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Gardens As Medicine

By Sereba Agiobu-Kemmer
25 July 2015   |   4:58 am
Healing Gardens And Therapeutic Horticulture Nature In Hospitals In Europe, in the middle ages, the first hospitals were in monastic communities, where gardens played an essential role in the healing process.
3. Healing garden, all the paths are paved making the entire garden wheelchair accessible Copy

Healing garden, all the paths are paved making the entire garden wheelchair accessible.

Healing Gardens And Therapeutic Horticulture Nature In Hospitals In Europe, in the middle ages, the first hospitals were in monastic communities, where gardens played an essential role in the healing process. Before then, healing gardens were part of ancient cultures of Egypt, Greece, Japan.

As medical science and technologies have progressed the more indirect connections between nature and the healing process are often overlooked.

Recent research suggests that access to natural features at care facilities aid healing and recovery from a variety of physical and mental ailments. Exposure to plants, natural views and nature imagery plays a positive role in recovery and pain management inside care facilities. Why might simply viewing nature ease pain and encourage healing? New insights from neuroscience suggest that nature experiences are positive distractions that help a person to refocus their attention.

Increased focus on other inputs increases pain thresholds and tolerance, leading to improved coping and healing strategies. Healing Gardens And Therapeutic Horticulture Acting on research findings, healthcare facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers have begun to install healing gardens for patients, visitors and staff.

In addition to contributing to the healing and therapy process, gardens are intended to help address the mental stress, information overload, and emotional distress that visitors may experience when assisting a loved one in a healthcare facility.

Gardens may also serve as a restorative environment for healthcare employees. Horticulture Therapy Providing gardens and other natural settings for the purpose of facilitating healing and well-being is known as therapeutic horticulture, Horticulture therapy is the use of prescribed nature activity or experience by a trained professional to aid recovery from specific mental or physical ailments. Therapeutic treatment can take place in healthcare facilities, in community settings.

Horticulture therapists engage their patients in gardening activities as individuals or in group settings. They guide activities that provide physical exercise or therapy for social interaction, or cognitive development to meet clinically defined goals.

Beyond treating acute health conditions, research shows that horticultural therapy can also benefit individuals trying to overcome emotional or physical trauma.

In one study adults with diagnosed depression participated in a therapeutic horticulture program and showed significant beneficial change in mental health aspects of anxiety, mood and depression.

Over 240 scientific studies found reliable evidence to support horticultural therapy as an intervention for a variety of conditions, from cerebral palsy to schizophrenia. Studies inform garden design by evaluating how specific pathways, plantings, and other features influence levels of interaction with the garden, duration of stay, and therapeutic benefits.

5. Plants help chldren , a horticultural therapy patient makes a fower arrangement Copy

Plants help children, a horticultural therapy patient makes a flower arrangement.

Hospitals and care facilities may design healing gardens for a target population and purpose, such as Alzheimer’s patients or children with physical disabilities.

Observations of patients undergoing treatment for stress-related diseases suggests that gardens are most beneficial when they provide distinct areas for passive reflection and emotional recovery, as well as social interaction, physical activity, and sensory stimulation.

For instance, a survey of visitors to some hospital gardens found that those respondents most commonly mentioned multiple nature elements of gardens – trees, greenery, flowers, and water – as having positive benefits on their moods.

A study of a pediatric hospital’s healing gardens demonstrated that having play features, pathways, and shading encouraged higher levels of physical activity for visitors and children. Meanwhile, staff preferred garden areas that provided visual and auditory privacy, distinct space where they can enjoy breaks without encountering visitors and patients.

Mental Health, Function And Therapy Studies have shown that children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), diagnosed as having reduced attention capacity, which can have detrimental effects on social, cognitive, and psychological growth.

Studies showed that attention deficit symptoms were more manageable after doing activities in green settings than activities in other settings. Also, the greener a child’s play area, the less severe his or her attention deficit symptoms; children who played in windowless indoor settings had significantly more severe symptoms than those who played in grassy, outdoor spaces (with or without trees), more green in their play setting was related to better outcomes.

More studies showed that green outdoor activities radically reduced symptoms than did either built outdoor activities or indoor activities.

Another study found that children with ADHD concentrated better after a walk in the park than after a downtown walk or a neighbourhood walk. Exposure to ordinary natural settings in the course of common after-school and weekend activities may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit symptoms in children.

