A plant a day: Why doctors in Manchester are prescribing plants over pills

13 October 2020

We have long been advocates of the power of plants to reduce stress and anxiety. Research has repeatedly shown our leafy friends’ positive effect on our sense of wellbeing, thanks to biophilia which simply means the positive effects of having natural elements in view.

Now, however, doctors seem to be getting on board. According to an article in the Independent, a GP practice in Manchester has started to prescribe plants to patients who are feeling low.

Believed to be the first of its kind, the scheme, run by Cornbrook Medical Practice in Hulme, gives plants such as lemon balm and catmint, to patients and tasks them with caring for them before bringing them back to the surgery to be planted in a communal garden.

Augusta Ward, a medical secretary at the practice, told The Independent: “Having something to care for brings so many benefits to people – especially for those who may not have a garden or be able to have pets. The plant is then a reason to come back to the surgery and get involved in all the other activities in our garden and make new friends.”

Dr Philippa James, one of the surgery’s GPs, added: “I’ve seen how our patients relax in the garden – and how they then get involved in wider events like picking litter, which all adds to pride in our area. There’s a lot of evidence now about how two hours a week in a green space can lift mood – and then that too has physical, mental and emotional benefits. That’s something we need to harness.”

Dr Ruth Bromley, GP and chair of Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, explained in the same article that “so much of what keeps people happy and well isn’t medical. That’s why ideas like this one are so wonderfully effective, building on what is best about our communities and supporting patients close to where they live.”

Social enterprise group Sow the City has lent its support to the initiative, donating or funding planting for the patients.

More information about the scheme and health and social care plans for Manchester, is available at healthiermanchester.org.