The 35-acre Illinois campus of National University is home to a wide variety of trees, flowers, and native plants. It also is home to the NUHS Botanical Garden, which is a project of the Naturopathic Medical Student Association. The garden started with 20 plants and today is double its original size, boasting over 60 different botanicals.
The garden is maintained by National University’s naturopathic medicine students under the guidance of naturopathic medicine faculty member Dr. Lorinda Sorensen. Each plant nurtured in the garden has a valuable application in botanical medicine.
“The garden is a tool to enhance learning about botanicals,” explains Dr. Sorensen. “Students have many different ways of learning. The plants provide visual and even olfactory learning, as many of the plants are very aromatic. While most of my classes involve photographs of medicinal plants, in summer and fall we can visit the garden to see, smell and touch the actual plants.”
In extra-curricular sessions, students often use the garden plants to make herbal medicines and tinctures for their own personal use. “It’s not only the medicines that are healing,” explains Dr. Sorensen. “Research shows that exposure to green space and nature is very important to our well-being.”
The garden has some unique specimens, including an Ashwagandha plant that overwinters at Dr. Sorensen’s house. The garden also has a Dragon Fruit plant given as a gift from a University of Illinois greenhouse, which resides in the clinic during the winter and in the garden during the summer months. While the fruit is delicious, it is the leaves of the dragon fruit that have medicinal qualities.
The NUHS Botanical Garden even has its own Facebook page, where Dr. Sorensen and students plan garden work parties or post photos of favorite medicinal herbs.
The botanical garden is part of a campus culture that supports the full traditional education in naturopathic medicine