Why trees and healing?

Trees provide important medicines for humans, such as Taxol, which is derived from the Pacific yew and used to treat ovarian cancer. Trees can also provide hope and inspiration for the recovery of injured and ill people. A forest ecologist spoke to groups of medical students and health practitioners about the connections between trees and healing and how trees can be used to inspire patients and speed their recovery processes.

Trees lead by example

Trees can help heal humans directly by providing medicines from their tissues and extracts. Trees can also help heal people by being examples for living with injury or disease. Images of trees can be projected in hospital rooms as inspirations to recovering patients. Amputee victims may benefit from learning of trees that have lost limbs, yet endure and continue to be strong and vibrant in spite of their injury. Cancer patients may be consoled to learn that many trees with tumors, called burls, sustain themselves for centuries.

To see a tree

Behavioral psychology studies show that patients who undergo the same surgery healed at different rates, dependent upon the view from their window. Patients who viewed a tree were in the hospital significantly fewer days, required fewer narcotics, and had significantly fewer complications from their surgeries than those who viewed a blank wall.

What were the outcomes?

Results from the study about patient views in hospital rooms has influenced the design of hospitals and centers for the elderly. 65% of medical student residents thought the talk given by the forest ecologist was useful or very useful in improving their ability to treat patients. Several doctors indicated they were more open to these non-traditional forms of healing because they were presented by an established academic colleague in a scientific (though non-medical) field.