healing power of gardens

The healing power of gardens


Usually in this blog we discuss research studies that result in data and conclusions. Today our subject has no numbers or statistics, only summarizes some thoughts on the healing power of gardens, by probably the greatest neurologist of recent times, Dr. Oliver Sacks.

How he survived New York City

Dr. Sacks was born in 1933 in London, earned his medical degree from Oxford University, then moved to the United States for further training and medical practice. He lived most of his life in New York City, of which he says “I have lived in New York City for 50 years, and living here is sometimes made bearable for me only by its gardens. This has been true for my patients, too.”

He was an expert on chronic neurologic diseases such as Parkinson’s, Tourette’s syndrome, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. He wrote many books, including Awakenings, describing how a simple medication “woke up” patients with a type of encephalitis that kept them frozen and unmoving for decades. This was turned into the 1990 movie Awakeningsstarring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro.

Called the “Shakespeare of science writing”, his work has been widely translated, and many of his books are available in Portuguese. If you ask any neurologist anywhere, they will have heard of Dr. Oliver Sacks. He died of melanoma in 2015, but his writings on the healing power of nature live on.

Alternative therapies that work

He wrote that in all his years of medical practice “I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical ‘therapy’ to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens”.

Examples of healing powers

He wrote about his friend Lowell, with moderately severe Tourette’s syndrome. In this disease, the person has constant tics and jerky motions throughout the day. They also may utter spontaneous grunts, noises, even obscenities, that they have no control over. When Dr. Sacks hiked with Lowell in the desert, away from the crowds, his symptoms disappeared temporarily. Back in the city, his symptoms returned.

An elderly patient of his with advanced Parkinson’s disease, who was basically frozen, unable to initiate movement, was taken into a large garden with plants and rocks. Somehow this scene unfroze her movements, and she was able to climb up and down the rocks without assistance.

He treated many patients with advanced dementia, who did not remember how to tie their shoes, or do anything useful in the kitchen. But when he put them in front of flowers and some dirt, and given small seedling plants, they knew what to do, and got busy planting.

Why does nature work?

He said he doesn’t know why nature works, but that it somehow reaches into a more primitive part of our brain, and re-organizes circuits. He has seen nature or garden therapy work wonders, “even for those who are deeply disabled neurologically. In many cases, gardens and nature are more powerful than any medication.”

Who can benefit

Dr. Sacks wrote about the healing effects on people with neurological disease, but he recommended going into nature or gardens for even healthy people locked in a city environment. Workers who spend all day in offices, children stuck in city schools, older people in institutions, and many others, will benefit from visiting nature or gardens whenever they can. Consider it for yourself or someone you know who is “city locked”.

To find a doctor, of any specialty, anywhere in Brazil, check out our website: www.ProcuraMed.com.

See also in ProcuraMed:

Limited contact with nature increases incidence of allergies

How (and why) gratitude can improve your health

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

Recommended doctors

This post is related to specialty Neurology. Below is a list of some physicians related to this specialty.