Using “Bioenergetic Landscapes” in Italy to Improve Human Well-Being

One of the purposes of Hiking Research is to bring to the forefront how nature is utilized to improve health and well-being. I have recently had the opportunity to learn about the work of Marco Nieri of Bologna, Italy, an ecodesigner, and researcher on the energetic influence of plants. He is the founder of  the Bioenergetic Landscapes Laboratory which studies how the energy produced by plants impacts human well-being.The use of “Bioenergetic Landscapes” is an innovative technique that utilizes plants and trees for human well-being based on the belief that the electromagnetic interaction between plants and humans impacts our well-being.

Marco Nieri Photo courtesy Marco Nieri

Marco Nieri
Photo courtesy Marco Nieri

Marco collaborated for over 15 years with Dr. Walter Kunnen of Antwerp (Belgium), who in 1960 founded “Archibo Biologica”, an important independent center of scientific research on the biosphere and the energetic influences on living organisms conveyed by natural and artificial electromagnetism, a point of reference for hundreds of doctors and naturopaths throughout Europe.

Marco and I have been communicating for several months, and I wanted to share some of what I have learned. Marco’s work with Bioenergetic Landscapes is fascinating, and as with all areas focused on how nature impacts human health, a strong base of empirical research is needed to provide a clearer understanding of the benefits that plants provide through the energy they produce.

Talk about your background and how you became interested in this.

Marco Nieri: In the 80s I worked as an interior designer and I used, for deep conviction, eco-friendly and biocompatible materials. At that time the market was not very prepared for this, but I was concerned to take this challenge very seriously to understand which were the elements that could affect our state of pleasure and well-being in the living environment. For this I attended dozens of courses in Italy and abroad on most various matters, from Feng Shui, to the influence of colors, shapes and the visible and invisible in our lives, as well as the chronobiology and geopathic fields.

In the early 90s, I met a Belgian independent researcher, Dr. Walter Kunnen, who had founded in 1960 in Antwerp “Archibo Biologica”, an independent institute of research about  the influence of Biosphere on health. His acquaintance was crucial for me and in the fifteen years that I worked with him, I understood the enormous importance of natural and artificial (unfortunately) electromagnetism over the existence of all living beings and how to measure the possible effects either on the environment or on the organism. All this through a non-conventional approach and measurement system, but a system able to provide accurate and useful biological information. With this knowledge I was able to devote myself to the study of bio-electromagnetism in vegetable field, my real passion, investigating the electromagnetic interactions between the biosphere, the trees and the human being.

Explain what a bioenergetic landscape is.  Have you studied gardens in areas outside of Italy?

Marco Nieri: Today we know that living organisms regulate all biological processes through their electromagnetic phenomena and therefore emanate measurable energy fields that constantly interact with the environment.

The deep analysis of this subject allowed me to develop an innovative discipline, called    “Bioenergetic Landscapes ” , which uses the natural electromagnetic fields to design and implement “Bioenergetic” parks and gardens with particular benefit for our body.

A group of tree huggers. Photo courtesy of Marco Nieri

A group of tree huggers.
Photo courtesy of Marco Nieri

This technique allows to check with specific measurements that each species or genus of plant emits weak electromagnetic fields of high biological affinity – with their own characteristics – which might influence differently the energetic status of our organs. Normally these electromagnetic fields can be used for our well-being just standing in contact with the plants, such as ” hugging ” a tree, as recommended by all the ancient cultures where this practice was suggested as therapeutic and revitalizing. Now we can understand which organs will benefit more and to what degree, and if necessary, we can recommend a plant rather than another.

A bioenergetic garden in Italy Photo courtesy Marco Nieri

A bioenergetic garden in Italy
Photo courtesy Marco Nieri

In order to use these energies on a larger scale we accomplish precise electromagnetic surveys on the ground where the park or the garden will be located, to detect the presence of specific points that are in correspondence of electromagnetic flows with given characteristics, in order to place the species of plants more healthy for us. This interaction between local electromagnetism and trees enables to amplify and spreading their emissions with a principle that can be defined “electromagnetic information” as the one generated by a radio program on his broadcast signal. This will favorably alter the bioenergetic quality of the biosphere around them, affecting areas extended up to a few tens of meters around.

To better illustrate the phenomenon, imagine that the natural electromagnetic field that has the characteristics we’re looking for, is a pure and clear mountain stream, and that you immerse in the middle of it a glass filled with ink of a certain color, that in our case is the tree with its particular energy: until the ink will come out from the glass, the water will flow downstream coloring itself for some distance, until returning transparent. Much like this happens in electromagnetic reality studied by the Bioenergetic Landscapes, with the only difference that the tree never wears out.

