In May 2010, the first shovel-full of earth was turned over for the NUHS Herb Garden. Naturopathic medicine students spearheaded the project with faculty input. They pitched their plan to University administrators, and pulled in equipment and help from the grounds maintenance crew. Students from the Naturopathic Medical Students Association, an on-campus club, volunteered for the initial planting and the ongoing tending and harvesting of the herbs.
“The garden has over 30 medicinal plants this year,” says NUHS faculty member, Kristina Conner, ND. She has personally grown herbs at her home for over 15 years, ever since she was an ND student herself. “We started small by design, and hope to gradually add more space and more plants each year.”
The garden boasts familiar herbs like mint, basil and echinacea, as well as more unusual herbs like pokeroot and burdock. The students started with a list of the most commonly used medicinal herbs and then cross-referenced the list with what would grow in northern Illinois’ climate zone.
The student gardeners earn University service credit for their work in the garden, but mainly benefit from the hands-on experience of working with the herbs. The goal is to give the students more interaction with the herbs beyond just listening to lectures about them in a classroom.
Botanical medicine classes at NUHS are also able to take advantage of the garden to practice plant identification. Dr. Conner says, “The garden isn’t meant to be exclusively for the ND program. Many programs here study herbs, so hopefully chiropractic and oriental medicine students will also get involved in the future. Also, we hope to use the garden as a resource for the community. There aren’t many large herb gardens in this local area, and we hope someday to provide ours as a place where community members can also learn plant identification.”