Thursday, April 10, 2014

Healing Gardens

By Brianne Bishop

With a name such as ‘healing garden,’ it is safe to say many people assume these gardens grow plants for medicinal purposes. While this is not necessarily true, healing gardens do have a medicine-like effect on those who venture to visit them. Technically any gardens can be considered a ‘healing garden’ because of the structural components, including flowers, vegetation, and water. However, healing gardens earned their name from studies that were completed on hospital patients that showed gardens healed pain and illness more successfully than man-made medicines. Although these gardens are portrayed to be a new concept, they have been in existence since medieval times.

Healing gardens are named not for the plants that they grow, but for the atmosphere they provide. The type of healing that they present is the type that heals the mind, body and soul. They have been thought to alleviate stress and provide a calm and soothing environment for their visitors, focusing on healing mental and emotional health. Healing gardens are commonly mistaken for gardens that provide medicine to its caretakers. If a garden holds plants that provide medicinal purposes, it is known as a medicinal herb garden not a healing garden.

Healing gardens consist of a mixture of greens, flowers, and water. The combination off all three of these elements can provide a therapeutic environment. In fact, most of the studies done on healing gardens have been completed in a hospital or healthcare setting. It has been proven that viewing gardens verses urban scenes automatically relaxes the viewer. This relaxation technique has said to heal hospital patients in a natural way, lessening their dependence on drugs and medicines, according to Deborah Franklin, a writer for Scientific American.

Gardens can have beneficial properties for patients in psychiatric hospitals; nursing homes including specific facilities such as Alzheimer’s care facilities, and hospice facilities. There are even healing gardens made especially for children with plenty of hands-on activities that provide nature education to children of all ages. Hands on activities may include opportunities to experience planting and harvesting.

Other gardens included in the same category of the healing gardens are meditation gardens. The main element in these gardens includes a quiet and relaxing atmosphere, necessary to promote meditation.  A third type of garden can be referred to as a sanctuary garden and is also considered to be a nature preserve. Because they often have nature trails attached to provide a welcoming outdoor experience that doubles by providing exercise as well. 

People associate healing gardens with Native Americans, because healing gardens are in fact part of Native American culture. Native Americans create their healing gardens based on the symbols and forms of their specific tribes. There are types of plants that each tribe considers sacred, differing from tribe to tribe. Native Americans are hurt because people are using their culture in order to recreate these gardens, therefore making it into their own culture without truly understanding the meaning of its origin. Many Native Americans question why Westerners cannot incorporate their own plants, symbols, and forms and create their own cultural healing gardens.

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