Bonsai as a therapy

We all heard of the positive health effects of walking in the forest. There’s even a name for it that I forgot at the moment. But what if you cannot go due to lack of mobility? Well, it turns out you can have the same effect bringing the forest to the patients. In the scientific paper below, the authors do that. It is a small sample of people but interesting nonetheless.

Here is the abstract:

“Nature therapy has been demonstrated to induce physiological relaxation. The psychophysiological effects of nature therapy (stimulation with bonsai trees) on adult male patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) were examined. Oxyhemoglobin concentration changes in the prefrontal cortex were measured using near-infrared spectroscopy, and heart rate variability was analyzed. Psychological responses were evaluated using the modified semantic differential method and Profile of Mood States (POMS) subscale scores. Visual stimulation of adult male patients with SCI elicited significantly decreased left prefrontal cortex activity, increased parasympathetic nervous activity, decreased sympathetic nervous activity, increased positive feelings, and resulted in lower negative POMS subscale scores. Nature therapy can lead to a state of physiological and psychological relaxation in patients with SCI.”

Ochiai et al. Effects of Visual Stimulation with Bonsai Trees on Adult Male Patients with Spinal Cord Injury. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Sep; 14(9): 1017.


Completely on board with “spending time in/looking at natural environments is good for the brain and body.”

However, a word of caution: I know you didn’t intend it this way, but “nature therapy” and similar have, in recent years, been used to (1) denigrate people with severe and persistent physical and mental illnesses and (2) increasingly, to deny them – us – access to necessary treatment, including medication.

Nature isn’t therapy; therapy is therapy. Natural environments are demonstrably good for you, but they can’t replace psychiatric or physiological health care.

Bonsai on. :slight_smile:

(Citations: I was diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental illness ten years ago; I’m a relatively senior civil servant whose entire career has been spent managing and now administering programs primarily for people with severe and persistent disabilities.)


I am 100% with you @hierophantic, I am a scientist and I do not condone any WooWoo in any forms. There’s no replacement for real validated medical treatments, but if spending time in nature or bringing nature to spend time with you help in the general wellbeing why not - but for sure not at the expense of proper effective mainstream medical treatments that are the best science can offer.