Natural Environments Have Major Medical Benefits

It is well known that interior landscaping has many health benefits for employees. In addition to keeping healthy people well, interior landscaping can also help sick people recover.

“Healing gardens” are becoming very popular at hospitals and assisted living facilities. These gardens can be found both indoors and out. They are designed with the intent of reducing patient stress and pain levels and ultimately aiding in the healing process.

The Studies

Scientific American published an article regarding the studies that have inspired healing gardens. The initial study was performed in 1984 by Roger Ulrich of Texas A&M. Ulrich discovered that patients who had views of trees from their windows required less pain medication and had fewer complications than patients who had only brick walls for a view. In 1993, Ulrich performed another study that concluded even pictures of nature scenes reduced anxiety and the need for pain medication among ICU patients. These studies combined with other significant surveys and studies have shown that exposure to nature reduces pain and stress for patients and reduces stress for facility employees and patient family members. Natural structures in places of healing and recovery offer numerous benefits to everyone involved. These healing gardens can be located outdoors, indoors, or even on rooftops. The main importance is to make them easily accessible to those who are recovering. Even small spaces of foliage where patients can regularly view them offer significant benefits.

Water Features

Water can also be particularly helpful in soothing anxiety. However, in hospital settings it is important to keep the water feature safe. It is recommended to use impervious surfaces, low temperature lighting such as LEDs to keep water temperatures cooler, and rapid velocity delivery systems to keep water from becoming stagnate. These precautions help eliminate the spread of bacteria. Flowing water which mimic the sounds of a babbling brook or gentle river are among the most relaxing.

Checklist for Healing Gardens

Scientific American offers a checklist based on research for healing gardens to make them effective in aiding patients. Some of the suggestions include:

  • “Keep it Green”  Try to avoid hardscapes and keep the landscape full of lush foliage and flowers. Work to resemble an outdoor park more than a shopping plaza.
  • “Keep it Real, Abstract sculptures do not soothe people who are sick or worried.”
  • Think about accessibility especially for walkways, and furniture.
  • “Engage multiple senses” Interactive gardens draw more visitors. Create spaces where people can touch, smell, and hear.

Ultimately you want healing gardens to be spaces where people can interact with nature, feel safe, and relax. If you are crafting a small interior space, use trees and lush greenery as often as possible.

Benefits for Hospitals

Hospitals benefit from having effective healing spaces because patients recover faster, with less pain medication, and fewer complications. This saves the hospital money and produces more satisfied clients. It also keeps employees healthier and reduces their stress level and mental strain. These natural spaces are an important investment for hospitals and long term care facilities.

As an interior landscaper you have the opportunity to improve care for patients. Help hospital administrators and long-term care facility managers understand the significant benefits of proving natural spaces for their clients and employees.


Have you crafted a healing garden? What suggestions do you have to make a significant and helpful space for those in need of healing?


Photo “St. Vincent’s Hospital’s Front Garden” courtesy of RubyGoes
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