Dirt Makes You Happy


This just in: Researchers at the University of Bristol have discovered a beneficial bacteria in soil that may increase serotonin levels in the brain.  Anybody surprised?

Interest in the project arose after human cancer patients being treated
with the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae unexpectedly reported increases
in their quality of life. Lowry and his colleagues reasoned that this
effect could be caused by activation of neurons in the brain that
contained serotonin.

When the team looked closely at the brains of mice, they found that
treatment with M. vaccae activated a group of neurons that produce the
brain chemical serotonin. The lack of serotonin in the brain is thought
to cause depression in people, thus M. vaccae’s effects on the behavior
of mice may be due to increasing the release of serotonin in parts of
the brain that regulate mood.

via Apartment Therapy


  1. The thing I love about Garden Rant is that it proves my point that gardeners can talk about Everything! I have a weekly garden column in The Recorder in Greenfield, MA, and I love that freedom to wander in many fields and disciplines. And now I have just inaugurated my CommonWeeder blog on Blogger. You ladies have inspired me. Thank you.

  2. Don’t go getting too excited about dirt as an antidepressant medication. I lived and gardened in an area of the country rich in Mycobacteria-laden soil. While gardening helped somewhat, it couldn’t ward off my first lapse into clinical depression. That one landed me in the hospital. And not all the dirt on this planet could have prevented my second severe episode, one so severe I even experienced psychotic depression.

    I’m not saying anyone should avoid gardening, or even that it doesn’t feel good. It’s simply not the miracle cure one might hope for. My own experiences (gardening and military) leave me deeply ambivalent about the potential success of a program in the UK (website gardeningleave.org) for horticultural therapy for soldiers with Combat Stress (a better description, I think, than PTSD).

    I am typing all this with fingernails still slightly begrimed from one last afternoon of bulb-planting before the snow and true winter arrive tonight. I think I’d garden even in a straightjacket.

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