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Medicinal Plant Garden Walk

Besides the Independent Garden Center Show I tried to attend the Medicinal Garden Walk at the Dorothy Bradley Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden at UIC. As luck would have it I also was short on time that day and arrived late just as it had started to rain. This was not a good week for me to play citizen journalist but I took some more photos of the garden and made a small video consisting of still photos and video I captured with my digital camera on the second day of the garden walk.

What I regret most about not being able to attend the garden walk is that I missed hearing the speakers they had lined up because I was prepared with several questions that I had about the garden and the plants grown. There are over 140 medicinal plant species planted in the garden and I think on this blog I've only managed to document 23 of those plants. While not extensive I hope that the photos and information that I've recorded here can serve as a virtual garden walk of sorts. If plants and their medicinal uses interest you see my previous post Medicinal Plant Garden in Chicago and this post. I don't believe I repeat any of the plants or photos in these entries but if I do I apologize.

Aloe vera commonly known simple as Aloe is used to treat burns and as a laxative. The beneficial part of the plant is the leaf sap. Obviously Aloe doesn't grow in Chicago because it couldn't survive a winter here so these are grown in pots that are sunken into the raised bed.

Vinca minor Common periwinkle is the source of a compound used to treat cerebral senility and improve cerebral circulation. It is also in use in two cancer fighting drugs at the moment with more being studied.

Momordica charantia is a vining plant better known as Bitter melon or Balsam-apple. It is a popular fruit used in Asian cooking and is said to stimulate digestion. Compounds from the fruit and leaf are used to treat Type 2 diabetes and HIV. In the Medicinal Plant Garden they grow it climbing up a trellis and the diminutive yellow flowers stand out against the green leafs. Every time I've been in this garden the flower has always had ants visiting. It has been impossible to get a picture of the flower without an ant.

Carribean snakeroot medicinal plant gardenRauvolfia viridis Willd. Ex Roem. & Schult. Thankfully is better known as Caribbean Snakeroot. The root of this evergreen plant is the source of a compound called Reserpine that is used to treat psychotic behaviors and hypertension. It is named after German botanist and scientist Leonhard Rauwolf who is said to have been the first European to have described the preparation and drinking of coffee.

"A very good drink they call Chaube that is almost as black as ink and very good in illness, especially of the stomach.This they drink in the morning early in the open places before everybody, without any fear or regard, out of clay or China cups, as hot as they can, sipping it a little at a time."


Calendula officinalis. Medicinal plant in ChicagoCalendula officinalis is a common and popular garden plant. I have Calendula growing in my own garden but it is just orange/gold in the Medicinal Plant Garden this two tone variety is growing alongside the orange/gold. I don't know what accounts for the white but it makes for a more interesting flower. The flower head is used to treat ailments from stomach aches to menstrual cramps and cuts/burns.

Ballon-flower medicinal garden plant in ChicagoPlatycodon grandiflorus better known as Balloon-flower or Chinese bellflower is another popular garden plant. A nice enough addition to a garden, though I've never grown it, it is has medicinal properties. It is used to relieve irritation of the throat and loss of voice and draining of puss from the lungs. As an aside if you like this flower see the mutant Balloon-flower that was found by a fellow garden blogger at PATSP.

Mayapple American mandrake. Medicinal plant garden in ChicagoPodophyllum peltatum also known as Mayapple or American mandrake. The photo here is of the fruit that is edible in small amounts when it is ripened in late summer. Wikipedia's entry for Mayapple states that the root is toxic, oddly enough- the medicinal part of this herbaceous perennial is the root/rhizome. The root/rhizome contains a compound called podophyllotoxin and it is used to treat the kind of warts you get when you are very popular after last call at the local bar. It is also the precursor to cancer fighting drugs like etoposide and taeniposide.

Punica granatum_medicinal plant growing in ChicagoPunica granatum commonly known as Pomegranate is grown in the medicinal garden because it has antibacterial and antiviral properties. The useful part of the plant is the leaf and the fruit rind which also has anti-ulcer effects and of course the fruit is edible. There are three Pomegranate trees in the garden but they are too tender for our climate here so they are grown in pots and taken in during the winter.

Passiflora incarnata Passion Flower Medicinal Plant Garden Walk ChicagoPassiflora incarnata Better known as Passion flower is said to have anti-anxiety properties. The part the extracts are taken from is the flower top. It also produces fruit that is edible and very tasty. The seeds can be hard to germinate for the first time grower one trick I like to use is to soak the Passion flower seed in citrus juice to try to break down the seed coat. Germination can take up to a year so be patient or just buy a growing plant. The common name of the plant has nothing to do with love or romance, Passion (Christian theology) is a refference to the suffering of Christ in the hours leading up to his crucification.

Sorry about the cheesy quality of the video it is my first time trying to use Windows Movie Maker and I'm hoping to get better at it.


