Horticulture Therapy

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Peace in the garden. Feeling stressed, anxious? There is a sure way to make you feel better. Turn off the TV, click off the computer and as hard as it may seem, put down the phone. Walk outside, and experience the magic of nature. Get your hands in the soil. The success of this technique is actually a proven phenomenon. The therapeutic benefits of horticulture are well known to those of us who retreat to the garden to relax, renew, create, and connect to the natural rhythm of life. Studies show that regularly immersing yourself in the natural world, especially with hands-on gardening, is one of the best relaxation activities that you can engage in. It reduces blood pressure and lowers the level of stress hormones in your body. It’s in the soil (“dirt”) to the uninitiated.

In 2007, University of Colorado neuroscientist Christopher Lowry found that certain strains of soil-borne mycobacteria sharply stimulated the human immune system. A strain of bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, has been found to trigger the release of serotonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. Low levels of serotonin are linked with a number of disorders including anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder. The researchers also found that M. vaccae prevented stress-induced colitis, a typical symptom of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), suggesting that immunization with the bacteria may have a wide-ranging suite of health benefits. Contact with soil that is enriched with organic matter, through gardening or other means, is good for you.

A garden benefits you on many levels, including the wonder of working with the plants themselves. Therapeutic horticulture is the focused use of plants and plant-related activities to promote health and wellness for an individual or group. Gardening centers on the natural rhythm of life found in balanced ecosystems. In the garden, you can create and control your environment. This control is empowering. One of my favorite past times after a rain is pulling weeds out by the roots with gusto, mastering my domain one bit at a time.

You can design a garden to delight your senses with color, texture and fragrance. You can design a garden to build your strength and balance, foster eye-hand coordination, improve range-of-motion, and build endurance. Gardening benefits the mind with the challenge of learning new things about plants and specific gardening techniques

Besides these benefits, gardening can bring you together with other people. Bringing plants and people together promotes cooperation. There are gardening networks all across the world, our state, and Lee County.

NC State University has a world class Horticulture Program. To access research based information click on https://horticulture.ces.ncsu.edu/. If you are interested in finding out more about what is happening locally, visit us on the web at lee.ces.ncsu.edu or send an email to minda_daughtry@ncsu.edu to join the Lee Home Hort listserve. Then turn off the computer and get outdoors!

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul – — Alfred Austin

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