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J. E. Kinghorn

Gardens link Horticulture & Health

Throughout the centuries the garden has held an important place in the spiritual pursuit for paradise and is an integral part of most of the world's greatest religions.  

Gardening has been adapted by Physical and Mental Rehabilitation Therapists throughout the world as a healing occupational  therapy.  A well designed garden can delight and please the senses of touch, smell, taste and hearing, all are beneficial to promote tranquillity.  Tending and planting a garden is used for low impact physical therapy to develop dexterity in the recovery from injury or provide the disabled with physical activity.  Hospital gardens promote therapeutic benefits for patients as well as visitors and employees.  Studies have proven that patients conditions improve more quickly and require less pain medication when they have a garden view.  Employees are more productive and visitors feel less stress when they have the same view.   Patients with Alzheimer's  experienced a 19 percent reduction in aggressive tendencies and a renewed `zest for life' in nursing home residents where the patients had access to a garden.

Various scientific studies attest to some of the healing effects of gardening:  Blood pressure is lowered, slows heart rate, relaxes muscles, reduces stress, restores morale and improves physical fitness.  The most recent medical studies suggest that regular exercise, a total of 30 minutes a day, increases strength flexibility and stamina.  Tilling the earth by hand uses as much energy as low-impact aerobics or riding a stationary bike.  Like with any exercise program start out slowly and avoid muscle strains by using ergonomic garden tools.  Unlike other types of exercise, you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor by `drinking' in the sights, sounds and the aromas of your accomplishments.

I'll leave you with a quote by Marilyn Bennett, Ph.D.; author of Creating Eden:  The Garden as a Healing Space.

"Imagine a place to which you can bring stress, sorrow, loneliness, and confusion, from which you can leave with a sense of resolution, understanding, and calm.  Imagine a place where you can express your own unique nature, create beauty, grow pure food and gain control over your life.  In my life, the garden has been such a place."  

I personally do not have to imagine any of the above; I have experienced it all.