Cultivating Health: Gardening as Medicine
Horticultural therapy integrates human experiences with plants, gardening, and nature-based activities to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
I first learned about the practice of horticultural therapy in Atlanta while working on a Starvine (Schisandra glabra) research project at Emory. On a visit to the greenhouses at the nearby senior living facility of Wesley Woods, I met Kirk Hines, a Horticultural Therapist. [Read more about the Starvine story and my lab’s publication on the chemistry of Starvine here.] In the garden and greenhouses, I found seniors happily working with plants as they met the goals of their physical therapy exercises with garden tools and living plants under the guidance of their medical care providers. I’ve been fascinated by this approach to health ever since!
Origins of the Practice
Horticultural therapy (HT) has a long history and has gained acceptance as a valuable therapeutic practice. Since ancient times, the benefits of garden environments have been recognized (for example, in Mesopotamia and Egypt thousands of years ago).
In 1812, Dr. Benjamin Rush (1746-1813)—signer of the American Declaration of Independence and popularly known as the ‘American Hippocrates’—published his findings on the positive effects of gardening on individuals with mental illness.
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