A bioenergetic park in Italy Photo courtesy Marco Nieri

A bioenergetic park in Italy
Photo courtesy Marco Nieri

Staying a few minutes in these spaces facilitates and nourish the most vital functions and well-being of our organs (immune system, circulatory, liver, thyroid, adrenal gland, etc. ..) and involves a more intense and effective recovery from stress as evidenced by the measurements performed with diagnostic tools as GDV  Bioelectrography (Gas Discharge Visualization) and with various vibration devices of electromagnetic and TRV infrasound analysis.

The study of the different energetic qualities of the plants has expanded over the years in various areal climates, from northern Europe to the forests of Costa Rica. The result has been to discover that wherever nature is extremely generous, and except for a few cases, it offers species and varieties of trees that I would call actually therapeutic  both for their phytotherapeutic and energetic components

Describe the antenna you use to measure the energy of plants and how it works.

Marco Nieri: There is actually no electronic device in the world that can perform sophisticated biological measurements in both environment and humans. This is why Dr. Walter Kunnen had to use for his investigations a biophysical tool, called “Lecher antenna”, created in the 50s by a German engineer, tool that Kunnen refined after. Up to now, it is the only one I know able to provide indications on the actual presence of the weak electromagnetic fields that have a biological influence, and that allows to measure the effects on plants and humans. It is a manual antenna, provided with a frequency selector and a sort of inner magnet. This allows us to tune on the frequencies known either in the natural electromagnetic fields or in the various organs of the body, by measuring their intensity on each of the two magnetic polarities. This detail is of utmost importance for our evaluations. The human body of the operator is then able to provide “biological energy” to the device without adding artificial components. For this reason we can consider it a tool of biological measurement.

Is the concept of bioenergetic landscapes becoming more accepted? Are healthcare facilities utilizing gardens?

Marco Nieri: The new vision offered by this technique from a decade ago has struggled to spread. Born out from a conventional scientific context, and innovative in its character, It was regarded by many as a new-age discipline or even as esoteric. Yet many people “feel” the way the things are. When I talk with people who often are in touch with nature as older farmers or forest rangers they show no surprise at all of the phenomenon that I describe. Today the application of this technique is much more recognized, and I been asked to design bioenergetic gardens in  health care settings, as in the Corte Roncati, one of the most important Italian Centres for technologic support to disability , or Bellaria Hospital, both in Bologna, or to the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, in a centre dedicated to the reception of sick children with cancer and their families. This, however, is the result of peculiar choices of  enlightened administrators. In Italy the use of green in healthcare facilities is still not developed and, even if it was customary until the ’30s, there is little awareness of the social, human and economic benefits that this can lead.

Describe several trees and plants and their impact on humans based on your studies.

Marco Nieri: The ability of plants to affect energy on the surrounding environment depends on the size of their trunk, which must have at least a couple of centimeters (a little less than half of an inch) in diameter. These properties can be found in trees and large shrubs essentially.

From these analyses emerges that some species can be defined extremely positive for health, so that they can be classified as therapeutic. Other are more or less healthy for certain organs, and others can be probably considered disturbing or harmful on some organs, such as Walnut or Cypress, inhibiting proper energetic functionality, especially on the cardiovascular, lymphatic and endocrine systems.

A scene from the "Smiling Forest" Photo courtesy of Marco Nieri

A scene from the “Smiling Forest”
Photo courtesy of Marco Nieri

Among those who have the best effects on the organism we find Oak, Beech, Maple , Oak, Holly, Magnolia, Willow, Cherry and many Mediterranean plants, such as Palm, the Pomegranate and the Olive tree. When we speak about healthy plants it means that there will be a deep supply of vital energy on all organs and functions that we can measure, (about thirty) with peaks of extreme benefit for some functionality in particular.

This depends – I think – by the particular chemical and physical constitution of the plant, as the salts and mineral substances creating its constitutional base, but also on the type of soil on which the plant grows and local environmental variables, which may determine to some extent differences from place to place .

It’s interesting to underline that over the centuries man has identified through experience and his sensitivity the positive value of many species of trees and some of them, in the course of time, have become the very symbol of vitality and object of worship. In the ancient times they ideally represented the powers and quality of the gods that were associated with them, and that in some cases elected them as their home.

