Nature in the News: Vis Medicatrix naturae: does nature “minister to the mind”?

Eva Selhub, MD and Alan Logan, ND, authors of Your Brain on Nature, explore how nature ministers to the mind in an article titled Vis Medicatrix naturae: does nature “minister to the mind”?  published in the journal BioPsychoSocial Medicine. Selhub and Logan  shed light on the healing power of nature and how it can help in coping with a technology saturated world, as well as how it can impact mental health and vitality.


The healing power of nature, vis medicatrix naturae, has traditionally been defined as an internal healing response designed to restore health. Almost a century ago, famed biologist Sir John Arthur Thomson provided an additional interpretation of the word nature within the context of vis medicatrix, defining it instead as the natural, non-built external environment. He maintained that the healing power of nature is also that associated with mindful contact with the animate and inanimate natural portions of the outdoor environment. A century on, excessive screen-based media consumption, so-called screen time, may be a driving force in masking awareness of the potential benefits of nature. With global environmental concerns, rapid urban expansion, and mental health disorders at crisis levels, diminished nature contact may not be without consequence to the health of the individual and the planet itself. In the context of emerging research, we will re-examine Sir J. Arthur Thomson’s contention that the healing power of the nature-based environment – green space, forests and parks in particular – extends into the realm of mental health and vitality.

Your Brain on Nature Reviews the Latest Research on How Nature Impacts Brain Health

I just finished reading the recently published book Your Brain on Nature: the science of nature’s influence on your health, happiness, and vitality” by Alan Logan, ND and Eva Selhub, MD. The book reviews the latest scientific research on how immersion in nature impacts the health of the human brain. Research is cited from around the world, including recent work by neuroscientists, providing convincing evidence of the benefits of nature for brain health and overall well-being. Logan and Selhub provide expert insight about the necessity of restoring health and balance in a world that is heavily dependent on technology.

What sets this book apart is the depth and breadth of information shared. Research studies are discussed, and Selhub and Logan take the next step by providing suggestions for practical application. Another unique aspect of the book is the collaboration of professionals from the naturopathic and conventional medical communities. The combination of perspectives this offers is groundbreaking and refreshing.

Topics addressed in the book include how nature impacts cognition; the specific elements of nature that influence the brain; the practices of shinrin yoku and forest medicine, specifically the cutting edge research by Dr. Qing Li and associates of Nippon Medical School in Japan; how green exercise benefits brain health; horticultural and wilderness therapies; the importance of contact with animals for health; nutrition and brain health; and the healing power of nature and ecotherapy.

I highly recommend Your Brain on Nature. It provides a strong argument that nature offers significant physical, mental and social health benefits to humans. Based on scientific evidence from around the world, it is the most complete resource on this topic I’ve found, and I plan to use it in all of my classes and seminars. Your Brain on Nature would also be a valuable tool for healthcare providers who want to incorporate nature into their practice, as well as anyone who wishes to improve their own health.

Selhub, E., & Logan, A. (2012). Your Brain on Nature: the science of nature’s influence on your health, happiness, and vitality.  Mississauga: Wiley.