How to Use Horticulture Therapy to Heal at the Cellular Level

Addiction Recovery Publishing Nutrition October 6, 2023

How to Use Horticulture Therapy to Heal at the Cellular Level

Sometimes, in recovery, it is what seems the simplest that offers the most benefits. This is true with horticulture therapy. However, while it seems simple, and, yes, some of the processes are “straightforward,” it is actually a much more complex form of therapy than many people give it credit for.

There is a concept that we work with here on Hawaii’s Big Island that we call “HO‘OHANA.” This concept is all about the value of work and the importance of working with intent and purpose. Also, this is embodied in the process of horticulture therapy.

A Brief Overview of Experiential Therapy

Before discussing horticulture therapy, it can be helpful to discuss the class of therapy that it is categorized under: experiential therapy. In a broad sense, experiential therapy is what its moniker implies. It is a therapy that relies upon one’s experiences. Of course, just like horticulture therapy, experiential therapies are much more complex than simply going out and “doing stuff.” No, they involve professionals and a process. 

Some common types of experiential therapies include art therapy, equine therapy, narrative therapy, music therapy, aquatics therapy, and nature immersion therapy. Horticulture therapy falls more toward the latter therapy of nature immersion. This is simply because it is so enmeshed in working with the land.

What Exactly Is Horticulture Therapy?

Now, the use of horticulture as a way of working through emotions and relieving stress is nothing new. Also, horticulture therapy has been around for a while. However, in recent years, it has experienced a resurgence.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Horticulture has been long used as a therapeutic activity for people with mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and depression.” Also, “People’s interactions with plants, through goal-orientated horticultural activities in the form of active gardening, as well as the passive appreciation of nature, could be therapeutic to people with mental disorders in many ways.” This is the comprehensive nature of horticulture therapy. It is not “one-note,” and it has many benefits to offer.

The journal continues, “Horticulture could have emotional benefits, such as reducing stress, reducing psychiatric symptoms, stabilizing mood, and increasing the sense of tranquility, spirituality, and enjoyment… It could help people to reduce fatigue and restore attention and cognitive ability.” Also, “It could increase self-efficacy, self-esteem, and quality of life” and “provide a forum for developing group cohesiveness and a sense of belonging.” 

There is also another crucial benefit that horticulture therapy has to offer: a sense of “accomplishment and productivity.” Also, horticulture therapy works perfectly in tandem with nutritional therapy.

Utilizing Horticulture Therapy as a Part of Nutrient Restoration

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we like to say that “food is medicine,” and with horticulture therapy, we can literally grow our own medicine right on the property. 

But our focus on nutrition goes far beyond what horticulture therapy can bring to the table on its own. We utilize horticulture therapy in comprehensive recovery plans that also include working with licensed dieticians and nutritionists, focusing on a gut-healthy diet, restoring nutrients via pharmaceutical-grade supplements, and utilizing blood work and our onsite naturopath doctor to help our clients engage with infusion therapy.

The Benefits of Nutritional Therapy

According to the article, New Approaches to Nutritional Therapy, by Doctors Koithan and Devika, “Nutritional Therapy uses food to prevent and reverse diseases that plague most western societies: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, arthritis, and depression. In order for food to be therapeutic, it must be nutrient-dense, measured in part by the nutrients and anti-nutrients, contained in consumed foods.”

Now, of course, this is what our nutritional therapy focuses on. It focuses on ensuring that all of the foods that we provide on the property are nutrient-rich and natural (some of which are literally grown in our 30-acre backyard). Also, we aim to eliminate any processed and toxic foods in our program. Eliminating this “chemical cuisine” has been shown to not only help our clients feel healthier at the cellular level but also to heal at a quicker rate.

We also focus on food that is specific to helping the “gut-brain axis” in our bodies, which in turn helps us to heal more at the root/core level. So then, what exactly is the gut-brain axis?

A Focus on Gut Microbiome Health

In very simplified terms, the gut-brain axis has to do with the way our stomachs (or the microbiota that congregate there) interact with our brain and, in turn, help us function, both negatively and positively. Because the discussion surrounding gut health is relatively new to the public sphere, many people are unaware of the benefits of having a healthy gut microbiome.

