Gardeners Might Not Know That Soil Is An Antidepressant

by Jane Chitty
(Somerset, England)

Many of us enjoy gardening whether it is for food (fresh fruit and vegetables), for the flowers or a combination of the two.  In addition, gardening gives us a host of health benefits but you might not know that...

Soil is an antidepressant

Soil has been found to have similar effects on the brain as antidepressants – to lift mood. A study by the University of Bristol (and colleagues at University College London) looked at how mice exposed to ‘friendly’ bacteria normally found in soil, altered their behaviour in much the same way as that produced by an antidepressant.

Dr Chris Lowry, leader of the research, said: “These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health. They also leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all be spending more time playing in the dirt.”

When the team looked closely at the brains of mice, they found treatment with the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae activated a group of neurons that produce the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates mood.

You can benefit from this bacteria too because if you are busy gardening:

You will inhale the bacteria
Have physical contact with it and
Reap the benefits for up to 3 weeks
Further research is still being carried out by this research team to ascertain whether mycobacterium antidepressant microbes in soil could also improve cognitive function, Crohn’s disease and even rheumatoid arthritis.

Incorporating mindfulness

Gardening is thought to help a lot of gardeners get into a flow state where they don’t notice that time is passing, tend to switch off worrying and think about other things such as making plans. They are less likely to dwell on rehashing the past. Gardening produces a state of mindfulness, literally connecting them to the earth.


Sunlight exposure for raising vitamin D levels and more

The summer months are the perfect time to increase your sunlight exposure, stripping off to minimum clothing for at least part of the time you work in the garden (and especially between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm). If you are fair skinned, move out of the sun or cover up as soon as your skin starts to turn pink.  The darker your skin, the longer you can stay in the sun - but it is always vital to avoid sunburn.

With much of our population being vitamin deficient, the aim is to raise your vitamin levels to at least 40 to 60 ng/ml and preferably higher. The secret is in regular testing. Sufficiently high levels of vitamin D are beneficial to your health in a hundred different ways including helping to prevent Alzheimer’s. If you cannot get enough vitamin D from the sun (especially during the winter months), supplement with good quality of vitamin D3.

Boosting brain health

Gardening exercises your mind as well as your body. It utilises several of our brain functions including learning, problem solving and sensory awareness, keeping our minds active. Studies have shown the benefits of therapeutic gardens for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Exercise (including that used in gardening) can help to make your brain 10 years younger than your actual age.  And while you are working in your garden, make sure you have rosemary growing so that you can have a daily sniff of this herb for a further brain boost.

Gardening on prescription

Doctors in London in the UK have started prescribing gardening time, with the help of Lambeth GP Food Co-operative, to harness the physical and mental therapeutic benefits of gardening while growing more local produce. Launched in 2013 at the Brockwell Park Surgery, South London, the idea has now spread to several other medical centres where unused outdoor space is turned into gardens for patients to grow fruit and vegetables.

The Food Co-operative’s director Ed Rosen says, “We began this with a specific focus on patients with long-term health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis and asthma. Our patients tend to be older as they have developed long-term health conditions later in life. They also tend to be more socially isolated and lonely than younger people because often their partners have died or their families have moved away.  We wanted to create a health generating activity that people will enjoy.”

The benefits of horticultural therapy have been found to include a reduction of pain, improvement in attention, lessening of stress and a reduction in falls.

Here in the UK, Monty Don is one of our most popular TV gardening presenters

He says: “I’ve noticed that gardening tends to become more popular at times of uncertainty and slightly less popular in times of greater affluence. If the world is becoming an uncertain and alarming place, there is a great comfort in your garden, a security in it and a sense that you are dealing in eternal verities as opposed to uncertainties.”

Along with the information that soil acts as an antidepressant, the other health benefits make it very clear that gardening can be the perfect natural remedy for anxiety, aging, loss of attention and so much more.  Time to get down and dirty!

Learn more about overcoming depression and low mood here

Author Bio: Jane Chitty writes for Healing Natural Oils, a producer and retailer of high-quality, all-natural treatments for a variety of conditions. After a childhood in Kenya, spending the swinging sixties in the UK, and living for many years in Cape Town, South Africa, Jane has now settled again in the UK but regularly visits the USA where she has close family. She is interested in writing about natural treatments and lifestyles – especially in the areas of health, green living, and nutrition – in all these very different countries." blog.html

Comments for Gardeners Might Not Know That Soil Is An Antidepressant

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by: Valerie

Thanks Jane, nothing like getting your hands in the soil to feel good and connected to nature.

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