When I was asked to speak to the Washington State Federation of Garden Clubs, I learned about the Bastyr University Medicinal Herb Garden. JoAnne Gold had invited me to come to this meeting and to talk about cooking with lavender. After my talk, she asked if I’d ever visited Bastyr’s herb garden and handed me a brochure with its hours, directions and how it is organized. I was impressed with her thoughtful kindness. I explained that I had always wanted to see it, but somehow never got around to it. As I was thanking her, I pledged to set some time aside and visit the garden soon.
Last Sunday morning with the October sun shining brightly, I drove to Kenmore, an east-side suburb of Seattle. Bastyr University’s building used to be St. Edward’s Seminary, an institution for developing Catholic priests. The Seminary closed in 1976. The State of Washington bought most of the property (316 acres). Bastyr University leased the seminary building in 1977 and in 2005 bought out their lease.
I have a dim memory of visiting St. Edward’s as a child. When I think about that visit, I remember tall trees and vast green fields of lawn, maybe we were there for a family picnic.
On Sunday, I was there to see the herb garden. The garden is divided into ten sections. The center of the garden is devoted to nine Physiological Systems Beds containing 100 key medicinal plants that support each body system.
The physiological systems represented are:
- Brain and central nervous system
- Reproductive system
- Genito-urinary system
- Respiratory system
- Immune and lymphatic system
- Digestive system
- Musculoskeletal system
- Endocrine system
- Cardiovascular system
I looked around for lavender wondering where it would be classified. I’ve read claims about the health benefits lavender delivers to each of these systems. There it was in the section labeled “Brain and Central Nervous System.” I would have liked to hear the rationale for including it here. I’m guessing lavender’s ability to soothe the spirit, calm the nerves and induce sleep made it a prime candidate for this section.
What were some of the other herbs that fell into this category? St. John’s Wort, Monkshood, Oats and German Chamomile are growing there along with lavender.
I am glad I’d visited this garden, it made me think more about the modern health system and how we’ve built an industry to create drugs for everything from insomnia to impotence. Our doctors tell us to take drugs to lower our blood pressure and reduce our cholesterol. Maybe these drugs do more harm than good, but I confess I’m a bit skeptical. Bastyr University gives me hope that educating people about their healing power of herbs will result in a more natural way to maintain our health.