In the case of  the Ash, for example, we know that in Greek mythology it was consecrated to Poseidon, God of the sea, springs and streams: the bioenergetic analysis identifies in this tree a strong therapeutic influence at the level of kidneys, bladder and lymphatic system, organs related to the correct flow of liquids in the body.

Have you researched how being near bodies of water impacts humans?

Marco Nieri: Our system of energetic measurement is applied for long since, in the analysis of the quality of the sites. Water is a fundamental element, electromagnetically able to influence the environment and therefore the life that it brings together. The essential condition is however that it is clean and in motion. With these conditions, a stream, a lake-spring, a simple activated water in a pool are able to improve the well-being of people, not just by introducing negative ions in the atmosphere or by creating a positive effect on the psyche, but also affecting on electromagnetic fields that pass through it. In Europe we have conducted studies on the Roman thermal baths left until nowadays, where the ancients used to spend a lot of time. These therapeutic waters were able to act even on the air and environments energy, producing well being in different forms.

If I wanted to create a simple bioenergetic garden in my backyard, what would you suggest I include?

Marco Nieri: To create a bioenergetic garden you need to perform several measurements, but I can tell you what is better not include in a limited space, to avoid disturbing effects in some way on some organs in the surrounding area: plants like Oleander, Lagerstroemia, Cherry Laurel, Yew, Acacia, Privet, the various species of Ficus, as well as Walnut and Cypress. On the other hand, fruit plants are excellent and there is no problem with the majority of trees: some of them as I explained above are great. Common ornamental plants of small size do not create any peculiar influence even if some, such as Rose, Rosemary and aromatic herbs are very healthy. In any case, even if some of the plants to be avoided are present, the situation can always be modified.

Do the people of Italy spend time in gardens/nature for restoration?

Marco Nieri: The habit to use nature as an approved factor of well-being is not yet common in Italy. The awareness of how much balance is possible to obtain from the green is very poor and is usually limited to the common folk knowledge, practices that relegate these moments to leisure activities and entertainment. Climate and favorable environmental conditions give Italy beautiful woods and forests, as well as beautiful gardens, but this still seems an immense heritage almost completely under-used. Our Mediterranean nature has always given us so much that we became culturally lazy on this matters, unlike for example the Northern European cultures. May be is because of the desire to fill the gap that Bioenergetic Landscapes was born in Italy.

What types of classes do you offer? Do you suggest certain techniques to help people connect with nature, and obtain the health benefits of plants?

Marco Nieri: Currently I hold in Italy two level courses to teach this technique. The courses are open to all: good will and passion are only requested. At first, I teach how to use properly the measuring instrument, the basic principles and vision of the Biosphere and living things from an energetic point of view. This requires a certain level of training. During these seminars the participants learn how to detect and distinguish between the electromagnetic properties of the trees and their effects on the organism, but also to measure the quality of the Biosphere in different places and all the principles for the application of Bioenergetic Landscapes. In particular, in the second level they deepens their knowledge going to measuring ancient sacred Etruscan or Roman sites, thermal springs and ancient trees, to better understand how the quality of life is closely connected with that of our environment.

Many information I give in my seminars can be found in my book ” Bioenergetic Landscape- How to design the Bioenergetic Therapeutic Garden ” published in Italian by Sistemi Editoriali ( as101.htm).Marco Nieri's book cover

Now with some of my agronomists partners, we have proposed to some parks and natural reserves directors the creation of Bioenergetic therapeutic pathways in nature, where, guided experiences such as the “Forest Bathing ” can be associated to the Bioenergetic knowledge, so we could coin the term ” Bioenergetic Forest Bathing “. The interest has been very high and within a short time we should start with some interesting projects.

An example of existing Bioenergetic path is the “Smiling Forest”, a 2 miles path inside an Italian alpine forest. The work was commissioned two years ago by the Foundation of the famous Italian fashion brand “Ermenegildo Zegna”. Along the way there are 20 bioenergetic pause spots, with signs explaining the benefits produced by the plants on the organism in these areas.

In any case, walking in the woods is healthy also because where trees are plenty they create many beneficial areas, places that we cross almost continuously, remaining almost always immersed in these electromagnetic fields. And if we are not so sure that we are in a bioenergetic area, let’s embrace a beautiful tree


Utilizing the Restorative Benefits of Nature for Self Reflection

Socrates exhorted us on the virtues of self reflection declaring “that the unexamined life is not worth living.” Unfortunately, the continuing cascade of noise, distractions and information experienced on a daily basis has eliminated many of the opportunities for self examination and reflection.  

Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana (Rosaceae)) near Tennent Mountain on the Mountains to Sea Trail (North Carolina) Photo by Mark Ellison

Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana (Rosaceae)) near Tennent Mountain on the Mountains to Sea Trail, North Carolina (USA) Photo by Mark Ellison

Engaging in self reflection can have numerous beneficial outcomes for personal andleadership development, and nature offers an ideal setting to experience reflection free of the distractions of the modern world. Nature provides an environment that allows attention capacities to rest, offers privacy, helps to reduce stress, and includes soft fascination (things that are of capture attention such as birds, waterfalls, sunsets) that leave room for reflective thought. Privacy is the temporary withdrawal from general society through physical or psychological means (Westin, 1967). The privacy available in nature provides a unique setting to utilize self reflection. It is through this withdrawal from everyday settings that one is better able to reflect and make evaluations about work and life situations.

Self reflection has been described as involving “active, persistent, and careful consideration” (Dewey, 1933, p.9). Boud et al (1985) describes it as “those activities individuals engage in to explore experiences” (p.19). Mezirow described reflection “as the process of critically assessing” (1991, p.104).  Reflection translates experience into learning (Seibert & Daudelin, 1999). The functions of reflective thought seem to be closely associated with the releasing of psychological stress and integrating one’s thoughts and experiences (Hammitt & Brown, 1984). With the many distractions experienced in modern life, limited time is available for reflection, self awareness and integration (Hammitt & Brown, 1984).

Being in a restorative natural environment that is away from normal everyday settings provides an opportunity to look at life in a different context, and possibly make connections between concepts that could not be made before. “A deeply restorative experience is likely to include reflections on one’s life, on one’s priorities, and possibilities, on one’s actions and one’s goals” (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989, p. 197).

The restorative benefits of nature make it an ideal environment for utilizing self reflection for personal and leadership development and should be utilized more fully in higher education settings, and by human resource development professionals. 

As an introduction to experiencing the benefits of self reflection while in nature, spend at least 30 minutes in a natural setting that is free of distractions. Utilize all of your senses to experience the various aspects of the environment around you. After at least 30 minutes, reflect on what that experience was like. What did you notice? How did it contrast with the settings you are typically in each day? Make it a priority to set aside time in your schedule on a regularly basis to be in nature. Begin to utilize this time to focus on an area of your life and begin to reflect. Bring along a journal to jot down your thoughts.

Boud, D., Keogh, R. & Walker, D. (1985). Promoting reflection in learning: A model. In D. Boud, R. Cohen, & D. Walker (Eds.), Using experience for learning (pp. 73-86). Bristol, PA: The Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.

Dewey, J. (1933). How we think. Boston, MA: D.C. Heath.

Hammitt, W., & Brown, G. (1984). Functions of privacy in wilderness environments. Leisure Sciences, 6(2), 151-166.

Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Keogh, & D. Walker, Reflection: Turning experience into learning (pp. 18-40). London: Kogan Page.

Mezirow, J. ( 1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Seibert, K. & Daudelin, M. (1999). The role of reflection in managerial learning: Theory, research and practice. Westport, CT: Quorum

Westin, A. (1967). Privacy and freedom. New York: Antheneum.

Experiential professional /personal development programs on utilizing nature for improved health, self reflection & leadership development

Many people are disconnected from the natural environment and do not realize the restorative impact that spending time in nature has on health. I facilitate experiential learning programs for professional and personal development designed to help participants utilize the restorative benefits of nature for improved health, self reflection and leadership development.  I completed my doctorate in 2010 at North Carolina State University with my dissertation research focusing on the restorative benefits of spending time in nature.

Programs I have developed include a two day retreat for the Chaplains Residency Program at Carolinas Medical Center; and continuing education programs for Carolinas Medical Center employees and the community, focused on utilizing nature to reduce stress. I also created a three semester hour course on Nature, Environment, and Human Health that I started teaching last fall. Contact me by email if you would like additional information about developing a program for your group or organization.

Welcome to! is for people who love to hike, and want to learn more about the restorative benefits of  spending time in nature, and the impact it has on human health.

I’m Mark Ellison, and I earned my doctorate from North Carolina State University, with my dissertation research focusing on the restorative benefits of hiking in wilderness solitude and the relationship to  job satisfaction. This was the first research on the restorative benefits of hiking and the relationship to the workplace.

This site will have links to research on hiking and articles related to hiking, nature, and human health.