Science – Garden therapy works without drugs – Wikipedia

BERLIN/HATTINGEN (dpa) – Kristel Haas carefully loosened a stone rose and gradually planted individual roses in the moist soil of his seed tray. “It calms me down and makes me happy when I see the plants growing,” says the 88-year-old Berliner.

She hasn’t had her own garden for a long time. The pensioner is a patient in the Department of Geriatrics and Psychiatry at the Evangelical Hospital Herzberg in Berlin. Gardening is part of the treatment program there.

This historic red brick clinic building is surrounded by greenery and old trees and is located in the landscaped Park of Herzberg. In the garden of the Geronton Psychiatric Clinic, therapist Marlette Broom planted flower beds with her patients. Small vegetables grow in raised beds.

Kristel Haas is being treated for anxiety attacks. Other patients come to the clinic with depression, psychotic disorders, fears, disorientation or behavioral problems, for example in the context of dementia. Patients are often nervous, aggressive or cry a lot, says medical director Torsten Kratz.

work in the countryside

Horticultural therapy can help reduce behavioral problems. “Working in the country lifts morale and increases motivation without any medication,” Kratz says. “Through gardening, for example, depressed patients regain momentum by actively doing something. Many times they no longer dare to do anything.”

On the other hand, for people with dementia, therapy through memory helps. “They are confused and have lost the memory of their past. But most patients of the older generation have a connection to nature, and their fingers have been in the ground before, even if only when they were stealing turnips during the war,” says the doctor.

Gardening provides support and direction, simply through the familiar and frequent path of the seasons, adds garden therapist Broom. Another positive effect: “Patients, who tend to play a passive role, now actively take care of something, and take responsibility for the plants. And the person who takes care of it becomes the caretaker,” says Kratz.

Twice a week, patients can weed, sow, plant, cut, or – for example in the winter – work creatively with plants and other natural materials. In Bromm’s view, garden therapy is a conscious experience of nature that goes beyond physical labor. “It’s also about stopping, finding one’s way in nature, realizing things and getting to the here and now.”

The therapeutic aspects were already discovered in antiquity

According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA), the therapeutic aspects of horticulture have been described since ancient times. In the 19th century, physician Benjamin Rush first described the positive effects on mentally ill people. In the 1940s and 1950s, this form of therapy was also used in the rehabilitation of veterans. Horticultural therapy is now used for a wide variety of ailments.

“Technologies help learn new skills or restore lost skills,” AHTA wrote. Garden therapy can improve memory, cognitive and language skills, for example. It can also enhance muscle strength, sense of balance and endurance.

However, this type of treatment isn’t right for everyone, Kratz explains: “It only helps people who also have a nice connection to the garden. That’s why we do a CV beforehand to see what works for the patient.” His home also offers other non-drug methods, such as Qi-Gong.

About 17 years ago, the clinic was one of the first in Germany to include garden therapy in its inpatient treatment, says Kratz. It’s not a monetary advantage, “but we think it’s important.”

Therapeutic offers for gardens are rare

Hospitals offering horticultural treatment are still scarce. “Garden therapy is primarily found in aged care and in psychiatric and addiction rehabilitation facilities, and increasingly also in the educational field,” says Andreas Nebel, president of the International Garden Therapy Association. It is also a question of financing. In the rehabilitation sector, this is covered by the German pension insurance.

Niebel estimates that about 300 to 400 garden therapists work in Germany. There is no standalone training here, but other training opportunities do. Many garden therapists are occupational therapists or educators in their main profession.

In other countries, such as Great Britain and the United States, the form of treatment is more widespread. It is also taught at different universities there, says Niebel, who has been in charge of the lawn/garden therapy department at a specialized clinic for neurorehabilitation and neurosurgery in Hattingen (North Rhine-Westphalia) for 30 years.

Horticultural treatment after stroke

The form of therapy can also be used in neuroscience: “For example, if people have to learn how to use both hands in a coordinated way after a stroke, to control their trunk, walk, and stand, then gardening can be put to good use in these.”

“In the meantime, many studies have demonstrated the positive effect of gardening therapy on health and well-being,” says Nebel, who shows and comments on the studies on Instagram. In his book Well-Being Gardeners, he also addresses young gardeners and, based on his experiences in garden therapy, describes how people with different demands on their green plots can be happy and satisfied.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220607-99-571934 / 6

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