Kitchen gardens are nothing new in the restaurant world, as chefs plant produce to fuel their fare. Cayman is taking this approach in another direction, though, with gardens that not only offer edible produce, they also offer a medicinal purpose.
The 3-year-old Health City Cayman Islands is leading the way forward with a Medicinal Garden filled with plants from Asia and the Caribbean, each holding a historically significant healing property.
“The gardens surrounding Health City Cayman Islands were planned with great care and attention to detail,” says Dr. Chandy Abraham, CEO and Head of Medical Services at Health City Cayman Islands. “In addition to the purposeful use of plants native to the Cayman Islands, particular focus was given to planting fast-growing trees and flowering shrubs to accentuate the healing environment for our patients. As much as possible, we try to invite nature into our surroundings and feel that the vibrant environment helps to uplift patients’ spirits.”
To follow this philosophy, landscape designer Margaret Barwick crafted a design with the gardens encircling the hospital buildings, allowing patients to enjoy nature from their hospital beds, as well as on the wheelchair-friendly paths running through the plants.
Adding to the Caribbean vibe and hospital’s “green” philosophy — which extends from the energy efficient facilities to the natural light flooding through the large glass windows — these gardens are considered a key ingredient to the healing process.
When designing the gardens, Barwick looked to Indian and indigenous plants that are already used in traditional medicine, such as Aloe Vera for soothing burns and bruises, and Bellyache Bush, a native plant in both India and the Caribbean that’s used as an antibiotic to relieve constipation and prevent cancer.
“The medicinal herb garden on the grounds at Health City is a blend of two healing traditions, integrating both plants used in Caymanian traditional medicine, as well as those native to India and which form the basis for Ayurvedic treatments,” Abraham explains. “There are some that are common to both traditions, such as Fever Grass and Serasee. While the medicinal plants are not used directly in treatments at Health City, we maintain and expand the garden as a way to promote wellness and respect for the healing properties of our natural world.”
At the moment, the garden serves as more of a sanctuary, since the herbs haven’t made their way into the hospital’s healthcare program yet. From the two-storey building, patients can look out at the trees and palms, which attract parrots and other birds, while those in recovery can take a moment to reflect in the garden seats by the fishpond.