Horticulture as a therapeutic tool can be traced back to Dr. Benjamin Rush, recognized as the “father of American psychiatry.” Dr. Rush first documented the benefits of horticulture therapy on individuals with mental illness in the 18th century.
Horticulture is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants. The two subdivisions of horticulture are the cultivation of plants for food and the cultivation of plants for ornament. Hence, a horticulturist combines the various aspects of plant production to promote both beauty and utility.
The therapeutic benefits of gardening and horticulture therapy are both psychological and physiological. Horticultural therapy techniques can help people learn new skills or regain those that have been lost during mental illness or substance use disorder. Furthermore, horticulture therapy can improve memory and cognitive abilities, and aid in socialization.
Gardening has been shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Therefore, horticulture therapy can be particularly beneficial for teens as a powerful way to build confidence and reduce stress. Additionally, horticulture therapy ignites personal responsibility and environmental awareness. Moreover, research shows that horticulture therapy helps teens view themselves more positively and better manage their emotions and behavior.
Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, American Horticultural Therapy Association, National Public Radio