According to the peer-reviewed article, Gut Microbiota’s Effect on Mental Health: The Gut-Brain Axis, by Doctors Clapp, Aurora, Herrera, Bhatia, Wilen, and Wakefield, “The bidirectional communication between the central nervous system and gut microbiota, referred to as the gut-brain axis, has been of significant interest in recent years. Increasing evidence has associated gut microbiota with both gastrointestinal and extragastrointestinal diseases.” Also, “Dysbiosis and inflammation of the gut have been linked to causing several mental illnesses including anxiety and depression, which are prevalent in society today.”

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we utilize the natural and abundant bounty that Hawaii’s Big Island has to offer to help encourage gut health and increase nutrient levels. However, sometimes, those nutrient levels need more help than food can initially offer. This is especially true for individuals struggling with issues of addiction that are new to recovery. Infusion therapy can help replenish these much-needed nutrients.

The Benefits of Infusion Therapy

Many people may be unaware of the nutrient deficiencies that many people struggling with issues of addiction and mental health often experience. Upon entering recovery, many of these people lack the adequate vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to fully function, let alone recover at the cellular level. This is where infusion therapy can be crucial.

Infusions can be an ideal way to get the abundance of nutrients that are needed for recovery and healing at optimal levels, but also, by getting these nutrients directly into the bloodstream, the absorption amounts are much more significant.

There are several infusions that can be highly beneficial for individuals trying to recover from issues of addiction and/or mental health at the cellular level. Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we offer several Concierge IV infusions that can be invaluable for nutrient replenishment. These infusions include nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) IV infusions, Myers cocktails IV infusions, and glutathione infusions. All of these have specific benefits for those looking for full cellular-level recovery.

NAD IV infusions offer the benefits of increased energy and metabolism, reduced fatigue and lethargy, help with stress management, improvements in focus and clarity, and can even enhance physical performance. Myers cocktails IV infusions can help in both similar and distinctly different ways.

Now, Myers cocktails IV infusions offer enhanced immunity, increased energy and stamina, decreased inflammation, improved sleep, healthier digestion, reduced stress, and can even aid in a healthier complexion and improved hair growth. This all goes back to the better absorption of nutrients that the direct bloodstream can handle.

Last but not least, glutathione infusions offer some essential benefits for those who want to hit their optimal level of recovery. According to Doctor J. Pizzorno’s article, Glutathione!, in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, “It is hard to overstate the importance of glutathione… It plays a crucial role in shielding cellular macromolecules from endogenous and exogenous reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. While it directly quenches some free radicals, of perhaps greater importance is that it deals directly with the causes of oxidative stress such as mercury and POPs [persistent organic pollutants].” Combined with other therapies like horticulture therapy, infusions can help people heal beyond what they may have expected before entering treatment.

Understanding Horticulture Therapy as a Type of Nature Immersion

It is also hard to understate the unique setting for horticulture therapy that we can offer here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab on the Big Island. Both the weather and the soil make it an ideal place to grow both healthy and distinctive fruits and vegetables in abundance. 

This is why, upon entering our property, one will find rows of citrus and fruit trees (such as lime, tangerine, and longan fruit), as well as guava bushes and pineapple beds. There are also vegetable boxes that are ready and waiting for cultivation.

However, horticulture therapy is not the only option for nature immersion on the Hamkua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. There are also some of the most unique landscapes and seascapes in the world.

Other Options for Nature Immersion Therapy on Hawaii’s Big Island

Nature immersion therapy can be crucial for getting at the root/core internal causes of our external issues so one can best heal at the cellular level. Yet, many people may not even be aware that nature immersion therapy even exists.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Nature exposure has been renowned for its positive physiological and psychological benefits,” and “Besides physical health improvements, nature exposure can bring about positive influence upon psychological constructs such as boredom, friendliness, well-being, and liveliness,” and “improvements to physical and psychological well-being, exposure to natural environments has been shown to bring about positive impacts on cognitive functioning.” Also, there is no better place to immerse oneself in nature than on the Hamakua Coast on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Utilizing the Landscape of the Hamakua Coast to Heal at the Cellular Level

The Hamakua Coast on Hawaii’s Big Island offers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to engage in nature immersion therapy. There are active volcanoes like the Kilauea Volcano, multiple waterfalls including the Akaka and Rainbow Falls, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, and amazing caves to explore, such as the Kaumana Caves.

