Can plants and gardens help calm stress?

The Missouri Botanical Garden is trying to help cancer patients deal with stress.

Facing cancer is emotional and stressful. It’s the reason the Missouri Botanical Garden offers therapeutic horticulture.

“We believe there is therapeutic befefit to engaging on a personal level with nature,” said Jeanne Carbone, a therapeutic horticulture instructor at the Botanical Garden. “For some people it’s climbing a mountain, but here we think it’s engaging with plants.”

On a recent morning, Carbonne guided a group of cancer patients, encouraging them to smell, touch, and admire the variety of plant life at the Botanical Garden.

“Because they’re going through something that’s terribly difficult, and this gives them a chance to concentrate on something else,” said Carbonne.

“Being outside with nature is definitely a good thing,” said Amy Masterson of Herrin, Illinois.

Herrin has brain cancer. So does her son.

“My son went through this a year ago, so we’re a bit of an oddity in the brain cancer tumor world.”

While Herrin receives cancer treatment in St. Louis, she is temporarily living at Hope Lodge. The American Cancer Society provides free lodging to cancer patients. Hope Lodge is partnering with the Botanical Garden with its horticultural therapy program.

“I love the flowers, the plants, I love the scents, butterflies, everything,” said Herrin. “You ned to be in the sun, you need to be outside experiencing life. You can’t sit in a building all the time.”

With a bald head, it’s easy to mistake Christy Davenport of Geff, Illinois, for a cancer patient. It’s her husband who is receiving treatment in St. Louis while they live at Hope Lodge.

“When he was diagnosed and we were in Barnes Hospital, he asked me if I would still love him if he had no hair,” said Davenport. “I said you must know know me very well. I’ll shave my head, too.”

Davenport said the healing power of plants and gardens is real to her.

“I feel more relaxed because it seems like we’re always in a rush to get medicine and treatment,” said Davenport. “It’s nice to get a break from a glass building.”

For Jeanne Carbonne, the therapeutic effect also applies for her.

“If I can do something to make their experience a little bit better, a little less painful, bring some calm to their life, that’s enough.”

To learn more about therapeutic horticulture at the Missouri Botanical Garden, click here.


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