Horticultural therapy is the art of healing with plants. It employs plants and gardening activities in therapeutic and rehabilitation activities to improve well being of humans. Horticultural therapy is also known as Social and Therapeutic Horticulture(STH). It has been defined by AHTA(American Horticulture Therapy Association)as the engagement of a person in gardening and plant-based activities facilitated by a trained therapist, to achieve specific therapeutic treatment goals.
Image Source – realorganicgardener
History of Horticultural Therapy
Historically the use of Horticultural therapy dates back to 2000 BC in Mesopotamia. Around 500 BC, the Persians also began to create gardens to please all the senses. Literature shows that Egyptian physicians prescribed garden walks for people with mental illness. In Europe in the Middle Ages, monastery hospitals cultivated therapy gardens.St.Bernad (1090-1153) was an early proponent of the therapy garden .” Father of American Psychiatry”, Dr. Benjamin Rush was the first to document the positive effect of working in the garden had on an individual’s mental health while serving as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in 1798. In the first half of the 20th century in Europe, garden work was prescribed for injured soldiers of both world war 1 & 2. In the second half of the 20th-century Curriculum, the graduate degree program was started in the United States. In 1973 The Council for Therapy and Rehabilitation through Horticulture(NCTRH) was founded.later in 1988, this organization known as American Horticulture Therapy Association(AHTA).
Today Horticultural therapy is practiced in many countries such as Korea, Japan, Europe, UK, Sweden, Italy, Germany, etc. Many universities in these countries started education programs and research activities in this area. for eg; Alnarp rehabilitation Garden at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Horticultural therapy also puts down its roots in Kerala, India also over the last 10 years, ie at College of Agriculture under Kerala Agriculture University.