Friday, June 24, 2011

Planting with a Purpose: Pharmaceutical Plants

On a recent trip to Washington D.C., I happened to walk by the American Pharmacists Association headquarters building. I was intrigued by the plants growing outside the building so I stopped to take a closer look. And then I realized it... they were planted with a purpose. All these plants have medicinal and healing properties.

From the sidewalk, I could see Yarrow (Achillea), Yucca, Coneflower (Echinacea), St. John's Wort (Hypericum), Yew (Taxus) and Monk's Pepper (Vitex).

Yarrow (Achillea) is said to be named after the Greek mythical figure Achilles, who used it to stop the bleeding wounds of his soldiers. Today, Yarrow is believed to help with digestion. The plant contains flavonoids which increase saliva and stomach acid. It's also good for treating and managing the symptoms of colds, flu and fever.

Yucca leaves and roots are used for arthritis pain relief and joint inflammation.

Coneflower (Echinachea) is probably one of the most popular herbs in America today. Echinachea comes from the Greek word "echinos" which means hedgehog, no doubt referring to the prickly seed head of the flower.  Echinachea is used to help reduce symptoms of the flu and common cold. Many herbalists recommend it to help boost the immune system and help the body fight infections.

St. John's Wort (Hypericum) is another herb that had been used by the ancient Greeks. Recent studies have shown that St. John's Wort may be effective in treating mild depression. In addition, it has also been used topically as an antiseptic, helping heal wounds and burns.

Yew (Taxus) leaves, bark and seeds are highly toxic. However, studies have shown that the bark contains the substance "taxol" which has been used to fight cancer.

Monk's Pepper or Chasteberry (Vitex) got it's name from the belief in medieval times that potions made from the berries helped monks maintain their vows of chastity by quelling their libido. Today, it is generally used to treat symptoms of PMS such as cramps, headaches, irritability, water retention, etc. and help the woman's body regain a balance of hormones.

What a great way to tie in the garden plants to the theme/purpose of the association's headquarter building. What looked like a rather ho-hum building along my route to some of the bigger known monuments in the city, became one of the coolest finds of my day.


  1. Very interesting post. Thumbs up to the American Pharmacists Association and creator of this very well thought out and functional design. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Kate,
    I'm the CEO of APhA, and I really enjoyed your blog post. In fact, I'm going to post your link on my own blog and suggest folks take a look. Thanks for your interest. I learned a few things myself, which is always fun!

  3. Thanks Lee!

    Hi Tom - so happy you found my blog and enjoyed my post. How did you find it and how can I find yours?

  4. that makes total sense to to have a natural element connected to a pharmaceutical lab... not to mention, these are some of the prettiest plants I have seen, great pics!

  5. Hi Kate- I just wanted to follow up on your question for Tom. We found your blog post via our usual social media alerts and I passed it around to the people who care for and document the garden. You can see Tom's blog post here:

    Thanks again- my colleagues were really pleased that you enjoyed it.

  6. I have all but two of these plants in my own garden and though I haven't used them for medicinal purposes, it is fun to know how useful they could be. And I think it's great that you noticed this planting with a purpose and shared it through your blog!

  7. Canna Boost

    Nice post very interesting information in this blog.Thanks for sharing


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