Gardening as a Healer

As I wrote in July, healing gardens are places that heal us in all ways: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. A garden doesn’t just heal our souls by bringing joy, peace, balance, and wholeness, a garden also has the added benefit of helping our physical self as we work to maintain this oasis of beauty; it literally exercises our bodies and helps us heal and stay healthy in that way too.

The garden is a refuge for anyone seeking solace, quiet, reflection, or comfort in difficult times, and researchers have actually found that the right environment–usually one with natural elements–can promote healing.

There’s even a whole field devoted to the idea of promoting the people-plant relationship: Horticultural Therapy. It’s what it sounds like, basically using horticulture in a therapeutic way, or using horticulture for wellness and to heal. It involves the use of plants and plant-related activities to improve the body, mind, and spirits of people. It is a field that focuses on the people-plant relationship, or looking at the benefits of plants for people, rather than the view that horticulture usually takes that focuses on the plants.

According to the book Horticulture As Therapy by Sharon Stimson & Martha Straus, “Horticultural therapy is a treatment modality that uses plants and plant products to improve the social, cognitive, physical, psychological, and general health and well-being of its participants. While treatment and rehabilitation typically have been offered in health care facilities, many have found that a garden offers a complementary health care setting that helps to restore physical and mental health to those who work the soil and watch seeds grow.”

Many gardeners can personally attest to the healing powers of their hobby. I know that I can. Who among us hasn’t experienced stress, frustration, depression, and found that being in a natural setting or working in the garden is soothing, calming, therapeutic, offering peace and tranquility?

We all can benefit from plant activities and gardening to ease stress because:

  • Plants are calming, therapeutic and soothing.
  • Gardening is relaxing and reduces stress, and helps you unwind and clear your mind.
  • The peacefulness and tranquility of gardens and gardening reduces tension and anxiety.
  • Working in a garden is an outlet for creativity and a form of self-expression.
  • While in nature or gardening, you become absorbed and for a brief time forget everything else and can regain pleasure.

Gardening also helps us physically because the physical labor of gardening is similar to the effects of exercising and is a natural way to stretch, reach, bend, walk, and move.

As a moderate exercise activity gardening lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and reduces muscle tension. It also heightens the senses, improves circulation, builds physical endurance, and burns calories. You can burn about 360 calories an hour from gardening.

And, a garden can literally be physically healing if you incorporate edibles such as herbs, trees, vegetables, fruits, etc. for their healing properties and to improve your physical health.

Judi Gerber is a garden and agriculture writer, a horticultural therapy consultant, and a certified Master Gardener with the UC Cooperative Extension Los Angeles, Common Ground Garden Program. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.


Julie Botsch
Julie Botsch2 years ago

Thank You.

Robert O.
Robert O.5 years ago

It's also a great diversion from the stresses and horrors of the world. Just stay focused on the gardening only and shut out the rest of the world and any thoughts you have that aren't related to the gardening you're doing. Thanks.

Liz Thompson
Elisabeth T.6 years ago

Love to garden, thanks for the great article...

Gita Sasi Dharan
Gita Sasi Dharan6 years ago

Thank you very much for this wonderful article. I am a lover of Nature and a gardening enthusiast. I can vouch that every sentence in this article is true.. Activities in your garden will have a rejuvenating effect on your body, mind and soul.

Katharine Welch
Katharine Welch6 years ago

I started my first vegetable garden this year and I now know what they mean by it being therapeutic, I've loved every moment I spend in my garden and we've been able to eat the fruits of our labor. It doesn't get much better than that.

Connie W.
Connie W.6 years ago

I love gardening l and just to have that feeling when you see a plant that you planted as a seed sprout is wonderful.

Janice P.
Janice P.6 years ago

I can tell you from having watched my parents as they toiled lovingly in their gardens, that gardening kept them young, vital, active, feeling useful, and alive into their 90's. They always said that, although I was the joy of their lives, gardening was the love of their lives. I am beyond grateful for all the happiness and the extra years that gardening gave them.

Bette M.
Bette M.6 years ago

Plant & protect trees for life

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Sylvia W.
Sylvia W.6 years ago

I have never been happier than since I moved to the Catskills and have time to garden! I grow for beauty, food and health, and all organic, so my motel guests can wander through and enjoy. Roses, lilacs, irises, hydrangeas, zinnias and pansies for the eye, nasturtiums, herbs, pineapple sage (a favorite) for sensory and edible pleasure, and a collection of veggies for the kitchen ;-)