Psychology & Psychiatry

Natural remedies can benefit both physical and mental health.

Consider that a new medication is recommended to you by your doctor. You can consume as much as you want, and it is pleasant and enjoyable. Euphoria and being in a good mood are examples of potential side effects. Not to mention that it’s free and accessible everywhere.

Your doctor has not prescribed any medication or other treatment. Instead, it is a “nature prescription” that urges people to spend more time outdoors.

International research on natural remedies and their capacity to enhance health was evaluated by UNSW Sydney researchers. They looked at 28 studies that examined the effects of natural remedies on actual patients. Professors Thomas Astell-Burt from the University of Wollongong and Xiaoqi Feng from UNSW Medicine and Health, who are the co-directors of the Population Wellbeing and Environment Research Lab (PowerLab), led this study.

“Nature prescriptions can assist to recover and enhance capacities for greater physical and mental health, according to the data. What we need to figure out now is how to make nature prescriptions happen on a consistent basis for those folks who have a high potential to benefit but currently spend little time in nature.”

Professor Xiaoqi Feng from UNSW Medicine & Health.

Nature remedies were found to be beneficial for both physical and mental health, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published today in The Lancet Planetary Health. Patients had lower blood pressure, lower depression and anxiety scores, and more steps per day.

“Evidence suggests that using natural remedies can improve both physical and mental health by rebuilding and restoring capacities.” For those with a high potential for benefit but who currently spend little time in nature, we must figure out how to make nature prescriptions happen consistently, according to Prof. Feng.

Our health is improved by nature.
According to studies, being in touch with nature can help prevent negative effects like those brought on by smog, heat waves, and chronic stress while also promoting positive actions like social interaction and exercise. Loneliness, depression, and cardiovascular disease can all be avoided in this way.

“This study is based on a long-term program of research that we are conducting, where we show that contact with nature—and trees especially—is really good for bolstering mental and physical health throughout our lives,” said Prof. Feng.

A previous study conducted by Prof. Feng demonstrates how residing near specific kinds of green space can enhance health. For instance, those who lived in areas with at least 30% tree canopy in New South Wales (NSW) reported better overall health and less psychological distress. The $377 million strategy developed by the City of Sydney to achieve a 40 percent green cover by 2050 has been informed by this research.

But even if a park or other high-quality green space is close by, Prof. Feng

“The idea of a nature prescription comes from the question of how we can encourage and enable people to (re)connect with nature.”.

Bringing natural remedies into the mainstream.
There is an increase in the use of natural remedies as adjuncts to conventional medical treatment. Consider the U.S.K. In a pilot program for “green social prescribing,” the government recently allocated £5.77 million, and Canada has a national nature prescription program.

The public in Australia is becoming more interested in natural remedies. Earlier this year, Prof. More than 80% of people appeared to be open to the idea, according to Feng.

In Australia, there aren’t any sizable programs for prescribing nature, though. To comprehend how nature’s prescriptions might be put into practice in our local setting, more research is required.

There are no definitive answers for the following questions as of yet: “So how long should the nature prescription be for? What should be in the prescription? How should we deliver it, and by whom? Feng.

“We really need to present the evidence if we want nature prescriptions to become a national initiative.”.

Also crucial is that all Australians have access to natural remedies. previous study by Prof. In addition to Prof. Low-income neighborhoods have the lowest likelihood of having access to green space, according to Feng. The risk of chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease is higher in these communities.

“We don’t want nature prescriptions to be a luxury item for the wealthy, who already have access to beaches and a lot of excellent green space,” Prof. Feng stated. All of us want these advantages.

More information: Phi-Yen Nguyen et al, Effect of nature prescriptions on cardiometabolic and mental health, and physical activity: a systematic review, The Lancet Planetary Health (2023). DOI: 10.1016/S2542-5196(23)00025-6

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