morning and afternoon in two different forest fields; and on day 3, the subjects finished the trip and returned to Tokyo after drawing blood and completing a questionnaire. Blood and urine were sampled on the second and third days during the trip, and on days 7 and 30 after the trip. NK activity, numbers of NK and T cells, and granulysin, perforin, and granzymes A/B-expressing lymphocytes in the blood samples, the concentrations of estradiol and progesterone in serum, and the concentrations of adrenaline and noradrenaline in urine were measured. Similar control measurements were made before the trip on a normal working day. The concentrations of phytoncides in the forests were measured. The forest bathing trip significantly increased NK activity and the numbers of NK, perforin, granulysin, and granzymes A/B-expressing cells and significantly decreased the percentage of T cells, and the concentrations of adrenaline and noradrenaline in urine. The increased NK activity lasted for more than 7 days after the trip. Phytoncides, such as alpha-pinene and beta-pinene were detected in forest air. These findings indicate that a forest bathing trip also increased NK activity, number of NK cells, and levels of intracellular anti-cancer proteins in female subjects, and that this effect lasted at least 7 days after the trip. Phytoncides released from trees and decreased stress hormone levels may partially contribute to the increased NK activity.


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