Healthy Soil, Healthy You
By Carissa Donahoo, Public/Mental Health Organizer
When was the last time you got dirty? We’re talking really dirty — like covered in actual dirt dirty.
Well, did you know that being covered in dirt is beneficial for both your physical and mental health?
Let’s start with your physical health.
Because of Germ Theory — the belief that microorganisms (AKA “germs”) can lead to disease — many people have been led to believe they must be in clean environments at all times. Now, we’re not suggesting being clean is a bad thing, but getting a little dirty can really help out your immune system when it comes to illness.
In the 1980s, scientist David Strachan introduced this idea of the “hygiene hypothesis,” suggesting that a lack of exposure to — well, dirt — in early childhood can increase one’s risk of allergy and asthma.
What researchers are now finding is that exposure to bacteria — like in soil — can help one’s immunity while actively boosting one’s health.
If you’re not sold on that, let’s look more into mental health.
In the 18th century, there was this guy named Dr. Benjamin Rush — you may have heard of him — he signed the American Declaration of Independence and has been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as the “Father of American Psychiatry.”
Dr. Rush once said that “digging in the soil has curative effects on the mentally ill” — and although he didn’t necessarily have the research to back up his claim then, many have followed in his footsteps to gain evidence to show that nature can impact one’s mental health.
When you look at healthy soil, one handful contains more living organisms than there are people on our planet! One of the most important bacteria for humans found in soil is called mycobacterium vaccae. This is an environmental bacterium that feeds on decaying organic matter, which is found in compost.
Just last year, researchers discovered that this beneficial bacteria in particular can help improve people’s quality of life — promoting stress reduction, and even being compared to an antidepressant! The researchers found that it can decrease symptoms in diagnoses such as post-traumatic stress disorder and other stress-related conditions. Researchers are now even looking into developing a stress vaccine using mycobacterium vaccae.
So go get dirty, make some mud pies, and let out your inner-child!
https://www.britannica.com/science/germ-theory — Germ Theory
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325357#Another-side-of-the-hygiene-effect — dirt boosts one’s health
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Benjamin-Rush — Dr. Benjamin Rush
https://books.google.com/books?id=_J8ymvTQz8kC&pg=PA45&lpg=PA45&dq=%22Richard+louv%22+AND+%22benjamin+rush%22&source=bl&ots=GUR9ozzLR0&sig=ACfU3U2VTpVDPdp7Pibrk5kTMW6hgNEXhA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjmwaCig_DoAhVlCjQIHQSRBBcQ6AEwAHoECAsQKQ#v=onepage&q=%22Richard%20louv%22%20AND%20%22benjamin%20rush%22&f=false — Dr. Benjamin Rush once said
https://link-springer-com.libproxy1.usc.edu/article/10.1007/s00213-019-05253-9 — Researchers discovered beneficial bacteria
Los Angeles-based TreePeople is the region’s largest environmental movement, whose mission is to inspire, engage and support people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment. Visit us at treepeople.org and learn how you can join our cause.