In the second part of my aromatic garden trilogy of posts, I am today writing about how aroma plays a role in the healing garden. Although it may sound obvious to some, the role of aroma in the garden, to me, works in conjunction with all of our other senses, too. Aroma also might be more subtle than when we use it in the form of essential oils and hydrosols – but it is there. Today’s post is written from my heart as part of my own healing journey.
The Scientific Approach: The Role of Aroma
We know that some aromas make us feel good while others may remind us of something not so pleasant. The olfactory area of the cerebrum (an area of the brain) receives impulses from the olfactory nerves in the nose and interprets them as smell. The hippocampus, part of the limbic system within the brain, may play a role in forming these “memory” odors.1 Certainly, the aroma of roses may be pleasant to some, while for others it might be a memory of something they would rather forget. The aroma is the same – but perceived differently, depending upon which memory that particular aroma invokes.
The Role of the Five Senses in the Healing Garden
Aroma in the healing garden is meant to be a pleasurable experience – something to think about when designing your healing garden, in view of the last statement above.
But the five senses combined totally enhance your healing garden experience. Here’s some examples of how each of these senses impact your encounter in the garden:
fragrant flowers and herbs such as rose, peppermint, hyacinth, lilac, lavender, thyme, and more contribute to a well thought-out healing garden. Some aromas, such as rose, may be more potent than the smaller herb aromas which may require the interaction of touch and taste to fully experience them. Just pay attention to any cautions before touching and tasting plants in the garden!
Think about the types of aromas you prefer and add those plants to your garden. For example: Rose, hyacinth, and lilac for seductive, floral aromas vs. mint, rosemary and thyme for herbaceous (yet sometimes spicy) aromas.
Some flowers and plants are more visually appealing than aromatic. For example, sunflowers – which I like to call the “happy flowers” of the garden – do not have any aroma but visually they brighten up the garden with their “sunny” apppearance. Oil is extracted from sunflower seeds and used in aromatherapy but, in this instance, the color and apppearance of the sunflower is more healing than the seeds. My Visionary ScentTMnotecards were created with this in mind.
Sounds such as birds chirping, messing around in the bird bath, and running water such as fountains and waterfalls contribute to the healing environment of the garden. You may prefer the sound of wind chimes – or even the sound of silence itself.
The design of the garden may impact your healing process. Whereas some people – like me – prefer the “messy,” uncultured style of a cottage garden, others may prefer the clipped borders and hedges of a more formal garden. Think about what you would like to see – and what will heal you – as you take a well-earned rest in your garden chair!
Aroma-Therapy in Conjunction with Horticultural Therapy
Horticultural therapy engages a person in gardening to help them to achieve therapeutic goals with regard to a health condition (physical or emotional). A trained horticultural therapist can assist a person in doing this. Combine horticultural therapy specifically with aroma-therapy plants and you have two types of therapies working together. Many gardeners have practiced this type of “therapy” for years, perhaps unconsciously, but understanding the therapeutic value of the (aromatic) garden.
Personally, my garden has been a huge part of my healing journey and, although I didn’t consciously set out to “heal” myself with my aromatic garden, I have found invaluable support from it – either sitting drinking a cup of tea and planning the next phase, or putting real blood, sweat, and tears into it.
If you would like to learn more about how to integrate aromatic plants (and which ones) into your own garden, sign up for my April NAHA webinar on A Healing Garden in Your Back Yard!
Happy aromatic gardening!
Author is a 20 year veteran in the health care and aromatherapy industry, an aromatherapist, a budding aromatic gardener, a photographer, a published author and editor in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business consultant, scent formulator, an aromatherapy school program coordinator, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.