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Horticultural Therapy: How Gardening Can Help You Heal

horticultural therapy
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / JamesDeMers

Horticultural therapy is the practice of healing using plants and nature. We’ll tell you more about the therapeutic benefits, and how you can get started.

Horticultural therapy is used in rehabilitative care and is the process of using plants and gardens to improve physical and mental health. The practice has a very long history, and the use of gardens and gardening as a way to cultivate healing and combat stress goes back to ancient times. The origins of horticultural therapy were established in the early 19th century by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Horticultural therapy was used as rehabilitation in the 1940s and 1950s, for hospitalised war veterans to help them improve the functioning of injured limbs and increase mental function while learning new, diverting skills. This significantly expanded the acceptance of the practice.

Horticultural therapy takes place within an established treatment plan and is used as a therapeutic activity. It is often used in hospitals, but horticultural therapists also work in addiction recovery centres, prisons, and wilderness therapy programs for teenagers.

Horticulture Therapy Benefits

Horticultural therapy has many physical and mental health benefits.
Horticultural therapy has many physical and mental health benefits. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / ELIZABETED)

Gardening is know to be calming activity that allows you to unwind, and can be used as a mindfulness based stress reduction. A 2017 review of scientific research concluded that gardening is beneficial for overall health. Horticultural therapy helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation and language skills. In physical rehabilitation, horticultural therapy can help strengthen muscles and improve balance and endurance. In vocational horticultural therapy, cognitive skills are strengthened as people learn to work independently and problem solve. 

The effects of horticultural therapy have been studied, and the practice is known to:

How to Get Started

Joining a community garden is a great way to spend improving your mental health by spending time gardening.
Joining a community garden is a great way to spend improving your mental health by spending time gardening. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Carola68)

If you are interested in taking part in horticultural therapy, you can contact the American Horticultural Therapy Association, who provide access to therapy groups all over the US. There are many ways that you can cultivate your mental health by spending more time gardening on your own. Some ideas to get started include: 

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