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Medical Expert Recommends Ditching Pills for Gardening to Treat Depression

ICTMN Staff
3/30/12

A medical expert in the United Kingdom recommends doctors prescribe gardening to help patients beat depression, reported the Fraser Coast Chronicle.

According to Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, time spent planting and harvesting can be more effective in restoring mental health than taking prescription drugs.

Thompson, who is a patron of Thrive, a national charity in the UK that offers gardening therapy, said: "Drug therapy can be really expensive, but gardening costs little and anyone can do it."

He believes the UK government's health reforms will provide doctors more leeway in how to treat patients, allowing them the freedom to recommend horticulture for depression. "I have, for some time, thought doctors should prescribe a course of gardening for people who come to them with depression or stroke. The new commissioning structures about to be introduced might allow more innovative treatment approaches to be put in place, including the opportunity to try gardening rather than prescribe expensive drugs."

In addition to the therapeutic benefits of working in the potting shed, gardening is a workout. "I always wonder why people go to the gym when there is a 'green gym' outdoors for us all—and, what's more, it's free. Gardening burns off calories; makes joints supple and is fantastic exercise. It is a physical activity that has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of anxiety, depression and dementia."

Ian Rickman, a member of Thrive, can testify to the benefits of tilling the land. Rickman suffered a stroke at age 40, which left him paralysed down one side. "At first, I burst into tears a lot," he said. "I couldn't see a way I would ever be able to live my life again, to walk out into a garden, let alone work in a garden. Therapy through gardening is a powerful tool—it helped me come to terms with my stroke, and it helped me learn how to live again."

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