Can a nature hike be as healing as medical treatments? Possibly, says Dr Howard Frumkin, chairman of environmental and occupational health at Emory University in Atlanta.
"In the field of environmental health, typically we study exposures to pesticides and toxins, but there may be a positive side to environmental contacts," says Frumkin in an ABC News article.
Frumkin surveyed the medical literature from the past few decades and found several studies showing how the environment or contact with nature could provide medical benefits to some people.
Several studies showed how pet owners had fewer health problems and better survival rates after having a heart attack.
Another study compared the effect of a view of trees or a brown brick wall on patients after surgery. Those who faced the trees had shorter hospital stays, less need for pain medication and fewer complications.
Depressed adolescents given a chance to walk in the wilderness felt better than those who did not have the experience.
Community gardens also have been shown to have benefits for geriatric, psychiatric and developmental disabilities programs.
Frumkin's review is published in the current issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Nature is often the source of many prescription drugs and healing herbs as well.
In Mexico, scientists found common weeds that grow in old fields and by the side of the road that were being used to treat many ailments, including gastrointestinal distress, motion sickness, respiratory illnesses, skin conditions and even mental disorders.
“Nature is something architects, travel agents, realtors and most people know makes them feel better,” Frumkin says. “Perhaps physicians have overlooked its benefits.”