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Health & Spirit

Working and playing with plants helps cope with illness, disabilities

Mike Faulk, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Health & Fitness

Susan Bussen, a liver cancer patient, said such activities helped her pass the time during treatments, which "last long enough to have doughnuts and gossip" with friends who have joined her. Bussen said she had always grown herbs at home, and Carbone's rue plant reminded her of one she used to have outside her front door.

"I read that rue keeps evil spirits away," Bussen said. "I used to joke I put it there to keep my sisters out."

The American Horticultural Therapy Association website says the benefits "have been documented since ancient times," and in modern times the practice has gained acceptance among medical professionals. In the 1940s and 1950s, medical care providers increasingly used garden environments for therapy with returning U.S. war veterans, and the practice continued growing from there.

Botanical Garden representatives say therapeutic horticulture is for everyone, not just those with specific needs. For cancer patients such as Bussen, it's an opportunity to think about better things.

"You're not dreading being in treatment," Bussen said. "It's more like I've done something fun today, rather than something I had to do."

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