Gardening: The Wonderdrug

In a world of instant communication, we are constantly exposed to the latest cures for whatever ails us – the latest wonderdrugs. Most are costly and many come with dire risks and side effects.

Yet sometimes age-old simple cures can work wonders too. Gardening is turning out to be one of the best drugs available for both body and mind. So, do you want to shed pounds, build muscles, look and feel great while having fun, save money and help out the planet? Do you want to be more resistant to disease and injuries? Here’s why science is proving gardening to be a top choice for illness prevention and healing.

Gardening The Wonderdrug - Running

Physical Benefits

Vitamin D from sunshine has been proven critically important for our health, as it regulates calcium and phosphorus levels in the body. It can be supplemented in the diet, but the best way to increase vitamin D in our bodies is by working outdoors in the sunshine. Exposing your hands, face, arms, and legs to sunlight two to three times per week for several minutes will cause the skin to produce enough vitamin D. Gardening allows you to accomplish productive projects while getting enough precious vitamin D.

Gardening involves bending, digging, lifting, reaching, pruning, and stretching, all of which build and tone muscles, strengthen bones, and extend flexibility. These movements also increase blood circulation which leads to lowered blood pressure and faster healing. The result: you’ll be more resistant to injuries and reduce your risk of bone loss, heart disease, diabetes and other diseases.

Gardening The Wonderdrug - Physical Health Benefits of Gardening

Mental Benefits

Mentally, the calming and healing effects of gardening have become recognized as so important that healing gardens are being installed in hospital grounds, and other institutions ranging from business centers to penitentiaries. Some gardening jobs put your mind into an almost meditative state of relaxation. Pruning shrubs, deadheading (snipping off fading flowers) and hand weeding are just a few activities that can allow you to clear your mind. Other jobs allow you to focus. Most allow you to immerse yourself in the present rather than stressing about the past or future. Some stimulate your senses of smell and touch.

There is even a type of soil bacteria found almost everywhere outdoors, Mycobacterium vaccae, which is believed to stimulate production of norepinephrine and serotonin in your body just like an antidepressant drug. It can help your body regulate the required balance of chemicals in the brain, fighting off depression and making you smarter, no prescription needed!

Gardening The Wonderdrug - The Mental Benefits of Gardening

Side Effects

As if all these benefits–that would require a whole medicine cabinet of drugs to replicate–weren’t enough, the side effects are all equally beneficial.

Growing your own organic edibles offers more flavor and better nutrition than purchased fruits and vegetables that have already begun to deteriorate. For example, heirloom tomato varieties are considered more flavorful than modern hybrids. You can also avoid the questionable genetic engineering, pesticide and pollution issues sometimes present in commercially grown food. For more information on hybrid and heirloom tomatoes, check out our tomato article.

Studies have shown declines in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and vitamin C in the past half century, in many conventionally farmed foods. These declines could be linked to soil degradation caused by poor nutrient management, as well as breeding of plant species. Most growers chose what to plant by how well the foods ship and their shelf life instead of by flavor and nutrition. Choosing to plant heritage cultivars, along with maintaining healthy garden soil at home, may increase the nutrient content of your vegetables.

Furthermore, grocery stores also choose produce based on shelf life, and you’ll notice a huge disparity in flavor between those and your home grown crops, which you can choose specifically for taste. Much like farmers growing for direct or local sale, gardeners have flavor in mind. Heirloom varieties are not as hardy on store shelves, but have a drastically better flavor. Moreover, because homegrown food is dramatically fresher than its long-distance counterparts, consuming it even becomes a more attractive prospect.

Gardening The Wonderdrug - Nutritional Benefits of Gardening

Aside from flavor, you may also notice increased family harmony with projects in the garden. Watch your children transfixed with the magic of nature, give seniors a sense of fulfillment, have the teenagers take a break from technology and find out how much fun the family can have together on a shared garden project.

Designing your garden right can minimize dust in the air, reduce mold problems in the house, cool your home in the summer–giving you more allergy and disease resistance. Additionally, you’ll be doing the environment a favor by not adding to shipping and fuel waste when you grow your own cut flowers, herbs and food. You can also attract birds and butterflies, help out the wildlife, grow green to add oxygen and purify the air, and have a beautiful landscape for relaxation, play, and entertainment to make your neighbors jealous.

Gardening is truly a wonderdrug and one which not only costs very little, but pays back in so many ways for every penny spent. Why not take advantage of all these benefits?

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