‘‘Green Time” may be an important supplement to traditional medicinal and behavioral treatments. Dementia Dementia patients experience multiple disorders, including memory impairment, intellectual decline, temporal and spatial disorientation, impaired ability to communicate and make logical decisions, and decreased tolerance to high and moderate levels stimulation.

Studies reveal that access to gardens has been shown to reduce incidents of dangerous behavior and aggression from dementia patients. Gardens can evoke memories that reconnect patients to the real world. Having high use of wandering gardens leads to decreased use of high dosage anti-psychotic medications. Gardening activities may help improve mobility, dexterity, confidence and social skills in dementia and stroke patients.

Finally, gardening can be used as a preventive measure to help reduce the onset of dementia; gardening on a daily basis was found to reduce risk factors for dementia by 36 per cent. Design for dementia care is important. A space needs to promote functionality and well-being, but also be safely open and free.

Recommended design features for outdoor spaces for dementia patients include: looped pathways; tree groves or sites to act as landmarks for orientation; non-toxic plants; even well-lit paths with handrails; seating areas with illusion of privacy; and low key fragrances and color to soothe, rather than negatively stimulate.

6. View of seating area of a Zen Garden Copy

View of seating area of a Zen Garden, used for passive reflection

Mental stress and cancer patients Treatment planning following diagnosis can be mentally demanding and stressful, leading to attentional fatigue participating in activities and/or interacting with natural environments have been found to ameliorate and help stave off attentional fatigue both before and after cancer treatment or surgery through dependent on past gardening experiences, individual interests, and current circumstances – gardening can be used as a potential coping strategy for stressful life experiences for cancer patients and also people without cancer.

Furthermore, nature may have a preventive effect on cancer generation and development. Stress Stress can affect people’s perceptions of their well-being, causing them to have diminished mental health. Studies have connected park use to decreased stress levels and improved moods.

In one study, participants showed fewer stress symptoms the longer they stayed in the park. Lab and clinical investigations have found that within five minutes of viewing a nature setting positive changes in blood pressure, heart activity, muscle tension, and brain electrical activity occur.

A study of brain activity, using alpha rhythms as measure, showed that participants were most awake and relaxed while looking at plants with flowers rather than empty pots. A companion study EEG (electrical brain activity) indicated more relaxation when viewing greenery compared to looking at a concrete structure. Scientists say natural settings can lower stress, blood pressure and heart rate, and muscle tension and negative thoughts.

The idea is that lowering stress can boost the immune system and speed healing. Depression Depression like stress, occurs at any age and can be ameliorated through improving social connections (to decrease feelings of isolation) and exercise, both of which are encouraged by the presence of nearby green outdoor spaces.

Compared to being indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with more positive mental states, such as greater feeling of vitalization, and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy. Studies investigating major depression disorder (MDD) have shown that an exercise program can be just as effective as anti-depressants in reducing depression among patients, and that a 50-minute walk in a natural area (compared to a built setting) may increase memory span and elevate moods.

Patients with clinical depression who participated in therapeutic gardening activities for 3 months experienced a reduction in severity of depression and increased attentional capacity that lasted up to three months after conclusion of the program. Psychiatric patients Studies investigating the effects of nature and gardening on psychiatric patients display a range of results from general mood improvement to specific illness.

For example, horticulture therapy was effective in decreasing the levels of anxiety, depression, and stress among participants diagnosed with psychiatric illness. Another study placing flowering plants in a ward increased socializing and food consumption in severely withdrawn schizophrenic patients.

The smells, colors, and handling of soil by patients during horticulture activities may be particularly important and can improve life satisfaction, well-being, and self-concept in mentally ill-patients comparing intensive therapy patients, in rooms with translucent windows to ones without windows, those with windows had less sleep disturbance, improved memory and orientation, as well as fewer hallucinations and delusions, providing more normalcy and connection to the outside world.

The restorative power of gardens is an ancient idea that still has therapeutic power. Healing gardens and therapeutic horticulture offer another aspect of healing that goes along with medicine but is different from medicine. Nature contact, experiences and prescriptive programs of therapeutic horticulture focus is on life not illness.

The benefits of natural settings trees, shrubs, vines ground covers, plants, being in it, working in it or just viewing it can be uplifting, injecting life, new spirit and energy to replace the plagues of boredom, loneliness and helplessness.

Those suffering from all form of illness can experience life again with greater meaning, pleasure and satisfaction. Healing or therapeutic gardens and horticulture therapy become medicine to speed healing. Want to feel better? Think nature. Healing gardens are a growing trend.