The extensively-studied phenomenon known as “Forest Bathing” in Japan and South Korea and as “Kneipp Therapy” in Germany involves exposure to high concentrations of naturally-occurring aerosolized phytochemicals in conifer & deciduous forests.
This natural treatment for conditions ranging from asthma to dermatitis has been documented and validated by a raft of high-quality medical and scientific research.
There is no question that “Forest Bathing” has therapeutic benefits. For example, positive effects on NK (Natural Killer) cell activity have been shown with in vitro treatment of tumor cell lines with monoterpenes released from trees (and of course present in Cannabis flowers) such as d-limonene and α-pinene, and also in forest bathing trips. The anti-tumor effects act by increasing intra-cellular levels of anti-tumor proteins such as perforin, granulysin, and granzymes A/B.
Haven’t heard of “Forest Bathing”? I hadn’t either until I ran across it during some intense research into naturally-occurring environmental Cannabis terpene aerosols. The ancient Japanese natural health practice called “Shinrin Yoku”, defined as “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing”, has a wide range of rigorously tested and proven health benefits.
In 2005 the Japanese government introduced a nationwide “Therapeutic Effects of Forests Plan” that pays “Forest Bathing” health benefits. The government says that it pays for this therapy because of the proven reduction in other health care costs across the spectrum.
South Korean scientists and public health researchers have documented a wide range of positive health benefits from exposure to terpenes in the air of coniferous forests, with variations among the terpenes in different species of trees at different locations accounting for differences in the health benefits of inhalation of forest air.
They have divided the country into numerous micro-climes where particular combinations of coniferous tree species co-exist and perfume the air, each location offering a particular healing, stimulating mix of terpenes and other phytochemicals.
Interestingly, the dominant terpenes in the air of these forests are the same terpenes that characterize different Cannabis strains and the same kinds of variability in Cannabis strains similarly account for their differing health benefits.
There is also a natural medicinal therapy in Germany called “Kneipp Therapy”, that involves a series of exercise routines done in a terpene-rich forest environment. Kneipp Therapy has been studied using quality clinical research protocols and the exercises have been found to be significantly more beneficial when performed in a forest environment compared to other kinds of locations.
So, it’s both very interesting and very significant for establishing the validity of the Cannabis “Entourage Effect” that the dominant terpene profiles of all of the therapeutic forests studied in the Japanese and Korean “Forest Bath” scientific literature (cited below) appear to be various combinations of myrcene, pinene, limonene, linelool, and a number of less-celebrated but still important Cannabis terpenes like cynene, terpinene and boneal. There are many other “minor” phytochemicals shared between the airborne perfumes of Cannabis flowers and therapeutic forests, and almost certainly many of these will ultimately be shown to play significant roles in both the Forest and the Cannabis “Entourage Effect”.
Bottom line – I believe that there is an inescapable argument in favor of the Cannabis “Entourage Effect” presented by the “Forest Entourage Effect”, which itself is definitively established in international, if not US, scientific and medical literature.
There has been extensive research in multiple advanced countries on the health benefits of exposure by inhalation and skin absorption to the airborne terpenes in forest environments – interestingly enough, these turn out to be the same terpenes that are inhaled in the vapors from Cannabis flowers.
“Forest Bathing” research establishes that inhaling a naturally-occurring mix of terpene emissions or vapors has far greater health benefits than exposure to or ingestion of any of the terpenes and other phytochemicals singularly, like in a pill or other oral or topical medication.
Cannabis visionaries have always known that the THC was only one element of the sensual pleasures and only one of the sources of health benefits from the sacred flower, just as wine lovers have always known that the alcohol is only a relatively small part of their total experience. Nobody drinks a bottle of Etude Pinot Noir or Chateau Pomerol Bordeaux for the alcohol, and nobody chooses which Cannabis flower to enjoy simply on the basis of THC content, although that approach seems to dominate much of today’s adolescent-style Cannabis marketing. Even the most dedicated couch-locked stoner knows very well that there is a world beyond THC and may spend a lot of time (if they’re not too ripped) thinking about taste and aroma options when they’re choosing between Durban Poison and Granddaddy Purple.
However, the concept of a Cannabis “Entourage Effect” has been universally ridiculed by anti-Cannabis forces who say that the supposed variety of effects of different Cannabis strains is simply a kind of mass delusion. They claim that there is no evidence that different phytochemical profiles of different Cannabis strains signal different health and well-being effects, and say that in their expert, informed scientific opinion such observations are imaginary. While their criticisms are couched in the careful, apparently rational language of science, and even rated a major article in Scientific American in 2017, all of the criticisms amount to a simple “It’s all in your head” dismissal.
In other words, the anti-Cannabis establishment says tough, there’s no scientific evidence to support your claim, and there’s not going to be any evidence either because we aren’t going to fund research.
Well, I’ve got some news for these die-hard prohibitionists.
