The Dorothy Bradley Atkin Medicinal Plant Garden is a garden in the the University of Illinois at Chicago, in the Medical Campus, next to the College of Pharmacy. The garden serves as a research resource as well as an educational resource for communities in Chicago.
The Research and Outreach
The items planted in the garden are studied in labs in order to understand their organic chemical compounds and their potential to treat disease. The garden is also a center for community outreach. The College of Pharmacy hosts annual garden walks to engage in conversations with the public about the cultural uses and history of the plant in medicines as well as research that is happening on campus and around the world.
Snippet from fieldnotes:
“We arrived at the Medicinal Garden right next to the UIC College of Pharmacy at around 11:00am. There was a large banner with red and blue balloons attached to the perimeter of the garden directing guests to the annual garden walk. We went to the tent area in the front to procure a pamphlet that described all the medicinal herbs and their corresponding plots on the lot.
Figure 1 and Figure 2 Captions: Pamphlet given out at the Garden Walk event which details the types of plants currently grown in the garden
We met one of the researchers who completed her PhD in ethnobotany..She said that many of the plants in the garden were added because of their significance as native species to Chicago and well-documented in Native American herbal practices. She also said that many plants were currently being studied for their potential effectiveness in treating women’s health issues like pre-menstrual syndrome and menopause. Some examples included wild bergamot, fennel, and lily of the valley.”
What Is Ethnobotany?
Ethno means people or culture.
Botany is the scientific study of plants and their categorizations.
Ethnobotany is an interdisciplinary study of plants in many dimensions, including understanding the pharmacology and biology of plants to investigating the relationships between people and plants - like knowledge systems about ecology or perceptions about the world, mythology, medicine, religion, customs, and other uses.
The UIC Atkins Medicinal Garden aims to educate people about the importance of understanding how plants have played a role in culture, medicine, and the environment. Even now, there is much to learn about plants and their interactions with the people and the environment. Ethnobotanists work with communities to understand how people use and conceptualize plants in their lives.