Plants for Health

3/16/16

Author: Jane Saiers

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With the warm temperatures and sunny days of the past two weeks, the plant world has come to life. Daffodils, hyacinths, and tulip magnolias are blooming; grass is growing; and the deciduous trees have taken on the green tinge that presages their bursting into full leaf. With these changes that manifest renewal, we ourselves feel renewed, uplifted, invigorated.

ChardPhotoThe restorative power of being among and working with plants is a pervasive experience. Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke for many of us when he wrote that “all my hurts my garden spade can heal.” Vincent Van Gogh expressed a similar sentiment in a letter to his brother Theo,” For one’s health it is necessary to work in the garden and see flowers growing.” Nelson Mandela found comfort and strength in the garden: “A garden was one of the few things in prison that one could control. To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being custodian of this small patch of earth offered a small taste of freedom.”

Scientists describe our affiliation for plants and other aspects of nature as biophilia–an instinctual, biological urge for humans to affiliate with plants and other life forms with which we evolved. Connection with nature, according to the biophilia hypothesis, is restorative and therapeutic; disconnection with nature can be unhealthy. As a society, we have never been more disconnected from nature than we are today, when, for the first time in our evolutionary history, we spend 95% to 99% of our time indoors.

How much of your time do you spend indoors? When is the last time you engaged with plants? Planting your own garden is only one way of benefitting from interaction with the natural world. Start a container garden of herbs or seasonal salad plants. Stroll the pathways of Chapel Hill’s North Carolina Botanical Garden. Volunteer at your nearest community garden. Take advantage of local offerings such our Spring Food and Garden Workshop on Sunday afternoon. Whatever you do to increase your engagement with plants, your health will be the better for it!

Jane Saiers, PhD, AAT, HTR is a farmer and horticultural therapist, co-owner of RambleRill Farm near Chapel Hill, NC. Learn more about working with Jane.

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