No. 17 Healing effects of flowers

Kiyoshi Suzuki, MD, PhD
President, MOA Health Science Foundation

Flowers are a form of beauty that can be easily enjoyed on a daily basis. Flower arrangement is especially popular in the Arts and Culture Program of the Okada Health and Wellness Program. Humans have loved flowers since time immemorial, so we tend to think that it’s only natural that we are soothed by flowers. Perhaps for this reason, although there has been some research into the scent of flowers, there has been little research into the effects of the flowers themselves.


Various art therapies aim to soothe our hearts, increase our creativity, and pave the way to self-actualization. Many researches are progressing on the effects of music, painting, dance, etc. There may be ways to enjoy flowers that will soothe your heart and increase your creativity. Therefore, Chief Researcher Seiya Uchida, Executive Director of the MOA Health Science Center, took the lead in investigating the effects of “arranging and enjoying flowers yourself,” which is the basis of ikebana flowers.


1.How to evaluate the effect of “arranging flowers”

Fifty-one people (34 women) cooperated in this research. As a research method, in order to examine the effects of “arranging and enjoying flowers,” it is necessary to compare them with the effects of “seeing flowers that others have arranged.” Therefore, we compared the physical and mental changes that occurred when participants looked at pictures of flowers, flowers that someone else had arranged, and flowers that they had arranged themselves for five minutes (Figure 1).


As for how to arrange the flowers, we used the method used in Wellness Centers around the country. However, in order to eliminate the effect of flower scent, we prepared more than 10 types of unscented flowers, and asked the participants to choose one flower from among them and place it in a vase as they liked. If they didn’t like it, they would repeat it until they were satisfied, and then they would watch it again.


Another important aspect of research methods is how to evaluate these changes. Chief researcher Uchida used heart rate fluctuations to evaluate the state of the autonomic nervous system, and also used a muscle hardness meter to examine the stiffness of both shoulders. They also completed a questionnaire to assess their level of healing.


2.Is “arranging your own flowers” really effective?

As many people, including myself, might have imagined, the participants’ parasympathetic nervous system became most active when they admired the flowers they had arranged. In other words, it had the most relaxing effect. The stiffness in their shoulders has also become softer. In the healing questionnaire, people answered that they felt the most healing effect when they admired the flowers they had arranged themselves (Figure 2).



3.Why is it so healing to “arranging and enjoying flowers yourself”?

Regarding stiffness in the shoulders, we move our hands and arms a little when we arrange flowers. However, according to research to date, it seems that even that amount of exercise to arrange flowers does not soften the shoulders. Considering the activities of the autonomic nervous system, there is almost no doubt that “arranging and enjoying flowers yourself” is the most effective. So why is there such a difference from “appreciating flowers that someone else arranged”?


After arranging the flowers himself, a certain doctor and musician said the following. “Be it a musical instrument or a painting, it takes a lot of practice to reach a level that you are satisfied with. However, flowers are beautiful in themselves, so even beginners can create works that satisfy them. Although, I didn’t think it would have this much healing effect.”


I think this comment accurately expresses the significance of “arranging and enjoying flowers yourself”. Choose your favorite flowers, cut them the way you like, arrange them in a vase, and when you look at them, you will be moved by the beauty of the flowers and the beauty of the finished work. You will feel sense of satisfaction as well as healing effect.


Next time I will share about integrative medicine. What is integrative medicine? What kind of effects does it have on what diseases? Please look forward to it.

Kiyoshi Suzuki
Graduated from Chiba University School of Medicine in 1981. medical doctor. After working as Deputy Director of Pediatrics at Sakakibara Memorial Hospital, Seijo Clinic, (Medicine) Tamagawakai MOA Takanawa Clinic and Tokyo Medical Clinic Director, president of MOA Health Science Center and Honorary Director of Tokyo Medical Wellness Center. Director of The Society for Integrative Medicine Japan and Chairman of the International Committee. In 1994, he received the Young Investigator’s Award from the Japanese Society of Pediatric Cardiology.