|He was a friend and sounding board to many founders of the country. Thomas Paine consulted him while writing “Common Sense.” He was key to healing a deep divide between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The two had worked side by side leading up to independence but became political enemies. Thanks to Rush’s efforts they reconciled, leaving behind a bounty of historical letters for us all to enjoy.
Some of his medical practices have thankfully disappeared. He practiced bloodletting and advocated mercury as a purgative for the mentally ill. Mercury was also an ingredient in the pills he provided to the Lewis and Clark expedition. While he was an abolitionist, some of his views on race were very primitive. Despite these, Dr. Rush has earned his place in history.
So why does a conservation district mention Rush? One mental illness therapy he championed that still exists today is therapeutic gardening. Therapeutic gardening saw a great increase following World War II and the Korean War. The treatment has expanded to help others dealing with trauma. The District’s Facebook page has featured gardening helping a woman deal with the murder of her family and with those struggling with homelessness and addiction.
There is a specialty devoted to this in American psychiatry, the American Horticultural Therapy Association. From its website:
Horticultural therapy techniques are employed to assist participants to learn new skills or regain those that are lost. Horticultural therapy helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialization. In physical rehabilitation, horticultural therapy can help strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance, and endurance. In vocational horticultural therapy settings, people learn to work independently, problem solve, and follow directions. Horticultural therapists are professionals with specific education, training, and credentials in the use of horticultural for therapy and rehabilitation. Source: https://www.ahta.org/what-is-horticultural-therapy
Other therapies that have proven helpful involve music and art, or animal care. The promotion of functional beauty, nature and kindness is time and money well spent.
Gardening is so much more than growing a tasty tomato. Get dirty, get healthy.