While medicinal plants are not absolutely necessary in therapeutic gardens these days, they can be an important component. They are often used for their sensory qualities rather than for strictly medicinal purposes.
Lavender, for example, is wonderfully fragrant and its color is pleasing to the eye. The colors lavender and blue are said to have a calming effect.
As another example, Echinacea (coneflower) is known as an immune system booster, but in the healing garden, it is more often planted because it blooms for many weeks, requires little maintenance, and attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, and other birds.
In some gardens, medicinal plants are used symbolically. For example, the Carolyn Stolman Healing Garden in San Francisco, designed by Topher Delaney, features plants used traditionally to treat cancer.
Framed drawings with a description of each plants’ traditional medicinal use hang on the wall facing the garden.