Form, Function, Beauty: Wild Medicine at the New York Botanical Garden

There are only a few weeks left to see the amazing exhibit, Wild Medicine: Healing Plants Around the World at the New York Botanical Garden (you didn’t think that Brooklyn had all the fun, did you?) Wild Medicine highlights over 500 some odd plants that have been used through millennia to heal. Sure, we’ve all heard of Echinacea and St. John’s Wort, but what about rosy periwinkle (chemotherapy) and tea (anti-inflammatory)?



But before I get into the exhibit, I need to take a quick commercial break and note how enchanting the Botanical Gardens themselves are. Surrounded by lush greenery overhead and underfoot, it really settles the spirit. Here you witness firsthand the sheer fabulousness of plants – and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the lotus in all of its otherworldly incarnations. Five minutes here will take your stress levels down exponentially, and, unlike Central Park, there are not thousands of people crashing your garden party.

SacredBasilSacred Basil

Now back to our regularly scheduled program…

Much of Wild Medicine is in the Haupt Conservatory’s tropical rain forest (be warned: you will get a bit misty…and not just by the gorgeous gradients of green); but there are also desert galleries ripe with my favorites: succulents! Each plant is marked with its history (where it originates in the world), its Latin name, and for 22 of them, large signs that explain their medicinal use.

TeaStationTea Station

As an added delight, smack in the middle of Wild Medicine is a replica of an Italian Renaissance Garden modeled after the very first botanical garden ever, set at the University of Padua in 1545. Padua is where students identified which plants treated common illnesses, and which ones were poisonous. There are also three interactive stations at Wild Medicine: tea, cacao (chocolate) and citrus. Lucky for us, edible samples are strongly encouraged.


My good friend Jody, a nutritional consultant, accompanied me on this tranquil excursion. She surmised, “Prevention is better than cure, and plants can sustain our lives.” She then shrugged in that laid back Jody-way. “We just have to be open to the possibilities.”

Wild Medicine is open through Sept. 8, 2013 at the NYBG:


Angela Bronner Helm is a journalist with over 18 years experience as an editor, writer and teacher. She was a founding editor of Honey magazine, and began her career as an editorial assistant at The Source (she’s also known to some as DJ Jela). Angela has also worked at The Village Voice,, amNewYork, and most recently as Editor in Chief of Uptown magazine. She is a board member of the Black AIDS Institute and has been a longtime resident of Harlem with her husband and two kiddos (one (drama?) teen, one little guy). Angela loves learning about all things green, alternative healing, urban gardening, and an all around eco-friendly, yet funky, lifestyle.