Health & Happiness: The healing power of nature

By Jennifer Means, ND, LAC

One of the basic tenets of naturopathic medicine is “Vis Medicatrix Naturae” or The Healing Power of Nature. This is the inherent self-organizing process of living systems which establishes, maintains and restores health.

To me, this speaks to the intelligence of the vital force that strives for balance and health, and that heals us when we are ill or injured. It is in our bodies. It is in our food. It is in our plant medicine. It is an inherent force in our natural world. Just look at the Columbia River Gorge. Last year, it was devastated by a massive forest fire. This year, it is full of new growth. In time, Nature will heal the land. The forest will return.

But as we get more obsessed with our electronic devices, our on line connections to the world at large, we lose this vital connection. We are more likely to feel alienated and more prone to reduced attention spans.  Richard Louv called this “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his book, Last Child in the Woods. Children and young adults are especially vulnerable to this disorder.

There is an immense amount of research showing that nature is good for our health. Spending time in nature reduces stress, lowers our blood pressure, improves our mental outlook, gives us good nutrients like oxygen and vitamin D, and decreases pain.

Being in nature increases dopamine and serotonin in our brains – chemicals that are associated with improved sense of satisfaction and motivation. Nature reduces anger, stress and aggression. It promotes a sense of community, it promotes healthy babies. Nature is a powerful antidepressant.

And as we spend time in nature, as we begin to recognize and appreciate the medicine of natural spaces, we become more inclined to maintain and protect them. Nature becomes more than a commodity. It becomes part of our community.

So, for quick relief from stress, alienation and depression, put your electronics away and spend an afternoon hiking, or strolling through a garden, or reading a book under a tree in a neighborhood park. Consider it medicine. The Vis Medicatrix Naturae.

Dr. Jennifer Means & Dr. Elizabeth Elliott welcome you for Primary Care for the whole family: Nutrition, IV Therapy, Naturopathy, and Acupuncture. For more information, contact us at 503-641-6400.