What do Chinese medicine and eco-friendly gardening have in common? Chinese medicine emphasizes the idea that our bodies are a microcosm of nature. Thus, when we embrace organic and sustainable gardening methods as a way of growing foods that can be used as medicine to balance the body, we reconnect profoundly with nature and empower ourselves with a way to improve both diet and health, by bringing balance to the natural flows of energy in our bodies.
You can create a sustainable, eco-friendly garden by using cinderblocks to create raised garden beds, and grow a variety of vegetables that help to heal the body in very specific ways. For example, in the spring, people tend to manifest health conditions such as headaches at the top of the head, high blood pressure, joint and tendon pain, and insomnia. A garden that includes vegetables, that on an herbal level, can help to alleviate these conditions might include: dandelion, Swiss Chard, mustard greens and other leafy green vegetables, peppermint and cucumber. Thus, gardening provides a powerful opportunity to develop living herbal pharmacies that can help us to improve health and wellness by allowing us to incorporate healing foods into our daily diets.
When we emphasize organic gardening, we are even more empowered to detoxify the body because foods grown with organic methods are free of pesticides and other toxins that may exacerbate chronic health issues. Furthermore, organic gardening methods help us regain a harmony with the ecosystem in a way that benefits our sense of centeredness and ability to contribute to nourishing the planet and other life forms. Thus, we develop a greater sense of connectivity to the earth, which can help to foster more calm mental states.
In addition, neuroscientist Christopher Lowry found that mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria normally found in dirt, has been found to stimulate the immune system of mice and boost the production of serotonin, which plays a large role in influencing moods. The research that Dr. Lowry conducted suggests that gardening activities, where we are working with organic soil or earth with our bare hands can help us fend off depressive states and anxiety by boosting serotonin levels. This gives new meaning to the idea that gardening is perhaps one of the best natural antidotes to depression, not to mention that spending time gardening on sunny days can also help to boost levels of serotonin.
Another connection between Chinese medicine and gardening occurs when we integrate energetic healing exercises such as taiji or qi gong as as a way of preparing the body for gardening tasks. These ancient forms of healing movements help us to avoid the typical aches and pains that some gardeners experience. Taiji and qi gong are excellent ways to warm the joints and spine, areas of the body which often get stressed from bending to work in gardens (even if they are raised beds). Further more, the systems of taiji and qi gong activate specific energy flows that enable us to develop greater sensitivity to the flows found in nature. Thus, these ancient forms of healing exercises allow us to open our energy bodies to the higher frequencies found in natural plant life. This is why classically, in Asian cultures, taiji and qi gong performed in beautiful gardens and spaces in nature where plants are abundant. You will also find in the Asian cultures, a diet high in vegetables and low in meat products, a diet style associated with lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and chronic illness.
So this spring, take a different approach to your gardening efforts by mindfully creating gardens that grow food as medicine, and integrating healing movements as part of the process of working with the abundance of earth and plant energies.