Forest Medicine: Scandinavia

"The greatest medicine of all is teaching people how not to need it" - Hippocrates

The Scandinavian philosophy of ‘free air living’ or Friluftsliv refers to a philosophical lifestyle based on experiencing freedom in nature and spiritual connectedness with the landscape.

Scandinavians believe the reward of this connectedness with the landscape, they believe, is a strong sensation of higher consciousness and a spiritual wholeness. The Finnish government even backs this philosophy up – by recommending five hours of forest time per month to its citizens as a prescription for better health.

The Plants

Fagus sylvatica

  • Native to forests throughout southern Scandinavia to Sicily, from Spain in the west to northwest Turkey in the east.
  • An ancient Greek belief is that beechnuts, called ‘mast’, were the first food eaten by humans and thus, the name Fagus is derived from the Greek phago, meaning ‘to eat up’; other sources suggest this refers to the fondness of pigs for beechnuts. Preparations are needed to neutralize the toxins held within the raw nuts and therefore they should never be consumed raw.
  • The story of beech includes more than 100 uses for its wood, bark, leaves, flowers and nuts.
  • The leaves of this tree contain significant amounts of fitosterina, a wax and a glycosidic substance.
  • The fruits contain a high percentage of oil, whose main component is olein (a liquid fat).
  • In the bark of the tree is tannic substances, pectin, waxes, fitosterina and some organic acids.
  • Beechwood makes an excellent charcoal which is a remedy for bloating, flatulence and dysentery (in all cases where it is appropriate to absorb excess gases produced). This coal is also an excellent dentifrice.

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