Why you should get some dirt under your nails - literally! - Skize

Why you should get some dirt under your nails – literally!

16 April, 2021

The health benefits of being outdoors in nature and gardening have been widely discussed recently, particularly following a year of social restrictions. Looking after plants, growing veg and even just walking in parks and forests has been for many a lifeline during this pandemic, keeping us sane and preventing overwhelm. It’s no surprise to those working in Social Farms who are dedicated to provide ‘therapeutic horticulture’ to vulnerable groups and  have done so for a number of years now.

But what’s the science behind it?


It’s about chemistry

One reason why we feel better when surrounded by plants is the effect of the phytochemicals that plants release in the air and we, along with other animal and plant species, perceive them and react accordingly. One reason why  ‘Forest Bathing‘ is good for us is that we breath in these good chemicals that affect our hormones and trigger positive feelings including relaxation and happiness.

But you don’t have to go all the way to a forest to lift your mood, you could as well be in your garden and enjoy the perfumes of your roses or jasmines, or sit in a meadow in your local park to get some of that positive plant effect.

If you are lucky enough to get out in sunny weather, then there’ll be the boosted benefit of sunshine and vitamin D, which helps with general health as well as reducing blue moods.

It’s about physics

Ever heard of ‘grounding’?  All energy, including ours, is made of electrons. Being stressed means that we have a positive charge in our body, and to balance that we can make direct contact with the ground (soil, grass, even concrete). Mother Earth has a negative charge, therefore direct contact with our skin (bare feet for example) will re-tune us into the right energy setting, which helps reduce inflammation. I agree that sounds far-fetched but there’s plenty of research on this, look it up!

It’s about colours

Colours are known to have an affect on our mood, reason why we choose certain colours over others depending on what we are trying to achieve. Nature is predominantly green – well 50 shades of green! And green is a deeply relaxing colour. The various other colour accents produced by flowers and fruits contribute to harmonious colour displays. Some horticulturalists have specialised in garden designs by colour, where depending on the client’s needs certain colour palettes are chosen to provide the required vibe. Fascinating!


Invisible Heroes

Then there’s the less known ‘dirt’ stuff within the soil which hosts an invisible army of living organisms, including bacteria and fungi, all good for the soil ecosystem and many seem to be good for us too.  This is an area of research at the moment, but so far it has been discovered that there are soil bacteria and ‘endophytic’ fungi that play a beneficial role on our own microbiome.

In short, a healthy exchange of microbes happens when we get our hands dirty in the garden! Our super-clean homes, less time outdoors, feeding on less varied diets than ever along with impoverished soils have lead us to loose an army of friendly microbes that kept our physical and mental health in check.

Soil also contains less friendly stuff, but our skin is our first line of defence with its own microbes and protects us against unfriendly ‘outers’, as long as we don’t have exposed cuts. Likewise when gardening near plants known to be irritant, such as euphorbias, it’s recommended to wear gloves. But otherwise, go on and get some dirt under your nails!

If you’d like some help to get started with growing your own food, check out Kitchen Garden Membership, it’s therapeutic and you get tomatoes!