Forest Medicine: South Korea

“May your search through nature lead you to yourself” - Unknown

Part of South Korea’s prescription to improve its citizens’ health and wellbeing is the establishment of dozens of ‘Healing Forests’ - they have an ambitious plan to designate 37 forests within the next few years!

Currently, the Korean Forest Service (KFS) trains instructors to develop and provide specialized forest healing services to the public. The agency now offers everything from prenatal classes in the woods to forest kindergartens. There is even a “Happy Train” that delivers school bullies to a national forest for two days so they can learn to be nicer.

South Korean studies show that a 30-minute forest walk decreases negative feelings such as stress, depression, anger, fatigue, anxiety, and confusion -- and improves cognitive skills. Participating in a forest healing program also has shown to increase self-esteem and psychological stability in people suffering from depression and alcoholism.

The Plants

Berberis koreana

  • Native to Korea, northeastern China, and parts of East Asia
  • Berberine, universally present in rhizomes of Berberis species, has marked antibacterial effects. Since it is not appreciably absorbed by the body, it is used orally in the treatment of various enteric infections, especially bacterial dysentery.
  • It should not be used with Glycyrrhiza species (Licorice) because this nullifies the effects of the berberine.
  • Berberine has also shown anti-tumor activity.

Poncirus trifoliata

  • Native to Korea.
  • The immature fruit has long been used as anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic agent to treat gastrointestinal disorders and pulmonary diseases such as indigestion, constipation, chest fullness, chest pain, bronchitis, and sputum.
  • Extract from the plant has recently been reported to possess anticancer properties and studies show potential for use as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of oral cancer.

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