However, for more of an ocean view, there are some of the most amazing beaches in the world, including Spencer, Carlsmith, and Richardson Beach. Then, for a view that can only be described if experienced, there is Laupahoehoe Point. All of these special places offer the opportunity to reconnect to nature and heal. There is also an opportunity to engage and heal, just beyond these beaches, with the Pacific Ocean.

Utilizing the Pacific Ocean to Heal at the Cellular Level

There are many ways to engage with the Pacific Ocean, and one certainly does not have to be in recovery to receive the benefits of doing so. However, for those in recovery, the Pacific Ocean allows for a special way to engage with nature of a different sort.

This includes the ability to swim with green sea turtles, tropical fish, and the majestic manta ray. Connecting with these majestic creatures has shown to be highly beneficial in relieving stress and communicating with those around us. It also offers the supplemental benefit of engaging in some often much-needed physical activity in recovery. The same benefit can be gained from various aquatic therapies, such as surf therapy.

Healing With Surf Therapy

According to the journal Frontiers in Psychology, “One environmental context that has received less attention is water-based physical activity, with researchers suggesting that swimming and other water-based activities may provide superior benefits for the promotion of human well-being due to greater affordances.” Also, “These activities have heightened the psychological benefits (e.g., reduced anxiety, depression, and perceived stress, increased positive affect, and increased quality of life)… And, “there is increasing evidence suggesting that participation in action and adventure sports, such as surfing, is meaningful and life-enhancing.” Now, there is perhaps no better place to surf than off the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island

Our clients at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab can merely head a few minutes from our luxury recovery center to a surf break known as Honoli’i. Found here is some of the best surf on the island, perfect for both surfing and boogie boarding. Here is where surf therapy can flourish, as well as meditation and mindfulness, which can take place while waiting for waves as the green sea turtles swim just under the surface of the water.

The Importance of Long-Term Recovery: Taking Horticulture Therapy Home

Another special aspect of horticulture therapy is that it can travel wherever a person returns after recovery. While there may not be the same terra or weather as Hawaii’s Big Island, the process and the healing nature of horticulture therapy can always be there.

Life, as well as life in recovery, is about making connections. This includes how we connect to the environment around us. Horticulture therapy helps to open us up to the world around us and to see everything from a new perspective. This new perspective is critical to maintaining recovery after leaving a treatment center. 

Someone shouldn’t just go to treatment to get “fixed.” They should go with the expectations that they are going to grow and thrive long after they leave the recovery center doors. This is what we offer here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab.

Healing at the Celluar Level at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

There is another saying that is used here on Hawaii’s Big Island that goes, “A`ohe lokomaika`i i nele i ke pâna`i.” This translates to “no great deed will ever be without its reward.” Yes, this includes the reward of recovery after putting in the great deal of positive and powerful work that is required.

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we understand how challenging recovery can be. Many of us have gone through it ourselves and come out stronger on the other side. This is also why we care so deeply about helping others heal on the Hamakua Coast.

In horticulture therapy, we work the earth and cultivate seeds until they become life. At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we work with clients and cultivate their recovery until they attain a life beyond what they once thought possible.

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we have a unique opportunity to offer our clients horticulture therapy. Also, this is horticulture therapy that can only be found on Hawaii’s Big Island, with rows of citrus, coconut, and longan fruit trees just waiting to be tended and cultivated daily as the recovery process moves forward. Our horticulture therapy is also integrated into our nutritional therapy, which we utilize for the nutrient deficiencies that arise from alcohol and substance use. If you or a loved one may be struggling with issues of addiction, mental health, or both, we can help. For more information on the benefits of horticulture therapy, please contact Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.