Throughout history, human contact with nature and natural elements has been associated with health, whether physical or psychological. Among the Greeks, Aristotle attributed therapeutic virtues to the colour green and philosophers found inspiration in olive tree-filled gardens, a tree considered miraculous. Among the Celts, druids used mistletoe to brew healing potions and venerated old oak trees. In the Middle Ages, poultices were made using birch buds and alder leaves. These are but a few examples. Last but not least is aspirin, one of the most used drugs in the world, which is a derivative of salicylic acid and once extracted from willow bark.
Apart from the development of medications, it was not until the 20th century that science confirmed the benefits of nature on human health. For some forty years, several studies in environmental psychology have revealed what people have always known intuitively. Contact with nature or merely with natural elements has a beneficial impact on human health. In a literature review for his own study on the topic, David Robert Fell, a professor at the University of British Columbia, cites the results of several studies in this area, such as better recovery after surgery for patients with a hospital room window overlooking a green space, higher pain threshold among patients in a room with plants, more creativity in the presence of plants, increased attention span and reduced stress in a natural environment.
Three studies cited by Fell even suggested that natural elements do not need to be alive to provide a sense of physical or psychological well-being. For instance, the mere presence of wood in an indoor environment not only promotes creativity, but also relaxation, by lowering blood pressure and heart rate of those in the room.
This is also what Fell showed in his research. He found that visible wood surfaces in a room contributed to lowering activity in the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) of persons in this room. The SNS controls the physiological response to stress (e.g. heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, adrenaline).
(Source: The many virtues of hardwoods)
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