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us to provide food, clothing, shelter, medicine and oxygen. Now, research is increasingly revealing that plants and flowers can also contribute to better physical, mental and emotional health. Think about it. When you enter a room filled with flowers, how do you feel? Do the words "pleasure", "contentment", "satisfaction", and "comfort" describe the effect that flowers have on you? For 98% of the population, they do! In fact, just the presence of a beautiful floral arrangement can brighten your mood, relieve tension, and even change the course of your day. Increasingly, the scientific and medical communities are presenting surprising research revealing the many ways plants and flowers can affect our health and happiness. The Gift of Oshibana For centuries, the Japanese have given special attention to the flowers and plants around them, honoring the earth source that connects all living things. But the Japanese went even further. They created Oshibana, the art and craft of pressing flowers to retain the benefits and beauty of the living plant. Such pressings are called "pressed flower art". Over the centuries, enthusiasm for this craft has spread from Japan to Victorian England, through Europe, and now, to the United States. Today, Oshibana offers us even more than simply retaining the beauty and grace of living flowers. By working with pressed flowers to create enduring designs, we are stimulating the memory of our connection to nature. And when this occurs, the benefits are impressive. Modern research has begun to reveal that when the nervous system is stimulated by creative expression, such as working with flowers to create works of art, our life force, or energy, begins to flow more easily through us. Oshibana is a powerful means of opening up these channels of energy and promoting an enhanced state of health and well-being. Healing the Mind One could say that plants and flowers were the gift nature has given us to help us manage stress in our everyday lives. Dr. Roger Ulrich certainly believes this to be true. An environmental psychologist at Texas A&M University, he was the first American researcher to study the benefits of plants on hospital patients. As he had suspected, he found that when plants were visible to these patients, their levels of stress were reduced, their need for pain medications decreased, hospital stays were shorter, and their sense of optimism and physical well-being increased. As a result of his work, a new approach to hospital environments has emerged with the creation of "patient friendly" health care facilities that feature nature views for those in hospital. Now, plants and flowers are regularly included among these facilities to assist in the healing of their patients. In 1996, a study conducted by Virginia Lohr of Washington State University, showed that when computer users worked in a lab with plants absent, blood pressure went up. However, when plants were placed in the room, their blood pressure went down, reflecting a lowering of their stress levels. In addition, the subjects actually demonstrated a 12% quicker reaction time to tasks on their computers!
Diane Relf of Virginia Polytechnic Institute discovered that people communicate better in the presence of plants, and eat more slowly when flowers are on the table. Other studies have shown that the presence of plants can improve the self-image of prison inmates, as well as help relax psychiatric patients. Dr. Jeannette Haviland-Hones at Rutgers University was excited about the results of her university study of the effects people experienced when receiving flowers. The findings, she said, "challenge established scientific beliefs about how people can manage their day-to-day moods in a healthy and natural way". In fact, her team found that over a 20-month period, participants of all ages experienced happiness on receiving flowers, felt less depressed or anxious after receiving them, and were drawn to increase their contact with family and friends. Healing the Body The connection between well-being and plants actually goes as far the first century A.D., when Aurelius Cornelius Celsus included the use of colored ointments and flowers in several of his treatises on medicine. Later, in 980-1037 A.D., Avicenna, a disciple of Aristotle, began to use color and flowers to heal disease. He found that red moved the blood, while blue or white cooled it, and yellow reduced pain and inflammation. Therefore, he prescribed potions of red flowers to cure blood disorders and yellow flowers to cure disorders of the liver. In 1789, doctors continued to find a link between well-being and plants, when they discovered that poor patients who had to work to pay for their care recovered more quickly when they worked among plants in the hospital's kitchen garden. Today, the effects of stress upon our bodies are being documented in allopathic, as well as alternative, medicine. In Dr. Candace Pert's best-selling book, The Molecules of Emotion, she discusses how stress burdens our organs, and describes how certain emotions, such as fear, anger, or pain, can actually disrupt cellular activity. This can lead to a weakened organ system, then a generally weakened system, and ultimately to diseases such as ulcers, stomach problems, heart disease, and cancer. In recognition of the mounting link between stress and disease, many physicians and hospitals have added such de-stressing alternatives as yoga, gardening, and meditation to their patients' survival regimens, with promising results. When stress culminates in a toxic condition such as gall bladder, liver, or pancreatic problems, those who use homeopathic remedies may turn to nasturtiums, a bright blue flower, that seems to help relieve these conditions. In a ground-breaking finding of a different nature, Dr. Satoshi Abe, a neurosurgeon in Japan's Kanachi Hospital, discovered that "by watching, touching and smelling flowers, we can minimize and sometimes prevent age-related memory loss". How does this work? It is believed that flowers spark memories and activate unused channels of the brain. In addition, Dr. Abe says, "We are making good use of this to help people recover from cerebral blood circulation disorders".
Given the increasing number of Alzheimer's cases and an aging population, plant and flower therapy will be one possible link for scientists to explore in their search for ways to assist individuals in connecting the channels of memory. Color plays a major role in the findings of Dr. Jacob Liberman, whose book, Light Medicine of the Future, describes the effects of certain colors on the human body. In particular, he discovered that short wave-lengths of light from such colors as violet and blue can help in the treatment of many conditions, including addictions. Violet has also been show to release a migraine or headache that can be causing sore or tired eyes. The same shade of light has been used to help patients suffering from obsessions, phobias and mood swings. For this reason, the addition of a periwinkle or violet to one's living or working area can, in many cases, help relieve these conditions. Healing the Spirit Flowers have always been a healing force in Japan, particularly after World War II. In Matsumoto City, the residents decided to plant flowers to help heal the broken spirit of their people, as well as to beautify a city that had seen much destruction by the Allies. The flowers were a tremendous success, and as a result, the Hannaippai Federation was created ("hana" means "flower" in Japanese). Members then proceeded to spread the beauty of flowers throughout Japan by planting them where needed, thus helping to heal the wounds of a nation. Closer to home, I discovered the healing power of Oshibana after the World Trade Center destruction on September 11, 2001. Like everyone around me, I was flooded with emotion: anger, fear, confusion, horror, sadness, and the sense that life would never again be the same for me, my country, and the world around me. In response, I did what I always do in times of turmoil-I went to flowers for healing, and my intuition led me to create a new design, "Healing the Spirit of a Nation". This piece, created with pressed flowers, depicts the World Trade Center in New York City, along with the Statue of Liberty in red, white, and blue-the colors of our flag. I was amazed by the reaction to this piece. Those who saw it commented on how it has moved them, and some were able to shed tears they had held back until then. For me, the process of working with my flowers to create this tableau helped to bring me out of my own pain and offered the opportunity to help others heal theirs. The powerful reds, whites, and blues had blended into a statement of vigor, comfort, and purity of purpose. The flowers had created an environment of healing. Color is one aspect of the power of flowers to heal. Another is the shape and size of the flowers and leaves, which, when formed into various designs, can actually facilitate a sense of joy, happiness, and well-being. The healing designs in this book will take this one step further, and focus on specific types of healing that can be generated when certain shapes and colors are put together. In the following chapter, we will discover how flowers, whether living or dried and pressed, can be powerful healers. We'll also see how we need not invest great sums of money to receive the healing we seek. Pressing flowers is one of the least expensive activities one can engage in, yet the results can be
phenomenal. Take some time to read through the following chapters, learn how to create the healing designs in this book, and then experience an incomparable feeling of satisfaction when you see what happens next! http://www.natureofdesign.com
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