OK, they have managed to impede research that could validate many of the medical benefits of the whole Cannabis Flower as opposed to plain old THC extract. With notable medical research exceptions, many of the health and sensual benefits ascribed to the Cannabis Flower are currently only validated by experience and consensus, both of which the scientists are fond of reminding us can be way off target. They point to the flat earth delusion, or to many other instances where “everybody knows” something that simply isn’t true, and smugly point out that nobody can prove all these marvelous things we’re saying about Cannabis.
It’s hard to find a reasonable explanation of why the Federal government has arrayed its dark-side powers against the Cannabis flower, but in this match between the Flower and the Power it’s beginning to look like the Power is going to lose this one because Forest Bathing research actually provides plenty of evidence . The research unequivocally supports the validity of the “Entourage Effect” by demonstrating that naturally-occurring environmental terpene and phytochemical aerosols do have measurable, verifiable positive impacts on overall health as well as on specific diseases and conditions, and do vary among forest tree species and environments in the same ways that Cannabis flowers vary among strains in response to environmental variables.
Forest Bathing research is directly applicable to validating the “Entourage Effect” of Cannabis terpenes and phytochemicals that are widely observed but, according to the Federal propagandists, not “scientifically verified”. As an example, there is solid research that says that terpene emissions from plants are directly correlated with the concentration of terpenes in the plant. The higher the concentration of terpenes, the greater the emissions from the plant. “Forest Bathing” research naturally focuses on terpene emissions from coniferous and to a lesser degree deciduous trees, but the relationship between terpene concentrations and emission rates has been widely replicated in studies with agricultural crops and seems to apply to all plants.
The bottom line is that clinical literature as well as popular wisdom in several countries points to the health benefits of inhaling and “bathing in” an atmosphere rich in terpenes and other phytochemicals. While the health benefits of many of the individual components of this phyto-soup are only recently becoming well-known, the benefits of exposure to the entire environmental complex of a pine/conifer forest are familiar to anyone who has ever walked outdoors that first morning in a forest campground.
A recent study concluded: “Exposure to natural environment is beneficial to human health. Among environmental exposures, the effects of forest have been emphasized in many studies. Recently, it has been shown that a short trip to forest environments has therapeutic effects in children with asthma and atopic dermatitis. Based on these studies, healthcare programs to use forest have been developed in several countries. Forest bathing has beneficial effects on human health via showering of forest aerosols. Terpenes that consist of multiple isoprene units are the largest class of organic compounds produced by various plants, and one of the major components of forest aerosols. Traditionally, terpene-containing plant oil has been used to treat various diseases without knowing the exact functions or the mechanisms of action of the individual bioactive compounds.”
So, it’s clear that relaxing for a few hours in a forest environment filled with terpenes can be beneficial and even therapeutic for people with a wide range of diseases and conditions from dermatitis to cancer. Do a simple internet search for “forest bathing’ and you’ll find books, resorts, videos and even classes. But enter “cannabis bathing” into a search and you’ll get bath salts, bubble bath, and a lot of fruit-flavored massage and lubricating oils.
For the past year or so I have been exclusively using a vaporizer to enjoy Cannabis flowers and I can add my experiences to the observations of many others that whole flower Cannabis vapor is a marvelous clean, natural high which, now that I realize it, is almost exactly like stepping out of my tent high in the pine forests of the Oregon Cascades and inhaling that first breath of vibrant, aromatic, high-energy mountain air.
So in my opinion all this research on “Forest Bathing” makes the smug “You can’t prove it and we’re not going to let you” chant of the anti-Cannabis “scientists” pretty much irrelevant. Sooner or later there will actually be research on every aspect of inhaled and absorbed Cannabis terpenes and other phytochemicals but until then the parallel research on Forest Bathing should be more than adequate scientific evidence for any reasonable person of the validity of the Cannabis “Entourage Effect”.
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I’ve just finished watching a very interesting documentary on a couple of Cannabis strain-hunters on a mission to discover a new Landrace Congo strain, and although these guys are well-respected in the Cannabis community and have made a lot of money with their seed business, I have to say that the documentary reveals an extraordinary level of naivete, even foolhardiness, and really just plain stupidity.
Almost from the beginning we can see signs of defective thinking. Who goes into the Congo in sneakers and a T-Shirt? Who doesn’t understand that knowing how to bargain is critical anywhere in Africa? Who is naïve enough to think that anybody in the Congo is going to show you the “good stuff” just because you show up with a few bucks? And who in their right mind talks about how much money they are going to make from the seeds they’re looking for without understanding that at least some of those silent, sweaty “natives” around them can understand what they are saying perfectly well, and are very practiced in not revealing to the White Man that they understand?
Didn’t these guys even once, even a little bit, feel like a rabbit staring into the mouth of a Leopard? Apparently not. Even though these intrepid strain hunters are Dutch, evidently they learned nothing from the hundreds of years that their ancestors spent exploiting indigenous people worldwide, and in many cases doing so with brutal effectiveness.