  1. Anonymous11:08 PM

    Oh, Mr. BT, these are terrific photos and information about each plant's medicinal uses. I've never seen a calendula as you have photographed. Like you, I really like the white. Aloe vera grows quite well here in So Cal. I'm told that eating the fleshy parts of the leaves also produces very smooth complexion. It can also be applied topically as a facial. I'm sorry about the shortness of your visit to the garden; sounds like the speakers would have been quite interesting.

  2. I really enjoyed this - thank you.
    Nice photos - what kind of camera do you use?

  3. Hi nikkipolani,

    Glad you liked the virtual garden walk. Thanks for stopping by.


    I usually use a Digital Rebel but the photos and video in this post were taken with a Sony Cybershot. The photos in first post on this garden were taken with the Rebel. The Sony Cybershot can take better pictures if you make adjustments and it is clean. The one I was using was borrowed and had a dirty lens and you could see the finger smudge on them before I edited the photos. Check out my post and photo on a Hover fly in my garden to get a better idea of the picture quality it can achieve.

  4. Anonymous3:27 AM

    Very interesting post. Some I knew about, some I didn't. I probably need to brew up some Vinca minor!

  5. Oh I am loving this post, wonder if I could grow some of these in my container garden next year and bring inside ... the question is would they be safe with my cats ? Will have to revisit and write down the names so I can look them up.

    Have I mentioned how happy I am to see you back posting :)

  6. MBT - that Pomegranate is really cool looking. I love the taste of all the drinks out these days that are flavored with it but I'd never seen one before. Looks like lots of interesting stuff there.

  7. Anonymous9:06 AM

    Thanks for sharing the medicinal qualities of these great plants. I have a couple of these growing in my own garden. The video was good. I like the formal layout of this garden, very well designed.

  8. wow so much info thanks

  9. What a great medicinal walk! I was surprised to find the information on the vinca or periwinkle. Who woulda known? Cool plant.

  10. Oh what a wonderful post! I love the pictures and the comments are so informative. The passion flower is a beauty! Mine is doing really well these days, with 2-3 blooms a week! I've probably "over-posted" about it on my blog!

  11. What are you using as your 'source'? Inquiring minds want to know :)

    For those just starting out I suggest using the Peterson Field Guides

    Medicinal Plants
    Edible Wildflowers

    I like to use them for ID purposes. I'm not a medicine freak and the cost of food isn't so high yet that I need to go outside and start browsing :)

  12. What an interesting tour. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I have planted Aloe outside during the summer and they got huge, which turned out to be a pain to drag them in for the winter.

  13. Anonymous6:17 PM

    Loved the virtual garden walk. I have never seen a Passion flower, it looks amazing. I had no idea some of these had medicinal purposes such as periwinkle which I have in my own yard.

  14. you're always going to the coolest things. i'm gonna have to look harder for things here around KC.

  15. Very cool post, Mr. Brownthumb! Calendula has other uses, too... although I guess you wouldn't consider them medicinal. It's very soothing for your skin when included in lotions and such.

  16. I liked the video, kind of reminded me of "The Blair Witch Project", and I mean that in a good way. It's amazing the variety of plants that can be grown in such a small and urban environment. This garden is such a peaceful oasis that I'm sure it is medicinal in its own right.

  17. Pharmaceuticals (drugs created in the lab) have caused such havoc with the human body, it's a wonder they are an acceptable form of therapy at all. Nutraceuticals (plant-derived "drugs") have only been around as long as humans have, and yet people still seem surprised that they really work. They actually gave the pharmaceuticals their start in the lab. Chemists then thought they had to perfect what was already perfect and create a "better" version of nature's own pharmacy. It's really quite ludicrous that people spend billions of dollars on chemicals that can actually harm instead of help them when plants can provide all of the help we really need if we would just be curious enough to learn more about them. Fascinating post, MBT.

  18. I forgot to mention that I grew bitter melon a couple of years ago, thanks to a friend of mine whose Mom grows it every year. If you want to see what the fruit looks like--and the pretty, jewel-like seeds--go here.

  19. Great tour! I love all the information...I'm glad to see mainstream medicine paying attention to more than cute drug reps for their pharmacology information. Do you grow passionvine? I've tried up here, but I think the hardiest cultivar is z5, and I'm z4. I may try again along to the southern foundation, only next to the house instead of garage (for more radiant heat from the living space foundation.)

  20. Anonymous6:22 PM

    Hi. This is a great post with lots of information and awesome pictures. I especially like the passion flower. Very unique :)

    I don't have any medicinal plants right now, but I am having lots of fun growing carnivorous plants. Do you have any experience with these?

  21. Hello and thanks to everyone who commented since I last replied glad you enjoyed the pics.

    WiseAcre, I use Google for Gardeners to search for most of the info I post.

    Anonymous, I have a little experience with them they're cool plants in no many ways.

  22. Anonymous4:47 AM

    nice site

  23. Thanks Medplantindia.



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