Posted by Victoria Hochman May 14, 2013

Anyone who has spent anytime cutting lavender in the garden knows how soothing the smell can be. But what they might not know is that lavender has been used for centuries for its calming effects. It is one of hundreds of medicinal plants that are used to heal. And while medicial plants and herbs have been used since the beginning of time by many cultures, they are now taking center stage in the growing debate on the role of plants in modern medicine. This year, Hudson Valley Hospital Center has plans for a medicinal garden to be added to its Organic Garden, which initially opened last April. The garden is a relatively small, but productive plot that last year yielded a small bumper crop of tomatoes, beans, kale, spinach, basil and dozens of other vegetables and herbs. The bounty was shared with patients at our Cheryl R. Lindenbaum Cancer Center who marveled each week at the arrival of baskets filled with kolhrabi, kale, butternut squash or whatever veggies were most abundant at the time. Volunteers who worked in the garden - a devoted group of hospital workers and community members - planted, harvested, washed and packaged the crops for consumption by our patients. It was all part of the Hospital's Seeds for Health and Harvest for Health programs, which encourage healthy eating and the importance of proper diet in a patient's treatment plan. The addition of the medicinal garden was partly inspired by two men, Andrew Weil, M.D., who is an internationally recognized expert on medicinal herbs, mind-body interactions, and integrative medicine, and Michael Balick, Ph.D, who is curating an exhibit called "Wild Medicine:Healing Plants Around the World" that runs from May 18- September 8 at the New York Botanical Garden. As it happens Weil will be speaking at the exhibit opening on May 18.  His vision has inspired much of what is behind the Hospital's current move toward integrating nutritional health into its treatment of patients. "Wild Medicine:Healing Plants Around the World "highlights the vital connection between bio-diversity and human health, exploring how cultures worldwide rely on plants for essential everyday needs including food, medicine and personal care products," says Balick describing the exhibit. It surely is an exhibit worth checking out even if you can't make Weil's lecture on the opening. For more information about Wild Medicine vist the New York Botanical Garden website