A Physic Garden is a garden where plants with medicinal properties are grown. The word physic (pronounced ‘fizz-ic’) comes from the word physician which is the old word for doctors.
Originally, hundreds of year ago, physic gardens were for practicing doctors (physicians) to grow the plants for the medicines they prepared. Based on knowledge handed down for generations, they then prescribed these medicines to their patients.
Since nearly all our plants are displayed alongside detailed signboards about their uses, just by wandering the paths you can discover the diverse powers of plants.
From their traditional use in health and medicine to the cutting edge science and medicine behind the drugs that come from some of the plants growing in the physic garden, like aspirin and digoxin, to some of the folklore and magic – that often lead to the discovery of cutting edge drugs.
You can learn more about traditional herbal medicine and under supervision you can see, touch and smell each of the plants through the seasons, by joining one of our workshops in medical herbalism and other aspects of health relating to the wonderful healing properties of individual plant species.
Dilston physic garden is closely linked to the Medicinal Plant Research Group (MPRG) in the Universities of Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham and is a registered charity set up as a centre for learning and education.
Did you know there are 2 remarkable aspects about herbal medicine?
First that plants make chemicals which are have medicinal value, and secondly that people discovered which plants, and at what dose, to use for which disorder.
The first mystery is to some extent solved by knowing that plants protect themselves in their environment. By making their own antibiotics, anti–inflammatories and range of chemical armoury they protect themselves against bacteria, fungi and predators which act on the nervous, digestive and other systems.
The second mystery is still a bit of a mystery. Some believe it was a matter of trial and error, though considering how many plant species are around and that some are highly toxic at the wrong dose, this must have been fraught with hazard. Others think that discovery depended on intuition – in the same way as some animals know what to eat when they are sick. Whatever the process it must have involved a kind of ‘survival of the fittest’ plant selection or evolution procedure (in terms of the balance between efficacy and safety) which provides an invaluable database for medicine today.
New discoveries of effective cutting edge medicines are still being made today based on this traditional knowledge – for example the chemicals from the Yew tree are used against types of cancer.