A healing garden can be a remarkably soothing, therapeutic experience for patients suffering from a chronic illness like COPD. In fact, the concept of healing gardens is not a new one -- it has been around for more than 1,000 years as European monasteries created elaborate gardens during the Middle Ages to soothe and distract the ill. Additionally, in the 1800s, many European and American hospitals adopted a similar concept as unique gardens and aromatic plants were commonly found within hospital grounds for patients and their families to spend time in during their hospital stay.
Therapeutic Benefits of Healing Gardens
Having an illness like COPD can be extremely stressful for patients and their families as the diagnosis often brings with it the possibility of pain, disability, reduction of income, loss of self-esteem and self-worth, frequent, traumatic hospital experiences and even death.
A healing garden provides an alternative to traditional healing and may be used as an adjunct to your standard COPD treatment plan.
Healing gardens offer the following, therapeutic benefits:
- Relieve stress
- Reduce negative emotions, such as fear and anger
- Promote relaxation
- Improve mood
- May decrease blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension
- May decrease a patient's perception of pain
- Improve clinical outcomes (in a hospital setting)
- Promote bonding between those people who help plan and create it
6 Tips for Planting Your Healing GardenThe following tips will help you embark on your healing garden journey, keeping in mind the chronic, respiratory nature of your disease:
- Consider a Functional, Yet Natural Layout
Remember that COPD drains you of vital energy, so you will want to create a layout for your healing garden that is designed to promote periodic rest periods as you travel through it as well as creates something that is pleasing to look at. A strategically placed park bench or ornate garden chair that sits under a shady pine tree along a cobblestone path will allow you to sit and rest a spell while you take in the beauty of the scenery that surrounds you.
- Pick Flowers That Are Pollinated By Insects or Birds
Flowers that are pollinated by the wind may not be your best choice if you have COPD. Why? Because the wind can also blow those nasty little pollens right up your nose and into your your airways causing unnecessary airway irritation. Choosing plants like Snapdragons, Begonias or Petunias are better choices and any one of these will make for a marvelous display in your garden. For a more complete list of these types of flowers, visit Gardening With COPD, by Patricia R. Barrett.
- Choose Medicinal, Healing Plants
To symbolize healing and recovery, choose plants that have traditional, medicinal roots, such as Aloe Vera, Sage, Lemon Balm, Milk Thistle, or Comfrey. Planting vitamin and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables like oranges or strawberries and spinach or artichokes can also supply you with a glorious amount of extra nutrients that you may need to help heal your ailing body and energize your tired spirit.
- Plant Healing, Aromatic Flowers
According to Eileen Hutcheson, M.Ed., "Flower Essence Therapy is a gentle, effective way to correct mental and emotional imbalances, enhance well-being and creativity, and bring the physical body into balanced harmony". You can bring the art of Flower Essence Therapy to your own healing garden by planting delightful, aromatic flowers like Chamomile, Lavender, Marsh Mallow or Peppermint which will not only be a treat for your sense of smell, but enchanting to the eye as well.
- Use Fixtures Wisely to Attract Wildlife
Have you ever known the joy of looking out your window on a hot summer's day only to see dozens of brightly colored birds taking a clandestine dip in your bird bath? What would a healing garden be without the natural beauty of wildlife? The more fixtures that you use in your healing garden to attract them, the more wildlife you will attract, so go to town! Decorative bird baths, picturesque bird houses, unique hummingbird feeders -- they even sell squirrel feeders and butterfly houses! Why not get creative and build your own, with a do-it-yourself bird house kit?
- Practice Alternative Therapy During Garden Time
There is nothing like nature to enhance the practice of alternative therapies like meditation, relaxation and visualization. -- or even yoga. Arrange your garden so that you can practice alternative methods comfortably during the time you spend there. It will make doing these types of exercises all the more rewarding.
Healing gardens bring the magic of healing right into your very own backyard. But, if you are profoundly affected by COPD, it may be difficult for you to create a healing garden yourself, or even visit one if someone does it for you. This is when it becomes so important to ask -- or pay -- for help. If you want to plant a garden but just don't have the energy or breath for it, then ask someone -- a friend or family member -- to do it for you. You may even elect to hire someone. If you are wheelchair-bound and it is difficult for you to get out of the house, if only to the backyard, ask a caregiver, friend or relative to help get you there so you can spend some qualify time in your garden either on a daily basis, or several times a week.
It is so important that we recognize and take the time to honor ourselves in whichever way we choose. If you choose to honor your spirit by planting your very own healing garden, then the healing power of nature will be right out your backdoor and only a couple of steps -- and breaths -- away.
For more information about healing gardens, visit About.com's Gardening Website.
Ulrich, Roger Ph.D. Health Benefits of Gardens in Hospitals. Plants for People. 2002.
COPD News of the Day. Plant a Healing Garden. 3/21/2010.