So, as you’ll see in the video, after many trials and travails the mighty strain hunters, who brag about how rich they’ve become in the Cannabis seed business and how the legendary Congo strain they’re after is going to make them even richer, finally arrive at a suspiciously well-tended field of so-so mature plants. And they are ecstatic, high-fiving themselves and explaining to the camera how they love their mission of getting people high and – oh yes – a bow to Cannabis as a medicine, with that wink and nod sort of “everyone gets the joke” expression on their faces. One of the really hilarious moments in the video is when one of the strain hunters asks the local chief how the people use Cannabis as a medicine and, after looking like he’s just found a turd in his soup, the Chief explains that they simply use it as a stimulant.
So, after gathering their seeds and getting ready to leave they are confronted by a large group of angry people who somehow seem to have figured out that these White guys didn’t come all this way to simply gather a few seeds – they were planning to get rich. I guess the Congolese people had seen white men come to the Congo to steal its resources before – ya think? Anyhow, the interviewer asks one of the strain hunters on camera if he has any plans to share any of his millions with the natives and, in his best Dutch “who gives a shit” accent he says no, that’s not how the business works.
Somehow, probably because God watches over fools and babies, the strain hunters make it out of the Congo with their seeds and nuts intact and we next see them six months later in a lab in Switzerland, where they have grown plants from their precious Congo seed. We follow them as they pick a few buds and take them to the lab, where we all anxiously await the result.
And here it comes. Wow! 8% THC. The strain hunters, trying hard to look credible, explain to the camera that 8% is really, really strong. And the, the thing they’ve really been looking for – the concentration of THC-V. 1%! Yikes – that is super, super high. One of them says that they’ve never seen THC-V that high in any Cannabis strain. And best of all, he said this with an absolutely straight, choirboy face. Really. Never seen anything this high. We have a super African strain here. (hint – ever checked out Durban Poison?)
Well, that’s about the end of the video, except that we see Mr. T-shirt back in the Congo riding along in a dugout, as he had evidently returned to continue the hunt, intent on ripping off even more seeds (and no doubt secretly hoping for something just a bit more potent) from the unsuspecting natives. But alas, we learn that he contracted Malaria and died in 2017.
He went to the Congo dressed for summertime in the Netherlands, T-Shirt and Hi-Tops, without dosing up on anti-malarials or quite likely not on anything else to counter the hundred or so killer diseases that anyone who is unprotected routinely contracts in the Congo. RIP. Natural selection wins again.
I know a little about preparing for Africa because I spent nearly two years in Africa very close to the Congo and I was lucky – I only got schistosomiasis. A few shots of antimony tartrate administered by a 10 inch needle through the tummy into the liver and I was right as rain again. But if I were even thinking of going into the Congo to search for a landrace strain of Cannabis I would watch this video again and do absolutely everything 180 degrees differently than these rather silly people. Especially bragging about how rich I was going to be. Because you see, one major mistake that nearly every stupid white man makes around “natives” is assuming that they can speak with other white guys in English and none of the stupid natives will understand. Makes me wonder how many conversations they had about how rich they were going to be with this Congo Landrace strain within earshot of the “natives” who I am very sure gave no clue they were listening and understanding every word.
I’m happy for the Dutch guys that they are successful and rich, even though one of them has just discovered that you can’t take it with you, and have provided the world with a lot of great Cannabis seeds. I did my own little share of strain hunting in the mid-60’s when I brought back seeds of Acapulco Gold and Oaxaca Purple and gave them out to grower friends in Northern California and Oregon.
I got my seeds by buying a kilo or so of Marijuana from growers straight out of the fields of Zihuantanejo and then Oaxaca. I first spent a couple of months living in each place, making friends with people, and getting to know who were the best growers, and I paid them top dollar for the top of the harvest. Then I spent a few days in my casita sorting out the mature seeds – this was before the days of Sinsemilla, so all Mexican marijuana came with plenty of seeds – and once I had my stash of nice fat little seeds I turned around and handed out free Marijuana to my Mexican friends around town and came back to the States without a single leaf or flower – just some seeds in a couple of small tins that didn’t attract any attention.
Then when I got to visiting with my grower friends in Northern Cali and Oregon I handed out my treasures, and I like to think that I had at last some small part in what became a thriving industry in those places that produced, among other memorable strains, Humboldt Purple – clearly at least partially a descendant of Oaxacan seed.
By giving away my seeds I guess I missed my chance to become rich and famous in the Cannabis seed biz – although I did take what I learned along the way and wrote “The Cultivators Handbook of Marijuana in 1968-69, and that little yellow book did pretty well, without my having to rip anyone off along the way. So, even though I haven’t become rich and famous and won all kind of Cannabis glory, I am 75 and still going strong, and proud that I played my part in bringing some of the original Landrace Cannabis strains back to growers in the US. Life is good. A hell of a lot better than dying of Malaria while trying to screw a bunch of poor people in the Congo out of their rightful heritage in the name of “business”.