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Vis Medicatrix naturae: does nature "minister to the mind"?

Alan C Logan1* and Eva M Selhub2

Author Affiliations

1 Genuine Health, 775 East Blithedale Avenue, Suite 364, Mill Valley, CA 94941, USA

2 Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, 40 Crescent St., Suite 201, Waltham, MA 02453, USA

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BioPsychoSocial Medicine 2012, 6:11  doi:10.1186/1751-0759-6-11

Published: 3 April 2012


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.