Mother Nature’s Love Potion
Alchemists and gypsies have been trying to create a sure-fire love potion for as long as people have been walking the Earth. Some potions even claim to be aphrodisiacs, named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. None succeed in this. But the idea of a love potion so permeated the collective conscious that Shakespeare based a Midsummer Night’s Dream on one with hilarious but misguided consequences.
All these human attempts have fallen flat. Meanwhile, Mother Nature has had her own, which has been going on quite effectively for a long time! Oh, it does not make you fall in love with someone else, but with her, Mother Nature. All gardeners have experienced this, including hikers, backpackers, and campers. Anyone who spends time in a garden or the woods for any length of time and feels the need to go back. Hopefully, it also makes you want to take care of Mother Earth. Why else would she be seducing you?
She fills the senses. The obvious is the sight of the blossoms, the sound of wind rustling through trees, and the smell of flowers. Have you ever smelled native azaleas? If all of this was not enough, Mother Nature also drugs us! Yep, that seductress inoculates us with Mycobacterium vaccae. This soil microbe increases serotonin production in our brains, making us happier and more relaxed. It is like taking Prozac with no side effects unless you count a beautiful garden.
The bacterium is in good soil, your compost pile, for instance. It can enter your bloodstream through a cut, but you also inhale it. It is in the air when the dirt is turned over or disturbed, say, by hikers. Scientists call its odor “geosmin,” the smell of good soil produced by microbes as they break down plants. It is what gives carrots and beets that earthy taste. Cooks call it “terroir,” the particular flavor is specific to your region’s soil.
If I were still teaching, I would bring a bucket of compost to school and put a scoop into a beaker for each student (you have to make it look scientific) and ask each of my students to tell me to describe the aroma. The pre-lab would have recorded their mood, as well as the post-lab. Then we tabulate the results and do statistical analysis. I bet at some point they would start laughing if, for no other reason, they thought I was crazy.
Have you heard of “Forest Bathing”? It is new lingo for spending time in the woods to destress, and NO, you don’t get naked, and water is not involved! It is a New Age trend in which you pay someone to teach you how to walk in the woods, breathe deeply and unwind. In an advanced class, you can sit in a yoga pose while breathing. Either way, you get a dose of Mycobacterium vaccae and are happy and relaxed.
On the research front, previous studies on mice have shown that M. vaccae had both anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties. In an article published Jan. 5, 2021, in “Frontiers in Physiology,” research on mice found that inoculation with M. vaccae leads to increased stress resilience, proactive coping behaviors, and stabilized gut microbiome. Understand that this is research on mice, not humans. Human research is years away, but this is promising.
All in all, this is one great calorie-free seduction that is good for you! Feel free to give into it. Of course, if you are reading this, you probably already have.
Read more at Gardening Know How: Antidepressant Microbes In Soil: How Dirt Makes You Happy https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/antidepressant-microbes-soil.htm