I love my garden, and I almost always feel better after spending time in it, but I never really thought about *why* I felt better. It turns out that experts are catching on to the healing combination of plants and dirt, and it’s not only me that experienced the health benefits of gardening. If you’re already gardening, good for you! You’ve probably noticed some of these things, too. If you’re not gardening, perhaps this will help you get inspired (and share with your other non-gardening friends – it’s more fun to work together ).
Health Benefits of Gardening
Doctors in the UK are ditching pills and prescribing time in the dirt for treatment of depression. “Drug therapy can be really expensive, but gardening costs little and anyone can do it,” said Sir Richard, who is a patron of Thrive, a national charity that provides gardening therapy. In the US, veterans are being given time in “Healing Gardens” for treatment of post traumatic stress disorder.
We all know we’re supposed to exercise, but not enough of us do it. Gardening is less monotonous and more engaging than many other types of exercise, and can include a wide array of movements such as squats, weight-lifting (watch your back), stretching, wrist strengthening and more. Moderate to low level extended aerobic exercise is also becoming recommended by more health professionals instead of the old “no pain, no gain” mentality. A garden also serves as a reminder to exercise – it won’t take care of itself.
Healthy soil contains a wide array of microorganisms. A teaspoon of productive soil generally contains between 100 million and 1 billion bacteria. (source) These have been bottled and marketed as HSOs (Homeostatic Soil Organisms) and Carolyn Dean MD ND recommends “Take Soil-Based Probiotics and Eat Dirt“. In other words, if your garden soil is healthy, there’s no need to be too fussy about washing all your produce. Go right ahead and enjoy that tomato fresh off the vine, or the carrot pulled out of the soil and brushed off or rinsed with a garden hose.
Look at Nature, Reduce Your Stress
I’ve never been a big fan of abstract art – it’s just not my thing. That said, I was still surprised to come across studies that showed the patients who viewed natural landscapes healed faster than those who viewed abstract art. Web MD explains:
Looking at scenes of nature can produce a decline in systolic blood pressure in five minutes or less, even if the person is only looking at a poster of nature, Ulrich says. Looking at nature, he also has found, can aid recovery from stress as measured by changes in brain electrical activity, muscle tension, respiration, and shifts in emotional states, all of which may be linked to better immune function.
So take time to stop and smells the roses, and take time to look at them, too. Enjoy the view, calm your mind. If you go barefoot, you might also enjoy the benefits of earthing.
I debated about whether to include this one, but with sales of Viagra and other impotence medication reaching $807.7 million in 2009 (source), this is a very real problem. In addition to diet changes (see “Crispy Fries Equal a Limp One-Eyed Monster” in the post “Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Foods“, gardening may be one of the best activities for treating erectile dysfunction. The article “Forget Viagra – Why Gardening Boosts Men’s Performance in the Bedroom” states:
Scientists have shown that regular bouts of gentle weeding, digging and mowing can revitalise a man’s flagging sex drive. Just 30 minutes of gardening, five days a week, is enough to reduce the risk of impotence by around 38 per cent, they found.
With no side effects, I might add, other than a nice looking garden.
Heal Your Mind
Gardening has shown wonderful results for reaching children with special needs, stroke victims, and Alzheimer’s patients. The interaction with nature, comforting and familiar sights and sounds, different textures and smells provide a mufti-sensory experience that stimulates patients in non-conventional ways. Care2 offers suggestions for how to create your own healing garden.
Improve Your Diet
More than one study has shown the kids (and adults) who grow their own food are likely to make better food choices and eat more fresh produce. It only makes sense that after you’ve put time and effort into a plant, you’re going to appreciate what it produces a lot more and be less likely to go to waste. (Although I still think the $64 tomato is still a little over the top.) My boys ask for certain varieties by name (like Suyo Long cucumbers), and often beam when they offer “from our garden” produce to guests.
I love swapping gardening stories, tips and produce with friends and neighbors. It’s become part of my springtime ritual to share excess tomato plants. I first met one of my favorite neighbors when she brought over freshly baked bread and some extra garden produce shortly after we moved in. That’s my kind of welcome wagon. Since then, we’ve traded a variety of produce and canned goods, and she now gives piano lessons to my youngest. My momma and I spent many long hours in the garden together, and in the kitchen preserving the bounty. It was hard work, but I’ll treasure those memories forever. Now that she’s gone, I still feel her by my side in the garden and kitchen, and it brings a smile to my face every time. I encourage you to share gardening with someone you care about, too, and make some memories of your own.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, please pass it along. Hopefully we’ll encourage even more people to discover the health benefits of gardening, and spread a little garden mojo. Leave a comment and share your garden stories, special memories and things you love about gardening.
Featured at Fat Tuesday.