Body, soul and gardening - soil makes you happy

Whilst wearing gardening gloves protects your hands, in the right circumstances and for those who are generally healthy, it might be beneficial to get your hands dirty occasionally.  Research into soil science suggests the bacteria, microbes and fungi in soil and compost have a direct effect on our health by communicating with the cells in our body.

Soil microbiome contains the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae which is believed to activate neurons in the brain that produce serotonin.  This health-giving bacterium is absorbed through everyday contact with the skin on the hands and by inhaling when the soil is stirred up by digging and is a natural antidepressant, mood lifter and stress reducer, with the potential to make you feel happier and more relaxed.

Friendly microorganisms in soil may also strengthen the immune system and build resilience to a range of illnesses including asthma.  One American study found that farm children in Germany had 30 -50% lower rates of allergy and asthma than their counterparts raised in urban areas.  Researchers believe this could indicate a strong correlation between the microbes found in the soil and on farm animals with a lower risk of asthma.

Research also shows that soil with a diverse range of microbes helps boost the nutrient content of the fruit and vegetables we eat by enabling plants to absorb nutrients such as nitrogen and produce chemicals called antioxidants which stimulates our immune system, balances hormones, and slows the growth of cancer cells.

So, if your seeds and seedlings are calling, it might be an idea to plunge in, glove-free, and feel the lovely soft compost with your bare hands. As well as getting a lift from ticking items off your to-do list, you might find it has extra mood-boosting effects.